This issue has emerged in the e-mail discussions emanating from the “Facing A Challenge” conferences in Oakland and Newark, organized by Judy Andreas for leftists to address anti-Semitism within their ranks. For better or worse, this discussion has mostly devolved into argumentation (often heated) on the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The latest discussion has been triggered by the official British panel which mostly exonerated the “Beeb” (the BBC) from allegations of anti-Israel bias. The current e-mail exchange was informed by a critical article on this report, written in the UK’s “Prospect Magazine.”
One of the problems with almost anybody who attempts to opine or analyze on this conflict, and the media coverage thereof, is that this matter is so multi-layered that almost anything one says can be legitimately challenged. I don’t think that the BBC is biased against Israel as a result of a policy decision and I have noticed in my listening and watching of late (via American public radio and television which carries a great deal of BBC news broadcasting) that its tone has improved. Editorializing in the guise of reporting or in conducting interviews is bad journalism and Orla Guerrin, Lise Ducette (the latter not mentioned in the article) and other BBC reporters and anchors have done that – usually showing bias against Israel.
But when Sharon fell ill last January, BBC coverage was almost worshipful of Sharon. I saw this clearly when Yossi Beilin, head of the dovish Meretz party, was interviewed. Beilin properly expressed his humane concern for the prime minister’s health and the well-being of his family, but he shocked the BBC reporter by saying that Sharon was not a dove — dah! Meretz supported the Gaza disengagement, but only because they wanted Israel out of the territories; Meretz lamented Sharon’s insistence on unilateralism and his refusal to attempt to engage PA Pres. Abbas in a genuine peace process. That this was too complex for the BBC reporter to grasp, or even to realize that this was Beilin’s view, shows journalistic incompetence more than bias. Maybe that’s the real problem with so much journalism nowadays, that reporters don’t have a sophisticated grasp of the subjects they’re reporting on.
Reporters too often seem to be captive to what is immediately happening in front of them, without background or perspective that would make for better-informed rather than emotional reporting. A superficial look at what’s happening on the ground, clearly sees that the Palestinians are suffering much more than Israelis in this conflict. This is not Israel’s moral failing; Israel should not be required to suffer in a one-to-one proportion to have the right to defend itself from attack.
But it is either a moral or a political failing when Israel fails to follow-up, to at least fully explore peaceful alternatives to the escalating mess that’s going on today, as the lull or truce in the Intifada has been declared ended by Hamas, in the wake of the terrible tragic events on the beach at Gaza a few days ago. And clearly, with the escalation of rockets fired at the Negev town of Sderot and other Israeli targets, and as we hold our breath for the next terrorist atrocity, Israel’s tough military response is not working.
To be continued….