On February 26th 2013 an M75 rocket was fired from the southern Gaza Strip at the Israeli town of Ashkelon by what the BBC termed “militants”.
On February 27th 2013 the police in Belfast, Northern Ireland, discovered a rocket launcher and what the BBC termed “a warhead”. Fortunately, the device was not fired at civilians.
Comparing the language – and punctuation – used in the BBC’s report on the discovery in Northern Ireland to that which it employs when reporting on actual rocket fire against Israeli civilians is interesting.
The word “warhead” is used in the article’s headline and in its strapline. That term is not employed by the BBC to describe the munitions used by Hamas or other terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians.
The word “weapons” is used four times throughout the short article. That term is usually used by the BBC in connection to the Gaza Strip only when discussing the smuggling of arms or arms stores; it is not used to describe the actual rockets fired at Israeli civilians.
The article states that:
“They [the police] said the search was carried out as part of an investigation into dissident republican terrorism.”
The BBC never uses the word “terrorism” to describe the actions of what it consistently terms “militants” in the Gaza Strip, except when quoting others – usually Israeli officials – and even then the word is usually placed in quotation marks.
The article also states that:
“A PSNI spokesman said: “These weapons systems are clearly intended to kill and we should be in no doubt that the recovery of these items has saved lives.” “
One can be fairly confident that the BBC will not be setting up an interview between the police spokesman and Mishal Husein so that she can ask him how many residents of Northern Ireland were actually killed by “home-made contraptions”.
Notably, the BBC does not suggest any kind of linkage (implying extenuating circumstances) between the discovery of the weapons and the actions of Protestants in Northern Ireland or the policies of the British government.
In this case, the BBC has managed to report the story for what it is: the illegal possession of military-grade weapons by a terrorist group which threatens civilian lives.
It is a pity that the BBC is so often unable to apply the same standards of reporting to certain parts of the Middle East.