An upcoming event with the BBC’s Middle East editor

On September 3rd the Frontline Club – with which the BBC frequently collaborates – will be hosting an event titled “Reporting the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict – Emotion, Bias and Objectivity” which we are informed is already fully booked.

The topic of discussion is promoted as follows:

“The latest chapter in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict has again highlighted the difficulties of covering this complex and deep-rooted conflict that provokes such a strong emotional response from the general public.

The BBC has faced accusation that it is not critical enough of Israel’s actions and that its reporting is one-sided, whereas Channel 4 News has been accused of crossing the line between journalism and campaigning. Is there a middle ground?

In the face of such devastation should we expect correspondents to offer an objective view devoid of emotion? If we encourage correspondents to show more emotion do we risk compromising the credibility and standard of journalism in this country?

Join us as we take a view of the coverage we have seen, talk to the journalists that have produced it and ask what we can learn.”

On the panel selected to provide answers to those questions are Jeremy ‘I see no human shields’ Bowen and Channel 4’s Jon Snow.Nelson

The discussion would doubtless be enhanced were Bowen  (along with his colleague Orla Guerin) to take the trouble to brush up beforehand on the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields and that policy’s role in causing so many of the civilian casualties which he graphically reported during his recent stint in the Gaza strip.

That, of course, is unlikely to happen but if any of our readers do intend to attend the event and would like to report on it afterwards, we would be interested in hearing from you.

In the meantime, what do readers think of the questions above? Is it really too much to ask journalists to report conflicts objectively and factually? Would we accept that other professions – say doctors or policemen – should have leeway to bend professional standards in light of emotionally difficult scenes or experiences? Is reporting based on journalists’ emotions of any value to the BBC’s funding public? Has the “credibility and standard of journalism” displayed by the BBC indeed been compromised by its coverage of the recent conflict and do readers identify any effects of the style and content of its coverage in broader society? Tell us in the comments below. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do BBC journalists think you should be reading?

Among the recommended reading on the current hostilities in Israel and the Gaza Strip which BBC employees have recently promoted to their followers on social media is an article by Jeremy Bowen in the New Statesman.

Tweet Ghattas Bowen art

In that article Bowen makes no attempt whatsoever to adhere to those famous BBC values of accuracy and impartiality. Moreover, he further amplifies the line he already began promoting whilst on the ground in the Gaza Strip, claiming that he saw “no evidence” of Hamas’ use of the local population as human shields.

“I was back in London for my son’s 11th birthday party by the time all those people were killed in Shejaiya. But my impression of Hamas is different from Netanyahu’s. I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields. I saw men from Hamas on street corners, keeping an eye on what was happening. They were local people and everyone knew them, even the young boys. Raji Sourani, the director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, told me that Hamas, whatever you think of it, is part of the Palestinian DNA.

I met Sourani first when he was condemning abuses by Yasser Arafat’s men. He has taken an equally tough stance on Hamas. Now he says Israel is violating the laws of war by ignoring its legal duty to treat Palestinian civilians as protected non-combatants.”

Bowen refrains from informing readers that Raji Sourani is far from the impartial human rights campaigner he portrays, but in fact one of those currently leading the lawfare campaign against Israel. Bowen, it is all too apparent, has elected to lend his own clout to that campaign.

“Hamas, human rights groups say, also violates the laws of war by firing missiles at civilians. […]

But it is wrong to suggest that Israeli civilians near Gaza suffer as much as Palestinians. It is much, much worse in Gaza.”

It is of course worth remembering that those words – and in particular that ‘scorecard’ of suffering – were written by the man ultimately responsible for the accuracy, impartiality and tone of the BBC’s reporting on the Middle East. 

Another article which proved popular with BBC employees was written by Channel 4’s Jon Snow. 

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Snow – who incidentally supports a ‘charity’ banned in Israel because of its ties to Hamas – makes little effort to put up any kind of show of journalistic impartiality either and he too appoints himself as judge and chief awarder of points in the league tables of suffering invented by Western journalists.

“I could see the young Israeli IDF guards peering at me through the steel room’s bullet-proof glass. They were the same women who, from another glass window, had barked commands at me though a very public address system.

“Feet apart!” they said. “Turn! No, not that way – the other!” Then, in the next of five steel security rooms I passed through – each with a red or green light to tell me to stop or go – a male security guard up in the same complex above me shouted “Take your shirt off – right off. Now throw it on the floor… Pick it up, now ring it like it was wet” (it was wet, soaked in sweat).

From entering the steel complex until I reach the final steel clearing room where I held the baby, I was never spoken to face to face, nor did I see another human beyond those who barked the commands through the bullet-proof windows high above me. […]

I feel guilty in leaving, and for the first time in my reporting life, scarred, deeply scarred by what I have seen, some of it too terrible to put on the screen.

It is accentuated by suddenly being within sumptuously appointed Israel. Accentuated by the absolute absence of anything that indicates that this bloody war rages a few miles away. […]

In and out of an Israeli transit hotel for a few hours in Ashkelon, an hour from the steel crossing-point from Gaza, there were three half-hearted air raid warnings. Some people run, but most just get on with what they are doing.

They are relatively safe today because Israel is the most heavily fortified country on earth. The brilliant Israeli-invented, American-financed shield is all but fool-proof; the border fortifications, the intelligence, beyond anything else anywhere.”

Perhaps predictably, Snow closes by promoting the cringingly uninformed claim that Israel’s battle against a terrorist organization trying to destroy it (a fact he somehow neglects to mention) is in fact the cause of conflict the world over.

“This is humankind’s most grievous cancer, for its cells infect conflicts in every corner of the world.”

BBC licence fee payers might reasonably wonder what chance they have of getting anything approaching the accurate and impartial reporting they are promised if these are examples of the type of vitriolic polemics the corporation’s employees read and recommend. They might, however, have already ceased to wonder why so many UK media reports  fail to address the topic of the responsibility of terrorist organisations for the suffering of the people of Gaza.