On BBC’s coverage of the terror attack tonight

BY AMIT SEGAL*

Here we go, after countless complaints, BBC changed the text. At first it was “A Palestinian was shot dead following an attack in Jerusalem in which two were killed”. Then they fixed it to “Two killed by a Palestinian”. Eventually, finally finally, it was turned into “Israelis killed by a Palestinian in the Old City”.

So why does that happen? How come journalists in Britain, with the most prestige and esteem in the world, are failing time and again when it concerns us? Where did the subtlety go to? The sense of proportion?

Here’s the explanation that begins with an example from another place entirely: about eight years ago there was a headline in a newspaper about a woman who claimed to have been sexually harassed by a member of parliament. She was more than 60 years old at the time, but in the day after the media referred to her repeatedly as “the young woman”.

How come? Because just like the auto-correct on our cellular phones, human beings also auto-correct. We see a report about sexual harassment, and we immediately imagine a young woman. We see a man wearing a yarmulke, and we assume he supports the right wing. We see a secular Tel Avivi and we believe he/she is for the left wing.

In Britain, where hostility for Israel only grows, where the Zionist is perceived as a western occupying colonialist, and every Palestinian as an occupied indigenous; in Britain, when an editor in the newsroom sees a report on a lethal event in Jerusalem, the auto-correct in his/her head already lays out the details in a way that the Palestinian is the victim and the Israelis are aggressors. And if at the end of the event the Palestinian lies dead, the text will be written out so he will be the focus of the reader’s concern, even if around that Palestinian lies a pile of bodies of innocent people, and even if the homepage of the British Broadcasting Corporation ends up looking like a poor joke on journalism.

* Amit Segal is a political correspondent of Channel 2 in Israel. Translation by Tal Harris.

 

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