BBC’s Double Standard

After a series of bombings — one by the IRA in London, and two by Hamas in Israel — the BBC labeled IRA bombers as “terrorists,” but called Palestinian bombers by the far milder term “militants.”

This struck us as strange, considering that the U.S. State Department classifies Hamas unambiguously as an “International Terrorist Organization.” And just one week prior to the offensive BBC article, the British government outlawed Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Mohammed Dief, senior Hamas terrorist, is known to have masterminded the murders of American citizens in Israel, including the gruesome 1994 kidnap-murder of Nachshon Wachsman, and the drive-by shooting murder of 19-year-old Yitzhak Weinstock in 1993. A Hamas suicide bombing against a Jerusalem bus in February 1996 killed dozens of Israelis. Within a week, three more suicide bombings killed 33 Israelis.

Hamas is also acknowledged as having a role in international terrorist attacks, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City.

But the BBC called Hamas “militants,” and saved the appellation “terrorists” for the IRA. These labels seem to be reversed — considering that the IRA phoned police beforehand to prevent civilian casualties. (One man was lightly injured in the attack.)

The Palestinians, on the other hand, never give warnings because their intent is twofold — to get publicity and to kill Jews. (Four Jewish civilians were killed in two Hamas bombings a few days apart.)

So which group should be called “militants” and which “terrorists?” Not only does the BBC not treat these two groups equally, they actually reverse the labels!


In response to the flood of e-mails from HonestReporting readers, BBC admitted that, indeed, there is an arbitrary double-standard being applied.

CNN, in typical style, ignored the reader letters.

Following is the reply issued by the BBC:

BBC News Online does, of course, reflect the two distinct outputs from the BBC — that targeted at a domestic UK audience and that for a World audience. It has long been the policy of the domestic service to refer to terrorists in Northern Ireland of any religious persuasion as such but the policy of the World Service is not to refer to anyone in those terms. We do re-present material from both the UK and World outputs — the Internet is, after all, a global medium — and there is sometimes an inconsistency. This is an ongoing discussion in the BBC about this and the position is under constant review.

BBC News Online

Another, more blunt explanation was came from Maya Fish, the BBC Newshour duty editor

In BBC World Service reporting the word “terrorist” is not used, no matter who plants bombs, kills or murders.