Saturday 22 November 2014

Tom Gross on the BBC's attitude to Israel

Here are some interesting comments about the BBC's reporting of Israel from former Daily Telegraph reporter Tom Gross, taken from an interview featured on the Israeli media site Nana 10

He was speaking about the mistakes made in media articles about Israel in the wake of the terrorist murders at the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue in Jerusalem:
- Of course the media should be critical of Israel when it's deserved but they shouldn't hold Israel to a standard that they don't hold to any other country in the world, even to themselves. 
- The mistakes have a context. Often the bias is subconscious, so that people are not even aware that they're being biased. In the past there was an analysis done of mistakes in the New York Times about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Every single mistake was against Israel. Something like 17 mistakes were made against Israel. Zero mistakes were against the Palestinians. The journalists themselves and the news anchors need to try and be balanced or fair. I mean that's part of the job.
- I'm in touch which quite a lot of senior editors and I myself pointed out mistakes to them in private meetings and they kind of brushed them aside. They don't care. It's not only errors to do with today. We saw on the BBC an interview with morning with Naftali Bennett and the BBC presenter said "Take that down. Take that down. We don't want to see that picture". Now, you have to understand, the BBC this summer showed pictures of dead Palestinians day after day, hour after hour. Much worse pictures. And there is a kind of unspoken policy at the BBC that when Palestinians are victims they show the pictures in their bloodiest form but when Jews or Israelis are victims they don't want to see any pictures.
- Certainly Israeli government officials could do a better job at public relations. There's no doubt. However, the amount of coverage, the amount of attention this small country receives is out of all proportion to the size and importance of the country. So even with the best spokespeople in the world Israeli spokespeople would still have a difficult job at dealing with the sheer quantity of journalists asking questions. Part of the questions have to be asked: Why, for example, this summer, the BBC had more reporters in Gaza than they had when Britain helped to invade Iraq in 2003, and Baghdad and Basra? In other words, the BBC had more foreign reporters in Gaza than they sent to Iraq and Afghanistan in wars that British troops were fighting in. And they would say, some of them, that it's not because they are against Israel. They would say it's because they care so much about Israel. Maybe that's what they say but I have my doubts about it in many cases. 


  1. There's no doubt the focus on Israel is out of all proportion. There are land disputes between states and peoples all over the planet, very sadly. Israel has a better claim to its slice of land than most - given its coming into existence was specifically approved of by the UN.

    I don't approve of Zionist-style expansion on to the West Bank, but equally I don't approve of China occupying Tibet and committing cultural genocide there (cultural genocide is an official UN term by the way). How often do we hear about Tibet? Or Western Sahara? Or Nigeria's illegal occupation of Cameroonian territory? Or Bolivia's attempts to reinstate its coastal territory? Or Mexican resentment about its lost territories in the USA?

    Very little is the answer.

    The BBC will reply that this focus is all because of the geopolitical significance. Dubious. There's not much oil to speak there, though gas reserves have been discovered recently.

    If you are looking for a potential spark for World War Three, then the China Sea island disputes seem to have much more scope to get out of hand.

    It's difficult to say what motivates the BBC. It used to be v. pro-Israel, pro Zionist when that was seen more as a left wing cause (I think Stalin was the first to recognise Israel by the way). Their Jerusalem correspondent used to be an out and out Zionist. Whereas, by contrast the Foreign Office was always pro-Arab and all for doing down the Jews.

    I think part of it is they follow American media pretty slavishly and with the heavy Jewish American interest in issues, they just reflect that.

    Anyway, it's time they grew up and started reporting on events more even-handedly around the globe.

    Dan Read

    1. Yes, I'd forgotten about the China Sea island disputes. They don't seem to have been reported much recently, but they've doubtless not got any less worrying.

      Could it be that the lure of an emotionally-exciting 'big cause akin to the anti-apartheid cause, which lures many a left-wing mind, might be infecting instinctively like-minded BBC reporters? Student politics writ large? "Israel is pro-Western. The West is bad, m'kay. Therefore Israel is bad" or "Israel is too Western and successful in a region of poor, sad-eyed 'others', and we must always side with 'others' because that's what people like us are all about"?

  2. Oh, they care about Israel, alright. They care about seeing it delegitimized and broken up. Showing pictures of dead Jews would be tantamount to taking Israel's side, so they must actively shut it down. Showing pictures of dead Palestinian children, on the other hand, is merely reporting the facts. That's the inherent bias at the BBC.

    No memo needed to be sent, no directive from on high necessary to force the presenter to call for that picture to be taken down. The bias happens naturally because they all think the same way already. It's institutional, and the only way to stop it is a complete purge.


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