On February 17th the BBC News website published a report titled “Poland PM cancels Israel trip after Netanyahu’s Holocaust comment”.
The story – which had in fact begun several days earlier – was presented to readers as follows:
“PM Mateusz Morawiecki has cancelled a trip to Israel following comments on the Holocaust by Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu.
Mr Netanyahu was quoted in Israeli media as saying “Poles co-operated with the Germans” during the Holocaust.
He later issued a clarification saying he was not referring to the Polish nation or all Polish people.”
Under the sub-heading “What were Mr Netanyahu’s comments?” readers were later told that:
“Mr Netanyahu was on a state visit to Poland on Thursday when his comments were reported in Israeli media, including Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post.
The Jerusalem Post said its version used the term “Polish nation”, which it said it quickly amended.
Mr Netanyahu’s office issued a clarification, saying: “In a briefing, PM Netanyahu spoke of Poles and not the Polish people or the country of Poland.””
Linking to a Tweet, the BBC’s report went on to state that:
“Mr Morawiecki took to Twitter to say there was “no Polish regime” during the Nazi occupation of Poland.”
The BBC did not bother to explain that it was not clear whether that Tweet from the Polish prime minister related to Mr Netanyahu’s misquoted statement or to a different story involving an American journalist.
The BBC’s portrayal obviously does not provide readers with a clear understanding of the story. The Times of Israel explains what actually happened:
“Top Polish politicians were thrown into a frenzy Thursday after reports emerged that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Warsaw for an international conference on the Middle East, had said that “the Poles cooperated with the Nazis” during the Holocaust.
Warsaw was apparently particularly riled by a story in The Jerusalem Post, which initially mischaracterized the Israeli leader’s quote as saying the Polish nation had cooperated with the Nazis. […]
Several reporters in the room reported Netanyahu had said “the.” But the Prime Minister’s Office spokeswoman Shir Cohen later played reporters a recording of the conversation in which it was clear the prime minister had indeed not used the definite article.
As for The Jerusalem Post’s error, Cohen told The Times of Israel: “The prime minister’s comments concerning Poland were misquoted by The Jerusalem Post, which quickly issued a correction clarifying that an error had been made in the editing of the article.””
So this is in fact a story about Polish politicians jumping to conclusions following a media accuracy error.
BBC audiences unfamiliar with the story would however have been unlikely to understand that from the report’s headline – “Netanyahu’s Holocaust comment” – and opening paragraphs which refer to “comments on the Holocaust…by Benjamin Netanyahu”.