The two terrorist bombings that rocked the Middle East on August 19, 2003 – targeting in Baghdad UN workers who had come to rebuild the country, and in Jerusalem Jewish families with young children returning from prayer at the Western Wall – elicited early sympathetic reaction on BBC. But it didn’t take very long for the network’s Web site to start implying fault on Israel’s part.
1) A BBC Web site article entitled “Israel blast suspends talks,” (August 20, 2003, 13:02 GMT) covers up Palestinian responsibility for the attack. (Why not “Palestinian blast suspends talks”?) The story itself focuses largely on Israel’s reaction, referring to “suspending talks on the handover of West Bank town to Palestinian control,” “re-impos[ing] a total military closure on West Bank towns–allowing no one in or out,” “arrest[ing] 17 Palestinians, suspected of being Hamas activists.”At the same time, it emphasizes Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s condemnation of the attack and presents at face value Hamas’ absurd assurances that “the bombing did not mean the end of a temporary ceasefire by the militants.” An accompanying photograph shows the smiling Hamas perpetrator holding his own two toddlers in his arms.
Readers of the article might understandably conclude that Israel’s measures, rather than Palestinian actions, are ultimately the obstacle to further peace talks.
2) It was evidently more difficult to blame Israel outright in a news analysis follow-up of the Baghdad bombing, “Why the UN is a target,” (August 19, 2003, 19:04 GMT). Instead, world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds dredged up old history that brought Israel into the story in a negative way. He stated:
The most infamous killing in UN history was that of Count Folke Bernadotte who was shot by Israeli extremists in Jerusalem in 1948.
Bernadotte was UN Mediator in Palestine and had angered the Jewish underground by recommending that Jerusalem become an international city.
It is telling that the much more recent regional history of the kidnapping (February 17, 1988) and brutal execution (July 31, 1989) of Lieutenant Colonel William Higgins, chief of the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon goes unmentioned in the article. Apparently this is not considered infamous enough when there is no opportunity to haul Israel onto the stage.