Panning BBC’s Panorama

Dear Honest Reporting Member,

Last week, HonestReporting forewarned members about BBC’s Panorama program, “The Accused,” which focused on the 1982 Sabra and Shatilla massacre. When the show was broadcast on June 17, BBC lived up to its anti-Israel reputation — and presented a biased case for charging Ariel Sharon with violations of international law.

BBC’s attack on Sharon, in preparation for over four months, is a transparent attempt at character assassination, precisely at a time when Israel and Sharon have earned international respect for restraint in the face of murderous Palestinian terrorist attacks.

Much of BBC’s case rests on the views of two experts:

War Crimes Judge Richard Goldstone, who subsequently accused the BBC of distorting his words, and Princeton University Professor Richard Falk, who has spent the past two decades building a virulently anti-Israel reputation.

BBC America is scheduled to broadcast “The Accused” on its U.S. cable network on June 23 and 24.

Read BBC’s transcript of “The Accused”:

See “The Accused” webcast on streaming video:

Read “BBC Defends Sharon Documentary”:

This broadcast is but the latest in BBC’s systematic and pervasive media campaign against Israel. We encourage HonestReporting members to monitor BBC’s coverage at:

To comment on BBC’s coverage, write to:

Or online at the BBC Programme Complaints Bulletin:

The most effective method is to write a letter in your own words. Otherwise, cut-and-paste the critique below.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.

================= Sample letter ==================

To the Editor:

Panorama’s “The Accused” is flawed and biased for several reasons:

1) BBC relies heavily on the opinion of Professor Richard Falk, who has been a virulent critic of Israel for more than 20 years. He called for a war crimes trial against Israel already in 1983, with his publication of: “Israel in Lebanon: the report of the international commission to enquire into reported violations of international law by Israel during its invasion of the Lebanon.” Falk has argued for UN sanctions against Israel, suspension of U.S. aid to Israel, and war crimes charges against Israel for the treatment of Palestinians in the two intifadas and for the building of settlements. He recently wrote that Ehud Barak bore “criminal responsibility” for the assassinations of terrorist operatives. BBC presents Falk as an objective, expert source; none of Falk’s anti-Israel background is mentioned.

2) BBC also relies heavily on an interview with Professor Richard Goldstone, who the BBC quotes speaking about ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, genocide in Rwanda, and — as if to draw the comparison — Ariel Sharon in Lebanon. This was a gross manipulation of Goldstone’s words, as Goldstone himself told the Jerusalem Post: “I agreed to speak to [the BBC] as an expert on the law in general, on command responsibility, but I said I would not in any way comment on any liability, criminal or civil, of Ariel Sharon and I didn’t do so. I haven’t yet seen the program, but if it comes across that way it’s incorrect… I certainly didn’t comment on the responsibility of Sharon.”

3) As further evidence of BBC’s biased attempt to manipulate facts, the Israeli officials interviewed on the show — including spokesman for the Prime Minister, Dr. Ranaan Gissen — complained that BBC hid the fact that the program would examine criminal charges against Sharon. Had they known, they would not have participated, or would have formulated their remarks accordingly.

4) BBC completely ignored testimony by senior Lebanese Christian militiamen, such as the deputy of the militia commander Elie Hobeika, who stated: “Sharon had given strict orders to Hobeika to guard against any desperate move, should his men run amuck. They were to behave like a real dignified, regular army not like ‘chocolate soldiers’ and coordinate with the Israeli command.”

Does BBC really believe that the “Panorama” broadcast was fair and impartial? It appears to me that “The Accused” was a gross distortion and manipulation. The only question is why.


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