Media Watch 3 August 2014
Pro-Israeli broadcasters are finding it ever harder to defend Israel in the face of the large-scale massacres and destruction in Gaza, but the BBC is determined to do its best, sacrificing all claims to impartiality and journalistic integrity in the process.
In addition to flooding its radio and television programs with Israeli spokespeople, while keeping Palestinian voices to a minimum, the BBC, as it did during Israel’s 2012 assault on Gaza, has taken to presenting pro-Israel commentators as independent.
BBC audiences are, therefore, given strong doses of pro-Israeli propaganda — being told that Hamas is using civilians as human shields, that Israel has shown nothing but restraint in the face of constant rocket attacks, that it is defending its citizens and so on — while under the impression that they are hearing neutral, independent comment.
These key Israeli messages are, of course, more likely to be believed by viewers and listeners if they think they are impartial observations, rather than the opinions of pro-Israeli spokespeople.
On 17 July, as part of its 10pm news broadcast, the BBC News Channel ran an interview with Davis Lewin, deputy director and head of policy and research at the Henry Jackson Society.
The Henry Jackson Society is a virulently pro-Israel think tank, described in 2012 by its founding member, Marko Attila Hoare, as “an abrasively right-wing forum with an anti-Muslim tinge, churning out polemical and superficial pieces by aspiring journalists and pundits that pander to a narrow readership of extreme Europhobic British Tories, hardline US Republicans and Israeli Likudniks.”
In a 2013 job advert for the position of its North American director, the society wrote it was looking for someone who could reach out to the “pro-Israel community.”
Lewin himself is the recipient of an “Israel research fellowship” — a one-year placement awarded to university graduates, under which they work for the Israeli government or an organization sympathetic to Israel (he is listed as an alumnus of the class of 2009/10).
On its website, the Israel Research Fellowship (IRF) organizations says recipients of the award are “mentored by senior executives in their placements and informed by specially designed conferences.” It adds: “Israel research fellows, with their comprehensive knowledge of historical and intellectual trends, serve as articulate spokespeople for Israel. The IRF is a pro-Israel, apolitical, non-partisan enterprise that aims to serve in the best interests of the State of Israel.”
Damage already done
And yet, when he appeared on the BBC News Channel, Lewin was introduced by presenter Martine Croxall as simply: “Davis Lewin, who’s from the Henry Jackson Society, a foreign and defense policy think tank.”
Few people watching would have been aware of the nature of the Henry Jackson Society or of Lewin’s pro-Israel placement.
Speaking, it seemed to viewers, as a spokesperson for an independent think tank, Lewin had three minutes to push the pro-Israeli, anti-Hamas line, aided at times by Croxall’s interviewing, which included this question: “Hamas is regarded as a terrorist organization by not just Israel but other countries, too. What are Israel’s intentions towards Hamas? It has said this is a limited scope action. Why doesn’t it just try and get rid of Hamas altogether?”
Not surprisingly, the interview was quickly posted on YouTube by the Henry Jackson Society.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign wrote to the BBC to remind it of its own editorial guidelines, which include this: “We should normally identify on-air and online sources of information and significant contributors, and provide their credentials, so that our audiences can judge their status.”
For once, the BBC was quick to write back, sending this by email: “We apologize for this and would like to assure you that the matter has been raised with the relevant editorial staff at the BBC News Channel, who have been reminded of the need to clearly describe the ideology of such organizations in our coverage.”
However, the damage had been done. And what good is a reminder to journalists who have a history of presenting pro-Israeli commentators as independent and face no censure for doing so?
In November 2012, as Israel pounded Gaza for eight days, BBC News 24 (as the BBC News Channel was known), used Jonathan Sacerdoti as a commentator four times in two days, presenting him each time as an independent expert.
Sacerdoti, however, was no impartial expert. He had worked as director of public affairs at the Zionist Federation and, in 2012, he was elected to the international division of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. The international division’s primary work is to promote Israel.
After eight months of challenge, the BBC finally admitted it had breached its editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality with its misrepresentation of Sacerdoti. And then, as now, the BBC told the Palestine Solidarity Campaign it would remind its editorial staff of the need to correctly identify its contributors. That “reminder” apparently came to nothing.
Defending Israel’s attacks
Presenting pro-Israeli commentators as independent is not just limited to the BBC’s airwaves, but is also evident in its online output.
On 22 July, BBC Online uploaded a long feature headlined “Gaza: How Hamas tunnel network grew.”
With 700 Palestinians killed at that stage, with thousands injured, and around 300,000 internally displaced, this came across as a desperate attempt by the BBC to shore up justification for Israel’s ongoing massacres.
Reams of paragraphs are devoted to tunnels “booby-trapped with explosives” — and the effort needed by Israel to detect them. The impression given to the reader is that Israel is under a very real threat from the existence of these tunnels and the existence of the organization — Hamas — which built and operates them. The lie that Israel “withdrew” from Gaza in 2005 is also contained in the report.
The article is written, not by a BBC journalist, but by Dr. Eado Hecht, who is described by the BBC as “independent defense analyst and lecturer in military doctrine at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University.”
But Hecht is not “independent,” as the BBC claims. He is in the pay of the Israeli army. Unknown to readers of the BBC Online article, Hecht also teaches at the Israeli military’s Command and General Staff College.
It’s not worth asking if a Palestinian in the pay of Hamas would ever be given space by the BBC to write a long feature about the threat to Palestinians of Israeli aggression. The answer is obvious.
But it is worth noting that the BBC has form in providing platforms to pro-Israelis to expound their views on Gaza.
In November 2012, as Israel’s onslaught on Gaza was drawing to an end, BBC Online ran a feature by Guglielmo Verdirame, a professor in international law at King’s College London.
The article was headlined “Gaza crisis: the legal position of Israel and Hamas.”
Verdirame used his BBC platform to defend Israel’s vicious, sustained attack on Gaza’s refugee population in “legal” terms.
To the reader, told only that Verdirame teaches at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, this was an impartial viewpoint. But Verdirame had presented the same arguments three weeks earlier to a Zionist Federation event in London for Israel advocates. His pro-Israel credentials are impeccable, being involved as well with UK Lawyers for Israel, an organization whose aim is to sue those it regards as “enemies” of Israel.
Verdirame was put to use by G4S this year to co-author a paper defending the security firm’s involvement in the Israeli prisons where Palestinians are held and routinely tortured. That he should have been asked to write as an independent commentator by the publicly-funded BBC is disgraceful.
Impartiality goes out the window
There are numerous legal experts the BBC could call on who would pronounce Israel’s assault on Gaza a violation of international law. Forty-two of them signed a statement to that effect on 28 July, including Richard Falk, the former UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
But none of them is likely to be receiving a phone call from the BBC. Their messages don’t fit the broadcaster’s apparent agenda.
On 31 July, when the BBC’s flagship news program Today wanted to discuss whether Israel’s current assault on Gaza had a legal basis, it interviewed, not just one, but two, Israelis. And not a single Palestinian.
The first Israeli interviewed was Pnina Sharvit Baruch. Listeners were told she was the “former head of international law at the IDF [the Israeli military], now a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies [in Tel Aviv].”
What they weren’t told is that Sharvit Baruch was a colonel in the Israeli army, retiring after Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. They were not told that, in that role, she legitimized strikes on civilians in Gaza during Cast Lead, including the attack on the graduation ceremony of new police officers, which resulted in 180 Palestinians being killed.
She was considered so extreme that, in 2009, staff at Tel Aviv University protested her appointment as a lecturer in law. She was not, however, considered too extreme for the BBC.
The day before she made her unchallenged appearance on Today, Sharvit Baruch was interviewed on the legalities of Israel’s attack by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), which describes itself as being “dedicated to creating a more supportive environment for Israel in Britain.”
On Today she was joined by Yuri Dromi, introduced by presenter Sarah Montague as “director-general of the Jerusalem Press Club, but he used be a spokesman for the Israeli government in the Nineties.”
Sharvit Baruch and Dromi enjoyed nine minutes of gentle questioning by Montague. Her acceptance of everything they said and her failure to ask a single challenging or critical question was compounded by the absence of a Palestinian spokesperson who could have made that challenge instead and offered a different viewpoint.
It was an extraordinarily biased piece of pro-Israeli broadcasting, even by BBC standards. Montague’s questions seemed to be set up as deliberate cues for Sharvit Baruch and Dromi to set out the Israeli government’s key messages.
For example, she asked Sharvit Baruch, “Would you be advising the Israeli army that what they have done is legal?”
What answer did she seriously expect?
If the BBC wanted a genuinely impartial answer to this question, it could have invited a UN spokesperson onto Today to answer it. To ask it of a former Israeli army legal advisor who has greenlighted previous massacres seemed like a deliberate invitation to propaganda, not an attempt at serious journalism.
But serious journalism, and impartial journalism, seems to go out of the window at the BBC, at least when it comes to Palestine. Israeli spokespeople and supporters are given unchallenged platforms that are not offered to their Palestinian counterparts, they are presented as independent when they are not, they are allowed to speak without challenge, and with no Palestinian to oppose them.
The result is day after day of Israeli propaganda pushed down the throats of anyone who looks to the BBC for impartial reporting of the occupation.
Sarah Montague’s interview with Pnina Sharvit Baruch and Yuri Dromi can be heard here at 02:14:27 until the end of August.
Complaints to the BBC can be made at www.bbc.co.uk/complaints.
- Davis Lewin
- Martine Croxall
- Jonathan Sacerdoti
- Eado Hecht
- Guglielmo Verdirame
- Marko Attila Hoare
- Henry Jackson Society
- Israel Research Fellowship
- Yuri Dromi
- BBC News Channel
- BBC News 24
- Palestine Solidarity Campaign
- Richard Falk
- Zionist Federation
- Board of Deputies of British Jews
- Pnina Sharvit Baruch
- King's College London
- Bar Ilan University
- Tel Aviv University
- UK Lawyers For Israel
- West Bank
- Institute for National Security Studies
- Operation Cast Lead
- Sarah Montague
- Jerusalem Press Club
Campaign against BBC biased pro zionist approach
Permalink idris replied on
It is time that tv license payers ask questions and accountability of the zionist propaganda apparatus known more commonly as the BBC. We should ask for a multicultural editorial board as the BBC actual organisation has failed to deliver on promises.
Campaign against BBC biased pro Zionist approach
Permalink ellen shanks replied on
It is abhorrent that, in a UK democracy, it's national tv channel, the BBC, supported by British taxpayers' money, can escape unchallenged while presenting to the nation, quote 'independent (ie. impartial) experts' who are really propagandists, given free rein on air to support a regime that willfully slaughters innocent civilians, even children and babies in Gaza. You do a disservice to the people of this country and compound the frustration of the oppressed who are hopeless and helpless. Woe is us if we, the people of the United Kingdom, cannot have balanced, unbiased reporting - EVERY TIME. The term 'media-whore' would seem appropriate.
BBC Israeli Bias
Permalink Jeff Hambleton replied on
I'm 66 and have listened to BBC World Service and now BBC World News for always and love the BBC. In 2012 I was appalled by the bias the BBC were showing. Now I mainly watch Ajazeera as the amount of Jewish spokesmen almost smiling when they give the same well prepared rhetoric makes me feel sick.
It's really shameful and I would like to know who's really controlling the BBC
Permalink Geoff Lee replied on
Snap! My long established respect for the BBC is turning to contempt. I suspect that a major problem for presenters is raw ignorance of the facts which are so well camouflaged by Israeli PR. We really do need to finger the closet supporters of the Israeli government who lead the BBC.
Gaza BBC coverage
Permalink John Webster replied on
Absolutely agree. The old distinction between facts and comments is still valid - and the BBC ought to report the facts accurately. It is partly lazy journalism but I know from discussions with BBC reporters that they are terrified of the Zionist lobby. After Gaza though I think the Zionists will find it harder to get away with their lies about 'human shields'. The majority of the British people are decent. They draw the line at slaughtering women and children - whoever does it. I don't think they realise they've crossed a line.
We need to start keeping names, dates, places - a complete record of who, what, when and where with the intention of naming/ shaming or even prosecuting these people. I want to see people like Mark Regev alongside Netanyahu in the Hague. Regev is the Lord Haw Haw of Israel.
BBC coverage of Gaza
Permalink John Webster replied on
I'm also 66 - and the BBC coverage of Palestine has always been unbalanced. They are terrified of being accused of being antisemitic. And Sarah Montague is very right wing anyway - as well as being routinely rude. When she is being civil to someone, you know she agrees with them. The BBC's coverage is disgraceful. But there is a history to it - remember Mark Thompson visited Sharon at his ranch a couple of weeks before Orla Guerin was removed as Middle East correspondent for being too balanced..
BBC'S GAZA COVERAGE
Permalink Alan Wilcox replied on
The bottom line of the BBC, is that it's the state broadcaster. The British state supports the State of Israel; therefore, the BBC supports the State of Israel.
The above facts don't negate the necessity, for as many people as possible to complain to the BBC about its Gaza coverage.
The BBC have their own
Permalink Donna Rodgers replied on
The BBC have their own zionist agenda - they are a corporation run by some of the worst people in society, paid for by the poorest people in society. The best way I can boycott the BBC is to get rid of my Television and cancel my license, and that's exactly what I'm about to do - I can watch all I need to see on my computer without listening to their biased reporting. As a Scot, we've always known how biased the BBC are, but on such an important matter as the genocide in Palestine, they have truly sickened me.
Permalink Dave replied on
I think you will find you have to pay tv licence even if you watch bbc on computer.
Permalink Jeff Hambleton replied on
Hardly, I live in Thailand
C4 news has provided
Permalink Anonymous replied on
C4 news has provided interesting coverage of the conflict.
BBC Bias - Israel
Permalink Mike Hamblett replied on
Could it be that programme makers are too young/inexperienced/lazy/incompetent?
Israel is in the DNA of the Tory Party andBritain said Cameron.
Permalink Al replied on
And the BBC. The question is how to rectify this. Palestinians suffer not only from Israeli actions but from Israeli propaganda AND the ubiquitous, pernicious slanders against Palestinians that pro Israeli spokesbastards, often masquerading as neutral, persistently come out with and rarely if ever questioned or countered. The BBC is a major source of disseminating ALL these slanders. Even those who actually witness what is going on in Palestine collude. David Nott, having worked in Shifa Hospital in Gaza managed on the Today programme and the Daily Mail to not even mention the slaughter was being deliberately caused by Israel nor the victims in their thousands were Palestinian. Compare those reports by this ****, to those by Mads Gilbert who is carefully hidden from view by the BBC and The Mail. It is all being carefully managed so even with the amount of coverage of Gaza there is, the full catastrophe and full blame and full shame is deliberately hidden. It must be this DNA Cameroon alluded to.
BBC / government hidden pro zionist agenda
Permalink idris replied on
The BBC is funded by tv license payers -who face prosecution if they fail to pay.
The BBC pretends to give impartial information. Therefore failure to do so implies that the public are entitled for refund/compensation from the BBC. It is unofficially being used as a Zionist propaganda tool without the consent of the UK public.
As regards to the government:
The Balfour treaty of 1914's ( which is against the human rights of the Palestinians) is based on religious grounds of the belief of the Jewish people in 'the promised land' - which has taken a Zionist twist in the form of ' legalised ethnic cleansing of Palestine ' . The treaty might very well have had some kind of financial deals 'to help swallow the bitter pill'. The policies of the UK towards the Israeli invasion/occupation needs urgent rethinking and should be considered for a referendum as ethnic cleansing does not form part of the values of the UK society. We need politicians who represent the public and not the Zionists.
Amena, please read and show to fellow bloggers at EI
Permalink Brendan Devenney replied on
According to the Israelis, all of the Palestinian fatalities fall in to these categories/excuses.
1. Being used as "human shields". Hamas' "fault".
2. They were in houses, mosques, hospitals and schools "storing Hamas rockets"
3. Hamas members and their families are "legitimate targets".
4. They were within an area where rockets were allegedly launched.
I'll boil it down more.
Israel claims that there are basically two categories of Palestinian dead of which there are NO innocents in either.
1. Alleged Hamas members
2. The other three listed above fall within the same category. Alleged rocket launch sites or rocket storage.
"As of August 1, 50,000 missile have allegedly been fired according to the Palestinian Health Authority"
It's alleged that 3,000 rockets have been fired by Hamas.
Source: multiple msm
The Israeli military claim that they have "hit more than 4000 targets" [dated July 30]
An average of three missiles (from videos I've seen), are fired from any one rocket launch site.
If there are an average of three missiles fired from each site, that means that there were an average of 1000 ALLEGED rocket launch sites. 1000 ALLEGED rocket launch sites that could legitimately be described as "targets".
Bottom line, around 1000 of the 4000 "targets" were alleged "rocket launch sites" according to the IDF's own statements.
That only makes up 25% of the total "targets".
WHAT WERE THE OTHER 75% OF "TARGETS"?
They targeted hospitals, schools, water, electricity and a dozen or so alleged Hamas houses but that only adds another 1-20