Sunday 24 March 2013

Getting it wrong

Israel has apologised to Turkey in a deal brokered by Obama. Well, he had to come away with something. 
This leaves the BBC in a slightly uncomfortable position. But not to worry. They are reporting the apology as though, apart from one blot on their anti-Israel copybook, they were right all along. They are implying that the apology was an admission of guilt by Israel.

A once-in-a-lifetime piece of unbiased reporting broadcast by the BBC, based largely on IDF footage, came down firmly on the side of reason.  Jane Corbin, who normally conforms to the BBC anti-Israel attitude, did a remarkably fair job on her Mavi Marmara Panorama "Death on the Med."

 She showed that the violence by the activists on board the ship was deliberate and pre-planned, that the Israelis were acting legally in apprehending the ship, that there were sufficient warnings, that the other shipping in the flotilla came to no harm, that the Israeli soldiers had paint-guns and that the real shooting was initiated by the peace activists.  She was heavily criticised for pointing out these unpalatable things at the time too.

Of course the rest of the BBC stuck to their customary approach, continuing to describe  the flotilla as a 'peace convoy' and the Mavi Marmara as an ‘aid ship’ despite the fact that the “aid” was as non-existent as Saddam’s WMDs. 

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s antisemitic ravings were played down, as well as the filmed ‘suicide videos’ of the activists and the rousing ‘into battle’ speeches at the flotilla send-off.

The Israelis had one thing to apologise for, namely that they were woefully unprepared for the hostility and violence that awaited them. That really was a regrettable mistake. Perhaps somehow there might have been fewer deaths if they knew in advance that there was going to be a running battle on board ship. They might not have used a helicopter.  Perhaps they would have disabled the ship or something. Who knows.
Has the BBC disowned the one Panorama that told the truth? It looks that way.


Someone has organised a petition asking the BBC to hold a public enquiry into the BBC’s bias towards Israel. "That’s a laugh," says the Commentator. The thing is, it’s not really very amusing. For one thing, the Balen report was kept away from the public, at great cost to the publicly funded BBC. The secrecy led everyone to assume that it contained damning information which confirmed the BBC’s anti-Israel bias. What else could one think?
If this is indeed the case, it seems probable that a *public* enquiry would only be set before the public if the desired outcome was obtained. Since the BBC allegedly receives as many complaints about pro-Israel bias as anti, the likelihood that this proposition will get the go-ahead is not as ridiculous as it might at first appear. 

I have often wondered what constitutes the substance of any of these ‘pro-Israel bias’ complaints.
There is plenty of substance to the anti-Israel ones, which are set out in considerable detail by the dedicated pro-Israel blog BBC Watch, and in a variety of more generally focused blogs such as the Commentator, Melanie Phillips, Biased-BBC and the redoubtable Harry’s Place which is *down* at present. 
The ‘pro’ complaints seem to consist mainly of indignant outrage at the first sight of any Israeli spokesperson that happens to appear on T.V. The consensus at the BBC is such, that what Mark Mardell calls ‘the centre of gravity’ is set well over to the Palestinian side, and BBCers don’t actually seem aware that they are breeching their impartiality obligations in doing what they do.  Until they get a full handle on the antisemitism that prevails in the Muslim world, they won’t change. Even Mehdi Hasan has noticed, though I can’t find it in my heart to trust a man who openly preaches to other Muslims that we infidels are cattle.


Here’s the BBC Complaints department’s answer to the listener who sent in a complaint during Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense November 2012. It’s the BBC’s attempt to justify what they erroneously assumed was a complaint about pro-Israel bias, but in defending themselves against this accusation they play into the hands of the ‘antis’ by making a sincere attempt to prove their anti-Israel credentials. 
“We understand you feel our coverage has shown bias in favour of Israel’s actions in Gaza. We have received a wide range of feedback about our coverage of this upsurge in violence. Bearing in mind the pressure on resources, the response below strives to address the majority of concerns raised but we apologise in advance if not all of the specific points you have mentioned have been answered in the manner you prefer.”
Obviously in this case whoever looked at the original complaint hadn’t managed to comprehend the contents at all. 

BBC News strives to report in an impartial, accurate and fair manner and we believe this has been the case with our coverage of the recent violence in Gaza and Israel.” Since Israel launched ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’ on November 14 2012, our correspondents on the ground in Gaza – Jon Donnison, Wyre Davies and Chief of the BBC News Jerusalem Bureau Paul Danahar, have detailed the level of destruction caused by Israeli strikes from air and sea on the area. Our main news bulletins on BBC One and Radio 4 have focused on the loss of life in Gaza.”
 This illustrates the BBC’s willful gullibility in relaying the Palestinians’ cynical exploitation of civilian casualties by parading them in front of the cameras. The BBC proudly admit that they *focus* on the loss of life in Gaza. Why should an impartial body do such a thing?  Specially as it replaces serious analysis of this state of affairs, and seems to be a substitute for giving viewers a full explanation of the underlying reasons for it. They proceed to give an elaborate illustration:
 “For example, the first story during the BBC One bulletin at 2200 on 18 November read as follows: “International pressure for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is mounting after the deadliest day of violence in the region so far. Reports say 26 people were killed in Gaza by Israeli airstrikes – and more rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel – including two shot down over Tel Aviv by Israel’s “iron dome” defence system.” Reports from Gaza have also explained the level of Palestinian civilian casualties, in particular the deaths of women and children. Jon Donnison’s report during the News at Ten on 14 November explained that: “For the people of Gaza tonight it looked like war. And as in most wars, civilians, caught up in the violence.”“Gaza’s hospitals are expected to face a busy night, with more casualties this evening, among them children and at least one baby.
This is the BBC, defending themselves against what they believe to be an accusation of pro-Israel bias. Their proud boast is that they show children and at least one baby, to show the viewers, what?  That Israel is brutal and heartless, killing babies a great deal, willy nilly. Is that anti-Israel enough for you dear Mr. Complainant?
 “We have seen reports which looked at Israel’s tactic of deploying strikes in a heavily overpopulated urban setting, Wyre Davies’ report for the News at Six on 19 November said: “This was a clear message from Israel that anything or anyone associated with the militants is a legitimate target. Israel has, though, struggled to explain this huge bombing yesterday. Military sources told an Israeli newspaper the house was hit by mistake. Israel now says the bombing was deliberate, but their target, a senior Hamas commander, may not have been there, but at least ten people, including four children, were there and were killed. Israel justifies these attacks in urban areas because it says the militants hide among civilian populations, and the problem with such a policy is that civilians are always at risk.” 
Wyre Davies has interpreted Israel’s *clear message*. “Anyone or anything associated with the militants is a legitimate target.” he says. But is that really Israel’s message? 
Even if it were, where does the BBC interpret the *clear message* that comes from Gaza in the form of random rockets aimed deliberately at Israelis? Or the even clearer message embedded in the Hamas charter and proclaimed from the rooftops in front of anyone who cares to listen; not, obviously anyone from the BBC.    
 “Our main news bulletins have also heard live accounts from presenters Lyse Doucet, with further analysis from Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen. Such analysis has looked at the wider political context of the conflict, including the impending election in Israel, the relationship with a new Egypt and the effects of Israel’s blockade on Gaza. “
The BBC’s predictions and analyses of the impending elections were way off the mark, and the effects of the blockade have indeed been looked at by the BBC to an extraordinary degree while at the same time the effects of racketeering and corruption by Hamas, and the daily delivery of materials from Israel have been largely unreported.
“We have continued to follow diplomatic efforts to reach a truce, featuring live press conferences on the BBC News Channel from interlocutors such as the Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt and the Arab League. We have also heard from a wide range of Palestinian and Arab commentators on the BBC News Channel and during flagship programmes such as radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme. This has included Jihad Haddad, adviser to President Morsi, Abdel al-Bari Atwan, the editor in chief of Al-Quds Al Arabi, Adel Darwish -commentator on Middle East affairs and Dr Omar Ashour from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter University. In hearing from these voices and from our own correspondents, we believe we have explored the political, military and humanitarian aspects of this recent conflict. We will continue to strive to report on the story in an impartial manner.” 
What on earth makes the BBC think that any of these people can explore any of the things above in an impartial manner? They’re all polemicists with political axes to grind, and they’re paraded before UK audiences relentlessly, usually without the truthful, contextual introduction that true impartiality would require. If anything they are simply labeled ‘Middle East experts.” 
Do we hear spokespersons from the opposite political position as often? On the rare occasions someone like Mark Regev is given air time, are they treated in the reverential manner that, say, Gavin Esler treats Abdel Bari Atwan, the person who says he would be delighted if a nuclear bomb fell on Tel Aviv? No they are not. They are spoken to with disdain and audible sneers.
 “We’d also like to assure you we’ve registered your complaint on our audience log.  This is an internal report of audience feedback which we compile daily and is available for viewing by all our staff.  This includes all news editors and reporters, along with our staff.  and senior management.  It ensures that your points, along with all other comments we receive, are considered across the BBC.”
Let’s hope they’ve registered this one in the correct pile.

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