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Comparing the BBC’s Personalization of Paris, Brussels and Israel Terror Victims

avatar by Hadar Sela

Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin. Photo: Israel Foreign Ministry.

Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin. Photo: Israel Foreign Ministry.

Following the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015, various BBC platforms — including the BBC News website — produced content paying tribute to the victims of those attacks, which included photographs and some biographical details.

A similar feature appeared on the BBC News website after last month’s terror attacks in Brussels, under the title “Victims of the Brussels attacks.” This tribute not only included photographs and personal information about the majority of the people murdered in the attacks, but also about several of the wounded.

As has been noted here previously, such information, of course, enables BBC audiences to get beyond mere casualty figures, and goes some way towards helping them appreciate the individual personal tragedies of victims and their families.

Throughout the last six months — October 2015 to March 2016 — the BBC has also been reporting on terror attacks in Israel (although it refrains from naming them as such). Yet in that reporting, the personalization of the victims is very much the exception rather than the rule.

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During that six-month period, articles appearing on the BBC News website have included photographs of only four victims of two separate terror attacks.

On October 2, 2015, a follow-up report concerning the terror attack in which Eitam and Na’ama Henkin were murdered included their photographs. On October 3 and 5, the BBC produced reports about the terror attack in which Aharon Banita-Bennett and Nehemia Lavi were murdered — here and here — which included their photographs.

Since October 5, however, not one of the BBC’s reports about the many terror attacks in which Israelis and/or foreign nationals have been killed has included photographs of the victims, and the deaths of three people were not reported at all.

October 13: the murder of Yeshayahu Krishevsky in a vehicular/stabbing attack in Jerusalem was reported in an article that also noted the murders of Chaim Haviv and Alon Govberg during a combined shooting/stabbing attack on passengers on a city bus in Jerusalem earlier on the same day; the article did not name any of the victims of either attack. The death of a third victim of the same bus attack — Richard Lakin — two weeks later did not receive any BBC coverage.

October 18: the terror attack at Be’er Sheva bus station, in which Sgt Omri Levy and Eritrean national Habtom Zerhom were killed, was covered in this BBC report, and a follow-up article.

October 20: the murder of Avraham Hasno at al Fawar junction was briefly mentioned in this article, but the victim was not identified.

November 4: a vehicular attack took place at Halhul junction and those wounded in that attack included St. Sgt. Binyamin Yakobovitch, who succumbed to his injuries four days later. There was no BBC News coverage of either the initial attack or St.Sgt Yakobovitch’s death.

November 13: the murders of Rabbi Ya’akov Litman and his son Netanel near Otniel were reported in an article titled “Israelis killed in West Bank as Palestinians shot dead.

November 19: the murders of Rabbi Aharon Yesayev and Reuven Aviram in Tel Aviv and the murders of Ezra Schwartz, Yaakov Don, and Shadi Arafa at Alon Shvut junction on the same day were reported in an article titled “Palestinian attacks in Israel and West Bank kill five,” although none of the victims were named.

November 22: the stabbing attack at Gush Etzion junction in which Hadar Buchris was murdered was reported in this article.

November 23: the murder of Cpl. Ziv Mizrahi at a petrol station on Route 443 was reported in this article.

December 7:  Gennady Kaufman was seriously wounded in a stabbing attack in Hebron. Neither the original attack nor Mr. Kaufman’s later death on December 30 received any BBC News coverage.

December 23: the BBC News website covered an attack in Jerusalem in which two people were killed and one wounded. The victims — Rabbi Reuven Birmajer and Ofer Ben Ari — were not named in the report.

January 1: two of the victims of the terror attack in Tel Aviv — Alon Bakal and Shimon Ruimi — were first named in a follow-up report which appeared the next day. The third victim –Amin Shaaban — was only named a week later in a subsequent report.

January 17: the murder of Dafna Meir in Otniel was reported in this article.

January 25: the stabbing attack in Beit Horon in which Shlomit Krigman was murdered was only covered on the BBC News website the following day, and the victim was not named.

February 3: the attack at Damascus Gate in which Cpl Hadar Cohen was shot and killed was covered in this report.

February 18: the attack at Sha’ar Binyamin in which off-duty soldier Tuvia Yanai Weissman was murdered was reported here.

February 24: the attack at Gush Etzion Junction in which Eliav Gelman was killed was covered in this article.

March 8: the terror attack in Jaffa in which US citizen Taylor Force was murdered was covered here.

As we see, the BBC clearly employs a markedly different approach to the victims of terror attacks in Europe and in Israel. Dedicated coverage of the victims of the attacks in Paris and Brussels has ensured appropriate personalization and humanization of those murdered in attacks that the BBC is (for the most part) comfortable describing as terrorism.

However, for BBC audiences, the vast majority of victims in Israel remain faceless and, in very many cases, even nameless victims of violence that the corporation refuses to describe as terrorism.

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