As was noted in part one of this post, while news of the terror attack at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv on June 8th was emerging, the head of the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau took to Twitter to inform his followers that such attacks are “rare”.
Despite the fact that this was the sixth terror attack in the Tel Aviv district in less than nine months and that its four victims bring the number of civilians murdered in the city in that time to ten, that theme was also in evidence in the report produced by the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on the evening of June 8th.
Presenter Tim Franks described the terrorists (from 14:11 here) as follows:
“…we’re able to bring you up to date on that story that broke just before we came on air and that’s news of a shooting attack in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. The police say that…eh…three people have died, that two assailants were involved in the attack….” [emphasis added]
During the conversation with his interviewee – Ben Hartman of the Jerusalem Post – Franks promoted the notion that terrorism in Tel Aviv is “rare”.
“I guess…ah….some of the striking things about this attack, Ben, are the…as you mentioned…I mean Tel Aviv has been relatively free of…of violence…ah…in recent months.”
He later introduced further misleading and inaccurate claims into the conversation.
“And I suppose also, Ben, ahm…the attacks that we’ve got used to reporting – at least… ahm… within Israel, within Jerusalem – have been…tended to be…those people…ahm… going after – Palestinians going after – maybe members of the security forces with things like screwdrivers or in cars; that sort of thing and not this rather sort of…ahm…bigger attack using weapons. Err…err…guns, rather.”
As readers can see for themselves in the monthly reports produced by the Israeli Security Agency, the number of civilians killed and wounded in terror attacks since October 2015 is considerably higher than the number of members of the security forces, meaning that Franks’ implication that the terrorists primarily target soldiers and policemen is false and materially misleading to audiences. The same reports show that his attempt to suggest to audiences that the weapons of choice have been confined to “screwdrivers” or “cars” is no less misleading: while the agency recorded 96 stabbing attacks (mostly with knives rather than screwdrivers) and 20 vehicular attacks between October 2015 and May 2016, it also recorded 77 attacks using firearms and 132 attacks using IEDs.
Franks also made an unexplained reference to a building in the proximity of the Sarona Market.
“Ahm…this was an open-air mall as well. I mean one normally associates these malls, these shopping areas, as having fairly heavy security and it’s pretty close to the main defence HQ, isn’t it?”
The mention of the proximity of the site of the attack to the offices of the Ministry of Defence was also a feature of additional BBC reporting, including the BBC News website’s written report on the attack.
“The attacks took place in two locations in Sarona Market, close to Israel’s defence ministry and main army HQ.”
There too, the BBC refrained from informing audiences why it apparently perceives that information to be relevant.
Listeners to the 10:30 p.m. news bulletin on BBC Radio 5 live (from 01:58 here) heard that same theme promoted:
“Police in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv say they’ve made two arrests after a shooting at a popular shopping and restaurant area that’s left four people dead. The attack happened near the country’s defence ministry.”
Listeners to the BBC’s most popular radio station – Radio 2 – on the evening of June 8th may have noticed an interesting editorial decision in news reports on the attack.
The third item in the station’s 9 p.m. news bulletin (from 01:00:59 here) informed listeners that:
“Three people have been killed and five wounded in a shooting in Tel Aviv. The attack happened in an area of bars and restaurants. Two suspects are in custody. Police are still looking for a possible third gunman.”
However, an hour later in the 10 p.m. news bulletin (from 00:06 here), the report was changed.
“Three people have been killed and five seriously wounded in a shooting attack in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. The attack happened near the country’s defence ministry. Police say two suspects are in custody, one of whom is undergoing surgery.”
At 11 p.m. listeners to the news (from 00:08 here) were told that:
“Israeli police say two Palestinian gunmen have opened fire in Tel Aviv, killing at least four people. Thirteen others were wounded in the incident near the Israeli defence ministry. Both suspected attackers were arrested; one was injured by gunfire.”
In other words, not only were Radio 2 listeners not informed that this was a terror attack but the BBC decided to erase the information which previously enabled them to understand that the victims were customers frequenting cafés and restaurants and instead shifted the focus over to a location unrelated to the story.