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BBC's unbalanced Israel-Palestine coverage

BBC's unbalanced Israel-Palestine coverage

Categories: Latest News

Tuesday November 27 2012

The media monitoring site Spinwatch draws attention to a rather interesting recent example of BBC ineptitude which seems not to have been picked by the mainstream press.

Hilary Aked on Spinwatch writes of the BBC’s frequently inviting Jonathan Sacerdoti onto the channel during Israel’s most recent bombardment of Gaza under the guise of director of the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy. What the BBC appear not to have realised, or sought to investigate, was Sacerdoti’s prior and deep involvement in pro-Israeli activism as the former director of public affairs at the Zionist Federation.

Aked notes that Sacerdoti “appeared four times on BBC News between 14-15 November defending Israel’s actions in Gaza, without viewers ever being informed of his history of pro-Israeli activism.”

If viewers were not informed, it was because BBC News took no pains to introduce Sacerdoti as such, or indeed ensure that his interventions were challenged by a pro-Palestinian advocate.

So rattled is Sacerdoti at having been bamboozled, that he “began removing videos, photos and written evidence of his former role with the pro-Israel group hours after our article questioning his BBC appearances appeared.”

According to Spinwatch, “Sacerdoti scrambled to hide the video evidence of his previous appearances for the Zionist Federation in the media.

“The absence of significant details from Sacerdoti’s LinkedIn profile and his subsequent attempts to wipe the proof of his pro-Israel partisanship from the internet beg the question of whether he misrepresented his position to the BBC.”

Whether he willingly misrepresented his position to gain airtime to espouse pro-Israeli views is one matter. To have been allowed to do so without due diligence checks at the BBC is quite another.

In recent years there has been much made by the pro-Israeli lobby of the infamous Balen report, with much money and time spent by pro-Israeli supporters to force the corporation to disclose its contents on suspicion of its alluding to a pro-Palestinian bias at the BBC. While obsessively focused on the Balen report, the lobby seems to have been much less concerned about academic analyses produced by Greg Philo and Mike Berry of the Glasgow University Media Group, or indeed, of that by Tim Llewellyn, former Middle East correspondent for the BBC, which points to a marked and consistent pro-Israeli bias in coverage of the Middle East conflict by the BBC.

Lord David Steel in his review of the book, The Battle for Public Opinion in Europe, published by Middle East Monitor, writes of Llewellyn’s contribution to the book, “I found the chapter by former BBC correspondent Tim Llewellyn particularly disturbing on how biased under pressure BBC reporting of the Israel/Palestine conflicts had become. Let us hope that under the new wise chairman, Chris Patten (one of my successors as President of British charity Medical Aid for Palestinians), things will improve, for he is on record on the subject of the European trade agreement with Israel as saying: “If Europe is to write more cheques, surely we should insist on some political movement.””

It would seem Lord Steel’s hopes are misplaced if the debacle over Sacerdoti’s frequent appearance on BBC News this month is anything to go by.

Raheem Kassam of The Commentator, the website behind the FOI request on BBC newspaper consumption, wrote in last week’s Jewish Chronicle how “efforts [by the pro-Israeli lobby] in highlighting BBC bias over the years have not gone to waste,” adding “I did have the pleasure of stating, live on air, that I was in Israel’s capital when I was in Jerusalem. Previously, they might have bleeped that out.”

If the BBC can barely run background checks to ascertain the persuasion of individuals invited on to speak on significant events, let alone advise viewers of the individual’s bias, it is hardly surprising it missed the fact check on Kassam’s claims to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

You can raise your concerns at the BBC’s apparent breach of its code on due impartiality via its online complaints form here, or in writing to BBC Complaints, PO Box 1922, Darlington, DL3 0UR.


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