On 19 November, peace campaigners, members of the public and representatives from across the political spectrum converged on BBC broadcasting house to protest about the perceived bias in reporting the latest conflict between Israel and Gaza. An emergency demonstration was called by Mark, a concerned individual, campaigning for the following aims on the website, We Demand a Fair BBC:
1. Reporting deaths on both sides with equal weight.
2. Giving equal amounts of airtime to viewpoints and supporters of each side.
3. Stopping the consistent use of ‘in retaliation’ ‘in response to…’, and so on, when mentioning Israeli attacks, and using arbitrary ‘start-dates’ which falsely suggests that the Palestinian side is always to blame for starting the fighting.
4. Explaining that Gaza has been under siege by Israel since 2007, as a result of Israel objecting to Hamas – Gaza’s democratically elected government.
I joined the protest briefly, as I have also witnessed blatant bias in BBC reporting in recent days (a problem which has been perennial, see Guardian letter, 2009). Just one example of a general infraction, is the tendency of the BBC to report in the form ”X tried to kill Y”, where X identifies an attack by Israel and Y describes their purported target. However, the description of the target is as friendly to the associations that Israel would seek to invoke as could be imagined, assuming both guilt on the part of the Palestinians and implying justice on the side of Israel. The bias could be materially corrected simply by inserting the qualification, “they said”, to read, “X tried, they said, to kill Y.” That leaves it an open question whether Israel did in fact “try” and whether their chosen description of “Y” is appropriate. Absent an interrogation of Israel’s motives, rarely pursued by the BBC, I think that’s the least one could expect of a responsible broadcaster.
Last week, Derek Wall, International Coordinator for the Green Party, described the latest escalation in the following terms:
“The Green Party deplores Israel’s attack on Gaza. There can be no peace in the Middle East without justice for the people of Gaza. The attack which has killed many civilians, announced on twitter and widely seen as part of an election campaign is both cynical and sordid. The Green Party calls for an end to violent incursions in Gaza.” (15 Nov, full press release, Green Party deplores Israel’s attack on Gaza)