Adam Levick
Co-Editor, CAMERA UK

Introducing BBC Watch

Sadly, BBC coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict is often egregiously biased; we will work to ensure that it sticks to what it is legally obligated to provide: accurate and impartial news

The mission of CiF Watch — to monitor the Guardian and its ‘Comment is Free’ website for anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias — is based upon the desire to name and shame the institution’s management, editors and contributors as purveyors of inaccurate, tendentious and inflammatory discourse about Jews and Israel.

Holding the Guardian accountable for its consistent licensing of commentators hostile to Jews and even the very existence of the Jewish state is undertaken with the understanding that, as with any independent media group, they are obviously free to demonstrate such bias – informed by a very rigid ideological orientation.

The BBC, on the other hand, as defined in the Royal Charter, has the obligation to inform its funders – the license fee-paying British public — and to increase that public’s understanding of the world “through accurate and impartial news and analysis of current events and ideas.”

Sadly, however, the BBC – a largely self-regulated institution – provides coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict which is often extremely misleading and egregiously biased.

A 40th anniversary retrospective of the Six Day War broadcast in 2007 on BBC Radio, and produced by the BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen, entirely adopted the Arab narrative. Bowen unquestioningly accepted the assertions of Arab officials that Arab leaders, in the months prior to the war, really did not mean it when they threatened to eliminate the Jewish state. Additionally, Bowen depicted Israelis as hungry for war when, in fact, the Israeli government did everything possible to avert conflict with the militarily superior Arabs.

BBC profile of Hamas in 2011 severely downplayed the group’s terrorism and completely ignored its violently anti-Semitic founding charter.

On May 15, 2012, an edition of the BBC show Hardtalk – which bills itself as “the hard-hitting flagship news programme of the world’s largest media institution” – was aired. The episode, titled “Are American Jews fed up with Israel?” used Norman Finkelstein — a Hezbollah supporter and the author of “The Holocaust Industry” — to comment on American Jewish attitudes toward Israel. During the show, anchor Sarah Montague asserted as fact that American policy is “in thrall to the Jewish lobby” and that “the American Jews influence US foreign policy and that explains Washington’s increasing support for Israel.”

In July 2012, the BBC Sport website for the London Olympic Games, which featured country profiles of all of the competing nations, did not list a capital for Israel while falsely listing “East Jerusalem” as the capital of “Palestine.”

As 97% of the UK population – and roughly 225 million more people worldwide – watch and listen to BBC broadcasts every week, such pronounced bias can have significant injurious impact on the manner in which views of the conflict are shaped.

Therefore, BBC Watch has been established in order to monitor BBC output on the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict and examine the broadcaster’s adherence to its legal obligation to produce accurate and impartial reports.

BBC Watch — a sister project of CiF Watch with the independent support of CAMERA — will work to ensure that BBC’s consumers receive what they are legally entitled to: accurate and impartial news, information and analysis on Israel and the Middle East.

About the Author
Adam Levick serves as co-editor of CAMERA UK. He has published reports on antisemitism at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and op-eds at publications such as The Guardian, The Independent, The Irish Examiner, The Algemeiner, JNS and The Jewish Chronicle. Adam made Aliyah from Philadelphia in 2009.