BBC bias

The BBC has managed to flabbergast even those Israelis who hadn’t expected minimal fairness from it.

July 26, 2012 00:06
3 minute read.

BBC 521. (photo credit: Reuters)


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The British Broadcasting Corporation could never be accused of showering Israel with sympathy, or even credited with gracing Israel with the rudiments of objectivity. Nonetheless, the BBC has managed to flabbergast even those Israelis who hadn’t expected minimal fairness from it.

The BBC has devoted a web page to the Olympic athletes.

Most of the entries are straightforward enough, but not so the ones devoted to Israel and “Palestine,” which, though not a sovereign state, did win recognition as a member of the Olympic Council of Asia since 1986 and the International Olympic Committee since 1995.

On the latter’s country profile page, the BBC listed “East Jerusalem” as the capital of Palestine. No capital whatever was noted on the page devoted to Israel, not even “West Jerusalem.” As expected, that generated considerable commotion and even a written complaint from government spokesman Mark Regev.

Discomfited, the BBC tried a quick fix, defining Jerusalem as Israel’s “seat of government,” but not without failing to add that “most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv.”

The corresponding revamp on the Palestine page seeks to strike equivalence with the following: “Intended seat of government: East Jerusalem. Ramallah serves as administrative capital.”

Evincing no hint of regret, the BBC later waxed indignant and argued that the modifications on its website were “generated by online lobby activity.” The inference is that there was something untoward in said “online lobby activity” and that the BBC had its arm unjustly twisted.

Moreover, no opportunity appears to have been missed to render Israel’s image disagreeable. The photo chosen to represent Israel on its BBC profile shows an IDF soldier screaming at an Arab, with the caption reading: “Israelis and Palestinians have been at loggerheads for decades.”

The Syrian page, in contrast, looks idyllic. It pictures three pretty girls in white Muslim garb with older black-clad women in the background, all smiling. The caption informs us innocuously that “the overwhelming majority of Syrians are Muslim.”

Concomitantly, the campaign to commemorate the 11 Israeli athletes slain by Arab terrorists at the Munich Olympics exactly 40 years ago received zero coverage on the BBC. That’s starkly different from the choices made by other international news providers, British ones notably among them.

The BBC’s palpable anti-Israel predispositions are nothing new. Malcolm Balen, a senior editorial adviser, compiled a report in 2004 on the BBC’s radio and television broadcasters’ attitudes toward the Israeli-Arab conflict. The 20,000-word Balen Report is said to contain scathing criticism of the BBC, which fought tooth and nail against demands that it release it under the Freedom of Information Act.

But despite Balen’s admonitions, the BBC remained unrepentant and failed to clean up its act. A most telling case in point was its coverage of the March 2011 Itamar massacre, where Palestinian terrorists invaded the home of the Fogel family and butchered the father, mother, their two young sons and three-month-old baby daughter.

The BBC’s version abounded in outright inaccuracies and mind-boggling omissions. Worst of all, it was given scant resonance altogether. It was unmentioned on BBC Television and was accorded only a fleeting brief reference on radio.

In his testimony to Parliament earlier this month, the BBC’s outgoing director-general, Mark Thompson, belatedly acknowledged that his organization “got it wrong.” Yet as this latest controversy surrounding the BBC’s misrepresentations indicates, the BBC willfully keeps right on getting it wrong. It doesn’t exert much effort to get it right.

Last summer, for instance, it featured a story claiming that a Jerusalem court sentenced a dog to death by stoning. This was an utter hoax, which a preliminary check would have revealed. Yet apparently the goodwill didn’t exist to accord Israel fair treatment. The temptation to paint Israel in the most unflattering colors plainly couldn’t be resisted. The fabrication in this case was so blatant that the BBC eventually removed this item but not before it blackened Israel’s face.

Yet more than such shenanigans damage Israel, they undermine the BBC’s own integrity. For its own good, it ought to desist from so flagrantly exposing its bias.

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