No time to lose Nadine, as BBC’s anti-Israel bias continues unchecked

It is almost the end of 2021, and the arrival of a new BBC chairman at the start of this year has done nothing to change the anti-Israel culture at the corporation (examples below), or led to the broadcaster releasing the Balen Report. As many people are aware, the BBC has been refusing for 17 years to publish the report compiled in 2004 to examine complaints of alleged persistent anti-Israel bias in BBC news reports. Not only has it refused to let British taxpayers read the report but it has used taxpayers’ cash to fight off legal challenges to its cover-up.

So, new chair Richard Sharp has achieved nothing in curbing anti-Israel bias. Or perhaps he has tried and failed.  Or perhaps he has barely tried. He is, after all, Jewish and most Jews at the BBC keep their head down over Israel and Jewish issues, or try so hard to be neutral that they fail to challenge bias and may even find themselves defending bias.

Back in May, when Lord Dyson’s report on the Martin Bashir Affair exposed a cover-up and myriad Machiavellian machinations at the BBC, I cherished the hope that it might prompt government ministers, BBC executives, etc to look into another cover-up and other Machiavellian machinations and lead to the release of the Balen Report from 2004. No such luck. There were blogs and a small flurry of social-media activity leading to a new petition but nothing happened and interest fizzled out.

But now there’s a new minister at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport whose remit includes the BBC. Nadine Dorries is the new Secretary of State and I have high hopes for her. She has in the past accused the BBC of political bias and has referred to “leftwing snowflakes.” I fear, however, that dealing with BBC bias on Israel and insisting they release the Balen Report will be very low down on her to-do list.

As she has been in her new post for only a few weeks, I’m tempted to say “give her time to settle in” but there is no time to lose. The BBC’s wilfully misleading reporting of Israel-Palestine has had direct and dire consequences for Anglo-Jewry and for Jews worldwide in the way it has fuelled antisemitism, and if it’s not halted as a result of the revelations in the Balen Report being seen and firmly acted on, it will continue to fuel antisemitism.

The Balen Report may, of course, exonerate BBC News from charges of bias and therefore of feeding antisemitism. I find that unlikely. For 30-plus years, those who care about honest reporting have watched as BBC News has slipped deeper and deeper into being a mouthpiece for the Palestinians, slavishly reproducing Palestinian press releases as “news” and adhering to a Palestinian narrative even where it is demonstrably false.

Recent examples include their reporting of the May riots in Jerusalem that preceded the firing of thousands of rockets into Israel by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hamas. The BBC’s reports, framing the riots as being provoked by Jewish “evictions” of Arabs in the city’s Sheikh Jarrah district were inaccurate and misleading – possibly deliberately so, as even the most cursory research would have revealed this as a lengthy and complex legal dispute involving rent arrears over many decades. Understandably this complex issue could not be explained in detail in a short broadcast, but a fair and unbiased report would have highlighted facts such as the riots having been pre-arranged with rocks and iron bars stockpiled at strategic points around the city. A balanced, unbiased report would not simply offer the Palestinian propaganda version of events.

As we know, the broadcast version presented the event as, in essence, just the latest “evidence” of Jewish “crimes” against Palestinians. In doing so, it allowed the riots to be viewed as an entirely predictable – if not entirely understandable – response to the “evictions.” And not only as a pretext for riots but as the pretext for a fresh onslaught of Hamas rockets fired on Israeli civilian targets. In reporting the issue as it did, the BBC helped feed the anti-Jewish narrative, it added to the demonisation of Israel and it helped give spurious legitimacy to the Hamas rockets which followed.

And when, as the rockets began to fall, the BBC presented the high death-toll in Gaza and the much lower death-toll in Israel, it did so in a way that quite deliberately made Israel seem culpable when honest, fair reporting would have provided context that made it clear that the Israeli death toll was low only because Israel prefers to protect its citizens rather than to use them as pawns in a propaganda war.

Certainly one would not expect any hint from the BBC that Hamas itself was responsible for many Palestinian deaths in Gaza through misfiring rockets or in previous skirmishes by employing their widely-used human shield strategy. Indeed, the BBC’s chief Middle East correspondent, Jeremy Bowe, gave Hamas a particularly big win in this regard on May 24.

With thousands of Hamas rockets falling across Israel but failing to inflict high numbers of casualties due to Israel’s iron dome defence system, Mr Bowen reported on the tragic death of seven Gaza children killed by “an air strike.” Naturally the words and distressing images assisteded Hamas in its campaign of inflating Jew-hate and delegitimising Israel since the report clearly implied that an Israeli air-strike was to blame for their deaths.

There was ample evidence to the contrary with many sources, including three NGOs, stating that the deaths were caused by a Hamas rocket misfiring and not by the IDF. Despite this, Bowen’s report referring to “a piece of shrapnel” provided as “evidence” of Israel’s culpability by “a Palestinian source,” left viewers in little doubt the deaths were a result of Israel’s actions.

And, of course, thanks to 30-plus years of BBC News embedding the notion of “evil” Israel; 30-plus years of reporting the Palestinian line on almost any clash; 30-plus years of consistent failure to provide vital context; 30-plus years of willingly misplacing facts and reporting events in ways which inflate Israeli culpability and minimise (or entirely ignore) Palestinian provocation, most viewers would have no difficulty believing Israeli guilt.

When (if) Ms Dorries is looking at BBC bias, she may also wish to look at the ugly anti-Israel rhetoric at the Arabic arm of the BBC’s World Service, as well as anti-Jewish rhetoric in other parts of the World Service.

Such flagrant bias and misreporting would deserve condemnation if applied to any conflict or any region, but where such misreporting and bias fuels antisemitism with the potential to make Jews targets of threats and terrorist outrages, it is even less forgivable.

Many others have a Rottweiler-like persistence over BBC bias and the Balen Report. Steven Sugar led a legal challenge, Stephen Hoffman created a petition and Cyndy Lessing created another; bloggers, activists and organisations such as CAMERA, MEMRI, CAA and Honest Reporting have been on the case. Now the Israel-Britain Alliance or IBA (initials it ironically shares with the Independent Broadcasting Authority) is running a new campaign to expose BBC bias to the disinfectant of sunlight and hoping the new Secretary of State will act.

The campaign includes a short video by IBA director Michael McCann as well as a letter to Ms Dorries, calling on her to demand publication of the report.

I hope the latest nudge from the IBA will tip the balance. I suspect the present government would like nothing better than to prove to the holier-than-though Hard Left that the Conservatives helped to curb the rise of antisemitism by uncovering the cover-up of institutional bias at BBC News.

About the Author
Jan Shure held senior editorial roles at the Jewish Chronicle for three decades. and previously served as deputy editor of the Jewish Observer. She is an author and freelance writer and wrote regularly for the Huffington Post until 2018. In 2012 she took a break from journalism to be a web entrepreneur.