Friday, August 03, 2007

Is the BBC Really The Propaganda Arm of Hamas?

It is if you believe what Melanie Phillips has to say in The Spectator:

Since [Alan] Johnston’s release, the BBC seems to have turned itself into a vehicle for Hamas propaganda. Alastair Crooke has been given airtime granted to no other lobbyist, in interviews and one-off programmes giving him unprecedented opportunity to push his views.

Now that same BBC, along with a shadowy intelligence establishment and panicky politicians, is promoting ‘engagement’ with Hamas. But this is a terrorist outfit committed to the destruction of Israel and the Islamisation of the West. The Johnston kidnap represents a turning point in the war to defend the free world. It is not a turn in the direction of victory.

What is most interesting is the timing of this article by Phillips. A recent article by John Pilger in the New Statesman (redeeming itself slightly after the debacle that was the Chavez article), seems to undermine this rather dubious argument put forward by the rights arch-conspiracist. Pilger writes:

One of the leaders of demonstrations in Gaza calling for the release of the BBC reporter Alan Johnston was a Palestinian news cameraman, Imad Ghanem. On 5 July, he was shot by Israeli soldiers as he filmed them invading Gaza. A Reuters video [see clip at end of post]shows bullets hitting his body as he lay on the ground. An ambulance trying to reach him was also attacked. The Israelis described him as a "legitimate target". The International Federation of Journalists called the shooting "a vicious and brutal example of deliberate targeting of a journalist". At the age of 21, he has had both legs amputated.

Dr David Halpin, a British trauma surgeon who works with Palestinian children, emailed the BBC's Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen. "The BBC should report the alleged details about the shooting," he wrote. "It should honour Alan [Johnston] as a journalist by reporting the facts, uncomfortable as they might be to Israel."

He received no reply.

The atrocity was reported in two sentences on the BBC online. Along with 11 Palestinian civilians killed by the Israelis on the same day, Alan Johnston's now legless champion slipped into what George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four called the memory hole. (It was Winston Smith's job at the Ministry of Truth to make disappear all facts embarrassing to Big Brother.) While Alan Johnston was being held, I was asked by the BBC World Service if I would say a few words of support for him. I readily agreed, and suggested I also mention the thousands of Palestinians abducted and held hostage. The answer was a polite no; and all the other hostages remained in the memory hole. Or, as Harold Pinter wrote of such unmentionables: "It never happened. Nothing ever happened . . . It didn't matter. It was of no interest."

Doesn't seem like the BBC are that bothered about acting as the propaganda arm of Hamas, does it? If they were, why would Jeremy Bowen ignore calls to report this story? Why would BBC online devote only two sentences to a story about a journalist being shot by the Israeli military? Why would BBC World Service refuse to allow Pilger to speak out against the treatment of Palestinian prisoners?? If the BBC was working on PR for Hamas, I'm sure they will be fired soon enough. Meanwhile, perhaps Melanie Phillips might like to pay closer attention to facts rather than spurious, ill-founded allegations.