« Timmy Elsewhere | Main | Bugger, Bugger, Bugger »

May 03, 2006

Is the BBC Biased?

Yes, says a report.

Chaired by the British Board of Film Classification president, Sir Quentin Thomas, the review said output failed to consistently "constitute a full and fair account of the conflict but rather, in important respects, presents an incomplete and in that sense misleading picture".

Yup. it’s not pro-Palestinian enough.

In particular, it highlighted a "failure to convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other lives under occupation".

May 3, 2006 in Media | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Is the BBC Biased?:


You disagree?

Tim adds: I barely see or read any of the Beeb’s output so I don’t really know. I’ve also been ignoring the entire Israel/Palestine subject for the past two decades or more....since I realised that The Economist seemed to be recycling five year old articles on the subject with just a few name changes.

Posted by: Jim | May 3, 2006 8:59:36 AM

Well, I disagree. Biased BBC does a good job of convincing me that the BBC roots for the Palestinian side.

Posted by: Tim Newman | May 3, 2006 9:50:07 AM

Fair enough. I'm looking forward to this story sending 'Biased BBC', Samizdata et al into paroxysms of range.

Posted by: Jim | May 3, 2006 10:12:57 AM

Er, paroxysms of rage, that is.

Posted by: Jim | May 3, 2006 11:29:44 AM

No BBC correspondent cried over Ariel Sharon, but at least one did over Yassar Arafat.

Posted by: EU Serf | May 3, 2006 11:58:14 AM

It tends to be forgotten nowadays that Britain abstained in the famous UN General Assembly vote in 1947 on the partition of Palestine - for the historic context, try this extensive extract from Avi Shlaim's book: The Iron Wall (Penguin Books, 2001):

"On 29 November 1947 the General Assembly of the United Nations passed its historic Resolution 181 in favor of the partition of Palestine. In a rare instance of agreement during the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union voted for the resolution while Britain abstained."

The line of the British government in 1947 was that partition of Palestine would lead to continuing conflict, which was perceptive and has proved absolutely correct since. This para in the extract from Avi Shlami's book provides an insight as to why:

"The publication of The Jewish State [by Herzl, published in 1896] evoked various reactions in the Jewish community, some strongly favorable, some hostile, and some skeptical. After the Basel Congress the rabbis of Vienna decided to explore Herzl's ideas and sent two representatives to Palestine. This fact-finding mission resulted in a cable from Palestine in which the two rabbis wrote, 'The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.'"

I think that the BBC currently does a difficult job of maintaining a balance in continually challenging circumstances although perhaps we need to be reminded rather more often that the state of Israel was created through terrorism:

"King David Hotel bombing (July 22, 1946) was a bombing attack against the British government of Palestine by members of Irgun —a militant Zionist group. The Irgun exploded a bomb at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which had been the base for the British Secretariat, the military command and a branch of the Criminal Investigation Division (police). 91 people were killed, most of them civilians: 28 British, 41 Arab, 17 Jewish, and 5 other. Around 45 people were injured. . . "

The leading instigator and perpetrator of that terrorist outrage went on to become prime minister of Israel 1977-82.

Posted by: Bob B | May 3, 2006 12:05:37 PM

perhaps we need to be reminded rather more often that the state of Israel was created through terrorism

The story you link to does nothing to support this assertion, which is, quite frankly, nonsense. Israel was not created through terrorism any more than the Republic of Ireland was.

Posted by: Tim Newman | May 3, 2006 1:55:24 PM

Bob B, I think you're awfully optimistic (so to speak) in imagining that the Arabs in that neighborhood would have succeeded in exterminating the local Jews if 181 hadn't worked out. They did try to exterminate them after 181, and failed.

Sure, there would be no "conflict" involving Jews in the region, if the Jews there had all been killed 60 years ago. What seems odd to me is how you seem to think exterminating a given ethnicity in a given region is necessarily a reasonable way to resolve conflicts.

Or are you just saying that mass killing is okay if the victims are illegal immigrants? Is that it? Is there, or has there ever been, a single other case to which you'd generalize that principle? Just curious.

The King David Hotel thing is interesting, given that this hot breaking news, which you want the BBC to trumpet hourly, happened 60 years ago. Some other hot news items from those days include widespread Arab support for Adolf Hitler, and the Hebron massacres before the war. Any interest in putting those items in heavy rotation? Any idea why not?

Have you ever heard of something called the Partition of India? Why isn't that on page 1 every day, I wonder? Bias, of course! Naked, shameless bias!

That's leaving aside the peculiarity of the notion that a nation can suffer from "original sin". You do realize that the UK is populated with the descendants of several waves of people who invaded the place without even asking for UN approval, right? Each successive wave kicked the locals around pretty good, too. And then there was the British Empire. No, the UK is obviously a criminal nation, for unassailably irrelevant historical reasons, and any news report mentioning the UK ought surely to be prefaced with a graphic account of the atrocities visited in AD 600 by Hogwold the Lugubrious and his boys on some other gang of equally repulsive thugs in what is now modern Swampshire. And if they don't, that means they're not reporting current events accurately.


Posted by: P. Froward | May 3, 2006 2:25:55 PM

"Israel was not created through terrorism any more than the Republic of Ireland was."

I agree with your larger point, but this statement certainly does not help your arguement.

Posted by: Tom | May 3, 2006 4:00:22 PM

"You do realize that the UK is populated with the descendants of several waves of people who invaded the place without even asking for UN approval, right? Each successive wave kicked the locals around pretty good, too."

As indeed Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe (1719), reminded us a long while ago in his satirical poem, The True-Born Englishman (1701):

"And then there was the British Empire"

Try Niall Ferguson's thesis: Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World (Penguin, 2004)

"It has long been fashionable to decry the British empire as a relic of imperial repression, and while it is not my intention to excuse its worst excesses, it is important for a good-looking historian to take a contrary position. So I contend it was also a considerable force for good. Every iconoclast needs a neologism; mine is Anglobalisation. . . . "

As for Sharon until latterly the prime minister of Israel, I found Avi Shlaim's account of these events in his early military career on the night of 14-15 October 1953 most illuminating:

“. . Unit 101 was commanded by an aggressive and ambitious young major named Ariel Sharon. Sharon’s order was to penetrate Qibya, blow up houses, and inflict heavy casualties on its inhabitants. His success in carrying out this order surpassed all expectations. The full and macabre story of what happened at Qibya was revealed only during the morning after the attack. The village had been reduced to a pile of rubble: forty-five houses had been blown up, and sixty-nine civiliains, two-thirds of them women and children, had been killed. Sharon and his men claimed that they had no idea that anyone was hiding in the houses. The UN observer who inspected the reached a different conclusion: ‘One story was repeated time after time: the bullet splintered door, the body sprawled across the threshold, indicating that the inhabitants had been forced by heavy fire to stay inside until their homes were blown up over them.’”
Avi Shlaim: The Iron Wall (Penguin Books, 2001), p.91.

Posted by: Bob B | May 3, 2006 4:18:38 PM

Good job Arafraud wasn't involved in any massacres of civilians...

After all he's worth crying for If your a BBC journo.

Posted by: Rob Read | May 3, 2006 4:27:13 PM

Report of Physicians For Human Rights, November 2000:

"Physicians for Human Rights USA (PHR) finds that the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has used live ammunition and rubber bullets excessively and inappropriately to control demonstrators, and that based on the high number of documented injuries to the head and thighs, Israeli soldiers appear to be shooting to inflict harm, rather than solely in self-defense.

"PHR sent a medical team to Israel, Gaza and the West Bank from October 20-27, 2000 to investigate claims that Israel Defense Force (IDF) is using excessive force in the current conflict that has pitted Israeli troops and settlers against Palestinian demonstrators and combatants. (full report attached) . .

"The three person team was composed of forensic pathologists Robert Kirschner, M.D., University of Chicago Medical School, Nizam Peerwani, M.D., Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office, and James C. Cobey, M.D., M.P.H., an orthopaedic surgeon based in Washington, D.C."

Posted by: Bob B | May 3, 2006 4:54:31 PM

Bob B,

Making a case requires you to put forward your argument backed up by factual sources where required, not just copying an pasting chunks of other people's opinions in isolation.

Aside from being rather tedious, it does nothing to counter the points made.

Posted by: Tim Newman | May 3, 2006 6:00:11 PM

I appreciate that you find the posted evidence from independent sources problematic for the cause you wish to promote to damn the BBC but there it is. Some of us began to recognise years ago than whenever the BBC made space or air time to include reports such as this on the Khiam Prison in South Lebanon it attracted a torrent of accusations that it was biased:

"Khiam prison was a detention and interrogation centre during the years of the Israeli occupation in Southern Lebanon. From 1985 until the Israeli withdrawal this May, thousands of Lebanese were held in Khiam without trial. Most of them were brutally tortured - some of them died."

However, I was reassured the BBC was on the correct tack when I found web postings like this:

"Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Member of Parliament, Manchester, Gorton): I became a friend of Israel when I was eight days old, and I have the scar to prove it. [Laughter.]

"The confrontation between Ariel Sharon's Government and the Palestinian terrorists has become an international crisis, which, unless handled decisively, could create a dangerous wider conflict and disrupt the economies of the developed world. The suicide bombings organised by Palestinian terrorist groups are atrocities with which no civilised community can cope.

"Earlier this month, an Israeli friend visited me here and told me that his trip was an escape from hell. He went back to hell. Last week, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the bus stop outside his kibbutz, where I have stayed many times, killing eight innocent people. The deaths of hundreds of innocent Israelis are horrifying and have created an unsustainable atmosphere in Israel. . .

"In 1948, the Palestinians denounced what they described as a massacre in the village of Deir Yassin. It was denied that there was such a massacre, but it was later officially established by the incoming Israeli Government that 254 Palestinians had been murdered wantonly by Begin's Irgun and the Stern gang, led by Yitzhak Shamir--later, like Begin and Sharon, a Likud Prime Minister. . . "

And this by Jews for Justice:

Posted by: Bob B | May 3, 2006 7:57:49 PM

Jesus wept!

Posted by: Tim Newman | May 3, 2006 8:30:58 PM

Is the BBC Biased?

What a silly question. The bbc would not make sense to the bbc if it reflected rather than defined the world we see.

They could not reject their hubris even if they wanted to, and they do not want to - it is (to them) a celebration of their superiority as people.

Posted by: johnny bonk | May 3, 2006 9:22:32 PM