When do words not mean precisely what they say? The answer, for the BBC at least, is when the question involves Israel.
EI reader Michael Clayton sent us the response he received from the BBC to a complaint he made about the network’s coverage of the 28 August court verdict exonerating the Israeli state of responsibility in the death of Rachel Corrie.
Clayton’s complaint was prompted by Amena Saleem’s excellent critique of BBC coverage which pointed out that:
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.”
Except, there’s no evidence Israeli soldiers died that day. There is ample evidence, as Saleem showed, that the only other victims on the day Corrie died were two Palestinian civilians, in a week in which Israel killed 27 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 7 children.
So, Clayton wrote to the BBC through its online complaints form.
In its response to him – which appears to be a form letter that was likely sent to others as well – the BBC acknowledged that Kearney made the statement but claimed:
She [Kearney] did not intend to imply that Israeli soldiers were killed on the same day as Rachel Corrie’s death. Her question was actually an attempt to focus on the issue of the bulldozing of Palestinian homes. But we acknowledge this could have been made clearer and that her question could have been better phrased.
In other words, the BBC seems to have conceded that Kearney’s statement is false, but it is now trying to claim that she meant something different – even though her words are clear and unambiguous.
If the BBC can’t show that any Israeli soldiers died on the day Rachel Corrie was killed, why can’t it simply acknowledge that Kearney said something that wasn’t true and offer a straightforward correction?
BBC response in full
Dear Mr Clayton
Thank you for contacting us regarding ‘The World at One’ broadcast on 28th August.
We are aware of online lobby activity on this issue.
The programme broadcast an interview with Rachel Corrie’s father, Craig, who described the court’s finding as “outrageous…it’s almost as if the judge just simply let the attorneys for the defence write his opinion” and said he planned to appeal against the decision.
Martha Kearney then interviewed the Israeli Prime Minister’s spokesman Mark Regev. During that interview, Martha Kearney questioned Mr Regev about why the bulldozer driver was unable to see Rachel Corrie, citing the evidence of fellow activist Tom Dale who had toldthe Court, “..the bulldozer went towards her very slowly. She was fully in clear view, straight in front of them wearing a bright orange high visibility jacket”. She also raised with him the view of Rachel Corrie’s mother that it wasn’t a fair trial because “the Israeli state has worked extremely hard so that the truth behind what happened to my daughter is not exposed.” Martha also said:
“Clearly Rachel Corrie was one of the casualties of what happened that day - and I know Israeli soldiers died too - but has this meant there’s a rethink of the policy of what was happening at that time - bulldozing Palestinian houses?”
She did not intend to imply that Israeli soldiers were killed on the same day as Rachel Corrie’s death. Her question was actually an attempt to focus on the issue of the bulldozing of Palestinian homes. But we acknowledge this could have been made clearer and that her question could have been better phrased.
We hope this clarifies the issue for you.