BBC coverage of the terror attack in Duma last summer and the subsequent investigation has thrown a spotlight on the differing terminology employed to describe the suspects in that case and other terrorists.
There are two aspects to that differing terminology, one of which is the use of the word ‘terrorists’ – a term which is never used by the BBC to describe Palestinian attackers. The second difference is the specification of the suspects’ religion – as noted here last August in relation to a BBC radio report which referred to “Jewish terror attacks.”
1) The BBC’s description of Jewish detainees in cases such as the murders of three sleeping members of the Dawabshe family in the arson attack in Duma on July 31 2015 as “suspected terrorists” is of course accurate as such wording appropriately reflects the Israeli government’s own classification. However, the Palestinians who murdered five members of the Fogel family as they too slept in 2011 and the people who murdered the parents of the Henkin family in October 2015 and the people who murdered early morning worshippers at a Jerusalem synagogue in 2014 and the people who murdered Malachi Rosenfeld in June 2015 (in an attack now mentioned in this report but not reported in English by the BBC at the time) are also terrorists.
The trouble is that the BBC does not use the term terrorists to describe them or the perpetrators of countless other attacks against Israelis to its audiences.
2) We do not of course see the comparable term ‘Muslim terror attacks’ used in BBC coverage: the prevailing term is ‘Islamist’ and recognized terror organisations such as Hamas are euphemistically described as “Palestinian militant Islamist groups.
In response to complaints about this apparent double standard, the BBC replied that the Israeli government itself referred to the “Jewish” perpetrators as “terrorists,” even though this justification is an apparent contradiction to BBC editorial guidelines on Language when Reporting Terrorism.
However, Palestinian officials will never be found using comparable terminology to describe their own citizens who carry out attacks against Israelis and so the BBC will not apply similar practice when reporting those stories.
There is an evident double standard according to which the accuracy of the terminology used by the BBC is dependent upon the honesty of the government or authority concerned – and that is clearly a big problem for a media organisation supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting.
The full article and further information on the BBC’s unusual editorial practices can be found at BBC Watch.