BBC Arabic’s anti-Israel bias is a problem

The JC Leader, 5 February 2021

February 04, 2021 15:34

What is the purpose of the BBC’s Arabic service? The answer might seem obvious — to bring the BBC’s editorial standards to coverage of Arab countries in their own languages. But its output reveals what seems to be a very different purpose: to promote a view of the Middle East with which we are all wearily familiar, in which Israel is the wicked enemy and those who fight it are heroes. That includes news coverage in which Jerusalem is called “the occupied city”, the Israeli army the “Israeli Occupation Forces” and the PLO “the Palestinian Resistance”. The anti-Israel bias of BBC news in general has long been an issue, but the specific failings relating to its Arabic service are of a different order of magnitude. As our investigation reveals, the BBC has itself admitted to 25 mistakes in its Arabic coverage in just over two years. But that figure barely scratches the surface of the problem.

In this week’s JC Essay, David Patrikarakos shows how polling in parts of the Arab world show a move towards a more favourable view of Israel; a slow move, but a move nonetheless. One of the blocks to progress is the BBC’s Arabic service. Instead of being given the facts, impartially and without bias, viewers are often given barely more than anti-Israel propaganda. This matters because it means the BBC is itself part of the problem in the Middle East. Last year, the BBC published new impartiality guidelines, supposedly to be enforced by a senior executive. Ken MacQuarrie, the man appointed to the role, is paid £325,000 a year. We would suggest that he might now start earning it by turning his attention to BBC Arabic.

February 04, 2021 15:34

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