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Sunday, February 15, 2004

Bureau Chief of BBC's Middle East Desk
denies charges of anti-Israel bias

FORUM HELD AT JERUSALEM SYNAGOGUE
Haaretz: By Daphna Berman

Standing in the basement of a Jerusalem synagogue this week, the bureau chief of the BBC's Middle East desk acknowledged that he was entering a lion's den...

Pointing to the network's appointment last year of Malcolm Balen as an editorial adviser who would ostensibly monitor journalists' objectivity in the region, [Andrew] Steele insisted that the BBC was actively working to achieve balanced standards of reporting.

Sponsored by the British Israel Group, the forum drew an audience of 300, most of whom, with the exception of a few members of the foreign press, were British immigrants to Israel. Sharing the platform with Steele that evening was Trevor Asserson, a London-based lawyer and harsh critic of the BBC. Asserson has written several reports on the BBC, accusing them of "continuous partiality in favor of the Palestinian narrative."

Audience members, most of whom remained highly critical, attacked the BBC for its reluctance to use the word "terrorist" in reporting on Palestinian attacks. They also accused Steele of an anti-Israel bias for his network's use of the term "occupied territories."

"The BBC is enormous [and] we try our hardest," Steele replied. "I've never been anywhere where so much care is put into the words we use and the balance we seek."

BBC journalists, he added over a collective groan from the audience, are united by a "love of truth."

Steele emphatically denied suggestions that the BBC was anti-Semitic or that it had colluded with Palestinians to create a biased account of the situation here.

"The BBC is not the worst news provider on the planet [and] they do make genuine efforts to be impartial," Asserson said. "They're trying, but they're not trying hard enough, and they continue to fail."
See also Don't Bow to the Beeb by Jonathan Tobin at Jewish World Review:
Just as there was no editorial oversight or apologies forthcoming from the BBC over their slander of Blair, so too there was none when a BBC documentary falsely accused Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of war crimes. Nor did it backtrack when another BBC production falsely said Israel used poison gas against Palestinians.

Those accustomed to complaining about the American media's treatment of Israel need to understand that, compared to the BBC, even the most egregious local offenders are small potatoes.

This bias has been documented in detail by sources such as the British Daily Telegraph newspaper's "Beeb Watch" and by media monitoring organizations such as CAMERA and HonestReporting.

Their findings show that in both tone and substance, BBC news programs routinely minimize stories that depict terror attacks against Israelis and instead focus on inflated reporting about the suffering of Palestinians. On the BBC, Israel's legitimacy and right to exist are always up for debate (though its defenders rarely get to participate in that debate) while the right of the Palestinians to carry on their terrorist war is rarely questioned.