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News Media Last Updated: Jan 28th, 2009 - 01:12:54

BBC exemplifies anti-Palestinian bias
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jan 28, 2009, 00:22

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By refusing to air an appeal for Gaza relief by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) that umbrella�s numerous charities, including the British Red Cross, Save the Children and Oxfam, the British national broadcaster has displayed its lily-livered editorial colours.

Ironically, the BBC has refused the DEC�s request on the basis that it does not want to show bias on this sensitive political issue.

Over 100,000 Palestinians homeless, 5,000 requiring medical care and up to one million without the basic necessities of life, yet Britain�s national broadcaster has chosen to turn its back on them for fear of offending its pro-Israel viewers. Heaven forbid Israelis and their cheerleaders should be miffed over anyone who wants to alleviate suffering inflicted by lame duck Israeli leaders flexing their muscle in the hope of winning votes!

The BBC�s management has also rejected the urging of government officials, parliamentarians, clergy, thousands of protestors, and over 11,000 written complaints from the public. It is not alone. At the time of writing only ITV, Channel 4 and Channel Five have agreed to run the appeal.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, chastised the BBC, saying, �This is not an appeal by Hamas asking for arms but by the Disasters Emergency Committee asking for relief.�

Channel 4�s seasoned journalist Jon Snow described the BBC�s decision as �ludicrous� and founded on �complete ignorance.�

Snow is one of a handful of television journalists who has been prepared to investigate how Israeli propaganda has influenced the West�s reporting of the Gaza massacre. His recent video report, Unseen Gaza (available on the Internet), is a jewel.

It shows how Western reporters were barred from entering Gaza during Israel�s onslaught and were instead treated to a display of mangled metal purported to be exploded Hamas rockets and a fat folder of Israel Defence Forces press releases before being corralled by Israeli security some distance away from the Gaza Strip. Interestingly, though, there has been an absence of on-air complaints by Western news desks; those same networks that condemned Zimbabwe for banning their journalists.

Snow rightly dismisses Israel�s claim that its restrictions were put in place for the safety of reporters. He suggests the Israeli government was fearful of allowing impartial on-the-ground coverage in light of the heart-breaking stories that emanated from Lebanon in 2006, contributing to that war being cut short.

Israel�s gag attempts prove that it does not want the results of its handiwork to appear in the public arena. When interviewed by Al Jazeera, Israel�s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni attacked that network for its unvarnished footage of Palestinian victims. The last thing Israel wants from an international public relations perspective is televised appeals depicting Gaza�s incineration at a time it is being accused of committing war crimes.

Shamefully, the BBC and other British networks have pandered to the Israeli government�s position by rejecting the DEC appeal, whereas previously they have aired those relating to Darfur, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As Snow points out, Western channels have sanitised the conflict. Whereas, Al Jazeera or Press TV won�t hesitate to show the mangled or charred bodies of babies, the BBC, Sky News and CNN prefer a fleeting glimpse of, say, an infant�s shoe or a teddy bear amid the rubble. This translates to Western audiences being unable to relate emotionally to the full extent of the horror.

A story relegated to the Internet that will forever be etched in my mind is that of a traumatised young girl, around 13 or 14, picking through the wasteland that was once her home to find mementoes of her dead parents and brothers. She had no one left except her grandmother; yet sight of the family�s ginger cat elicited a moment of sheer joy. It was poignant yet somehow hopeful.

Western networks have often bent over backwards to display what they call �balance� during this conflict by attempting to equate Gaza�s utter devastation with, say, a roof blown off a house in Ashkelon or Sderot. At the same time, they invariably follow video of Palestinian children crying for their dead parents with footage of tearful Israeli kids upset at having to sleep in a bomb shelter. Notice, too, how they frame strikes on a virtually unarmed and caged population by the most powerful military in the region as a �war against Hamas!�

Snow is the only interviewer to my knowledge who seriously challenged the absurd claims of that smug Israeli spokesperson, Mark Regev, concerning Israel�s use of white phosphorus in heavily populated areas, the destruction of the UN school as well as Israel�s official party line that Hamas has been using civilians as human shields.

When an uncharacteristically agitated Regev asked, �How do you know that some of these injuries weren�t caused, for example, by Hamas munitions�? Snow responded thus: �Mr Regev are you now saying it is not the Israelis who dropped the phosphorus and the fragmentation bombs, it was Hamas? Is that your allegation?� At last, a courageous voice in a colourless sea of media ninnies! If only there were more.

As for the BBC, once the most respected television and radio broadcaster in this region, it has lost all credibility. It should no longer be known affectionately as �Aunty Beeb� when it�s behaving more like a toothless, gutless �hard-hearted Hannah�

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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