BBC ‘fanning terrorism,’ MK says; pens letter demanding change

The broadcaster must stop its policy of calling Israeli settlements ‘illegal’ while banning even the use of the word ‘terrorist,’ MK Ohad Tal demanded in a letter to the media giant.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

MK Ohad Tal recently blasted the BBC for what he said are skewed journalistic guidelines when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which result in incitement to terrorism, and he demanded change.

“As a member of the Israeli parliament, it has come to my attention that proscribed terrorist groups are routinely alleging that their slaying of Israeli civilians is justified in view of “crimes” (sic) committed by Israel,” the Religious Zionist Party legislator wrote to BBC Director-General Tim Davie, attaching a long list of articles to back up his claim.

“These terrorist groups say their terrorism is a “natural response” to these “crimes.” Tal said.

At the same time, “the BBC routinely and repeatedly disseminates that ‘settlements… are illegal under international law,’ he wrote, with another lengthy list backing his charge.

According to the BBC guidelines, as quoted by Tal, its journalists “can aim, where relevant, to include context to the effect that all settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

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Since “the BBC is generating high-frequency messaging alleging Israel commits ‘crimes,’ and … terrorist groups are using the very same message” to defend their murder of civilians, he charged that the company’s “guidelines and practices appear to, inadvertently, I’m sure, be fanning terrorism,” the lawmaker wrote.

However, he continued, “the BBC’s guidelines not only fail to recommend using the word ‘illegal’ to describe terrorism – they even prohibit the very use of the word ‘terrorist’ – other than as part of a quote.”

The MK then quoted another relevant passage from the BBC guidelines: “We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as… ‘insurgent’, and ‘militant.’ We should not adopt other people’s language as our own; our responsibility is to remain objective and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments about who is doing what to whom.”

Tal gave suggestions “in the interest of fairness.” These included presenting terrorism as illegal and changing the “context” regarding the settlements to reflect the fact that many experts in international law have affirmed that Israeli settlements are, in fact, legal. He referred the BBC to specific statements on the subject made by legal giants Prof. Alan Dershowitz, who taught for decades at Harvard Law School, and Prof. Eugene Rostow, former dean of Yale’s law school.

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Mattot Arim, an Israeli NGO that became aware of the letter, told World Israel News: “There is no question that since the Tal letter, the BBC is indirectly complicit in the endless terrorism against Israelis, in the sense of helping terrorists behave illegally by actively reporting and overemphasizing anti-Israel illegality rhetoric, even though this rhetoric is directly used by terror organizations as justification for terrorism.

“Before the letter, Mr. Davie could claim he was unaware, that he assumed settlement legality was simply a legal issue of property ownership,” the NGO said. “But now that he has received from MK Tal detailed lists which prove that such rhetoric is a direct trigger for terrorism, Davie now needs to decide whether to continue to be complicit. Will the BBC under Davie’s leadership willingly continue carrying a banner for terrorist groups?”

The BBC has yet to respond to Tal’s letter.