As news broke of the terror attack on the number 40 Dan bus in Tel Aviv early on the morning of January 21st, the BBC News website grabbed its scare quotes and got to work.
All versions of the report titled “Israel bus attack: Tel Aviv passengers stabbed” opened in typical ‘last-first’ reporting style by informing audiences that a man had been shot by the police before informing them why and the same policy was seen on BBC social media. Inverted commas placed around the words terror attack in earlier versions of the report were removed from later editions.
The use of unnecessary punctuation continued, however, on the BBC News website’s Middle East homepage in a link to a filmed report on the same topic.
The first two versions of the report informed readers that “In November, an Israeli soldier was killed in a knife attack in Tel Aviv, while an Israeli woman was stabbed to death in the West Bank in a separate attack” without clarifying that those two incidents were both terror attacks.
Subsequent versions of the article noted that the terrorist came from Tulkarem, stating that “Tulkarem is a town in the occupied West Bank” whilst in fact it is located in Area A and, in accordance with the Oslo Accords, has been under PA control for two decades.
Later editions of the report also included contributions from the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly.
“Israeli police say there has been a pattern established in recent months where individual Palestinians, without sophisticated weapons, have attacked civilians at random, the BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem reports.
Late last year, a number of Israelis were killed in attacks by Palestinians using weapons including knives and even vehicles to run down pedestrians.
Four Israelis were killed in November after two Palestinians armed with a pistol and meat cleavers attacked a synagogue in West Jerusalem.”
In addition to the fact that it would have been more accurate and informative to cite the exact number of people murdered in October and November 2014 instead of “a number of Israelis”, the article originally inaccurately stated that four people were killed in the Har Nof Synagogue attack rather than five as was actually the case. That error was subsequently corrected. Notably, no mention is made of the affiliations of many of those “individual Palestinians” with assorted terrorist organisations.
The report then goes on to state:
“Our correspondent says the latest round of tensions began to increase last year, after the summer conflict in Gaza and disputes over access to religious sites in the old city of Jerusalem.
More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in Gaza during the Israel-Gaza conflict, the majority of them civilians according to the UN.
Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers, and six civilians in Israel, were also killed.”
As we see, readers are not informed that “the summer conflict” took place in Israel as well as the Gaza Strip or that it began because terrorist organisations based there fired hundreds of missiles at Israeli civilians and constructed cross-border attack tunnels. In addition, the article continues the now well-established practice of quoting out of date civilian/combatant casualty ratios which the BBC has not independently verified. The BBC News website found it appropriate to illustrate this report about a terror attack in Tel Aviv with the image below.
The BBC’s consistent practice of downplaying or ignoring Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism makes the phrasing of the following segment of this report particularly notable:
“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas for the attack.
The attack was “the direct result of the poisonous incitement being disseminated by the Palestinian Authority against the Jews and their state”, he said.
The Israeli government frequently accuses Palestinian groups of inciting violence.
The government has been angered by Mr Abbas’ efforts to secure Palestinian membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and agreement to a unity government with militant group Hamas.
The Palestinians blame Israeli government policies, particularly the expansion of settlements, for the increase in violence, correspondents say.”
Audiences are not told who those anonymous “correspondents” are, but it is probably not too much of a gamble to assume that they include the same BBC employees who repeatedly promoted the notion that ‘settlements’ were the main reason for the terror attacks during October and November 2014. In fact, whilst this particular terrorist did not mention ‘settlements’ as a motivating factor for his actions, he did cite other factors, including “extremist Islamist television programs”.
Apparently refusing to connect the dots between “a unity government with militant group Hamas” and glorification of terrorism from “a senior Hamas official”, the writer of this report went on to inform audiences that:
“Izzat Risheq, a senior Hamas official, praised the stabbing attack.
Speaking from Qatar, he described it as “a natural response to the crimes of the occupation and terrorism against the Palestinian people”.”
Risheq was not the only Hamas official to condone the attack:
“The event was deemed a “natural response to Israeli terrorism,” by Hamas Spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri, who issued an official statement as events unfolded in Tel Aviv.
The incident, the statement said, was a response to ongoing “Israeli crimes” against the Palestinian people. “
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum posted this status on Facebook, the Fatah Facebook account lauded the stabbings and some Palestinian media outlets also praised and celebrated the attack with a series of cartoons.
Throughout this report the language used by the BBC to describe the terrorist includes “suspect” (three times), “perpetrator” and “attacker”. The word terrorist is only used in quotes from Israeli sources. The continuing refusal to use accurate language to portray terror attacks in Israel must be assessed together with the BBC’s consistent avoidance of any serious reporting on Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism, its concurrent repeated promotion of subjectively selected factors (such as “expansion of settlements”) as ‘context’ for terror attacks against Israelis, and its transparent attempts to separate the ‘moderate’ Palestinian Authority from “militant” Hamas despite the existence of a unity government. Together, all those factors continue to obstruct audience understanding of this issue.