Anti-Israel bias at the BBC

I am, and have always been, a very great fan of the BBC. I watch many of their excellent dramas and documentaries, I love to watch films without finding myself becoming increasingly irritated by advert breaks every ten minutes and most of all I adore their excellent nature programmes. If they could wrestle The Simpsons back from Channel 4 (where every show is interrupted by adverts before the story even gets started) I'd be entirely happy with the service...well, if they replaced EastEnders with something not quite so mind-numbingly tedious, anyway - though since EastEnders is watched by millions I'll accept it has its place in the world and that I'm likely to be heavily out-voted on that one.

Since Operation Cast Lead there has been a notable rise in those voices accusing the Beeb of displaying anti-Israel bias, voices further fuelled by the decision to allow BNP leader Nick Griffin to appear on Question Time. However, I've never felt this to be the case: I've always thought that the BBC does an admirable job of keeping any form of bias out of its news programming, one from which other channels and certain newspapers could learn a lot. But I'm pained to say that, last night, I was presented with what to me seems undeniable evidence that what the BBC's accusers claim might just be true.

The Noughties...was that it? (9pm, BBC3) was a fun sort of programme otherwise - a vaguely cynical yet affectionate look at the years between 2000 and the present, the fads and crazes, the celebs and popular stories. The sections on chavs and hoodies even did a rather good job at directing humour not at the chavs and hoodies themselves but at those whose sole aim in life seems to be the demonisation of Britain's young people (take note, any newspapers that felt they might be the ones I meant when I said "certain newspapers" in the previous paragraph). But the section on flash mobs - that brief craze whereby a message is sent via SMS, e-mail and Bluetooth in an attempt to gather strangers in a public place who then do something en masse such as perform the YMCA dance or, as in The Noughties..., the Do Re Mi song from The Sound of Music (you may never have heard of it - businesses rapidly cottoned onto the fact that the phenomenon offered a fantastic and virtually cost-free way to generate free advertising and as a result it became deeply uncool immediately) - contained a worrying segment.

If you missed it (which seems unlikely, as there was absolutely nothing else worth any attention anywhere on British television last night), you can still see it on iPlayer at the time of writing. Fast forward to 0:09:08 for the exact bit in question.

Hundreds of young Israelis gather in the street and have a giant pillow fight. It looks like great fun, too. But listen to the narrator: "...and then, there was the time that Israelis decided to fight with each other instead of their neighbours..."

This, I really don't need to point out, suggests to the uniformed viewer that Israel is an aggressive and warlike nation that regularly decides to attack other countries for no apparent reason. In case you're not familiar with Israeli foreign policy and the conflicts with which she has been involved, let's have a brief look at some of those conflicts. We'll start with the Six Day War which began with Israel's pre-emptive strike against forces formed of Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian troops - but why did Israel launch this strike? Because those neighbouring nations had gathered their military close to Israel's borders and were blocking her access to the Red Sea. Conclusion - Israel was reacting to offensive action carried out by hostile forces.

On October the 6th, 1973, the Yom Kippur War began after Egypt and Syria lauched surprise attacks on Israel, which suffered heavy losses while repelling the attack. Conclusion: Israel was once again attacked by hostile forces, and in response took measures to defend itself.

In 1982, Israel became involved in the Lebanese Civil War when it destroyed military bases which had been used by the PLO to lauch missiles aimed at northern Israel. Conclusion: Israel had been under attack from hostile forces and defended herself.

Under Ariel Sharon, Israel withdrew troops from Gaza
- where their presence had attracted widespread condemnation from many quarters. Hezbollah later mounted an artillery attack on Israel and kidnapped two IDF soldiers, sparking the Second Lebanon War. Conclusion: Israel accedes to Palestinian demands, but is attacked so once again is forced to defend herself.

On December the 18th, 2008, Hamas declared its six-month ceasefire with Israel at an end and by the 24th had begun a sustained wave of rocket attacks on Israeli settlements, bringing terror to Israeli civilians, destroying their homes and only by the grace of G-d not causing widespread death. Israel launched airstrikes, attacking military bases, government buildings and police stations - civilian buildings were damaged during the attacks, but to date there is no evidence that they were intentionally targeted. Hamas then stepped up its attacks, with many Israeli civilian facilities hit. Israel responded with a ground invasion on January the 3rd and withdrew troops on the 21st. Conclusion: Israel and her citizens were under daily attack and Israel took steps to bring the threat to an end.

The UN Human Rights Council has decided that Israel is entirely to blame for the Palestinians killed during the recent Gaza War and makes no mention of reprimanding Hamas despite the recommendations made by the Goldstone Report. When it comes to popular opinion, the jury is still out - many people, both Jewish and otherwise, are still making up their minds over whether or not Israel acted fairly at all times during the war and if not, to which extent. Despite early anti-Israel sentiments, the general consensus seems to be heading in the direction of a feeling that whereas some of the methods employed were excessive, Israel sought only to defend its citizens from a very real and deadly threat. Those early anti-Israel sentiments took the form of widespread condemnation of not just Israel herself but also the Jews in other nations who in the popular mind are so closely associated with Israel; and as a result led to a massive increase in attacks on synagogues, Jewish graves, Jewish property and Jews themselves.

Thankfully, those attacks have tailed off and are now at the more normal levels which, sadly, surprise none of us. That is why neither Israel nor Jews in any other countries will benefit from instances where seemingly-inconsequential little bits of anti-Israel bias are allowed to slip through into the public sphere. Israel is not an agressive nation and Jews are not an agressive people, but there are still many people who would like to see both destroyed. The BBC is is a position to help in preventing this from happening and surely has a duty to do so.

Right, I'm off to make a complaint to the BBC. I hope that I won't be the only one - you can do the same by following this link. I hope you will do so - a throw-away comment such as this one might seem of little importance, but they serve to confirm the prejudices of those who believe that Israel and, by association, Jews, are dangerous and a threat to peace.

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