Robert Festenstein

Everyone is biased

Day 71.  The Rabbi in his sermon last Shabbat morning explained that everyone is biased.  He is of course correct.  Over 4 years ago I wrote about how our experiences frame our outlook on the world.  I was 13 when the Egyptians and Syrians launched a joint attack on Israel on Yom Kippur in 1973.  That has left a lasting impression on me in the same way as the October 7 attacks will leave a similar impression on today’s youth.

The Rabbi was talking about claims that various media outlets are biased and again, he is correct.  If you don’t like the BBC then GB News is a more palatable outlet, or Sky Australia with different owners to Sky here.  Everyone has their own view and that comes out in speech and writing.

There is though, a difference between bias and deliberate misinformation.  Take the al-Ahli hospital incident where the BBC gleefully swallowed the Hamas claim that 500 people had been killed as a result of Israeli bombs.  There was no attempt by the BBC to investigate the validity of Hamas’s claims; they were just regurgitated as if they needed no such investigation.  When the more likely scenario became clear, that the explosion was the result of a failed rocket launch by militant terrorists and not the result of an Israeli airstrike, the PR damage was already done. The lies of course made much better headlines than the correction of the mistakes.

I am not sure what experience the BBC journalists had in their past which prompted them to make their appalling error concerning the hospital.  I don’t believe it was any experience that pointed them in that direction.  I suspect rather it was an undisguised antipathy towards Israel and that if there was something bad being said then it was probably true.  That is not a bias in the sense the Rabbi meant, it is something more sinister.  It is taking sides.

Fine if you are reporting lies from the Hamas Health Ministry, but not so fine if you are asserting that your reports are impartial.  So how do we deal with the two states, one a bias or inclination borne of experience, and the other a deliberate act to follow a course without caring if the information being provided is true or not. As far as the BBC is concerned the answer is not to privatise it.  Absolutely not.  All that will do is create another media entity with private investors pushing it one way or another.  The answer must be to try and correct the imbalance of reporting, to demonstrate that the reporting concerning Israel is like no other.

Sadly there is nothing to be done now.  There needs to be an arm’s length look at the way in which the media has portrayed Israel and how in some instances they have contributed to the appalling rise of anti-Semitism in the UK.  Whether that is carried out by the UK Government, the BBC itself or some other organisation, what is screamingly obvious is that the British media (not only the BBC) have not been truthful to us, the watching and listening public.

When I see a report now from the BBC or ITV, I think about what lies or distortions they have uttered about Israel and so wonder whether I can in fact rely upon the reports on entirely different matters.  Are the reports about the police, the armed forces, the court system reliable any longer?  Were they ever?  Our trust has been broken and it remains to be seen whether this is capable of repair.

About the Author
Robert Festenstein is a solicitor based in Manchester with considerable experience in Court actions. He is active in fighting the increase in anti-Semitism in the UK and is President of the Zionist Central Council, an organisation devoted to promoting and defending the democratic State of Israel.