Friday, 27 August 2010
Director BBC News
Dear Ms Boaden
On 24 August 2010, the BBC Today programme's Steve Evans conducted an interview with Gro Nystuen from Norway's Council of Ethics. (1)
Mr Evans wanted to know why her department, part of the Ministry of Finance, had made the decision to divest from two leading Israeli construction companies operating in the West Bank, Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus. (2)
The Norwegians took the divestment decision in recognition of international law which regards the West Bank settlements as illegal.
Please could you answer the following questions:
1. Why was the specific segment (06.22.55 BST; i-player: 0.22.55) on the Norwegian decision to divest from these two Israeli companies, and the defence of that action from Gro Nystuen, removed from the Today programme's playlisting and only later reinstated? (3)
2. Why did Steve Evans adopt this particular, persistent, narrow and hostile line of questioning vis-à-vis China when he could, and should, have explored the more substantive issue of Israel's illegal occupation, the settlements and how a growing number of countries, like Norway, are following international law in refusing to deal with companies engaged in the West Bank?
3. Why did Steve Evans not caveat his remarks with an acknowledgement that Britain and most other Western countries actively engage in trade with China?
4. Evans further suggests that the Norwegian government has a "leftist view of the world" which "beats our own people harder than other groups that might deserve a beating too". Bearing in mind the BBC's codes on 'impartiality', on what proper basis does Evans use the words "our own people"? And, in what sense should he express the opinion that these "other groups" "deserve a beating too"?
5. Evans further implies that the Norwegian fund is compromised due to the revenues accrued through oil. Does this also mean that the royalties flowing into the UK exchequer are likewise 'dirty' money?
I'd like specific answers to each of these five questions.
(1) My thanks to David Halpin and Mary Bedforth for their perceptive discovery and pursuit of this disturbing piece of BBC bias.
Saturday, 21 August 2010
A hastily-released BBC response, intended, it seems, to deal with and pacify the high level of objections, included these defensive lines:
"This programme intended to explore the considerable confusion about what actually happened on the Mavi Marmara on the day in question.
Israel has been accused of breaking international law by seizing a Turkish ship. Israel says they were terrorists. Turkey insists they were innocent victims. With several inquiries underway Jane Corbin uncovered new evidence from both sides in a bid to uncover what really happened."
The BBC reply repeats the film's false-flag claim that "considerable confusion" remains over the Mavi Marmara event. But Corbin's apparent "new evidence", claiming to "uncover what really happened", reveals nothing new. It's a shameless conceit intended to lend the programme 'authenticity'.
Worse, the film ignores all previously-established evidence charting Israel's brutal conduct, omits to mention the confiscation of other activist evidence and makes no reference to Israel's own edited and withheld footage.
In a token attempt at 'balance', the BBC acknowledges the accusation that Israel is accused of seizing a Turkish ship, in violation of international law. In actual fact, Israel is accused of seizing all the boats comprising the aid flotilla, in violation of international law. This fundamental fact is completely overlooked in the film and the Panorama response.
The words "Israel says they were terrorists" are also stated in the response as if to say, 'we are merely reporting Israeli claims.' Yet, left unchallenged, this permits a gross fabrication to gain respectable currency. It's one thing to note competing claims in a conflict. It's quite another to repeat, without questioning, something which 'informed' correspondents like Corbin must surely know to be hyperbolic, official spin.
The other deceitful trope here is to claim that "new evidence from both sides" was garnered for the film. In fact, the statements given by activists and Palestinian advocates are consistently undermined by selective assertion, intonation and editing.
Likewise, Corbin's flagrant inclusion of the proven-to-be-bogus "go back to Auscshitz" words in the film serve to implant the suggestion of virulent anti-semitism.
In it's front page piece highlighting Panorama's blatant bias and omissions, the Morning Star also notes this most glaring evasion in Corbin's film:
"No autopsy reports were mentioned - despite the fact that they showed that murdered activists were shot repeatedly at close range, ruling out soldiers' claims they acted in self defence."
A further claim over the film's 'fair intention' is offered in the Panorama response:
"Jane Corbin is a world renowned journalist with 20 years experience reporting for 'Panorama' on the on-going conflict in the Middle East. She is respected for her dedicated, impartial and balanced work from both sides of the conflict and approached this subject with the same level of fairness which she is known for."
This is a standard form of denial. A correspondent's "experience", and repetition of that "experience", proves nothing. In this case, it merely confirms Corbin's experience in peddling bias. As the Media Lens editors commented at their site:
"The trick is simply to assert "impartiality" and "balance" in defiance of the evidence. And to do so repeatedly, time and time again."
"That is part of the problem. The BBC, taking its lead from Whitehall, refuses to base its position on international law and United Nations security council resolutions.
Rather than accept the obvious truth that Israel is an expansionist racist state that is illegally colonising its neighbours' land with a view to annexation and site its news coverage within those political parameters, the BBC affects a "balanced" view between dispossessed and dispossesser."
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign site has collated a helpful set of points and advice to be used in pursuing the matter through the BBC's extended complaints procedure.
Friday, 20 August 2010
The warning comes amid growing consternation that Megrahi is still alive despite his expected demise from cancer.
Megrahi has, apparently, 'outlived' the expected 'few months left', a prognosis which led to his repatriation on compassionate grounds.
Britain is urging Tripoli not to indulge in joyous thanks that Megrahi is still living. There can be no thanksgiving, so it seems, for the preservation of life, even life unexpected.
Much more fitting, on the day US troops are supposedly 'leaving' Iraq, that we observe and celebrate the 'achievements' of war and death, as in 'our' 'honourable' 'interventions' in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The killing of over a million Iraqis and countless Afghans, after all, allows this country the moral authority to talk about 'compassion' and 'release'. Doesn't it?
Wishing the families of all those who have died or suffered in the course of these appalling state crimes compassionate release from their pain.
Wishing the families who lost loved ones over Lockerbie compassionate release from their pain.
Wishing Mr Megrahi compassionate peace and comfort in whatever time he has left in his life.
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
"I've had unique access to this top secret unit. Naval Commando 13 has never been filmed by the media in action before."But let's deal, firstly, with the purported 'new evidence' behind the film: the claim, based on acquired new footage (culled from Cultures of Resistance) that the activists somehow provoked the Israeli commandos into using live rounds and killing nine activists.
From the outset, the tone and message of this film is to convey the impression that the Gaza aid flotilla comprised one boat, crewed by militant Islamic zealots, intent on initiating a violent confrontation with Israel. The whole premise of the film reeks of islamophobia and racist insinuation.
Thus, Corbin alerts us to the Western-prescribed demonisation of the Turkish activists:
"The IHH isn't just known for their humanitarian work. Western authorities have accused them of having links to terrorist organisations. They strongly deny this."In the film, we see and hear the IHH leader speak to other on-board activists, urging them to resist any violent Israeli effort to take the boat. We also see some prepare for the coming assault by arming themselves with makeshift bars cut from the ship.
All this has previously been verified by other pro-flotilla film and testament. There was relative resistance. Some made rhetorical speeches. We know this. So what?
This was a mission, after all, motivated by sincere attempts to end the murder, starvation and suffering of Gaza. Yet, Corbin takes this footage as clear proof of the activists' 'violent priorities', their principal agenda, amplifying Israel's much-vaunted message that the flotilla was not a humanitarian enterprise but a terrorist-sponsored plot.
At no point does she consider the context of rightful resistance to Israel's pirate-like conduct on the high seas. The entire thrust of the report is to suggest that the activists should have behaved 'responsibly' and allowed the commandos to do their 'peaceful duty'.
Nor is the firing of live rounds by the commandos fully addressed. Instead, we're told, they were only reacting to the activists' provocations, an 'unexpected resistance' not reckoned with due to "poor intelligence."
Corbin, of course, ignores all the other evidence showing that the political and military pre-planning for this operation had explicitly urged the use of violent force.
There's the predictable nod to 'balance' as the Free Gaza coordinator is interviewed, accompanied by the same-sourced footage showing the passengers beginning to resist the approaching Israeli boats.
Corbin talks of the stun grenades thrown back onto the Israeli boats, but not the fact that they had been thrown onto the Marmara in the first place.
Some activists, Turkish and others, were asked for their impressions. But, again, none of this was allowed to undermine the film's key impression that the passengers had indulged in undue, provocative action against the otherwise peace-intending commandos.
We also have the token explanation as to why the flotilla was sailing, with Corbin's cursory appearance in Gaza to 'witness' the hardship accompanied by the usual demonic references to incessant rocket fire from Hamas and its 'refusal to allow Israel to exist'.
This served as a convenient 'hook' to cast the IHH as terrorist accomplices. Corbin, thus, tracks the IHH leader to "the most Islamic area of Istanbul" where he reaffirms "our right to passive resistance."
Corbin goes on to imply mendacious links between the Turkish government and the IHH, but produces no actual evidence that Turkey was involved in anything other than helping to support a humanitarian shipment to Gaza.
Corbin is ever-ready to convey the official Israeli version of events, talking of the "five warnings" given by the Israeli command ship. There's also her straight-repeated assertion that Israel "offered to take the aid to an Israeli port and deliver it to Gaza." Just one example of the BBC's face-value acceptance of Israel's 'bona fide' intentions.
The same bias is evident in this further piece of servile narration, laced with inference about the synonymous task facing the Israeli navy:
"The navy commandos are highly-trained, their job, to intercept enemies at sea. They've seized several ships smuggling arms to Hamas and boats carrying aid to Gaza."Corbin also asks the IHH leader why what he claimed as "passive resistance" looks like outright fighting. But there's never any suggestion to the interviewed commandos that they have been involved in a violent, illegal attack culminating in the murder of nine people. Indeed, quite incredibly, the actual killings of the nine are never closely examined in this film.
Corbin's other journalistic deceit lies in her efforts to convey notions of 'uncertainty' over how the shooting actually started, a narrative that complements Israel's own attempts to mitigate its use of live rounds.
"The question of who shot first remains disputed and unresolved."But no Corbin-Panorama production would be complete without that Israeli secret-op mystique.
As with Corbin's fascinated attentions on a Mossad agent in her last BBC piece, tracking the Israeli assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai, this latest offering has her listening intently to the 'perilous dangers' faced by 'Lieutenant A' , 'Sergeant Y' and 'Captain R'.
In the BBC's own website trailer to the film (for some reason, excluded from the actual Panorama piece) Corbin also gazes like a lovestruck teenager on commando leader 'Colonel G' as he explains the operational tasks of his elite unit.
Like Corbin's romanticisation of Mossad, we were encouraged to feel excited over this "unique" glimpse into the world of secretive Israeli commandos, while Corbin, in her element, talks of the 'privileged' access offered to the BBC. The convenient facilitation of this glaring Israeli PR exercise is never, of course, considered by Corbin.
The soldiers are filmed "practising riot tactics", tackling a predictably-staged suicide bomber scenario and, so Corbin tells us, planning the best means of intercepting future flotillas:
"The commandos have to work out how to prioritise their own casualties and still carry out their mission."Again, no comment on the illegality of such actions or the terror felt by those on the receiving end of the commandos' brutal tactics.
We also have what passes for 'critical' BBC questioning, as Corbin suggests to Colonel G:
"You're an elite unit, but you've had a lot of unwelcome attention now focused on you and your men."The understatement is almost breathtaking. An unwarranted attack in international waters, nine people murdered, an international outcry, calls for war crimes prosecutions, and all Corbin can muster is the problem for Israel of "unwelcome attention".
Still looking out from the deckside towards the far coastal lights, like a scene from Loveboat, Corbin asks Colonel G:
"Are you going to do it differently next time?"
It occurs that Colonel G may have his back to the camera not just to conceal his identity but also his smug satisfaction at having such a cosy interview.
It all rolls out quite seamlessly like a joint hasbara-BBC production.
But Corbin is not finished quite yet with Israel's 'authentication' of the Marmara event:
" "We have very clear evidence that in at least four cases the other side did use live fire," said retired major general Giora Eiland, who carried out the investigation into events on board the ship."The selective appointment and predictable opinion of Eiland, a retired major general in the Israeli army, seems not to bother Corbin. She just lets him continue stating Israeli claims without challenge:
"Giora Eiland said the IHH succeeded in its mission to draw the world's attention to the Gaza blockade.And so, as the credits roll, with Naval Commando 13 and Israel's latest PR mission accomplished, Corbin, Panorama and the BBC have done their own establishment duty in helping to bring Israel 'back into our affections' as the West's most 'loveable villain'.
"Unfortunately they managed to achieve exactly what they wanted, a provocation, to be able to show the Israelis caused the nine deaths," said Giora Eiland, "so Israel is seen as using excessive force and is guilty for everything." "
The film ends with Corbin's facile summation, alerting us, in case we didn't know, to the readiness of our gallant commando elite and the dark uncertainty of things to come:
We expect Corbin, no doubt, to be continuing those flotilla reports in the same loaded manner.
"Naval Commando 13 is continuing its training for more flotillas - expected this autumn.
The battle of the Mediterranean is not over yet."
Thursday, 12 August 2010
Reid was the champion orator, galvanising meetings with mesmerising, almost biblical, conviction. Tommy Sheridan has, generously, acknowledged Reid's influence on him.
It's interesting to see the plaudits from the mainstream media, always suspicious, even as belated testament.
The reason, no doubt, was Reid's later 'softening' and turn towards the Labourite fold, coinciding with his reflective rejection of Soviet communism, his criticism of the Militant Labour 'entryists' and, more specifically, Arthur Scargill's handling of the 1984/85 miners strike.
There's no real point trying to paper over Reid's attack on Scargill at the critical height of the strike. There may have been valid arguments over aspects of the NUM's strategy, though, not, in my opinion, the decision to avoid a divisive, establishment-rigged ballot.
The key issue was unity, something Thatcher and the British state - through the infamous Ridley Plan - had done everything in its collective power to destroy. As Seumas Milne has charted, every underhand trick in the book was deployed to break not just the NUM but the entire trade union movement. It was nothing less than a showdown class battle.
Reid's incautious interjections denouncing Scargill as a "kamikaze" leader only served Thatcher's agenda, pulling vital public and union support away from the strike.
And that, alas, will always be a sad stain on Reid's political character.
Later, there was also some soul-searching and rationalising from Reid about whether to write for the mainstream media, most notably the Sun.
Yet, for all that, there remains Reid's more humanist legacy: a passionate belief in the possibility of a better society; a society where human beings are not trampled underfoot by the permissive demands of capitalism.
Beyond even his famous "no bevvying" speech outside the UCS yard, Reid's rectorial address at Glasgow University denouncing the insane capitalist "rat race" should be made part of the educational curriculum.
Why, we needn't wonder, is such vital political history and denunciation of capitalist society only noted on these passing occasions?
Reid's university speech on the theme of alienation included this ever-relevant reminder of how we're encouraged to value competition and selfish gain, to the detriment of others:
"Society and its prevailing sense of values leads to another form of alienation. It alienates some from humanity. It partially dehumanises some people, makes them insensitive, ruthless in their handling of fellow human beings, self-centred and grasping. The irony is, they are often considered normal and well adjusted. It is my sincere contention that anyone who can be totally adjusted to our society is in greater need of psychiatric analysis and treatment than anyone else."RIP Jimmy Reid.
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
Macintyre's email response to ML and ML's further critique should be required reading for those who still place their faith in our liberal media 'vanguards'.
Following the Alert, the ML editors posted this illuminating opinion at their site:
"A journalist whom we won't name told us:Prompted by the ML piece, I had also written to Macintyre:
"This Alert is particularly important because Donald Macintyre probably sees himself as the epitome of the 'fair' liberal reporter. He has done some good work from Gaza but even that seems to hold the promise of something that is never delivered. His Blair interview was ridiculous. How many elephants could he crowd into the room? I hope he reads and digests your alert, an object lesson in true fairness."
Dear DonaldNo reply received.
The latest Media Lens Alert response notes:
"As British citizens, we, Macintyre included, all bear responsibility for Blair’s actions - our moral accountability is a very clear and obvious factor demanding that we hold Blair to account as far as we are able."
To restate the question posed by ML, I'd like you to show me precisely where you have, on any occasion, directly challenged Mr Blair or any other leading politician over their criminal responsibility for warmongering and human suffering, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or Palestine.
Why, in particular, do you see it as your job to report Blair's views? Isn't it your job, as a supposedly 'critical journalist', to challenge Blair's views?
More specifically, shouldn't you be questioning his very right to express those views from a position of high office rather than as a suspected war criminal?
And why should that very elementary practice of critical journalistic questioning be regarded as wasteful "polemical argument"? Are we to assume that a "fast moving story" excuses or precludes such questioning? Or is the urgent transcribing of one of 'our' leaders' views - at the instigation of your editor - more important than illuminating the reader on the role that leader and his state have played in the slow, static story of Palestinian suffering?
Your lamenting of the West's "woeful inaction" over Gaza rests on a similar set of template presumptions about its otherwise 'benevolent' spirit of "enterprise, freedom and democracy", utterly failing to highlight the West's financial, military and diplomatic support for Israel. In short, where is your journalistic examination of 'our' governments' leading participation in that oppression?
Avoiding polemical exchange over this 'fast moving Alert', could you, perhaps, take a little self-reflective time to examine these points in serious detail?
Saturday, 7 August 2010
It's the middle of the night. A family are asleep. The door bangs and a child is taken from bed, led away, terrified and confused, ready to be incarcerated, indefinitely, in a place unknown to their alarmed parents.
It's an all-too-typical scenario for Palestinian kids, as this (2009) Save the Children report shows:
"According to Save the Children, Palestinian children are typically arrested between midnight and 4a.m. without their families being notified where the child is being taken. The children are normally handcuffed, blindfolded, and subjected to physical abuse in addition to humiliating treatment during arrest and can be detained up to 90 days without access to a lawyer whilst being interrogated. Children can be detained for two years from the time charged until the trial.
Stone throwing is the most common offense Palestinian children are charged with under Israeli military law accounting for 26.7% of cases. The maximum penalty is 20 years imprisonment. Save the Children reports that in 91 percent of cases involving Palestinian children, bail is denied. The group also says that currently, 32.9 percent of sentenced children are 15 years of age or younger and that 21.25 percent are sentenced for a one-year period or longer."
The extent of the abuse has been corroborated by various child advocacy groups:
"Testimonials and events documented by human rights organizations show the abuse of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons to be regular and widespread.
Physical abuse, sexual abuse, torture, threats and intimidation as well as the denial of basic basic human rights, such as access to education are the most common forms of abuse, documents show.
In 2009, a report from the UK-based children's rights group Defence for Children International found, there were 305 Palestinian children being held in Israeli jails. The US-based NGO Save the Children further estimates, that over 6,700 children were arrested between October 2000 and April 2009. Both organizations confirm Israel routinely prosecutes Palestinian children as young as 12, describing the ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children as "widespread, systematic and institutionalised." "
A sample of the physical and sexual abuse:
The physical abuse of children by soldiers has most frequently been documented as involving "slaps, kicks, punches or blows with a rifle stock or club," DCI stated.
Nearly all children surveyed by DCI, 97 percent, were held for hours with their hands cuffed, and 92 percent were blindfolded for long periods of time. Twenty-six percent said they were forced to remain in painful positions.
In 2010, Palestinian lawyer Hiba Masalha reported the case of Muhammad Rashid Abu Shahin, 16, from the Balata refugee camp. After being arrested, the youth said he was manhandled and beaten by soldiers using rifle butts. He was then transported to the Huwwara detention centre where where he was beaten with a plastic pipe to force a confession. The child is suffering chronic back pain as a result of being hit on the spine.
Fourteen percent of child prisoners surveyed by DCI said they were sexually abused or threatened with sexual assault to pressure them into confessions.
In May 2010, the Dubai-based Al-Jazeera news network published the testimony of an unnamed Palestinian child released from an Israeli jail.
"There was a dog barking outside the room… The soldier told me he would bring it in to f**k me if I didn't confess… I was so scared… The guy then took out a stick; he whipped it forward and it got longer. He told his friends, who were looking on and laughing at me: "This boy doesn't want to talk. Let's pull down his pants so I can shove this stick up his a**."
"I tried to hold on to the chair; he kept poking me, groping my privates with the stick, trying to get me off the chair."
And, of course, there's the long-term psychological impact of such treatment on these children. As Save the Children states:
"[M]ost detainees develop Post Traumatic Stress symptoms as a direct result of their abuse in prison. The psycho-social consequences of detention affect the immediate behavior of children, the way they think including their analysis of the outside world."
All part of childhood 'development' under the Occupation.
Original report at Ma'an News.
Monday, 2 August 2010
It's a wonderfully illuminating movie, sure to gather international awards.
After seeing it, I found this revealing little caveat in a Guardian review:
"The Anglo-Iranian comic Shappi Khorsandi recently revealed that Jon Snow had told her about a conversation he had once had some years ago with the then prime minister, Tony Blair. The premier had asked Snow, plaintively, why Iran hated the British so much. Snow replied hesitantly: "Well, you know, because of Mossadeq [alternative spelling] …" – that is, the left-leaning Iranian leader, toppled in 1953 by a coup instigated by the British and American governments because of his determination to nationalise oil. Blair replied blankly: "Who?" Perhaps watching this excellent movie would be a way for Blair, and the rest of us, to brush up on British and Iranian history."Indeed.
Hopefully, amid the blueprint plans and clamour to bomb/nuke Iran, our same liberal media will keep us primed on why most Iranians and other historically-informed observers don't entirely trust Mr 'Middle East' Blair, his 'world-aware' friends or the Guardian itself when it comes to judging Iran.
Sunday, 1 August 2010
(I'd have written "John", but that has four letters instead of the two in "Me".)
To Helen Boaden
Director BBC News
Dear Helen Boaden
I'm requesting an urgent investigation into the BBC's written response to a complaint on the reporting of Israel's attack on the Mavi Marmara aid boat to Gaza.
(Israel admits Gaza flotilla raid 'mistakes', 13 July 2010.)
The article includes this particular line:
"Eight Turks and one Turkish-American died in the naval raid in international waters, which provoked a major outcry."Having asked why the BBC had used the word "died", rather than the more accurate "killed", the complainant was told:
"In the story you cite, it is rather more likely that "died" was used simply because there are space restrictions on the first four paragraphs of any story, and it is a shorter word."http://members5.boardhost.com/medialens/msg/1280354366.html
One is almost lost for words, just as the BBC seems lost for space to permit two additional letters, making a six letter word, to describe the actual manner in which nine people lost their lives.
Are those lives really that unimportant, so inconsequential, that the BBC can't allow - among multiple paragraphs of 'Israel says' comment - two additional letters?
These nine people were, quite evidently, killed by Israeli commandos. And there should be no need to explain the more appropriate use of that word rather than the more passive "died".
The crass insensitivity of this sentence is almost beyond belief. But it helps confirm the tortured ways in which BBC language is selected, abbreviated and neutralised in the service of power. Even when reporting the deaths of human beings.
The BBC should issue an immediate, unequivocal apology for this disgraceful statement, directed, in particular, to the families of those killed on the Mavi Marmara.
I await your considered response on the matter.
I am copying this letter to the BBC Trust.
Dear Mr Hilley,
Thank you for your email to Helen Boaden which has been passed to me.
Should the person who made the original complaint wish to take it further within our complaints procedure that is a matter for that complainant. But if you would like to make a separate complaint about BBC coverage we would ask you to send it via the webform at www.bbc.co.uk/complaints. The BBC has an established complaints procedure to ensure that correspondence is directed towards the appropriate journalist or programme. In this way, complaints are handled in the most efficient and effective way for our audiences and for our programme-makers.
Ta fr yr lett. Yr dng a marv job.