Sections of the mainstream media, including the BBC, have come under fire for “sanitising” Israel’s extremely racist and highly provocative flag march in occupied Jerusalem at the weekend.
An estimated 25,000 far-right Israeli ultra-nationalists took part in this year’s state endorsed march to celebrate Israel’s 1967 occupation and subsequent illegal annexation of Jerusalem.
As many as 2,600 far-right Israelis also stormed into the compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque — Islam’s third holiest site — in violation of the decades-old status quo. Jewish prayers are prohibited at the Noble Sanctuary, where some Jews believe the Biblical temple once stood. Over recent years, however, the religious taboo against walking around the “temple mount” has been eroded to the point of being non-existent.
Videos shared widely on social media from the day of the march showed mobs of ultra-nationalists chanting racist and highly provocative slogans about Arabs, Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was killed by an Israeli sniper, and Mohammad Abu Khdair, the child who was kidnapped, tortured, forced to drink petrol and then burnt to death by Israeli settlers in 2014.
At Damascus Gate, the ultra-nationalist mob, who are often described as Israel’s version of the Ku Klux Klan, sang: “Shu’afat is on fire” (referring to Abu Khdair); “A Jew is a soul, an Arab is a son of a whore”; “Death to the Arabs”; “Muhammad is dead”; and “May your village burn”. One video shows them chanting, “Shireen is a whore”.
Chants by Jewish extremists at Damascus Gate:
“Shuafat is on fire”
“A Jew is a soul, an Arab is a son of a whore”
“Death to the Arabs”
“Muhammad is dead”
“May your village burn” https://t.co/Dom5JtLiP1
— Khaled Elgindy (@elgindy_) May 29, 2022
The BBC’s apparent failure to mention the racist and provocative chants was criticised on social media. “If there was a march with chants of ‘Death to Jews’ and ‘A good Jew is a dead Jew’, who thinks the BBC would ignore,” tweeted Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding. “Yet in this article there is not one mention of the ‘Death to Arab’ chants. This is not journalism, it is propaganda.”
If there was a march with chants of "Death to Jews" and "A good Jew is a dead Jew, who thinks the BBC would ignore. Yet in this article there is not one mention of the Death to Arab chants. This is not journalism it is propaganda. https://t.co/ULJbAy8Q1N
— Chris Doyle (@Doylech) May 30, 2022
Ben Jamal, the Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, also slammed the BBC for ignoring the racist chants: “Appalling reporting by @bbcnews. The ‘nationalist songs’ to which they refer traditionally include ‘Death to Arabs’ and ‘We will burn your villages’. This is an annual state endorsed march to celebrate racial and colonial supremacy over the native.”
Appalling reporting by @bbcnews. The "nationalist songs" to which they refer traditionally include " Death to Arabs" and "We will burn your villages". This is an annual state endorsed march to celebrate racial and colonial supremacy over the native. https://t.co/Qf4lzwBis4
— Ben Jamal (@BenJamalpsc) May 29, 2022
An updated version of the BBC article mentioned the racist chants and changed the headlines to reflect the provocation by settlers. “Abusive chants and threats which were made by some marchers against Palestinians have been included in this version of the story, in order to give a fuller picture of events,” said the BBC. The corporation also admitted that it had removed the report about the assault on the BBC team, but this was later restored. It is not clear if the BBC amended its report to provide a more honest account of the march following criticism of its coverage.
“While some of the marchers shouted ‘The people of Israel live!’ there were other, abusive chants and threats directed at Palestinians, with some shouting ‘Death to Arabs!’ and ‘May your village burn!’ said the BBC in the amended article.
The assault on the BBC team by Israeli settlers was also mentioned: “A BBC team covering the event was verbally abused and forcefully shoved by two marchers, causing a cameraman to lose part of his equipment, said the BBC’s Tom Bateman. Nearby Israeli forces stopped them but didn’t take further action, he said.”
AFP news agency also came under fire over its failure to mention the racist chants and its attempt to blame the Palestinians for what it called “clashes”. “The @AFP describes this image of an elderly Palestinian journalist being punched in the head by Israeli forces as ‘Israeli security forces clash with a journalist during a rally to mark Jerusalem Day in Jerusalem’s Old City, on May 29, 2022,’ said Rafael Shimunov, a political activist in Queens, in a tweet.
The @AFP describes this image of an elderly Palestinian journalist being punched in the head by Israeli forces as "Israeli security forces clash with a journalist during a rally to mark Jerusalem Day in Jerusalem's Old City, on May 29, 2022." pic.twitter.com/x6IlMVVWox
— Rafael Shimunov (@rafaelshimunov) May 30, 2022
Shimunov’s twitter thread debunked AFP’s reporting and what seemed to be an attempt by the agency to sanitise the racist march and blame the Palestinians reacting to the violent provocation by the ultra-nationalist settlers.
With almost 2,600 Jewish settlers going into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the march has raised concerns about threats to the long-established status quo in occupied Jerusalem. This has maintained relative peace in the Holy City since 1967 when Jordan and Israel agreed that the Ministry of Awqaf (Islamic Religious Endowments) would have control over matters inside the sanctuary, while the occupation state would control external security. Non-Muslims are allowed onto the site during visiting hours, but are not allowed to pray there.