BBC News whitewashed Israeli forces’ massacre in Jenin

The Jenin refugee camp after Israeli forces killed nine Palestinian people and the BBC logo
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The fallout from Israeli forces killing nine Palestinian people in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank continues. As the Canary previously reported:

An Israeli raid on the occupied West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp on 26 January killed nine Palestinians including an elderly woman, Palestinian officials said. The Palestinian health ministry also accused Israeli forces of using tear gas inside a hospital children’s ward.

The health ministry said that the death toll rose to “nine martyrs including an elderly woman”, with multiple wounded.

Palestinian health minister Mai al-Kaila also said Israeli forces stopped ambulances from reaching the wounded. So far in 2023, 29 Palestinian people have been killed in the occupied West Bank – most of those by Israeli forces. As the Canary previously wrote:

The latest violence comes a day after Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians in separate incidents. Israeli soldiers killed a 22-year-old near the West Bank city of Qalqilya. They also subsequently killed a 17-year-old boy who appeared to point a fake gun at police during a raid in the Shuafat refugee camp in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem. The teenager was the fifth Palestinian minor killed during operations by Israeli forces so far this month.

So, what does public service broadcaster BBC News do? True to form, it downplays the actions of the Israeli state and behaves as if there were no perpetrators of the killings.

BBC News: whitewashing a massacre

BBC News ran with the headline:

Read on...

Nine Palestinians killed in Israeli raid in Jenin.

It continued this passive stance in the article, saying that:

Nine Palestinians have been killed during an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank – the deadliest in years – Palestinian officials say.

A woman aged 61 was reported among the dead in the flashpoint town of Jenin.

The point being, BBC News did not say who killed the nine Palestinians – when it was very clearly Israeli security forces. This is known as “passive voice” – when the BBC should have used the “active” one. As SourceWatch wrote:

Use of the passive voice allows propagandists to avoid attributing or taking responsibility for actions. “In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is neither a do-er or a be-er, but is acted upon by some other agent or by something unnamed (The new policy was approved). In the active voice, the subject and verb relationship is straightforward: the subject is a be-er or a do-er and the verb moves the sentence along (The executive committee approved the new policy).”

Then, in a separate article, BBC News ran with the headline:

Israel-Palestinian conflict: Fears of wider flare-up after deadly Jenin raid.

As head of the Palestinian Mission to the UK Husam Zomlot tweeted:

Throughout the second article, BBC News did the same thing as it did in the first. Essentially, the broadcaster cannot bring itself to say in plain English “Israeli troops shot Palestinians” – even though that’s exactly what happened. The Wafa News Agency shared images from the scene:

The Times of Gaza showed pictures of the Israeli security force’s victims:

The coloniser and the colonised

Groups based in the occupied West Bank condemned the Israeli state’s actions. The Jenin Freedom Theatre said that as well as Israeli forces killing nine people:

Jenin youth centre has been destroyed, as has the monument to the martyr Dawood Zubaidi, and once again, the camp’s children have had their mental health violated.

The Palestinian Youth Movement also issued a statement. It said that:

The goal of today’s massacre is the same as every other massacre committed by the Zionist entity since 1948: rooting out the native people of this land, thwarting our resistance, and stamping-out any hope of liberation or return.

However, both groups were also resolute in the face of the Israeli state’s violence. The Palestinian Youth Movement said:

We stand first and foremost with our people in the camps, and affirm the right of the occupied to resist the coloniser by any means necessary.

The Freedom Theatre said:

we can not stop the wounds inflicted on the heart of mothers or end the tears we feel for those we lost… but the resistance can and will continue to defend the right to exist in Jenin Refugee Camp.

Of course, BBC News has a history of downplaying Israeli atrocities. However, as Zomlot pointed out, there are some basic facts here – there is a coloniser, the state of Israel, and the colonised, the Palestinian people. Any reporting that pretends otherwise is simply complicit in the crimes of apartheid Israel.

Featured image via the Telegraph – YouTube and BBC News – screengrab 

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  • Show Comments
    1. The problem isn’t the passive, it’s omitting who did it – “the agent” in grammarspeak.
      The headline/caption from The Times of Gaza uses a passive construction, but unlike the BBC, includes the agent:
      “The 9 Palestinians killed today by the lsraeli occupation forces in Jenin.”
      meaning “The 9 Palestinians who were killed today by the lsraeli occupation forces in Jenin.”

      And at least the BBC usually refers to the occupation, occupied territories, occupied West Bank, and so on. In the USA, this detail is rarely mentioned by mainstream media, leaving many USAmericans largely clueless about what’s going on and why.

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