Beware of the BBC

Stuart Littlewood highlights the BBC’s chronic pro-Israel bias, from allowing untruths about Israel’s onslaught on Gaza in 2008-09 to go unchallenged, to its failure to provide accurate context about the Israeli township of Sderot, to its routine willingness to give disproportionate airtime to Israeli spokesmen and lobbyists.

Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. For further information please visit www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk.

Stuart Littlewood
Redress
January 22, 2010

“[The BBC] gives a disproportionate amount of air-time to pro-Israel figures such as the Israeli ambassador, the regime’s spokesman Mark Regev, the chief rabbi and assorted politicians who wave the flag for Israel...
“The BBC also adopts Israel's language and definitions. Palestinians not Israelis are the militants. Hamas, not the murdering occupiers, are the terrorists. A single captured Israeli soldier is deemed more newsworthy than the 10,000 abducted Palestinians (some of them women and children) rotting in Israeli jails.”

Its mission statement says: “Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest.”

However, people are complaining bitterly to the BBC about its pro-Israel stance when reporting on the situation in the Holy Land.

Once renowned as the benchmark for fairness and accuracy, the BBC nowadays is careless with the truth when handling news from the Palestinian territories illegally occupied by Israel – the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

We were treated to a prize example earlier this week. The flagship “Today” programme, which goes out weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Radio 4, marked the anniversary of Israel's blitzkrieg with a feature on the Gaza economy, in which I heard presenters claim at least three times that the purpose of Operation Cast Lead was to stop the rocket attacks across the border.

This is untrue. The rockets stopped months before Israel’s assault with the start of the ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, which held from 19 June until 4 November 2008, when Israel deliberately dashed hopes for peace by staging an armed incursion into Gaza, killing several Hamas men.

Under the ceasefire Israel had undertaken to lift the economic blockade, but didn't do so. Nevertheless Hamas kept its side of the bargain and fired no rockets.

So 1,400 Gazans, including some 350 women and children, didn't have to die under Israeli bombardment. All Israel needed to do was extend the truce by keeping the peace and lifting the evil blockade as promised.

But it’s not about rockets, is it? No rockets are launched from the West Bank, yet Israel keeps the West Bank tightly sealed and all movement cruelly restricted under a punitive military and administrative matrix of control.

The death and devastation inflicted on Gaza is really about Israel’s unquenchable lust for land and its criminal desire to subjugate, expel or annihilate the native population.

The BBC also failed to provide accurate context regarding the Israeli township of Sderot, the main target for Hamas rockets. Edward Sturton, reporting from Sderot, didn't explain how the land on which Sderot stands was once a Palestinian village called Najd, whose residents were ethnically cleansed and put to flight by Jewish terrorists in May 1948. Many of them ended up in refugee camps in Gaza. Sderot is therefore a source of real grievance to the Palestinians.

Under UN Resolution 194 and also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the villagers of Najd, along with hundreds of thousands of others who were dispossessed at gunpoint, are entitled to return to their homes but have been denied their rights by Israel.

So, has our “trustworthy” BBC fallen under Zionist influence just like the British government? It certainly gives a disproportionate amount of air-time to pro-Israel figures such as the Israeli ambassador, the regime’s spokesman Mark Regev, the chief rabbi and assorted politicians who wave the flag for Israel, all of whom speak good, clear English. On the rare occasions when the BBC interviews a Palestinian it chooses someone who is unintelligible. I can’t remember when I last heard the Palestinian ambassador, Manuel Hassassian, who speaks excellent English and can put the Palestinian case eloquently.

The BBC also adopts Israel's language and definitions. Palestinians not Israelis are the militants. Hamas, not the murdering occupiers, are the terrorists. A single captured Israeli soldier is deemed more newsworthy than the 10,000 abducted Palestinians (some of them women and children) rotting in Israeli jails. It is imperative that Israelis not Palestinians feel secure within their borders. Israelis not Palestinians have a right of self-defence.

A few years ago a study of TV news coverage by Glasgow University’s Media Group showed how the BBC and others distorted the Arab-Israeli conflict and misinformed the British public by presenting the Israeli government perspective and featuring mostly pro-Israel politicians. Today the gap between the BBC and its mission pledge to be “independent, impartial and honest” seems just as wide.

Of course, none of this is news to the Palestinians. I make these points only for the benefit of Western readers, especially Britons and Americans who are victims of media bias, and for Israelis who live on a diet of fiction, and for Zionists everywhere who wouldn't recognize the truth if it fell on them.

Israel-Palestine Timeline

Our latest project Israel-Palestine Timeline: The human cost of the conflict records photos and information for each person who has been killed in the ongoing violence. Visit the site

History of the Israel Lobby


Alison Weir's book Against Our Better Judgement: How the U.S. was used to create Israel brings together meticulously sourced evidence to outline the largely unknown history of U.S.-Israel relations.


Buy it on Amazon, and visit the book website for reviews, more ordering options, and upcoming author events.

Palestine Photography Project


The Palestine Photography Project reproduces high quality images of historic pre-1948 Palestine from the Library of Congress. Visit the site

Pressure & Censorship Articles

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Israeli Strip Searches

AP Reveals Israeli Censorship,
Says It Will Abide By Rules

Mondoweiss, Chapter One
Blogging about Israel and Jewish identity raises Observer hackles

Irish Nobel Peace Laureate Shot By Israeli Troops at Non-Violent Protest – Why Isn’t This News?

The New York Times Marginalizes Palestinian Women and Palestinian Rights

More on Pressure & Censorship

Media Report Cards

Deadly Distortion: Associated Press
Jan. 2004 - Dec. 2004

Off the Charts: ABC, CBS, & NBC
Sep. 2000 - Sep. 2001
Jan. 2004 - Dec. 2004

Off the Charts: New York Times
Sep. 2000 - Sep. 2001
Jan. 2004 - Dec. 2004

SF Chronicle (CA) Report Card
Sep. 2000 - Mar. 2001

San Jose Mercury News (CA) Report Card
Oct. 2002 - Mar. 2003

San Jose Mercury News (CA) Report Card
Apr. - Sep. 2002

New London Day (CT) Report Card
Mar. - Jun. 2003

Resources

Times Warp: What The New York Times doesn't tell you about Palestine and Israel

Short Movie: AP Erased Footage of Palestinian Boy Being Shot – Watch Online!

AUPHR Report – Accuracy in Oregonian Coverage of the Palestine / Israel Conflict

FAIR Report – The Illusion of Balance

Book – Bad News from Israel

Leaked Document: Israeli Communications Priorities 2003

Related Organizations

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

Committee to Protect Journalists

Reporters Without Borders

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