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Gaza stories

Jon Williams Jon Williams | 12:55 UK time, Thursday, 29 June 2006

Two nights ago, Israeli forces bombed the only power station in Gaza, knocking out power to thousands of homes and offices. Anyone who's had a fuse blow knows the inconvenience when the lights go out. But factor in 35 degree temperatures, the need for air conditioning, and the loss of water pumping and communications networks, and you begin to have some idea of the difficulties facing everyone living and working in the Gaza strip.

BBC reporter Alan JohnstoneThe BBC is the only Western broadcaster to maintain a permanent presence in Gaza. It's on days like this that the expertise of people like correspondent Alan Johnston comes into its own. He and his colleagues from the BBC's Arabic Service live close to our bureau in Gaza City, enabling them to draw on the context - and contacts - gleaned from literally living the story.

It's that imperative - of eyewitness reporting - that goes to the heart of what we do. It's why we maintain a network of more than 40 bureaux around the world. So in addition to Alan in Gaza, as the crisis over Cpl Gilad Shalit deepens, we now have reporters with the Israeli military, in Jerusalem, in Ramallah - and in Syria where the Hamas military leadership is based.

But deployments - who goes where - are only part of what we've been wrestling with. As ever in reporting the Middle East, language - and the choice of words - is incredibly important. Was the soldier kidnapped or captured, were the Hamas politicians arrested or detained?

Our credibility is undermined by the careless use of words which carry value judgements. Our job is to remain objective. By doing so, I hope we allow our audiences on radio and television to make their own assessment of the story. So we try to stick to the facts - civilians are "kidnapped", Cpl Shalit was "captured"; since troops don't usually make "arrests", the politicians were "detained". Doubtless some will disagree. But that's, in essence, the heart of the story - two competing narratives.


  • 1.
  • At 03:36 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Jonny wrote:

And yet suicide bombers who kill civilians are "militants" and not terrorists? Surly this is a double standard, especially as the BBC has been critisised for its use of language.

  • 2.
  • At 03:36 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Ilan wrote:

I don't mind if BBC is consistent, but check out this (there are others) clip from a search on BBC relating to "kidnapped" British soldiers:

Monday, 28 August, 2000, 06:26 GMT 07:26 UKKidnapped soldiers dominate papersThe fate of the 11 British soldiers kidnapped in Sierra Leone finds space on most front pages.

So what is it. British soldiers are kidnapped, but Israelis are captured? Don't pretend to be "unbiased" in your use of language please. It strikes as fascetious.

  • 3.
  • At 03:42 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Davis wrote:

Youve hit the nail on the head perfectly: Two competing naratives... and the BBC constantly choosing to adopt a narrative sypathetic to the palestinians and harshly critical of Israel. Howabout you take your friend Jhonston and let him live under a barrage of kassam missiles in sderot for a few weeks, i suspect he'll go crawling back to his air conditionless gaza pretty quickly.

How you justify your blatant bias is beyond me. Around here (down under)its a agiven that bbc represents the palestinian side of the story and we must go to more credible websites to read a more nuteral approach.

Your attempted apologetics and justification for your anti israel approach only served to verify the abovementioned position.

feel free to email if you want a file of various inconsistencies and dishonesty ive noticed in various BBC articles recently

  • 4.
  • At 03:48 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Yusuf wrote:

The facts of the conflict in the middle east are such that any objective news report will, naturally portray the Israelis as the "bad guys".

I urge you therefore not to bow to unfair pressure from the pro-zionists when editing news reports.

  • 5.
  • At 03:56 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Dan wrote:

'Civilians are "kidnapped"'? According to who? Why not soldiers?

I would accept your explanation for the use of words were it not for this:

"Iraq general kidnapped in Baghdad"

Why was the word OK in that instance and not this?

And this:

"Seized Israeli settler found dead"

Why "seized" and not "kidnapped" there?

Surely it is not the status of person that has been seized, but rather the status of those responsible for doing so, and their motives.

"Kidnap" explains the fact that perpetrators are not acting in an official capacity and are doing so for bargaining purposes - exactly what has happened to Cpl Gilad Shalit.

The usage of "captured" and "seized" carries the value judgement that the acts are more lawful or official than they actually are - and therefore more acceptable than they should be.

  • 6.
  • At 04:01 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • manuel wrote:

Congratulations on your efforts to use adequate language in your reports from the Middle East. But, I will believe that your language is adequate when you begin calling suicide murderers "terorists" and not the benign "militants".

Obviously it's necessary to carefully choose words. But the news is so plain boring. Give us narrative news instead! Tell us what it's really like. There's never any sense of 'being there'. Everything is written in passive voice: "were seized", "was hit", "were also destroyed" - by WHO? Who did these things? Passive voice is weak and a cop-out because it allows reporters to 'report' without actually saying anything or even needing to find out the most crucial item of all, who did what to whom.
Journalists should be educated in the techniques of fiction writing, not so that they write fictional stories, but so they know how to write stories that command interest, rather than yawns.

I think you touch on one of the most grapling issues that the West deals with in journalism: how to remain objective in a region that enflames passions dramatically. As the comic issue with Denmark exemplified, words or images coming from a perceived hostile West -- in the context of Israel, the Iraq War, etc. -- can have unwanted and deleterious consequences for those on both sides. But I appluad the BBC for maintaining legitimate reporting on a polarizing issue.

  • 9.
  • At 04:36 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Brad wrote:

I, for one, can appreciate how difficult it must be to report objectively, where the slightest slip gives offence to one side or another. Witness some of the other comments as an example. I still prefer the BBC (and The Guardian) to any other source of information, so keep up the good work!
On a different but related topic, can you explain how the Palestinians are considered to be 'terrorists'? Their land is occupied by Israel and they are subject to various forms of attack yet when they do anything they are labelled as terrorists. What does that make the Israelis then?

  • 10.
  • At 04:38 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Illan wrote:

All the first 7 points here are spot on.
It seems these exercises in showing the BBC to be unbias is like stating with confidence black is white.
The words are not the only concept which betray a bias. The perspective shown is never from the Israeli side. I am yet to read a report from Sderot or Tel-Aviv, they seem to be consistenly based in the territories.

I remember when I was in Israel and speaking with a british accent, a group of old ladies came to ask if I worked to the BBC, when I replied in the negative they told me how unfair and bias they found the BBC reporting to be.
Yet Israel still allows them in thier country, with thier military. Try writing about how 'evil' Assad is and see if you stay in Syria very long. The fact the BBC is allowed to stay no matter what is proof enough.

  • 11.
  • At 04:39 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Saidhbhin wrote:

I suppose I am somewhat guilty of harrassing the BBC in particular on this subject, and I appreciate that that you have written an article that tries to set out some of the reasons you choose to report in the manner you do. However, I do think that there is a large difference between the military of Israel and of Palestine, and that Palestinian militants are often civilians who have had enough of living under the terrible conditions enforced upon them, so I would argue that it is perhaps not quite fair to report them in the same manner. While I applaud the BBC's improvement over the years in their portrayal of this war(and with that of course your reporters' bravery) I still must confess that I on occasion find massacres of Palestinians somewhat understated, with the shocking wrrds being saved for Israeli deaths(no less tragic of course).
Also, I acknowledge the great improvements being made and look forward to your reports in the future which I feel DO make a difference already. Well done...

  • 12.
  • At 04:40 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Brian Resnick wrote:

I agree that words are very influential and critical in reporting. For instance the BBC on Saturday, 2 July, 2005 when referring to the American bombing of a Taliban compound spoke of “US fighter planes”. When it comes to Israel the BBC and some other news sources speak of “War Planes” which sounds like demonizing verbiage to me.

I think the BBC is clearly biased against Israel when it comes to many things, including choice of language. But that’s just from my own biased view.

  • 13.
  • At 04:44 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Richard wrote:

I agree with Barquentine to a point but the BBC has to ensure it doesn't sensationalise the news coverage, which is something the likes of Sky are notorious for. If a story is sensationalised it is difficult (if not impossible) to distinguish fact from hyperbole and get a proper understanding of the real situation. Conversely, if news is reported blandly as a series of facts it becomes uninteresting and the viewer will not be able to empathise with the people involved.

I think earlier comments suggesting hypocrisy in the BBC's langusge miss the point. Yes they may have used the word "kidnapped" when reporting events Sierra Leone 6 years ago but they have learnt since. More importantly, in the current situation there is far more globabl interest in the story and it is more significant if one side is misreported. I am glad that the BBC is taking a line that implicitly highlights the wrongs that Israel is commiting in retaliation for an equal wrong that the Palestinians have commited, rather than reporting as if one side is more justified in its actions than the other because it is a recognised state.

  • 14.
  • At 04:44 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Louis Pinkett wrote:

I read Mr. Williams' comments at first with interest, but increasingly with disbelief.
The disingenuousness of your editor, and by extension in this case, your network, is astonishing.
A group of loosely organized individuals (call them what you wish-terrorists? militants? gang members?)tunnels under a border, attacks an army post and brings back by force a soldier who they then threaten to kill unless their demands are met?
This is not a kidnapping? Are you really serious? How about blackmailing then?
Your tortuous logic, couched in some sort of journalistic doublespeak, seems designed after the fact to justify whatever agenda it is you yourself are hostage to. This is a frightening scenario for a major network financed by the people of Great Britain and undercuts the trust that I used to have in BBC.

  • 15.
  • At 04:45 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Richard wrote:

I had initially wanted to comment positively....stating my admiration for your public explanation of what terms you use.

However...after reading the preceding comments, your intentions may have been honourable, but you evidently are wrong, and have been undermined by other journalists given the same instructions as you. My apologies to you, but your organisation has lost you credibility.

  • 16.
  • At 04:46 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Jack Cohen wrote:

So what is the term for a suicide bomber that blows up innocent civilians on a bus, in a restaurant or in a disco?


  • 17.
  • At 05:01 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Jan wrote:

Well done, great article!

  • 18.
  • At 05:02 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • jerry clavner wrote:

i agree that words are important. many news outlets refer to Israel as the Jewish State; no one refers to Iraq as a Moslem State. It is the Palesinian Authority, but not Palestine. It is the West Bank or Judea and Samaria, not the occupied west bank. Political neutrality is difficult, but helps the cause of peace in the long run.

  • 19.
  • At 05:10 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Johannes Corley wrote:

If civilians are kidnapped and soldiers are captured, etc. then, when a soldier is captured while on his own soil by enemy intruders doesn't that constitute an invasion?

The BBC needs to return to unbiased reporting instead of becoming the voice of the Palestinian terrorists.

  • 20.
  • At 05:34 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Adam wrote:

You say that you avoid the word "terrorist" when Israeli Jewish civilians are targeted and killed because you don't want to make a value judgement, and yet you always use the word Terrorist when Europeans or Americans are targeted and killed. Is that not a value judgement in itself as to the value of western life vs. jewish life?

  • 21.
  • At 05:38 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • John V Carey wrote:

before you can claim an unbias opinion, you must look back at how you have reported the middle East in the past.
Consistently over time you have painted the Israelies as perpetrators and Palestinians as victims. Those who plant bombs in bus's and market places must not be given a sympathic ear (they are terrorists), and those who use their military power to bulldose homes must not be excused (they are oppressors).
As you try to walk a fine line in reporting, leave left leaning opinions out of your news and drop the hot words.
Their is a new age of media savy readers, who get their news from many sources, they can tell very fast when something is being slighted.
--John V Carey--

  • 22.
  • At 05:40 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Craig wrote:

Thanks for this blog. Reading this puts some things into perspective. BBC stories around Gaza appear to lean heavily towards the Palestinians but now that makes total sense. Anyone living amongst a people under harsh conditions will sympathise with them; it's part of being human.

That explains why stories where civilians are hurt in Gaza mention wailing women and hundreds of incensed mourners and show photos of distraught families whereas stories of suicide bombers blowing up Israelis markets state just the facts, e.g. "Two people were killed including the Hamas militant and 45 injured" along with a photo of an ambulance.

If the reporter is there to see the wailing people, of course it's a different perspective to just picking up the newsfeed from Reuters; there's personal, emotional involvement, these are people the reporter may have had dinner with.

  • 23.
  • At 05:41 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Ruth wrote:

Could you comment on how you refer to the West Bank and Gaza--especially Gaza, which has had unilateral withdrawal but the Israelis are still doing incursions and blocking free egress into Egypt or Israel. Is it a blockaded territory? An occupied territory? I heard a reporter say Palestinian territory today and that only seems half the story...

  • 24.
  • At 05:43 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Adam Cooper wrote:

First, I think it is great that finally consumers on news to comment on the content. So thanks for setting up this blog, and for opening the debate on the use and power of words in the news.

I know that the BBC sometimes gets it absolutely right - 'insurgents' as opposed to terrorists in Iraq (although at times it is relatively clear that the insurgents - like the Coalition - use terrorism as a tactic). However, as other posters have pointed out, it is very hard to get it right consistently. This is likely due to the problems of controlling a huge organisation where staff join and leave at different times, and are all desperate to avoid repetition and cliche.

However, it is not just the choice of what is said, but also of what is not said. As the scientific study of the BBCs coverage of the Israel Palestine conflict 'Bad News from Israel' showed, the BBC can be open to biases in reporting that favour the more organised and well-resourced protagonist. That is, in this context, Israel has (in the past at least) been better able to get it's version of events across more consistently, earlier and in a way that is better understood to western eyes. The Palestinians have simply not had the media firepower to match them. The more proactive reporting that seems to be coming from Israel and Palestine via the BBC appears to be countering that inadvertant pro-Israeli bias, though I still feel that it is present. For example, given that Hamas is an elected government, why aren't its soldiers an 'army' instead of 'militants'? This is consistent with the notion of the soldier being 'captured' but is not extended to the rest of the narrative.

  • 25.
  • At 05:56 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Daniela wrote:

I am from Mexico and I have nothing to do with the middle east, but every time I hear or read your news it seems to me that the palestinians are suffering and that the israelis are the bad guys. I dont think that is being objective. Stop pretending you are objective when you clearly favor the palestinians.

  • 26.
  • At 05:58 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • cdnmuslim wrote:

I thank the BBC for its caution when using words about the Middle East. It is, by far, the most objective western news source I have read. The fact of the matter remains that Israel is the occupier and Palestine is the occupied, so, no matter how "objective" you are, Israel will be portrayed as the "bad guy"...and rightfully so.

  • 27.
  • At 05:59 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Steve wrote:

I've emailed the BBC twice to complain about its continued use of "militant group" before "Hamas". This is a democratically elected body, end of story. We never heard "militant group Sin Feinn" did we so the fact they are muslims and have brown skin should make no difference.

I think the BCC should toss conventional notions of impartiality out the window and start portraying both sides of this conflict as complete and utter morons. This would answer the calls for more entertaining reading, while at the same time, through the absurdity of the prose, making it obvious to all readers that they are striving to portray each side in the same light.

  • 29.
  • At 06:05 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Steve wrote:

in response to Davis (post number 3): within the last month a report has been published. It was brought on behalf of the Jewsih community in the UK with exactly the allegations you raise, i.e. that the BBC is biased towards the Palestinians. In fact, the report found, and anyone who has a neutral view might agree, the BBC was PRO Israeli - and actually gave far more coverage to murdered Israelis than murdered Palestinians (of which there are 3 times as many, not that you'd know it to watch the news in the West). Get your facts straight.

  • 30.
  • At 06:17 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Ethan Schur wrote:

HAMAS is a terrorist organization. Not a militant one. Why is it that you say settler instead of Israeli? Are you trying to somehow dehumanize the boy by calling him a settler? He is a Jew in the Land of Israel and he was kidnapped murdered by terrorists. Get it right. You guys are so scared of Islamists that you use weasel words constantly.

  • 31.
  • At 06:20 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Sam Chow wrote:

I am sympathetic to the 'detention' of a couple of politicians of the opposing camp to rescue the 'captured' young man.

But the 'abusive' use of force, destroying the only power station supplying electricity and water to hundreds of thousands of civilians, smacks 'bullying'.

The world is 'watching'.

  • 32.
  • At 06:27 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Ian wrote:

Captured or kidnapped? A soldier who is seized by the enemy while in enemy territory might well be considered captured, but that is not the case here. Cpl Shalit was in sovereign Israeli territory, not the Gaza strip - Palestinian guerillas entered Israel and took him over the border into Gaza. That sounds very much like a kidnapping to me. What would it be called if Iraqi insurgents entered a U.K. army base in England, seized a soldier and took him back to Iraq?

  • 33.
  • At 06:32 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Shalim wrote:

There are two different concepts at work here and they can sometimes comflict with each other. One is the commitment to truth and the other is the commitment to impartiality.

In the real world, there will always be one side who is more to blame than the other, but if the BBC reports this truthfully, then it will be accused of being biased.

I would strongly urge the BBC to ignore those who complain of "BBC Bias" and keep up its standards of truthful reporting.

I've often noticed that the BBC seems to be the most impartial news source throughout it's broadcasts, and it's the main reason I trust it to be my only news source (ie only browsing this site for news and watching BBC news on television).

It definately does seem to be the only news source that doesn't show unfair bias towards Israel in the middle-east conflict.

  • 35.
  • At 06:35 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Garry wrote:

Please pay no attention to #7. News isn't meant to be exciting. It's meant to be news. If we start sexing up news we're just going to get into the situation where important but `boring' stuff is bumped down the list because an exciting gun battle happened in Iraq.. as is the case with a lot of US news agencies where they have a reporter following around a particular squad - so anything they do is top of the news bill because it's `exclusive', `sexy' and visual. The only problem is that it isn't news.

To quote Chris Morris:

Fact * Importance = News

That's all pretty off topic though. I think the wording of kidnapped/seized would be decided by intent - not who the good guys are.

Kidnapped would suggest that the person was taken by an unknown group for unknown reasons.

Seized would suggest that the person is being held by some kind of official authority awaiting some kind of trial.

I guess we're kind of missing words to perfectly describe some of the stuff that's happening though.

  • 36.
  • At 06:39 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • J.G. wrote:

The BBC's own report into its coverage of Palestinian/Israel said in bold type right at the beginning that the BBC should call a person who deliberately targets civilians a terrorist. Yet the BBC still refers to them as militants or even misguided criminals. The BBC has made a value judgement here and that is that there is no such thing as a terrorist. Until you start referring to the perpetrators of heinous deliberately target civilian massacres as terrorists your creditability will remain undermined.

  • 37.
  • At 06:54 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Michael Grant wrote:

The earlier posts made a good point: the BBC always claims to be impartial in its reporting of the Middle East, yet is never perceived to be. The BBC used to have a reputation for correct reporting too, yet when I first read about the abduction of Cpl Shalit on the BBC news site, the subtitle beneath the headline on the main page made it seem as if he was abducted from within Gaza, where Israelis had no right to be; only people who followed the link to the main article discovered that he was actually taken from within Israel, where he had every right to be.

As regards soldiers being captured vs Palestinians kidnapped, something I never see the BBC mention is that almost every civilian in Israel is a soldier. Though it has peace treaties with two of its neighbours, the other three (counting Ḥamas for the Palestinians) remain hostile, if not dedicated to its destruction. Israel does not have a large enough population to maintain an adequate standing army. National service is necessary, and for two or three months as teenagers, then a month every year thereafter every civilian temporarily becomes a soldier. Why, then, should this affect how they are described. When Elchanan Tenenboim was abducted by Ḥizbollah, he was described as a reservist colonel. Yet everyone, almost, is a reservist. At the time of his abduction, he was a civilian!

I would argue against the blanket use of 'militants'. Often this word is used to describe people who are struggling to resist illegal occupation. There is no ambiguity under international law: Israel illegally occupies the West Bank, the Golan Heights and Jerusalem. National defence is not a justification for this type of occupation under international law, and so I would think it is more fair to describe those who target the Israeli military as 'resistance fighters'.

I also think that if soldiers who are taken captive in the line of duty could be referred to as kidnapped, as has been argued in some comments here, then we need to call the adbduction of several thousand innocent people from the West Bank to Israel (and moving them from one place to another is also against international law) as kidnap by the Israeli authorities.

  • 39.
  • At 07:07 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • John wrote:

Unlike Saidbghin I am not a regular, but reading the posts am I right in assuming a number are originated by propaganda organisations and then presented as being from individuals? If so, I think they should work on their spelling and syntax, or is this part of the authenticity scam?

  • 40.
  • At 07:11 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Greg Sullivan wrote:

I'm pleased to see so many people waking up to the bias of the BBC. There are a whole generation of TV viewers who know nothing of the suffering of the Israeli people - according to the BBC the only people with legitimate grievances are the Palestinians. Last week I was pleased to see a report on Sky from Sderot, showing Israeli civilians living under siege, as Qassam missiles rained down on the day and night. Such a report would never feature on the BBC.

As for the word "terrorist", when bombs are set off in crowded city centres, with no military target, with the simple aim of killing and terrifying civilians, how can it be anything other than terrorism? Dialogue exists between Israel and the Palestinians, but rather than pursuing this dialogue, the terrorists simply bomb their way to martyrdom and popular legend.

When Palestinians are killed in rocket strikes, it is often because terrorists have launched attacks on Israel from civilian locations, knowing that either Israel will either refuse to act or will retaliate with rocket attacks, meaning that Palestinian civilians will be caught in the blasts, providing a field day for Hamas and those who crave the destruction of Israel. Sadly, the BBC rarely looks at the whole picture, perfering to use biased language to legitimise the most horrific and cowardly of acts.

  • 41.
  • At 07:12 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Ehsan wrote:

It is because your reporting is facially neutral in its use of words that the majority of posts have an issue with the words you use for Israel's actions. When emotionally charged words arent used to describe Israel's actions the stark reality of their unethical actions becomes even more apparent ... and thus a cause for concern for its supporters.

  • 42.
  • At 07:15 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Emanuel Amuniki wrote:

Israel has begun bombing power stations, the main water supply networks and roads linking the various parts of Gaza. If you describe palestinian suicide bombing as terrorism then why don't you equally describe Israel's targeting of vital civil infrastracture as state terrorism?

  • 43.
  • At 07:15 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Firoz wrote:

To those of you complaining that the BBC is biased against Israel, I suggest you read the findings of a recent independent report commissioned by the BBC to investigate it's coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Report of the Independent Panel
(Note: the file is a PDF)

To summarise the findings of the report: it stated the BBC could improve it's coverage, but that its current output was not deliberately biased.

What might surprise some people is that the report also says that the BBC's coverage implicitly favours the Israeli side: more coverage is given to Israeli deaths than to Palestinian ones, and in general the Israeli's get more airtime than their Palestininian counterparts.

Of course, if you think the BBC is biased against your political viewpoint, independent reports or reasonable arguments are unlikely to sway you.

Link: BBC 'must improve Mid-East view'

I certainly don't think the BBC's coverage of the Middle East is perfect, but I'm glad to read that they understand the need to be careful in the use of language. You certainly won't get that sort of considered approach from many other news outlets.

  • 44.
  • At 07:16 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • suhail Muhmood wrote:

I thank the BBC for its reporting of this conflict , which is far fairer than most other news broadcasters around the world.

On this issue of using the word capture or kidnap. The capture of an Iraqi militant would be considered by most of the world as a 'capture', while his family may consider it a kidnapping. It depends from the point of view that you look from.

Having the same standard for each i.e. a civilian is always kidnapped, and militant captured, regardless from which side of the conflict, seems in my view to keep the BBC as 'unbiased' as possible.

  • 45.
  • At 07:24 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Rosa wrote:

I am glad to hear that the BBC strives for fairness, and in fact I find it much more objective than many other sources. However, I disagree with some of the comments posted here which say that Israelis are often portrayed as the bad guys. They are not. They are "settlers," etc. whereas the Palestinains are "militants," which I think is unfair. Both sides contain both violent people AND peaceful civilians-but the media seems to conclude that ALL Palestinians are violent and/or reckless.

  • 46.
  • At 07:32 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Gary wrote:

This is an interesting issue. I would note, however, that in determining appropriate language, both the object and the subject of the action matter.

It is probably correct to say, in the context of a military manoeuvre, that soldiers are "captured". But a military manoeuvre arises from the engagement of two militaries acting on behalf of sovereign states.

The Israeli soldiers were not captured by members of another country's army. They were captured by so-called militants. Whether or not the Palestinian Authority is a sovereign state, the Palestinian Authority has certainly indicated that these so-called militants were not deputized by it to kidnap the Israeli soldier.

By using the language of "capture", the BBC implies that the Hamas-led government is, in fact, fully responsible for the taking of the Israeli soldier, and that that action is in fact part of a recognized armed conflict between states (or quasi-states, as it were). Is that the BBC's intention?

  • 47.
  • At 07:34 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Yaki wrote:

There is a minor problem

In Jerusalem the PA people were arrested by police.

The teenager from Itamar was kidnapped and murdered. He was a civillian and unarmed.
It is no different from any hitch-hiker anywhere in the world.
That should be mentioned clearly.

Soldiers capture the enemy to prevent the continuation of fighting. Terrorists/blackmailers abduct/kidnap for ransom.

Think about it

  • 48.
  • At 07:43 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Tony Moretta wrote:

I'm pleased to see Jon avoiding the use of the word 'arrested' (although colleagues within the BBC were using it only this morning on Today) as Israel has no legitimate jurisdiction in Gaza, and is in fact in breach of numerous UN Security Council resolutions demanding that they stay within their internationally recognised borders. However, I think 'detained' is still too soft for military forces invading another country and seizing foreign citizens by force.

And isn't it amazing how defensive pro-Israeli contributors are to BBC correspondents telling the truth about the tragedy of the Palestinian situation. Maybe they have something to hide.

  • 49.
  • At 07:45 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Steph wrote:

All very well, but I do seem to distinctly remember hearing in the Today programme on Radio 4 (or was it the midnight news yesterday?)that Hamas officials had been "arrested" by Israeli forces. I remember this precisely because the choice of words struck me a odd - an arrest is something I associate with the exercise of legal powers in a domestic context, not with capturing members of another people's government. Is Gaza part of Israeli domestic legal space? or is it to be considered foreign territory? Or something in between? Am sincerely wondering and would like to know more about the legal background here!

  • 50.
  • At 07:53 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Jaan wrote:

I congratulate you on your attempts at precision in language, but I fear that this is a lost cause. The two sides of this conflict are so polarized and bound up in decades of mutual hatred that you cannot possibly please them both.

Killing civilians is either defined as terrorism or not depending on your perspective. They are just as dead from a suicide bomber as from a bomb dropped on an apartment building.

  • 51.
  • At 08:00 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Lucy wrote:

Question: just when is a terrorist not a 'terrorist'?
Answer: when he's murdering Israelis.
The poor BBC having such a problem with it's words - perhaps I could help and suggest using 'biased' rather than 'objective'

  • 52.
  • At 08:12 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • andre wrote:

In view of the many comments concerning the use of the word mild words when reporting on activites of the various factions operating in Palestine, I think that the time has come for the BBC to define terrorist and militant and provide examples of their use in the context of reporting in Palestine.

Personally, I have serious misgivings with the use of the word "militant" to describe a civilian with an AK47 that covers his face to prevent his identification. Such abuse of the word militant gives the impression that the BBC is biased against Israel

  • 53.
  • At 08:20 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Henry Oliver wrote:

I think the phrase terrorist should be dropped from all media reports - it is far too emotive and implies a knowledge of their intent and methods.

One mans terrorism is another mans military action is another mans police action is another mans freedom fighting. All of these phrases suggest we know what the objective or intent is. generally we don't - all we can say is that it is an attempt to inflict damage, perhaps also too take life.

Militant is fine, it gets the message through and seems accurate enough to me.

The press SHOULD be (although rarely is) objective - just the facts - the opinions should be left to the reader.

  • 54.
  • At 08:27 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Steve H wrote:

One good rule of thumb to use is that if you're receiving complaints of bias from both sides (as evidenced in these comments), then you must be doing a good job overall of being unbiased.

  • 55.
  • At 08:33 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Dave wrote:

I only hope that the same valuse and expectations were applied to Israel that are applied to every other nation. Gaza and West Bank are considered "occupied" as if this is some terrible situation. What Country that takes land as a result of war imediately gives it back to those that lost? UK and US troops still "occupy" Germany and have done so for 50 years. No suicide bombers there. Why, because they accepted defeat and agreed to Peace. Yet the US and UK still have troops there but the Germans live in Peace. The problem in Gaza and West Bank is they will not accept Peace with Israel 30 years on!

  • 56.
  • At 08:33 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Jonno wrote:

The definition of unbiased reporting is that neutral observers should not be able to detect a bias. In practical terms, this test would have to be applied to a sample of sufficient observers, whose opinions would be more or less evenly split as to which way they thought the bias lay.

If the BBC wishes to profess unbiased reporting, then it should submit samples of its editorial to public audit by independant panels of neutral observers.

Relying on the subjectively biased opinion of the News Editor as to whether he's delivering neutral reports is positively asking for trouble! His opinion of how well he's doing his job is irrelevant. And as credible as the ridiculous definitions he's tried to palm off on gullible readers!

The BBC needs to urgently bring some real independant statistical science into fixing its current news-bias and ridding it of news reports corrupted by the propaganda demands of the communities which "allow" only "certain" preferred angles of news to be favorably reported .

  • 57.
  • At 08:34 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Joshua Lee wrote:

I recall a few days ago the kidnapped, or as the BBC prefers "captured" Israeli soldier was called an "Israeli Gunner". How do you explain that, except as a case of moral equivilancy gone wild?

  • 58.
  • At 08:36 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Rex wrote:

Careful and consistent use of language is advisable when reporting news.

Soldiers who are taken by organized enemy forces are "captured"; those taken while off-duty by small groups are "kidnapped". In this case, it is unclear which is the case: is this a policy officially sanctioned by a portion of the Palestinian government, in which case "captured" is the right word? Or is this a small band of militants unaffiliated with Palestinian leadership, in which case "kidnapped" might be more appropriate? Given Israel's detention of Palestinian political figures, it appears that they believe the former, so "captured" is the correct term here. Merely having the soldier used as a bargaining chip does not make it a kidnapping--there are not infrequently prisoner exchanges between warring groups.

I hope that the BBC is able to resist the temptation to let atrocities and injustice on either side cancel each other out. An attack by militants on civilians is abhorrant and should be roundly condemned, whether the attack is via suicide bomber or helicopter gunship. Perhaps each side feels that they have no choice but to kill civilians on the other side--but that should not dull our moral sensibilities into describing things as "attacks" and "conflicts" when we should be calling them "massacres", "terrorism", and "oppression". There is, sadly, a great deal to criticize on each side, and equally sadly, a great number of people who cannot tolerate negative reporting on the actions of what they consider to be their side.

It is not the job of reporters to let two conflicting parties frame the news as they see fit, so I applaud the BBC to the degree that it has honestly reported the situation, and hope that future reports will remain as unswayed as possible by people who loudly complain and point to very real grievances of their own while neglecting or minimizing the very real grievances of their perceived enemies.

  • 59.
  • At 08:41 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Howard wrote:

Vocabulary is one aspect of the problem, but the coverage, "context" and justifications given in your reports are more important.

1. Gazan terror groups have shot 1000+ rockets at Israeli schools and homes in the Sderot are since Israel left Gaza, but you don't regularly cover these daily, brutal, deliberate terror attacks on Israeli civilians the way you do the difficulties of Palestinian civilians in the WB or Gaza. Your stories about Israeli responses are therefore inherently out of context, and you can't fix this by briefly mentioning the rockets in your reports devoted to showing how the responses are causing problems for Palestinians.

2. You rarely publish names, pictures or stories of Israeli victims of terror, which means that nobody gets to know or identify with these victims. But you do publish the names, pictures and stories of unfortunate Palestinians who are stopped at anti-terror roadblocks or who die after a dud explodes on a beach. You are missing half of the picture about this conflict. Isn't Israeli pain and anger worth discussing in focused, devoted stories and columns? Apparently not.

3. You use very strong imagery ("Fear and Terror as Israel's Army Gears up") in very Pal-slanted headlines, whereas headlines about Israeli positions are couched in skepticism and negatives ("Israel has denied that..."). I'm not even sure you realize that you're doing this.

4. You hold Israel to a much higher standard than the PA, in all areas. I'm sorry, folks, but having legitimate grievances NEVER makes it okay to deliberately shoot rockets at elementary schools full of kids any more than it would if the school were in your own neighborhood in the UK.
(Would the rocket crews be "terrorists" then, or just "activists" or "militants"?). It never makes suicide bombs okay. But you continue to "balance" your coverage to give a "fair voice" to those who call for the deliberate murder of civilians. By doing so, you have played a major role for decades in stifling Palestinian voices calling for more peaceful, creative approaches, and your reputation provides credibility to a fictitious "balance" between terrorism and responses to terrorism.

These flaws in your coverage are far more serious than using the word "militant" vs. the word "terrorist". Many of them may even be unconscious. The question is, do you have the will to change this situation?

If you regularly depict Israelis as human beings instead of a war machine, you WILL be criticized by anti-Semites. But you will ultimately be contributing to better understanding of the region by your readers as a whole, even if it takes a while. Right now you are simply contributing to the dehumanization of Israeli Jews, with all of the results that follow.

  • 60.
  • At 08:46 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Kev Richards wrote:

I think number 7 is most relevant. There is also chaos in the minds of both Sky and BBC news reporting because of the fear of jewish influence. It is the latter fear that makes the BBC chary of calling a spade a spade, an assassination a murder, because everytime someone dares to "criticise" Israel ( a matter of perception it seems) the Jewish lobby gets to work - and they are super-organised. I'm even afraid of calling jews jews for goodness sake! And everytime we citicise Israel we are accused of anti-semitism which to me is the lowest, cheapest kind of anti-argument. Only jews are allowed to criticise jews (and they do!). Anyone else who dares is immediately branded as anti-semitic. As a consequence the media often behave like an arm of Israeli propaganda by allowing the most disgraceful lies and distortions to go unchallenged. An example was last night at about 1am! when an Israeli ambassador in the US said that Hamas should have been building schools rather than planning attacks etc etc. Of course, how could they when the flow of aid and the peopel's own legitimate money is being withheld by Israel! Such a reply of course was completely missing from the reporter's script and indeed he seemed brain dead - and there was no Palestinian point of view even though as you state you have BBC reporters in Gaza. Perhaps the blackout was to blame!

Israel can do no wrong and is always in the right. The backlash of making the mistake of criticising Israel keeps all journalists quaking int heir boots because the lobby has the potential of ruining careers. That is why as others have commented the news is unbelievably bland, boring and constantly missing out salient facts and avoiding root causes.

  • 61.
  • At 08:47 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • David wrote:

The Hamas politicians were "detained", according to the BBC. Perhaps that is a neutral term, which lets you avoid some issues, but I do not really see why you use that term instead of "kidnapped". I am also having a hard time understanding why Israel gets away with not having its actions called "terrorism".

  • 62.
  • At 08:47 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Chris wrote:

I can fully understand the criticism that the BBC is not 'unbiased' but realistically, who else is providing a narrative which is even close in terms of an attempt at balance? This isnt a rhetorical question, I just really dont know the answer. It seems to me that with many other news sources, they take either one view or the other. Palastinians are either always the victim or always the villain and likewise with Israel. While many may be able to cite occasions when the language of the BBC is inconsistent, I doint think that anyone can really show with substance that they go out of their way to consistently sell one side of the argument.

Until I find another, obviously less biased news source, the BBC will form an important part of my news routine along with the Jerusalem post AND Al Jazeera among many other.

  • 63.
  • At 08:52 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

One only needs to read the posts above to realize the kind of pressure a reporter would face if they are biased against the Israelis. It is well known that any reporter who critisizes Israel will get tons of hate-mail, phone threats and insults. On the other hand the Palestinians are not known to behave in such manner. Therefore, it is easier for reporters to be biased agains them. Palestinians accept double standards as facts of life. Since what applies to Israel doesn't apply to anyone else.

Once the Pro-Israelis above and elsewhere live by the "Do unto others as you would have them do to you" the Middle East will have peace. After all no one can deny who has the upper hand. Anything the Palestinians do is an act of self defence and desperation.

  • 64.
  • At 08:53 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Pablo Waisfeld wrote:

I have found the BBC coverage to be a solid resource for viewing Palestinian propaganda. You really have to admire the consistency in this regard.
Of course, if Mr. Williams was to print anything else I am sure that he would be just as "welcomed" in Gaza and Ramallah. But this has nothing to do with unbiased reporting I am sure.

  • 65.
  • At 08:55 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Tim Jackson wrote:

I understand your dilema when reporting the situation in Gaza and agree with your opinion that the Israel soldier was captured rather than kidnapped.

In-fact I was on the BBC website only yesterday when I was angered by the use of "Kidnapped" when reffering to the cpl.

If you are going to make a stand on the language the BBC uses to report an issue, try to make the stand on consistent facts please!

  • 66.
  • At 08:58 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • MikeE wrote:

It does not matter how carefully words are chosen if the incidents taking place are underreported. The events unfolding in Gaza are, by any standards, atrocious but the news editors do not seem to be able to grasp how awful Israel’s actions against the civilian population is.

I was expecting the situation in Gaza to be the lead story on the 6 O’clock news instead it was reported after many frivolous news items including one about the England Football Team WAGS (Wives and Girlfriends). It would be interesting to hear how Alan Johnston feels about his reports being relegated below such ‘important’ news items as the WAGS spending spree in Germany!

  • 67.
  • At 08:59 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

Can someone explain please how Israelis shooting missiles at Palestinians is 'military action' while Palestinians firing rockets at Israelis is 'terrorism'?

  • 68.
  • At 09:23 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Steve wrote:

People here are offended by words. This is so trivial compared to what the people of Gaza have to put up with, all because one soldier is kidnapped, captured or whatever you want to call it.

Sorry if I offend anyone, but I am absolutely amazed at the arrogance of Israel in doing what they have done.

I am British. In the UK, we would not blow up power stations in Ireland or bulldoze peoples homes following a terrorist attack (or freedom fighter attack, whatever). If our government had behaved like that in the UK to the people of Ireland a few years ago, people here would be numbed with shock and disbelief. And you may note that we resolved that conflict, by talking.

The events that happen are what matters, not the words that are used to describe them. People ought to learn to read between the words. The video footage of tanks and bulldozers lining up on the border speaks volumes.

Congratulations to the BBC for trying so hard. If people don't like the words they can flip the channel, ubtil they find reporting that matches their taste.

So maybe the Israelis should watch Israeli TV, and the Palestinians watch theirs. However, watching events reported in your favoirite words will do nothing to end the violence.

  • 69.
  • At 09:23 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Eli wrote:


You are right that civilians are "kidnapped" and soldiers are "captured"; however, it's also important who is doing the job - an army can "capture", but paramilitary gangs may only "kidnap". Finally, we know well that "kidnapping" is exactly how these gangs see it - to use the 19-year-old conscript as ransom for prisoners in Israeli gaols.

  • 70.
  • At 09:23 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Steve Gross wrote:

There is an error in the reasoning that Hamas politicians were 'detained'.

In fact they WERE arrested since arrest warrants were issued by an Israeli court.

Also, the blog mentions the inconvenience of being without power - but not the 'inconvenience' caused by the kidnapping of a young soldier.

Return the soldier and none of this needed to happen.

  • 71.
  • At 09:25 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Gadi wrote:

The BBC’s pro Palestinian Bias of the in reporting the Israeli Palestinian conflict goes far beyond mere choice of terms. In this blog for instance, the reporter gives a much larger stage to the Palestinians “need for air conditioning” then to the kidnapped Israeli solder or to the Israeli towns under an ongoing Palestinian rocket attack. I thank God for the good and able people who wrote the comments above.

  • 72.
  • At 09:30 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • koizumi wrote:

And a powerful military (IDF) that terrorize a civilian occupied city by using sonic boom is the most moral military, or terrorist?

It is worth pointing out that the BBC is one of the few broadcasters in the world that even attempt to be impartial on this (or indeed many) issues. The fact that both sides jump up and down, accusing them of bias shows that - insofar as is possible - they succeed better than most.

Another problem the BBC faces is standards are expected of it, that are never asked of other news organisations. Looking through the list of comments, is it really fesible to maintain absolute editorial control over every single world that is put out by an organisation this size? Of course not.

Most of these posts - especially the ones concerning the use of the word 'militant' - are simply requests to start using prejorative language in support of one side or the other. It would do both sides a great deal of good to examine the other's claims of bias in depth. That way they'd realise that what they feel is biased one way, is in fact treading a fine line in the middle.

  • 74.
  • At 09:33 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Gary Sneag wrote:

From what I can make out, Israel and the Jews living in that country are fighting for their survival. If they don't take care of themselves, the Palestinians, and in fact millions of Arabs surrounding them will destroy them. What would we do if we were in that situation? Would we really pay much attention to the G8 nations or the UN when they criticize us for being nasty or unfair? We all do whatever is necessary to survive. I don't think anybody truly questions the fact that Israel has been literally fighting for the survival of a Jewish homeland since 1948 and will probably continue to do so for the imaginable future.

  • 75.
  • At 09:46 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Magyar Hettie wrote:

Two narratives, that's surely a recipe for moral relativism.

Journalism of conflict should be about reporting the facts. Both sides will complain of bias toward the other anyway, therefore there's no need to tone things down either way.

  • 76.
  • At 09:52 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Claude Tamplenizza wrote:

Objectivity and passion don't mix. When you try to report objectively on highly emotive issues you will be criticised by one or both parties to the dispute.
My concern is not about the blind criticism you must face almost daily in your line of work, that is a given.
My concern is that you may be letting this barrage of criticism get to you, as evidenced by your blog.
Please be aware that there is a substantial body of readers out here that are appreciating your work AS IS.
By all means try to explain the difficulties involved in walking the tightrope of objectivity in a sea of passions, if it makes you feel better but, hard as it is, please don't let the constant criticism make you waver from the dispassionate, disinterested viewpoint.
Thank you for your professional reporting.

  • 77.
  • At 09:56 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Niall O'Connor wrote:

BBC radio 4 started its broadcasts this morning describing the 'arrests' of the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip. It was changed later to 'detained'. Why was the initial wording used? Are BBC journalists so dependent on Israeli millitary press releases that they cannot use their own judgement? After this question is answered the next point should surely be that 'illegally detained' is a more accurate (value free?) statement. Is there any precedent in international law for a state to seize elected representatives from outside of its own jurasdiction, and it not be considered illegal (except perhaps when a war has been declared under the Geneva Convention)? Surely the BBc should be more honest in its use of language to describe the actions of the Israeli State, in fairness to them, they are rarely bothered by such niceties.

While it's almost impossible to be unbiased, I still think BBC news is better in objectivity than other news sources. Compare it for a second with services like Fox News. That's when you see the difference.
Perhaps BBC reporters see the lives and the misery of Palestinians and that’s what makes them slightly bend towards their side.
If killing innocent people is the definition of being a terrorist then it’s pretty easy to see who the real terrorist is. We don't have to rely on a news source to make our opinion on who is a militant and who is in military. Putting a uniform on and an army tag can't save you from becoming a terrorist. It's in the mind.
One gentleman above has talked about news being boring, for entertainment, we've got cinemas, reality is much harsher and it can't be entertaining. For entertainment news channel, we've got Fox News.

  • 79.
  • At 10:06 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Kraig wrote:

Why careful language is essential when reporting on Gaza?

I think this caption describes very well the coverage of the war in Iraq by Perhaps a better question would have been, "Why careful language is essential when reporting on Gaza and not in Iraq?"

  • 80.
  • At 10:08 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Rachel wrote:

Well, at least you seem to have honorable intentions. However, it is my humble belief that you are not advancing the Palestinian cause, or the peace process with your approach. Both sides of the conflict experience great pain and suffering as a result of the conflicts. The Palestinians are victims and terrorists. Israel is a victim and an opressive occupier. I don't see why you need to mince words, unless you are invested in keeping things as they are. To end the suffering, things need to change on both sides. Most urgently, there should be a clear call for the Palestinian goverment to accept the state of Israel and to enter negotiations in good will. The current policy of Hamas, which clearly calls for the destruction of Israel, and encourages kidnappings and bombing of cities in Israel, gives a green light for Isael to do whatever it needs to do to protect itself.

Could you show me a western nation that would accept kidnapping of its soldiers, constant shellings of its cities, and numerous attempts to enter its boarder with evil intentions to blow up innocent citizens? All this by a hostile neighboring government who calls for the nation's destructions? I doubt it.

Today, while the world's attention is on the Palestinian plight, it is urgent that reporters such as yourself will call upon Hammas to recognize Israel's right to exist and to initiate negotiations. This will lead the Palestinian citizens to join the global community as equal memebers. As such, their government will have the same privillages and responsibilites as the rest of the world.

Both sides in this conflict endure needless pain and suffering. Please use your position responsibly. The Palestinian nation does not have to adhere to the "victim" position. It is time to apply pressure and call on the Palestinian government to act responsibly and take care of its citizens. Israel does not have to stay in the role of the occupier. With the whole world's attention, it's government will make the sacrifices it needs to in order to obtain peace.

So, don't worry so much about your choice of words. Please worry more about the power of your articles, and about the ultimate goal. Right now, you seem to be invested in keeping the Palestinians as victims and Israel as the villain. Neither is true

  • 81.
  • At 10:15 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • jdyer wrote:

The BBC bias against Israel can be seen not only in the way it uses language to whitewash the Palestinian murder of Israeli civilians but also in the way it treats dead Israelis as NON-PERSONS.

The murder of Eliyahu Asheri is a case in point. His death was treated as just another example of the conflict between the "occupiers and the occupied."

The BBC didn't even see fit to post a picture of the murdered Jewish youth on their website.

At the same time they did post pictures of Arab youths in Gaza hauling water from a pump.

It's hard to conclude that the BBC isn't intentionally treating Jews in Israel as less than human.

  • 82.
  • At 10:25 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Rob wrote:

I seem to recall that the psychotic child killers of the school in Beslan were always "militants" rather than terrorists, something that struck me as particularly wrong: surely a group of armed zealots who hold innocent children hostage are examplary terrorists?

On another note, why does no-one who wants to take you to task on your use of the English language know the proper use of "who" and "whom"? Ducks and runs...

  • 83.
  • At 10:28 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Will wrote:

Whilst some care must be taken to safeguard against the prejudices and motives of fellow posters it is clear that the BBC does have certain inbuilt prejudices. They are human not robots.

What is also clear is the great effort that the BBC journalists make to try to portray conflicts fairly – but without losing the detail and hue that define each of the world’s trouble spots (as any listener to From Our Own Correspondent would most likely agree with).

It is impossible for the BBC to get it right all the time – but I would rather have my reportage via the BBC than through FoxNews or Al-Jezeera.

  • 84.
  • At 10:31 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • James wrote:

It is clearly impossible for any news report to be objective due to wide variety of words that can be used to describe one single action. The BBC, however, have always been seen to hold a more sympathetic view towards the Palestinians. The question is can you truely have an objective news report of a situation just like you can have objective figures? I agree that the BBC must be sensitive as to which words they use, but there is clearly a double edged sword where vocabulary changes depending on what the BBC truely thinks.

  • 85.
  • At 10:35 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Ron wrote:

The BBC will never be unbiased until you look at it with unbiased eyes.

as a counter-example:
"Israel Justifies Hamas Detentions"

-why 'Justifies' and not 'Defends'?
-why 'Detentions' and not 'Kidnappings'?
-why 'Hamas' and not 'Palestine'?

These could all be argued either way, and ultimately the 'correct' term to use will depend on your views on the subject.

The BBC is one of the few global media organisations that is in a position to report from both sides, and probably the only that is open enough to be self critical about its difficulty in being unbiased. The BBC has made significant progress by taking this approach, and only constructive criticism (rather than gross exaggeration and baseless accusation) will help this further.

  • 86.
  • At 10:41 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Lizzie wrote:

What is the point of kidnapping civilians and soldiers and sending kassam rockets on Israeli targets? All it does is to make the Israeli army attack to defend its Israeli people. The Palestinian terrorists (please be honest and leave that misleading word "militant" out of your reporting) nestle in civilian populated areas amongst their people, inviting disaster to hit innocent civilians.
The energy spent on attacking Israel would be positively spent in creating health, education, social services and employment for the Palestinian people.
When will the Palestinians ever stop destroying themselves from within?

  • 87.
  • At 10:41 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Philip wrote:

I certainly don't envy your job, and from the comments you may not always get it spot on. But I do think you are making real efforts to be balanced and remain above the 'slanging match' often found on other media. Please continue to resist undue pressure from either side and capitulate to vested interests.

  • 88.
  • At 10:48 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Bryan wrote:

If you really want to be objective in your reporting, you could make a start by stopping the practice of adding 'crude' or 'home-made' virtually every time you report on Kassam rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists (not militants) into Israel with the purpose of terrorising and killing civilians.

Objective reporters would not continually minimize the deadly nature of these rockets - which have killed some seven Israelis, including children, wounded many more and caused much damage to property.

You could also take a look at the speed with which you accepted the Palestinian version of the Gaza beach explosion which killed the Palestinian family, and your doubting of the Israeli investigation.

Your bias has lost you credibility.

  • 89.
  • At 11:00 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Catweazle wrote:

Given that the group that kidnapped the Israeli corporal (and killed two of his colleaues) were apparently wearing Israeli uniforms, and given that this attack occurred on undisputed Israeli territory, and further was carried out by a group allied to Hamas, the democratically elected government of "Palestine", I wouldn't have thought there was much room for philosophical debate, as by any standards whatsoever it counts as an act of war.

But there again, I'm not the BBC, with an unblemished record of pro-Palestinian bias.

  • 90.
  • At 11:02 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

I agree totally
A comment on the words used. Why use the words 'were killed'? This puts a distance between the perpertrator and the victim. e.g. A suicide bomber killed 12 people and himself. Or the IDF killed 3 children with an artillery round.
Surely this is a more accurate use of language.

  • 91.
  • At 11:09 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Oli wrote:

I haved spent 24 years living in London and 2 living in Israel. The BBC is well respected and admired all over the world, yet fails to report the Israel-Palestine question with any real credibility. Just to give some background, my time in Jerusalem was spent living in predominantly Arab university halls (yes, Israel really does let non-Jews get degrees and travel freely in Israel- try reporting that) within Israel's borders.

I still spend a lot of time in Israel but it is a country very different from the one I see on the news every day. All over the land Arabs and Jews live in total harmony. Yes they debate politics, but ultimately in Isralei democracy they all have votes, there are Arab MPs in the Knesset, and everyone is represented.

No one however wishes to report this, the focus is solely on the tiny areas, smaller than London, where tension remains. When we think of the UK do we think of small isolated areas of tension (eg BNP presence in areas of the North West) or the vast majority of areas where society has succeeded and flourished?
So why only look at Gaza and the West Bank?

Lastly, I am so sympathetic of the Palestinian people. However, rather than just blame Israel for this, why not also blame the other Arab nations as well as their own corrupt leadership which has hindered them far more than Israel. Palestinan people suffered far more at the hands of Egyptian and Syrian control than they do currently, but was not as newsworthy then. Palestinan civilians suffer great inconvience on a daily basis in their lives, but would their lives be so hindered was it not for Israel NEEDING to respond to the unquestionable presence of militants unprepared to conpromise or enter talks. 800 missiles fired at Israel from Gaza since Gaza withdrawal- hardly an incentive to stay away.

  • 92.
  • At 11:10 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Charles wrote:

Maybe the fact that the BBC is exactly that. British! So comes under the reign of ‘political correctness’ and cannot call a spade a spade. The main source of terrorist threat today come from the Muslim community, (yes I can make a distinction about extremists and law abiding Muslims), but anyone in the street will tell you the same, how political correctness has stifled any voice of concern about this because of fear of being accused of racism (echo’s of McCarthyism here with being labelled a communist). However, all media will go to the greatest lengths to not to use the ‘M’ word! So, don’t be surprised that reporting from Israel will be biased as not to offend the Muslim ‘community’ back home in Britain.

  • 93.
  • At 11:17 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Adam wrote:

The BBC must be praised in its efforts to report on the true account of the situation in the (illegally) occupied territories of Palestine.

It is time the media started calling a spade a spade and reported on the true horror of the injustices being suffered in this area of the world - From the regular illegal detention of young children to collective punishments on whole communities (e.g. blowing up the power station) to illegal house demolitions ( approved by the Israeli regime )

Israel regularly captures / seizes / abducts / kidnaps ( take your pick!) civilians yet the worlds headlines do not reflect this ( probably because it is just toooo regular an occurance, hence not news ) yet one soldier is abducted and the worlds media headlines are ablaze.

  • 94.
  • At 11:23 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Dennis wrote:

Thank you to the BBC for being in Gaza. The world press, and especially the US press, is so consistently biased in favor of Israel that it is crucial for a more balanced view, one based on facts on the ground, to be presented.

  • 95.
  • At 11:30 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • John wrote:

You can't NOT make value judgements. You can try to use a language that puts you, the commentator, equi-distant between the two opposing sides, but that in itself carries all sorts of implicit value judgements. In what other senses are the two sides equal? Your job is more than to report events; it is to tell the truth as you see it, as judged by the standard of democratic values. So, for example, are the Israeli settlers Jewish fundamentalists? Are Palestinian lands under Israeli occupation? Are the Palestinians a nation? If so, do they have a right of self-defence? What is the limit of Israel's right to self-defence? Are there any genuine democrats in the Palestinian leadership? What is the scale of Jewish fundamentalism in the Israeli leadership? I acknowledge the courage of your reporters (Hugh SYkes is a hero to me), but if you don't have a moral compass to your reporting then you are little better than voyeurs. And morality requires the making of value judgements - and politics is the arena of public morality. Tricky, isn't it? Try finding the news that responds to these sorts of questions. For example, when did the work of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information last make the news or news analysis?

  • 96.
  • At 11:32 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • John Hilgart wrote:

For that matter:

Does Israel "occupy" land outside its internationally recognized borders or "invade" it?

Do Palestinian bombers and Israeli helicopter gunships both get to "respond" to attacks by the other?

When discussing long term border issues, do "the facts on the ground" refer only to how much land Israel now controls, or does it also refer to the fact that the two populations stand equal at six million each.

Can anyone on either side be the target in a "targeted killing?"

When deploying the term "terrorist," should we consider which side has lost the most civilians, suffered the higher proportion of child deaths, or most regularly experienced deadly explosions in their streets?

I would add, that if anyone thinks I favor one side or the other with these questions, they would be wrong. I don't see either side standing on the moral high ground where violence is concerned, but I do see a strong rhetorical tendency to construe the Palestinians as aggressors - despite the fact that they've spent 60 years getting pushed onto an increasingly tiny and barren piece of land.

  • 97.
  • At 11:36 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • David wrote:

This is amazing. The fact that the BBC has to put this on the front page of their website says a lot. No other issue even comes close to bringing this kind of rabid criticism and nitpicking.
The people who are accustomed to harassing into submission news editors, are not the Palestinians and their meagre allies. Its those who are scrapping and struggling to defend the indefensible actions of a country that brazenly violates every possible international law and selfishly extinguishes every seedling of progress in a region for which the whole world desperately awaits peace.
BBC, hold your ground. Keep doing what you think is fair. You have earned my respect on this one.

  • 98.
  • At 11:49 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Anthony wrote:

The author of comment 11 makes an interesting point that we should not refer to Palestinian militants as terrorists because they feel justified in their actions. In this world, everyone who takes up arms to fight someone feels justified to do so and doubtless has what they perceive to be good reasons. If these people are not terrorists than who is? Equally, I'm fascinated to discover which massacres of Palestinians he refers to? I can only assume he means tha "massacre" of 50 terrorists/militants/freedom fighters/martyrs in Jenin? He should get a grip with reality before expressing his opinions publicly

  • 99.
  • At 11:49 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • MR wrote:

One of the things that I do find quite upsetting is that although the words are chosen carefully, there seem to be far more articles attempting to garner sympathy for the "palestinians", and never or rarely any explaining Israel's point of view.

Israel is a country that daily has to fight for its very existence, and yet *all* the sympathetic reporting seems reserved for the people who just democratically elected a terrorist organisation to government.

We see plenty of articles about what it is like for the man on the street in Gaza, but we never seem to see any on the victims of the suicide bombers. There is never any context given explaining eg. that Israel has been trying to negotiate.

I'm not trying to make out that there is no suffering in Gaza and the West Bank, but there are 2 sides to this, and Israel shouldn't be villified for trying to protect its very existence. It is easy for people to be critical when it isn't made clear how outnumbered Israel is and how many terrorist organisations are pouring so much effort into wiping Israel off the map.

  • 100.
  • At 11:57 PM on 29 Jun 2006,
  • Tom Beck wrote:

I seem to remember that in past years the IRA were always called 'terrorists' by the BBC, and never 'militants'. But then of course there were no Muslim sensitivities to be offended. If someone who plants a bomb among civilians with the intent to kill as many as possible is NOT a terrorist, then the word is meaningless. And that is true whether the evil-doers are Catholics (-IRA) or Muslims. That fact is you are playing to the Islamic gallery, just as on your news website you infamously re-wrote your own history and made the 'terrorists' of 7/7 into mere 'bombers'. Or when after a bombing in Israel you showed not the victims, but the proud mother of the bomber holding his photo. I know we live in difficult times, but tampering with the truth and the meaning of words is the first step down the road to perdition. And the BBC has advanced a long way down that road.

I'm afraid the failure of the BBC to use the term "terrorist" to define Hamas is an example of the moral maliase which afflicts the corporation. Words do matter - but your failure to face up to the meaning of words brings disgrace to the BBC. I'm sure the Palestinian terrorists who abduct and murder an 18yr old boy are delighted at your presence. Some of us are appalled by it.

  • 102.
  • At 12:09 AM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • genni wrote:

Quote "Yusuf wrote:
The facts of the conflict in the middle east are such that any objective news report will, naturally portray the Israelis as the "bad guys".

I urge you therefore not to bow to unfair pressure from the pro-zionists when editing news reports."

I just want to say that I totally agree with this and would like to add to the other posters, how can the Palastines be called terrorists when it is the Israelis that are occuplying their county.

I would also like to say that its a shame that you don't apply the same tactics when talking about 'northern Ireland' or The six Counties whatever you chose to call it.

  • 103.
  • At 12:15 AM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • Julian Miles wrote:

I applaud the BBC's decision to refrain from using one-sided labels or characterization in its Gaza coverage. This stands in stark contrast to the coverage from several North American outlets, which have a decidedly pro-Israeli bent. It's strange that they would label the capture of a soldier as kidnapping while labeling the abduction of Palestine's CIVILIAN leadership simply as arrests.

  • 104.
  • At 12:22 AM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • Robert Holbach wrote:

The Israeli Palestinian conflict is one where it is impossible not to be accused of bias. The true achievement is measured in whether one is accused by bias of both sides - as the BBC generally is - which would indicate that the coverage is as neutral as it can get.

The problem, of course, is everyone wants to hear news from their own perspective and in a way that panders to their own views - anything founded in objectivity or reality is then perceived too biased to the opposing side to be liked.

And finally, the conflict always reminds me of something some American once said on an online forum: "Two bunches of idiots fighting over a strip of desert" - it was probably the most accurate summary that could ever be produced in 10 words.

  • 105.
  • At 12:30 AM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • jennifer wrote:

I was becoming increasingly disappointed and suspicious of BBC Middle East reporting beginning in 2000, but the BBC lost all credibility when it began its reporting on the events in Jenin. A discerning, thoughtful public in search of the truth does, in fact, maintain standards for reputable news reporting This is why many feel that the agency's reporting throughout the unfolding of these events was unconscionable.
Williams' article about the importance of a reporter's choice of language is on its surface an important issue to call attention to. So, let's begin with this question: What language should we choose to report on the BBC's reporting of the events in Jenin? Carelessness? Misinformation? Untruths? Distortions ? Or should we use the term 'lies"? "Lies" are deliberate statements which are known to be contrary to the truth.

Somehow, the collective consciousness of the agency repeatedly permitted its "reporting" on Jenin to stand as truth, despite an aggregate of well-established evidence to the contrary; the BBC to my knowledge has yet to retract or correct its intial reporting to this day. Many anti-Israeli activitists now quote the BBCs reporting on Jenin to malign Israel and to substantiate dangerous personal biases. This is why I chose the word "unconscionable" to describe the agency's reporting.

Based on its past and present behavior, I believe the BBC to be categorially distinterested in the Israeli perspective. Please notice I did not choose to use the term "anti-semitic" to describe BBC reporting; however, pro-Palestinian I believe is appropriate.

The Williams article seems to be asking the public to "reassess" its implicitly tarnished reputation. The author would like us to know that "The BBC is the only Western broadcaster to maintain a permanent presence in Gaza" implying that this is somehow a measure of its trustworthy reporting. Of course, being pro-Palestinian in its reporting, it would make sense to permit the BBC to remain in Gaza-- so what is it exactly that the author wants his readers to think? That mere permission to remain in Gaza has something to do with credible reporting? He then goes on to laud the "expertise of people like correspondent Alan Johnston"
implying that Johnston's reporting is credible because he is reporting "on the ground", experiencing life without air-conditioning along with the locals. So, the BBC's wants readers to believe that credibility is based on the agency's permanent presence in Gaza and that Johnston's experience of "life among the people" lends credibility to his reporting. So, let's see... somehow this reporter is closer to the truth because of his "eye-witness reporting?' Needless to say, "Eye-witness reporting" does not an unbiased report make. Al-Jezzera provides eye-witness reporting, too.

But the most insidious aspect of the article is the suggestion that because the BBC is aware of the critical role word choice plays in unbiased reporting, that somehow this awareness alone constitutes grounds for believing that the BBC demonstrates honesty, integrity and trustworthiness.

Come on you guys. How gullable to you think we are? We want honest reporting, not PR. We're just as smart as you are (maybe even smarter!)
Yes, your "credibility is undermined by the careless use of words". But making no attempt to correct "untruths' is NOT being "careless". It's lying. So really, now. What exactly do you mean by "careless use of words?" If you want a thinking, intelligent readership (maybe you don't!) you'll have to do a lot more than just "watch your words" Choice of language must be driven by unwavering dedication to honesty, even-handedness and a genuine commitment to discovering the truth. And I stress the word genuine. These are the attributes that maintain consistently credible reporting. Not insipid PR moves like the article above.

  • 106.
  • At 12:31 AM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • Michael Smith wrote:

My viewpoint on this is that both sides - Israeli and Palestinian - are effectively at war with each other. And therefore the same language should be used to describe events on both sides. Whether someone is fighting against their oppressors in a uniform or not, does not make any difference to their motivations or the results of their actions. Whether my family was killed by a 'soldier' or 'militant' would make no difference to my grief.

  • 107.
  • At 12:31 AM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • Peter C wrote:

"So we try to stick to the facts - civilians are 'kidnapped', Cpl Shalit was 'captured'"

If you look at this image, you'll see that no-one is trying very hard.

I welcome your comments though Jon.

[Host's note: See Jon Williams' response here.]

  • 108.
  • At 12:48 AM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • Mark Regan wrote:

A soldier is "captured" when his captors are at war with his government, and the captors intend to hold him until the end of hostilities. Hamas and the PA are not at war with Israel (I think), and certainly not vice versa. I don't think irregulars can "capture" a soldier but even if they can what has happened here is a "kidnapping."

  • 109.
  • At 01:00 AM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • Evan wrote:

If you think the BBC has a pro-Palestinian bias, that says a lot more about you than it does about the BBC.

  • 110.
  • At 01:23 AM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • Tamouh wrote:

Excellent piece and I congratulate BBC on the most objective reporting in an area of the world there are no winners, there is no right or wrong and there is no possibility to be unbiased in anyway or shape. It is either the Palestinians are aggressive or the Israelis. Both parties I believe are tangled within their own web of lies and deception that any hopes for them to see the light of truth is negligible. I urge you to continue a successful tradition of excellent reporting and wish your team all the best.

  • 111.
  • At 01:28 AM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • George Plamantouras wrote:

The BBC could take a very much more sympathtic role in the Middle East. For example, the Palestinians are talking about the release of minors and women from jail. A sympathetic media outlet could easily exploit that angle to champion the Palestinian cause.
As for "terrorist", "militant", "freedom fighter", "murderer", I don't necessarily believe that there is always a clear distinction. How can an Iraqi who blows up a market in the hopes of nailing one foreign soldier at the expense of fifty civilians' lives and a Palestinian who captures a soldier and a person flying a plane into a building ALL be "terrorists"? The difference is one of target, means, intent, and agenda. Maybe we need a situation- or region-specific lexicon so that those who complain about semantics and the way they are perceived can get their precious "consistency" while the rest of us who can read the news for what it is can get on with the actual sequence of events.

  • 112.
  • At 01:31 AM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • Adam wrote:

Why is it a value judgement to call those who target Israeli civilians "terrorists", but not a value judgement to call those who target British civilians "terrorists"?
Aren't you making a value judgement by making such a distinction?

"Objectivity" is a false concept in news. Every point of view is subjective, even a BBC correspondent's. People construct the narratives they want to hear from the facts reported.

But good observers must be a good theorists, or they will not find interesting places to observe the world from. As any sociologist will tell you, boundary conditions are fertile terrain for constructing social meaning, and the border between "Israel" and "Gaza" is more contested than most.

All you can do it understand the mindset of each group and report on the actions they take as a result, using verbs that describe what actually happened.

Did the Israeli soldier go willingly? I doubt it. So he was seized. Others were shot dead. "Kidnapping" and "murdering" are words for the judge not the journalist. Good luck, and my especial best wishes to all journalists who brave personal danger so the world can know what is happening there.

You write that "The BBC is the only Western broadcaster to maintain a permanent presence in Gaza".
On the face of this, the BBC should be congratulated, but many people I've spoken to over the years are mystified as to why the BBC gives so much reporting time to the conflicts of the Middle East.
Personally, I find the competing narratives to be fascinating, and the fact that the Beeb is criticised for being biased by BOTH sides, shows it must be doing something right.
But is it not true that the average licence payer is more concerned about what is happening in their home country?
Does the BBC have a "permanent presence" in Ormskirk, Redditch, Dagenham, Cowdenbeath, Merthy Tydfil et al?
What about all the other conflicts in the world? There are wars happening on almost every continent, and yet we only hear about them if John Simpson decides to hop on plane for a few days.

  • 115.
  • At 07:33 AM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

"Bureaux"? Oh please. The plural in English is "bureaus", with the "s" pronounced. "Bureaux" is not incorrect -- but it IS silly... and pretentious.

  • 116.
  • At 09:23 AM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • jeffrey wrote:

No one should be surprised by the evidence shown in the above posts which confirm that the BBC has shown clear bias against Israel. How embarrassing for Mr Williams to have his own high-brow journalistic standards thrown back in his face with multiple weblinks to past BBC stories which so directly refute his claims of impartiality.

  • 117.
  • At 11:03 AM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • credibility? wrote:

Are the "detained" politicians not also civilians, are they not then "kidnapped" by Israeli occupation troops, who dont make "arrests"?

(Were the politicians in Israel or somewhere else, like occupied West Bank)

Sorry if its been pointed out already.

  • 118.
  • At 12:31 PM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • Matthew Shostak wrote:

The BBCs use of the Word "Capture" rather than the word "Kidnaped" when refering Cpl. Shalit to is inconsistent both with past and other BBC usage. And morally unconscionable.

When British Soldiers were taken by the IRA in the 1970s and 80s and held for ransom they were ALWAYS described as kidnaped.

The definition of terms by the role of the Victim rather than by the role of the perpetrator is totally unique to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

It is not "Civilians are Kidnaped, Soldiers are Captured" it is governments "capture," "civilians"/ terrorists/militans "kidnap."

And lets look at this specific case? Does anyone beleive Shalit, having been "captured" by Palestinians is then receiving the rights and privalage accorded a prisoner of war?
No? Then he wasn't captured he was kidnaped.

  • 119.
  • At 12:45 PM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • M wrote:

No one should be surprised by the evidence shown in the above posts which confirm that people accusing the BBC of bias don't actually define the terms or guidelines that should be used. How embarrassing it would be for them to have their own definitions thrown back in their faces with multiple weblinks which so directly refute their claims of partiality.

  • 120.
  • At 01:14 PM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • R Saus wrote:

What is truly astonishing is that the BBC, its journalists editors and employees actually believe the distorted delusions they tell themselves and then try and sell us.

Maybe you can explain to us all why the middle east section at the BBC website under news has had that video of the 'palestinian teachers working for nothing' as the only & main video story for about 4 months now? Is it because the BBC is fair and unbiased? Odd seeing as there are numerous video reports on the Mid East every day at the BBC and changeover must be huge to your credit..

Or is it because the BBC actively manufactures Palestinian sympathy using this and things like 'language'?

Do you think us, your readers are so ignorant that these things are not glaringly obvious!?

It's really quite sad Jon this whole farce of objectivity, there's nothing remotely objective about it. The bias is so entrenched you guys can't even see it any more. It would be much better for everyone if you didn't try and take the high ground while actually slogging through the mud.

  • 121.
  • At 03:09 PM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • Jon Williams, World News Editor wrote:

As I said in my original post, the issue is that we try to get it right, and in an organisation the size of the BBC that can be a challenge.

  • 122.
  • At 04:14 PM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • Ben wrote:

It's eye-opening reading the fanatical pro-Isreali lobby continue to accuse the BBC of bias on this blog, despite an independent report finding to the contrary - a report that has been cited here so many times it cannot be missed.

It just shows that these people are completely unresponsive to any kind of reason. It damages them and their cause no end.

  • 123.
  • At 04:19 PM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • Charles wrote:

The BBC pieces just reflect the ridiculas bias and hatred of its listeners in the UK and it does a fine job feeding it.

The bottom line is a predictable subtle or not so subtle report where the Israelis are almost always the aggressor and the Arabs always the victim.

Whether the verbage the BBC uses is cause or effect is another discussion - the damage has already been long done.

  • 124.
  • At 10:42 PM on 30 Jun 2006,
  • J.G. wrote:

"It's eye-opening reading the fanatical pro-Isreali lobby continue to accuse the BBC of bias on this blog, despite an independent report finding to the contrary - a report that has been cited here so many times it cannot be missed.

It just shows that these people are completely unresponsive to any kind of reason. It damages them and their cause no end."

Would this be the same report that said the BBC should call a terrorist a terrorist?

  • 125.
  • At 12:25 AM on 01 Jul 2006,
  • Sue Vogel wrote:

"Our credibility is undermined by the careless use of words which carry value judgements."

The BBC seems to be intent upon rearranging the deckchairs while the ship of honest reportage goes down.

Was the BBC's use of "terrorist" careless or calculated in respect of the 7/7 bombings?

Suicide terrorism is perpetration of attacks against civilians, whether in Israel or in London or in Madrid or anywhere in the world.

Why should the definition of what constitutes a terrorist act bedependent upon geography?

  • 126.
  • At 12:29 AM on 01 Jul 2006,
  • James wrote:

Why cover this region at all? The story is always the same, nothing ever changes and who cares? It's shameful that those on both sides of this conflict have managed to drag the rest of the world into their struggle. I think if the coverage stopped, so would the violence.

  • 127.
  • At 01:20 AM on 01 Jul 2006,
  • Rob wrote:


The 'independent report' simply counted the number of 'air minutes' devoted to the deaths of Palestinians and Israelis. What does that prove? The report told the BBC to use the word 'terrorist', but the BBC decided to ignore that recommendation. I wonder why? It couldn't possibly be to keep their Palestinian friends happy, could it?

The BBC is supposedly impartial and legally barred from backing any political campaign, but it didn't stop them promoting Live8 ad nauseum. You're a fool if you take the BBC's word for their impartiality. The BBC is in contravention of its Charter on a daily basis. I stoped trusting them a very long time ago.

  • 128.
  • At 01:26 AM on 01 Jul 2006,
  • Adam Holland wrote:

Where is the BBC response to their documented use of kidnapped with respect to soldiers other than Israelis? I'm not holding my breath waiting for their answer. This is clearly not a BBC policy so much as an after-the-fact rationalization. So biased and so unprofessional! How far down the BBC has fallen!

  • 129.
  • At 05:43 AM on 01 Jul 2006,
  • Howard wrote:

I want to thank you for writing about this in your blog so that readers could respond. I hope you spend time thinking about ways to fix the problems that people are calling out.

Unfortunately, the news story below continues the trend of extremely twisted reporting:

Your correspondent uses "international questions" to work in the suggestion that Israel is violating the Geneva conventions. Great example. The *Palestinians* are the ones attacking elementary schools with rockets during the school day -- but your reporters NEVER, EVER accuse them of war crimes, or terrorism, or even criminal negligence. Nor do you show photos of the rocketed Israeli schools, homes and businesses that are the real reason why Israel has troops in Gaza tonight.

What Israel did in this case was to bomb a power plant, which is a common military target in a "hot" war between two hostile forces. The UK participated in bombing power plants in Iraq. Are *your* generals war criminals? Did you raise that question at the time?

Guys - nobody is asking you to get it 100% right 100% of the time. You can't. The problem is that I, myself -- a strong supporter of peace who believes that the Palestinians should have a state that includes the WB, who is no fan of settlers or settlements, who doesn't buy PR from either side, but who finds value in both Israeli and Arab news sources -- still find that BBC reports about Israel CONSISTENTLY warp reality, excusing terrorism and demonizing Israel. And it's not your vocabulary. It is clearly plain and simple bias on the part of your reporters.

I find it irritating that I rarely if ever gain any new insights from you about the Israeli or Palestinian situation -- just this tired, slanted stuff. Guys, I learn interesting things from Lebanon's Daily Star, from Yedioth Aharonoth, from Haaretz, and from Asharq al-Awsat. But from the BBC, with its permanent Gaza bureau, I mostly hear propaganda.

What's wrong with this picture?

Okay, now I've said about all I can say. Thanks again for listening.

  • 130.
  • At 09:17 AM on 01 Jul 2006,
  • S Rahman wrote:

A soldier sitting in a modern state of the art tank; a symbol of the brutal occupation, him & his colleagues killing & brutalizing a wretched people who have had their land stole & now herded into a giant camp. The soldier gets captured in an attack to avenge the killings of atleast 2 dozen civilians. Now guess how the "impartial press" portrays this? The pictures of the "innocent" soldier is splashed across the world, his story is humanized, what he likes, eats, drinks, who his family are.What about the daily victims of the army & state that this soldier is an instrument of. Where are the stories about the Palestenian children & teenagers killed by this soldier`s colleagues? Dont they have families & friends bereaved as well, do they not have photographs ever taken of them. What about the thousands of women/children/teenagers incarcerated in Israieli prisons, why are their stories not personalized like this soldier`s is? The western press & yes i am afraid that includes the BBC has dehumanized the Palestenians & presents their sufferings in cold clinical terms while a human element is always portrayed for Israeili casualties.

  • 131.
  • At 03:23 PM on 01 Jul 2006,
  • Nathan wrote:

When all Western democracies (as opposed to totalitarian dictatorships) and any acceptable definition of terrorism, recognize these people as terrorists, why do you insist on calling them 'militants'? What motivates you to try and camouflage the wicked and bloodthirsty nature of these villians?

  • 132.
  • At 06:16 PM on 01 Jul 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

On July 1, your reporter interviewing someone in the Syrian government referred to the Israeli soldier as having been "arrested." It hardly matters, as far as this audience is concerned, your credibility was shot a long time ago by your constant perversion of the meaing of English words in the service of your anti American anti Israeli political bias. Your standard practice, unwilling or unable to separate and identify reporting the facts from editorializing is a disgrace to modern journalism.

  • 133.
  • At 07:30 PM on 01 Jul 2006,
  • John wrote:

I respect reporting on events that does not use subjective words such as "terrorist" or "freedom fighter". The objective words such as "resistance" or "militant" or some such is more appropriate. However, any media can be pressured by its government or financial contributors to do otherwise.

  • 134.
  • At 11:06 PM on 01 Jul 2006,
  • Mark Calder wrote:

I agree entirely with this blog posting, however there is a more fundamental problem, perhaps unavoidable.

News is almost always the reporting of events, rather than conditions. I find that even the BBC's quite scrupulous coverage of the situation in Israel and Palestine, where I have lived, gives succour to the Israeli cause precisely because Palestinian students prevented from going to class, Palestinian women held without charge at check-points, and the use of sonic booms to terrorise an urban populous, simply isn't news. The sporadic backlash, the incidents of violent response, make much better news.

I commend the BBC for trying to incorporate some background into their reporting of such incidents. Nevertheless, the limitation of news is that it is only little concerned with how things are when spectacular events aren't happening - a narrative which, when told, can only rebuke Israeli interactions with the Palestinians.

  • 135.
  • At 12:56 AM on 02 Jul 2006,
  • Albert wrote:

To see how biased Alan Johnston is against Israel all you need is to read his latest report from Gaza "Bitter Gazans await their fate" (BBC News, Gaza Last Updated: Saturday, 1 July 2006, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK)
Johnston wrote :"But the Amin family's tragedy went almost unremarked in the wider world - Jacques Chirac, the Pope and Kofi Annan said nothing." - this is truly outrageous, I want to ask Johnston - when Israeli teenager was killed by Palestinian terrorists last Sunday did Jacques Chirac, the Pope and Kofi Annan said anything?

  • 136.
  • At 02:31 AM on 02 Jul 2006,
  • Regina wrote:

Until now the BBC offered nothing but the most biased anti Israeli propaganda. If Williams calls it "reporting from Gaza" then how will he call a propaganda posted on the BBC's website? BBC has several reports from Gaza on its website and all of them are highly sympathetic to Palestinians and none of them tells the story of hardship Israeli civilians are facing as a result of Palestinian bombardments and other acts of terrorism. You do not need do much to understand the BBC is biased against Israel, read the reports "Air strike on Palestinian PM's HQ" by Alan Johnston, "
Bitter Gazans await their fate" again by Alan Johnston, "Palestinians face Gaza hardships" by Martin Patience - Every thing about Palestinians nothing about Israelis.

  • 137.
  • At 10:41 AM on 02 Jul 2006,
  • Tee Bee wrote:

I should like to say that the BBC is obliged to support the Palestinians’ side of the argument because the BBC has a memory, a very long memory.
Back in the first days of Israel and Palestine it was the British forces and government that put the Israelis into Palestine.
The World as a whole thought the Israelis had had a hard time and took pity on them, pushing the Palestinians over to make room.
There are lots of Jews in America so support and money flooded in. Nothing for the Palestinians who were after all just nomads.
The Palestinians saw a new country being formed and came to get work. The Israelis became so successful they just gently moved into the surrounding countryside and became “Settlers”.
Then the trouble started … the Israelis seem completely unable to grasp the difference between their country and the next-door country. The Palestinians see them as robbers and thieves who have everything and feel very upset about what seems to them a raw deal. After all let’s face it they have just about nothing.
I feel the only answer is to get all the Israelis back into Israel and all the Palestinians out of Israel for a start. Make it quite clear to the Palestinians that they are free to make a state and develop it alongside the Israeli economy.
This is a very simple way of looking at it and I do realize there are a few things like water rights amongst others that have to be considered, but we must stop kidding ourselves and resorting to arguments about whether the BBC should call them terrorists or freedom fighters or militants or what ever.
It’s a terrible mess and the sooner the United Nations pull their veritable fingers out the better.

  • 138.
  • At 03:55 PM on 02 Jul 2006,
  • danny wrote:

Firstly, some comments on the article. As Mr Johnson surely knows, "the only power station in Gaza" is a minority supplier - most large sites in Gaza have their own generator and the vast majority of power comes from Israel, over 2/3. Palestinians came into Israeli territority - "invaded"? - and took the Israeli soldier for the sole purpose of holding him hostage and the Hamas politicians were arrested by police under a warrant from court and are awaiting trial. As for the comparison with Sein Fein, virtually all the leadership spent time in administrative detention under the Brits and a precondition for talks was the total halting of violence and disarmament - recognition of Britain not even being an issue.
Secondly, we often have comparisons made in casualties but since the ceasefire, 62 out of the 71 Israelis killed were civilians killed far from any battlefield and of the 292 Palestinians killed in the same period, 113 "were not actively engaged in hostilities" at time of death. That makes 87% of all Israeli casualties civilian and a maximum of 38% of Palestinians casualties, so I think it is pretty clear who is targeting civilians.
Finally the difference between Israel firing a rocket, is that it is always at a "militant", and whent the Palestinians fire a rocket, it is always at civilians.

  • 139.
  • At 08:25 PM on 02 Jul 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

"Our credibility is undermined by the careless use of words which carry value judgements."

Then I suppose your family would find it credible if you were reported as detained, captured, and stressed by militants and then became colateral damage as an innocent bystander. It wouldn't bother them that your death weren't reported as you having been murdered by a pack of bloodthirsty savage terrorists who kidnapped and tortured you first. How very liberal of you and your family.

  • 140.
  • At 12:24 AM on 03 Jul 2006,
  • Nik MIller wrote:

The BBC is known all across Israel to be an anti-Zionist organisation.

This would not be so bad if it was also anti-Palestinian, but it has long been the Palestinians' best friend.

I only need to name one headline to prove this farce:

West Bank gunmen free US student


Titled to sound as if they have rescued him in a daring and dangerous mission when in fact they had only released him having earlier kidnapped him.

He was kidnapped with the intention of killing him if Palestinians were not released from Israeli jails.

Surely in an unbiased production the title would have read:

West Bank terrorists release hostage

Or something similar?

The BBC's record in this area is shocking to say the least, and the new placement of the bias's greatest proponent, Jeremy Bowen, has just confirmed that there is no intention of changing to a less partisan stance but only to broaden the gap between the truth and the reporting.

The only praise I can give to the BBC at this time is that at least they have had the honesty to publish the critical posts and not just the congratulatory ones.

Aside from that your recent reporting has been a disgrace and an act of gross irresponsibility to a public that deserve to be shown the truth.

  • 141.
  • At 05:35 AM on 03 Jul 2006,
  • jahangir khan wrote:

A Palestenian who kills an Israeli soldier in occupied land is a freedom fighter. A Palestenian who kills an Israeli soldier in uniform in The State of Israel is also a freedom fighter. A Palestenian who blows up a bus or a restaurant anywhere is a murderer.

The BBC is not responsible for the violence and neither is it part of the solution. News can never be impartial. Everybody has their own views-even reporters.Maybe we need more BBC reporters with conflicting views.

The BBC may be biased but less so than any other news organisation.

  • 142.
  • At 11:17 AM on 03 Jul 2006,
  • Nik Miller wrote:

Perhaps the best way to establish whether the BBC is partisan or not is to compare their reporting to that of the other companies.

So to use as an example today's headline:


Palestinian Militants Give Israel Ultimatum


Militants Issue Ultimatum to Israel

Daily Mail:

Paletsinian Militants Set Deadline For Israel

And then the Beeb's non-partisan header:


How does that compare? I'd say in terms of language there was a definite leaning toward playing down the reality of the situation.

'Groups' hardly describes the actuality of Hamas and their like.

I think the truth of the BBC's partiality is pretty clear once they are held up against other more truthful services.

All in all, I reckon you're doing pretty well. Better than most off the comments I've read above at least.

Keep up the good work, and may you avoid harm.

  • 144.
  • At 11:54 PM on 03 Jul 2006,
  • Ricky A. Chenenko wrote:

To argue that a soldier cannot, by definition, be kidanpped is ludicrous. This soldier was manning a border post in his own country. He was not in the midst of a battle when the Palistinians tunneled behind his post, killed two others and capture him. There was no battle there until the kidnappers created one. That type of capture is surely a kidnapping.

Others have already posted examples of your use of the word kidnap that indicate you could have used it here. If you won't use the word, at least don't use such a weak excuse.

  • 145.
  • At 12:54 AM on 04 Jul 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

Sometime between now and tomorrow morning, we may find out once again just how cruel and brutal the Palestinian terrorists of Hamas can be. Even more worrying is that we will find out that the Isrealis can be just as cruel and brutal but they have the power to demonstrate it on a far vaster scale. If they do, they will only prove that they are just as human as the rest of us. If you cannot be liked, at least you should be feared.

  • 146.
  • At 02:16 PM on 04 Jul 2006,
  • M wrote:

Perhaps the best way to establish whether the BBC is partisan or not is to come up with an agreed model that clearly describes the centre ground, and continuously update that model in terms of stance, language, and priority used to report certain events and relationships.

Otherwise it's a bit like an opposition party that doesn't articulate any policy. The various critical sites and users would gain greater credibility in their comments if they could actually describe in detail this unbiased model. As far as I know none of the critical parties have published such a model (their detailed generic guide for BBC editors)

  • 147.
  • At 06:35 AM on 05 Jul 2006,
  • Nigel Blumenthal wrote:

In his original article, Jon Williams writes: "So we try to stick to the facts - civilians are "kidnapped", Cpl Shalit was "captured" "

Where can I find this distinction? What dictionary spells it out for me? What style-book, or grammatical textbook? And who else is incapable of being "kidnapped" - politicians, maybe? Royalty? Journalists? Or if it's only soldiers, what rank does one have to be before a lowly "kidnap" becomes a grandiose "capture" ? Please do tell us more, Jon - this hair-splitting is fascinating.

  • 148.
  • At 01:24 PM on 05 Jul 2006,
  • Guy wrote:

And again this morning: does any BBC editor want to explain why the headline around the story of Hamas firing a new longer range missile into the centre of a major Israeli town, is "Israel mulls city attack response". What's wrong with "Hamas fires long-range missile into major Israeli city" ? Somebody made a choice to make the Palestinian side passive and the Israeli side active; this seems to be the norm for all BBC headlines on this issue.

  • 149.
  • At 05:09 PM on 05 Jul 2006,
  • SERGE PRIZANT wrote:


  • 150.
  • At 10:13 PM on 05 Jul 2006,
  • Lou wrote:

To say that Corporal Shalit was merely "captured" is, of course, nonsense. He was abducted while near a kibbutz in the middle of a night in a carefully planned kidnap operation that was worked on for months and cost Hamas considerable money. And he is being held as a hostage by a terrorist group. If this is not a kidnapping, what is?

The BBC's anti Israeli bias has no limits. The latest BBC's report is a perfect example of that bias "Israel tanks seen in Gaza advance" Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 July 2006, 21:57 GMT 22:57 UK.
The BBC reported "News agencies and Palestinian witnesses reported the movement after a second rocket hit the Israeli city of Ashkelon..." but instead of the headline pointing to the Palestinian attack on Israeli city the BBC deliberately puts Israeli reaction as a major news. In the same report the BBC posted a minor headline "Embattled residents" would you think they are talking about Israeli civilians suffering under Palestinian bombardment - of course NOT, the BBC tells us a usual story of "suffering" Palestinians at the same time completely ignoring suffering Israelis.

  • 152.
  • At 02:18 PM on 06 Jul 2006,
  • jeff wrote:

Why, in an article purporting to be about the use of language, is there yet another gratuitous example of Israeli bashing in the first paragraph of this article.

The BBC just can't resist at every opportunity it gets

BBC "Deaths mount in Gaza incursions" Last Updated: Thursday, 6 July 2006, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Time after time the BBC, because of the extreme anti Israeli bias, decides not to report Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians. Today (July 6, 2006) Palestinian terrorists fired six rockets in to the Israeli town of Sderot deliberately and indiscriminately targeting Israeli civilians. But still in the latest report posted on the BBC's website you'll find absolutely nothing about those attacks. The BBC is a mouthpiece of pro-Palestinian propaganda and nothing ells.

  • 154.
  • At 09:44 AM on 07 Jul 2006,
  • Rodney Banks wrote:

I'm British and am well aware what BBC bias is. Yes, there is a level of bias towards the Palestinians, but I think this is because there is a shift in Western opinion against the actions of the Israelis.

But it's hard not to find a major bias with this story anywhere you look; One massive entity known as Israel has extensive Western funding and exists only because of a giant concrete wall and high powered electrified fence.

The Palestinians on the other hand do not have a wall, or fence and find that existing within the Gaza Strip and the West Bank extremely difficult from the endless barrage of destruction brought on them by the Israelis and their powerful friends.

May I just add that although the BBC has shown slight bias towards the Palestinians, it has never, and I mean NEVER shown concise footage of the destruction of Palestinian houses, repeated F16 bombings and general palestinian killings...until now!


It could be because they have to; The BBC are one of the only stations to have permenant reporters within what was once Palestine, so when something this blatent occurs (deliberately breaking the sound barrier over residential areas to terrify the locals) the BBC has to cover it, and with the manner in which the Israelis have carried out these objectives it has become very hard not to portray them as the scared, trigger happy, oppressive force that they have always been.

  • 155.
  • At 05:01 AM on 13 Jul 2006,
  • Eddie wrote:

If a soldier is acting in a military capacity at the point he is taken, he is "captured".

If a soldier is off-duty at the time, he is "kidnapped".

All civilians are kidnapped.

Would a US Senator be kidnapped/captured/arrested if taken by Al-Queda? I think most people would say "kidnapped".

Would a Hamas politician would be arrested/detained/kidnapped, if taken by the US Military? I think most people woudl say "arrested/detained".

The fact is that when the "bigger guy" is the one doing the taking, negative terminology is rarely used.

  • 156.
  • At 01:00 AM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • David B. Greenberg wrote:


If the Arabs in Gaza want to avoid suffering collateral damage -- which by all means they should -- then Hamas, Fatah, etc. should stop keeping their terrorists, who are legitimate military targets, in heavily populated areas. They do this to cynically produce martyrs, who make for great press.

Oh, and before the Arab terrorist campaigns, there was no security fence. They brought that on themselves.

  • 157.
  • At 05:22 AM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • vier wrote:

it is very difficult to draw a line between 'civillians' and 'soldiers', 'kidnapped' and 'captured'so on and so forth in any of these areas as we all just pretend to not know that the mess is benefiting the people who are running the business. like press, for example.

  • 158.
  • At 02:49 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • howard wrote:

For a while after this blog article appeared, I kept an eye on this web site and watched -- in particular -- the headlines you choose for your stories.

Many more people see the headlines than read the stories.

What I found was this.

During a period in which both sides are shooting at each other, your headlines nearly ALWAYS portray Israel as the aggressor. Among your current headlines, NONE reflect the unprovoked attacks on Israel or the attacks on Israeli civilians that are escalating the situation. Nearly all (marked with "*" below) position Israel as the aggressor, whereas in both Gaza and Lebanon it is responding to invasions of its sovereign territory by self-described armies:

Israel steps up Lebanese strikes*
Q&A: Middle East crisis
In pictures: Lebanon aftermath
At-a-glance: Lebanon crisis

[you bury Hizballah attacks on civilians but headline Israeli responses]

Israel pursues strikes on Lebanon*


Israel crisis sends oil above $78*

[Why is it not Hizballah crisis? Headline effectively blames Israel for high oil prices, if reader is not knowledgeable]

Israel targets Gaza ministry*

[And the 12 rockets that were fired at Sderot yesterday ... ?]

Deaths mount in attacks on Gaza*

[Gaza attacked Israel. And I have yet to see you headline Israeli casualties]

Hezbollah warns Israel over raids

[barely neutral]

Fear in Beirut (Lebanese react to Israel's ongoing offensive)*

["Fear" = emotion-laden wording]

Israel pulls out of central Gaza (Israeli troops withdraw from central Gaza after two days, but their operations continue elsewhere in the strip.)

[barely neutral]

Israel pressed to allow Gaza aid*

[Israel offered to send medicines in; Hamas said no. * it!]

Now, I don't claim to support everything Israel does. I can understand perfectly if there are SOME headlines that are negative toward (imperfect) Israel as long as you are trying to tell the whole truth, and not ONE SIDE'S truth.

But whoever creates these headlines, is not even trying to capture the truth, or a balanced view, or the reality on the ground. He's very clearly trying to stress the fear and pain of one side, and the aggression of the other.

And this is not just today -- it happens EVERY DAY.

  • 159.
  • At 11:06 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • dave t wrote:

And despite all the attacks and so on Israel is STILL sending in food and medical supplies and water. The BBC also neglected to inform us that the PA owe some $47 million for their electricity bill. Funny how they get all that foreign aid yet never appear to pay the bills like a normal repsonsible government. Then again, having served in the Sinai with the multinational forces I did notice the huge white mansions dotted amidst the slums - wonder who they belong to...?

  • 160.
  • At 06:57 AM on 15 Jul 2006,
  • Ginter wrote:

Why don't we make it simple?

First let's see where is the news from. If the BBC correspondent heard this news from the Israeli spokesman or the Hammas, it should be "claimed kidnapped"; if he saw it himself, it was "taken".

Second let's see what is the ojectives. If someone is taken for ransom or other demands, he is "kidnapped"; if someone is taken to be tried in a court for criminal acts, he is "arrested"; if someone is taken for more than 24 hours without trials, he is "detained"; if someone is taken for unknown purpose, he is "taken".

Third we could find it out from the process someone is taken. Taken by police? Armed men? Military? Violently or peacefully. When they could be identified from their uniforms, they are what they wear; when they could not be, they are "armed men" or "militants". After some terrorist groups claim the responsibility, then you could say "terrorist".

The change of words is often and dependent on different situations.
Now it is clearer, isn't it?

  • 161.
  • At 04:35 PM on 15 Jul 2006,
  • Jonathan wrote:

Hooray. At last there is a lambasting for the BBC for their appalling bias. Not only for the cause of Hamas and Hizballa, but it seems to me, every cause which we as a civilized nation need to fight. Ken Livingstone's type views seem to be the most prevalent in the BBC newsrooms and its about time that we the license payers told them what we think of that.

And if you want a sensible viewpoint on a podcast once a day I strongly recommend the Daily Telegraph podcast. No bias there.

  • 162.
  • At 03:35 AM on 17 Jul 2006,
  • Asia wrote:

Israel's attacks are totally out of line and extremely disproportionate to the causes it cited. What is it trying to do? Start a whole regional war. Any buffoon will see that if they continue to act so aggressively, this whole situation will result in a full-blown regional war. Is the Bush administration waiting for this to happen too? Or they want this to happen? And create chaos in the whole world's economy, bring more suffering and hardship to people the world over? Does the Israelis think this will solve problem? Violence breeds more violence. I am totally disgusted with the Israelis now, and of course anything that is linked to Isrealis! Yucks!

  • 163.
  • At 08:57 PM on 17 Jul 2006,
  • Yoav wrote:

I'm afraid it's hard not to be biased when one side lets you see everything for yourself, as reporters are allowed to, while the other does everything in its power to prevent them, claiming the need to 'maintain secrecy during operations'; when one side is living a first world lifestyle while preventing their counterparts achieving more than third world living standards; when one side has complete control over the movement of persons within their own country, including by air and sea; when one side is provided with sveral billion dollars' worth of military equipment each year, while giving the other a few hundred thousand dollars' worth of 'humanhitarian aid'; and which side of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has been responsible for the deaths of most reporters? Each time the side responsible vows to conduct a 'full investigation' knowing full well what the conclusion will be. Can anyone really be surprised Palestinian children grow up into violent adults? What normal human being, nay animal, would not struggle to be free from such oppression?

  • 164.
  • At 02:14 PM on 18 Jul 2006,
  • Joanna Eleftheriou wrote:

Another reason the non-biased (as far as they can) BBC reporting appears biased to the English-speaking mind is that most media reporting tends to come from American sources, which invariably present Israel as the sufferers and more treacherously, present those whom Israel is currently oppressing as somehow analogous to their unrelated (not countreymen) fellow Muslims who attacked westerners for other reasons.

  • 165.
  • At 06:57 PM on 19 Jul 2006,
  • Yoav wrote:

In response to comments regarding the focus of the headlines it appears that the BBC is simply reflecting the number and level of attacks.

In fact,just about every suicide bombing is reported, whereas not every bombing run over civilian areas of Lebanon is, nor especially every attack on Palestinian territories such as Gaza. It is therefore not surprising that Israel is most often cited as the aggressor, as this merely reflects reality.

Those commenting to the contrary are otherwise obviously turning a blind eye to the 'score' - Israel is leading by inflicting over 300 civilian fatalities (including many children)to 10 by Hezbollah. I don't think the headlines show a 30 to 1 bias.

Israel repeatedly fails to learn the lesson, that despite how many ants the elephant tramples, other ants will still bite the elephant.

  • 166.
  • At 12:38 AM on 22 Jul 2006,
  • Matt Kenny wrote:

You have my wholehearted support in your largely succesful attempts to report objectively on the current middle east crisis. There is a vociferous pro-israel lobby that will never be happy unless Israel is potrayed as the sole and eternal victim.

  • 167.
  • At 03:04 PM on 22 Jul 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

I was saddened, if totally unsurprised, that a small component of the BBC's effort in attempting neutrality (a discussion of the importance of language) should be hijacked by those with a specific agenda.

My first 'brush' with language goes back a long way; for years I told anyone who would listen that when an atrocity occurred in Northern Ireland, the party "claiming responsibility" should be reported as "admitting responsibility".

The BBC did eventually get around to that change - but I would still like to know if it was because the BBC was pressured into it (and if so, by whom?), or because the BBC 'saw the light', or because the information coming from those responsible changed its tone?

  • 168.
  • At 08:59 PM on 15 Aug 2006,
  • Linda wrote:

I believe the BBC reports facts as objectively as humanly possible. I do not believe that its reporting is biased in any regard. As for the on-going crisis in the Middle East, it seems from the comments posted here, that many believe the BBC is, in a sense, against Israel. I do not believe the BBS is pro and anti on the subject of Israel. The BBC obviously believes that most of us prefer truth to propoganda. As long as the truth is spoken - let the chips fall where they may - apparently according to commenters here, the chips are falling on Israel.

  • 169.
  • At 03:37 PM on 14 Sep 2006,
  • Mo wrote:

I am once again left feeling the complete audacity that Israelis and Israeli supporters tend to have!
If by pro Palestine you mean showing the exact brutality and terror-(ism) that the Israeli government inflicts on Palestinian civilians then so be it! How can you moan about the BBC being bias, it doesnt matter where you come from, when people are being massacred the only logical explanation is the blame lies with those doing the killing!

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