On June 1st the BBC News website published a 766-word report by the Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman on its ‘Middle East’ page. Headlined ‘Itamar Ben-Gvir: Israel minister jeered as thousands attend Jerusalem Pride march’, that report closes with the following 20-word paragraph:
“Earlier, the Islamist militant group Hamas had also denounced the parade as “provocative” and called on Palestinians to confront it.”
That sentence relates to a statement put out the previous day by the Hamas terrorist organisation which included more than Bateman chose to communicate to BBC audiences:
‘”We, the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas, strongly condemn the fascist occupation authorities for allowing the organization of a provocative march for ‘perverts,’ which is scheduled to roam the streets of occupied Jerusalem on Thursday,” said the movement.
“We call on the masses of our stationed Palestinian people to confront these measures in defense of the Arabism of Jerusalem and the Islamism of Al-Aqsa Mosque,” added the movement. “We also call on the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to condemn these violations and put pressure on the occupation in international forums to stop them, and to strengthen the boycott of the occupation at all levels.”’
Bateman’s censored portrayal of that statement would come as no surprise to those familiar with the BBC’s long-standing under-reporting of the topic of LGBT rights in areas controlled by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and internal Palestinian affairs in general.
With the exception of one BBC report from 2014, over the past decade its reporting on Pride Month events in Israel has been used to promote political framing rather than to inform audiences how Israel is different from other countries in the region. Although Pride Month events take place in a variety of locations all over the country, in recent years the focus of BBC reporting has shifted from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
That shift makes it easier for BBC Jerusalem bureau reporters to frame the story in terms of the Israeli political scene of the day, as was the case when Yolande Knell covered the Jerusalem Pride March in 2019.
Bateman’s report uses the same template.
“The march was the first since the election of a hardline religious-nationalist government, including openly homophobic senior ministers. […]
The climate surrounding the event has thrown a fresh spotlight on the deepening fault lines in Israeli society, where secular Jews have long championed the country’s open culture of LGBTQ rights, but where political and demographic shifts are giving unprecedented power to the nationalist and ultra-Orthodox right-wing. The schism is sharply felt in Jerusalem, known for its conservative and religious populations.”
Bateman goes on to present a less than accurate portrayal of the broad range of members of the Israeli public who have been participating in protests since January: [emphasis added]
“It comes in a year which has seen an unprecedented clash between secular Israelis and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, culminating in weekly protests against the coalition’s now-delayed plans to strip powers from the Supreme Court. […]
Another marcher, Yuval from Jerusalem, who declined to give his surname, told the BBC: “We’re here today to say that we are here to stay and that we will not give up.”
“Our government is the most homophobic and transphobic it has ever been. The minister of police who is here supposedly protecting us – until last year he came here to protest against us,” he said.”
In other words, the focus of Tom Bateman’s report on Jerusalem’s 21st Pride Parade – which drew around 30,000 participants and passed without incident – was the repetition of talking points concerning members of the current Israeli government. Notably, Bateman made no attempt to provide BBC audiences with a comprehensive view of that parade as an event of a kind which is rarely seen in other capital cities in the Middle East due to the sort of views relegated to the final twenty censored words of his report.