BBC News reporting on October 7 terror attacks avoids the word terror

October 7th saw a wave of terror attacks across Israel, three of which were reported on the BBC News website in an article which was originally headlined “Two Israelis stabbed in Jerusalem’s Old City” and later retitled “Israeli stabbed in Jerusalem’s Old City” as circumstances became clearer.

The first two versions of the report related to an attack carried out by a Palestinian woman from the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sur Baher. Both versions included the following statement which presents victims of terrorism and their attackers on an equal footing:

“The stabbing comes amid a surge in violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank that has left eight people dead.”

Readers subsequently discover that those eight people are in fact four Israeli victims of terrorism, two Palestinian terrorists shot whilst in the process of carrying out attacks and two Palestinians shot due to their having been engaged in violent rioting.

“On Monday, Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinian youths during clashes with protesters in the West Bank. Israeli media subsequently quoted military officials as saying one of them, a 13-year-old boy, had been shot by mistake.

Two days earlier, a Palestinian stabbed two Israelis to death in Jerusalem. Another stabbed and wounded an Israeli teenager. Israeli police killed both attackers.

And last Thursday, gunmen shot and killed an Israeli couple as they drove with their four young children in the West Bank.”

The statement concerning the 13 year-old paraphrased by the BBC in these and later versions of the report can be seen here.

Later on in the day another incident took place in the southern town of Kiryat Gat. Once again, the BBC managed to provoke protest on social media with its updated headline to the report.

Kiryat Gat pigua

That headline was later amended but retained its ‘last-first reporting’ style.

Kiryat Gat pigua 2

Readers of the first three versions of the BBC’s report on that incident were informed that:

“The man [terrorist] then fled into a residential building, where police forces tracked him down and shot him dead…”

Only in version five did readers discover that there was rather more to the story.

“The man [terrorist] then fled into a residential building, where he reportedly forced his way into one woman’s flat, grabbed a kitchen knife and attempted to stab her after realising that the rifle did not have a magazine. Israeli police then arrived at the scene and shot the man dead.”

The later two versions of the report – including the one which currently appears on the BBC News website – were titled “Israelis stabbed in three attacks as tensions escalate” and were updated with reporting on yet another attack which took place in Petah Tikva in the early evening.Oct 7 art final

The latest version of the report now opens with the following confusing description which suggests some sort of linkage between the first two attacks:

“Israelis have been targeted in a series of stabbing attacks by Palestinians, Israeli police say, amid escalating tensions in the region.

A Palestinian man was shot dead by police after attacking a soldier, after a Palestinian woman stabbed an Israeli man who then shot her, police said.

Later, an Israeli man was stabbed by a Palestinian man, police said.” [emphasis added]

There are several notable points concerning this evolving article.  No attempt was made to clarify to readers that the three specific attacks reported in the various versions of this article were by no means the only attacks to have taken place on that day.

Whilst the reports named the towns of Kiryat Gat and Petah Tikva, no clarification was provided to readers with regard to the fact that the attacks in those places represent an expansion of what was described in the article’s early versions as “a surge in violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank”. In addition, there was no BBC reporting on the protests – some of which turned violent – in towns such as Jaffa and Lod.

Notable too is the fact that the BBC’s reporting adopts and promotes the notion of equivalence between victims of terrorism and their attackers, as well as those engaged in violent rioting, by means of the use of phrasing such as “a surge in violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank that has left eight people dead” and – immediately following a description of Israelis injured in terror attacks:  

“Dozens of Palestinians were also reportedly hurt in clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank.” [emphasis added]

But the most obvious notable point about this article is that despite all its versions being devoted to reporting on three separate terror attacks in one single day, yet again the word terror did not appear even once in any of them.

The BBC cannot claim to be meeting its public purpose of enhancing the public’s understanding of international issues as long as it continues to avoid clarifying to audiences by means of the use of accurate language that what is happening in Israel at present is a wave of terror.

BBC News’ televised coverage of missiles attacks on Israel July 30 – August 3

In our previous post we looked at coverage of the hundreds of missile attacks on Israeli civilians between July 30th and August 3rd inclusive on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. In this one we will look at coverage of the same events by the BBC’s correspondents on the ground in Israel at the time: Orla Guerin, Bethany Bell and James Reynolds.Missiles filmed 1

To recap: on July 30th 140 missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip. On July 31st 102 missiles were launched, 17 of which were intercepted and 76 hit Israel including one direct hit on an apartment in Kiryat Gat. On August 1st over sixty missiles were fired and on August 2nd, eighty-six, of which 58 hit Israel and six were intercepted. On August 3rd 119 missiles were launched, of which 109 hit Israel and eight were intercepted.

Filmed reports broadcast on BBC television news during that time which supposedly showed the Israeli side of the story included three by Orla Guerin, one by Bethany Bell and two by James Reynolds.

Aspects of Orla Guerin’s report of July 30th (“Gaza crisis: Israel’s military strategy“) have already been discussed here. The only mention of missile fire at Israeli civilians in that report comes from Guerin’s interviewee Ya’akov Amidror.

“If Hamas will not stop launch missiles and rockets, as it did even today…”

Viewers did however see a full 20 seconds of footage of Israeli tanks, bulldozers and other heavy equipment in that 160 second-long report.Missiles filmed 2

Guerin’s July 31st report (“Gaza crisis: Israel releases ‘aborted airstrike’ video“) in which she visited an air-force simulator has also been discussed here previously. No mention of missiles fired by terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians appears at all in that 189 second-long report, but its last 59 seconds are all dedicated to footage of Israeli soldiers and more tanks and jeeps.

On August 1st Orla Guerin was to be found presenting a report inaccurately and misleadingly titled “Israeli soldier ‘captured’ by militants as ceasefire ends“. That report also opens with thirteen seconds of footage of Israeli tanks and in addition Guerin takes a ride on an Israeli naval vessel – or as she calls it, a “fast attack missile boat”. Towards the end of the report Guerin goes to visit Kibbutz Kfar Aza.

Guerin: “Back on dry land, the deserted streets of Kfar Aza. This Israeli kibbutz sits on the border with Gaza. Most residents have fled.”

Her interviewee shows damage to a building.

“Luckily this is a bomb shelter so it took most of the impact and you can see nothing actually penetrated the house.”

Guerin: “Noam Stahl is one of the few who remains after twelve incoming hits in recent weeks and the constant percussion of outgoing Israeli artillery.”Missiles filmed 3

But if viewers perhaps anticipated at this point that they may get to hear more about Mr Stahl’s experiences of living under terrorist missile fire not just in “recent weeks”, but for the past thirteen years, they would be disappointed. Orla Guerin had other priorities.

“Do you still believe in the idea of peace between Israelis and Palestinians? Do you think it can be achieved?”

On August 2nd Bethany Bell produced a report titled “Israeli forces continue search for soldier missing in Gaza“. With the exception of 14 seconds of footage, that entire 73 second-long report shows images of tanks, APCs and soldiers. Bell does tell viewers:

“…and Hamas has fired more rockets into Israel – about ten today. Sirens have been sounding over various parts of central Israel and along the border with the Gaza Strip…”

James Reynolds produced a report on August 3rd titled “Gaza crisis: BBC reports from Israeli staging post“. All of the footage of that 94 second-long report shows Israeli tanks. Reynolds gives a decent, if short, representation of the scale and purpose of Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels and also says:Missiles filmed 4

“But of course Israelis in this border area want the army to do much more than just find tunnels. They want the army to stop all rocket fire, all mortar fire from Gaza towards Israel. And just before we started recording we heard an alarm here and everyone was told to get in their tanks. There was a warning of a mortar coming in. It didn’t land around this area but nevertheless I think it shows that the overall fight between Israel and Hamas continues…”

An additional report by James Reynolds later on the same date – August 3rd – appeared under the rather pompous title “Gaza conflict: BBC assesses Israel’s military campaign” and the first 30 seconds of that report (104 seconds all told) also show Israeli tanks and APCs. Reynolds then goes to Kibbutz Kfar Aza.

“Batya Holin lives in the border village of Kfar Aza – a target of Palestinian rockets. Ninety percent of her neighbours have fled their homes.”

Holin: “I want that all the missiles will stop. I really want that all our people that live now outside of this area will come back and we can live quiet.”

Reynolds also interviews a reservist who says:

“You know the motivation is very high because before most of us came here we had like shooting in our places. I was caught up like next to my place in Tel Aviv. I was in the shelter and there was nothing I can do so I understand that we have to do Missiles filmed 5something and we have to come and finish here the thing with Hamas.”

Reynolds closes with the following odd and unsourced claim regarding the fallen soldier Lt. Hadar Goldin:

“Israel calls his death part of this country’s unfinished war of independence.”

During the five days in which the above six reports were produced, hundreds of missiles were fired by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians. BBC television news audiences heard of “about ten” rockets from Bethany Bell and of one mortar from James Reynolds. They heard general statements regarding missile fire from various interviewees, with all those interviews conducted in calm circumstances which contrast sharply with the type of footage from the Gaza Strip which has been shown on BBC television news in recent weeks.

There are no images of injured civilians or of crying women and children, no pictures from emergency rooms or hospital wards and only one short section of footage of minor damage to a building in six reports. The direct hit on an apartment in Kiryat Gat on July 31st was not mentioned and no live footage of it or any of the other attacks were shown. Two of the reports note that many residents of area around the Gaza Strip have had to evacuate their homes because of missile fire from the Gaza Strip, but the BBC has to date not made any attempt to portray the experiences of those people.

The extensive useMissiles filmed 6 of footage of soldiers, tanks, APCs and other military equipment contrasts sharply with the fact that BBC audiences have not seen even one image of an armed terrorist, an anti-tank missile or mortar being fired by terrorists or a missile launcher in over four weeks of intense BBC coverage from the Gaza Strip. 

These filmed reports cannot be said to give BBC audiences a realistic and comprehensive idea of the Israeli side of the story or to reflect the scale and intensity of the ongoing attacks from the Gaza Strip in the period from July 31st to August 3rd. In common with the written coverage appearing on the BBC News website, they certainly cannot be said to support the claim made by the BBC complaints department that “BBC News has reported extensively on the series of rocket attacks launched by Hamas and other Palestinian militants into southern and central Israel in recent weeks”.  

 

BBC News website coverage of missiles attacks on Israel July 30 – August 3

Kiryat Gat 31 7

The image above was shown on Israel’s Channel 2 news shortly after a missile fired from the Gaza Strip hit a home in Kiryat Gat at around 6 p.m. on July 31st.

“Two people wounded by rocket-fire in Kiryat Gat; one, a 30-year-old man, was hospitalized in serious condition. The rocket, one of several shot at the southern city, struck the third floor of a residential building. Three other rockets were intercepted above Kiryat Gat, and another landed in an open area within the city limits. Seven people are being treated for shock.”

That missile was one of 76 to hit Israel on that day, with a further 17 intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system and 102 fired overall. The day before – July 30th – 140 missiles had been fired at Israel and the day after – August 1st– over sixty were launched. On August 2nd 86 missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip by terrorist organisations and the following day – August 3rd – 119 missiles were launched.

So how has this continuing missile fire at Israeli civilians been covered on the BBC News website?

The later of two articles appearing on the BBC News website on July 30th – titled “Gaza conflict: UN accuses Israel over Jabaliya attack” – covers the topic of 140 missiles fired from the Gaza Strip on that day as follows:

“Sirens continued to sound in southern Israel to warn of militant rocket attacks….”

An earlier report from the same date relates only to missile fire from the previous day.

An article titled “Gaza conflict: Israel calls up 16,000 reserve soldiers” which was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of July 31st – the day after 140 missiles had been fired from the Gaza Strip – likewise has no mention of missiles hitting Israel at all; only of sirens sounding.

“At least 19 air strikes were carried out overnight, officials said, while rocket alarm sirens were heard in southern Israel on Thursday morning.”

An article appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page later on in the day on July 31st under the title “Israel ‘to destroy’ Hamas Gaza tunnels – Netanyahu” was last updated about an hour after that attack on Kiryat Gat but the incident was not reported. The only mentions of missile fire at Israeli civilians in that article are these:

“Most of Hamas’ rockets into Israel are intercepted and destroyed by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system.” […]

“Meanwhile, a series of rocket alert sirens sounded across southern Israel. Sirens in the town of Sderot sounded several times as Mr Netanyahu spoke.”

The morning of August 1st saw a new article on the BBC News website’s Middle East page titled “Gaza 72-hour humanitarian truce by Israel and Hamas begins“. From midnight until the ceasefire came into effect at 08:00 local time, at least nine missiles had been fired from the Gaza Strip and just two hours into it, missiles were fired at the Kerem Shalom area. The only two references to missile fire in that article are these:

“However, hours after the truce began, Palestinians said four people had been killed by Israeli fire, apparently in response to a rocket attack.” […]

“Israeli military sources told the BBC the attack was in response to rocket fire on Kerem Shalom in Israel.”

In a later article from the same day titled “Israel to resume Gaza operation as truce with Hamas crumbles” the sole reference to missile fire comes in a quote from an Israeli spokesman.

“Israeli foreign affairs spokesman Yigal Palmor told the BBC that Israeli forces had retaliated after being attacked in what seemed like a planned move by Hamas.

“There was a full-scale attack on an Israeli unit and this unit had to respond,” he said.

“After it responded, Hamas started firing rockets on Israeli territory again and therefore the fighting resumed all along the line.”

The third and final article appearing on August 1st – inaccurately titled “Gaza militants ‘seize Israeli soldier’ as ceasefire ends” – includes no mention at all of missile fire into Israel even though earlier in the evening (just before 9 p.m. local time) it had been announced that over sixty missiles had been fired at Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip throughout that day.

Illustrative photo from BBC report 30/7/14

Illustrative photo from BBC report 30/7/14

Three written reports also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 2nd. The earliest – titled “Gaza conflict: Hamas denies holding Israeli soldier” includes only the following reference to missile fire by terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.

“Hamas accused Israel of breaking the short-lived ceasefire but the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had been forced to respond to militant rocket fire.”

The second article to appear on that day was titled “Gaza conflict: New exchanges amid Israeli soldier hunt“. During the course of that day, 86 missiles were fired from Gaza, of which six were intercepted and 58 hit Israel. By the time this article was published, there had already been two barrages of missiles fired at central Israel and the Be’er Sheva area at 06:00 and 07:20. The article states:

“A series of rocket attacks into Israel was reported on Saturday morning.”

And:

“Israeli media said that after a relatively quiet night, a number of rockets had been fired on Saturday morning, including at Tel Aviv.

The Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, which controls Gaza, said it had fired three rockets at Tel Aviv.

At least two were reportedly shot down by the Iron Dome missile defence system.”

The third article appearing on August 2nd was titled “Gaza crisis: Israel ‘unlikely to go to talks in Egypt” and its coverage of 86 missiles fired that day is confined to the following sentence:

“Israeli media said that after a relatively quiet night, a number of rockets had been fired on Saturday morning, including at Tel Aviv.”

On August 3rd a total of 119 missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilian targets, eight of which were intercepted and 109 hit Israel. The BBC News website’s Middle East page main article on that day was titled “Gaza conflict: Missing Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin ‘dead’“. Its coverage of the topic of missile attacks against Israeli civilians is limited to one sentence.

“Israeli media also reported fresh militant rocket attacks into Israel.”

An additional article appearing later on the same day was titled “Gaza crisis ‘intolerable’, says Philip Hammond“. That article’s coverage of 119 missiles fired by terrorists in the Gaza Strip is as follows:

“Thirty Palestinians have been reported killed on Sunday and militants have continued to fire rockets into Israel.”

Readers may recall that just days ago the BBC complaints department informed a member of the public that:

“BBC News has reported extensively on the series of rocket attacks launched by Hamas and other Palestinian militants into southern and central Israel in recent weeks. We have reported on the civilian injuries and casualties, destruction and disruption caused by the attacks in towns near Gaza, such as Ashkelon and Sderot. We have also reported on the range and capability of Hamas’ arsenal, emphasising that major urban areas like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are also under threat from attacks.” [emphasis added]

Clearly the hundreds of missiles launched from the Gaza Strip in the five days between July 30th and August 3rd inclusive were not reported “extensively” on the BBC News website and the effects of those which exploded inside Israel were not reported at all. Visitors to the BBC News website hence not only have little idea of what is happening on the civilian front in Israel, but they also lack the context to understand the Israeli strikes on missile launchers, weapons depots and terrorist cells in the Gaza Strip which are extensively reported by the BBC. 

Part two of this article will look at BBC television news coverage of the same events by correspondents based in Israel.