Last month the BBC Trust censured the corporation’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, for breaches of the BBC’s guidelines on impartiality in his coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The complaints concerned an article by Bowen on the BBC website two years ago, and a radio broadcast in January 2008.
The attack on Bowen has reportedly been met with anger among BBC journalists, many of whom are still seething at the decision not to broadcast the DEC aid appeal for Gaza. Broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby lambasted the Trust at the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression awards.
The Trust’s report is an extraordinary document. Anyone who has ever complained to the BBC about right wing reporting will be familiar with its stock defence that BBC output has to be judged as a whole, and not as separate items in isolation. Yet the Trust adopts a forensic approach to unpick a tiny proportion of Bowen’s journalism.
It is also hides the fact – absent from all the media coverage of the incident – that the complaints against Bowen were lodged by the Zionist Federation (ZF) of Great Britain and Ireland together with the ruthlessly pro-Israel Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (Camera) (sic).
The Zionists have long had Bowen in its sights because he is not as pro-Israel as they would like him to be. It is shocking that the BBC Trust should have taken the ZF and Camera seriously in the first place.
More importantly, however, the Trust’s ruling reveals the bankruptcy of its overall approach.
The Middle East is not a boxing match in which the BBC must balance each “pro” with an “anti” to ensure it is “impartial”. The region is a century-long bloodbath in which the Palestinians have suffered overwhelmingly at the hands of the Zionists. The Trust’s refusal to recognise this basic fact means that its quest for “impartiality” becomes in fact a defence of Israeli power.
As journalist Robert Fisk said of the Trust’s report on Bowen: “If you allow yourself to bow down before those who wish you to deviate from the truth, you will stay on your knees forever.”
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