Reviewing BBC News website follow-up reporting on terrorism in Israel

On July 3rd the BBC News website published a report titled “Jesus ‘miracle church’: Jewish extremist found guilty of arson” about a trial concerning an incident that took place just over two years ago.

“A Jewish extremist has been convicted of setting fire to a church in Israel which Christians believe is built at the site of one of Jesus’ miracles.

Yinon Reuveni set light to the Roman Catholic church at Tabgha, on the Sea of Galilee, in 2015, the court found.”

At the time of that incident the BBC produced two reports – one written and one filmed – and an additional report appeared on the BBC News website in February 2017 when the church was reopened after restoration.

“A mass has been held to reopen a Roman Catholic church in northern Israel badly damaged in an arson attack by Jewish extremists in 2015. […]

Three Jewish extremists have been indicted but not yet sentenced.”

As we see, that brings the total number of BBC News website reports on this story to four: two at the time and two follow-up articles. If readers are perhaps asking themselves whether or not the BBC usually follows up its coverage of nationalistic security incidents in that way, including reporting on the outcome of court cases months or years after events have taken place, the answer to that question is interesting.

In the case of the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir in July 2014, the BBC News website did indeed follow the trial closely.

Three charged over Palestinian Mohammad Abu Khdair murder July 17 2014

Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Two Israelis found guilty November 30 2015

Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Two Israelis jailed February 4 2016

Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Israeli ringleader found guilty April 19 2016

Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Israeli ringleader jailed for life May 3 2016

In the case of the arson attack in Duma in July 2015, in addition to reports published at the time of and after the attack, the BBC News website also produced follow-up reporting concerning related arrests and indictments.

Israel arrests youths over fatal West Bank arson attack December 3 2015

Israelis charged over fatal West Bank family arson attack January 3 2016

Israel arrests six members of ‘Jewish terror cell’ April 20 2016

However, when the suspected perpetrators are not Israelis, the BBC is obviously a lot less interested in producing follow-up reporting on arrests and trials.

Since October 1st 2015, visitors to the BBC News website have in the overwhelming majority of cases seen no follow-up reporting on arrests, trials or convictions related to the hundreds of terror attacks that have taken place.

The one exception is the October 1st 2015 attack in which Eitam and Na’ama Henkin were murdered. The arrest of suspects was briefly mentioned in a report on another topic and nine months after the attack the BBC News website produced a report on the sentencing of the perpetrators which did not include any mention of the word terror.

However, as has been noted here in the past, BBC News website reports concerning attacks perpetrated by Israelis have repeatedly used the word terror and the BBC has ‘explained’ that double standard by claiming that  it makes use of the term “Jewish terrorists” – including not in direct quotes and in apparent contradiction to BBC editorial guidelines on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ – because Israeli officials use such wording.

It is therefore unsurprising to find that in this latest report concerning the attack on the church in Tabgha, readers are told that:

“Prosecutor Avi Pasternak said the verdict made a strong statement on Jewish terrorism…” 

As we see, not only does the BBC News website employ a double standard in terminology according to the identity of perpetrators of attacks, but a quantitative difference in follow-up reporting dependent upon the same factor is also in evidence.  

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