Friday’s terror attack in Jerusalem is certainly not the first or last time that the BBC, or another international media outlet, has infuriated both the Israeli government and Israel’s supporters with what they charge was a misleading and biased headline.
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But it was definitely the first time a member of the U.S. president’s family joined the online campaign attacking the way the event was covered by the British public broadcaster in its headline disseminated on Twitter – “Three Palestinians killed after deadly stabbing in Jerusalem” – and successfully pressuring the BBC to change it.
In Friday evening's attack, three Palestinian assailants armed with guns and knives killed Border Policewoman Hadas Malka and wounded several others at Damascus Gate, before they were shot to death by officers at the scene.
Following in his father’s footsteps of taking his grievances to Twitter, Donald Trump Jr. expressed indignation over the headline, responding in a series of tweets on Saturday: “You mean after they stabbed a female Israeli police officer to death ... right? This is as close to being misleading as possible." And later, "Need a new term for this nonsense. Sort of the opposite of victim blaming. How about Culprit Coddling? Maybe Criminal Cozying? Thoughts???”
Later, Trump Jr. expressed pleasure that the BBC had taken down the offending tweet.
Trump Jr. was widely praised by his Twitter audience and others for taking a stand. In a later tweet, he thanked those who had praised him for speaking out against what he called “a very slanted tweet against Israel.”
Trump Jr. was far from alone in his criticism of the BBC headline. After facing a barrage of criticism, both official and unofficial, the British outlet changed the headline on its story to “Israeli policewoman stabbed to death in Jerusalem,” took down the original and issued a statement of “regret.” "We accept that our original headline did not appropriately reflect the nature of the events and subsequently changed it," it acknowledged. "Whilst there was no intention to mislead our audiences, we regret any offence caused.”
Soon after the original headline and tweet were published, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office told Israeli media outlets he was leading the charge against it, saying he had “instructed” the director general of the Foreign Ministry, Yuval Rotem, and the Israeli Embassy in London to strongly protest the BBC coverage. The Israeli Embassy in London promptly did so, with the British ambassador to Great Britain, Yiftah Curiel, also taking to Twitter to complain.
In Israel, anger over the BBC headline crossed party lines. Erel Margalit, one of the candidates in the primary battle to head Israel’s Labor Party, positioned himself as a leader willing to fight for Israel’s image abroad by posting a video of himself calling for the original offending headline and tweet to be removed, ordering the network to “Stop the fake news now.”
In the United States, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted that the “appalling” headline “tells us far more about #bias at BBC rather than the story at hand, a #terror inspired murder in #Jerusalem.”
After the headline was changed and the tweet removed, the Foreign Ministry’s Rotem acknowledged the move, but told BBC consumers to “beware” of their coverage.