Better late than never: A year and three months after the massacre
of five members of the Fogel family
in Itamar, the BBC's outgoing director-general admitted that they "made a mistake" in the story's coverage.
In March 2011, Hakim Awad
and his cousin Amjad Awad
brutally stabbed to death five members of the Fogel family: Father Ehud, 36, mother Ruth, 35, Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and four-month old Hadas.
The story was featured on BBC's Radio 4 and the BBC's website but was not mentioned in broadcast.
Conservative MP Louise Mensch made various complaints to the network about the coverage and received an apology from BBC News’s Helen Boaden. She did not stop there and sought an explanation from outgoing director Mark Thompson at a Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee hearing last week.
Thompson said the story had come during a "very busy news period" including the fighting in Libya and the tsunami in Japan.
Funeral of Fogel family members (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"News editors were under a lot of pressure," he said. "Having said that, it was certainly an atrocity which should have been covered across our news bulletins that day."
Nevertheless, he added: "I don’t believe that should be taken as systemic bias. We try very, very hard… to reflect suffering on both sides of that conflict. When there has been a humanitarian incident in Gaza, we try to show the effects of rockets in Sderot."
He said he stood by his decision not to have shown a humanitarian appeal for Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. "I believe I was right, many people thought I was wrong. It might have given the impression we were more sympathetic to one side of that dispute than the other. Israel and Palestine, like Kashmir and Sri Lanka, are so hot in terms of people’s sensitivity.
"But I do want to say, to all our audience including our Jewish and Israeli audiences here and around the world, we do want to make sure we are fair and impartial. We made a mistake in this instance."
MP Mensch said the BBC’s decision not to include the story as part of its rolling news coverage generated “the most reaction I have ever had in all my time in politics."
"I was overwhelmed by response from the Jewish community both here and abroad. There was a feeling the BBC just didn’t care and that, if a settler had entered the home of a Palestinian family, slit the throat of their children, that the BBC would have covered that."
MP Mensch said after the meeting that she was extremely pleased with Thompson’s response. "I was very satisfied with his frank admission, He understood how this had affected the Jewish community."
Yesha Council spokesman Ronny Arazi was less enthusiastic. "The conduct of media outlets that had posted similar horror images from Gaza in those days certainly raised question marks as far as the objectivity of global media in covering the Israeli-Arab conflict.
"The BBC's apology is in place. All systems should constantly check themselves, not just about the terrible massacre in Itamar and not just overseas."