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BBC Cited for 2 Blatant Anti-Israel Reports

BBC is cited for two recent incidents of blatant anti-Israel reporting, regarding Jerusalem and sensationalist rehashing of a 15-year-old report.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 1/27/2010, 10:39 AM / Last Update: 1/27/2010, 10:45 AM

Internationally renowned pianist Evgeny Kissin, CAMERA, and various media analysts have joined the fray of complaints against BBC for its "bias against Israel."

The two issues reported on unfairly by BBC relate to Israel’s alleged organ-harvesting of Palestinian Authority residents and its treatment of Arabs in Jerusalem.

Last month, in what was essentially a rehash of a 15-year-old story, British media reported on an admission by an Israeli pathologist that there had been incidents of “harvesting” of organs from Israeli soldiers and Arabs. The BBC’s headline screamed that Israel was harvesting Palestinian organs, without mentioning that Arabs were not the focus of the misguided policy, illegal in Israel.

Even renowned pianist Evgeny Kissin responded. In a letter to BBC Director Mark Thompson, Kissin wrote, "I receive verified reports on an almost daily basis of the BBC's slander and bias towards Israel, painfully reminiscent of the old Soviet anti-Zionist propaganda. It beggars belief that the British taxpayer should be funding an organization aligning itself with Iran's despotic leader in its anti-Semitic propaganda."

BBC’s response to Kissin was even more misleading than the original article, London's Jewish Chronicle reports. Thompson replied to Kissin, “This report was not created by the BBC, but was a translation of a news story which appeared on Israeli television... I am also assured by the World Service that the Israeli government has not denied the story since it broke.”

The reason Israel did not deny the story is because it was true; until it was stopped, there had, in fact, been illegal organ harvesting, irrespective of ethnic origins. But, as an Israeli Embassy spokesman said, the problem with the BBC report was that it was a “despicable attempt” to claim that Israelis have been involved “in the specific harvesting of Palestinian organs.” Israel protested the BBC’s emphasis on “simply one component” and called it “an attempt to manipulate the hearts of the readership.”

Mideast media analyst Tom Gross noted that some countries, such as China, “do remove live organs for transplant. There is scarcely a word about this in the British media. The Iranian-backed Lebanese terror militia Hezbollah has been accused of harvesting the organs of Lebanese Christians, with hardly any investigation of this charge by the so-called human rights groups of America and Europe.”

Gross also noted that BBC, unlike other media, “used a sensationalist and shocking photo, which was not even from Israel, to give the false impression that the Israeli government had been involved in wrongdoing.”

Second Incident: Eastern Jerusalem
More recently, regarding BBC’s Jan. 18th edition of its flagship documentary program Panorama, political commentator and analyst Robin Shepherd wrote, “Rarely will you get a clearer insight into the flagrant institutional bias inside the world's most powerful media outlet than this. The slipperiness of the tactics employed, the unabashed censorship of vital historical context, and the blatant pursuit of a political agenda constituted a lesson in the techniques of modern day propaganda.”

Shepherd offered a point-by-point analysis of the program’s bias and misrepresentations; it is cited at length on the CAMERA site.

The Jerusalem Municipality responded to one specific point made on the program by narrator and reporter-on-the-ground Jane Corbin. She said that demolitions of Arab structures have been increasing, “and in fact, we've got hold of a list that shows there's another 40 to go before the end of the year. That's because the municipal government has a budget that it has to use up for demolitions." In response, the municipality stated, "The amount of demolitions carried out by the Jerusalem Municipality every year is determined solely by the number of illegally constructed buildings erected by those residents who flouted the law. The number of structural demolitions conducted in eastern Jerusalem by the Jerusalem Municipality actually decreased in 2009 - from 86 in 2008 to 65 in 2009, a 25 percent decrease.”

“Furthermore,” the statement continued, “there is simply no connection whatsoever between the annual budget of the Jerusalem Municipality and the number of demolitions conducted. Throughout the program, Ms. Corbin presents a completely and utterly false representation of the facts and a distasteful distortion of reality. It would be prudent to ask Ms. Corbin what happened to her alleged list of 40 planned demolitions since her filming in late 2009. You'll easily find yet another one of her distasteful distortions."

Criticism of the BBC film came from yet another direction, a watchdog site named “Just Journalism.” This site focused on the program’s coverage of a shooting of two Arabs in eastern Jerusalem by an Israeli man in September 2009. Though the shooter was released from detention after it was found that he shot in self-defense, Corbin barely mentions this – and instead, presents only misleading video footage of the incident. In short, Just Journalism states, the episode “was portrayed by the BBC in a highly misleading way, by the heavy emphasis of one version of events to the near exclusion of the other. All the relevant facts were in the public domain, making this difficult to justify.”