Sunday, 13 March 2011

Beware of Headlines...

I came across this mini-headline on the BBC news website and was so incensed I did something I've never done before, I registered a complaint:

"I was astonished to see your headline, "Israel approves new Jewish settler homes in West Bank". Instead of placing the focus where it belongs, on the murder of innocents, a mother, a father and three children you instead run a headline that focusses upon Israel's response to the brutal murder of her citizens. To the casual scanner of headlines it seems that Israel is up to her old 'tricks', the provocative building of new settlements. Only after clicking the link and getting to the third paragraph does your reader discover that in fact a family had been murdered in cold blood; and what's more the Palestinians are seen to be celebrating it!

Everyone has their own biases but the BBC's apparent blindness to its own prejudice borders on the pathological. I am not writing to you with hope that this will change in any real way. I just wanted you to know that it hurt."

Israel is a controversial topic, but surely we can all get on board with the idea that the deliberate, calculated and cold blooded murder of children is a horrendous act that deserves unequivocal condemnation?! Apparently not.

And before the thought even starts to form don't anyone dare say 'yes, but...'. There are no yes buts when it comes to slitting the throats of sleeping children!

The photographs of what was found inside this family home are already on the net. I cannot post them here, I cannot even look at them. On a regular day perhaps I could find the strength to bear witness to an atrocity like this; but after spending the morning looking at Japan's devastation and heart rending losses I find myself much more fragile than usual.

I'm writing this post so that their murders don't get lost amidst all that is happening in the world at the moment. In quieter times I'd like to believe that this event would have received the horrified attention of the world.

On reflection, I think I'm being rather naive.

Update 14/03/11

Since writing the above I received a response from the BBC which I wanted to post for the sake of balance and to recognise my misperception and where I think they can do more.

"Dear Mr. Sobel,

Thank you for your e-mail. We initially covered the murders here on

On Sunday, the announcement about new settlers' homes was made. Our West
Bank correspondent offered analysis saying that it was "hard not to see
the timing of the announcement as linked to the killings". We felt it
was appropriate therefore to recount the events at Itamar in this
context, and the photograph on the page highlighted the importance of
the killings.

However, this was not, as you suggest, our only coverage of the deaths,
but the latest version of developments, a normal practice in 24-hour
online journalism.

Best wishes,

BBC News website"

Please understand that what I'm about to say isn't about sour grapes. I just want something like this to receive the recognition it deserves. Personally I would be inclined to link the settlement story to the article they have sent me so as to make clear what the new story follows from. I must also acknowledge that as a practising Jew I did not see their coverage of the murders on Saturday and that my complaint above was made without knowledge of this coverage. Having now read it I really don't think it contains an expression of the horror of what happened but I recognise that this is very much a personal feeling that is perhaps beyond the scope of a News agency.

However, the broader point I've made above remains true. The premeditated and targeted murder of children would, anywhere else in the world, provoke horror and disgust. In this case it seems to have received barely a whimper. I think it's fair to say that events in Japan have overwhelmed the ability of most people to focus on anything beyond it, but please, do spare a thought for the three children robbed of their parents and siblings by a vicious murder.

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