The blog The Commentator recently carried an article in which the author, Shlomie Liberow, President of Goldsmiths University Jewish Society, accuses the BBC of anti-Israel bias.
“It appears the BBC has taken upon itself the unholy crusade of deeming parties in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict it fancies as either inherently “good” or “evil” and acting accordingly as if it was a truism.
“A report last week relating to a plot to target members of the English Defence League (EDL) was accompanied with an image of an arbitrary EDL rally with a strikingly focused Israeli flag at its centre.
"There have been marginal attempts by the EDL to align itself with Israeli supporters, when in attendance of rallies relating to Middle East. They have been publicly rebuffed and at protests where the two camps are present, there is two distinctly separated protest pens.
"The BBC did not find it necessary to make that distinction and after having raised the problem with the BBC, the reply I received completely dismissed the issue with the following response:
“If the EDL wish to protest waving the Israeli flag, that is their right. It is not for the BBC to censor such images in the same way that we would resist attempts to restrict coverage of the EDL because some people did not agree with their views.
We understand there may be concerns about the motivation behind the use of this flag, but with respect that is not an issue which should have any impact on how the BBC reports on the EDL.”
Liberow concludes by commenting on the BBC’s refusal to publicly disclose the findings of a report into its coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict, after accusations were levelled at the BBC of bias in its coverage.
Incidentally, ENGAGE is unable to find the article at which Liberow levels his accusations of bias. It may well be that the BBC changed the image following the complaint, or other complaints that were levelled against the BBC on this particular issue. However, if his initial finding holds- that a report relating to the EDL featured an image of the EDL brandishing an Israeli flag, then why indeed should the BBC censor such an image? The EDL’s support for Israel is no secret- the EDL hosts a Jewish Division, whose logo strongly resembles the Israeli flag and which has expressed support for the Zionist cause. The EDL has also worked with people who express strong pro-Israel sentiment, such as the openly Islamophobic Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, who has been influenced by Zionism as well as having financial relationships with Zionists. The far-right’s relationship with Zionism has also been documented by the Institute for Race Relations, who in a recent report illustrated the support of some of Europe’s far-right groups for Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories.
Moreover, the issue of the BBC’s impartiality on the Israel-Palestine conflict is far from one-sided. The BBC has on numerous occasions been accused of unfairly reporting on the conflict, as was documented in detail in a book by Greg Philo and Mike Berry. Philo and Berry found numerous examples of the BBC reporting in a manner that favours Israel, including for example having a spokesperson to defend the Israeli viewpoint more often that the Palestinian viewpoint, an issue which ENGAGE has complained to the BBC about in the past. Past points of contention also include a BBC Panorama programme of Israel’s storming of the Mavi Marmara aid boat, as well as the BBC’s censoring of lyrics mentioning ‘free Palestine’.
The BBC’s balance on the Israel Palestine conflict is all the more important given that the BBC are their own ‘judge and jury’ on the impartiality and accuracy of their broadcasting, an issue which the BBC failed to address in their most recent annual report. Perhaps if a more independent authority, such as Ofcom were to supervise this aspect of the BBC’s work, Liberow and others with concerns for bias in the coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict would feel more at peace when consuming the BBC’s coverage.
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