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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three charged over Palestinian Mohammad Abu Khdair murder July 17 2014

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

Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Two Israelis jailed February 4 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two days, two BBC reports, two accounts of the same events

An article concerning the discovery of a cross-border attack tunnel (discussed here) which was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on April 18th included an account of the circumstances which led to the conflict between Israel and terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014.

“The Israeli military launched Operation Protective Edge in July 2014 with the stated aim of stopping rocket attacks by Hamas and destroying the group’s capabilities to conduct operations against Israel.

After an initial phase focused on air strikes, the Israeli military launched a ground offensive that sought to degrade militants’ infrastructure in Gaza and destroy their network of tunnels.

The operation concluded that August, when both sides agreed to a ceasefire.”

Although that account could have done more to inform readers of the scale of the missile fire against Israeli civilians that preceded the operation and the attempts made by Israel to diffuse the tensions beforehand, it is in all a reasonable portrayal of events.

Just one day later another article was published on the same BBC News website Middle East page in which audiences were given a different account of the same events.

In a report from April 19th titled “Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Israeli ringleader found guilty” readers were told that:conviction Abu Khdeir case

“A Jerusalem court found 31-year-old Yosef Haim Ben David guilty, rejecting a plea of insanity. He will be sentenced next month.

Two youths have already been jailed for murdering Mohammad Abu Khdair, 16.

He was killed in apparent revenge for the murders of three Israeli teens in the occupied West Bank.

Mohammad Abu Khdair’s body was found in a forest in West Jerusalem on 2 July 2014, two days after the bodies of the Israelis abducted and murdered by Hamas militants that June were found.

The killings were part of an escalating cycle of violence, culminating in a war between Israel and militants in Gaza.” [emphasis added]

That “cycle of violence” theme has been promoted by the BBC in many previous reports dating from August 2014 onwards and as has been pointed out here on numerous occasions:

“[The] framing of the summer 2014 conflict as having been brought about by a “cycle of violence” erases the real cause of the hostilities.

In the weeks which preceded Operation Protective Edge attacks from the Gaza Strip escalated with 52 missiles fired during June 2014 and 237 missiles and dozens of mortars fired in the first week of July – eighty of them on July 7th alone.”

That escalation in missile fire from the Gaza Strip began immediately after the disappearance of the Israeli teenagers on June 12th [2014] and continued throughout the three weeks of search and rescue operations.

It was of course that incessant missile fire on Israeli civilians – which is repeatedly erased by the BBC in its portrayal of events – that was the reason for the military operation, with the later discovery of dozens of cross-border tunnels prompting the subsequent ground operation.”

As we see from the April 18th article quoted above, the BBC knows that full well. Nevertheless, it continues to concurrently promote the redundant “cycle of violence” myth which actively hinders audience understanding of the topic.

Related Articles:

BBC still misleading audiences on cause of 2014 conflict

BBC News still promoting ‘cycle of violence’ myth

BBC News still promoting ‘cycle of violence’ myth

Following the sentencing of two of the three murderers of Mohammed Abu Khdeir by the Jerusalem District Court on February 4th the BBC News website produced an article titled “Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Two Israelis jailed“.Abu Khdeir sentencing art

As has been the case in previous BBC reports concerning the same subject matter, the article materially misleads audiences with regard to the cause of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist organisations in the Gaza strip.

“Abu Khdair was killed in apparent revenge for the murders of three Israeli teens in the West Bank.

The killings were part of an escalating cycle of violence, culminating in a war between Israel and militants in Gaza.”

Once again we see that the BBC promotes the notion of a “cycle of violence” whilst completely erasing from audience view the escalation in missile fire from the Gaza Strip which began immediately after the disappearance of the Israeli teenagers on June 12th and continued throughout the three weeks of search and rescue operations.

It was of course that incessant missile fire on Israeli civilians – which is repeatedly erased by the BBC in its portrayal of events – that was the reason for the military operation, with the later discovery of dozens of cross-border tunnels prompting the subsequent ground operation. The military operation could have been avoided had Hamas elected to take advantage of the ample opportunities it was given to stop the missile fire before July 8th 2014, but the terrorist organisation chose not to do so – for reasons by no means exclusively connected to Israel.

“A Hamas official, who did not give his name to Palestinian news agency Sawa, said overnight Friday-Saturday [July 4th /5th 2014] that “those who expect Hamas to stop the rocket fire [on Israel], should to turn [Palestinian Authority Prime Minister] Rami Hamdallah.”

The official was alluding to the fact that the salaries of 40,000 Hamas clerks in Gaza were still unpaid, which was reportedly a key Hamas demand since agreeing to a unity government deal in late April with the Palestinian Authority.”

The article closes with the following words:

“The case has been closely watched by Palestinians who often claim of prejudice in Israel’s justice system, the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem reports.”

As readers may recall, the BBC’s past reports have included amplification of claims of a ‘two-tier’ justice system.

 “… it was interesting as well – and telling, I think – to see the mother of the Palestinian teenager who was killed saying Palestinians have no rights and I think that they feel that there’s one law for Israelis and one law for themselves and that they’re never going to be in a better place until they get independence, get their own state and that, I think, is the prevalent view among Palestinians.” (Jeremy Bowen, ‘Today’, BBC Radio 4, July 3rd 2014)

“But Palestinians at Muhammed’s funeral don’t trust Israeli justice. They want Israel to leave Palestinian towns and cities so that they can build a state and a justice system of their own.” (James Reynolds, BBC News, July 4th 2014)

Yet again, however, the BBC fails to clarify to its audiences in this report that the allegations of Israeli state discrimination it has promoted are unfounded.