BBC News website reporting of Tel Aviv terror attack

As news broke of the terror attack on the number 40 Dan bus in Tel Aviv early on the morning of January 21st, the BBC News website grabbed its scare quotes and got to work.

All versions of the report titled “Israel bus attack: Tel Aviv passengers stabbed” opened in typical ‘last-first’ reporting style by informing audiences that a man had been shot by the police before informing them why and the same policy was seen on BBC social media. Inverted commas placed around the words terror attack in earlier versions of the report were removed from later editions.

Bus attack 21 1 a

Bus attack 21 1 b

Bus attack 21 1 c

The use of unnecessary punctuation continued, however, on the BBC News website’s Middle East homepage in a link to a filmed report on the same topic.

Bus attack 21 1 on HP 2

The first two versions of the report informed readers that “In November, an Israeli soldier was killed in a knife attack in Tel Aviv, while an Israeli woman was stabbed to death in the West Bank in a separate attack” without clarifying that those two incidents were both terror attacks.

Subsequent versions of the article noted that the terrorist came from Tulkarem, stating that “Tulkarem is a town in the occupied West Bank” whilst in fact it is located in Area A and, in accordance with the Oslo Accords, has been under PA control for two decades.

Later editions of the report also included contributions from the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly.

“Israeli police say there has been a pattern established in recent months where individual Palestinians, without sophisticated weapons, have attacked civilians at random, the BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem reports.

Late last year, a number of Israelis were killed in attacks by Palestinians using weapons including knives and even vehicles to run down pedestrians.

Four Israelis were killed in November after two Palestinians armed with a pistol and meat cleavers attacked a synagogue in West Jerusalem.”

In addition to the fact that it would have been more accurate and informative to cite the exact number of people murdered in October and November 2014 instead of “a number of Israelis”, the article originally inaccurately stated that four people were killed in the Har Nof Synagogue attack rather than five as was actually the case. That error was subsequently corrected. Notably, no mention is made of the affiliations of many of those “individual Palestinians” with assorted terrorist organisations.

The report then goes on to state:

“Our correspondent says the latest round of tensions began to increase last year, after the summer conflict in Gaza and disputes over access to religious sites in the old city of Jerusalem.

More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in Gaza during the Israel-Gaza conflict, the majority of them civilians according to the UN.

Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers, and six civilians in Israel, were also killed.”

As we see, readers are not informed that “the summer conflict” took place in Israel as well as the Gaza Strip or that it began because terrorist organisations based there fired hundreds of missiles at Israeli civilians and constructed cross-border attack tunnels. In addition, the article continues the now well-established practice of quoting out of date civilian/combatant casualty ratios which the BBC has not independently verified. The BBC News website found it appropriate to illustrate this report about a terror attack in Tel Aviv with the image below.

Bus attack 21 1 pic Gaza

The BBC’s consistent practice of downplaying or ignoring Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism makes the phrasing of the following segment of this report particularly notable:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas for the attack.

The attack was “the direct result of the poisonous incitement being disseminated by the Palestinian Authority against the Jews and their state”, he said.

The Israeli government frequently accuses Palestinian groups of inciting violence.

The government has been angered by Mr Abbas’ efforts to secure Palestinian membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and agreement to a unity government with militant group Hamas.

The Palestinians blame Israeli government policies, particularly the expansion of settlements, for the increase in violence, correspondents say.”

Audiences are not told who those anonymous “correspondents” are, but it is probably not too much of a gamble to assume that they include the same BBC employees who repeatedly promoted the notion that ‘settlements’ were the main reason for the terror attacks during October and November 2014. In fact, whilst this particular terrorist did not mention ‘settlements’ as a motivating factor for his actions, he did cite other factors, including “extremist Islamist television programs”.

Apparently refusing to connect the dots between “a unity government with militant group Hamas” and glorification of terrorism from “a senior Hamas official”, the writer of this report went on to inform audiences that:

“Izzat Risheq, a senior Hamas official, praised the stabbing attack.

Speaking from Qatar, he described it as “a natural response to the crimes of the occupation and terrorism against the Palestinian people”.”

Risheq was not the only Hamas official to condone the attack:

“The event was deemed a “natural response to Israeli terrorism,” by Hamas Spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri, who issued an official statement as events unfolded in Tel Aviv. 

The incident, the statement said, was a response to ongoing “Israeli crimes” against the Palestinian people. “

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum posted this status on Facebook, the Fatah Facebook account lauded the stabbings and some Palestinian media outlets also praised and celebrated the attack with a series of cartoons.

Throughout this report the language used by the BBC to describe the terrorist includes “suspect” (three times), “perpetrator” and “attacker”. The word terrorist is only used in quotes from Israeli sources. The continuing refusal to use accurate language to portray terror attacks in Israel must be assessed together with the BBC’s consistent avoidance of any serious reporting on Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism, its concurrent repeated promotion of subjectively selected factors (such as “expansion of settlements”) as ‘context’ for terror attacks against Israelis, and its transparent attempts to separate the ‘moderate’ Palestinian Authority from “militant” Hamas despite the existence of a unity government. Together, all those factors continue to obstruct audience understanding of this issue. 


BBC News website coverage of November 10 terror attacks reveals editorial policies

In the early afternoon of November 10th an eighteen year-old Palestinian from Askar near Nablus (Schem), who had entered Israel illegally, attacked an Israeli soldier with a knife near a train station in Tel Aviv. Two civilians were also injured when they tried to prevent the attacker from stealing the soldier’s gun and the terrorist was arrested shortly afterwards. Several hours later Staff Sergeant Almog Shiloni, aged 20 from Modi’in, died from the multiple stab wounds he sustained in the attack. A spokesman for Hamas (partner to the PA unity government) in Qatar praised the attack, describing it as “part of a welcome plan that reflects the tenacity of our people to resist the occupation and move against the crimes [committed] in al-Aqsa and in Jerusalem”.Pigua TA BBC tweet

The BBC News website reported the incident using the headline “Israel: Palestinian held as Israeli soldier stabbed“. Promotion of that short report on Twitter included the perennial superfluous punctuation around the phrase terror attack and that same BBC editorial policy was also evident in the opening paragraph of the article.

“An Israeli soldier has been stabbed and critically wounded in what police said was a “terror attack” in Tel Aviv.”

A brief round-up of recent fatal terror attacks in Jerusalem appearing in the article – presumably intended to provide readers with context to the incident – likewise refrained from using the word terror.TA terror attack bbc report

“Last week a Palestinian militant killed a policeman and a Jewish teenager after ramming his van into pedestrians at a tram stop in Jerusalem.

A similar car attack by a Palestinian in the same area two weeks earlier killed a woman and a baby.”

As has been the case in all BBC reporting on the issue of the surge of terror attacks in Israel throughout the last few weeks, no mention was made in this article of their backdrop: the severe incitement from parties to the Palestinian unity government.

Later on the same afternoon, an additional terror attack took place near Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion. Twenty-six year-old Dalia Lemkus from Tekoa was stabbed to death and two additional civilians were injured when a terrorist from Hebron tried to run over pedestrians at a bus stop and then got out of his vehicle and carried out stabbing attacks. The terrorist – a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – was shot by a security guard who arrived at the scene and the PIJ later claimed responsibility for the attack.

The BBC News website’s report on that attack (which replaced the above article) is currently titled “Israeli woman and soldier killed in two knife attacks” and amendments to it can be seen here.Pigua Alon Shvut art

At no point does the report clarify to readers that the attack was an act of terrorism or that the perpetrator was a member of a proscribed terrorist organization.

“An Israeli woman was later stabbed to death near the Alon Shvut Jewish settlement in the West Bank. The assailant was shot by a security guard. […]

The West Bank attack took place at the entrance to the Alon Shvut settlement.

The attacker tried to run over people in his car, hit a concrete barrier then got out of the vehicle, reports said.

He then stabbed the 26-year-old woman, named by Israeli media as Dalia Lamkus, along with two other Israelis at a bus stop. The two injured men were taken to hospital.

The attacker was shot several times by a security guard and was taken from the scene in a serious condition, emergency services said.”

In fact, the only mention of the word terror in a report about two separate terror attacks comes once again in the form of a quote from the Israeli police and with superfluous qualifying punctuation.

“Monday’s earlier incident in Tel Aviv took place at a busy train station and was described by police as a “terror attack”.”

Also notable is the fact that this BBC report – like many previous ones – steers audiences towards the adoption of a flawed narrative which completely erases the hundreds of missile attacks on Israeli civilians carried out by terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip which took place in the weeks preceding this summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas.Pigua Alon Shvut on HP

“The attack took place close to where three Israeli students were abducted and killed by Palestinian militants in June, an incident which led to the revenge killing in Jerusalem of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists.

Tensions then escalated into a 50-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.”

The report closes with ‘context’ provided by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly.Pigua Alon Shvut 2

“BBC Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly says there has been no real pattern to the recent spate of attacks – the attackers appear to have acted suddenly, meaning there is no advance intelligence to forewarn the authorities.

In two other attacks in the past three weeks, Palestinian militants rammed vehicles into pedestrians in Jerusalem, killing four people. Both attackers were shot dead.

A Palestinian suspected of shooting and wounding a prominent right-wing activist, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, in Jerusalem at the end of last month was also shot dead in a gun battle with Israeli police.

Our correspondent says that many Israelis feel the security situation has been deteriorating, with the summer conflict in Gaza, the dispute over rights of prayer at a holy site in Jerusalem and continuing Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem all factors in a worsening atmosphere.”

Yet again we see the legal purchase of properties in specific geographical areas by people of a certain religion or ethnicity framed by the ‘progressive’ BBC as “settlement” and audiences encouraged to view that as an element of the context to recent violent attacks carried out by Palestinians.Pigua Alon Shvut BBC tweets 2

However, this article – like its predecessor and all other previous BBC reports in recent weeks – erases the very relevant issue of Palestinian incitement – both official and unofficial – from audience view – just like those hundreds of pre-Operation Protective Edge missiles have been erased from the BBC’s narrative.

For months now partners in the Palestinian unity government have been inciting violence and terror. The BBC has religiously ignored incitement and glorification of terrorism by the PA president, by his party Fatah, by PA institutions, by official PA media and by Abbas’ unity government partners Hamas.

“Let me say, loud and clear, to our people in the West Bank: Don’t you have cars? Don’t you have motorcycles? Don’t you have knives? Don’t you have clubs? Don’t you have bulldozers? Don’t you have trucks? Anyone who has a knife, a club, a weapon, or a car, yet does not use it to run over a Jew or a settler, and does not use it to kill dozens of Zionists, does not belong to Palestine.

Palestine says loud and clear: Real men are those who avenge the blood of Gaza. Real men are those who avenge the blood of the Gaza Strip. Real men will not sleep until they have avenged the blood of Gaza.

To our people within the Green Line [Israeli Arabs], we say: It is time for you to declare a new phase in this struggle. Political and social considerations are worthless. Blood and martyrdom are the only considerations that matter. The Palestinian people has no choice but to wage this battle in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Jerusalem, and in all the cities of occupied Palestine.” (Source - Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas, July 30th 2014.)

The BBC has an entire department devoted to the Arabic language. It could easily prepare a comprehensive backgrounder on the issue of Palestinian incitement in order to enhance audience understanding of the significance of that factor in the current surge in terror attacks against Israelis.

The fact that the BBC elects instead to omit any mention of that topic from its coverage speaks volumes (as does its avoidance of accurately defining terror attacks) about its supposed commitment to accuracy and impartiality and the political motivations behind editorial decisions.

Terror in Tel Aviv: scare quotes at the BBC.

Here is the BBC’s report on the terrorist bombing of a number 142 Dan bus in central Tel Aviv on Wednesday lunchtime, November 21st:

A deliberate terrorist attack is termed a ‘Bomb blast’ – in ‘well, that’s what they’re telling us’ inverted commas.  

The article continues:

“There has been an explosion on a bus in Israel’s commercial capital Tel Aviv, police say, amid continuing exchanges between Israel and militants in Gaza.

There are at least 10 injuries in what police called a “terrorist attack”.”

Further down, the liberal sprinkling of scare quotes continues:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Ofir Gendelman said on his Twitter account that the explosion was caused by a bomb and that it was “terrorist attack”.

Emergency services say five of the wounded in the bus explosion are in a serious or moderate condition.

An Israeli who witnessed the explosion told Army Radio the bus was “completely charred”.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said the blast occurred on the corner of Shaul Hamelech and Henrietta Szold.

It said the injured were being taken to Ichilov hospital and that roadblocks had been set up in the area to search for a suspected bomber.

The attack took place on the eighth day of exchanges between Israel and militants in Gaza.

Some 139 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed.

Celebratory gunfire reportedly rang out in Gaza City when local radio relayed news of the bus attack.”

Before we are tempted to attribute the generous use of so much unnecessary punctuation to BBC caution until the picture is fully clear, we should perhaps compare and contrast with its reporting of the strike on the antennae of two office blocks in Gaza City earlier this week. 

What the above report does not include is reports on Twitter by its correspondents on the ground in Gaza that Hamas immediately took responsibility for the attack. 

The BBC’s Paul Danahar appeared to be trying to suggest that the target of the attack was of a military nature, which makes an interesting contrast to some of his tweets earlier in the week. 

(By the way, here is a recent event in Gaza which the plethora of BBC reporters on the ground there appears to have decided not to report, apart from a brief 29 words in this item.)


The BBC now has footage of the aftermath of the attack up on its website – also broadcast on BBC News.

Note the wording of the report’s synopsis as it appears on the website: [emphasis added]

“At least 10 people have been injured in an explosion on a bus in Israel’s commercial capital, Tel Aviv, in what one Israeli official described as a “terrorist attack”. “