By Stephen Franklin
March 7, 2010
Last December the BBC Trust exhibited such insensitivity to anti-Israel bias that the the continued role of this body in overseeing the BBC's adherence to impartiality should be reviewed.
The issue related to an interview on the BBC Arabic service http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1922.htm on October 17 2008, that was translated into English by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
One of the guests advocated the killing of Israeli children. In doing so he said "In elementary school, they pose the following math problem: 'In your village, there are 100 Arabs. If you killed 40, how many Arabs would be left for you to kill?' This is taught in the Israeli curriculum. What would you say about that? Should a child studying this be considered a civilian? He is a future soldier.” The other guest replied “I condemn the Israeli governments for teaching children such things, but I do not condemn the child”.
At no time in the programme did the BBC refute, or even question this foul assertion that was made by one guest and affirmed by the other.
I made a complaint to the BBC Arabic service, and in their reply they still did not refute this assertion. Later however they did refute it and this was published at the end of an article in The Daily Telegraph in January 2009
I put forward my complaint, citing the BBC Arabic services acknowledgement of fault in the Daily Telegraph, as an admitted example wrong doing, and suggesting that many more specific examples should be investigated in a closer look at the attitude of the BBC generally towards Israel.
The Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) of the BBC Trust dismissed the extreme offensiveness of in the following terms:
“The Committee also noted that the complainant had pointed out to the Committee a newspaper article that suggested that the BBC Arabic service had incorrectly made reference to the content of the Israeli maths curriculum.”
To regard that clip from BBC Arabic just as an incorrect reference to the Israeli maths curriculum is so dismissive of the offence caused as to put into question whether the ESC is the right body to oversee the complains about the content of the BBC.
The Chairman of the ESC is Richard Tait and he chaired the meeting in December when this report was published, as he does most of its meetings. He did not however chair the ESC when it was discussing the complaints about Jeremy Bowen made by Jonathan Turner and Gilead Ini. It is possible that the problem is not so much the committee itself as its chairman.