June 18, 2017
After severe public backlash from officials across the political spectrum – both in Israel and abroad – the BBC apologized Sunday for running a headline that grossly misinformed its readers about Friday’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem.
Following the attack that eventually took 23-year-old Hadas Malka’s life, the BBC published an article with the headline: “Three Palestinians Killed After Deadly Stabbing in Jerusalem.”
Malka, a young Border Police officer who was stabbed to death on Sultan Suleiman Street near Damascus Gate, was not mentioned in the headline.
Following harsh criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Ambassador in London Mark Regev, and even Donald Trump Jr. for refusing to use the word ‘terror’ in describing Friday’s attack, the BBC recanted and issued an apology:
“We accept that our original headline did not appropriately reflect the nature of the events and subsequently changed it. Whilst there was no intention to mislead our audiences, we regret any offense caused."
While the BBC’s apology was necessary, it’s hardly reassuring given the laundry list of offences both it and other publications have committed in the wake of terrorist attacks targeting Israeli civilians. More importantly, the damage had already been done. To quote Sir Winston Churchill, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
Meanwhile, The Globe and Mail ran a very similar headline for its story from The Associated Press: “Three Palestinians killed after attack on Israeli officers.” It would literally be akin to running, after the London Bridge attack that left eight dead, a headline that read, “Three Muslims killed after attack on British civilians.”
The Globe has yet to recant or remove this misleading headline.
While the story was otherwise balanced, it’s the headline that carries the most weight. When it comes to media headlines in the Internet Age, a new study suggests that a whopping 59 per cent of social media users will share a story without even reading it, meaning all they’d digest is the headline. Using this logic, by sharing biased headlines that don’t report the whole story, both the BBC and the Globe (whether intentionally or not) are contributing to the campaign to delegitimize Israel, and the campaign to paint it as some sort of murderous and racist regime that targets Palestinians.
This, of course, is nothing new. The reason why organizations like Honest Reporting even exist is, to quote Bill Maher, because “Israel is the victim of the soft bigotry of high expectations,” and frequently the victim of double standards. A quick Google search will yield hundreds of results where the media uses biased and vague headlines in reporting Palestinian terrorism. To cite just one of the many egregious examples, CNN, in reporting the Har Nof, Jerusalem massacre where a group of armed Palestinian terrorists stormed into a synagogue and murdered Jewish worshippers, ran this headline: “4 Israelis, 2 Palestinians dead in Jerusalem.”
Using the data compiled from the aforementioned study, that headline would have been shared hundreds of thousands of times before anyone may have realized that the two slain Palestinians died only after indiscriminately murdering civilians on account of their religion. Does that not merit inclusion in a headline?
By failing to mention Hadas Malka, The Globe and Mail is telling its readers that the terrorists who died in the act of committing a terrorist act are more important than the victim of said act, justifying Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians, and contributing to a culture that does not value Israeli life. Journalism is supposed to be fair, objective and accurate. When reporting on Palestinian terrorism, however, journalists are anything but.
In running headlines that fail to refer to terrorism as terrorism, publications like The Guardian, the BBC and The Globe and Mail are effectively telling its readers that indiscriminately murdering Israeli civilians is okay. The damage has unfortunately already been done, but as a legitimate media organization, it is vital that the Globe apologize for its one-sided reporting, and inform its readers that these Palestinians were killed while committing an act of hateful, violent and indiscriminate aggression. That alone certainly tells another side of the story.
Daniel Koren is the Media Coordinator at B'nai Brith Canada, and formerly the Online Editor of both Shalom Life Magazine and The Canadian Jewish News. He has written extensively on issues pertaining to Jewish culture and the Israel-Palestinian conflict.