Monday, January 26, 2009

Gaza aid

This morning the BBC have again been defending their decision not to broadcast the Disasters Aid Committee's emergency appeal for Gaza. On Saturday morning, I had had the rare experience of hearing a government minister (Douglas Alexander) giving a straight answer to a question and I also agreed with him as he said the BBC should change this decision.

This morning (Monday) on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mark Thompson (the BBC's Director General) was suggesting that although the DEC is non-partisan, the issue of aid to Gaza was contentious. Hence, the logic goes, a broadcast of the appeal might place the BBC on one side of the conflict, making it partisan and compromising its journalists in the field.

This seems fundamentally wrong. Here are a few random reasons:
  • not to broadcast is also a partisan statement. Will the apparent refusal to support humanitarian relief to Gaza endanger journalists on the other side?
  • this is humanitarian relief. Israel - the 'other side' in this conflict - itself allows some supplies through, so why should it object to this appeal in assisting something it already allows?
  • there is a fear that supplies might go to militants, but that is always true when helping civilians caught up in a war zone. Relief in Darfur and the DRC may well have 'leaked' to some militants, but that did not stop the appeal broadcasts, so why this one?
  • other networks - ITV, Channel 4 and Five have all deemed it appropriate (though sadly not Sky News). Are they being irresponsible?

I have two other concerns. This decision could very easily give the impression that Arab and Muslim casualties are in some sense less important to Western eyes than others. It is fuel for the kind of propaganda which sets the West upo as an enemy of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

It may also fuel anti-semitism. There are dangerous people out there who still peddle the line, which was popular with the Nazis, that the world is in the grip of a Jewish conspiracy. If this episode give the impression that the BBC was 'nobbled', then this kind of conspiracy theory gains momentum. That isn't in Israel's interest, let alone the suffering Palestinians in Gaza.

Come on BBC, do the right thing and broadcast ot.

In the meantime, you can donate online to the DEC appeal at their website.>

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