January 24, 2009

More on BBC's part in Israel's war on Gaza

No, not the propaganda war, they've always played their part in that. This, for those who have only just tuned in, is about the Beeb surpassing even its own cravenness to Israel by blocking a charity appeal for funds for Gaza. I've done two posts on that now, here and here, actually three if you count the notice for the today's demo against the BBC. Well now here's a little crop of letters from the Guardian on the subject followed by a little bit more detail on the UK government's position on the matter of the BBC helping the UK government's favourite colonial settler state:
I couldn't believe I'd heard right when Channel 4 news said the BBC had refused to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Gaza. But here it is in the Guardian (BBC refuses airtime to Gaza aid appeal, 23 January). I don't think the BBC objected to the appeal for Darfur, wondering if they were being unfair to the Janjaweed. Perhaps their problem would be solved if a tiny proportion of the money were spent on the tiny proportion of Israeli wounded. The phone number for complaining to the BBC is 03700 100 222.

Caryl Churchill

As a former senior news editor in the BBC, I was astonished at its decision to veto the DEC's Gaza appeal. It is absurd to suggest that broadcasting a strictly humanitarian appeal for 1.4 million desperately needy civilians risked "compromising public confidence in the BBC's impartiality". It is also offensive, particularly to millions of Muslims in the UK and overseas who are easily persuaded that the BBC is a British government mouthpiece. The decision risks undermining, in their eyes, years of courageous and impartial reporting of the conflict by Jeremy Bowen, Orla Guerin and colleagues. It's a shameful mistake which the BBC must reverse.
Jon Barton
Former editor, Today and BBC1 Six O'Clock News, Watlington, Oxfordshire

I presume in a similar attempt to remain balanced, the British Red Cross website says its Gaza appeal is in response to the "desperate humanitarian situation in Gaza and Israel". I don't think it is appropriate for the BRC to refer to the situation in Israel as a "desperate humanitarian" one. It is not their job to appear politically balanced, it is their job to respond to humanitarian need. In Gaza the need is overwhelming; thousands have been injured, thousands more made homeless and many hospitals have been destroyed. The relatively few Israelis who have been injured have access to some of the best medical care in the world and a government in a position to rehouse them immediately. Striving to achieve balance in humanitarian aid to the detriment of need would be a grave development for the millions of civilians caught up in conflict around the world.
Isabel Phillips

Does the BBC really want us to ignore the cries of the children in Gaza, and are we now to seek BBC guidance in deciding what nationalities are to be treated like animals and which deserve our aid?
Jacqui McCarney

Who's lobbying the BBC on this. Where are all the investigative journalists?
Cllr Karen Barratt
Winchester, Hampshire

And here's the government's position as reported in the Guardian, for what it's worth:
Douglas Alexander, the international development secretary, yesterday rebuked Britain's broadcasters for refusing to air an emergency appeal for Gaza by Britain's Disasters Emergency Committee.

In a letter to the BBC, Sky and ITV, Alexander expressed his "disappointment" that the appeal would not be broadcast.

The BBC refused to broadcast the humanitarian appeal for Gaza on the grounds that it did not want to risk public confidence in its impartiality.

The decision meant that other broadcasters also refused to air the appeal by the committee, the umbrella group for 13 aid charities.

A BBC spokesperson said: "The decision was made because of question marks about the delivery of aid in a volatile situation and also to avoid any risk of compromising public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in the context of [a] news story."

This is so freaky. The BBC has actually offered two excuses for what amounts to an act on the Palestinians on behalf of Israel and neither reason connects with the other. They could be saying that the deliverers of aid might be in danger in which case they are accusing Israel of endangering civilians. On the other hand they are saying that if they broadcast the extent of need in Gaza they will inadvertently expose the fact that Israel has been targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Now some good might come of this. The Beeb has been exposed as colluding in Israel's war on the Palestinians. That's good news. Even the UK government is embarrassed about this. That's good news too. The brouhaha has drawn as much attention to the aid agencies as the broadcast might have and, given the government's intervention, the broadcast might still be shown. That would be doubly good news. And since this story has taken on a life of its own, the BBC's website is now carrying a story about the planned protest against itself later today.

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