BBC’s flotilla film slammed as ‘biased’

Anti-Israel groups outraged at 'racist' documentary; plan protests.

Mavi Marmara 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Mavi Marmara 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
LONDON – A BBC documentary screened this week that investigated the Gaza flotilla incident on May 31 is causing a storm of protest – from critics of Israel, who are furious that the program was not as hostile to Israel as they thought it should be.
The critics, including an activist from the Free Gaza movement who was aboard the Mavi Marmara, are organizing demonstrations on Sunday outside the BBC’s London headquarters and other BBC offices, and are calling for a mass campaign of complaints to the BBC in general and the program makers in particular.
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In Death in the Med, the BBC’s flagship documentary series Panorama examined the ill-fated Israeli interception of the Mavi Marmara, the only ship from the Free Gaza flotilla which saw confrontation between activists and Israeli troops.
The half-hour program had exclusive access to the Israeli navy unit that took part in the raid and interviewed a number of the commandos, as well as members of the Free Gaza group and the IHH movement that organized the flotilla.
Using previously unseen video footage from the IDF and confiscated passenger tapes, mostly recorded by members of a group called Cultures of Resistance, the program concluded that the main aim of the activists had not been to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza, but rather to orchestrate a political act designed to put pressure on Israel and the international community.
The program also concluded that the Israeli commandos encountered a violent, premeditated attack by a hardcore group of activists organized by IHH members. Nine Turkish nationals were killed by the commandos after they came under attack when boarding the Mavi Marmara.
Demonstration outside BBC's London headquarters planned
Sunday’s demonstration outside BBC headquarters in west London is being organized by Ken O’Keefe, one of the Free Gaza activists from the Mavi Marmara, who was interviewed in the documentary, and a group called the Muslim Defense League.
“Enough is enough, we all know the truth of the terrorist attacks committed by Israel on unarmed peace activists! The BBC needs to know that it cannot continue airing lies as the truth,” this group proclaims on its Facebook page.
Other protests are being organized at regional BBC offices in Manchester and Belfast.
Calls to action began even before the program was aired. The radical group Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), whose founder Asghar Bukhari made a donation to convicted Holocaust denier David Irving in 2006, urged people to complain to the BBC ahead of time.
“No doubt, the BBC will once again be airing and spreading propaganda on Israel’s behalf,” MPAC predicted on its Web site.
An action alert published by the radical fringe group Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) is calling on people to complain. In it, the group asks why the program’s presenter, Jane Corbin, does not mention “the bombs, rockets and white phosphorus dropped on Gaza by Israel during Operation Cast Lead over a three-week period, killing 1,400 people.”
The group also asks why the IDF boarded the ship at night if it had peaceful intentions, and questions why the presenter gave the flotilla a religious context.
“If Israel’s intentions in boarding the ship were peaceful, why did the commandos board in the early hours of the morning, in the dark, instead of during daylight hours? Why is [Corbin] giving the aid flotilla a religious context when it had none? Again, she presents no evidence of the recruitment of ‘fellow Islamists,’” PSC asked.
Birmingham University lecturer Sue Blackwell, a major player in the call to boycott Israel academia, also sent a call to action highlighting “the aspects of bias” of the “abysmal piece of broadcasting.”
Screening film during Ramadan 'unfair'
Blackwell maintained there were no interviews with any Palestinians or representatives of any other organization apart from IHH. She was corrected by Mike Cushman, a fellow boycott activist, who told her: “Lubna Masarwa, who was interviewed (badly) in the program, is a Palestinian and a representative of Free Gaza. We mustn’t weaken our complaints by making avoidable mistakes.”
Blackwell also suggested that the time of the screening was unfair.
“Scheduling the broadcast during the evening in the first week of Ramadan, when many Muslim viewers were unlikely to be watching because they would be breaking their fast, [was unfair],” she said.
“If you have just watched Panorama on the Mavi Marmara, please complain in the strongest terms to the BBC about outrageous Israeli propaganda being passed as investigative journalism,” University of Exeter senior lecturer Kamil Mahdi urged, in another call to action.
Alluding to a point raised in the program on Hamas’s stance toward Israel, he said: “It repeats the talk about Hamas not recognizing Israel and thousands of rockets fired at apparently peaceful Israel.
“Israeli allegations of ‘terrorism’ coming from the ship and IHH’s alleged terrorist links are given BBC credence (for what it is worth). The whole tone is also disgusting. Please pass this on and ask all to complain,” Mahdi said.
Free Gaza activist Ewa Jasiewicz said the whole tone and framing of the program was “utterly Islamophobic and racist and demonizing of Muslim activists.
“Jane Corbin and her team reduced the Israeli navy’s violent attack on six ships down to the attack on the Mavi Marmara. It was clearly the worst attacked, but by singling it out as an exception/provocation and ignoring the fact that each ship was extremely violently attacked by Israeli commandos who fired as they boarded and passengers from each ship put up resistance, served to split and isolate activists on the Marmara from the rest of the movement.
“New depths have been sunken [sic] to with this documentary, really people need to get out and complain about this appalling whitewash of Israeli crimes masquerading as ‘journalism’,” Jasiewicz said.
Last month, Jasiewicz was part of a group of activists who spray-painted “Liberate all ghettos, free Gaza and Palestine” on a wall of the original Warsaw Ghetto.