4 simple Guardian rules for journalists reporting a terrorist attack in Israel (A brief primer)

Though Harriet Sherwood is apparently out of the country for a couple of weeks, the Guardian’s report on today’s terrorist attack in central Jerusalem, by Conal Urquhart, had all the standard components of a story about violence directed at Israeli civilians.  (Rest assured, Harriet, your narrative will be fully in tact when you return.)

Here’s a primer.

Rule #1: Never use the word “terrorist” or “terrorism” as such language is inherently loaded, and influenced by one’s subjective opinion on how to define the word.

Indeed, Urquhart’s 503 word dispatch seemed at pains at times to avoid use of the word in any context.  In fact, the word typically used in its place, “militant”, isn’t even used.

Rule #2: Use passive language which may obscure the fact that an intentional act of violence was perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists against innocent Israeli civilians:

The first example can be found in the title.

“Bomb explodes near Jerusalem station.”

So, a bomb just exploded, Conal?  Was a human being even involved in this “explosion”?


“A bus has exploded opposite the central station in Jerusalem, killing one woman and injuring at least 25 people, four of them seriously.”

That’s funny, Conal,  because, from what I hear anyway, the bus didn’t just “explode”.  A bomb detonated near the vehicle after it was planted at a crowded bus stop.

Ah, sorry Conal. I was too quick to judge your work.  By the second passage, you at least suggest that humans of some sort may have been involved:

“There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which police said was caused by a bomb planted close to Jerusalem’s main conference hall and central bus terminal.”

Rule#3: Avoid, whenever possible, reaching even the most obvious (politically inconvenient) conclusions regarding such attacks:

“Jerusalem suffered dozens of suicide bombings that targeted buses and restaurants during the second Palestinian uprising, or intifada. But the attacks have halted in recent years.”

But, please tell us, Conal. Why have such attacks halted?  Have such terrorists, and the movements which they are a part of, decided that detonating themselves in Israeli markets, buses and cafes, was immoral?  Or, could it have something to do with Israel’s security barrier?  Sorry, I know. I’ll quickly banish the thought!

Rule #4: Deflect responsibility from the terrorists who everyone knows committed the act by changing the subject or blaming Israel and blurring the causality:

Indeed, by the fourth paragraph, Conal, you artfully achieved this inevitable moral pivot:

“The blast, which came amid a surge of violence along the Israel-Gaza border, shook the city.”

So, Conal, I see.  We shouldn’t be so dense as to view such attacks in a political vacuum.  The planting of the bomb, which, I would have assumed, was planned quite a while ago, needs to be seen in the context of recent “violence” along the Israel-Gaza border.  Please tell us more about this vexing and counterintuitive causality.

“The attack comes amid rising tensions between Israel and Palestinian militants.

On Tuesday at least eight people were killed and dozens injured after Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.”

The dead included four civilians who were killed when a tank shell was fired at a Gaza City suburb. It is believed three members of the same family were killed. There were unconfirmed reports of a fifth victim.

Four people were killed when an Israeli aircraft fired at a car in another part of Gaza City. It was claimed that the passengers were Islamic Jihad militants. Within an hour a rocket was fired at the Israeli city of Ashkelon”

Oh, I see, Conal. Its becoming clearer who the perpetrator is, and one thing is for sure.  It’s certainly not Hamas or other Palestinian “militant” movements. Please provide further context.

“Tension has been rising in the area since two members of Hamas were killed in an air strike last week, after sporadic firing from Gaza into Israel.”

Yes, I see.  There was calm and tranquility but then, after Israeli acts of violence, “tension” increased.

Finally, Conal. Please assure us that clearer heads will prevail.  What is Hamas doing to calm tensions and address this rising antagonism?

Oh, I see that you don’t comment on that.  I guess information regarding the views of officials in Gaza wasn’t accessible.

Ok, then, at least tell me what the Israelis are doing in response?

“The attacks prompted a deputy to the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to call for a new offensive against Gaza to stop rocket attacks.”

Silvan Shalom, the vice-premier, told an Israeli radio station that the situation was similar to the run-up to the 2008-2009 Gaza war which led to the death of more than 1,400 Gazans.

“We may have to consider a return to that operation,” he said. “I say this despite the fact that I know such a thing would, of course, bring the region to a far more combustible situation.”

I knew it all along, Conal. I was just playing dumb.

Of course, the Israelis are eager to act in an intransigent manner, one which will result in greater tension and violence.  What other conclusion could a reasonable and sophisticated Guardian reader possibly arrive at?

Its funny though, Conal, by the end of your report I had almost forgotten that a terrorist today murdered an innocent woman and injured over 50 after planting a bomb laced with shrapnel in a crowded civilian area, in the hopes of killing and maiming as many Israeli men, women, and children as possible.

I wonder how such a simple fact nearly slipped my mind?

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33 replies »

  1. The Groan has developed an annoying habit of not allowing comments beneath their more off-the-wall collections of half-truths and lies, doubtless because even they daren’t risk the usual suspects piling in and celebrating this infamy.

    This is a Good article to redress the balance.

  2. You’ve nailed the method beautifully, Adam. The BBC did even more to expunge human agency, let alone Palestinian terrorist responsibility from the story. This was my tweet from the first report:

    BBC reports terrorist bus stop bomb jn Jerusalem as if it just happened without terrorists placing it there:

    But it’s now been updated by the BBC to refer to a bomb having been left in a bag– like a shopping accident.

    Note that both the Guardian and the BBC are more Palestinian-extremist than the PA Prime Minister Fayyad who referred to and condemned the bombing as “a terrorist attack”.

    The subhead now showing on the Guardian home web page reads “bus bomb could reawaken old tensions”. Imagine them headlining a subreport of a dissident IRA terrorist or an Al Qaeda bombing on a London bus like that.

  3. I hope Israel hits back soon, and hits back hard, and makes it perfectly clear that if Hamas choose to gamble with Palestinian lives by provoking Israel, Hamas are responsible for the consequences.

  4. Excellent analysis. The reason is the Palestinians have an army of friendly journalists ready to feed them information. Israel, on the hand, does not base its wars on what consumers of israel-palestinian media value.

    israel could expose its citizens to terrorism and violence, and perhaps gain a few hearts in european and UN centers. but israel values the lives of its citizens more than the opinions of biased journalists bent on selling juicy stories regardless of the consequences.

    the guardian is doing what everybody else is doing. it isn’t necessarily antisemitic, it is just war profiteering.

    hamas and hezbollah gain from this type of reporting because it vindicates their agenda. any response from israel will be condemned without challenge, and the nature and context of the attack will be glossed over as harriet does above.

    She KNOWS what happened. jerusalem post and haaretz have shown the facts.

    the guardian has no problem accepting and posting unverifiable claims made by anonymous palestinians (a.k.a hamas spokespersons) as facts, but when it is about israel they refuse.

    and WHATEVER YOU DO, don’t say this is antisemitic. because we all know europeans are incapable of hating on jews. they just hate israel. XD

  5. Andy Gill, Israel may indeed make it clear that the Hamastards bear the ultimate responsibility for any deaths that ensue, but said Hamastards have groomed the MSM and the west so consummately that the MSM/West will fall for their bleating of victimhood almost as a knee-jerk reflex.

    I have believed for a long time that the standard of critical thinking and the capability for analysis and sheer curiosity about cause and effect is lacking in much of the commentators, statesmen and women and Guardianista-types. They just are incapable of doing complexity and context and discomfort of any kind (including the sort of intellectual discomfort of having their views successfully challenged) is anathema to them.

    So I very much fear that Israel is alone in seeing her neighbours’ intentions exactly for what they are, although some of her leaders tell themselves fairy stories about them to make themselves feel better and so as to do nothing about them.

    I speak from outside Israel and don’t want to fall into the trap of lecturing her leaders on what to do, but I will say that this has stop and soon. Arabs will gobble Israel alive if she is too kind to them. She should learn from Cast Lead and not leave the next action, which is inevitable, unfinished. She should obliterate Hamas and Islamist factions and be as hard-hearted to them as they are to her and not care a damn what the rest of the world thinks.

  6. @Geary re Hattie the Hen, I wonder whether being seriously injured by “militants” is less painful or traumatic than being attacked by terrorists?

  7. Compare the reports of 7/7 by al-Gardistan:

    “The first day following confirmation that the terrorist attack on London was the work of suicide bombers …”

    No pussyfooting when it happens on British soil. Not “Yorkshire militants” then? Might’ve upset the readers.

    But the Guardian Whore always panders to its clients, sorry, readers.

  8. The ChickenLady, apparently writing from London, came up with this memorable paragraph:

    “It is far too early to say what Wednesday’s bus blast heralds. But, at the very least, it is bound to reinforce Netanyahu’s belief that Israel has “no partner for peace”, a phrase that brings bitter laughter from observers who say Israel shows little sign of wanting to make peace”.

    Yes, that bomb showed us what Netanyahu is really like when dealing with that partner who wants peace!!

  9. There’s another great example in a timeline developed by the Guardian that inverts cause and effect extremely clearly:

    Look at the third in the list:

    “16 March Israeli warplanes target a security compound in Gaza, killing two Palestinian militants, according to Hamas medics. The attack is thought to be in response to a rocket fired at Israel earlier in the day.”

    Now, shouldn’t that be:

    “16 March Palestinian terrorists fire a rocket at a town in Israel, hoping to kill Israeli civilians. In response, Israeli warplanes target a security compound in Gaza, killing two Palestinian terrorists, according to Hamas medics”.

  10. If the repetitiveness of the Hamstards’ message bends what passes for the brains of the MSM, we should use that same method I think:

    For example, we should remind the MSM, on Twitter and at every opportunity about Fathi Hammad’s infamy, and how proud he is that Hamas use the women, the elderly and little children as human shields, we should repeat that every time there are bleats from Gaza that people have been killed because Hamas launches missiles at Israel from a school, a park or from within the civilian population.

    We should also remind them that firing at combatants who deliberately hide amongst non combatants is permitted and that the combatants are guilty of human rights infringements.

    The infamous video can be found at

    And there are others.

  11. This isn’t just the Guardian. It is a cancer which is embedded deep down in British culture and affects individuals of every social class, every political persuasion. Here’s Peter Hutchinson a little while ago in the Daily Telegraph:

    “09.05 Gaza Strip – Israeli aircraft struck targets in the Palestinian territory again on Thursday as fears were raised of a new round of tit-for-tat violence. Israeli bombs killed four Palestinian civilians earlier this week while a bombing in Jerusalem killed a British woman yesterday.”

  12. News gathering is inherently difficult, especially in fast-moving situations where ‘facts’ change rapidly and propaganda comes from all sides.

    It’s therefore extremely sensible and prudent not to make assumptions, jump to conclusions and report only those things that you can say for certain happened. Maybe a journalism 101 course would help you all to understand these things.

  13. “News gathering is inherently difficult, especially in fast-moving situations where ‘facts’ change rapidly and propaganda comes from all sides.”

    No doubt the BBC employed the same excuses for ignoring the Holocaust:

    Why the BBC ignored the Holocaust

    The Holocaust: why Auntie stayed mum

    “Maybe a journalism 101 course would help you all to understand these things.”

    Maybe a morality 101 course would help you.

  14. Rather than discuss the subject at hand, you instead discuss an incident from 60 years ago.

    The BBC is / was a state-owned broadcaster used as a tool of the British government. Until this year the World Service was funded by the FCO. So of course it won’t be a reliable news source. What do you expect?

    But with things such as trying to make sure you get the facts right, filing for a newspaper less than 12 hours after an event is not an easy thing. And with things such as libel law, and the ethics of good reporting, you can only report what you know, not the rabid speculation that this site seems to promote.

    As to morality, need I even respond? I am very sympathetic to ordinary Israelis who suffer as much as Palestinians under the ethno-fascist apartheid government that rules them.

  15. Maybe a morality 101 course would help you.

    Utterly redundant. Basic decency and morality is not a requirement at polite dinner parties of the British ruling classes.

  16. Sanity what a sane post. So sane, in fact, that I have sent it to Kath Viner and copy in Alan Rusbridger, in the vain hope that they might take notice of it.

    I hope that’s OK

  17. And then I read your next post Sanity.

    Full of buzz words like “ethno-fascist apartheid” (how long did it take you to learn that without stammering?)

    And since when did you know anything about ethics of good reporting (and I’ll bet that the Guardian staff know even less about them than you). For example, since when has the Groan ever bothered to try to get its facts right, particularly when they would get in the way of a good, Israel-bashing story?

    Give up. Now. You are looking more and more foolish and writing more and more like a loony left caricature

  18. Again, still no engagement with the issues at hand. Instead, assertion after assertion and no evidence to back it up.

    And also, it appears, a lack of understanding of the difference between news stories and comment articles. But perhaps we’ll leave that lesson for another day.

  19. “Rather than discuss the subject at hand, you instead discuss an incident from 60 years ago.”

    1) But I was discussing the subject at hand. The anti-Semitism that was so much of a part of nations like Britain, Poland and Nazi Germany, the very same anti-Semitism that led to Britain’s collaboration in the Holocaust and the BBC’s cover-up of that genocide, is very much still with us and is what drives the “anti-Zionist” agenda of the British media and political class.

    2) No surprise that you would describe the worse genocide in modern history as an “incident”.

    “I am very sympathetic to ordinary Israelis who suffer as much as Palestinians under the ethno-fascist apartheid government that rules them.”

    It is exactly because of such Streicher-like comments that I wouldn’t risk a nose-bleed to help Britain any more than I would have helped Germany between the years 1933-1945. Someone above described you as a member of the “loony left”. The thing is, at least so far as the Jewish people is concerned, the hammer and sickle and the swastika are completely interchangeable in Britain. How utterly ironic that you of all people should describe the Jewish state as fascist. Even the EU thinks you are an anti-Semite:

    “Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:

    Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

  20. “And also, it appears, a lack of understanding of the difference between news stories and comment articles. But perhaps we’ll leave that lesson for another day.”

    It has nothing to do with the problem of gathering news and everything to do with the deligitimization of the Jewish state.

    A family slaughtered in Israel – doesn’t the BBC care?

    Dead Jews Is No News

    In any event, in the light of your rabid bigotry (see above), you are probably the very last person to attempt to give lessons about this matter. However, your sniffy attitude does put me very much in mind of all those sniffy Englishman who used to complain about those whining and exaggerating Jews during the 1930s and 1940s.

  21. Ah, straw men. Or perhaps I’ll be generous, and assume it was a misunderstanding.

    Correction 1: I was referring to the BBC’s action as an ‘incident’, not the holocaust. I would agree with your categorisation of the the holocaust as the worst genocide in modern history without pause.

    Correction 2: I have not nor do I ever compare the actions of the Israeli government to the Nazis (NSDP). Please provide examples of where I have done this. ‘Fascist’ does, of course, not count, since fascism is not a monopoly of the Nazi party. Nor, if I were trying to reference the Nazi party would I use the term ‘fascist’ to do so. Please stop being ridiculous.

    And another plea to the moderators: will you continue to allow this stuff to go uncensored?

  22. Oh, and if you want to make assertions about whether the Itamar attack has been covered sufficiently, you’ll need to do some statistical analysis. Rather than asserting your opinion about the relative coverage it should receive and how much it has received in your sample of under 10 news sources, you need to do some serious work. But I guess it’s easier to just pontificate.

  23. So Sanity are you really trying to argue that, however dishonest and libellous, if it’s a Grauniad comment piece then it doesn’t have to tell us the truth and it can lie through its teeth?

    Trouble is, so many of the knuckle-scraping mouth breathers btl at the other place (and I am sure that YOU know who I mean Sanity) take the opinions as facts – a state of affairs which the Groan does it utmost to maintain.

    Sanity, you are all grown up aren’t you? Most mature folk can self-censor so that they don’t make arses of themselves. So get on with it and remove yourself.

  24. Karr

    Peterthehungarian – not racist, much, are you?

    The British ruling class is a race!?
    Who would think of it?

  25. Insanity, I understand people like you. You are filled with hate that the Israelis are NOT the unarmed Jews of WW2 nazi filth infested Europe.

    But that’s the way I like it.

    Europe hated Jews. Eurabia hates Jews. Now Eurabia has Muslims. Millions and millions of Muslims, who in their typically multicultural way bomb buses, the underground, stab film makers to death, rape native Eurabian women who dress in an non-Muslim way, murder policewomen like Yvonne Fletcher, behead bound captives.

    Who would have thought that a new Dark Age would descend on Europe, sorry EURABIA?

  26. TGIAI: will you answer my question? Please point out the instances where I have compared Israeli policy to the Nazis. Otherwise, I’ll be requiring a retraction of your comment.

    Also, what does Soviet army have to do with anything. If you want to now about WW2 history, read a history book.

    Furthermore, your comment that millions of Muslims bomb buses is despicable racism. If the moderators do not remove that comment then they should be very ashamed of themselves.

  27. Abban Aziz,

    “The reason is the [Arab settlers] have an army of friendly journalists ready to feed them information. Israel, on the hand, does not base its wars on what consumers of israel-palestinian media value.”

    The very presence of media consideration in this regional conflict is a crime all by itself. No nation-state should be subjected to this unnecessary burden. As I have repeatedly said, the Jewish State must bend the hostile media to its will, both as a survival tactic and as fitting punishment for the media’s abuse of the freedom Israel has given them.


    “I am very sympathetic to ordinary Israelis who suffer as much as Palestinians under the ethno-fascist apartheid government that rules them.”

    Enjoy basking under the purity of your non-“ethno-fascist,” your multiculturalist, state. I’m sure your future overlords, the Muslims, will be kind to you in return.