BBC backs anti-Israel activist claim

By Marcus Dysch, January 17, 2013
Anti-Israel campaigner Ben White

Anti-Israel campaigner Ben White

The BBC Trust has upheld a complaint from a leading anti-Israel activist that a Radio 4 report inaccurately described the impact of the creation of Israel on Palestinians.

A “lack of clarity” had been evident in the coverage of West Bank protests last May which marked “Nakba Day”, when Palestinians mourn the creation of Israel, the BBC investigation found.

The report breached the Corporation’s accuracy guidelines by failing to note the “degree of force or coercion in the manner of the departure” of Palestinians, the Trust concluded.

Ben White is a campaigner who accuses Israel of being an apartheid state and who wrote in 2002 that he could “understand” why people were antisemitic.

He encouraged his Twitter followers to protest against Israeli theatre company Habima last May by posting a picture of Jewish author Howard Jacobson, saying the Booker Prize winner’s face was “another reason to support the boycott”.

Mr White complained to the BBC, claiming that the introduction to the news report was “deeply offensive” to Palestinians who had “lost everything as a result of ethnic cleansing”.

The introduction had stated that 60 Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli forces while marking Nakba Day, which the piece said was “the anniversary of Israel’s declaration of statehood which resulted in thousands of Palestinians leaving their homes”.

A Radio 4 editor who worked on the introduction told an initial BBC editorial standards committee that referring to Palestinians “leaving their homes” had not been “dynamic” enough.

The Trust concluded that the language used had “failed adequately to convey the reality of the departures”, and had “understated” the number of Palestinians affected by Israel’s creation.

During its investigation, the committee studied the work of Israeli revisionist historian Benny Morris.

Zionist Federation executive director Alan Aziz said the BBC’s commitment to impartiality “seems never to apply when it comes to Israel. The BBC, by recognising a false narrative that Israel committed a catastrophe against the Palestinians, is providing a biased picture demonising Israel.

“The ZF will continue to call on the BBC to cover Israel impartially and truthfully.”

The BBC Trust rejected another complaint relating to alleged partiality in the same broadcast.

Last updated: 1:16pm, January 17 2013