Over the past year, Hamas has made great efforts to portray itself as the sole protector of Jerusalem. Those efforts focus on Temple Mount because that site is the “glue” which can bring together Palestinian factions ranging from Islamists to Marxists, as well as the wider Arab world.
The rallying cry “al Aqsa is in danger” produced an 11-day war in May 2021 that was accompanied by violent rioting in some Israeli cities. Just last month it curated violence in Jerusalem which was the topic of international media coverage.
A significant aspect of Hamas’ efforts involves terminology. All Jews visiting Temple Mount are “settlers” who are “storming” the site, according to the Hamas lexicon. They have no religious or historical connection to the place, according to the Hamas narrative, because the Jewish temples supposedly never existed there and the entire site is in fact al Aqsa Mosque.
Hamas is of course not alone in its denial of Jewish history as a means of negating Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
In early November 2014, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) published a “media advisory” document informing foreign journalists of its “concern over the use of the inaccurate term ‘Temple Mount’ to refer to Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem”.
Until that time, the BBC had largely followed the instructions in its own style guide: the site should be called Temple Mount, with audiences also being informed that it is known to Muslims as “Haram al-Sharif”.
Following the appearance of that PLO document, CAMERA UK began documenting changes in the wording used by the BBC. The term “al Aqsa Mosque compound” was employed with increasing frequency to describe the whole site. In some cases, the words “compound” or “complex” were dropped and BBC journalists referred to Temple Mount simply as “al Aqsa Mosque”.
The use of that terminology resulted in BBC audiences being misled on several occasions as they were told that al Aqsa Mosque was “sacred to Jews” or that it was “a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews”.
April 2022 saw another development: a BBC report about rioting on Temple Mount informed readers that “the compound is known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and is also considered, in its entirety, as al-Aqsa Mosque”.
The adoption of such Hamas-inspired terminology was evident in a recent report from a BBC Arabic correspondent in which he falsely claimed that “settlers” are allowed by the Israeli police “to get inside al Aqsa Mosque” and portrayed Jews visiting their holiest site as “storming” it.
In a speech on 30 April Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, threatened that if al Aqsa Mosque was “desecrated” again, “thousands of synagogues and Jewish temples all over the world” would also be desecrated.
Despite its supposed commitment to standards of accuracy and impartiality, the BBC continues to employ exactly the same partisan and inflammatory terminology that is used by Hamas to curate violence on Temple Mount and elsewhere. That fact should be of considerable concern to its funding public.
Hadar Sela is co-editor of CAMERA UK