Monday, January 26, 2009

BBC Must Stand Firm On Gaza Appeal

Pressure is mounting on the BBC to overturn its decision not to broadcast a Gaza 'charity' appeal with more than 90 MPs piling in with political posturing. But the BBC must stand firm if it is to salvage any scrap of impartiality left in the corporation. 

The BBC decision has opened a can of worms revealing the split between BBC bosses, wary of its world-wide audience and international criticism and its own news organisation, bent on presenting the conflict with blatant anti-Israel bias and pro-Hamas atrocity propaganda. 

Today BBC director general, Mark Thompson, repeated that airing a 'charity' appeal would put the corporation's impartiality at risk and the BBC could not give the impression it was "backing one side" over the other. Sky too said today it will not broadcast the 'charity' appeal for similar reasons. 

Thompson's comments come as more than 90 cross-party MPs back a parliamentary motion urging the BBC to screen the appeal, raising the ugly spectre of an authoritarian parliament bullying the corporation and trying to directly control and influence the output of the state broadcaster. 

Criticism over the decision has come from a host of usual suspects, as the appeal was swiftly whipped up as a 'cause' in a well-organised, stage-managed protest.

The so-called 'charity' appeal is a political appeal and the on-going row is sadly more about pseudo-liberal posturing politics and the fundamental Islam 'cause' than people.  

Humanitarian aid is already there in Gaza. Millions of dollars have poured in from the UN, EU and governments including our own. Now Hamas thugs are crawling out of the rubble to mount their own insidious PR offensive. 

How can anyone be sure any aid will go to all the people of Gaza and not just into the pockets of Hamas and handed out to its supporters or those poor souls brow-beaten by the authoritarian regime, while Gazans from rival Fatah are left to starve and scrabble around in the ruins. 

DEC's motives for the appeal are at best part of a do-good mentality, at worst politically motivated and highly suspect. 

Unlike Channel 4 and ITV, the BBC and Sky broadcast directly to the Middle East.

The appeal would rub Israeli noses in the dirt of the Gaza conflict, without mention of the destruction caused by Iran-backed rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. 

But the BBC also broadcasts into Palestine and moderate Arab states, as well as fundamental Islamic regimes in Syria and Iran.

It's difficult to see how such a 'charity' appeal could avoid using stock pro-Hamas propaganda TV footage and the testimony of women and children made under threat by the thugs standing behind them. 

The bias of the appeal would be too obvious if presenters didn't mention that Hamas was committing crimes against humanity by using Gazan civilians as human shields. 

Indeed, the appeal could be seen as highlighting the victims of fundamental Islamic aggression which wouldn't go down well in Tehran. 

More moderate Arab states would be outraged at an appeal for the victims in Gaza, without mention of Palestinian rivals Fatah, who are being routinely murdered and tortured by Iran-backed Hamas thugs in the wake of the conflict. 

Channel 4's decision to broadcast the 'charity' appeal on the other hand comes as no surprise. The channel's 'news' coverage of the conflict has verged on the fanatical and its biased output a bad joke. Channel 4 is desperately trying to use the appeal to get themselves off the hook and justify their shameful coverage of the conflict and blatant anti-Jewish bigotry.

No one would deny that humanitarian aid should override politics when innocent people are suffering. This conflict, like so many before, has been all about politics and power. But wading in waving around so-called liberal credentials is not the way to bring peace to the Middle East. 

Culture secretary, Andy Burnham, has said the BBC is right to make its own judgement over the appeal and there the matter should rest. 

The Orange Party is at the front of the queue when it comes to bashing first Blair's now Brown's biased BBC - but that applies in the main to its news output, not overarching decisions of the corporation. The BBC is making the right call on this one. 

Picture: A worker readies a shipment of relief aid to Gaza at the warehouses of the Jordanian Hashemite Charity Organization in Amman (Thursday Jan 22, 2009), from UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). AP Photo by Mohammad Abu Ghosh.

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