Mitigating Terror: BBC Responds

In response to HR’s critique of the BBC’s coverage of the fatal stabbing of an Israeli by a Palestinian terrorist, the BBC’s Middle East Desk has sent the following to one of our subscribers:

We used the word “settler” because it is, in the first instance, the word that most accurately and completely describes the victim of Tuesday’s attack. Obviously, lower down in the report, we give more detail on the victim.

“Israeli” is wrong here because it does not indicate that Eviatar Borovzky lived in the West Bank. Under international law, the West Bank is occupied territories and Israelis who live there are therefore settlers. This in no way mitigates or justifies an act of murder. We are, for a general international news audience, trying to be as clear as possible about who killed whom and where. All three leading international news agencies – Reuters, the Associated Press and AFP – used exactly the same phrasing us we did.

The Israeli English language news website Ynet used the word “settler” as we did in this context. The headline to a report on 30 April read: “Settlers throw stones, burn fields after terror attack.” It continued: “A few hours after a Palestinian terrorist murdered Jewish settler Eviatar Borovsky in the northern West Bank Tuesday morning, dozens of settlers hurled stones at Palestinian vehicles near the village of Hawara.” (,7340,L-4374261,00.html)

Several readers complained that we did not refer to the Palestinian attacker as an activist, militant or terrorist. We are not aware of anything that indicates that the attacker belonged to a political or armed Palestinian group.

Four observations:

  1. Why should Eviatar’s Borovsky’s place of residence be the determining factor in identifying the victim of a terror attack?
  2. The BBC is still unprepared to acknowledge that its interpretation of the status of settlements is but one interpretation of international law.
  3. Since when did the BBC follow the lead of Israeli media outlets when it comes to terminology? While YNet referred to Borovsky as a settler (not in the headline referenced by the BBC however), the Jerusalem Post referred to an “Israeli man” in its headline, while The Times of Israel simply referred to an “Israeli.”
  4. Since when did a terrorist have to be a paid up member of an organization before he is referred to as a terrorist? The Boston Marathon bombers were not claimed as members by any jihadist organization, yet were referred to as terrorists.

Sorry BBC – this response just isn’t good enough.

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