Saturday, February 02, 2008

Reply to the BBC

Dear Tarik,

Hope you are well. Thank you for your considered response to my complaint. I too in turn have taken some time considering your reply. However, I am rather perplexed that rather than answer the specific charges that I made, you decided to cite BBC articles that purport to show the ‘other sides’ view. In fact, these cited articles do not even do that.

You have cited a few reports from Gaza but your citations actually strengthen my argument. Just in case you missed my charges about equivalence in statements, let me lay them out for you in bullet points:

The BBC report that ‘rocket fire has continued into Southern Israel, ever since Israels withdrawal from the territory’. This is a straightforward BBC reporter’s observation, rather than an Israeli viewpoint. You are missing vital context here. Rocket fire has also continued from the West Bank. Has Israel withdrawn from the West Bank too? No, they have not. Why is this apparent anomaly not explained? Why not explain that Israeli bombings, shellings and shootings have also continued over this period? Why is this conspicuous by its absence?

o Why is the resistance viewpoint on rockets never reported by the BBC?

The BBC always portrays the situation in Gaza as one of Hamas terrorism involving rockets on Sderot and portrays the Israelis as 'responding' or trying to stamp out the rocket threats

Nothing in your cited articles reports the reverse view that Hamas and other Palestinians are responding to Israeli missile and attacks with rockets. Therefore it appears that your correspondents do align with Israeli perspective otherwise we would see the reverse point made in other articles.

While the BBC shows the context of Palestinian attacks on Israel the reverse is not true. Hamas were on a ceasefire for over a year whilst the Israelis kept on killing elected politicians in all Palestinian parties. Why not mention this relevant fact?

When reporting that Israel has ‘withdrawn’ from Gaza, there is no mention that under International law they are still occupiers by virtue of the fact that they control the airspace, the borders and coast of Gaza. They also control the supply of food and medicines.

The BBC always refer to murdered Palestinians are ‘militants’ even if they are just ordinary members of Hamas. Why does the BBC choose to forget that Hamas was/is an elected government?

The BBC always say Hamas ‘seized’ Gaza as if they were not elected and mounted a coup against an elected Fatah government. In fact the reverse is the truth is it not?

Israeli arguments are shown but there is no context. One example in the article I complained about is Israel saying that ‘electricity is still flowing’. This was actually contradicted by the UN on the same day. Why does the BBC fail to report the relevant view of independent observers, so that readers can judge for themselves?

Why is the psychological pressure of occupation and continual attack on Gaza not explained as a reason for pressure on Palestinians groups to retaliate with rocket attacks? This point remains unanswered.

Mr Olmert has chosen a middle way; tightening economic restrictions, increasing the intensity of Israeli military operations inside the Gaza Strip, and stepping up the targeted killings of Palestinian militant leaders." This is yet another BBC observation not an Israeli perspective. You could also mention that this ‘middle way’ involves illegal assassinations and collective punishment. Your statement appears to justify the ‘targeted killings’ because the leaders are ‘militant’. Is extrajudicial killing acceptable in the BBC’s view?

"Israel clearly hopes that the suffering in Gaza will lead to pressure on Hamas to stop the rocket attacks" How do you know what Israel hopes, unless you believe what they say?

Returning now to your reply, I examined the articles you cite in detail. None of them cite what Hamas or the Palestinian resistance would consider to represent their view. There is a charity workers diary – very interesting but nonetheless unrepresentative. There is also some not very informative reporting of the border incident by Tim Franks. The Egyptian point of view you cited actually contains classic BBC reporting including:

Paragraph 3 ‘…breaching the economic blockade of Gaza, imposed Israel says to stop militants from firing rockets into its territory.’

Paragraph 17 ‘….Israel and Washington who fear an open border allows weapons to be easily taken into Gaza.’

Although you say there are two reports from Gaza you actually cited the same one twice. In this report by Martin Patience from Gaza

I find this:

‘Israeli officials say this was in response to the almost continuous rocket fire from the territory onto neighbouring Israeli towns and villages.’

Where is the Hamas or resistance view on this oft reported allegation? This is again conspicuous by its absence.

Given that Hamas control Gaza and have considerable support there, I’m sure you could have found someone with a viewpoint on this matter. However, you found one gravedigger, two business people and a metal scavenger, but failed to find a Hamas viewpoint. Extraordinary is it not?

I turn now to your contention that you do not give running death counts. Regular reporting of the threat of rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli military operations in Gaza is not credible unless the reader can judge the claimed threat of rockets for themselves. The simple mention of deaths for both sides would provide good context and allow the reader to judge the parties words against the reality of the threat. Reporting the death toll once a year is not adequate for this situation.

I know from past experience that the BBC always believe that they are fair and balanced and so will reject all charges even when they are backed by evidence. However, I am not alone in making the accusation that your coverage is unfair and unbalanced. A Glasgow University study of BBC coverage found the following after analysis:

• A preponderance of official Israeli perspectives

• Origins of the conflict overlooked in BBC reports.

• Israeli actions contextualized but not Palestinian actions

• An undue emphasis on Israeli casualties

It seems that I am far from alone in detecting your biased output. I hope you will consider my points again and think about how the BBC output is failing to represent the Palestinian viewpoint adequately.

Kind regards,



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Writing in 2003, the BBC's former Middle East Correspondent, Tim Llewellyn, had this to say about the BBC's coverage:

"One experienced reporter in the field told me how producers from The Today Programme would ring the office in Jerusalem with story ideas launched by the Israeli embassy; how the Israeli version of events was so often received as the prevailing wisdom in London; how Israel successfully amended the very language of reporting the crisis. For a short while on BBC news, 'occupied' territories became 'disputed'. We heard much of Palestinian 'claims' of occupation rather than of the 33-year-long fact of it. Illegal Jewish settlements near Jerusalem became 'neighbourhoods'. Palestinians are killed (it happens); but Palestinians kill Israelis (that is deliberate); dead Israelis have a name and identity, dead Arabs are - just, well, dead Arabs. When Palestinians die their bereaved vent 'rage' at apparently riotous funerals; Israeli survivors express shock. The list goes on. The news-speak of the crisis was adjusted to favour the Israeli side."

It seems little has changed. The article, originally published in "Tell Me Lies - Propaganda and Media Distortion in the Attack on Iraq"
can still be found in full on Media Lens, I think. Corporate Watch produced an edited version here:

6:24 PM  
Blogger libhom said...

Isreal hasn't withdrawn from Gaza, they have lain siege to it.

2:29 AM  

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