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Conflating Terror with Arson – An Incendiary Trail

The Age recycled and then withdrew an unsourced story “Islam group urges forest fire jihad” which it previously published on 7 September, 2008, quoting those ubiquitous, unnamed US intelligence sources.

The 5 Pillar blog named the story at the time as propaganda.

The Age journalist, Josh Gordon, apparently scavenged his material from an outfit called World Tribune, who published the story on January 15, 2008. The World Tribune in turn sourced it from their brother operation, a subscription site called Geostrategic.com.

Since this site is subscription only I won’t follow that trail further, but note that their mainstay reporter is Bill Gertz, who is also an adviser on the World Tribune and writes for those bastions of journalistic excellence, the Washington Times, owned by the World Unification Church, and Murdoch’s Foxnews. Gertz has never completed a degree in journalism.

The Geostrategic teaser headlines give one an idea of the sensational thrills which lie in store for the intrepid subscriber – “Commission: Iran nuke program could be replicated throughout region”, “Rape case spotlights U.S., Algerian counter-insurgency ties” and the Backgrounder “Iran opening ‘offices and a lot of fronts’ throughout Latin America”, wherein we find those canny unnamed US intelligence officials quoted once again.

“U.S. intelligence officials believe the Iranian subversive activity is aimed at preparing to create a network of terrorists and other groups that could be called on to attack the United States and U.S. interests in the Western Hemisphere in response to any future U.S. strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.”

Perhaps these unnamed ‘intelligence officials’ feel it’s time for another Venezuelan coup attempt?

Here’s some unconscious irony – Robert Gates says ““They’re [Iran] opening a lot of offices and a lot of fronts, behind which they interfere in what is going on in some of these countries.”

According to Ben McGrath at The New Yorker, The World Tribune is associated, like the Washington Times with the World Unification Church.

Its editor and publisher, Robert Morton, is an assistant managing editor at the Washington Times and a former “corporate editor” for News World Communications, the Times’ owner and the publishing arm of the Unification Church, led by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. (Morton and his wife, Choon Boon, are themselves followers of the Reverend Moon.)

Among the World Tribune’s other recent half-ignored scoops are that Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for last month’s blackout and that a North Korean defector stressed, during a meeting in July with White House officials, the need for a preëmptive military strike against Kim Jong Il.

Morton said last week via e-mail that he founded the site as an experiment, back in 1998, while serving as a media fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank.

World Tribune.com more fairly qualifies as something between a newspaper and a rumor-mongering blog. Call it “blews.” In this sense, it is part of a loose network of mostly conservative sites—WorldNetDaily, Dr. Koontz’s National Security Message Board, debka File (produced by a pair of Jerusalem-based journalists thought to have moles in Israeli intelligence)—whose dispatches sometimes serve as the journalistic equivalent of trial balloons: a story may not be based on knowable facts, but it nevertheless may occasionally turn out to be right. (Much of the time, of course, it more closely resembles a Bat Boy update in the Weekly World News.)

The Age reports that US intelligence channels identified the jihad website earlier in 2008, whereas the World Tribune says the information was posted on the net in November 07.

A terrorist website was discovered recently that carried a posting that called for “Forest Jihad.” The posting was listed on the Internet on Nov. 26 and reported in U.S. intelligence channels last week.

According to both Age and World Tribune stories Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, who has vanished after apparently being rendered by the US to Syria since his capture in Quetta sometime between October and December 2005, said sulphuric acid and petrol should be used to start forest fires.

He is wanted in Spain for the 1985 El Descanso bombing and (as a witness)[2][4] in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombings, and wanted in Syria[4].

Nasar [al-Suri] was initially mentioned by British media as a possible suspected planner in the 2005 transport bombings in London. Subsequent investigations have not revealed any evidence of his role in the terrorist attacks.

Al-Suri published his 1604 page masterwork on jihadist theory and strategy “The Call for a Global Islamic Resistance” in December 2004. In it he “strongly cautions against operations in which many ordinary Muslims, or non-hostile non-muslims, are killed”.

According to Spencer Ackerman, (whose article is flawed in that he seems not to have noticed Al Suri’s ideological falling out with Al Qaeda in 1998), Al Qaeda [or for al-Suri, Islamic Resistance] would go viral.

“I was searching for a method which the enemy has no way of aborting,” al-Suri explains in “The Call,” “even when he understands the method and its procedures, and arrests two-thirds of his operators.”

Rather than reestablish a loose network of terrorist cells with the remnants of a command-and-control structure, al-Suri urged aspiring terrorists to simply murder people in the organization’s name. One could become a member of Al Qaeda by “a system of action, not a centralized, secret organization for action.”

In a sense, by associating bushfires with Al Qaeda, the Age and World Tribune are assisting Al-Suri’s strategy.

Further, as Lawrence Wright says in The New Yorker on September 11, 2008:

The goal, he writes, is “to bring about the largest number of human and material casualties possible for America and its allies.” He specifically targets Jews, “Westerners in general,” the members of the NATO alliance, Russia, China, atheists, pagans, and hypocrites, as well as “any type of external enemy.”

Again, Al-Suri is quoted warning about targeting innocents:

Suri urges his readers to reject their own repressive governments and to rise up against Western occupation and Zionism. Although the leaders of Al Qaeda have long excused the slaughter of innocents, and many of its attacks have been directed at other Muslims, Suri specifically cautions against harming other Muslims, women and children who may be nonbelievers, and other noncombatants.

Not having read his book I am unable to confirm that al-Suri mentioned using sulphuric acid and petrol to start forest fires, as claimed in the World Tribune and Age, however none of the reviews I’ve come across of his book mention this, and such an act would seem to be in contradiction with his thoughts about innocents expressed above.

After searching several Google layers deep, I still have not found any sign of Abu Thar Al-Kuwaiti or the Al-Ikhlas Islamic Network which are mentioned in the Age and World Tribune – it would be appreciated if anyone reading this who can read Arabic can confirm the existence of these nefarious entities.

Why would such a badly sourced story which appeared in January 08 in the World Tribune about something allegedly posted on the net on November 07, 2007 be dredged up months later by the Age, then again in another 3 months?

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the Federal Government remained “vigilant against such threats”, warning that anyone caught lighting a fire as a weapon of terror would feel the wrath of anti-terror laws.

Did McClelland base his comments on the September story in the Age?

Today in the Financial Times, McClelland seems to have toned down his rhetoric:

Kevin Rudd, prime minister, said he was outraged that many of the fires had been lit deliberately. “There’s no words to describe it, other than it’s mass murder,” he said.

Robert McClelland, Australia’s attorney-general, warned that arsonists could face murder charges if they were caught.

“Anyone who lights fires deliberately, with reckless disregard for the safety of their fellow Australians, in our view establishes the requisite criminal intent that would sustain a charge of murder,” he said.

Although arson is a factor in the bushfires that hit Australia in most years, evidence has been mounting that the proportion of those being lit deliberately has been increasing.

The Victorian Country Fire Authority said it believed a number had been deliberately relit by firebugs, as Australians call arsonists, after being -extinguished or made safe by firefighters.

According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, about half of all the country’s bushfires are started deliberately or prompt strong suspicions of arson.

UPDATE 6/9/16

According to WP, Al-Suri is still locked up in a Syrian prison.

AQ leader Zawahiri said in 2014 that Al-Suri was still in jail.

‘Zawahiri says he knew Abu Khalid al Suri “from the days of the jihad against the Russians” and he knew al Suri “until his capture in Pakistan” approximately a decade ago. Abu Khalid al Suri “was a colleague of the professor of the mujahideen, Sheikh Abu Musab al Suri, may Allah release him very soon, Allah willing.”

Abu Musab al Suri is a major jihadist ideologue whose teachings continue to influence al Qaeda’s thinking. The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, openly follows Abu Musab al Suri’s teachings. There are conflicting reports concerning his status in Syria, with some accounts saying he has been freed from Assad’s prisons.

However, Zawahiri’s message is the third instance in which senior al Qaeda leaders have used the phrase “may Allah release him” in reference to Abu Musab al Suri. This is a strong indication that he remains imprisoned.’

UPDATE 18/11/13

Was al-Suri released in Syria in February 2012? Did Assad release him and thousands of other jihadis as honeytraps or to function as propaganda “look at us, we’re killing terrorists”, or to annoy the Americans, or all of these?

Linking Al Suri to the Black Flags of Khorasan

This FP article says Al Suri was released in Feb 2012 too:

‘While not a household name like Osama bin Laden, Suri enjoys a burgeoning influence on the global jihadist movement, and particularly those based in the West. The veteran Syrian jihadist, whose real name is Mustafa bin Abd al-Qadir Sitt Maryam Nasar, is best known for his 1,600-page treatise Dawat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah al-Alamiyyah (Call of Global Islamic Resistance), which articulates a strategy of decentralized jihad, rather than one that depends on clandestine organizations. If there is an architect of the jihadists’ post-9/11 line of attack, it’s Suri. ‘

Al Suri’s methodology used to bolster NSA power?

Syrian Opposition and Al Qaeda’s Abu Musab Al Suri

What many have forgotten is that Syrian Al Suri was al-Qaeda’s operations chief in Europe and the alleged terrorist mastermind behind the July 7 London bombings and is currently unaccounted for.
He was freed from a Syrian jail by President Bashar Assad’s regime before the civil war along with his deputy, Abu Khalid, in late December 2011.Both are now on the loose.
Guess what his specialty is apart from strategy and command? He is a mechanical engineer expert in chemical warfare!

Abu Musab Al Suri: Architect of the New Al Qaeda

Suri himself insisted in his writings that he was primarily a theorist and thinker, not an executor of operations. Hoever, he is suspected of having had deep operational involvement in a variety of conflicts, and, since 2001, attacks or attempted attacks on Western states. He fought with Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, where his experiences during American air strikes contributed strongly to his reassment of proper resistance tactics. He was suspected of involvement in the March 2004 Madrid bombing attacks and has been linked in some reports to attacks in London in July 2004.British authorities reportedly suspect that he had some involvement in the 1995 Paris Metro bombings, and he has signicant ties with terrorist cells in both Europe and the Maghreb, as well as a record of support for the Algerian terrorist organization Armed Islamic Group (GIA). Some reports also link him with Abu Musab al-Zarquawi, as both men are associated with a virulent dislike of Shia Islam. However, Suri might have acquired this position because of the sectarian situation in Syria. At least one account notes that the intellectually sophisticated and articulate Suri must have had a strong ideological impact on the barely educated Zarqawi.

Suri also ran a major training camp called Al Ghuraba (“The Aliens”) in Afghanistan during 2000-2001 that trained foreign fighters for Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Also, he is reported to have assisted in Al Qaeda’s experiments with chemical weapons. Suri almost certainly trained Al Qaeda operatives who went back to Europe and created sleeper cells.

Charles Swannack, U.S. Army General

The Encyclopedia of MiddleEast Wars. The United States in the Persian Gulk, edited by Spencer C. Tucker. p 1188

Syria’s Assad accused of boosting al-Qaeda with secret oil deals

“The regime is paying al-Nusra to protect oil and gas pipelines under al-Nusra’s control in the north and east of the country, and is also allowing the transport of oil to regime-held areas,” the source said. “We are also now starting to see evidence of oil and gas facilities under ISIS control.”

The source accepted that the regime and the al-Qaeda affiliates were still hostile to each other and the relationship was opportunistic, but added that the deals confirmed that “despite Assad’s finger-pointing” his regime was to blame for the rise of al-Qaeda in Syria.

After September 11, he co-operated with the United States’ rendition programme for militant suspects; after the invasion of Iraq, he helped al-Qaeda to establish itself in Western Iraq as part of an axis of resistance to the West; then when the group turned violently against the Iraqi Shias who were backed by Assad’s key ally, Iran, he began to arrest them again.

As the uprising against his rule began, Assad switched again, releasing al-Qaeda prisoners. It happened as part of an amnesty, said one Syrian activist who was released from Sednaya prison near Damascus at the same time.

“There was no explanation for the release of the jihadis,” the activist, called Mazen, said. “I saw some of them being paraded on Syrian state television, accused of being Jabhat al-Nusra and planting car bombs. This was impossible, as they had been in prison with me at the time the regime said the bombs were planted. He was using them to promote his argument that the revolution was made of extremists.”

Other activists and former Sednaya inmates corroborated his account, and analysts have identified a number of former prisoners now at the head of militant groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra, ISIS and a third group, Ahrar al-Sham, which fought alongside Jabhat al-Nusra but has now turned against ISIS.

Zawahiri urges ‘immediate’ end to Syria Islamist fighting

Australian bushfires rage

Fires are an everpresent threat in Australia – many catastrophic blazes are lit by firebugs. With soaring temperatures in Victoria and New South Wales, dozens of people have died in the latest bush fires.

Fierce winds were fanning the fires and pushing them in unpredictable directions in Victoria on Sunday, after temperatures reached a state record of 47 degrees Celsius.

Forecasters said hot and uncertain weather conditions would continue through the day on Sunday.

Blair Trewin, a climatologist with the National Climate Centre in Melbourne, told Al Jazeera: “They are the most extreme conditions that we have ever seen in historic record in parts of southeastern Australia.

“We are seeing an upward trend in temperatures in Australia as elsewhere in the world.”

More than 600 houses have been destroyed by the fires.

The worst wildfires in recent memory killed 75 people and razed 2,500 homes in Victoria in 1983.

In south Queensland we continue to enjoy pleasant summer weather, while in the north of the state, there’s flooding. Australia – a land of climatic extremes.

UPDATE FEB 9

107 people are now known to have perished in the fires, which are still raging through Victoria and New South Wales.

Authorities suspect arsonists are responsible for some fires and police are treating some razed towns as crime scenes.

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, says deliberately starting the fires is mass murder.

The fire that is of most concern is burning out of control in Victoria’s north-east, threatening the townships of Stanley and Eskdale.

The other major fire of concern, the Murrindini Mill fire, is moving north-east and is now about 93,000 hectares in size.

Fire authorities are also warning it will take several more days to control a large blaze burning near Victoria’s biggest electricity generator, the Loy Yang power station.

There are 50 fires raging across New South Wales. A 31 year old Gosford man has been arrested for arson.

UPDATE FEB 10

At last, something that captures the imagination of Australia’s vampire media more than the global economic situation and counting ever-dwindling loot.

173 people have now died, and blame is being thrown here, there and everywhere. Beyond the predictable media frenzy, I see this as a tangible expression of denial, the first stage of grief. 911 had the same effect on folks – blame everyone except the culture which through its practices, contributed to the calamity.

There’ll be plenty of time to look for answers, if there are any which can really be addressed, given our frustrating 200 years of braindead whitey farming practices, 40,000 of pre-colonial firing techniques which preceded these and folks’ unwillingness to learn from science and successful models of integrating human habitation with the environment on which it depends.

How many people know that most eucalypts are weeds in Australia, which create the conditions they need to colonise, whose seeds only germinate when fired? It is more popular to romanticise about the noble Australian aboriginal living in ‘harmony’ with ‘nature’ than look with a scientific eye at the result of their nomadic farming experience.

Once the large slow moving forest dwelling herbivorous marsupials were hunted to extinction, it became traditional for our traditional owners to use fire to promote grassland for kangaroos – which conveniently breed like – kangaroos.

Always a joey in the pouch, one out grazing, always another on the way.

And eucalypts, with their need for fire, thrived at the expense of hardwood wet forest timber.

Clearing and much, much more firing by whiteys have increased the problem – along with the urban sprawl into Victoria’s bushland. You’d think we’d have learnt the lesson by now – this land can’t support the people it has – not enough water or arable farmland to depend upon. Yet our stupid government ignores the very real environmental impacts and limitations whilst mouthing rubbish about a sustainable economy needing more people. This bleating has been going on since whitey arrived here – the first settlers saw an empty land which needed wave on wave of migrants, with Australia’s rivers and forests bearing the brunt.

The choices are stark – either live with the forests – which make rain and oxygen on which we depend, revegetate with non-fire dependent species as much as possible, and take sensible precautions against bushfire catastrophes; or chop down even more of our precious bushland, till most of our land becomes as dry as the Simpson Desert.

Preliminary Gaza War Crimes Investigation by Amnesty International

Since the end of Israel’s major attack on Gaza, the killer state continues its incursions and outrages.

From Steve Lendman:

For the week ending January 28th, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported continued Gaza and West Bank incursions and attacks:

— the IDF shot and killed a Gaza farmer on his land;

— 17 Gaza and West Bank Palestinians, including four children and two journalists, were wounded;

— 32 West Bank incursions were conducted;

— 64 West Bank civilians, including 15 children, were arrested;

— a private West Bank home near Bethlehem was seized as a military site;

— Gaza remains under siege and total isolation; conditions overall keep deteriorating;

— two Jerusalem homes were demolished; 53 civilians were left homeless; and Israel continues Judaizing Jerusalem through repeated land seizures.

The same pattern repeats daily, and reports indicate more American and EU complicity. The US Navy patrols the Red Sea to prevent weapons “smuggling,” and Army Corps of Engineers are on the Egyptian – Gaza border to locate tunnels and destroy them. EU nations will monitor Rafah and perhaps other Gaza – Egypt border crossings, and France, Britain and other European countries offered naval vessel patrol help in the Red Sea.

For the satraps of America and Europe, Palestinian lives are unworthy of defence compared to the need for the monster landthieving Israeli state to ‘defend itself’.

Wallowing in fascist depravity, Israel, more specifically Tipsy Livni has now sanctioned Al Jazeera’s Israeli news service.

Following the closure, the Foreign Ministry, in conjunction with the newly-formed national information directorate in the Prime Minister’s Office, considered declaring the station a hostile entity and closing its offices in Israel. After submitting the idea to legal review, however, concerns emerged it would not be permitted by the High Court of Justice.

Instead, it chose to limit the network’s activity in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. First, Israel will not renew the visas of Al Jazeera’s non-Israeli employees or grant visas to new employees. Second, station representatives will have reduced accessibility to government and military bodies, and will not be allowed into briefings or press conferences.

Third, the network will have access to only three official spokespeople – those of the Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces. The information directorate has also instructed Knesset members and ministers not to grant interviews or otherwise cooperate with Al Jazeera, but this is a non-binding instruction which lawmakers may apply at their discretion.

“Israel believes in freedom of the press and in the public’s right to know,” a Foreign Ministry official said Monday. “This is a rearrangement of relations between Israel and the Al Jazeera network in light of the present situation.”

Pardon me while I puke at the hypocrisy above.

Run, war criminals, run! Col. Geva Rapp who was involved in Operation Cast Lead flees Britain in fear of arrest for war crimes.

Col. (res.) Geva Rapp had arrived in London three days before for appearances in which he was to explain Israel’s position and refute media representations of the hostilities.

His trip had been cleared by Israeli security services.

On Thursday night, after news of his visit reached pro-Palestinian groups, some 80 protesters demonstrated outside the offices of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) in central London, where Rapp was scheduled to speak.

Calling for police to arrest him, the protesters blocked public pathways, while one scaled the building’s walls. Police made several arrests.

The event was cancelled and the decision was made for Rapp to return to Israel out of fear of a universal jurisdiction arrest warrant for alleged war crimes.

The International Herald Tribune relates the story of the people of Atatra, bombarded by Israel’s vicious and insane militia.

Palestinians describe Israeli military actions as a massacre and Israelis attribute civilian casualties to a Hamas policy of hiding behind its people.

So when disaster struck at the Abu Halima house on Sunday, many did the only thing they thought might save them: They got on the phone with their Israeli friends.

As the sun set and the bodies burned, a crowd of panicked villagers waited as two farmers made frantic phone calls to merchants on the other side of the border. “There was no one I didn’t call,” one of them said.

Forty to 50 houses were destroyed.

But when the platoon of Captain Y. took over the neighborhood where the Ghanem family lived, it blew up their house without going inside, he made clear in an interview. A search of it two weeks later by a Times correspondent joined by Chris Cobb-Smith, a 20-year veteran of the British Army and weapons consultant for Amnesty International, showed no evidence of explosive material or of a secondary blast.

So why was the house destroyed?

“We had advance intelligence that there were bombs inside the house,” said Captain Y., in the phone interview. “We looked inside from the doorway and saw things that made us suspicious. I didn’t want to risk the lives of my men. We ordered the house destroyed.”

For the Ghanem family’s 23-year-old son, Bakr, the act will not easily be forgotten.

“A house is something physical but also something in your heart,” he said, as he stood outside his collapsed home, taken over by cats and putrid odors. “The place in our heart has also been injured. There can be no peace after this.”

Many here believe that the Israelis feel the same about them and that they were treated with the suspicion and contempt of would-be fighters. That might help explain what happened, they say, when Omar Abu Halima and his two teenage cousins tried to take the burned body of his baby sister and two other badly burned girls to the hospital on Sunday.

The boys were hauling the girls and six others on a tractor, when, according to several accounts from villagers, Israeli soldiers told them to stop. According to their accounts, they got down, put their hands up, and suddenly rounds were fired, killing two of the teenagers: Matar Abu Halima, 18, and Muhamed Hekmet, 17.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said that soldiers reported that the two were armed and firing. Villagers strongly deny that. The tractor that villagers say was carrying the group is riddled with 36 bullet holes.

The question of how Israel handled civilians in this war has become a matter of keen controversy. Human rights groups are crisscrossing Gaza documenting what they believe will form the basis of war crime proceedings aimed at demonstrating that Israel used disproportionate force.

Did Israel use “cancer bombs” in recent Gaza attack? – podcast exploring weaponry used by Israel against the civilian population of Gaza.

The BBC – biased against humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza

In an inexplicable move, citing issues of impartiality and in contradiction with previous policy on humanitarian appeals, the BBC has refused to provide free airtime for the Disasters Emergency Committee’s apolitical appeal for aid for stricken Gazan people.

But the BBC made a rare breach of an agreement dating to 1963, saying it would not give free airtime to the appeal. Other broadcasters followed suit. Previously, broadcasters had agreed on the video and script to be used with the DEC, to be shown after primetime news bulletins.

The BBC, which has been criticised in the past over alleged bias in its coverage of the Middle East, said it did not want to risk public confidence in its impartiality. A BBC spokesperson said: “The decision was made because of question marks about the delivery of aid in a volatile situation and also to avoid any risk of compromising public confidence in the BBC’s impartiality in the context of [a] news story.”

The DEC’s chief executive, Brendan Gormley, said: “We are totally apolitical … this appeal is a response to humanitarian principles. The BBC seems to be confusing impartiality with equal airtime.”

Why is the alleviation of the suffering experienced by Gazan people unworthy of BBC assistance? what is partial about humanitarian aid? are there lobbyists with dark agendas working on the old Beeb?

Register your complaint with the BBC now.

Direct donations to the DEC, a group of 13 aid charities, to help the people of Gaza can be made here.

Protests against the BBC decision are underway –

The BBC’s chief operating officer, Caroline Thomson, said it had to be “very careful” over the broadcast of such appeals.

‘Impartiality’

“It’s important to remember that broadcasting appeals like this is a unique thing we do,” she said.

“And we have to be very clear about two things when we do it – firstly, that that money will go to the people it’s intended for.

“But secondly, that we can do it within our own editorial principles and without affecting and impinging on the audience’s perception of our impartiality.

“And clearly – in conflicts as controversial as this – that is a real issue for us.”

Mr Bradshaw said the BBC’s reasoning was flawed.

“First, the one about delivery – the British government is giving £25m to Gazan relief, we don’t have a problem getting it in. There’s no reason why there should be any problem getting the relief in.

“Secondly, this nervousness about being biased. I’m afraid the BBC has to stand up to the Israeli authorities occasionally.”

Mr Benn will address the pro-Palestinian rally called by the Stop the War Coalition, and is expected to say the BBC’s refusal is a “betrayal” of its obligations.

‘Disgraceful decision’

Mr Benn will say: “The decision of the BBC to refuse to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza, which has left aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations, is a betrayal of the obligation which it owes as a public service.

“To deny the help that the aid agencies and the UN need at this moment in time is incomprehensible and it follows the bias in BBC reporting of this crisis, which has been widely criticised.

“I appeal to the chairman of the BBC Trust to intervene to reverse this decision to save the lives of those who are now in acute danger of dying through a lack of food, fuel, water and medical supplies.”

Mohammed Sawalha, president of the British Muslim Initiative, said turning down the appeal was a “disgraceful decision”.

He added: “The BBC should be ashamed for its coverage of the Israeli aggression which failed to address the catastrophic suffering on the Palestinian side, and now it’s concerned about its impartiality.

“Never was the BBC impartial throughout this crisis”.

Following Mr Benn’s speech, the demonstrators intend to march to Trafalgar Square via Downing Street.

Significantly, the web page above contains a small ad for the DEC appeal – good work, BBC web team!.

A little recent history – the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli massacre of the Gazan people has been described as weak.

With some honourable exceptions (a post-holiday Jeremy Paxman and Newsnight), the questioning of Israeli spokespeople has been weak. Compare, for example, Channel 4 News’s grilling of Mark Regev, the Israeli government’s chief spokesman, on 8 January, with much of the BBC output. Alex Thomson asked Regev “in the name of humanity” to apologise for the refusal of the Israeli army to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to get to “starving children”. Thomson put it to Regev that the Red Cross workers had to “walk one kilometre” to reach the scene. Regev stonewalled, but Thomson did not relent. It was good, objective, non-hedged questioning.

Compare that with various BBC outlets, including similar allegations put on The World at One on 9 January to another Israeli spokesman, Yigal Palmor. Palmor was allowed to fob off the charges with relative ease in an interview with the usually rigorous Brian Hanrahan. These spokespeople, along with Major Avital Leibovich of the Israeli army, have been ever present on the news channel, but rarely have they been truly pressed.

During the massacre, the BBC operated out of Jerusalem:

[Jeremy] Bowen is now operating out of the BBC office in Jerusalem, writing in his online diary that this made it easier to co-ordinate newsgathering and talk to people.

This has meant Abu, who is a familiar voice on the BBC Arabic radio service and worked alongside correspondent Alan Johnston before his kidnap in 2007, has become the unlikely face of the BBC’s Gaza coverage.

The IDF did allow a BBC cameraman and three Israeli journalists to accompany one if its patrols into Gaza during the lull last Wednesday.

“This is one of those stories where putting the global pieces together helps tell the story better. It is one of those stories that plays to the strengths of the BBC,” Jon Williams, the BBC’s head of world news-gathering, told MediaGuardian.co.uk.

The BBC continues to hold out on humanitarian for the Palestinian people, despite Channel 4 and ITV now offering free airtime.

The management of that once august organisation has now been embarrassed and exposed as subject to the influence of the Israeli Lobby.

Director general Mark Thompson last week decided not to allow a broadcast by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella group of charities, calling for donations to its Gaza relief fund. His reason, supported by chief operating officer Caroline Thomson, is that such a broadcast would risk undermining public confidence in the corporation’s impartiality.

That might feasibly be true if it could be shown, or even credibly argued, that the broadcast was anything other than a genuine humanitarian appeal; if there was evidence that the DEC was intent on mobilising people’s charitable instincts for some covert political end. But there is no such evidence.

An alternative interpretation, and one that is ultimately much more damaging to the BBC’s reputation, is that any humanitarian intervention in Gaza, by definition, expresses a political position in the long-running conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. In other words, collecting charity for Palestinians is a kind of hostility to Israel.

By that logic, there can never be victims in a war zone, even among civilians, since to designate anyone as such would offend one of the combatant sides. That is patently absurd and inhumane.

Mr Thompson’s decision is also quite insulting to the BBC’s audience. It implies that viewers might fail to distinguish between a charity appeal and a political message, so it is best not to broadcast the former in case it is mistaken for the latter.

Maintaining impartiality in the Middle East conflict has never been easy for the BBC. Israeli and Palestinian groups both regularly accuse the corporation of institutional bias, which is probably a crude indication that, in its journalism, the BBC gets the balance about right. But the decision over the DEC appeal was taken not by journalists, but by managers.

If the BBC now shows the appeal, as it should, it will doubtless be accused of caving in to political pressure. Thus, not for the first time, the corporation has manoeuvred itself into controversy where, whatever its next move, it cannot win. And, not for the first time, the fault lies not in bad journalism, but weak management.

From Tim Llewellyn, on the Guardian:

This pusillanimous obeisance to some imagined governmental threat has aroused unprecedented anger across the BBC. Reporters and correspondents still on the staff, and who will not name themselves, are beside themselves with rage against a corporation that is traducing the very ideals it is supposed to uphold, and for which the director-general seemed to speak in Westminster Abbey.

This is what one former BBC World Service current affairs producer wrote to his colleagues yesterday: “… I am rarely moved to comment on aspects of the BBC I can no longer influence. But I confess I am deeply saddened and confused – and frankly pleased to be distanced from such decisions – after listening to Caroline Thomson’s obfuscating defence on Today of the refusal to broadcast the joint charity appeal on behalf of the suffering in Gaza. The question of partiality is a red herring. It is for the general public to respond to a humanitarian disaster as they choose.”

Having dealt with different news managers at the BBC over the past 30 years or so, I can safely say that the modern BBC has become a body of lions led by donkeys. Reporters of the calibre of Jeremy Bowen, David Lloyn, Lyse Doucet, experts in their field and brave people all, will be appalled by the directions they are being given. Edward Stourton and the Today programme rightly produced Tony Benn yesterday morning because they knew he would articulate what their bosses have failed to: reason and humanity.

The big question that remains is this: what are the suits scared of? Why do BBC managers try to second-guess our government and even outreach it in grovelling to the United States and Israel?

BBC journalists, extant and retired, not the “usual suspects”, not disaffected radicals and high-octane lefties, are incandescent with rage over this extraordinary piece of institutional cowardice.

The episode makes a travesty of the institution’s posturing in Westminster Abbey last week, and discredits the honest reporters the BBC still has on its books and in the field.

And still more from the Guardian:

The BBC was in crisis tonight as politicians including government ministers, religious leaders and senior members of its own staff condemned the decision not to broadcast a charity appeal to help the stricken people of Gaza rebuild their homes.

The corporation’s director general, Mark Thompson, was left isolated as rival broadcasters ITV and Channel 4 agreed to put out the plea for aid made jointly by 13 British charities. The BBC has decided the broadcast of the appeal might be seen as evidence of bias on a highly sensitive political issue.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has accused the broadcaster of “taking sides”. He said yesterday: “This is not a row about impartiality but rather about humanity.

“This situation is akin to that of British military hospitals who treat prisoners of war as a result of their duty under the Geneva convention. They do so because they identify need rather than cause. This is not an appeal by Hamas asking for arms but by the Disasters Emergency Committee asking for relief. By declining their request, the BBC has already taken sides and forsaken impartiality,” the archbishop added.

Communities secretary Hazel Blears said: “The BBC’s decision should not discourage the public from donating to this important appeal. I sincerely hope the BBC will urgently review its decision.”

Jon Snow, the journalist who presents Channel 4 news, said the BBC should have been prepared to accept the judgment of the aid experts of the DEC. “It is a ludicrous decision. That is what public service broadcasting is for. I think it was a decision founded on complete ignorance and I am absolutely amazed they have stuck to it.”

Snow said he suspected a BBC bureaucrat had “panicked” and he called upon Mark Thompson to put the situation right. Martin Bell, the former BBC foreign correspondent, said the BBC should admit it had made a mistake. He claimed “a culture of timidity had crept” into the corporation. “I am completely appalled,” he said. “It is a grave humanitarian crisis and the people who are suffering are children. They have been caught out on this question of balance.”

But Greg Dyke, Thompson’s predecessor as director general of the BBC, said the issue put the BBC in a “no win situation”. He added: “Outside of Iraq, the single biggest issue that caused complaints was the coverage of Israel. I can understand why the BBC has taken this decision, because on a subject as sensitive as the Middle East it is absolutely essential that the audience cannot see any evidence at all of a bias.”

Douglas Alexander, the international development secretary, who has attacked the BBC’s decision, today welcomed commercial broadcasters’ decision to break ranks and urged the BBC to think again. “I welcome this decision. The DEC appeal is crucial to help alleviate the suffering of people injured, displaced and hungry in Gaza.”

The BBC also faces demands for an explanation from within the Commons international development select committee.

Further updates in the Independent:

Channel 4, Five, ITV and al-Jazeera English announced they will be airing the DEC appeal tomorrow, after initially falling in behind the BBC. Sky News was considering its position last night.

The health minister Ben Bradshaw, a former BBC journalist, said the decision was “inexplicable” and called the corporation’s justification “completely feeble”. The Communities and Local Government Secretary, Hazel Blears, added: “I sincerely hope the BBC will urgently review its decision.”

A motion has been tabled in the Commons for tomorrow expressing astonishment at the corporation’s judgement in blocking airtime from the coalition of major aid charities, including the British Red Cross.

It is understood that it was Mr Thompson’s decision, and chief operating officer Caroline Thomson was ordered to go on radio – initially on Friday on Radio 4’s The World Tonight – to defend the position. A source close to the row said: “Because she [Ms Thomson] has gone so strongly on editorial independence, it is very difficult to see how they can back down.”

Ms Thomson said yesterday: “It is important to remember that broadcasting appeals like this is a unique thing we do and we have to be clear about two things when we do it. First, that that money will go to the people it is intended for; but second, that we can do it within our own impartiality principles and without affecting and impinging on the audience’s perception of our impartiality.”

Protocol dictates that the BBC leads the way on deciding a consensus on DEC appeals with other channels. But rival channels allege the corporation made an announcement on Thursday before consulting them, forcing them to break with the convention.

The DEC is an apolitical umbrella organisation made up of UK major aid organisations ActionAid, British Red Cross, Cafod, Care International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Help the Aged, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision.

Mr Alexander welcomed the move by rival broadcasters to air the appeal: “The DEC appeal is crucial to help alleviate the suffering of people injured, displaced and hungry in Gaza.”

The BBC is used to being accused of anti-Israel bias, but in 2004 it was jolted by a study that said BBC1 and ITV news were guilty, if unthinkingly, of under-reporting the Palestinian cause. Worse, the Glasgow Media Unit found viewers thought the “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza referred to the Palestinians, not Israeli settlers.

At the same time, the BBC fell foul of the Israeli authorities over an interview with the nuclear whistleblower Mordecai Vanunu, released in 2004 after 18 years in prison, which was smuggled out of Israel. The BBC’s then deputy bureau chief, Simon Wilson, had his work permit withdrawn and was barred from the country. He was allowed back in after the BBC bowed to demands that he make a written apology to the Israeli government for dodging its censors.

The BBC appointed a senior broadcaster, Malcolm Balen, to “take stock” of Middle East coverage, in his words. He drew up an internal report that has never been released, but one result appeared to be the appointment, in mid-2005, of Jeremy Bowen as the BBC’s Middle East editor. His stated role was to supply context amid the footage of bloodshed and mayhem.

Why critics accuse the BBC of losing its nerve is because, several times during the present conflict, almost as much airtime has been given to the chief Israeli spokesman, Mark Regev, as if by allowing him his say, the BBC is supplying the necessary “balance” to the images of Palestinian victims. A live “two-way” between Mr Regev and Jon Snow of ‘Channel 4 News’ became a shouting match, but this has never happened on the BBC.

Jeremy Bowen’s diary entry from Jerusalem is insightful:

It allows Israel to say that one of its main ceasefire demands has been satisfied. Add that to the army’s conviction that it has done serious harm to Hamas, and they can tell themselves they have a convincing basis on which to declare victory.

Israel doesn’t want to bestow any legitimacy on Hamas by making an agreement with it. But to me that smacks of spin control. The reality is that Hamas is part of the Palestinian landscape. It has played a full part in the ceasefire talks that have been mediated by Egypt.

Cairo has passed on the views of Hamas to Israel. When this is over, and when Israeli troops pull out, Hamas will still be in charge in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has its own demands for a ceasefire. It wants Israeli troops out within a week and the end of the Israeli blockade of Gaza which destroyed the economy long before the war started.

Balen’s appointment received mainly positive acclaim from Israeli representatives:

Welcoming the BBC move, an Israeli embassy spokesman declared: “It seems that the character of our recent relations with the BBC has had its impact. Maybe it means that they understand that there is something in our claims of bias and that they really need to monitor what they do.”

Lee Petar, acting director of the Britain-Israel Communications and Research Centre, said: “It seems the BBC has finally acknowledged the coverage issue. It is a positive first step.” Board of Deputies director-general Neville Nagler termed the appointment of Mr. Balen “interesting, but overdue.”

In his view, the BBC “must have been rattled by the criticism they have received.” Zionist Federation director Alan Aziz supported “any move that could lead to more accurate reporting” of the Middle East.

Meanwhile, there appeared to be further evidence of thawing relations. A BBC World TV inteview with Deputy Premier Ehud Olmert last week was the first time that an official Israeli spokesman had appeared on the BBC since Israel announced it was “withdrawing co-operation” four months ago.

Jews sans Frontieres reported at the time:

Yesterday’s Jewish Chronicle. opened in high spirits in the (probably justified) belief that the BBC will be even more pro-Israel in future than it has been in the past. This follows the completion of Malcolm Balen’s (the BBC’s Zionism tsar’s) report into BBC coverage of the Middle East. The report is secret, that is, it is being kept from the public, but the JC. has been crowing for months about what it clearly sees as a Zionist victory by having the tsar imposed on the Beeb in the first place. The BBC itself has done nothing to distance itself from the Zionist belief that the recruiting of Malcolm Balen has been a victory for Zionism in the UK. For its part, the BBC has announced, somewhat enigmatically, that it is to “enhance” its coverage of Middle East issues. What the JC. has been hoping for is that any Israeli atrocity will either not be reported at all or will be put into “context”. What “context”? Well they want any report on Israel to be accompanied by reports on suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. Now, there should be a problem here. If they report the suicide bombing, what about the context? If the bomber comes from Jenin will the BBC say that Jenin is a refugee camp? If they say it’s a refugee camp, will they say where the refugees came from? The answer to that one is Haifa. Will they say that Haifa was ethnically cleansed in order to give Israel a Jewish majority that it wouldn’t have without said ethnic cleansing? Would the JC. be so thrilled with the appointment of Malcolm Balen and the proposed “enhancement” if this was the case? I think not.

Balen’s report was covered up:

The Beeb has spent an estimated £250,000 in licence-fee money to cover up the report. HonestReporting’s Freedom of Information request for a copy of Balen’s examination of the BBC’s Mideast coverage was also turned down

Numerous appeals have been made to reveal the contents of the report which Israeli pundits claim will prove anti-Israel bias in the Beeb.

.Pro-Palestinian groups on the other hand found the BBC to be more sympathetic to the Israeli narrative.

This is a vast topic with various, equally valid theories which could fill an entire book. As such, I will not delve into it, but instead direct readers to a chapter entitled “Why the BBC Ducks the Palestinian Story” by Tim Llewellyn, a patron of AMW and former BBC Middle East correspondent. The chapter is available on the internet and contained in an excellent book published in January this year entitled “Tell Me Lies: Propaganda and Media Distortion in the Attack on Iraq”, which is available at a 20% discount on the AMW website.

What I can say for certain, however, is that the BBC cannot claim it has not been told. AMW members – including Llewellyn – have been highlighting their concerns to the corporation for years, and since last October we have had
several meetings with senior BBC officials and sent them periodic summaries of trends in the corporation’s coverage, which highlighted the same problems illustrated in this article.

However, at one such meeting Richard Sambrook, then head of news and now director of the World Service and global news division, stressed the importance of both sides maintaining open channels of dialogue, and then failed to reply to several of my subsequent e-mails and monitoring summaries.

BBC chairman Michael Grade replied in May to a letter by AMW director Judith Brown that “since the views of your organisation are well known to BBC News, I hope you will understand that it would be inappropriate for me to fulfil your request for a meeting.” We have yet to understand.

Greg Philo & “Bad News From Israel”

Our findings echo those of a major three-year study by Professor Greg Philo, research director of the Glasgow University Media Group, into British people’s understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the output of
the UK’s broadcasters, including the BBC. His findings, contained in his book “Bad News from Israel”, published on June 22 this year and available on the AMW website at a 30% discount, are shocking: Only 9% of people knew that the Israelis were the occupiers and settlers – 11% believed it was the Palestinians! Only 30% knew that the Palestinians had suffered more fatalities than the Israelis, and 80% did not know where the Palestinian refugees had come from or how they had become dispossessed.

After Israel’s last Lebanon debacle, Israel formed its oily hasbara machine, the National Information Directorate, to insert whinging points, distorted narrative and outright barefaced lies into existing tentacles of the Israeli media octopus in an attempt to polish up Israel’s media image. Correcting supposed anti-Israel ‘bias’ is part of its mandate.

The body, known as the National Information Directorate, was set up eight months ago following recommendations from an Israeli inquiry into the 2006 Lebanon war. Its role is to deal with hasbara – meaning, in Hebrew, “explanation”, and referring variously to information, spin, and propaganda.

The directorate’s chief, Yarden Vatikai, said: “The hasbara apparatus needed a body that would co-ordinate its agencies, coordinate the messages and become a platform for co-operation between all the agencies that deal with communication relations and public diplomacy.”

The directorate acts across ministries and decides key messages on a daily basis.

The hasbara directive also liaises over core messages with bodies such as friendship leagues, Jewish communities, bloggers and backers using online networks.

However as we’ve illustrated several times on this blog, the hasbara machine has proved inept in defending its distortions and lies in the face of new social media.

The fight by Steven Sugar to gain access to the Balen Report continues:

A lawyer is considering the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as his last legal option in a two-year campaign to force the BBC to publish its 2004 report investigating its Middle Eastern coverage.

Steven Sugar is waiting to hear the House of Lords’ judgement on his latest attempt to force publication of the Balen Report, written by BBC senior editor Malcolm Balen.

But if the Law Lords reject his appeal, the Putney solicitor says he “will certainly consider” taking the case to Strasbourg.

Mr Sugar said: “There is every indication that the BBC wants to fight this,” adding: “Parliament might want to re-consider its freedom of information laws.”

The BBC has spent up to half a million pounds of licence payers’ money on lawyers in its determination to keep the report secret, while Mr Sugar has spent two years working on the case. The significance, he says, is that it might reveal a BBC anti-Israel bias.

The corporation has so far relied on a legal loophole in the Freedom of Information Act, which says information does not have to be shared if it is for “journalism, art or literature”.

Might the above be a contributory factor as to why the BBC is so reticent, citing grounds of ‘impartiality’, to air the DEC appeal? or has the BBC really rolled over with its legs in the air for the already exposed hasbara machine?

UPDATES

Jan 26

The Archbishop of Canterbury today added to criticism of the BBC

Dozens of protesters who occupied the BBC’s Glasgow headquarters over its refusal to air an aid appeal for Gaza have left the building.

The corporation has said it has received “approximately” 1,000 telephone complaints and a further 10,000 by email.

Rival broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Five have now agreed to air the appeal. Sky is still considering its position.

At the heart of BBC row, the homeless of Gaza

BBC ‘open to Gaza appeal rethink’

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has said it is open to reconsidering its earlier decision not to telecast a charity appeal for funds for Palestinians in Gaza.

The chief operating officer of the BBC, under fire for its refusal to air the appeal, said a reversal of the decision was possible if another request to air the appeal was made.

“We never say never and clearly, if the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) came to us with another request when things have calmed down and we didn’t have the same worries about the controversial nature of this, we would look at it again in that light,” Caroline Thompson told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

Jillian C. York: BBC: “Just trying to stay neutral”

The BBC has long kowtowed to pressure; As Nigel Fountain points out in an otherwise unintelligible Guardian op-ed, the BBC has been here before. Fountain reminds us of a 1974 airing of a South African apartheid propaganda film on the BBC.

Fundamentally, the problem here is the BBC’s impression that their desire is to remain “neutral.” By implying that they must ignore the humanitarian crisis and the victims in Gaza in order to err on the side of neutrality in fact implies that not offending Israel is more important than helping the over 5,000 injured, and countless who have lost homes or livelihood thanks to Israel’s massacre.

Jan 27

Questions have been raised about BBC Director General Mark Thompson’s bias toward Israel.

That Mark Thompson has been supporting Zionist leaders is no secret. In fact, Mark Thompson’s wife, Jane, is Jewish and a fanatic supporter of Zionist policies. Is Mark simply trying to appease his wife? If he is, then this has to be one of the most outrageous acts in the history of British media. The glaring disregard for human suffering, however, can only be explained by Mark Thompson’s close relationship with Israeli leaders. In 2005, Mr. Thompson broke all rules of independent journalism when he travelled to Jerusalem and met former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in order to “build bridges” between the BBC and Israel. This unprecedented move was not covered by Western media, but the Israeli press gave it significant importance.

More evidence of Sharon’s influence over Mark Thompson and thus the BBC is coming to light –

I have no doubt that the decision by the BBC to pull their Middle East correspondent Orla Guerin out of the region and send her to South Africa was part of the normal rotation of BBC news correspondents around the world. However it was pretty bad timing to announce it within days of Director General Mark Thompson’s visit to Israel where he had a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Sharon has never hidden his intense dislike of Guerin or the BBC’s reporting of the Middle East and Guerin was recently accused of being “anti-semitic” and of “identifying with the goals and methods of the Palestinian terror groups” by a former Israeli minister.

At the very least the BBC should have foreseen the suspicions that would arise from the two events – Thompson’s visit and Guerin’s departure – and separated them by several months. As it is, the timing of the announcement to move Guerin inevitably raises the question of how much pressure the Israeli Government put on the BBC, which in turn allows some to question the BBC’s impartiality.

Lenin’s Tomb unearths more relevant history:

“The BBC is often accused of an anti-Israeli bias in its coverage of the Middle East, and recently censured reporter Barbara Plett for saying she ‘started to cry’ when Yasser Arafat left Palestine shortly before his death.

Fascinating, then, to learn that its director general, Mark Thompson, has recently returned from Jerusalem, where he held a face-to-face meeting with the hardine Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Although the diplomatic visit was not publicised on these shores, it has been seized upon in Israel as evidence that Thompson, who took office in 2004, intends to build bridges with the country’s political class.

Sources at the Beeb also suspect that it heralds a “softening” to the corporation’s unofficial editorial line on the Middle East.

‘This was the first visit of its kind by any serving director general, so it’s clearly a significant development,’ I’m told.

‘Not many people know this, but Mark is actually a deeply religious man. He’s a Catholic, but his wife is Jewish, and he has a far greater regard for the Israeli cause than some of his predecessors.'”

Barbaric Document follows up on what happened to Orla Guerlin after Sharon’s fingering of Mark Thompson:

What’s missing from this is what happened to BBC correspondent Orla Guerin just days after Mark Thompson had his cosy tete-a-tete with that obese blood-drenched old brute Ariel Sharon. Before Thompson took up his position as Director General of the BBC, the Guardian had reported on the ferocious pressure being exerted on news organisations by the Israeli government, including complaints about individual reporters:

The Israeli government has written to the BBC accusing its Middle East correspondent, Orla Guerin, of anti-semitism and “total identification with the goals and methods of the Palestinian terror groups”.

Orla Guerin’s offence was to run stories not just about the grief of Israeli families who had lost family members to suicide bombers but also stories about the grief and suffering of ordinary Palestinian families. As one blogger put it at the time:

Guerin’s real sin, of course, is to show some sympathy for the victims of the Israeli bombing (that’s enough to brand her a “terrorist”).

Within days of Thompson meeting Sharon, Guerin was sacked as BBC TV Middle East correspondent and transferred to Africa.

Mondoweiss has yet another theory on the BBC’s reticience to participate in the aid appeal for the people of Gaza.

Second that BBC is reliant on American advertising and therefore… Well, I don’t know.

A movement builds against Israel’s apartheid

STUDENT ACTIVISTS in Britain have occupied 16 universities in solidarity with the people of Gaza, and antiwar forces are pressuring the BBC for refusing to air an emergency appeal on behalf of Palestinians.

UPDATE

BBC staff are expressing their ire still at Mark Thompson’s refusal to broadcast the Gaza humanitarian appeal:

At least three BBC NUJ workplace branches have passed motions calling on the BBC to transmit the Gaza aid appeal. A petition is circulating within the corporation which concludes: “The victims of Gaza deserve the aid appeal like any other victims of humanitarian crises. The conflict they are caught in is as controversial as any other armed conflict in the world and singling them out is what harms the BBC’s reputation of impartiality.”

The latest issue of Ariel, the BBC’s internal staff magazine, carries 10 letters on the BBC’s refusal to air the Gaza appeal – all are critical of the decision.

Some of the choice quotes from staff:

The flaw in this argument is that we are allowing the combatants (or their allies) – in this case Israel – to define whether or not an appeal for aid is legitimate.

The BBC has decided not to broadcast the appeal because it believes impartiality would be at risk. I believe the message the BBC is sending out is clear. And it is not impartial.

The decision not to broadcast the appeal opens the BBC up to justified accusations of bias towards Israel and implies that the people of Gaza only have themselves to blame for what happened.

Middle East Today – Christopher Walker

Christopher Walker analyses mainstream media coverage as a result of Israel’s ban of foreign journalists during its attack on the people of Gaza, and refers to the insidious hasbara used by Israeli spokespersons. Israel calculates that it wins the war of words against Palestinians but can’t win the war of images – thus the decision to keep foreign journalists out of Gaza during the butchery is calculated to prevent imagery adverse to Israel escaping