BBC News changes headline, deletes Tweet after anger at portrayal of terror attack in Jerusalem

On the evening of June 16th three Palestinian terrorists from a village near Ramallah carried out a combined attack in Jerusalem. Border Police officer Hadas Malka was critically wounded while responding to the incident and doctors were unable to save her life. In addition, four more people were wounded. While ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, Hamas rejected that claim:

“Early on Saturday morning, Hamas rejected IS’s claim of responsibility, saying the three belonged to Palestinian terrorist organizations.

“The claim by the Islamic State group is an attempt to muddy the waters,” said Sami Abou Zouhri, spokesman for the terrorist group which runs the Gaza strip.

The attack was carried out by “two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a third from Hamas,” he said.”

The BBC’s report on the attack currently appears on the BBC News website under the headline “Israeli policewoman stabbed to death in Jerusalem“. However, the article was originally titled “Three Palestinians killed after deadly stabbing in Jerusalem” and that was also how the BBC portrayed the incident on social media – much to the ire of many Twitter users.

As we see, that headline and sub-heading both fail to inform BBC audiences that the “Palestinians killed” were the terrorists who carried out the “deadly stabbing”.

As a result of public pressure, the BBC deleted that Tweet and posted a replacement some 24 hours after the attack took place. Readers may recall that this is by no means the first time that a BBC headline concerning a terror attack in Israel has prompted public outrage

As is inevitably the case in BBC coverage of Palestinian terror attacks in Israel – and in stark contrast to BBC portrayal of similar attacks in Europe – the article does not describe the incident as a terror attack.

Moreover, in the later version of the report readers found the following representation of a statement from Israeli officials saying that there was no indication that the terrorists were connected to ISIS:

“Police said there was “no indication” of a link between the suspects and a terror group.”

In fact – as the Times of Israel reported:

“All three of the assailants were members of Palestinian terrorist organizations, according to… Israel’s Shin Bet…

The attackers were identified by the Shin Bet internal security agency as Bra’a Salah and Asama Atta, both born in 1998, and Adel Ankush, born the following year. They were shot dead by security forces as they carried out their attacks.

The three were from Deir Abu-Mashal, a village near Ramallah. All had previously been arrested for or involved in terrorist activity, a Shin Bet statement said.”

Erasing the foreign nationals (including one Palestinian) murdered by Palestinian terrorists over the last 21 months, the report tells readers that:

“Forty-two Israelis have been killed in knife, gun and car-ramming attacks by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs since October 2015.

In late 2015 and 2016, such attacks happened with near-daily frequency but the rate has declined in recent months.”

That latter inaccurate claim is recycled from a previous BBC report. In fact, while in late 2015 the frequency of attacks was far beyond “near-daily”, around a hundred attacks still take place every month meaning that they remain on average a daily occurrence on average, notwithstanding the BBC’s failure to cover the vast majority of attacks.

As readers then see, the BBC continues to employ the “Israel says” formula in its portrayal of Palestinian terrorists killed while carrying out attacks.

“More than 240 Palestinians – most of them attackers, Israel says – have also been killed in that period. Others have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops.” [emphasis added]

The article closes with a mantra that the BBC has been promoting for many months:

“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

Once again, it is worth remembering that since the surge in terror attacks began in late 2015, the BBC has consistently failed to provide its audiences with any serious reporting on the topic of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials. Readers are hence unable to judge for themselves whether or not what ‘Israel says’ is accurate.

Likewise, it is noteworthy that the portrayal of terrorism as being attributable to “frustration rooted in decades of occupation” conforms to a guidance document for members of the international media put out by the PLO in November 2015.

Update:

According to Ynet, the BBC has released the following statement:

“We accept that our original headline did not appropriately reflect the nature of the events and subsequently changed it. Whilst there was no intention to mislead our audiences, we regret any offence caused.”

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

A new BBC ‘explanation’ for its double standards on terror 

BBC’s ‘rationale’ for its double standards on terror crumbles again 

 

 

 

 

BBC’s ‘rationale’ for its double standards on terror crumbles again

As readers may recall, in April (following a complaint from a member of the public) the BBC Complaints department supplied a new ‘explanation’ for the double standards seen in its reporting of terror attacks in different locations.

The complainant pointed out that while the corporation’s reporting on the attack in London on March 22nd rightly included use of the term ‘terror’ (as have subsequent reports on the more recent attacks in Manchester and London), BBC coverage of attacks by Palestinians in Israel does not describe those incidents as terrorism and the term is only seen in quotes – usually from Israeli officials.

The BBC’s response included the following ‘rationale’:

“Where there is an ongoing geopolitical conflict – as in the Middle East – to use the term “terror attack” or similar might be seen to be taking sides. There are those who might consider the actions of the Israeli government to be considered as terrorist acts.

In a situation where a country that is not involved in a direct physical combat comes under attack, it may be reasonable to construe that as a terrorist incident.

The use of such terminology is never an exact science but where a continuing conflict exists, it is reasonable that the BBC would not wish to appear to be taking sides.”

That argument is of course rendered ridiculous by the fact that the UK is part of the international coalition involved in the “continuing conflict” against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and another demonstration of the vacuous nature of that response from BBC Complaints recently came to light.

Like many other media organisations, over the last three years the BBC has on several occasions reported on Iranian involvement in “direct physical combat” with ISIS – for example:

‘Iranian attack jets deployed’ to help Iraq fight Isis

Iran jets bomb Islamic State targets in Iraq – Pentagon

What is Iran’s role in Iraqi fight against IS?

Tikrit: Iran key in fight to wrest city from IS

Iran ‘sending troops’ to fight Islamic State in Iraq

One would therefore expect that – given the BBC’s declared rule of thumb quoted above – its reporting on the attacks in Tehran on June 7th would not have included the term ‘terrorist’. Not so:

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

A new BBC ‘explanation’ for its double standards on terror 

When did the BBC begin avoiding the use of the word terror in Israel reporting?

BBC Watch is often asked in what year did the BBC’s policy of avoiding the use of the word terrorism when reporting on Palestinian attacks against Israelis begin.

While we do not have a definitive answer to that question, some examples from the BBC’s archived reports indicate that the language used by the corporation when reporting Palestinian terrorism has long displayed the very “value judgements” it claims to avoid.

A BBC report from September 6th 1970 relates to the Dawson’s Field hijackings by the PFLP. Titled “Hundreds held in series of hijacks“, the report opens: [all emphasis added]

“Four New York-bound airliners have been hijacked over western Europe in an unprecedented operation carried out by a militant Palestinian group.

Three of the planes taken over by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) have been flown to two different locations in the Middle East.”

Later on readers find the following:

“The PFLP have demanded the release of three Arab dissidents held in a Swiss jail in return for the 382 passengers they are holding hostage.”

Those so-called “dissidents” were in fact terrorists “serving 12 year sentences in Switzerland for attacking an Israeli airliner in Zurich in 1969”.

Later on in that article, the word “dissident” is also used to describe Leila Khaled.

“On the El Al flight a passenger pinned down an Arab female armed with a grenade who was attempting to get onto the flight deck.

Her fellow hijacker – a male armed with a hand gun – was tackled by a steward.

Several shots were fired, killing the male Arab militant and seriously wounding the crew member, but the pilot was able to make an emergency landing at Heathrow.

The captured female dissident was arrested by armed detectives at the airport and taken to a police station in west London.”

A BBC report dating from September 6th 1972 – “Olympic hostages killed in gun battle” – repeatedly describes the perpetrators of the Munich Olympics terror attack as “guerillas” despite the fact that their victims were civilians.

“All nine of the Israeli athletes kidnapped on Tuesday from the Olympic Village in Munich have been killed in a gun battle at a nearby airport.

A policeman also died in the shooting at the Furstenfeldbruck military airbase, along with four of the guerrillas from the Palestinian group Black September.

Witnesses at the airport said the shooting began when police snipers opened fire on the militants. […]

The guerrillas had previously threatened to kill all the hostages if 200 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel were not released. […]

The West German government had offered to pay any price for the release of the athletes, but was told by the guerrillas’ chief he cared for “neither money nor lives”.”

A report from September 19th 1972 – “Parcel bomb attack on Israeli embassy” – states:

“Palestinian extremist group Black September is thought to have posted the letters. Some were also sent to the Israeli embassy in Paris, sparking a worldwide security alert.”

A report on the Ma’alot massacre dated May 15th 1974  – “Teenagers die in Israeli school attack” – describes convicted terrorists, including Lod airport massacre perpetrator Kozo Okamoto, as follows:

“The Israeli government talked to the hostage-takers, via a loudhailer, and had agreed to release 26 political prisoners held in Israel.”

None of the above articles – or others dating from the 1970s – uses the words terror, terrorists or terrorism. An exception to that rule is found in an article titled “Gunmen kill 16 at two European airports” from December 27th 1985.

“At least 16 people have been killed and more than 100 injured during simultaneous twin terrorist attacks at Rome and Vienna airports.

Gunmen opened fire on passengers queuing to check-in luggage at departure desks for Israel’s national airline, El Al. […]

It comes amid reports airport authorities received warnings Arab militant groups were planning a pre-Christmas terrorist campaign at terminals across the world.”

However, as we see, the BBC’s failure to use accurate language to describe Palestinian terrorism and its perpetrators has been in evidence for nearly half a century. Is it therefore any wonder that so many contemporary British politicians who grew up watching and listening to the BBC so often get the Arab-Israeli conflict wrong?

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

A new BBC ‘explanation’ for its double standards on terror

A new BBC ‘explanation’ for its double standards on terror

As readers no doubt recall, when a vehicular and stabbing attack took place in London last month, the BBC made appropriate use of the word terror in its reports on the story.

In contrast, the word terror is consistently absent from reports concerning similar acts of terrorism that take place in Israel.

A member of the corporation’s funding public, Mr Neil Turner, wrote to the BBC to ask them to explain that lack of consistency in the use of the term terror. The reply he received includes the following (emphasis added):

“Thank you for getting in touch about our report on the attack carried out on Westminster Bridge in London and please accept our apologies for the delay in our response.

The BBC sets out clear parameters on how terms such as “terrorist” might be used:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/guidance/terrorism-language/guidance-full

Where there is an ongoing geopolitical conflict – as in the Middle East – to use the term “terror attack” or similar might be seen to be taking sides. There are those who might consider the actions of the Israeli government to be considered as terrorist acts.

In a situation where a country that is not involved in a direct physical combat comes under attack, it may be reasonable to construe that as a terrorist incident.

The use of such terminology is never an exact science but where a continuing conflict exists, it is reasonable that the BBC would not wish to appear to be taking sides.

Thank you again for raising this matter.”

Once again we see that the BBC chooses to deliberately conflate means with ends, putting forward the obviously flawed argument that if a person commits an act of violence against civilians with the purpose of furthering a political or religious agenda in a country in which there is “an ongoing geopolitical conflict”, that is not terrorism but if he does the exact same in a country where there is no such ongoing conflict, it is.

The bottom falls out of that argument when we recall that the BBC did use the term ‘Jewish terrorists’ to describe the perpetrator/s of the arson attack in Duma, despite the existence of an “ongoing geopolitical conflict”.

The corporation’s complaints department also appears to have tried to find a way of dismissing the fact that UK forces are involved in the military campaign against jihadists in Iraq and Syria by means of use of the term “direct physical combat”. Notably, the BBC is apparently not inclined to promote the notion that those actions of a state fighting terrorism might be “considered as terrorist acts”.

While there appears to be no limit to the ‘creativity’ of BBC Complaints when challenged on the issue of the corporation’s double standards and lack of consistency when reporting acts of terror, audiences are of course likely to remain unimpressed by these repeatedly contorted excuses.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

  

 

BBC reports on British student murdered in Jerusalem exclude the word terror

On April 14th a British exchange student was murdered in a terror attack in Jerusalem.

“The young British woman murdered on Friday in a terror attack in Jerusalem was named as Hannah Bladon, 21, an exchange student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. […]

Bladon died of her wounds after being stabbed multiple times with a kitchen knife by a Palestinian terrorist while riding on Jerusalem’s light rail.

An off-duty police officer and a passerby wrestled the terrorist, a Palestinian man from East Jerusalem, to the ground before he could harm anyone else. Two other people were lightly injured when the tram made an emergency stop.”

A report on the attack appeared on the BBC News website some two and a half hours after it took place.

Originally titled “Jerusalem stabbing: British woman killed in train attack”, the report was amended numerous times and its headline changed as details emerged and the victim was identified – but the word terror does not appear in any of its thirteen versions.

An additional report on the same story appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘England’ page on April 15th under the title “Hannah Bladon Jerusalem stabbing: Family ‘devastated’ at attack“. The word terror is likewise absent from all versions of that article. 

When British tourists were murdered in Tunisia in 2015, the BBC accurately described the incident as a terror attack. When an attack in which some of the victims were visitors to Britain took place in London in March 2017, the BBC similarly used accurate terminology to describe it to its audiences.

However, when visitors to Israel have been murdered in terror attacks perpetrated by Palestinians, the corporation has consistently refrained from using accurate language to describe those attacks.  

Once again, the BBC’s double standards on terrorism, together with the redundancy of its inconsistently applied guidelines on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’, are glaringly apparent.

Related Articles:

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

 

BBC’s vehicular terrorism double standards on display again

Just one day after having refrained from describing a car ramming attack against Israelis as terror, BBC News did use that word in its reporting on a vehicular attack in Stockholm on April 7th.  

The BBC News website’s main report on the incident – “Stockholm lorry rams crowds, killing ‘at least four people’” – informed readers that:

“A lorry has smashed into a store in central Stockholm, killing at least four people.

At least a dozen people were also injured in the incident on Drottninggatan (Queen Street), one of the city’s major pedestrian streets, on Friday afternoon.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said it was a terror attack.”

Readers of that report were provided with analysis by the BBC’s security correspondent:

“I was in Stockholm yesterday, ironically at a security conference. I don’t think Sweden was prepared for something like this.

The last big terror incident they had was in 2010 when a failed suicide bomber blew himself up in a car in central Stockholm.”

The article also included an insert now titled “Timeline: Vehicle ramming attacks in Europe and the US” from which the scores of vehicular attacks against Israelis were of course excluded.

As noted here at the time, BBC reporting on those attacks in Nice, Berlin and London did use the term terror.

CNN produced a similar timeline of vehicular attacks in locations around the world but – in contrast to the BBC – it did include on its list the lorry attack in Jerusalem in January in which four people were murdered and sixteen injured.

Since August 2014 forty separate attacks using trucks, tractors, vans or cars have been perpetrated against Israelis, with images encouraging such attacks commonly appearing in incitement posted on social media. The use of vehicles to carry out terror attacks however goes back still further; what Europe has been seeing in the past nine months has been an all too familiar sight to Israelis for many years.

Many of those attackseven fatal ones – have been ignored by the BBC. Those that were reported have – in contrast to similar incidents on European soil – not been described as terror attacks in the corporation’s own words.

The reason for that double standard lies in the BBC’s failure to distinguish between method and aims, with the result being that when somebody deliberately drives a vehicle into a group of people, the corporation’s description of the attack as terror – or not – depends on the perceived aims and affiliations of the perpetrator.

It is high time for the supposedly impartial BBC to explain its now well-documented double standard when reporting vehicular (and other) attacks to its funding public. 

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel

BBC coverage of Berlin terror attack again highlights double standards

Absurdity of BBC’s ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ guidance on display again

No use of term ‘terror’ in BBC News report of vehicular attack on Israelis

 

Absurdity of BBC’s ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ guidance on display again

As regular readers know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on ‘War, Terror and Emergencies’ instruct its journalists to avoid unattributed use of the term terrorist and urge consistency of terminology regardless of the story’s location.

“We try to avoid the use of the term “terrorist” without attribution.  When we do use the term we should strive to do so with consistency in the stories we report across all our services and in a way that does not undermine our reputation for objectivity and accuracy.

The word “terrorist” itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding.”

The corporation’s accompanying guide on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ similarly states:

“…we don’t change the word “terrorist” when quoting other people, but we try to avoid the word ourselves; not because we are morally neutral towards terrorism, nor because we have any sympathy for the perpetrators of the inhuman atrocities which all too often we have to report, but because terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones.”

Under the sub-heading ‘Value Judgements’ the same guidance states:

“The value judgements frequently implicit in the use of the words “terrorist” or “terrorist group” can create inconsistency in their use or, to audiences, raise doubts about our impartiality. For example, the bombing of a bus in London was carried out by “terrorists”, but the bombing of a bus in Israel was perpetrated by a “suicide bomber”. […]

Some will argue that certain events are so evidently acts of terror (and, therefore, perpetrated by “terrorists”) that those descriptions are reasonable, and non-judgemental. However, the language we choose to use in reporting one incident cannot be considered in isolation from our reporting of other stories. So to use the word in incidents which we may consider obvious creates difficulties for less clear-cut incidents.”

Fortunately, the BBC’s reporting of the terror attack in London on March 22nd did not comply with those guidelines; in multi-platform reports and on social media audiences were told in clear language what the story was about.

As was noted here (Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel) when a vehicular terror attack took place in Nice in July 2016, terror attacks using vehicles have not been afforded the same clarity of description by the BBC when perpetrated against Israelis.

When four people were murdered in a vehicular attack in Jerusalem in January 2017, the BBC did stick to its guideline of only using the word terror with attribution and avoiding the term itself.

Likewise, the BBC consistently refrains from using the word terror to describe stabbing attacks on Israeli civilians or members of the security forces.

When the BBC does manage to report terror attacks in London, Nice, Berlin, Brussels or Paris using appropriate language, its long-standing editorial policy of eschewing accurate terminology in coverage of Palestinian attacks on Israelis becomes even more discordant and the redundancy of its inconsistently applied guidelines and guidance is highlighted all the more.

Those guidelines are clearly in need of serious review if the BBC wants its audiences to believe that its reporting is impartial.

Related Articles:

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

The BBC, terrorism and ‘consistency’

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe  

BBC coverage of Berlin terror attack again highlights double standards

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe