Thursday, 17 July 2014

Londonistan

The subject of “the BBC’s bias towards Israel” was brought to us on the Today programme yesterday because it was thought very odd that the BBC failed to report the noisy protest outside its own building the previous day. (2:38 mins in.)

In the parallel world that Craig alluded to in his recent post, that omission could be yet another indication of the BBC’s bias towards Israel. The real reason is probably because the BBC doesn’t think it has any kind of bias, so its nonexistent bias is not a subject it would wish to include in news bulletins. 
However, they might mention it if one of the protesters was killed during it. Looking at the footage on Daphne Anson’s  website, that possibility isn’t as far-fetched as it might at first appear. The mindless chanting, the reckless posturing on the roofs of vehicles, the pent up fury and the menacing attack on a Jewish lady passer-by.  Well, this is what the politicians have lumbered us with, and this is what “up with we must put”. 

Greg Philo is “Professor of communications and social change” at Glasgow University.
(What’s happened to university professorship? The standards have plunged down a deep dark precipice along with British values, Woolworths and the BBC) He sounds uncannily like Ken Livingstone. Maybe he is Ken Livingstone?

Greg Philo has a massive axe to grind. He co-wrote a book about propaganda. Not just any old propaganda. Purportedly about Zionist propaganda, it seems the book was itself a rabidly anti-Zionist diatribe. I haven’t read it myself, but the excerpts from it, which many Israel-bashers cite to bolster their arguments indicate that he is not a reliable judge of what constitutes impartiality. He wouldn’t know impartiality if it was delivered to him by direct hit with a M-75 rocket.

I have no idea why Professor Philo has taken up with this particular cause. For some reason he identifies with the Islamist terrorists Hamas and accepts their justification for using violence to ‘resist the Jews’. 

I do hope he gets his wish that the BBC agrees to broadcast debates on what he calls the “historical analysis of events”. If they were able to procure a legitimate panel of bona fide historians for this purpose, professor Philo’s woefully skewed interpretation of ‘history’ would certainly be shown up for the dumbed-down ahistorical nonsense that it is. 

In order to clarify exactly what Professor Philo was defending, I recommend a visit to Daphne Anson’s and Edgar Davidson’s websites, and though I hate to do it, I'm posting this video,



For posterity, I’ve transcribed the interview with Mishal Husain. I’ve left out the interruptions because they’re un-transcribable, but suffice it to say they all emanate from the professor. 

(Mishal Husain’s debut  was memorable for her infamous Jeremy Paxman moment last time round, when she harangued Gil Hoffman with the “How many Israelis have died” question, repeated over and over merely to elicit the answer  - none -  presumably to illustrate that the Israelis had no business responding to the rocket attacks, which she ended up famously describing as ‘homemade contraptions’.  She acquired a bit of a reputation, which I suspect she is keen to  shake off, as in this interview she appeared relatively even-handed, apart from when she said “That’s a serious allegation you make” which, surprisingly turned out to be a reference to the BBC’s coverage and not the actual serious allegation: “Israel is a brutal apartheid state”)

*************
MH:
Greg Philo, are the protesters right? Have we been biased at the BBC in favour of Israel?

GP:
I think the protesters are doing the BBC a favour. I think they will help the  journalists to give a better perspective. I have had senior journalists at the BBC many times saying they cannot get the Palestinian viewpoint across, that the perspective they can’t say, which  is the Palestinian view which is that Israel is a brutal apartheid state.

MH:
Right. That’s a serious allegation you make  about the coverage. I mean you have sat down and watched many hours, haven’t you, of news. As you watch that news coverage of the BBC and other broadcasters, what is the full picture you would say you get of coverage of the conflict?

GP:
Well the Palestinian perspective is just not there. The Israelis are on twice as much, the Palestinian view, and the historical analysis of the events is that they were displaced from their land and are living under military rule. If you go out to focus groups here people do not even understand that it’s a military occupation that the Palestinians are subject to. They don’t know about the economic blockade. They don’t know about the consequences of that in Palestinian life. Palestinians live as they see it under..

MH:
Two different points there. One is about the amount of airtime that both sides get and one is about the bigger picture, the context. Well we do, we do have many reporters inside Gaza, notably Jeremy Bowen the Middle East editor, he’s been reporting on civilian casualties, reporting on the morgue.

GP:
Yes but the issue is the roots of the conflict - the problem with the coverage is that it doesn’t refer to the history of it, that the Palestinians are a displaced people that they were forced to flee from Israel, that they lost their homes and lands, that, that the occupation and the way it’s conducted is illegal, that they lose their water, that they have their, their lives in effect stolen from them. Even if the BBC can’t give the Palestinian view it should at least respect international law. They should at least.... just let me finish that point,,,, the BBC should at least be saying, reporting the international judgments on things like the wall and.....

MH:
Jonathan Freedland, is there a lack of a longer term perspective and  acknowledgement of the past history of this conflict as well as the present?

JF:
I’m sure your correspondents Jeremy Bowen and others would say that  it’s impossible in a 60 second report give the history of what is, at the minimum a hundred and twenty year plus conflict. It’s difficult for them to do that in every dispatch. I wouldn’t tell.. (unintelligible)  ...but the thing I couldn’t help notice is that the criticisms we’ve just heard there would be made and are made in exactly the same kind of detail on the other side of the argument.
So you mentioned that i write a monthly column for the Jewish Chronicle. Jewish Chronicle readers will denounce the BBC for failing to give the history that explains the Jewish people’s historic need to have a homeland of their own, for their long period of exile leading to the return to Israel. They would say exactly the same things and they would be incensed by what you say


GP:
I say rather more critical things than that Jonathan,.....

JF:
Sure....both sides......

GP:
The best coverage has come from Haaretz! If you look at Gideon Levy’s piece....

JF:
But but.....could I finish.....

MH:
Greg Philo, just let Jonathan Freedland finish....


JF:
We’ve heard a lot from you and of course I’m an admirer of the Haaretz newspaper in Israel too, but they’re in a different position because here the BBC is explaining to an audience outside the region what’s going on, but you know Greg Philo mentioned there’s no reference to the occupation etc. pro-Israel  get upset - that it’s described your own correspondents are doing it now, as illegal settlements - they always describe it as occupied east Jerusalem I think that’s fine , that’s accurate but it’s wrong to say the occupation is not acknowledged.....

....can I just finish..

MH:

Just wait for a second I’ll come back to you...


JF:

...a bit of equal time. i think the argument is, the difference this time, it’s true that the BBC was under huge assault last time from pro Israel people much less than from people who are anti-Israel, this time it’s different I think because people feel that this time the BBC is acknowledging that even though the death toll is very lopsided in the current conflict, no-one can deny that - and I think there is the understanding that despite that there is a mutual exchange of fire going on here, Hamas is firing rockets, Israel is doing airstrikes, that has been absorbed into the coverage in a way that I think perhaps was missing last time.


MH:
Greg Philo I wonder if you thing, if you would agree that there has been a change then, since the last time we reported Israeli military action on Gaza. Of course the media landscape has changed, social media is a force to be reckoned with.

GP:

I think it’s pretty much a carbon copy of what we found last time, to be honest as far as I can see what bothers me really is that unless there is a proper discussion of the root causes of this, unless the politicians are made to confront the history of this and to talk seriously about the conditions under which the Palestinians have been reduced, unless they understand and are forced to confront the history of it, the displacement of a a people, people who in the words of a BBC, a senior BBC journalist said to me we cannot get across the view that the Palestinians are a displaced people who are fighting to overthrow what they see as a brutal military rule.


MH:
Yes, well...

GP:

We can’t get that across....


MH:
Yes, you made that, you made that particular point already i....

GP:
Without that how can you have a proper debate...


MH:
The statement that the BBC has given us says that we report widely on different aspects of this ongoing  and complex conflict; our role is to explain what is happening and why, and we endeavour to reflect a range of voices amid deeply held views. Thank you both.


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