The Insufficient Bias Award

A pro-Israeli media monitoring outfit calling itself Honest Reporting recently issued one of its email circulars with a set of awards for what it calls “dishonest reporting”. HR’s website announces that it is dedicated to “monitoring mideast media anti-Israel bias”. (Spelling oddities theirs.) A brief analysis of the “awards”, presented mostly to the BBC, reveals that the winners’ real offence was not to satisfy their definition of “honesty”, and surprisingly for a group with a pro-Israel focus, some of these incidents were nothing to do with the Israel/Palestine situation at all!

The “number 10” concerned Mustafa Barghouti, who was a presidential candidate in the recent Palestinian Authority elections, who was given permission to campaign in East Jerusalem, but also tried to include al-Aqsa in his itinerary, and was arrested by the Israelis. Martin Asser, in this factual BBC piece, appeared to suspect that this was a publicity stunt; the piece is for some reason compared unfavourably with this piece by Donald Macintyre in the Independent. Both raise the suspicion that his getting arrested was a publicity stunt. What are HR complaining about?

Number 8 claims that “the BBC apologized to Israel for reporter Simon Wilson’s handling of an interview with Mordechai Vanunu”, an apology which was to remain confidential and was instrumental in allowing Wilson to return to Israel, but was for some reason posted on the BBC’s website for several hours. I say: so what? The Israelis have no rights over Mordechai Vanunu, who was lured by a lying female in London to Rome, where he was kidnapped by their thugs to face a kangaroo court in Israel. Of course, both the liar and the thugs were acting illegally, but other nations’ sovereignty matters as little to them as the rights of their Arab victims. The posting of the apology on the BBC’s website is of importance only in that it reveals that the BBC grovelled to the Israeli “authorities”; defying government censorship is not normally something for which news agencies in “civilised” countries are censured. As any Zimbabwean government agent could tell us, the BBC is stuffed full of MI6 agents and gay gangsters anyway.

In number 7, they cite Tim Llewellyn-Bowen, who they acknowledge has retired from the BBC but gave an interview with the Electronic Intifada, selectively quoted by HR as follows:

[BBC] are adopting what they see as an even handed attitude. To me this is a cowardly attitude, it is an attitude which confuses occupier with occupied….

Given that Llywellyn-Bowen has left the BBC, why does this piece which is critical of the BBC appear in a list of complaints about the BBC? His contention is that the Palestinians are fighting for their independence in a way many other developing countries did in the recent past, and were the situation happening anywhere else, it would be reported very differently.

Complaint number 5 was that the BBC tried to influence a vote at the Association of University Teachers by issuing a report on the Today programme by their correspondent John Reynolds. While it may be that local Arabs are admitted to the college in the Ariel settlement at the centre of the controversy and are (by some accounts; I’ve not been able to find any which contradict this) content with its presence, the accusation that the report was an attempt to influence the vote is the stuff libel actions are made of. In any case, it’s not illegal; there are contempt laws pertaining to criminal trials, but not to votes at trade union meetings.

Complaint number 4 brings up the old canard that the BBC did not describe the men responsible for the London bombings in July as “terrorists”, preferring instead to state the facts and call them militants, bombers and the such like. This is, in fact, in keeping with their reporting on the Northern Irish situation, in which they refer to the armed factions on both sides as “paramilitaries” rather than terrorists or gangsters. As an example of the nature of the noise made about the issue, see this blog entry by Melanie Phillips, in which he attacks John Simpson for calling them “misguided criminals”:

So people who set out to murder as many innocent people as possible in the furtherance of the fanatical cause of religious domination were merely ‘misguided’, and their actions simply ‘criminal’! Clearly, in Simpson’s mind they would hardly even qualify for an Anti-Social Behaviour Order.

Well, are they not misguided, and are these actions not criminal? It really does not matter whether the word terrorism is used, because the facts were stated. This was an obvious and shameless attempt by one ethnic lobby group to dictate how the BBC should report, one which was justifiably rebuffed.

Complaint number 3 was that the BBC “loaded” the audience of a BBC News Special (that page dated 28th July) on security issues after the July bombings; in reply to a complaint from a “viewer” who said, “I do not pay my license fee to watch an unrepresentative Muslim audience like this”, the BBC replied that they included a larger group of Muslims than their share of the population (15% rather than 2.7%) in order “to ensure a range of voices on these issues”. Given that the security measures involved are highly likely to affect Muslims more than white middle-class people from north London, and that they probably form a higher percentage of the population of the city affected by the bombings than they do of the country as a whole, it would seem logical that their share of the audience is increased.

Complaint number 2 centred around the well-documented looting of synagogues built by the settlers in Gaza; the organisation complained that Orla Guerin, among numerous others, mentioned the looting in the context of the suffering of the locals at the hands of the Israelis. HR in fact published a video in which words were selectively quoted from various news sources around the world. (One of these, in which the “London Telegraph” asserted that the Palestinians were ‘merely “settling scores”’, I was unable to find; perhaps they have changed it in response to mass complaints orchestrated by this group.) The fact is that there were only two conceivable outcomes: they could either have been used as mosques or churches, or destroyed. This is what happens when conquerors build, or take over, places of worship on land they conquer; it has happened on countless occasions in history to Christian churches and Muslim mosques.

Among their notable mentions are the use by western news wire services of Palestinian stringers, some of whose stories have not stood up to scrutiny (HR do not mention whether they also have Israeli stringers) and the Guardian’s employment of Dilpazier Aslam who was subsequently exposed as a member of Hizbut-Tahreer by the conspiracy theorist Scott Burgess ([1], [2] by me). HR steps well beyond its remit of monitoring anti-Israel bias to attack the BBC’s coverage of the London bombings, but fails to mention their documentary on Muslim community leadership, for example, in which a nobody called Taj Hargey is wheeled out to bad-mouth the Muslim community. When complaints were lodged about that programme by the MCB, they were similarly brushed off (others within the Muslim community acknowledged that many of the claims in the programme were true, but it does not excuse the Hargey sequence).

As for the complaint about the use of words like “terror”, HR have proven themselves perfectly willing to use Israeli euphemisms like “targeted killings” for what are in reality bombings which kill bystanders. The term itself is dishonest: targeted assassinations are done with bullets. Targeted destructions of buildings are done with bombs. Causing blasts and general destruction is what bombs do; the killing of bystanders is a very normal result. In this article, they use another dishonest euphemism, “collateral damage”, dishonest because the killing of people is not normally called “damage”. They describe the deaths of bystanders as the “unfortunate downside” of the killings, a term which would cause much outrage if it were used to describe bystanders killed in bombings aimed at Israeli soldiers. It is plain that these “awards” are not for bias but for failing to take the side HR would like them to take. The BBC, CNN and other western news sources are just that - western sources; the Israelis have Haaretz, Maariv and the rest to report their side of the story.

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