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April 11, 2023 9:04 am

BBC Erases Hamas Incitement From Coverage of Temple Mount Violence

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avatar by Hadar Sela


The BBC logo is seen at the entrance at Broadcasting House, the BBC headquarters in central London. Photo by Vuk Valcic / SOPA Images/Sipa USA.

In February, the BBC News website began promoting the following talking point: “The Muslim holiday of Ramadan is set to overlap with the Jewish holiday of Passover in April, meaning there is increased potential for clashes at contested holy sites, particularly in East Jerusalem.”

As we noted at the time, BBC audiences were not informed that any increased violence during the month of Ramadan is the product of incitement and pre-planned acts of violence rather than some mere calendar-based coincidence.

It was therefore not surprising to see that in the weeks that followed, the BBC News website avoided the topic of Hamas threats and incitement to terrorism, relating to Ramadan, and focusing on the Temple Mount in particular.

Ramadan began on March 22, and its first two weeks passed relatively peacefully, with hundreds of thousands of Muslims — including from Palestinian Authority controlled areas — visiting the Temple Mount to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In order to prevent incidents of the type seen in previous years, an agreement had been made in advance with the Waqf, according to which there would be no overnight stays in the mosque. However, the Waqf — despite warnings from Jordan — apparently backtracked on that agreement at some point.

Incitement from Hamas and its supporters increased as the Jewish holiday of Passover approached, often using the excuse of planned actions by members of a small fringe group of Jewish extremists seeking to perform a Passover sacrifice. The Israeli police issued restraining orders against members of that group, and as in previous years, arrests were made.

BBC audiences had not previously been made aware of any of that relevant background information when, on the night of April 4-5, a group of Palestinians barricaded themselves (and others) inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the police had to evacuate them.

On the morning of April 5, the BBC News website published a report originally headlined “Jerusalem: Clashes erupt at contested holy site,” and later retitled “Jerusalem: Clashes erupt at al-Aqsa mosque.” The current version of that report is credited to David Gritten & Yaroslav Lukov and its headline has been changed to “Al-Aqsa mosque: Violence as Israeli police raid Jerusalem holy site”:

There have been violent scenes as Israeli police raided the al-Aqsa mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, saying “agitators” had barricaded themselves and worshippers inside.

Palestinians said stun grenades and rubber bullets were used in the pre-dawn raid and that 50 people were hurt.

Police said stones were thrown and fireworks fired at them in the mosque.

Militants in the Gaza Strip later fired rockets at Israel and its military carried out air strikes in response.

The latest violence comes just ahead of an overlap between the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish Passover holiday. [emphasis added]

Nowhere in that report are readers informed of the fact that Muslims had already been marking Ramadan at the same site for two weeks, and the agreement with the Waqf regarding overnight stays is not mentioned. The BBC’s reporting completely erased weeks of Hamas incitement, but does promote a quote from that terrorist organization (along with quotes from the Waqf, the Palestinian Authority, and a UN envoy): “The leader of the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, called the incident ‘an unprecedented crime’ and warned Israel that there would be ‘consequences.’”

The BBC’s report included the following graphic:

That graphic has appeared previously in BBC content, and, as we have repeatedly noted in the past, its origins lie in the BBC’s adoption of a narrative that began some eight and a half years ago.

As long-time readers will be aware, the claim that the whole of the Temple Mount compound is the Al Aqsa mosque was made by the PLO in a “media advisory” published in November 2014:

Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, sometimes referred to as the Noble Sanctuary (“Haram al-Sharif” in Arabic), is the compound that contains Al Aqsa building itself, ablution fountains, open spaces for prayer, monuments and the Dome of the Rock building. This entire area enclosed by the walls which spans 144 dunums (almost 36 acres), forms the Mosque. [emphasis added]

As we have documented here over the years, the BBC began to adopt the politicized terminology “Al Aqsa Mosque compound” — or even just “Al Aqsa Mosque” — to describe the area that its style guide says should be referred to as Temple Mount and Haram al-Sharif, immediately after the publication of that document. More recently, the BBC also began promoting the claim that the entire area of Temple Mount is a mosque — i.e. an exclusively Muslim holy place — in graphics: a practice that was not seen before November 2014 (see for example here and here).

In other words, not only does this BBC report adopt and mainstream politically motivated terminology, which clouds audience understanding of its topic, but it also completely erases the most important context to this story: the opportunistic, pre-planned incitement to violence that — not for the first time — was deliberately spread by Hamas before and during the month of Ramadan.

Hadar Sela is the co-editor of CAMERA UK – an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), where a version this article was first published.

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