Whether it’s a moment of madness, the inexplicable act of a child, or the naïve infringement of a junior staff member on social media, there’s nothing quite like having to clean up an embarrassing PR slip-up.
Perhaps this is what senior editors at the BBC were experiencing on Thursday, 9 August 2018, when, bizarrely, someone took the decision to report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an out-of-line unbiased fashion.
In reporting the deaths of Inas Abu Khmash, a 23-year-old pregnant woman, and her 18-month daughter, Bayan, victims of an overnight bombardment of Israeli air attacks and artillery shelling over Gaza, the headline read plain and simply “Israeli air-strikes kill woman and toddler”.
Though somewhat slightly incomplete, failing to add that Inas Abu Khmash was also pregnant, it is understandable that breaking news does not always capture the full details at first. After all news is not PR, right? Wrong.
Within minutes of the report being published on the BBC website, a swathe of complaints from pro-Israeli protagonists and supporters, including the Israeli Foreign Ministry (IMF) no less, were unleashed at a perceived apologetic, distorted, or dare one say refreshingly honest reporting of the situation. IMF spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon took to twitter immediately, stating:
.@BBCWorld this is a formal complaint by @IsraelMFA .This title is a deliberate misrepresentation of reality ( that’s the polite equivalent of “ this is a LIE”, if you don’t get it). Israelis were targeted by Hamas and IDF acts to protect them.Change it IMMEDIATELY!!! @IsraelMFA pic.twitter.com/pqjXuopXgO
— Emmanuel Nahshon (@EmmanuelNahshon) August 9, 2018
Those that have long argued that the BBC has adopted a predominantly biased view towards Israel when reporting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may have taken a momentary pause of reconciliatory thought upon reading the initial news headline but, alas, it was a mirage at best.
In a matter of minutes, following the bombardment of complaints, the BBC headline had changed to read “Gaza air strikes ‘Kill woman and child’ after rockets hit Israel” thus signalling the resumption of usual service. Yet it did not go unnoticed and, once again, highlights the highly filtered and partial nature of news reporting we have all been too accustomed with from the BBC.
This illustration of a foreign state’s influence on the BBC – a UK license payer-financed corporation legally obliged to remain impartial – coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, provides further evidence and fuel for the ‘BBC Switch Off’ campaign which went viral on the same day of the contentious headline alteration.
What about Inas Abu Khmash, Bayan, and her unborn sibling? They will, like the many hundreds of thousand other Palestinians that have prematurely departed the world from the besieged Gaza strip, be forgotten amid the battle for PR supremacy. A propaganda warfare established on the importance of telling a certain type of story and painting a particularly distorted picture. This is sadly yet another example of the need to switch off from the corporate media’s misleading coverage of one of the worlds’ most pressing issues.