‘Israeli Lobbyists’ Pursue Guilty BBC Editor

Jeremy_bowen Leave it to the BBC to be the burning issue after I took a week off for Passover.

The BBC Trust which investigates complaints about the Beeb's news coverage determined that Jeremy Bowen breached guidelines on accuracy and impartiality in the June, 2007 dispatch: How 1967 Defined the Middle East and in a second January, 2008 radio report from Har Homa which is not online. See the Trust's full findings in pdf format, plus HonestReporting UK's response to the dispatch.

The reports are shoddy; in and of themselves, they wouldn't normally create an untenable situation for a journalist. But Bowen unfortunately, has a history of problematic reporting. And as the Mideast editor of one of the world's most-watched news services, the BBC must take responsibility for Bowen's litany of errors, omissions, and attitude:

  • A documentary on Israel's 60th anniversary, full of omissions and historical revisionism, downplaying, delegitimizing or altogether ignoring the legitimate roots of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel going back three millennia. Instead, the Arabs are painted as victims of Jewish power and malevolence.

  • An internal memo leaked to columnist Stephen Pollard laying bare Bowen's views on the Mideast conflict. Pollard reacts, "Indeed, Israel is to blame for almost everything. The Palestinians are not responsible for anything; Israel is the culpable party. He has contempt for every Israeli politician he mentions;"

  • A report blaming Israel for the Hamas take-over of Gaza and the Strip's hardships, never mentioning the reason for Israeli sanctions nor the increasing aid provided by Israel and the West.

  • Dazzling verbal gymnastics to qualify "terrorists" as "militants."

  • Publicizing a Palestinian woman's shocking claim in Bowen's Gaza war diary – that her husband and 4-year-old son had been shot in cold blood by Israeli soldiers — with no supporting evidence or any other media coverage of such a serious charge.

  • A report attributing Palestinian hardship solely to Israeli security precautions, without acknowledging Palestinian responsibility for allowing rocket crews to fire Qassams or prepare other terror attacks.

  • An unbalanced radio report questioning the viability of the two-state solution. Failing to acknowledge Israeli security concerns, Palestinian suicide bombers or intra-Palestinian chaos, Bowen discusses restrictions on Palestinian movement and the security barrier near Bethlehem, as well as "illegal" Israeli settlements. .

  • A morally inverted, oversimplified report from Gaza claiming Israel "brutalized" the Palestinians with a "violent occupation."

Normally, upheld complaints of this nature attract modest attention as the UK media columnists, Israeli papersbloggers – and the BBC itself — all duly take note.

But Bowen touched a nerve at The Independent, where the matter has mushroomed into a staff editorial, plus a colorful Robert Fisk reaction:

The trust – how I love that word which so dishonours everything about the BBC – has collapsed, in the most shameful way, against the usual Israeli lobbyists who have claimed – against all the facts – that Bowen was wrong to tell the truth . . . .

The Independent doth protest too much.