Inaccuracy, omission and oddity in a BBC Radio Ulster item on Israel – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the May 20th edition of the BBC Radio Ulster “religious and ethical news” programme ‘Sunday Sequence‘ included a long item (from 34:04 here and also aired on BBC Radio Foyle) supposedly about the state of the ‘peace process’ after the May 14th chapter of the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt on the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

“After a week of horror in Gaza, is the roadmap to peace now in complete ruins? Dr Julie Norman, Rev Gary Mason and Tom Clonan discuss how peace could somehow yet be found.”

After listeners had heard Tom Clonan’s inaccurate account of Operation Grapes of Wrath – and been led to believe that Israel was essentially to blame for the 9/11 terror attacks – and Julie Norman’s concealment of the fact that the overwhelming majority of those killed on May 14th were males in their twenties and thirties, presenter Roisin McAuley (once again exaggerating the significance of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict) asked guest Gary Mason:

[39:01] “Now, given that situation, Gary, intractability, the importance for all of us of finding a way out of this absolute morass, where do you begin?”

Mason’s response [from 39:13] included the predictable – yet invalid – claim that it is possible to use the Good Friday Agreement as a template for solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Picking up on Mason’s reference to “the role of civic society” in peacemaking, Julie Norman then inaccurately claimed that violent actions such as the ‘Great Return March’ or the rioting in Bili’in are grassroots peace initiatives.

[42:47] Norman: “…but what you see with the kind of protests at the border, what you see with weekly demonstrations against the separation barrier – these are activists and people who refuse to give in to that despair and who are trying to take some kind of action despite the odds and despite the limitations of the larger political reality…”  

Following some echo-chamber agreement between Mason and McAuley with regard to the US administration’s role in solving the conflict – and the claim that the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem was “a real slap in the face to Palestinians” – the presenter continued:

[45:07] McAuley: “So Tom, who in your opinion can help then? If the US is not in a position to be seen as an honest broker, who is?”

Clonan: “I would strongly hope that the European Union would step up to the plate and begin to impose sanctions and trade embargoes on Israel. And I certainly think individually as nations we could begin by boycotting the Eurovision Song Contest next year. And I say that with great regret because I’m on the record…I’ve written to all of the newspapers in the [Irish] Republic repeatedly over the years saying that we should not boycott Israel. But unfortunately of late Israel has been behaving like a rogue state and should be treated as pariah by the international community. I mean there was a great deal of unanimity of condemnation, quite rightly, of a chemical attack – or a suspected chemical attack – on civilians in the suburbs of Damascus. We also expelled diplomats on suspicion of a chemical weapon attack in Salisbury which injured – seriously injured – two people. Now we need to have that same level of unanimity when it comes to Israel’s actions this week.”

Following some reminiscing from Clonan about the Irish peace process, McAuley revisited his BDS messaging while again promoting her own pet ‘most important thing in the world’ theme.

[48:54] McAuley: “What you’re underlining, Tom, is the importance of this for the region and indeed for the wider world. But are you seriously suggesting that in some way that boycotting a song festival would make any difference at all? I mean why not try to seriously engage with Israel and with everybody on this?”

Clonan: “Israel isn’t interested in engagement just now. I think they feel that their military or their use of force has been rewarded and their behaviour has deteriorated somewhat. I think unfortunately that the situation with Iran – the US withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal at a point where you have youth unemployment in Iran at 60%, where 90% of those arrested in recent civil unrest are under 25 – there’s a youth bulge in Iran that threatens to destabilise the old guard, the ageing Ayatollah. President Rouhani’s government, you know, they’ve managed with considerable pushback to get the Iran deal. I think there’s a sense – and this is what I’m being told by my contacts amongst the international defence and international community – that Israel, the United States and their Gulf state allies detect a last moment of weakness in…within Iran as Shia ascendency reaches its zenith in the region.

What all that has to do with the item’s professed subject matter is of course as clear as mud. McAuley however chose to continue the ‘youth bulge’ theme.

[48:25] McAuley: “You mentioned a youth bulge. There is a youth bulge in Palestine as well. There is a growing number…this is a numbers game to some extent is it not, Julie?”

While acknowledging a “very high youth demographic in Palestine“, Norman responded that she would not equate that with destabilisation.

Norman: “Whether it’s Iran or Palestine, I don’t think we need to fear the youth bulge.”

McAuley then claimed that “eventually, in Israel and the occupied territories as a whole, there will be more Palestinians than there are Israelis”. Norman’s answer to that included the claim that:

[49:22] Norman: “…Israel is wielding power in very violent ways as we saw on Monday and throughout the past several weeks. And it’s not just numbers when one group is living under occupation.”

The fact that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip 13 years ago of course did not get a mention at all in this entire item.

At 50:06 Gary Mason raised the topic of the role of women in making peace, stating that he is a member of the advisory board of an Israeli organisation called ‘Women Wage Peace’. He did not however bother to inform listeners that the group’s activities have been:

“…denounced by Hamas in an official statement, as well as by the Palestinian branch of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, both of which accused Palestinians participating in the initiative of “normalizing” relations with Israel.”

Again ignoring the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of Samaria in 2005, Mason went on to say that Israelis “may have to give up land for peace […] and we just need, I think, to bring that concept into it…”. Listeners were next treated to Mason’s home-grown psychological analysis of “the Israelis”.

In response to McAuley’s question [53:30] “from where can hope come?” Julie Norman again promoted the inaccurate notion that there are Palestinian civil society groups working for peace. Tom Clonan’s reply to the same question [54:15] included the following:

Clonan: “…essentially this is Semitic peoples killing Semitic…Arabs are a Semitic people. And I think with Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump you see the very essence of patriarchal thought which has led to so much destruction in the Middle East over the last two decades and if civil society, religious leaders and other leaders in society and women can be a part of the key to this solution to this, that would be wonderful because I don’t see a solution in the unilateral military intervention strategies that we’ve had post 2001 and 9/11 unfortunately.”

Notably, no-one in the studio bothered to question Clonan’s omission of Hamas from his list of those guilty of “patriarchal thought”.

At 56:33 – after Mason had again invoked the Northern Ireland comparison and claimed that people with a “military background” could also contribute to peacemaking, McAuley came up with the following bizarre claims:

McAuley: “I know that Peace Now – the big Israeli movement for peace and defence of the Palestinians and sitting down in front of tanks and so on that are about to destroy houses – that was founded by veterans of the 1948 war who had driven their tanks into Israel to take the land.”

Where those tanks had supposedly been driven from was not clarified to listeners before Clonan jumped in with a plug for yet another political NGO.

[56:58] Clonan: “And the Breaking the Silence movement as well: you know Israeli serving and ex-serving military. And I mean even from my own experience I mean I had my epiphany in the Middle East […] and to just witness man’s inhumanity to man and I mean it was only after becoming a parent myself that I was able to put my experiences into context. It was only after I buried my own little daughter that I understood what it was like for those Lebanese men, women and children to suffer in that way. And the Israelis in the settlement towns of Sderot and on the border that were being attacked by Hizballah indiscriminately. […] The constant disinhibited [sic], indiscriminate use of force at the moment, I think with that they’re sowing the seeds of their own destruction and what Israel needs in the Middle East is friends. And what better friends to have than the Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians. It is possible but we need imagination, we need leadership.”

The item closed soon after that. Only then, after nearly twenty-five minutes of hopelessly uninformed – and often downright ignorant – discussion, were listeners told that:

[58:56] McAuley: “The Israeli government response to the events on Monday was that the military actions were in keeping with Israeli and international law. They asserted that the demonstrations along the border were – quote – part of the conflict between the Hamas terrorist organisation and Israel. The military’s open fire orders, they said, were therefore subject to international humanitarian law – also known as the law of armed conflict – rather than international human rights law.”

Clearly this long item cannot possibly have contributed to audience understanding of the professed story and its context, riddled as it was with gross inaccuracies, deliberate distortions and important omissions – and not least the important issue of Hamas terrorism. The repeated inappropriate comparisons to the Northern Ireland conflict likewise detracted from listeners’ understanding of the background to the topic supposedly under discussion and the one-sided claims and comments from contributors and presenter alike – including promotion of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – are ample evidence that the prime aim of this item was to promote a specific political narrative.

Related Articles:

Inaccuracy, omission and oddity in a BBC Radio Ulster item on Israel – part one






Weekend long read

1) At the Tablet, Liel Leibovitz explains “Why Believing Atrocity Stories About Israel Is Stupid, Even When They’re on CNN“.

“When a conflict breaks out, decent people feel sick. Their first impulse is to stop the violence, and protect innocent lives. So it is perfectly understandable that, watching shellings on CNN and debates at the UN and John Kerry and his spokespeople being solemnly “appalled,” even proudly Jewish viewers may conclude that all of this criticism of Israel can’t mean nothing. As the saying goes, where there’s smoke, there must also be fire.

But here’s why it’s highly unlikely that there is ever any fire under the smoke: Israel, for all of its flaws and its faults, is an open and democratic society. Its armed forces obey rules of engagement that are more restrictive than those under which American or European forces operate. Israel also grants the local and the international media largely unfettered access to its cities and to battlefields. Israel, therefore, has virtually no incentive to lie about easily verifiable matters of fact that occur in public while operating under a global microscope. You may have little respect for the current government in Jerusalem, and you may have your qualms about some or all of its policies, but, honestly, no one is that stupid.”

2) The Tower takes a look at how Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have fared under a decade of Hamas rule.

“This month marks the tenth anniversary of Hamas rule, and it’s a good time to take stock of how Palestinians have fared there compared with their counterparts in the West Bank. Gaza is home to close to two million Palestinians.

The core economic data, as provided by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), suggest a dramatic disparity between the two.

Real per capita GDP figures, for example, show a sluggish economy in Gaza, with the number increasing from $806 to $996 in the eight years between 2008 and 2015—or a total overall growth of 19.9%; this compares with the West Bank, where the per capita GDP grew from $1,728 to $2,276 in the same period, or an overall growth of 31.2%.”

3) A special report by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) explains the involvement of the ICRC in the mechanism of PA payments to convicted terrorists.

“According to Palestinian Authority law, all Palestinians arrested for security offenses, which includes those who committed terror attacks, receive a PA salary from the date of arrest until the day of release. These salaries increase according to the amount of time the terrorist remains in prison and range from 1,400 shekels to 12,000 shekels per month. […]

The PA Regulation 18 (2010), which established procedures for the PA payments to terrorist prisoners, states that a “wakil” – an “authorized agent” or “power of attorney” – will be appointed by the prisoner to determine who receives his salary. The regulation gives the prisoner the right to designate people other than his wife or parents.

Appointment of an “agent” can be authorized only by the prisoner’s signature on a special form. It is the ICRC that visits the prisoners and brings the form for the prisoners to sign. […]

Accordingly, the ICRC by supplying this form is facilitating salary payments to terrorists, something that is not part of the humanitarian work of the ICRC.”

4) At UK Media Watch Aron White highlights a topic that has been discussed on these pages in the past.

“But what is most significant about the Northern Ireland conflict, is that it helps show the double standard that exists in coverage about Israel. Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland, and within it there are both Protestant and Catholic communities. All around the city there are still to this day close to 50 “peace walls,” physical walls that keep Protestants and Catholics apart. […]

Israel of course, also built a wall in order to stop violence. The Second Intifada claimed the lives of over 1,100 Israelis, as suicide bombings in cafes, buses and cinemas took the lives of innocent civilians all over the country. In 2003, Israel began constructing a barrier after attacks originating in the West Bank killed hundreds of Israelis. Since the building of the wall, there has been a 90% reduction in the number of terrorist attacks in Israel.

Yet somehow, Israel’s wall is often labelled not a security wall, but an “apartheid wall.” Why? And why are the walls keeping Catholics and Protestants apart in Northern Ireland called “peace walls” but the walls keeping terrorists out of Israel is an “apartheid wall”?”

BBC Radio 4’s double standards on response to terrorism

Veteran BBC journalist Peter Taylor recently produced written and audio reports relating to his long career reporting terrorism.

The BBC News website’s UK page published an article titled “Peter Taylor: How has terror changed in 50 years?” on March 31st, the majority of which relates to Northern Ireland.

The April 1st edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Archive on 4’ programme was titled “Reporting Terror: 50 Years Behind the Headlines” and its synopsis reads as follows:

“Peter Taylor reflects on his 50 year career reporting terrorism.

When Peter Taylor stepped nervously onto a plane in 1967, bound for the Middle East, he had no idea it was to be the start of a journalistic mission he would still be pursuing fifty years later.

At the time “terrorism” was barely in our vocabulary. In the hundred or so documentaries he has made on the subject since then, Peter has tried to get behind the headlines to understand and explain a phenomenon which has grown to affect us all.

Peter has reported the escalation of terrorism from the IRA and its Loyalist counterparts to Al Qaeda and the so called Islamic State. He has met the victims of terror, those involved in perpetrating terrorist acts and members of the intelligence services tasked with stopping them.

Revisiting his own extraordinary archive has given Peter the chance to reflect on the evolution of terrorism and to recall some of his most memorable interviews.

“There are moments when the interviews are chilling, moments when they’re shocking and at other points they provoked a sharp intake of breath – surprising me by how prophetic they were.””

Significantly, Taylor made no attempt to define terrorism during that almost one hour-long programme, telling listeners at one point that it is “open to different definitions”.

However, at 05:31 minutes into the programme, Taylor did provide listeners with the sole example of what he termed ‘state terrorism’.

“Terrorism can mean different things to different people; it isn’t black and white. States allegedly resort to it too, as Israel did to avenge the 1972 Munich Olympic Games massacre. Eleven Israeli athletes died following an attack by Palestinians from a shadowy group known as Black September. In revenge, Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, covertly assassinated those suspected of involvement in the attack. […]

The Mossad assassinated at least eleven of its targets. Since then, Palestinian attacks on Israelis have continued and Israel has continued to retaliate with targeted killings; a tactic more recently replicated in Western drone strikes against IS and Al Qaeda.”

However, when Taylor later (at 21:07) described a British response to terror attacks he did not categorise it as ‘state terror’.

“In the wake of Brighton and other IRA atrocities, the Brits hit back. The SAS was the cutting edge. Between 1983 and 1992 they shot dead 28 IRA suspects.”

As we know, the BBC’s ‘rationale’ for avoiding the use of the word terror and its derivatives is that the term “carries value judgements” and so it comes as no surprise to see the perpetrators of the Munich Olympics massacre described – as usual – without that word being used.

However, the BBC is clearly nowhere near as reluctant to make a “value judgement” concerning Israel’s response to acts of terrorism – but, notably, refrains from describing its own government’s very similar actions in the same terms.

Related Articles:

BBC still won’t call Munich Olympics massacre perpetrators terrorists

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

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


Where petrol bombings are news for the BBC

On April 27th the BBC News website ran a story titled “North Belfast: Police appeal after petrol bombs thrown“. That story was not an isolated case; in recent weeks the BBC has reported on several additional incidents of petrol bombings in Northern Ireland – see for example here, here, here and here.petrol bombs NI  

Obviously the BBC rightly considers petrol bomb attacks to be newsworthy – in some locations at least. However, as we know, two hundred and fifty six petrol bomb attacks carried out against Israeli citizens between January and March 2015 were not reported by the BBC and even incidents resulting in serious injuries have been ignored.

As has been noted here before (see related articles below), a marked difference in editorial policy is apparent between the BBC’s reporting of events close to home and its presentation – or lack of it – of similar topics in the Middle East.

Related Articles:

Where can terrorism be named as such by the BBC?

More evidence of BBC double standards on terrorism

BBC double standards on paramilitary murals

A ‘peace wall’, a ‘separation barrier’ and a question for the BBC

Why the BBC Middle Editor’s Northern Ireland analogy is wrong

“Now, Britain negotiated with the IRA and finally managed to make a peace agreement and Britain continued to negotiate with the IRA even when they were taking action against the British. Isn’t that the sensible way to make peace?”

That statement-cum-question was put to the Israeli prime minister in April of this year by the BBC’s Middle East editor and of course Jeremy Bowen is far from the only person within media circles and beyond to use the inaccurate Northern Ireland analogy. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that the person who has the last word on the accuracy, impartiality and tone of the corporation’s Middle East related content, as well as playing a role in defining the content of the mandatory Middle East module taught at the BBC College of Journalism, subscribes to the erroneous and misleading notion that the two conflicts – and their solutions – are comparable.

The fallacious nature of the Northern Ireland analogy was recently laid out in a detailed article by writer Eamonn MacDonagh.

“In recent years, debates over how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might be resolved have begun to make frequent reference to a fairy tale. This tale is based on the supposedly similar conflict in Northern Ireland between Great Britain and the Provisional IRA. That conflict was ultimately resolved with a peace treaty, and the suggestion is frequently made that if only Israel and Hamas could be persuaded to implement its lessons, then all would quickly be made well. […]

In fact, drawing an analogy between the conflict in Northern Ireland and the Middle East is not simply unjustified; it is an error of the grossest kind.”

Read the whole article here

Another example of BBC double standards on terrorism

h/t IM

Back in April we noted yet another example of the BBC’s consistent failure to inform audiences with regard to the Palestinian Authority’s glorification of terrorism – in that case the naming of a forest after a terrorist responsible for the murders of 125 Israelis.AJF

In that post we asked:

“Can we really imagine that if the Northern Ireland Assembly chose to name a forest after an IRA terrorist and to televise the inauguration ceremony on state-run TV, that would not make BBC headlines?”

Thanks to a reader, we now have an answer to that question.  

An article which appeared in the Northern Ireland section of the BBC News website in late 2012 relates to the proposed renaming of a children’s playground in Newry named after a former IRA hunger striker. As can be seen, the BBC not only considered the story relevant and important enough to cover, it also took care to inform audiences of views of the issue from both sides.

“A playpark in Newry is to stay named after a former IRA hunger striker.

Nationalist councillors in Newry and Mourne Council voted to keep the name as the Raymond McCreesh Park. […]

In a statement Newry and Mourne Council said: “In so doing council formally acknowledge that the decision to rename the play park had potential to adversely impact upon good relations between people of different religious belief and political opinion.”

Ulster Unionist MLA for Newry and Armagh, Danny Kennedy, condemned the decision taken by Sinn Fein and SDLP councillors.

“I honestly cannot think of anyone less deserving of commemoration in any shape or form,” he said.

“Raymond McCreesh was a terrorist who was convicted of attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, possession of firearms with intent to endanger life and IRA membership.

“To compound that, the Armalite rifle he was caught with was linked to a string of murders including the Kingsmills massacre.

“This is not ancient history, the wounds are still very raw, and were compounded by the fact that less than two days ago a memorial to the victims of Kingsmills was vandalised whilst under construction and the letters IRA were inscribed into it.”

William Irwin of the DUP said: “The naming of any building or area after a terrorist is always objectionable, but there is something particularly macabre and chilling about the naming of a children’s playground after a man such as Raymond McCreesh.”

Yet another example of the double standards at play in BBC reporting on terrorism-related issues. 




A ‘peace wall’, a ‘separation barrier’ and a question for the BBC

h/t DL

A particularly dominant theme running through BBC coverage before and during the Pope’s recent visit to the Middle East was that of the anti-terrorist fence or, per the BBC’s “acceptable generic descriptions”, the barrier, separation barrier or West Bank barrier. We have previously addressed the BBC’s far from impartial approach to that topic on these pages, noting the following factors which form the backbone of the presentation of the issue to BBC audiences.

1) The BBC’s frequent description of the anti-terrorist fence as “controversial”.

2) The BBC’s misrepresentation of the anti-terrorist fence as a structure designed to “separate” two areas, its focus on the inconveniences caused to the Palestinian population and its failure to accurately inform audiences regarding the years of terrorism which were the background to its construction.

3) The uniform presentation of the fence’s purpose in terms of “Israel says the barrier is a security measure” and the failure to provide BBC audiences with the readily available factual evidence of the fence’s effectiveness in preventing terror.

4) The equally uniform amplification of the evidence-free narrative according to which “Palestinians call it a land grab”.

5) The misrepresentation of the physical nature of the structure; for example – “the concrete barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank”.  

6) The BBC’s refusal (ostensibly “in order to avoid political connotations“) to call the structure a security fence.

Of course Israel is far from the only country in the world to have built such a structure in order to safeguard its civilians and one example lies right on the BBC’s doorstep. Over fifteen years have passed since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and yet some 48 peace walls – the first ones having been constructed in 1969 – still stand in Northern Ireland.

The BBC’s Ireland correspondent Chris Buckler recently produced a very interesting and informative programme titled “Northern Ireland: A Bitter Legacy” which was broadcast on BBC Radio Four’s ‘File on 4’ programme on June 10th. The entire programme is well worth a listen; not least in order to appreciate how a long and bitter conflict can be reported with empathy for the people on both sides and in non-judgmental terms. The portion of the programme particularly relevant to the discussion here begins at around 04:50.File on 4 peace walls

Chris Buckler: “In East Belfast paint-marks are the scars left by recent attacks on St Matthew’s Catholic Church. The Short Strand is an area surrounded by so-called peace walls; huge barriers built in flash-point areas to separate nationalist and loyalist housing estates and to try to prevent trouble.

Northern Ireland’s First and Deputy First Ministers say they’re committed to building a shared future without peace walls. They want all of them removed within a decade. But here at St Matthew’s, a new one has just gone up.

If we just take a look at this big structure here; they call it a peace curtain rather than a peace wall but it’s a big metal structure and how high would you say it was?”

Willie Ward: “It’s between 25 and 30 feet high and it stretches for thirty yards.”

CB: “Willie Ward is a church worker here. And we can see houses just behind there, so this is towering over houses.”

WW: “Yes – that was to prevent petrol bombs and missiles being thrown at these houses and it has actually worked to a certain extent. I’m living in this area, talking to the people, and the people who live beside the walls here; there’s no chance of these walls being taken down – and I’ll tell you – in my lifetime.”

CB: “In your lifetime?”

WW: “I cannot see those walls being taken down in my lifetime.”

CB: “Yet we have this strategy from the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister saying that they wanted to take down all the peace walls in Northern Ireland within ten years.”

WW: “Well you just tell them to come and live in the Short Strand. We’ll see; do the people want the walls taken down? They don’t live here. They don’t have to put up with this. They’re living in their ivory towers; we’re not. There has been a massive reduction in violence. There are no daily bombings or shootings or things like that.”

CB: “That’s a massive step, isn’t it?”

WW: “Yes it is a massive step, but this is the next part they have to tackle.”

CB: “But those bombings and shootings can’t be forgotten; not least by people who were caught up in attacks at a time of dreadful conflict.”

Notably, in this report and in other coverage of the same topic, the BBC has adopted – and uses – the terminology of  ‘peace walls’ or ‘peace fences’, apparently identifying no need to come up with its own “acceptable generic descriptions” in order “to avoid political connotations” in this case.

The purpose of the barriers, the reasons for their construction and their effectiveness are all made perfectly clear to audiences. The BBC’s correspondent does not suggest to audiences that the aim of the peace walls might be anything other than the Northern Ireland government’s stated reasons and no ‘alternative’ politically motivated narrative concerning their existence is promoted. Their physical properties are not misrepresented, their existence is not presented to BBC audiences as “controversial” and the people who oppose their dismantling are not allocated pejorative political or religious labels by the BBC.

The question which the BBC should be asking itself, therefore, is why this standard of accurate and impartial reporting is not met when it reports on a similar structure with the same aims as Northern Ireland’s peace walls, but which happens to be located in Israel.

Related Articles:

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3  (includes links to parts 1 & 2)

Bowen misleads BBC audiences with irrelevant Northern Ireland analogy

Wall to wall political messaging in BBC coverage of Pope’s visit

Where can terrorism be named as such by the BBC?

The politics of BBC approved terminology on Israel’s security fence

BBC double standards on paramilitary murals

Here is a BBC report from October 15th on the subject of a paramilitary mural in Belfast. 

mural NI

Notably, the report includes the views of a local councillor and the BBC provides information regarding the paramilitary group depicted in the mural.

“Alliance councillor Maire Hendron said: “It is simply being used to intimidate, mark territory and create fear among local people.

“We should not accept the appearance of this sickening image of masked gunmen.” ” […]

“The new image is dedicated to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a paramilitary group that murdered more than 500 people during the Troubles.”

A similar policy has been adopted in previous BBC reports on the subject of murals in Northern Ireland – see here, here and here.

The image below appeared in the October 24th edition of the ‘News in Pictures’ feature on the BBC News website.

in pictures mural

The photograph is one of several taken by Nasser Ishtayeh of the AP news agency. Here is another image of less pastoral parts of the same mural painted on the wall of the Nablus football stadium – not shown by the BBC – from the same set. 

AP photo mural

Here is part of the mural photographed by a photographer from a different agency.

Getty mural

The caption to the image chosen by the BBC reads:

“Palestinian artists paint a mural symbolising resistance and the right of the return of Palestinian refugees, in the West Bank city of Nablus.”

Not only does the BBC not adopt the language and narrative of paramilitary terrorist organisations when describing murals depicting them in Northern Ireland; it goes to the trouble of informing audiences about the violent reality of the actions of those groups and the perceived effects of such murals on the Northern Ireland peace process. So why does it embrace the double standard of romanticisation of terror in another part of the world? 

More evidence of BBC double standards on terrorism

In a ninety word article dated June 14th 2013, the BBC rightly used the word ‘terrorist’, or versions of it, no fewer than five times.

But no – this is not ‘man seen on white donkey in Jerusalem’ week, or even a sign that the BBC has at long last come to its senses and begun describing Hamas or Hizballah activity for what it is.

This article is about a subject much closer to BBC home – terrorism in Northern Ireland – and it shows once again that the BBC’s supposed aversion to “value judgements” as outlined in the editorial guidelines on terrorism is entirely relative – and politically motivated. 

NI terrorism

Related articles:

Where can terrorism be named as such by the BBC?

When did the BBC lose the plot on terrorism?

Stop press! BBC uses word ‘terrorist’!

Where can terrorism be named as such by the BBC?

On February 26th 2013 an M75 rocket was fired from the southern Gaza Strip at the Israeli town of Ashkelon by what the BBC termed “militants”.

On February 27th 2013 the police in Belfast, Northern Ireland, discovered a rocket launcher and what the BBC termed “a warhead”. Fortunately, the device was not fired at civilians. 

NI rocket launcher

Comparing the language – and punctuation – used in the BBC’s report on the discovery in Northern Ireland to that which it employs when reporting on actual rocket fire against Israeli civilians is interesting. 

The word “warhead” is used in the article’s headline and in its strapline. That term is not employed by the BBC to describe the munitions used by Hamas or other terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians.

The word “weapons” is used four times throughout the short article. That term is usually used by the BBC in connection to the Gaza Strip only when discussing the smuggling of arms or arms stores; it is not used to describe the actual rockets fired at Israeli civilians.

The article states that:

Categorised by the BBC as terrorists

“They [the police] said the search was carried out as part of an investigation into dissident republican terrorism.”

The BBC never uses the word “terrorism” to describe the actions of what it consistently terms “militants” in the Gaza Strip, except when quoting others – usually Israeli officials – and even then the word is usually placed in quotation marks.

The article also states that: 

“A PSNI spokesman said: “These weapons systems are clearly intended to kill and we should be in no doubt that the recovery of these items has saved lives.” “

One can be fairly confident that the BBC will not be setting up an interview between the police spokesman and Mishal Husein so that she can ask him how many residents of Northern Ireland were actually killed by “home-made contraptions”. 

Categorised by the BBC as ‘Militants’

Notably, the BBC does not suggest any kind of linkage (implying extenuating circumstances) between the discovery of the weapons and the actions of Protestants in Northern Ireland or the policies of the British government.

In this case, the BBC has managed to report the story for what it is: the illegal possession of military-grade weapons by a terrorist group which threatens civilian lives.

It is a pity that the BBC is so often unable to apply the same standards of reporting to certain parts of the Middle East.