A large group of Palestinians has signed a petition calling to ban the BBC from operating in the Gaza Strip because of the broadcaster's refusal to air a charity appeal for the victims of Operation Cast Lead. This was the first time that Palestinians called for boycotting the BBC - a station which they had regularly considered to be biased in favor of the Palestinians and Arabs. The group, which consists of some 200 academics, journalists, human rights activists and prominent political figures, called on the Hamas government to expel all BBC representatives from the Strip. On Thursday, the group organized a demonstration in Gaza City where they accused the station of being based in favor of Israel. The protesters threatened to expel the BBC's three foreign correspondents in the Gaza Strip "with the shoes of the victims of the Israeli war." They also raised slogans that read: "BBC out of Gaza," "Boycott BBC" and "BBC biased to Israel and complicit in Israeli war crimes." The Maan news agency quoted a spokesman for Palestinian university teachers and academics in the Gaza Strip as rejecting the BBC's argument that airing the ad would have compromised the station's impartiality. "This is a lie," he said. "The BBC remained silent when the whites committed crimes against the blacks in South Africa. And where was the BBC's impartiality toward the genocide in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq?" The BBC, he added, is writing its reports "with the blood of Palestinian children." The BBC covered the war from aboard the Israeli tanks that were stationed on the outskirts of the Gaza Strip, the academics' spokesman said. Prof. As'ad Abu Sharkh accused the BBC of complicity in the Israeli war against the Gaza Strip. "The BBC ignored the suffering of the Palestinians [during the war] and didn't report about the Israeli attacks on schools, hospitals and United Nations offices," he said. "They didn't even report about Britain's historic responsibility for the tragedy of the Palestinians."