BBC – Biased Publicly Funded Media
Watching, reading or listening to a BBC report on Israel’s occupation of Palestine is like stepping through the Zionist looking-glass and witnessing not the reality of the situation, but Israel’s totally distorted version of it.
There is international law, and there is the world as Israel and the BBC see it. And if Israel claims the whole of Jerusalem as its territory, contrary to international law, then it is not for the BBC to dispute this — or so its coverage would have us believe.
In its country profile for Israel, the BBC’s website lists statistics including Israel’s size in square meters, its major languages and its main exports. Shying away from giving a capital, as it does for all other recognized countries featured in such profiles, the BBC’s online editors have opted instead to give Israel a “seat of government”.
Why, when it comes to Israel, can’t the BBC call a spade a spade? Why do the words “West Bank” and “Occupied Palestinian Territories” stick in the throats of BBC presenters, unable to see the light of day even when the presenters in question are standing on that very land? Why, if these are genuine mistakes, can’t the BBC correct them, put “West” in front of “Jerusalem” and admit that Israel illegally occupies the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights?
In Early February 2012, the BBC issued its final ruling on a controversy which has been raging for nearly a year after the words “Free Palestine” were censored from a freestyle rap played on Radio 1Xtra. Appearing on the popular Charlie Sloth Hip Hop M1X last February, the artist Mic Righteous performed a rap which included the lyrics: “I can scream Free Palestine for my pride/still pray for peace.” BBC producers replaced the word ‘Palestine’ with the sound of breaking glass and this is the version that was aired and which can be seen on a video on the BBC website (the censorship occurs at 2:59).
The United Nations is clear in its recognition of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, and UN Resolution 242 calls for the withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank and Gaza. The chant “Free Palestine” is basically shorthand for the same demand. It is obvious why Israel, the occupier, would want to silence calls for a free Palestine, but not so clear why the BBC feels the same.
This taxpayer-funded public broadcaster evaded our accusation that it had displayed bias against Palestine through its censorship of an artist’s work, and instead defended itself by saying that the final content, from which the word “Palestine” had been removed, was not biased against Palestine.
It is a level of manipulation and duplicity that would not be out of place in Joseph Heller’s novel of self-contradictory, circular logic, Catch 22.
The musician and political activist Lowkey, who has made regular appearances on the Charlie Sloth Hip Hop M1X, said of the BBC’s decision: “This censorship sets a dangerous precedent for the future of the BBC, where it seems people are free to criticize any state in the world, even their own, but not Israel. Moreover, it seems you are free to recognize the plight of any group of people in the world, apart from Palestinian people. One can only wonder why.”
The film and television director Ken Loach was another signatory, he commented: “The BBC’s bias towards Israel is consistent, relentless and has been clearly documented by the Glasgow Media Group in Bad News from Israel and More Bad News from Israel. One small example: when Palestine was admitted to UNESCO, Radio 5 Live’s news bulletin in the afternoon had one interviewee to comment. Guess what? It was an Israeli. No Palestinian was allowed to speak. In general, the Palestinian voice is not heard.”
Tuesday 28 August was an extraordinary day for the BBC, even by its own low standards of reporting on Palestine. This was the day an Israeli court absolved the State of Israel of any responsibility for the death of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American activist who was crushed to death by an Israeli armored bulldozer in Gaza in 2003.
BBC Radio 4’s World at One program ran a seven-minute segment on the court’s decision, including an interview with Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev. Partway through this interview, the BBC presenter, Martha Kearney, made this astonishing claim: “Clearly Rachel Corrie was one of the casualties of what happened that day, and I know Israeli soldiers died too.”
By the time the 6pm news bulletin rolled round, the BBC seemed to have fully accepted the Israeli line that Corrie’s activism had nothing to do with house demolitions and had decided it was no longer necessary to even mention that she might have been attempting to stop a home being destroyed. And so the 6pm headline on Radio 4 was: “A court in Israel has rejected a claim for damages by the family of an American activist who was crushed to death by an army bulldozer in Gaza.” A few seconds into the report, the BBC reporter, Jon Donnison, said: “The young American died in Gaza in 2003 while trying to block the path of an Israeli army bulldozer.”
Later in the report, Regev came on to say: “This is an active area of terrorist activity and obviously it was a war zone. It’s clear that the drivers of these tractors actually moved away from the demonstrators on a number of occasions and yet the demonstrators followed after the tractors.”
One of the most obvious examples of bias by the BBC is the taxpayer-funded broadcaster’s habit of inviting Israeli politicians or the Israeli government spokesperson, Mark Regev, onto its programs to speak without challenge. Meanwhile, Palestinians and those who would convey a Palestinian perspective are not given the same opportunity.
Is this really journalism? Those who pay their licence fee so that the BBC can broadcast all across the world — and those whose lives are affected by those broadcasts — deserve much better.