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BBC's Longstanding Pro-Israeli Bias

by Stephen Lendman Tuesday, May. 07, 2013 at 8:50 AM


BBC's Longstanding Pro-Israeli Bias

by Stephen Lendman

Since 1922, BBC's first general manager, John Reith, explained his mandate. UK officials "know they can trust us not be be really impartial," he said.

It's a reliable business/government partner. Earlier it was called the "British Falsehood Corporation." More recently it's been known as the "British Bombing (or Bombast) Club."

Its claim about "honesty, integrity (being) what the BBC stands for, free from political influence and commercial pressure" doesn't wash. It never did.

UK-based Media Lens offers independent, "authoritative criticism." Its reports reflect "reality." It's free from corporate or government influence.

It once called BBC reporting fundamentally one-sided, imbalanced, "biased, blinkered and culpable."

"Anyone can spot the propaganda with a modicum of vigilance while watching the news."

In April 2008, Media Lens said "news priorities….mean the more Palestinians killed the less importance their deaths have to news organizations like" BBC.

"Conversely, the fewer Israelis killed the more seriousness their deaths are accorded."

"As a result of….undeclared media censorship, public understanding of the Middle East remains limited; and challenges to Western support of brutal Israeli policy are easily diffused and minimised."

"Sadly, the net effect is that the BBC provides cover for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians." It's longstanding. It predates the Nakba.

BBC Watch "monitor(s) BBC coverage of Israel for accuracy and impartiality."

It's the largest news and information organization. Its global reach makes it perhaps the most influential. It violates its editorial standards. Doing so betrays the public trust.

Its pro-Israeli bias is notorious. Credibility isn't its long suit. From 1995 - 2000, Jeremy Bowen served as Middle East correspondent. Earlier he headed BBC's Jerusalem bureau. Currently he's BBC's Middle East editor.

Media Lens says his "reporting consistently reflects (a) pro-establishment, pro-Israeli line."

BBC Watch said "what is or is not deemed impartial (reflects) the culture in which (journalists like Bowen) work, and particularly when that culture is self-regulated, an institutional consensus (develops) which may not necessarily be identical to the definition of impartial or accurate as perceived by those outside the organization…."

Language and framing always matter. BBC's web site lists "Key terms." It calls premeditated assassinations "killings." If Israeli sources say so, they're "targeted killings."

Israel's apartheid wall is called a "barrier, separation barrier, West Bank barrier, (or) this wall."

"Be careful" using the word "border." "Do you mean boundary," it asks? "See Green Line." Omitted is saying Israel is the only country without defined borders. Historic Palestine was stolen.

"Avoid cliches whenever possible." Reporting a "cycle of violence (does) nothing to explain any of the underlying causes of the conflict and may indeed obscure them."

Israel bears full responsibility. It's done so for decades. State-sponsored terror is longstanding. It's official policy. Don't expect BBC to explain.

It notoriously denies Israel's occupation. It says Israel's "preferred phrase (is) 'disputed territories,' and it is reasonable to use this when it is clear that we are referring to or explaining its position."

It claims Jerusalem as its exclusive capital. Since 1947, it's been an international city under a UN Trusteeship Council. BBC reports otherwise.

Its Israel profile calls Jerusalem its "seat of government." It omits mentioning Israel's occupation. UN terminology is "occupied Palestinian territories."

Its Palestinian territories profile calls East Jerusalem its "intended seat of government. Ramallah serves as administrative capital."

It quotes Britain's Foreign Office saying it "regards the status of Jerusalem as still to be determined in permanent status negotiations between the parties."

Not so. International law has final say.

"Avoid the phrase 'Arab East Jerusalem,' " says BBC.

It ignores besieged Gaza. It says "Israel completed the withdrawal of all its troops and settlers" in 2005. Omitted is mention of frequent Israeli incursions, bombings, and at times premeditated war.

In discussing the second Intifada, the "usual guidelines about paying due regard to the context in which words are used should be carefully considered if we are referring to the causes of the uprising."

Israel bears full responsibility. BBC won't explain.

"There is no independent state of Palestine today…"

False! It exists. On November 15, 1988, it was proclaimed in Algiers. At the time, the PLO adopted the Palestinian Declaration of Independence.

PLO legal advisor Francis Boyle drafted it. He included safeguards to assure all sovereign state rights. His document left no wiggle room loopholes. He also made sure UN membership won't comprise them.

Palestine satisfies all essential criteria. It does so for sovereign independence and full de jure UN membership.

All UN Charter states (including America and Israel) provisionally recognized Palestinian independence in accordance with UN Charter article 80(1) and League Covenant article 22(4). Don't expect BBC to explain.

Avoid the phrase "peace process" in the wrong context. (B)etter to avoid the term entirely (except) in an historical sense (or) a revival of" earlier discussions.

BBC scorns the right of return. More on that below.

In 1974, General Assembly Resolution 3236 reaffirmed "the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return."

Israel's UN admission was conditional on accepting and implementing Resolution 194. It said:

"refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage which, under the principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the governments or authorities responsible."

Residents traveling abroad for any length of time or reason have similar rights.

BBC states:

"We should try to specify who would like to return and to where."

"There is a Palestinian demand that Palestinians 'who fled or were forced out of their homes' during the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli wars have the right to return to their homes."

"There is a dispute between the two sides over why they are refugees, so the previous phrase is a useful one that reflects the two different views."

No dispute exists. International law is clear. BBC didn't explain.

It said settlements "are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this."

They're not "considered illegal." They ARE illegal. International law is unequivocal.

BBC producer guidelines on terrorists state:

"We must report acts of terror quickly, accurately, fully and responsibly. We should not adopt other people's language as our own."

"Our credibility is undermined by the careless use of words which carry emotional or value judgements."

BBC does this repeatedly. Israeli aggression is called self-defense. Palestinian self-defense is called terrorism. Listeners and viewers get truth turned on its head.

Expect no policy change ahead. On April 2, Tony Hall became BBC director-general. He's a House of Lords member. He's notoriously pro-Israeli.

So is James Harding. Hall appointed him news and current affairs head. He's a former Rupert Murdoch editor. He'll join BBC in August.

Earlier he called himself "pro-Israel. I haven't found it hard (because his former employer) has been pro-Israel for a long time. I believe in the State of Israel." He defended its Cast Lead slaughter.

In February, Hall appointed James Purnell BBC's director of strategy and digital. In Parliament, he chaired the Labour Friends of Israel lobby group. Former members include Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Purnell calls Israel "a democracy. (It) suffer(s) terror attacks. (It's) surrounded by countries that don't recognize its existence. (It's) the victim of well-funded terrorist organizations that preach anti-Semitic hate."

Israel remains in good hands at BBC. Expect longstanding one-sided support to continue. Expect disdain for Palestinian rights.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

Visit his blog site at

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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