Tuesday, 24 May 2011

On BBC Bias

The Guardian really plugged the Israel haters yesterday; as well as publishing a letter from the senior editor of the pro-Hamas MEMO, they also published an article alleging that the BBC is biased towards Israel, by Tim Llewellyn, another of the speakers at MEMO's debate yesterday on the same subject.

Llewellyn's agenda is evident from the beginning. In the second paragraph he claims:
"The BBC coverage of Israel and Palestine, where another state continually kills and oppresses Arabs, is replete with imbalance and distortion".
His summing up of the conflict, as Israel intentionally and maliciously oppressing the Palestinians for no apparent reason is simply absurd and the fact that he follows this by lecturing the BBC on "imbalance and distortion" renders his entire article a joke.

He lists ways the media is supposedly biased towards Israel, according to a book co-written by Greg Philo, also a speaker at the debate:
"They find that the Israeli explanation of why it went to war on a mainly defenceless Gazan population is the one broadly accepted by the BBC. It was a 'response' to Palestinian rockets. The Palestinian case, that the Israelis violated a ceasefire that had held for nearly five months in November 2008, and that the Gazans had endured many years of intensifying siege and blockade, which had reduced them to stagnation and penury, was rarely put, if at all... The BBC repeatedly stressed the word [Israeli] 'retaliation'". 
But Israel didn't go to war on the "defenceless Gazan population", it targetted Hamas and the evidence is in the ratio of civilians to terrorists killed; much lower than in other conflicts, with Hamas confessing to over 700 terrorists being killed, all this bearing in mind all the precautions Israel took to minimize civilian casualties, and the fact that Hamas used the Palestinians as human shields. Also it is undeniable that the war was a response - Hamas fired about 200 rockets into Israel in November 2008. They are entirely to blame for the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, so Llewellyn's complaints are void.

"They cite a BBC reporter saying: 'Israel feels itself surrounded by enemies, with reason.' They add: 'We have not found a commentary noting that 'Palestinians feel themselves to be subject to a brutal military occupation, with reason.' Israel's official view is given as fact, they say, but the Palestinian view, on the rare occasions it is found at all, is not. Israelis 'state', Palestinians 'claim'."
The first point above is true, the media hardly ever cite the real reasons for the conflict, how aside from the fact that Hamas want to destroy Israel, they also constantly act directly against the Palestinians' best interests. As for the second point, it's just not true - Palestinians' lies are constantly repeated as fact (eg. Israel murdered a peaceful protestor with tear gas), and when the truth comes out (she wasn't even at the protest, she died of medical issues), the media never report what actually happened. On the rare occasion that they do say the Palestinians "claim", well, it might be because it's not unheard of for Palestinians to tell outright lies. (eg. Palestinians "claim" Israel eats Palestinian babies; Palestinians "claim" there is no Jewish connection to the land of Israel etc etc).
"Israeli attacks are always reported as retaliation to Palestinian violence or rockets, and the idea that Palestinian rockets, however ineffective, are armed resistance to Israel's hammering from land, sea and air is rarely broadcast. The daily indignities and brutalities of the siege and the occupation and the shelling and shooting of civilians are virtually absent from BBC consciousness unless an attack on Israel sparks interest."
Here Llewellyn shows that he views rockets targetted at innocent civilians as a justified "response" ("resistance") to Israel killing the terrorists who fire the rockets. That and the fact that he calls the rockets "ineffective" when just last month an Israeli schoolboy was killed, is insane and obscene. And whilst it is constantly reported when Palestinians are killed, whether they are terrorists, or civilians where terrorists had just fired rockets from their back garden, the most common, almost daily, Palestinian attacks deliberately targetted at Israeli civilians (whether by rocks or rockets, both can be fatal) are rarely reported, much less when they celebrate and boast about it.
"what is missing from the coverage is the view that the Palestinians are engaged in a war of national liberation, trying to throw off an occupying force. Any Israeli casualty is headline news, shown in high quality images. BBC teams are based in West Jerusalem, de facto Israeli territory, and are on hand. Arab casualties may be shown in reports of a funeral, usually agency film, the victim anonymous"
This is just so untrue I really wonder where they get their "evidence" for this. Again Llewellyn demonstrates that he views Israeli citizens, whether a three month old baby or a 16 year old schoolboy or a pregnant woman, as legitimate targets because they are "an occupying force". And again, his second point is a blatant lie. Not only are Palestinian deaths reported in great detail - both visually and in words - and often out of context (if it's civilians ignoring how they are used as human shields, if it's terrorists showing their families mourning), but Israeli deaths are reported with much of the focus on how it would be considered Israel's fault, for example where the victims are called "hardline" settlers as though it's ok to kill a baby just because she lives on land that the Palestinians claim is theirs.

When Philo and Berry interviewed students, they found that they:
"were largely unaware of the Israeli occupation, often believing the Palestinians are the occupiers. Few knew that Hamas had been democratically elected in January 2006. 'I had the impression they were a terrorist group from watching the BBC' said one respondent."
Which is a bizarre quote to use to try to back up their claims of BBC bias, because everyone know Hamas is a terrorist organistaion, even they don't try to hide it - and just because they were "elected" doesn't change that fact. Just Journalism "recently addressed how a BBC profile of Hamas downplayed the Islamist group’s targeting of civilians and its extremist ideology."
If all that wasn't bad enough so far, Llewellyn ends the article by claiming that after 9/11:
"Israel and its friends were quick to capitalise on 'terror' and 'Arabs' and massively enhanced their propaganda here, gaining access to BBC staff at all levels".
So not only is he accusing Israel (or the "Zionist/Jewish lobby") of forcing the media to report what they tell them; he also accuses Israel of exploiting "terror" in quote marks, as if it doesn't exist and Israel's never experienced the consequences of terrorism. It's more than just ironic that Llewellyn's antisemitic implication of Jewish control over the media claims that the media is afraid of being called antisemitic, because this very claim seeks to undermine defenders of Israel and balanced reporting as "playing the antisemite card".

I've found fisking this article to be totally surreal, I can't quite believe the lies I've read. And it's even more surreal that I'm having to write in defence of the BBC's reporting, especially considering that there are so many instances where they clearly are biased against Israel.

For example, Just Journalism found Wyre Davies' BBC:
"analysis of Israel’s negative response to the Fatah-Hamas unity deal declines to engage directly with the reasons why Israel might be perturbed by Hamas being brought into the process, alternatively choosing to portray a gleeful Netanyahu with a new ‘message’ to ‘take to the wider world...
Davies denigrates any treatment of Hamas as a terrorist group, making absolutely no reference to the organisation’s long history of killing and maiming Israeli civilians in targeted attacks, which is the basis for the application of the terrorist label. He makes no reference to, nor takes account of, high profile recent statements by Hamas leaders that they will never accept Israel and want to see it expunged from the Middle East."
Meanwhile I look forward to Philo. Berry and Llewellyn's defence of Press TV.

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