BBC corrects on 1969 Temple Mount arson ten months on

Back in April 2022 we documented an edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme in which (in addition to many other issues) frequent BBC interviewee Husam Zomlot made a deliberately false claim concerning the mosque on Temple Mount which was not challenged by presenter Mishal Husain:

Zomlot: “…We remember in 1969 an Israeli extremist tried to burn the entire mosque and it continues on a regular basis.” [emphasis added]

CAMERA UK submitted a complaint to the BBC pointing out that, contrary to Zomlot’s false claim, the 1969 incident at al Aqsa Mosque was perpetrated by a mentally-ill Australian Christian. We noted that especially given her earlier mention of supposedly “inflammatory” action by the Israeli police “at a place like this and at a moment like this”, one would have expected Mishal Husain to challenge that no less inflammatory propaganda from the PLO representative in London but she instead remained silent.

On May 6th 2022 we received a response from BBC complaints informing us that it would take more time to address that very simple and straightforward issue. On May 27th 2022 we were informed that the time frame for addressing our complaint had run out.

On February 10th 2023 – almost ten months after the submission of our complaint – we received the following:

“Thank you for writing and please accept our apologies for the length of time it has taken to reply to your complaint.

We have reviewed the exchanges. The focus of the interview was what had happened at the Al Aqsa mosque in the preceding days. Israeli police had said they waited until Muslim Friday prayers had ended before entering the site to disperse protestors throwing stones towards the Western Wall below the compound, where Jewish worshippers were. Palestinian medics had reported more than 150 Palestinians had been injured. In a live interview presenters have to judge when to let a guest make their point and when to intervene. In this case Mishal Hussain chose to press Dr Husam Zomlot on the authorities actions rather than his passing reference to the 1969 arson attack. We accept though that an Australian, Denis Michael Rohan, admitted arson at the time and was later deported from Israel. We have added a note to the BBC’s website to make this clear.

Thank you for talking the time to write and please accept our apologies at the delay in our response.”

The note that now appears on the BBC’s ‘Corrections and Clarifications’ page reads as follows:

It is of course extremely unlikely that any of the hundreds of thousands of listeners who were misled by Zomlot’s propaganda ten months ago will come across that very belated correction.

Once again we see that the BBC’s complaints procedure simply does not work in a timely and efficient manner that serves the interests of its funding public. It is to be hoped that that recurring issue will be among those reviewed by the upcoming Parliamentary inquiry

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