BBC responds to Caabu complaint about misleading Jerusalem coverage

Posted by Caabu on 07 Aug 2017

The BBC has ammended an article, "Jerusalem holy site measures fail to halt crisis" (28.7.2017) about the crisis that errupted in Jerusalem in July in response to a complaint from Caabu director, Chris Doyle. In their coverage of the clashes, the BBC originally published an article that we cosidered to be misleading. The article in question started off "Israeli forces and Palestinians have clashed in East Jerusalem, the Occupied Territories and Gaza". This is misleading since by not calling Gaza or East Jerusalem occupied, it indicates that there is a difference in legal status between the three areas in question. It is absolutely vital to understand that East Jerusalem is under military occupation to satisfactorally explain what has been occurring in East Jerusalem over the last weeks.

The complaint sent by Caabu made this point clear, and also raised the problem that this is not the first time the BBC has reported misleadingly on Israel/Palestine, a point that was reiterated in our formal complaint;

"Such basic errors of fact have frequently appeared in BBC reports with reference to East Jerusalem. We hope that that not only is the article corrected, an apology made but that greater efforts are made to ensure that such unprofessional reporting not be repeated."

See below for the full text of the complaint.

After receiving our complaint, the BBC has corrected the opening paragraphs and added a furhter paragraph for clarification. In their response to Caabu they write; 

"Dear Mr Doyle

Ref: CAS-4500989-9S6KQZ

Thank you for getting in touch about our article reporting that Israeli forces and Palestinians have clashed in the Occupied Territories after weeks of friction over a Jerusalem holy site. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-40750258)

We have considered your complaint and reviewed the article.

It does say in the penultimate paragraph that the area where the compound is located (by implication East Jerusalem), is occupied by Israel: “Palestinians said Israel's new security measures upset the delicate status quo, which Israel has repeatedly pledged to maintain since occupying the area in the 1967 Middle East war.”

However we agree that it could be misconstrued though from the wording in our top line that East Jerusalem is not occupied. We have now addressed this by rewording the first and second lines so they read:

Israeli forces and Palestinians have clashed in the Occupied Territories after weeks of friction over a Jerusalem holy site. Violence erupted on the outskirts of Jerusalem's Old City, across the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip after the end of Muslim Friday prayers.”

(To spell out “ … occupied east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank and occupied Gaza… “ in the top line would clearly be too unwieldy.)

Lower down, for the benefit of readers who might be less familiar with the complexities of the issues, we have included a couple of lines of context explaining Gaza’s status in light of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal:

Israel has occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the 1967 Middle East war. The UN also still considers Gaza part of the Occupied Territories because of the control Israel exercises over its airspace, shared borders and coast despite pulling its troops and settlers out in 2005.”

We consider these edits to be clarifications and not corrections for the reasons explained and we hope you’ll find them satisfactory.

Thank you once again for getting in touch.

Yours sincerely

Sean Moss

BBC News website"

 

Original complaint from Caabu in full

"We wish to address this article about the clashes in Jerusalem. This article starts off by stating that "Israeli forces and Palestinians have clashed in East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and Gaza." We consider this inaccurate and biased.

The clear international legal position is that all the territories taken in 1967 are occupied, and that this includes East Jerusalem and indeed Gaza, as well the rest of the West Bank. By stating that there is the occupied West Bank and failing to refer to occupied East Jerusalem it actually changes the entire story because the key to understanding the tensions in East Jerusalem is that it is occupied and has been so for 50 years.

The legal position is very clear. UNSCR 478 in 1980 condemned the attempt by Israel to annex Jerusalem, a resolution reaffirmed multiple times including in UNSCR 2334 passed in December 2016. This resolution also reiterated that East Jerusalem was occupied. The International Court of Justice has also confirmed this as well in its advisory opinion of 2004. This is not something that should have to be consistently complained about. Such basic errors of fact have frequently appeared in BBC reports with reference to East Jerusalem.

We hope that that not only is the article corrected, an apology made but that greater efforts are made to ensure that such unprofessional reporting not be repeated. East Jerusalem is as occupied as Kuwait was by Iraq in August 1990, plain and simple.

We look forward to your response.

Chris Doyle Director,

Council for Arab-British Understanding