BBC News reports another fatal terror attack without the word terror

On the afternoon of March 18th a stabbing attack took place on HaGai Street in the Old City of Jerusalem.

“Adiel Kolman, 32, a father of four, was killed in a terror attack on Sunday evening as he left his job at the City of David museum in the Old City and headed in the direction of Jerusalem’s light rail. […]

A terrorist stabbed him in the upper part of his body as he neared the area of the Lion’s Gate entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem. He was rushed to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in serious condition and died just before midnight.”

The attacker (who was subsequently lauded by Hamas) tried to flee but was spotted by a policeman in the vicinity.

“The 28-year-old terrorist, Abd al-Rahman Bani Fadel, who was later confirmed to be a Palestinian from the village of Aqraba near Nablus, was shot dead by a police officer at the scene on HaGai Street where he carried out his attack.

Fadel, a father of two, had a temporary permit for a week that allowed him to enter Israel to search for employment.”

The next day – some twenty hours after the attack took place – the BBC News website published an article titled “Israeli stabbed to death by Palestinian near Jerusalem holy site” in which the incident itself was reported without error but the words terror, terrorism and terrorist were completely absent.

Readers once again saw an attempt to ‘contextualise’ the murder of an Israeli for no other reason than his identity by promotion of the notion of linkage to the US administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December.

“Tensions between Palestinians and Israelis have risen since December when US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, infuriating Palestinians.”

An older mantra was also recycled:

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

It is worth remembering that since the surge in terror attacks 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.

Readers were told that:

“It is the latest in a wave of attacks on Israelis, mostly by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs, since late 2015.”


“At least 54 Israelis and five foreign nationals have been killed in nearly two years of mainly lone-wolf attacks.”

That given time-frame of “nearly two years” is clearly inaccurate: five foreign nationals have been killed in terror attacks since October 2015. 




BBC News continues to link terror to US embassy move

On the afternoon of March 16th a vehicular attack took place near Mevo Dotan.

“A Palestinian driver hit four Israeli soldiers with his car Friday afternoon, killing an officer and a soldier and seriously injuring the others, outside the Mevo Dotan settlement in the northern West Bank. One of the injured soldiers suffered severe head trauma and was fighting for his life.

The military confirmed that the incident was a terror attack. It said the troops were hit while standing near a military guard post.”

A few hours later the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israeli soldiers killed in West Bank car attack” on its Middle East page.  

In line with standard BBC practice, the word terror does not appear anywhere in this report.

“A Palestinian man has driven his car into a group of Israeli troops in the north of the occupied West Bank, killing an officer and a soldier, the Israeli military says. […]

Two other soldiers were injured in the incident.” [emphasis added]

Readers were not told that at the time the article was published, one of the injured soldiers was in serious condition after suffering severe head trauma. Neither were they informed that the terrorist received treatment in an Israeli hospital after the incident.

“The suspect fled from the scene but was later detained. Reports said he was lightly injured.”

The report states:

“The Israeli military said the soldiers had been securing routes near the settlement of Mevo Dotan.”

Readers were not informed that the soldiers were securing that route because – as the Jerusalem Post and others reported:

“Palestinian protesters had been throwing rocks and molotov cocktails toward the road”.  

The BBC did, however, include its standard partial mantra on ‘international law’ in the report.

“The incident happened near the Jewish settlement of Mevo Dotan, west of the Palestinian town of Jenin. […]

The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

As has so often been the case in BBC reports relating to Palestinian terrorism and violence published since early December 2017, this article suggests linkage between the attack and US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel over three months ago.

“The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas hailed the car-ramming incident but did not say it was behind it.

The incident happened amid high tension on Friday after Hamas called for protests to mark 100 days since US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

Hamas had in fact called for a ‘Day of Rage’ rather than “protests” and the attack was also praised by additional Palestinian factions: the PIJ, the DFLP and the PFLP.

The report goes on:

“The US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but has infuriated Palestinians.

The declaration broke with decades of US neutrality on the issue and put it out of step with the rest of the international community.”

In fact, the US Congress of course voted to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital over two decades ago.

The BBC’s article closes with a quote from an AFP report:

“More than 30 Palestinians and four Israelis have been killed in violence since Mr Trump’s declaration, AFP reported.”

Once again, readers were not told how many of the Palestinians killed were engaged in terror attacks or violent rioting at the time and the BBC refrained from clarifying that a higher number of  Israelis were murdered in terror attacks by Palestinians in the three months before the US president made his declaration than in the three months since. 

Related Articles:

BBC News goes from not reporting car rammings as terror to not reporting at all

BBC News continues to blame Palestinian violence on US

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ promotes equivalence between violent rioters and victims of terror




Hamas ‘Hardtalk’ interview rebuts BBC messaging, perpetuates inaccuracies – part one

On January 8th the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk‘ aired (not for the first time) a televised interview with Hamas’ Mahmoud Zahar on the BBC World News channel and on the BBC News channel.  An audio version of the same interview was also broadcast on BBC World Service radio and a clip from the interview was promoted separately.

“Stephen Sackur speaks to Mahmoud al-Zahar, co-founder of the Islamist movement Hamas. Donald Trump broke with long established diplomatic convention by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. His recent tweets on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been music to the ears of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. So what do the Palestinians do now? Hamas controls Gaza and has been at loggerheads with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank for more than a decade. Are the Palestinians staring defeat in the face?”

One noteworthy aspect of that programme was Stephen Sackur’s presentation of terrorism as a matter of conflicting narratives.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Sackur: “My guest today was one of the co-founders of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. Mahmoud Zahar became used to the rigours of violent conflict with Israel. He was imprisoned, deported, his home was targeted, family members – including his son killed. But he and his Hamas colleagues remained committed to an armed struggle whose ultimate objective they characterise as the liberation of all the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. To Israel, Hamas is a terrorist organisation and Mr Zahar is a terrorist with blood on his hands. To Palestinians he is one player in a prolonged internecine struggle between Fatah – the organisation led for so long by Yasser Arafat – and Hamas.”

And [from 04:56 in the audio version]:

Sackur: “The truth is, since that decision taken by Trump in December on Jerusalem we’ve seen – what? – a dozen or so rockets fired from Gaza toward Israel. The Israelis have responded by targeting weapons dumps. The truth is everything that you talk about in terms of violent military resistance plays into Israel’s hands. It allows them to characterise you yet again as terrorists out to kill Israeli citizens.”

Sackur’s presentation of course would not have surprised anyone familiar with the BBC’s long history of promoting the ‘one man’s terrorist’ narrative that fails to distinguish between means and ends and results in inconsistent BBC reporting on terrorism in differing locations.

Another notable point was Sackur’s adoption of Hamas’ own terminology and his breach [from 20:09] of the BBC Academy’s “journalists’ guide to facts and terminology” which, as noted here recently on two occasions, instructs the corporation’s staff not to use the term Palestine except in very specific circumstances.

Sackur: “Is the resistance in Palestine now in the hands of ordinary people – young people particularly – not with veteran leaders like you?”

Viewers and listeners may have noticed that during this interview some of the messaging they have previously received from the BBC was contradicted.

For example, the BBC’s long-standing and repeated claim that the Gaza Strip is occupied even though Israel withdrew from the territory over twelve years ago was contradicted by Zahar [from 04:00].

Zahar: “But lastly, lastly by our method of self-resistance, self-defence against the occupation in Gaza we succeed[ed] to eliminate the occupation in Gaza.”

In September of last year the BBC began reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ and produced a considerable amount of content promoting that topic. However, Zahar dismissed the claim of ‘reconciliation’ proposed by Sackur [from 09:02].

Sackur: “I mean you in Hamas, as of October 2017 – just a few months ago – are committed to a reconciliation agreement with Fatah which is supposed to lead to a reunification of the administration in Gaza and supposed to see Fatah and PA – Palestinian Authority – forces take security control in Gaza. Are you suggesting to me that that deal is now completely off?”

Zahar: “First of all I’d like to address that it’s not a reconciliation. This is a misleading name actually. We in Cairo on 2011 agreed to have a deal and agreement in Cairo. This agreement includes the most important point is to run election for the ministerial level, for the legislative council and for the national council level. And we are dead sure that we are going to win this election. At that time we are going to change the attitude of this authority from cooperating with Israel to the degree as we did with the Israeli in 2005. For this reason we are…”

Sackur [interrupts] “We don’t have time for a long history lesson but the bottom line is just a few months ago you were prepared to talk about a deal with Fatah and Fatah insisted part of that deal would be that you would accept Palestinian Authority security control in Gaza and Hamas would ultimately have to give up its weapons. Are you prepared, in Hamas, as part of a national deal, to give up your weapons?”

Zahar: “It’s not a national deal. It’s between Fatah and other national factions but the Palestinian people in the refugee camps, more than six million people outside, they’ve not shared it. I’m speaking about what is the substantial core of this deal you describe in the last few months. It was implementation of the agreement in Cairo 2011. It’s not a reconciliation.”

Another interesting point arising from this interviewee is the discovery that the BBC does know the purpose of the cross-border tunnels dug by Hamas and other terror organisations – despite its ambiguous description of their purpose in the past.

Sackur: [11:43] “…you’re not prepared – are you? – to give up your weapons based control of the Gaza Strip and your continued determination to fire rockets into Israel and dig tunnels under your territory into Israeli territory in order to conduct terrorist operations inside Israel.”

Last year the BBC amply covered the story of the Hamas policy document published in May with some reports inaccurately describing it as a ‘new’ charter signalling a different approach from the terror group and Yolande Knell, for example, telling BBC audiences that “it really drops its long-standing call for an outright destruction of Israel”. However, when Sackur brought up that topic, Zahar put paid to that claim from Knell.

Sackur [from 18:27] “…in May of 2017 your movement came out with a new policy document. For the first time they…you in Hamas said that you would accept a solution which gave the Palestinians a state on the ’67 lines and it looked as though – with a new leader Mr Haniyah in place – it looked as though Hamas was beginning to search for a way to play a role in the peace process; to become – if I may say so – more moderate. Have you walked away from that now? Are you not interested in being more moderate anymore?”

Zahar: “I’m sorry to understand from you because we are speaking about establishment of an independent state in the area for occupied ’67 but this is the continuation of our argument. But we are not going to denounce a square meter of our land which is Palestine.”

Throughout the interview Zahar was permitted to promote inaccurate claims unchallenged by Sackur, as we will see in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Selective BBC framing of Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ continues

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part one: website

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part two: World Service radio



BBC reports on fictional counter-terrorism but not the real thing

On January 1st Israel’s security services announced the arrests of members of a Hamas cell that was directed from the Gaza Strip.

“Israeli security forces broke up an alleged Hamas terrorist cell planning to carry out attacks in the West Bank, arresting five of its members in November, the Shin Bet security service revealed Monday.

The cell was led by Alaa Salim, a resident of the Palestinian West Bank town of Jaba, north of Jerusalem, but it received its directions from Abdallah Arar, a known Hamas terrorist living in the Gaza Strip, the Shin Bet said.

Arar, who was convicted for his involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Israeli man Sasson Nuriel in 2005, was released to the Gaza Strip from an Israeli prison six year[s] later as part of a contentious prisoner exchange to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was being held hostage by Hamas. […]

When he and the other four alleged members of the cell were arrested, Salim had already received directions from Arar to carry out attacks, along with thousands of shekels in order to purchase an M-16 assault rifle, according to the Shin Bet.”

Two days later, on January 3rd, the security services announced that members of another cell had been arrested.

“The Shin Bet security service on Wednesday revealed it had uncovered an Iranian military intelligence operation in the West Bank that it said was planning to carry out terror attacks and collect intelligence for the Islamic Republic. […]

The leader of the cell was a 29-year-old computer science student named Muhammad Maharma from Hebron, but he received his directions from an Iranian operative in South Africa, the Shin Bet said.

The other two alleged members were Nour Maharma and Dia’a Sarahneh, both 22 and both also from Hebron.

According to the security service, in 2015, Muhammad Maharma was enlisted to work for Tehran by his cousin, Backer Maharma, who moved to South Africa from Hebron and allegedly started working for Iranian intelligence.

“Backer even introduced Muhammad, on a number of occasions, to Iranian officials, some of whom visited [South Africa] from Tehran in order to meet him,” the Shin Bet said.

According to the security service, its investigation found that Iran was using South Africa as a “significant front for finding, enlisting and deploying agents to Israel and the West Bank.””

While the BBC did not produce any coverage of either of those stories, it did publish an article in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on January 6th relating to a television drama series about Israeli counter-terrorism units.

However, the only mention of the word ‘terrorist’ in Jane Corbin’s article “Fauda: The drama lifting the lid on Israeli snatch squads” comes in a direct quote.

“Lior and Avi deliberately set out to portray the brutal conflict in a new way, depicting common characteristics between both sides.

“[In Fauda] they are all-rounded characters – even if he’s an evil terrorist he’s got to love his wife and you have to show it and he has kids and you have to show it,” says Lior, “and also the good guys are doing bad things sometimes,” he adds, alluding to his compatriots.”

Throughout the rest of her article Jane Corbin employs the standard (and long-standing) BBC euphemism ‘militants’ – even when interviewing actual terrorists who, she claims, “carry out attacks on Israelis”.

“I am on the set of Fauda, the Israeli television thriller that portrays the murky world of Israeli undercover army units and Palestinian militants during the Second Intifada (Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation).”

“We wanted to show how they [militants and their families] live, their experiences, the price they’re paying for their actions,” says Lior. “For the Israeli audience we open a window for them to see how people live over there.”

“This strong Arab woman is an unusual lead character in a television drama in this region. The character faced a moral crisis when militants in her own family used her to surgically implant a bomb inside a wounded Israeli undercover soldier.”

“After our own game of cat and mouse to find Palestinian militants willing to talk, we met two heavily armed masked men in a house in Shuafat refugee camp, on the outskirts of occupied East Jerusalem. They carry out attacks on Israelis and try to outwit the undercover units hunting them down.”

As we see, the BBC has expanded its selectively applied guidance on ‘language when reporting terrorism’ to apply even to reporting on fictional Palestinian characters in a TV drama show. Can it get any more ridiculous?

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The BBC WS finds a use for the word terror, misleads on Jerusalem

Listeners to the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour‘ on December 13th heard two items relating to that day’s meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Turkey.

The first item (from 14:05 here) was introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy thus:

“Muslim leaders from around the world have been meeting in Istanbul today to formulate a response to President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The emergency summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation was convened by the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and he called Mr Trump’s announcement illegal and provocative.”

Listeners then heard a voiceover translation of Erdogan’s remarks.

V/O: “With this decision Israel – the perpetrator of crimes such as occupation, siege, illegal settlements, demolishing houses, displacement, property and land grabs, disproportionate violence and murder – has been rewarded for all its terror acts. Although he’s alone, this reward is given by Trump.”

That defamation went completely unchallenged by Coomarasamy who simply went on to say:

“Well we hope to be speaking to our correspondent in Istanbul a bit later in the programme.”

That indeed was the case, with Coomarasamy introducing the second item (from 18:54 here) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “And let’s return to that story in Istanbul and the meeting of the heads of government from Islamic countries around the world, meeting to agree a formula about their response to President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We can speak to our correspondent in Istanbul Mark Lowen now. So Mark, what have they actually agreed?”

Lowen: “Well it was a 23-point statement, Jamie, that was put out by the Organisation for [sic] Islamic Cooperation, calling on countries to recognise Palestine as an independent state and East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestine. Other highlights in the statement included rejecting and condemning Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem as null and void and also calling on the UN to reaffirm the legal status of Jerusalem – i.e. as the capital of two future states.”

Mark Lowen’s claim that the “legal status” of Jerusalem is already defined by the UN as “the capital of two future states” is clearly inaccurate and misleading to audiences. Just days before, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process stated that the city’s status depends on negotiations between the parties concerned.

“The United Nations position was clear, he emphasized.  “Jerusalem is a final status issue for which a comprehensive, just and lasting solution must be achieved through negotiations between the two parties and on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions and mutual agreements.””

Lowen continued:

Lowen: “So this was an attempt by 57 member OIC to come together to bridge differences and to harden its response to Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. The problem is that of course some Muslim leaders are more pro-Trump than others, so for example Egypt and Saudi Arabia only sent ministers to this meeting – not heads of state – possibly to keep the US on board. And really, beyond the kind of tough talk and this call, will there be any kind of hard bite? It’s hard to know really and certainly it is unlikely to change White House policy.”

Coomarasamy: “Yeah, I mean is it simply –as you say – really an attempt to show a united face even if perhaps there isn’t quite one there? And as you say, does this organisation have any sort of track record in influencing global opinion?”

One would have course have expected at this point that listeners would have been told something of the OIC’s persistent anti-Israel activities at the UN and of the relevant aims laid down in its founding charter – but that was not the case.

Lowen: “Not really and you know it’s hard to see this more than a talking shop. I mean yes there will be a call at the UN to…to bring this to the table. The joint communique says that if the UN Security Council does not act to reaffirm the status of Jerusalem, then the UN General Assembly must do so. But when you’ve got the US as a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, you know, anything that would kind of go against White House policy is going to be vetoed.”

Lowen did not bother to inform listeners that UN General Assembly resolutions are non-binding before going on:

Lowen: “So, you know, the US is fairly isolated on this although of course it’s got the support of Israel and according to Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, there are other countries that say they want to follow suit but at the moment none have spoken up. We’ll have to see whether or not this can…the statement today can really give a proper semblance of unity to the Islamic world because up until this conference the Turkish prime minister for example accused some Arab countries of a very weak response and being timid towards the US. So I think there are really certainly divisions among Muslim leaders themselves.”

Coomarasamy: “Do they have any proposals for who might be a broker in a future peace process?”

Lowen’s answer to that question included noteworthy use of the word ‘forthright’ – a synonym for which is ‘honest’.

Lowen: “They’ve called on the UN to replace the US as a peace broker. The protagonists at this conference – Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan who was very forthright: he accused the US of bullying the rest of the world and said Israel was a state of terror – the Palestinian president, the Jordanian king, all saying that the US has lost its position as a sort of impartial peace broker and that the declaration by Donald Trump has disqualified the US as an impartial player in the peace process, so they’ve called the UN now to take its position. We’ll have to see whether the United Nations can come together and respond to it.”

Coomarasamy: “And interestingly they talk about the potential this decision has to increase terrorism – I guess sort of using the sort of language that Donald Trump, they hope, will resonate with him.”

Lowen: “Yeah, I suppose so. I mean they accuse the Israelis of…Turkey’s accused the Israelis of terrorising Palestinians and Turkey said that by supporting Israel the Americans – or the US – is complicit to terror. So I suppose yeah, they’re kind of taking a tone that Donald Trump might listen to or might hear but probably not heed.”

Remarkably the BBC – which of course serially refrains from describing terror attacks on Israelis as terrorism (supposedly in order to avoid appearing “to be taking sides“) and uses the euphemism ‘militants’ to describe terror organisations such as Hamas, the PIJ and Hizballah – obviously has no problem with unquestioning and uncritical repetition and amplification of the Turkish president’s use of the word terror for the purpose of delegitimisation and defamation of Israel.

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Jerusalem terror attack gets 21 words of BBC coverage

On December 10th the IDF announced that it had destroyed a cross-border attack tunnel constructed by Hamas.

“The Israel Defense Forces this weekend destroyed an attack tunnel coming from the southern Gaza Strip that entered Israeli territory, the army announced on Sunday.

photo credit:IDF

The military said the kilometer-long tunnel was constructed by the Hamas terrorist group. It began in the Gazan city of Khan Younis and extended “hundreds of meters” inside Israeli territory. Israel demolished another cross-border tunnel, which was being dug by the Islamic Jihad terror group, six weeks ago.

IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus would not specify where exactly the newly destroyed was located in Israel, but said it ended in open farmland, approximately one kilometer (0.6 miles) from the nearest Israeli community. […]

He said the tunnel appeared to be a “very substantial” one for Hamas, “based on the level of detail.””

The BBC News website did not produce any stand-alone reporting on that story and the only mention of the IDF’s announcement came in twenty words in half a sentence in yet another article about the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital that was published on the website’s Middle East page on December 10th under the headline “Netanyahu: Palestinians must face reality over Jerusalem“.

Notably, despite the IDF having identified the tunnel as belonging to Hamas, the BBC did not report that information to its audiences and was ‘unable’ to describe the tunnel’s purpose in its own words.

“…Israel said it had blown up a tunnel from Gaza, which it says was being dug to enable militant attacks”

Obviously Israeli officials did not use the phrase “militant attacks” and so for the third time this month we see the BBC inaccurately paraphrasing statements made by Israelis despite the fact that the BBC’s guidance on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ states:

“…we don’t change the word “terrorist” when quoting other people…” 

Later on the same day a terror attack took place at the main bus station in Jerusalem.

“A Palestinian terrorist stabbed a security guard in the chest,  seriously wounding him, at the entrance to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station on Sunday, before being tackled by police and a passerby, officials said,

Graphic video footage from the scene showed the terrorist slowly handing his belongings to the security guard, who was checking travelers at the door to the station, before suddenly taking out a knife and plunging it into the guard’s chest. […]

The victim, 46, was taken to the capital’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment where doctors were battling to stabilize his condition and save his life, said Dr. Ofer Merrin, the head of trauma center.

“The knife, unfortunately, hit his heart. His condition has stabilized, but I cannot say that there’s not threat to his life because, like I said, he’s in serious condition,” the doctor said, adding that he was unconscious and connected to a respirator.”

The only reporting of that attack on the BBC News website came in the form of twenty-one words in the same article.

“In Jerusalem itself, a Palestinian was arrested after stabbing and seriously wounding an Israeli security guard at the central bus station.”

Unsurprisingly given the BBC’s record, audiences were not informed that the incident was a terror attack.

Related Articles:

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Palestinian Islamic Jihad clarifies what the BBC did not

BBC inaccurately paraphrases Israeli officials

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Egyptian news site notices BBC’s terror terminology double standards

h/t Michael Dickson

The double standard evident in the language used by the BBC when reporting terror attacks in differing locations is regularly discussed on these pages and has been the subject of numerous complaints to the BBC.

In April of this year the BBC responded to one such complaint by stating that:

“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.”

Regrettably, that response subsequently received endorsement from the UK’s communications regulator OFCOM.

However, as has been noted here in the past, the BBC has used the word terror when reporting planned and actual attacks in Western countries that are part of the international coalition fighting ISIS.

The BBC News website’s main report on the November 24th attack on worshippers in a mosque in the northern Sinai region of Egypt – “Egypt attack: Gunmen kill 235 in Sinai mosque” – refrained from using the words terror, terrorists and terrorism throughout, except when quoting officials. [emphasis added]

Militants have launched a bomb and gun attack on a mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai province, killing 235 people, state media say. […]

No group has yet claimed the attack, but militants affiliated with so-called Islamic State (IS) have been responsible for scores of deadly attacks in the province. […]

Witnesses said dozens of gunmen arrived in off-road vehicles and bombed the packed mosque before opening fire on worshippers as they tried to flee.

The assailants are reported to have set parked vehicles on fire in the vicinity to block off access to the mosque.”

Given the above response from BBC Complaints one can only conclude that “the BBC would not wish to appear to be taking sides” against terrorists who cold-bloodedly murdered hundreds of civilians, including children, in a place of worship.

An Egyptian independent news website has also taken note of the terminology used by the BBC.

“On Friday, as hundreds of worshipers gathered to pray in Al-Rawda mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai, a group of unidentified individuals opened fire and used explosives, killing at least 305 people and injuring more than 100 others.

Following the attack, a number of media organisations used the word ‘militant’ to describe the attackers, while others used the word ‘terrorist’.

Internationally, prominent news organisations used the word ‘militant’. The New York Times headline stated ‘Militants Kill 235 at Sufi Mosque in Egypt’s Deadliest Terrorist Attack’. Meanwhile, the BBC referred to the attackers as militants throughout its article.”

Once again we see that the BBC’s long-standing failure to distinguish between method and aims produces inconsistent reporting, with journalists sometimes following the problematic BBC guidelines on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ and sometimes not – often depending upon geographical location of the story. That approach is clearly in need of serious and urgent review if the corporation intends its audiences to believe that its reporting is impartial.

Related Articles:

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BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

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

BBC editorial policy on terror continues in Har Adar attack report

Just over an hour after a terror attack took place in Har Adar on September 26th the BBC News published its first report on the incident under the superfluously punctuated headline “Palestinian gunman ‘kills three Israelis’ in West Bank”.

Over the next six hours numerous amendments were made to that report as information emerged but – in line with usual BBC policy – none of its versions described the incident as terrorism or the attacker as a terrorist.

From its second version, readers of the report found promotion of PLO messaging in what has over the past two years been a standard insert in BBC reports on attacks against Israelis.

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

From version five onward, readers also found standard – though partial – BBC messaging on the topic of ‘settlements’.

“The issue of settlements is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians, who see them as an obstacle to peace.

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

From version six onward readers found yet another mantra which, although frequently promoted by the BBC, fails to provide audiences with the information and background necessary for full understanding of the reasons for the breakdown of that round of negotiations.

“Peace talks between the two sides broke down amid acrimony in April 2014.”

Later versions of the article included a version of a previously used partisan map credited to UNOCHA and the political NGO B’tselem.

The BBC’s report notes praise for the terror attack from Hamas and the PIJ:

“No group has taken responsibility for the attack, although Gaza-based Palestinian militant organisations Hamas and Islamic Jihad welcomed it.”

Fatah’s reaction is portrayed by the BBC as follows:

“The head of the Information Office of Fatah, the political faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Israel bore responsibility for the attack, because of its “continuous aggression” against the Palestinians.”

BBC audiences were not told of Fatah’s glorification of the terrorist  – “A morning scented with the fragrance of the Martyrs” – and threats of additional violence. Nor were they informed of the relevant issue of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority’s scheme of financial rewards for terrorists.

While the BBC’s report names the terrorist and provides some of his personal details, despite the fact that by 1 p.m local time the names of all three of the murdered victims had been released for publication, the BBC did not update its article to inform audiences of their names: Border Policeman Solomon Gavriyah, aged 20 from Be’er Ya’akov and civilian security guards Youssef Ottman from Abu Ghosh and Or Arish of Har Adar, both aged 25.  

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BBC’s double standards on terror get OFCOM rubber stamp 

The BBC’s terror definition of convenience

The double standard evident in the language used by the BBC when reporting terror attacks in differing locations is regularly discussed on these pages and has been the subject of numerous complaints to the BBC.

In April of this year the BBC responded to one such complaint by stating that:

“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.”

Regrettably, that response subsequently received endorsement from the UK’s communications regulator OFCOM.

The cynical approach behind the BBC’s policy came into full view last week in an interview with an Israeli guest in the September 19th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today‘ that was described as follows in the running order:

“The leader of one of the world’s most conflict-ridden cities has questioned official UK police advice to “run, hide, tell” during terror attacks and has suggested Britons should take on jihadists to save lives. Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, said people should “engage” the enemy directly. He joins us on the program.”

In his introduction to that item (from 01:12:17 here) presenter John Humphrys made it perfectly clear that he (and his organisation) knows perfectly well that both Israel and the UK suffer from terror attacks.  

Humphrys: “The official advice to people in this country if they get caught up in a terrorist attack is ‘run, hide, tell’. But that, according to Nir Barkat, is wrong and he’s the mayor of Jerusalem which has seen more attacks than pretty much any other city on the planet and he’s on the line.”

In other words, when it is convenient for a particular purpose the BBC is perfectly happy to acknowledge both the existence and the scale of terrorism against Israelis. But when the corporation reports on (some of) those attacks in Israel, it deliberately refrains from describing them as terror because it is concerned about its own image and does “not wish to appear to be taking sides”.   

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

BBC’s vehicular terrorism double standards on display again

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

BBC bias on terrorism highlighted again in reports from Spain 


BBC’s double standards on terror get OFCOM rubber stamp

An issue which many members of the public find objectionable and offensive is the fact that while the BBC consistently refuses to use the word terror in its reports on violent attacks against Israelis, its reports on comparable attacks in other locations (especially Europe and North America) do use such language.  

Back in April we noted a reply received from the BBC Complaints Unit by a member of the public who had submitted a Stage 1a complaint concerning that double standard in the language employed when reporting terrorism.

“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:

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.”

Unsatisfied with that response, the complainant submitted a stage 1b complaint which was also rejected. Mr Turner then approached the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) which similarly rejected the complaint.

Using the system which came into effect in April, Mr Turner then approached OFCOM which ruled that the issue he raised is not “substantive”.

“Thank you for contacting us about material published on the BBC’s website, specifically the headlines ‘London attack: Four dead in Westminster terror attack’ and ‘Jerusalem lorry attack: Four Israeli soldiers killed’.

I understand that you are not satisfied with the final response you have received from the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit and have referred your complaint to Ofcom for its opinion.

All complaints received by Ofcom are assessed to see if they raise a significant issue which should be considered further. Not all complaints will be pursued by Ofcom. Further information about Ofcom’s role and how we consider BBC online material complaints under our procedures is available on our website:

We have carefully reviewed the material you are concerned about, your complaint and the BBC’s final response to you on it.

Ofcom considers that your complaint does not raise a substantive issue under the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines that requires our further consideration. We will therefore not be pursuing your complaint.”

Mr Turner wrote back to OFCOM’s Standards Team ask for an explanation of the rationale underpinning that ruling and received a reply including the following:

“Ofcom has considered your complaint and the BBC’s response to it, and our view is that this matter does not raise a substantive issue under the relevant editorial guidelines and therefore does not warrant further consideration by Ofcom.

The BBC’s response clearly sets out its editorial policy on Terrorism: Language when Reporting Terrorism. In our view the use of the term “terror attack” in the headline of the article relating to the incident in Westminster does not meet the threshold of being a substantive issue that requires further consideration by Ofcom because the body of the article makes clear that the Prime Minister had declared the attacker to be a “terrorist” and the matter was being dealt with by counter-terrorism police. Furthermore, the BBC’s Stage 1a response clearly sets out the reasons why they may report incidents like these differently in different contexts.”

Mr Turner then wrote back again, pointing out the many discrepancies in the BBC’s Stage 1a response that was deemed acceptable by OFCOM.

“In your response you stated that the BBC’s use of the term terrorism to describe the attack in London was legitimate because the UK authorities had used that term […]

However, the Israeli government also uses such terminology when attacks take place in Israel but in those cases the BBC does not describe the incidents as ‘terrorism’ in its own words.

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on ‘language when reporting terrorism’ clearly state that:

“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.” […]

Hence, if the BBC is going to use the word terror on the basis that officials in one country have described the incident as such, consistency demands that such a policy should obviously also apply in other countries.

Moreover, in the past the BBC has justified its use of the word terrorists to describe Jewish attackers using precisely the same argument:

However, Palestinian or Arab perpetrators are never described in those terms: a clear consistency failure.

You also stated that:

“…the BBC’s Stage 1a response clearly sets out the reasons why they may report incidents like these differently in different contexts.”

However, those ‘reasons’ do not hold water: UK forces are involved in the military campaign against ISIS jihadists in Iraq and Syria and the London terrorists cited that involvement as a motive for their attacks. Additionally, as noted above, 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 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, is obviously flawed. Terrorism is a means – regardless of the ends it aims to achieve.

The BBC’s inconsistency on the use of the word terror shows that the corporation’s basic approach to the topic does not distinguish between method and aims, means and ends. The result of that is that the description of the means is adjusted according to the perceived cause.

Until BBC editors do indeed begin to separate the means from the ends, it will of course be impossible for the corporation to present a consistent, uniform approach to the subject of terrorism, to adhere to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality and to fulfil its purpose to educate and inform. 

I find it disturbing that OFCOM would not consider that to be “a substantive issue that requires further consideration”. Might I respectfully request, on the basis of the above points, that you reconsider this appeal, otherwise we allow the BBC to display a clear double standard in its reporting on terrorism: one in Israel – and a quite different policy anywhere else in the world – in breach of its own editorial guidelines.”

OFCOM’s reply to that letter included the following:

“Following the further points you made, we have looked into this matter again. However, it remains our view that your complaint about the articles headlined ‘London attack: Four dead in Westminster terror attack’ and ‘Jerusalem lorry attack: Four Israeli soldiers killed’ does not raise a substantive issue that requires further consideration, and this is our final response in relation to this complaint.”

So as we see, the double standards repeatedly evident in the language used by the BBC when reporting on terrorism in Israel and in other locations now have the OFCOM rubber stamp.