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September 10, 2019 10:46 am

BBC Imagery Implies Israeli Airstrikes Target Children

avatar by Simon Plosker


Israeli soldiers stand next to shells and a mobile artillery unit near the Israeli side of the border with Syria in the Golan Heights August 26, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo.

Unidentified aircraft, widely believed to be Israeli, recently carried out overnight airstrikes on targets belonging to Iran-backed militias near Syria’s border with Iraq.

The BBC‘s report on this stated:

It was not clear who carried out the overnight strikes in and around the town of Albu Kamal.

But Israel has carried out hundreds of attacks on Iranian-linked targets in Syria during the country’s civil war. [emphasis added]

It has sought to thwart what it calls Iran’s “military entrenchment” in Syria and shipments of Iranian weapons to militant groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Having made it clear that Israel is the prime suspect (which is entirely possible, even probable), this text is followed by a video.

Here is a screenshot of the video image:

An emotive and disturbing image of a Kurdish child disfigured by an airstrike.

But when included immediately after text suggesting that Israel has just carried out an airstrike, it is clear what the average reader will take away.

The BBC report itself refers to the airstrike’s targets as “bases, arms depots, and vehicles” belonging to a militia. This was certainly an airstrike aimed at a specifically military target and not civilians.

Yet a child’s face is what we see, and not those of the “wounded fighters” who were the actual targets of the airstrike.

Whether Israel is responsible for this incident or not, its Air Force never deliberately targets civilians. And the BBC’s placement of its graphic video image is inflammatory, misleading, and inappropriate. It belongs in a story concerning airstrikes that Syrian government and Russian forces have carried out against unarmed civilians during the Syrian civil war, not one about an alleged Israeli attack on military targets.

Even if the placement of this video is due to an algorithm rather than human editing, the video should be removed and we asked the BBC to do just that.

They responded to our complaint with the following:

We don’t agree that the inclusion of this video would make readers assume that Israel willingly targets civilians, or that it injured the boy.

The caption refers to A young face destroyed by war: The impact of an airstrike one year on and it’s clear on watching the video that Israel was not involved in the attack which disfigured the boy.

Furthermore, as our story says, Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement and so your wider point is based on a supposition that Israel was involved.

The BBC fails to address the point that the inclusion of its video and image works on an assumption that all airstrikes are similarly negative in their impact, drawing a moral equivalence between airstrikes aimed at civilians and those aimed at military targets.

In addition, it assumes that most readers will actually click on the video, which is likely not the case, and acknowledges that they will only find out the relevant background information by being forced to watch it.

Simon Plosker is managing editor of HonestReporting, the world’s largest grassroots organization monitoring anti-Israel media bias. A version of this article was originally published by HonestReporting.

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