I am writing as President of the Zionist Central Council, a UK national organisation dedicated to promote and defend the democratic State of Israel. And defending it was certainly needed this week. Against the background of the IDF operation in Jenin, I think that most of us will be aware of the recent incident during a BBC interview with former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. That has prompted me to make a formal complaint to the BBC about its ongoing bias and this article draws much on that complaint.
The interview above was conducted by Anjana Gadgil who in that interview said “The Israeli forces are happy to kill children”. This was not a legitimate journalistic comment. A better question would have been to a Palestinian spokesman about how they have created child soldiers and why. On that subject the Western media in general and the BBC in particular turn a blind eye when children are used as combatants, as if this is an unfortunate truth which needs to be hidden or ignored.
Further, the reference to Israelis/Jews killing children is a repetition of the blood libel against Jews going back hundreds of years brought bang up to date. Since the Middle Ages the Jews, particularly at Passover have been accused of killing Christian children for the purpose of making matzah. Now in 2023, the accusation of Jews killing children is alive and well.
Whilst the BBC recognised this appalling conduct and have taken responsibility for the incident, they have wholly failed to consider how Ms Gadgil felt no compunction in making the allegation she did.
Even on the simplest of analysis it is clear that the BBC reports far more about Israel than most other countries in the world, and more often than not, in a negative spin. It has been established for some time now that heightened reporting of Israel often results in an increase in anti-Semitic attacks against Jews in the UK, so much so that every Jewish school is required to have a security guard. No other minority in the UK requires this level of protection. This significant contribution to the anti-Israel bias from a trusted source is making life for UK Jews more difficult.
It is this entrenched bias that meant Ms Gadgil felt her appalling question was legitimate, despite the fact that I am sure she would never have asked such a question in relation to any other minority group. How though did we get to this position, where a publicly funded body employing over 20,000 people should have developed into our enemy? There are a number of theories, including the view that the BBC staff are mostly left wing and so hostile to Israel. Although that sounds good when said quickly it misses a number of issues. The first is that journalists by and large try and project a neutral position when reporting irrespective of their political views. Secondly the bias is so widespread that politics alone does not provide an answer.
There is in my view a third reason, which is more complicated. The Foreign Office have for decades been traditionally antipathetic towards Israel by their contact with a large number of Arab states and only one Jewish state. The BBC is no different with their reporters being based in many Arab and Muslim states, many of whom will despise Israel. Add in the passage of time where this position remains unchanged, and the result is the hard wiring in the BBC of dislike of Israel and lack of sympathy towards Jews. This legacy of bias has developed in such a way that very few in the BBC now notices the disproportionate reporting on Israel, particularly given the similar approach taken by the United Nations. If the UN goes on and on about Israel then how is the BBC doing anything wrong? In other words, obsessive over attention to Israel has for so long been the norm in the BBC that any change is not only going to be enormously difficult but will take a long time. We need to play the long game in trying to change the BBC’s unreasonable focus and we need to start playing now.