Article published by Ynetnews.com, 22 October 2023. © Richard Kemp
Much of Western media has blood on its hands. Following the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, many news outlets have been acting as willing tools of the genocidal terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip that perpetrated it. This is neither new nor unpredictable. An anti-Zionist narrative has for many years displaced media objectivity in every conflict involving Israel.
The strategic objective of Hamas’s attacks is to incite international condemnation of Israel by compelling it to take military action in which Gaza civilians will inevitably be killed despite unparalleled IDF measures to prevent it. Whenever this happens, like Pavlov’s dogs a chorus of reporters, tame analysts and newscasters immediately appear on the airwaves to accuse Israel of war crimes. Such accusations are loudly echoed in universities, human rights groups and international bodies. Exactly as Hamas intended.
That in turn encourages Hamas to do the same thing again and again and is the real ‘cycle of violence’ that many journalists love to accuse others of but are in fact themselves active participants in.
One of the worst offenders was the BBC, by far the most influential media organization in the UK, and with one of the largest audiences internationally. It is regarded by many as the most authoritative and impartial news organization in the world and has been seen as a beacon of truth going back to the Second World War.
‘Hundreds killed in Israeli strike on Gaza hospital — Palestinian officials,’ was the BBC headline. The next day, the British Financial Times splashed with: ‘Gaza Health Ministry says hundreds killed in Israeli air strike on hospital’. Across the Atlantic, the New York Times, among others, reported the Al-Ahli incident in similarly false terms.
BBC reporter John Donnison told viewers: ‘It is hard to see what else this could be really given the size of the explosion other than an Israeli air strike or several air strikes.’ Well, if he was incapable of comprehending the other obvious possibility — a terrorist rocket falling short, which it turned out to be — then perhaps he should have restrained himself from venturing any opinion at all.
Donnison has a track record. During an earlier Gaza conflict in 2012, he retweeted a picture of a young girl lying in hospital with bloodied clothes, presented as a casualty of Israeli strikes in Gaza. In fact, it was a photograph from Syria.
He is far from alone. Six BBC Arabic language journalists ‘liked’ X.com postings praising the 7th October attacks, with one reporter celebrating the slaughter as a ‘morning of hope’. And back in 2009, the BBC’s Middle East Editor, Jeremy Bowen, now World Editor, was censured by the BBC’s editorial standards body over complaints of partiality and inaccuracy in his reporting on Israel. In 2004, after complaints about anti-Israel bias at the corporation, the BBC commissioned its own investigation which resulted in the 20,000-word Balen Report. Since it was written, the BBC has spent more than $425,000 in legal fees to contest demands that it should be published. It remains under wraps nearly 20 years later.
Even after the 7 October massacre, the BBC still refuses to call Hamas what everybody else knows they are: ‘terrorists’. Instead, terrorists attacking Israel are always referred to as ‘militants’. Meanwhile, the BBC are happy to brand as terrorists the 9/11 attackers, the London suicide bombers in 2005 and the 2017 Manchester Arena bombers. And despite digging their heels in against complaints over their stance on Hamas, the BBC described a shooting in Brussels last week as a ‘terrorist attack’.
The same deliberate mischaracterisation of terrorists attacking Israelis is shared on the UK’s Sky News, who have also referred to Hamas as a ‘political organization’. This is much more than mere semantics: it can only reflect these media outlets’ real view of Hamas and their cause.
Wider concerns about the BBC help shed light on what lies behind their anti-Israel bias. In 2021, the Simon Wiesenthal Center rated the corporation as number three on its annual ‘Global Antisemitism Top Ten’. Iran was number one with Hamas in second place.
One example of the BBC’s alleged antisemitism cited by Wiesenthal was their reporting of an attack on a bus containing Jewish teenagers in London’s Oxford Street as they celebrated Hanukkah. Rabbi Mervin Hier, the center’s chief, said: ‘The BBC falsely reported that a victim on the bus used an anti-Muslim slur.’ The BBC had misinterpreted the words of a distressed Jewish man speaking in Hebrew appealing for help. Again, they instinctively leapt to the wrong conclusion, but the one that fitted their narrative.
Discussing the Al-Ahli hospital incident with a British reporter, I was told the accusation against Israel was made because it was ‘a fast-moving news situation’, and that corrections were published by many papers and broadcasters as the situation became clearer. But ‘clarification’ usually meant replacing the false assertions against Israel with reports that ‘both sides traded blame’. As though there can be any equivalence between the unsubstantiated accusations of a proscribed terrorist murder gang and the official statements of democratically accountable armed forces.
I got no answer from the reporter on why Hamas statements were automatically given immediate credence, including the grossly exaggerated casualty figures churned out by the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry. When media did correct their fake news it was too late and their stories had already been eagerly recycled, including by politicians such as Canada’s Justin Trudeau and former UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as well as human rights organizations like Amnesty International, well known for their anti-Israel bias.
Such stories are also seized on in the streets, leading to mass protests, violence and even terrorism. Three days after media accused the IDF of the Al-Ahli incident, the Daily Telegraph reported that a terrorist attack occurred in Britain; when arrested the perpetrator told police he had done it for ‘Palestine’. No further details have yet been published, supposedly for legal reasons.
In the last few days, Jewish students at colleges in the US and UK have been set on and physically attacked as a result of disinformation spread by the media, which stokes and inflames pre-existing anti-Zionist movements so rife on many university campuses. Police in London report a 1,353% increase in antisemitic offences this month compared to the same period last year.
During a Sky News interview a few years ago, I contested the standard falsehoods about illegal occupation, illegal settlements and the old trope of ‘Israeli apartheid’. Afterwards, a veteran Sky Middle East correspondent told me privately that he agreed with me. I asked him why, then, did his reporting always reflect the opposite perspective? He told me if it did not he would be fired.
This sums up the intractable problem that dominates the editorial policies of the BBC, Sky and so much of US and European media. That is the lie that Israel is an illegitimate state that deliberately oppresses innocent, peace-loving Palestinians whose land has been stolen. They may not say as much publicly, but the dominant view, even after such horrific attacks as 7 October, is that the Israelis had it coming, or at least have a major share in the blame.
The flimsy mask seemed to slip last week when Sky News journalist Kay Burley claimed the head of the Palestinian Authority mission to the UK had said Israel ‘had it coming’, a remark he did not make.
Perhaps a case of projection of her own views and those of so many of her media colleagues? The only way to end the all-pervasive anti-Israel bias in so much of the media is to shake their underlying narrative, which forms part of the greatest slur campaign in history. And how, exactly, do you do that?
Image: Wikimedia Commons