BBC-WATCH: Palestinians Attack Egyptian, But BBC Blames Israel

On December 22, 2003, after meeting with Israeli leaders, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher was assaulted by Palestinian rioters while visiting the al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Israel has sovereignty and overall security control of the Temple Mount, while the Islamic Wakf maintains civil authority on the compound. Accordingly, Jerusalem police accompanied Mr. Maher and his Egyptian security entourage to the entrance of the mosque and waited outside the site. Mr. Maher was then surrounded by angry Palestinians who threw shoes at him and shouted "traitor" and "collaborator." The Israeli police rushed into the mosque to assist Egyptian bodyguards in evacuating Mr. Maher from the site. Maher was taken in a Magen David Adom ambulance to an Israeli hospital for treatment.

The Arab press and Palestinian officials denounced the attack and Palestinian leader Arafat dispatched his chief political officer, Farouk Qaddoumi, to Cairo to apologize. Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat, who condemned the attack, was quoted in the Jordan Times as saying that Mr. Maher’s visit was fully coordinated with the Palestinian leadership, and Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei told Al-Jazeera that he was "shocked and furious" over the attack by Palestinian extremists on Maher

In a now-familiar pattern, however, BBC suggested that it was Israel who was ultimately to blame for the incident. On a BBC World news report on the afternoon of the attack, Monday, December 22, host Julian Marshall and reporter Jill McGivering appeared to be trying hard to establish some sort of Israeli responsibility for the incident.

MARSHALL: And who was responsible for his security when he went to the mosque?

McGIVERING: Well, I’m sure some questions are going to be asked about that and also about the wisdom of the decision to allow him to visit the site which is of course very sensitive. We understand that, again, from both the report by Israeli police and from the pictures we’ve seen, it seems as if the people around him, while he was actually in the mosque, when the attack started, seemed to be his own security guards. Israeli police must have been fairly close at hand because they went into the mosque after the scuffle had broken out and were also helping to get him out. But they weren’t around him at the time it happened it seems.

MARSHALL: Is it usual for Israel to take visiting Arab dignitaries to pray at the Al-Aksa mosque?

McGIVERING: Well, we know it is a very sensitive site. Of course, it isn’t that common for them to have people of that sort of profile, that sort of status. He was the first Egyptian official to visit here for more than two years. It may have been perhaps in Egypt’s mind some sort of gesture – positive gesture – of reconciliation that although Mr. Maher had made the decision not to visit with Palestinian leaders during this particular visit, he was focusing on Israeli officials, maybe he thought this was a way of balancing and showing that of course his loyalties are not one-sided. But clearly, it’s something that has gone a little bit wrong. This is not how his visit was intended to end.

An article on BBC’s website on the same day ("Egypt Minister Attacked at Mosque") quoted Ms. McGivering as saying that the incident was sure to cause some “embarassment” for the Israelis. Embarassment, responsibility—it’s all part of the BBC pattern of blaming on Israel–even when Palestinians attack Egyptians.

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