On the evening of May 18th a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page under the headline ‘Jerusalem: Journalists attacked as Israeli nationalists march in Old City’.
Bateman promotes statements from two vendors in Jerusalem’s Old City:
“Along the route in the Old City, Samir Abu Sbeih pulled down the shutters of his sweet shop, saying that police had advised Palestinian businesses to do so by mid-afternoon. […]
He [a kebab shop owner] said police told him he was not being forced to close, but that if he kept his business open, it would be at his own risk.”
Hours before Bateman’s report was published the Israeli police had addressed such claims:
Bateman also tells readers that:
“Israeli police vowed to stop law-breaking, but blamed regional “terrorist elements” for “wild incitement” about the march on social media. They also said it was only “a small minority on both sides [who] try to agitate”.”
BBC audiences however find no information whatsoever concerning the issues to which that superfluously punctuated paragraph relates, including the Hamas threats issued well in advance of Jerusalem Day and closer to the time, the false claims regarding the route of the flag march put out on social media by Iranian backed terrorist organisations for the purpose of incitement and the Hamas approved rioting on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel.
Readers familiar with past BBC portrayal of Jerusalem Day would not be surprised by Bateman’s misrepresentation of that Israeli national holiday in his article’s opening paragraphs:
“The flag parade is part of Israel’s Jerusalem Day, marking its capture of the east of the city in the 1967 war.”
As we have repeatedly had cause to note in the past due to similar misrepresentations in BBC reporting, Jerusalem Day marks the reunification of the city nineteen years after parts of it were invaded and illegally occupied by the British backed Jordanian Arab Legion.
The BBC’s serial misrepresentation of Jerusalem Day as a celebration of a military victory – including by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen – is not some chance slip up: it enables the BBC to avoid the topic of why Jerusalem was divided into “east” and “west” for less than two decades.
The avoidance of that topic means that BBC audiences are underinformed – or even misled outright – on issues such as Jordan’s expulsion of all Jews from the parts of the city it occupied, its destruction of dozens of synagogues and desecration of the ancient Mount of Olives cemetery as well as its refusal to allow access and freedom of worship for both Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs.
It also means that the BBC can promote talking points about Israeli ‘occupation’ as Bateman does in this report: [emphasis added]
“Palestinians along the route in occupied East Jerusalem earlier shuttered homes and shops over fears of abuse.”
“It’s not their land to celebrate,” he said of the march. “We live under occupation and that’s why we have to accept it.”
Moreover, Bateman presents an airbrushed reference to Jordan’s illegal occupation of parts of Jerusalem:
“One of the marchers, Pini, who didn’t want to give his surname, said he had attended for decades to mark the day “Jerusalem was reunited and returned to the hands of the Jewish people”.
“From 1948 to 1967, we were prevented from accessing the Western Wall,” he said referring to the period that East Jerusalem was under Jordanian control. “We returned to the Western Wall,” he added.”
Bateman of course refrains from explaining to his readers why “East Jerusalem was under Jordanian control” between 1948 and 1967. Were he to provide that obviously highly relevant information, audiences would be likely to better understand that the BBC’s standard portrayal of parts of Jerusalem – and Judea & Samaria – as being ‘occupied’ by Israel rests on a narrative created by erasing Jordan’s belligerent invasion, occupation and internationally rejected annexation of territory allocated by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland from the picture presented.
For years, however, the BBC has preferred to promote that political narrative rather than to honour its commitment to enable its funding public to “engage fully with major […] global issues […] as active and informed citizens”.