January 14, 2007

BBC's MidEast chief offends "Jewish leaders"

According to the Jewish Chronicle [subscription only], the BBC's Middle East editor has offended "Jewish leaders" by issuing a memo in which he blames Israel for the violence in occupied Palestine:
A leaked memorandum from BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen to the corporation’s top news-gatherers blames Israeli actions and financial sanctions against the Hamas-led Palestinian government for causing violence in the territories.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is dismissed as a “lame duck”, exuding “an air of incompetence”.

In the face of strong criticism from Jewish leaders, Mr Bowen has defended the document, insisting that it does not reflect BBC policy, but was produced to inform senior journalists about anticipated stories.

The memo, seen by the JC, was addressed to, among others, BBC deputy director-general Mark Byford and the corporation’s editorial board.

Mr Bowen wrote: “What is new... is the way that Palestinian society, which used to draw strength from resistance to the occupation, is now fragmenting. The reason is the death of hope, caused by a cocktail of Israel’s military activities, land expropriation and settlement building.” The problem was aggravated by financial sanctions which were destroying Palestinian institutions.

Mr Bowen said that such memos were part of his job, and did not accept that he had singled out Israel for criticism. “I think it is a dangerous time in the Middle East. Ehud Olmert is looking for ideas and meanwhile the Palestinians have internecine violence.”

Board of Deputies boss Jon Benjamin said the memo could be construed as “revealing a lack of evenhandedness”.
On the subject of "Jewish leaders," the JC leader is quite revealing:
Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s experienced and journalistically respected Middle East editor, will doubtless be vexed to discover himself at the centre of the story. Yet his “mini briefing on the Israeli [sic] and Palestinians”, emailed to senior corporation executives and editors last Friday, was bound to leak out and cause his own impartiality to be questioned. No matter how internally focused his purpose, no matter how considered and reasoned his foreign-policy analysis, Bowen ought not to be surprised that his personal opinions are being taken to reflect BBC policy. He dismisses Ehud Olmert as a “lame duck” exuding “an air of incompetence”; he sees a “death of hope, caused by a cocktail of Israel’s military activities, land expropriation and settlement building”; he notes Israel “destroying Palestinian institutions” and highlights the “non-stop pressures of the Israeli occupation” on Palestinians. If this is how the BBC truly thinks when the curtain of impartiality is thrown open, it is no wonder that it is terrified of releasing the Balen report into its coverage. To restore any credibility among Jewish viewers seeking balanced coverage of Israel, director-general Mark Thompson must release the Balen report without delay.
Hmm, the Balen report? Why is the JC so eager for a report on the BBC that was supposed to be impartial? And why is it so difficult for "Jewish leaders" to get a copy when they can get their hands on an internal BBC memo.

I said when Balen was appointed by the Beeb that he was a zionism tsar. It looks like the JC thinks so too.

Anyway, back to Bowen. Check out this article in today's Independent:
The pivotal moment in his career - "in my life", he corrects - was the Israeli tank attack on the Mercedes car in which he and two colleagues were travelling through southern Lebanon in 2000. At the moment of the attack, Bowen and his cameramen Malek Kanaan were a short distance away doing a piece to camera. Their fixer and driver Abed Takkoush had remained in the vehicle to make a phone call to his son.

With the car in flames, the tank's machine gun prevented Bowen from going to his friend's aid. "I felt like a coward," he writes. "I decided I could not save him and that I had to save myself. The ending was not happy. Life is not a film."
Now to be even-handed, it could have been the driver's fault for sitting in the car but it does look like yet another straight forward case of an Israeli war criminal killing an innocent man.

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