John Humphrys said on Today 01-07-05 "Palestinian terrorists .... have kidnapped two Israeli soldiers". I suspected this was a slip of the tongue made by a rational and well informed broadcaster who with forethought would have chosen a better noun. However, when I came to 'listen again' to confirm my quotation is correct, I find it printed:- '06.37 Palestinian terrorists say they have kidnapped two Israeli soldiers - a claim rejected by Israel.' This is indicative of the 'balance' in much of the BBC reporting coming out of Arab countries, and from the remnants of Palestine in particular. The Martyrs of the Al Aqsa Brigade responsible for the alleged kidnapping would not consider themselves to be terrorists* *and if they are not attacking civilians it is appropriate to call them 'resistance fighters' or 'guerillas'. These men have seen plenty of death and injury done to Palestinian civilians by the Israeli Defence/Occupation Force. Some thousands have been killed and many, many thousands maimed by all manner of weapons including flechette shells fired randomly into the jam packed refugee camps of both Gaza and the 'West Bank' in the dead of night. I cannot recall the word 'terrorist' ever being applied to any member of the ID/OF, but terrorism it is. An apt slogan circulated; a terrorist is someone with a bomb but no uniform .
Supposing that the forces of the Third Reich had overwhelmed us in '43. Supposing that 57 years later, 57 al nakba (the catastrophe) years later, the remnants of the British population were coralled into ghettoes in the Black Country and in South Wales. See the map below to see how it feels for every Palestinian remaining in what is left of the homeland. Feel the bottled up anger and frustration. Note that a current map would show even greater loss and fragmentation of land in the 'West Bank' since 2000 as the settlements expand and the wall snakes in and out and onwards. Berlin Radio announces that two members of the Wehrmacht have been kidnapped by British terrorists in South Wales. The occupied British remnants would not accept the description would they? But Goebbels' successor would be happy.
The world is becoming ever more grotesque in its injustice. Using truthful words might help to turn this black tide. Your first duty is to truth, and truth nurtures peace. As your coat of arms proclaims 'NATION SHALL SPEAK TRUTH UNTO NATION'. Speak the truth.
For justice, reason and peace.
David Halpin FRCS
In response Gavin Allen, Deputy Editor, Today wrote:
Dear Mr Halpin,
Thank you for your e-mail regarding John's use of the word terrorist.
To quote from the BBC's Editorial Guidelines: "The word 'terrorist' itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding. We should try to avoid the term, without attribution. We should let other people characterise while we report the facts as we know them".
On that basis, I agree with your complaint and apologise. Neither John nor the website should have referred to "Palestinian terrorists", and I'll ensure the wording on our website is amended.
However I don't accept the conclusion you subsequently draw that "this is indicative of the 'balance' in much of the BBC reporting coming out of Arab countries". It's not - it was a slip and nothing more. Whilst truth is indeed our first duty, slips can occur even within the most closely monitored programmes and we remain committed to balance, accuracy and fairness wherever the geographical location.
Many thanks again for your e-mail.
Gavin Allen Deputy Editor, Today
Footnote: 'BBC Web site entry - word 'terrorist' excised.'