BBC repeats use of loaded punctuation in reporting terror attacks on Israelis

An article dated December 3rd and appearing in the Middle East section of the BBC News website under the title “Palestinian killed in West Bank” carries the following headline: “Palestinian ‘with axe’ killed by Israeli forces in West Bank”. 

axe story

The article relates to an incident which took place on December 3rd 2012 on Route 57 and claims that members of the Israeli Security Services were involved in a chase after a Palestinian man named Hatem Shadid.

“Reports say the man had been driving a car between the settlements of Shavei Shomron and Einav, raising the suspicions of the security personnel.

They began chasing him and his car collided with their own vehicle, which then overturned. The man is then said to have come towards them with the axe.”

No other news agency appears to be carrying that version of the story. Reuters described Shadid as having “rammed” the ISS vehicle. 

“The witnesses said that after the vehicles collided, Shadid approached the Israelis, who were already injured from the crash, hitting one in the head and the other in the shoulder with an object that he was carrying.

One of the Israelis then shot him dead, both sides said.”

The Huffington Post – using an AP item – quotes an eye witness:

“Palestinian truck driver Rafik Salem says the Palestinian car hit the jeep at high speed Monday before veering into an olive grove. He says an ax-wielding man emerged from the grove and attacked the Israelis.”

Ynet states that:

“The man’s car crashed head on into an army vehicle transporting a Shin Bet officer and other security personnel near the Palestinian village of Deir Sharaf in the West Bank. The jeep overturned upon impact, lightly injuring the passengers. The assailant then exited his car and stormed towards the troops with an ax while yelling “Allah Akbar,” managing to hurt two of the soldiers before being shot dead by the Shin Bet officer.”

The Jerusalem Post , quoting the Spokesman for the Israeli Police Force, describes the incident thus:

“The Shin Bet [Israeli Security Service] was carrying out security activity along the road when the Palestinian vehicle swerved from its lane and crashed head-on into them. 

The Palestinian driver then lunged at the security personnel with an axe while shouting “Allahu Akbar.” He injured two Israelis in the attack. A Shin Bet officer shot and killed the attacker.”

Another outstanding feature of this BBC article is the interesting use (yet again) of punctuation in the headline. Why exactly were those inverted commas inserted to surround the words ‘with axe’? The clear implication is that the BBC is not prepared to take reports that the man was wielding an axe as verified, thereby suggesting that perhaps this was not a terror attack.

So here, especially for the Editor of the BBC News website, is a picture of the axe used by Hatem Shabib. The image can be seen here at 08:59. 


Will the unnecessary punctuation now be removed? 


Terror in Tel Aviv: scare quotes at the BBC.

Here is the BBC’s report on the terrorist bombing of a number 142 Dan bus in central Tel Aviv on Wednesday lunchtime, November 21st:

A deliberate terrorist attack is termed a ‘Bomb blast’ – in ‘well, that’s what they’re telling us’ inverted commas.  

The article continues:

“There has been an explosion on a bus in Israel’s commercial capital Tel Aviv, police say, amid continuing exchanges between Israel and militants in Gaza.

There are at least 10 injuries in what police called a “terrorist attack”.”

Further down, the liberal sprinkling of scare quotes continues:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Ofir Gendelman said on his Twitter account that the explosion was caused by a bomb and that it was “terrorist attack”.

Emergency services say five of the wounded in the bus explosion are in a serious or moderate condition.

An Israeli who witnessed the explosion told Army Radio the bus was “completely charred”.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said the blast occurred on the corner of Shaul Hamelech and Henrietta Szold.

It said the injured were being taken to Ichilov hospital and that roadblocks had been set up in the area to search for a suspected bomber.

The attack took place on the eighth day of exchanges between Israel and militants in Gaza.

Some 139 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed.

Celebratory gunfire reportedly rang out in Gaza City when local radio relayed news of the bus attack.”

Before we are tempted to attribute the generous use of so much unnecessary punctuation to BBC caution until the picture is fully clear, we should perhaps compare and contrast with its reporting of the strike on the antennae of two office blocks in Gaza City earlier this week. 

What the above report does not include is reports on Twitter by its correspondents on the ground in Gaza that Hamas immediately took responsibility for the attack. 

The BBC’s Paul Danahar appeared to be trying to suggest that the target of the attack was of a military nature, which makes an interesting contrast to some of his tweets earlier in the week. 

(By the way, here is a recent event in Gaza which the plethora of BBC reporters on the ground there appears to have decided not to report, apart from a brief 29 words in this item.)


The BBC now has footage of the aftermath of the attack up on its website – also broadcast on BBC News.

Note the wording of the report’s synopsis as it appears on the website: [emphasis added]

“At least 10 people have been injured in an explosion on a bus in Israel’s commercial capital, Tel Aviv, in what one Israeli official described as a “terrorist attack”. “