UK Jews: Replace BBC Mideast editor


A British Jewish community leader is demanding that BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen be replaced following contentious remarks about Israel made in a BBC memo.

Andrew Balcombe, chairman of the Zionist Federation of Britain and Ireland, has written to the chair of the BBC Trust, Dr Chitra Bharucha, following a leaked e-mail Bowen sent last month that questions Bowen’s impartiality as he appears to put the onus of blame for the violence in the region on Israel. The Middle East editor blames the “fragmentation of Palestinian society” on the “death of hope” citing Israel as the reason for this.

The e-mail, with the subject title, Mini briefing on the Israeli and Palestinians, was sent to senior BBC staff including BBC Director-General Mark Byford, head of the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau, Simon Wilson, the BBC Editorial Board and the editors of the BBC’s world bureaus.

“What is new in the last year, and will be one of the big stories in the coming 12 months, is the way that Palestinian society, which used to draw strength from resistance to the occupation, is now fragmenting,” the e-mail read.

“The reason is the death of hope, caused by a cocktail of Israel’s military activities, land expropriation and settlement building – and the financial sanctions imposed on the Hamas-led government which are destroying Palestinian institutions that were anyway flawed and fragile.

“The result is that internecine violence between Hamas and Fatah is getting worse. On Thursday six people were killed in clashes between them in Gaza. The death of a major figure on either side would spark something much more serious.”

He continues, “Israel’s major military incursion into Ramallah on Thursday, killing four Palestinians after a botched arrest operation, was a reminder of the non stop pressures of the Israeli occupation.”

In his letter to the BBC, Balcombe cited the press briefing released by the BBC when Bowen was appointed as Middle East editor in June 2005.

“The new role is designed to enhance our audience’s understanding of the Middle East; and to provide extra commentary, focus and analysis to an increasingly complex area of the world,” the briefing said.

“Recent events indicate that Bowen is unable to perform this role to the standard required,” Balcombe insisted.

“This simply does not represent balanced reporting and does not contribute to BBC viewers’ understanding of the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this way Bowen is doing a disservice to the BBC’s customers.”

Balcombe cited two respected journalists who question Bowen’s stance.

Speaking about the memo, respected author and journalist Stephen Pollard said: “Israel is to blame for almost everything. The Palestinians are not responsible for anything; Israel is the culpable party…If this is what passes for high-level analysis at the BBC, is it any wonder its reporting is so poisonous?”

Daniel Finkelstein, columnist and Comment Editor of The Times, said: “…beyond the question of balance, what is striking about the memo is how poor the analysis is. There’s no hint for instance of anything deeper…If this is the best that the Middle East Editor can do, how can correspondents with less specialist knowledge do better?” CONTINUE

February 3, 2007 | 2 Comments »

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2 Comments / 2 Comments

  1. “…Palestinian society, which used to draw strength from resistance to the occupation, is now fragmenting…”

    Tut Tut… What a pity…

    When you stand back and look at how much money has been, and is being, poured into Death not doctors, dentists and accountants – you have to wonder at the sanity of those who are pouring it in… unless there’s some grand plan to allow Death to have its way in a massive bout of self-destruction. I personally don’t believe that’s the case, but one can only hope.

  2. I recently complained about the BBC’s lopsided reportage and their response included phrases such as:

    The BBC is satisfied its coverage of events in Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been balanced, fair and accurate.

    Across our programming we have tried to explain how the current situation started and has since developed and given air-time to representatives from across the political spectrum. Nevertheless, I recognise you may continue to believe our reports from the Middle East are biased and in this respect your comments have been registered and made available to BBC News and senior BBC management.

    My comments:

    I suggest that you start offering listeners and viewers more balanced reporting on Israel. Most of your reports on Israel are very slanted and charged with derogatory and biased language against Israel. The Palestinian and Arab commentary is very often not balanced with the Israeli perspective.

    This kind of one-sided reportage is unacceptable and designed to excoriate a country that is trying to fight terrorism; it has paid a heavy price in the war on terrorism. Your reporting de-legitimizes Israel and creates even more anti-Jewish feelings throughout Europe and the world. All remarks using emotionally charged language like “occupation” must be examined for veracity and correct usage. Arab/Islamic propaganda must not go unchallenged.

    The goal of good reporting is not to be heavy-handed and punishing of Israel, it is to present the truth which is much different from what the BBC portrays daily to the world.

    For the sake of good journalism, do your homework and don’t buy into false hackneyed beliefs that have no basis in truth.

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