Saturday, June 10th | 22 Sivan 5783

April 18, 2023 10:43 am

Media Libel: BBC Airs Orthodox Jew ‘Spitting on Nuns’ Disputed Footage, Media Parrot Lie About Israeli Police

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avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue


An Orthodox Christian worshipper is silhouetted as he holds a palm frond outside the closed doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Orthodox Palm Sunday amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Jerusalem’s Old City April 12, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad/ FIle Photo.

As Easter celebrations in the Holy Land culminated in the Holy Fire ritual on Saturday, the international media jumped at the opportunity to lambast Israel with discredited allegations of poor treatment of Christians by Israeli authorities.

Reuters quoted Jerusalem church leaders at length complaining that “heavy-handed” measures were restricting the rights of Christians to attend special Easter celebrations, due to concerns about dangerous crowd numbers.

The BBC took a similar line, referencing Christian leaders’ urging of worshipers to ignore alleged Israeli restrictions and attend events at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre regardless.

Al Jazeera, meanwhile, tied the statement about restrictions to a reported increase of attacks against Christians by what are gratuitously labeled “Israeli settlers” in a story dramatically headlined, “‘Death to Christians’: Violence steps up under new Israeli gov’t.”

Publications that ran similar pieces included: The Guardian, TRT World, the Associated Press, Middle East Eye, and others, all accusing Israeli authorities of being both responsible for imposing and enforcing crowd size restrictions during Easter.

However, an April 3 letter signed by Teo Metropoulos, the church architect of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was leaked on Friday, claims the restrictions on crowd capacity are actually due to the church itself — and not Israeli police.

Stressing that just 1,800 worshipers could “safely” enter the church, with a further 200 allowed in the courtyard, the letter states: “The only entrance to the church has an opening of 3 meters without any other dangerous exit, for this reason all the internal security corridors that have been marked by the police authorities must remain open until the end of the ceremony.”

While the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem responded to the release of the letter with a statement hitting out at what it called a “complete misrepresentation of the facts” by an “engineer [who] was not commissioned or authorised to produce any report on this matter,” it is clear that the order to limit crowds inside the church was not solely due to the Israeli police.

BBC Uses Disputed Footage to Illustrate “Jewish Spitting on Christians”

The BBC aired a report on its nightly news bulletins about heightened tensions in Israel that included footage of an Orthodox Jew allegedly spitting on Christian nuns in the Old City.

However, the clip’s contents have been disputed enough that Twitter has added a context box to the footage, with analysis suggesting that a bystander who appears to say “Heil Hitler” is more likely to have been the target of the group of Jewish men rather than the nuns.

Israel Accused of Malicious Intentions Towards Christians

On the whole, Saturday’s Holy Fire festival went ahead largely without incident, bar some minor scuffles when some in the crowds who did not have permits from the heads of the churches to attend the ceremony attempted to breach safety barriers.

“Unfortunately, in some instances, before the Holy Fire ceremony began, people who did not have permits from the heads of the churches tried to push the police and break through points intended for those with permits and meant to regulate the crowds,” a police spokesman explained. “In one of the cases, the police arrested a suspect who physically assaulted police officers who were acting to regulate the crowd in the Old City of Jerusalem, injuring one of them. In another case, the police had to intervene to stop instances of physical violence and buffer between processions of the Christian denominations that were moving towards the church.”

Ignoring all evidence to the contrary, however, several high-profile media commentators have accused Israeli security forces of “brutally assaulting” Palestinian and Christian pilgrims for no apparent reason.

Easter should be a time of celebration in Israel, which guarantees freedom of religion and worship to all citizens and visitors.

Israel has no reason to “target” Christian visitors to Jerusalem, particularly when enormous efforts are made to attract Christian tourism from around the world to their holy sites.

The Israeli Police are ultimately responsible for the safety of tens of thousands of Jews, Muslims, and Christians, all concurrently celebrating Passover, Ramadan, and Easter respectively in the 0.9 square kilometers (0.35 square miles) that make up Jerusalem’s Old City. What a shame that journalists insist on being willing messengers for those who wish to create tensions in order to sully Israel’s image and reputation.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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