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A month of solidarity in London — does the BBC get the message?

on 22 Comments

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of London last Saturday (August 9), honoring the call for a global “day of rage” in response to the ongoing Israeli atrocities in Gaza. The organizers estimate that 150,000 protesters attended, making it the biggest Gaza-solidarity demonstration ever to take place in Britain.

The organizers set a precedent by choosing to launch the demonstration from the headquarters of the BBC in London. The choice was justified, as it reflected the common sentiments shared by almost everyone who’s followed the news organ closely. For weeks, the anger at the “balanced” coverage the BBC claims to produce, has been building steadily, as each day brought with it more bad news from Gaza. To quote Tariq Ali in his interview with the BBC’s Mark Sanders: “we shouldn’t underestimate the anger with the BBC at its coverage of the Palestine-Israel conflict. In all my experience, I have never known a demonstration to begin outside the BBC headquarters; that’s how angry people are…”   

Important to note is the fact that this particular demonstration came as the latest in a series of many other, similar actions that have taken place across the UK over the past month, and the turnout has been sustained and built upon with each subsequent action. Judging whether a movement has truly become a mainstream one is difficult, but the fact that more and more people are getting involved in the protests for the first time, indicates the solidarity that exists– or is being created by Israel’s actions– within the mainstream.

Hyde Park demonstration, protesters arrive, Aug. 9, photo by Ahmad Elabbar

Hyde Park demonstration, protesters arrive, Aug. 9, photo by Ahmad Elabbar

The demonstrators arrive at Hyde park, having marched from the BBC headquarters, passing the US embassy on their way. 

The crowd was addressed at Hyde Park by a number of MPs, intellectuals and activists. Among them was Baroness Jenny Tonge, Tariq Ali, and Mustapha Barghouti -via recorded speech from Gaza. Bruce Kent, from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, reminded everyone that the day marked the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, in reference to Israel’s own nuclear arsenal; the assault on Gaza was being carried out by a state with the ultimate capacity for destruction, against an occupied and besieged population.

In his speech, Tariq Ali spoke of the unequivocal nature of Palestinian resistance and Israeli occupation, saying: “…it’s no good saying it isn’t a perfect resistance: if the occupation is ugly, you will not have a pretty resistance!”

Tariq Ali

Tariq Ali, photo by Ahmad Elabbar

Tariq Ali, writer and journalist: “There is a basic point that has to be made to our politicians. They have to understand that there is no equivalence between the Palestinian resistance and the Israeli occupation. When a country is occupied, resistance emerges. If you want no rockets being fired, no tunnels being dug, get out of Gaza.” (Description: Palestine Solidarity Campaign )

Seamus Milne, photo by Ahmad Elabbar

Seumas Milne, photo by Ahmad Elabbar

Seumas Milne, Guardian columnist and associate editor: “Israel is in illegal occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel has no right to defend itself from territories it occupies. It only has an obligation to withdraw. The Palestinians are an occupied people. They have a right to defend themselves from the occupier.” (Description: Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

Glyn Secker, photo by Ahmad Elabbar

Glyn Secker, photo by Ahmad Elabbar

Glyn Secker, Jews for Justice for Palestinians: “Today, an image remains in my mind. It is the image of a Palestinian father carrying the flesh of his son in a plastic bag. As a Jew, I will not ever be associated with these monstrosities. Never in my name, never in my life, never in my children’s life.” (Description: Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

Going back and reviewing the events of last month, one can quickly see how the Israeli war on the people of Gaza has moved so many -especially from parliament- to speak out. The two major demonstrations that took place in London last month were on the 19th and the 26th, respectively. Between the two, the IDF massacred 558 people. The enormity of this figure sustained the demonstrators, and forced even more people to act. On the 26th, 100,000 people occupied Parliament Square calling for an arms embargo.

On the 29th, a vigil was held in front of 10 Downing street. Flowers were laid, accompanied by letters written in memory of the children killed in Gaza.

On that same day, over 100 Palestinians had been killed.

On the following day, the Jabaliya Elementary Girls School was attacked killing 21 of the homeless who had sought refuge within its walls. This attack and others, brought thousands to the Israeli embassy in Kensington on the 1st of August. The IDF responded to the global outrage by attacking another UN school on the 3rd, killing 11 people, five of whom were children between the ages of 3 and 15.

This was the final straw for many, including Baroness Warsi, who handed in her resignation on the 5th. Understandable: only the day before, David Cameron had refused to endorse Ban Ki-moon’s view that the attack on the UNRWA school was in violation of international law, saying: “I’m not an international lawyer.”

Photo by Ahmad Elabbar

Photo by Ahmad Elabbar

Ola, a Palestinian whose family’s home was bombed in Gaza, said in her speech:

“This is a regime that was built on massacres and murders. They said of the Palestinians that the old would die and the young would forget. Well, I am a young Palestinian, and I have not forgotten.”  July 26, 2014 (Description: Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

Brian Eno, by Ahmad Elabbar

Brian Eno, by Ahmad Elabbar

Musician Brian Eno said, when he visited the West Bank, it was “the little things” that made him realise the scale of Israel’s occupation. “It was things like the whole village that had been evacuated and was living in caves so that three Israeli settler families could take their land and be protected by the army.” July 26, 2014 (Description: Palestine Solidarity Campaign)


Scene from the march on Parliament Square, July 26, photo by Ahmad Elabbar

Scene from the march on Parliament Square, July 26, photo by Ahmad Elabbar

Mandela statue, photo by Ahmad Elabbar

Mandela statue, photo by Ahmad Elabbar

Protesters invoked the memory of Nelson Mandela. Seen in the photo, is the statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square, appropriated for the occasion. July 26. 



Hugh Lanning, Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, at the vigil on the 29 of July. (Photo: Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

Bloody hand in demonstration

Simulated bloody hand in demonstration August 1, photo by Ahmad Elabbar

In a symbolic gesture, a demonstrator raised the palms of her hands, painted in red, toward the Israeli Embassy in London. 

As the involvement of people in Britain with the solidarity campaign increases, the controversy over the BBC’s representation of the conflict, is likely to increase also. A question of fairness has been put many times before on this issue; mainly: are the serious criticisms being leveled at the BBC -pro-Israel bias and distortion by emission of context, etc- proportionate to its coverage over the years? To answer this justly, a detailed study is required: one that looks at the entirety of what the BBC has produced on the issue over the years. Such a study was commissioned by the BBC back in 2006, and it concluded that the BBC’s reporting on the Palestine-Israel conflict was “incomplete” and “misleading,” highlighting a “failure to convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other lives under occupation.”

Other studies have reached similar conclusions, differing only in the severity of their indigments. Among them is the revealing study conducted by the renowned Glasgow Media Group; their findings were published as a book entitled Bad News From Israel. Author, professor Greg Philo, has dismissed much of the TV news on the issue as propaganda, “straight from the Israel Project.”

The main issue highlighted by the study is the context within which Israeli attacks are consistently framed. The argument is that once you’ve framed the event as a “response to Hamas rockets,” it won’t matter how much death and pain the viewers see on their screens; in their minds it becomes justified “retaliation,” excessive at worst, but justified nonetheless.

Some individual reporters, have attempted to inform the viewer of the larger context of oppression suffered by the people in Gaza, and not just the immediate results of “retaliations.” An example of this can be found in Jon Donnison’s report from Shujayea:

“…people in Gaza have had to rebuild so many times. They’ve seen half a dozen wars, and decades of Israel’s occupation. Much of the money for reconstruction will be foreign aid, some of it American. Who also provided Israel with the weapons to do much of this. But this will not be a lasting peace. In few years time, there’s no guarantee that it won’t all just happen again. Gaza has been crippled. The healing will take years. Many, will never recover.” (BBC News at One, August 5, 2014)

Judging by the BBC’s coverage of Gaza these last few weeks, it’s clear that the failure is rooted, and the problems run very deep. The previous criticisms made by credible studies have been dismissed. The reporting this time round is in many ways worse than it was during the previous Israeli wars on Gaza. The message to the BBC couldn’t have been clearer than it was on Saturday, and time will show whether the institution is capable of reform when it comes to covering Israeli occupation.

Ahmad Elabbar
About Ahmad Elabbar

Ahmad Elabbar is a physics student. Previously he was a member of the International Solidarity Movement, working in Al-Khalil (Hebron).

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22 Responses

  1. MHughes976
    MHughes976 on August 12, 2014, 9:50 am

    No Palestine or Gaza related item on BBC teletext news service as I write. We’ll see how things go from here.
    I note the prominence given to the Mandela statue. Still, Mandela managed to spread something of a mist over his views of Zionism: he was not unequivocally on ‘our’ side. He never brandished the placards put into his statue’s hands.

  2. tod77
    tod77 on August 12, 2014, 10:03 am

    I personally followed the media very closely during the current war in Gaza.
    I followed Ynet, Haaretz, Alarabiya, Aljazeera, Daily Star, CNN and BBC.
    In my honest opinion, the BBC were the fairest of the lot.
    The real upsetting truth is that none of the above, and probably none of the other international media is really concerned with journalistic truth. Each presents the truth as they want it to be told.
    Thank god for the internet…

    • eGuard
      eGuard on August 12, 2014, 8:12 pm

      I stopped listening BBC weeks ago wrt Gaza. Internet (MW, EI & links) says it clear enough. Got tired of having to check BBC reports. Can’t keep spoonfeeding BBC journalists.

  3. Kay24
    Kay24 on August 12, 2014, 10:08 am

    I have not seen the US media cover any of the protests world wide or in the US.
    I may have missed it.

    Here is Cornell West making a speech at a protest for the war crimes against Gaza in Washington DC, he calls Obama and Bibi, war criminals:

    • globalconsciousness
      globalconsciousness on August 12, 2014, 12:33 pm

      Cornel west also joined the March in NYC, as it turned the corner toward the UN -he was great fun , jammed with us and has tremendous appeal for the youth – we spoke to him and he admitted that change was happening but slowly – looks like even he is realizing that being silent on rights for Palestinians is being on the wrong side – reference to Saliata’s criticisms of Cornel West – perhaps he was referring to his own slow change!
      I think I may have also seen Lisa Gay Hamilton – the spouse of prof R. D. G Kelley at the March on the 9th but could be mistaken …. Both are important supporters of Palestinian human rights.

  4. RobertB
    RobertB on August 12, 2014, 10:19 am

    The zionist controlled MSM & their so-called journalists…have sidelined and tucked away the massacres…the genocide…of Gaza by Israel’s criminal IDF…

    Their present main narratives now… seem to be Iraq…and other little stories. And the nearly 2,000 dead Palestinians in Gaza, West Bank…over the last month long…deceptively tucked away!

    Its change the topic maneuver!!!

    • Kay24
      Kay24 on August 12, 2014, 10:31 am

      I bet Bibi is relieved Americans are watching the situation in Iraq, and that the Gaza war is not the priority any more. For Bibi the timing is perfect, and today the media is full of coverage of the death of Robin Williams.

    • Justpassingby
      Justpassingby on August 12, 2014, 10:40 am

      Exactly what we knew would happen..

  5. globalconsciousness
    globalconsciousness on August 12, 2014, 10:33 am

    I am curious why you say this “managed to spread something of a mist over his views of Zionism”?
    To my mind, Nelson Mandela seemed very supportive and vocal on the rights of Palestinians even when bullied by the likes of Bill Clinton to relinquish his relationship with Arafat…

  6. HarryLaw
    HarryLaw on August 12, 2014, 11:01 am

    “Does the BBC get the message”, It will take some time with these people in charge, in April 2013, the month that a new director-general took up his post at the BBC and, within two weeks, had installed a line-up of hardline Zionists at the top of the world’s largest publicly-funded news organization. Soon after his own appointment, Hall named James Harding as the BBC’s new director of news and current affairs. Until December, Harding was editor of The Times, an avowedly right-wing, pro-Israeli paper owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International group.
    In 2011, Harding spoke at a media event organized by The Jewish Chronicle, telling his audience: “I am pro-Israel. I believe in the State of Israel. I would have had a real problem if I had been coming to a paper [The Times] with a history of being anti-Israel. And, of course, Rupert Murdoch is pro-Israel.”

  7. American
    American on August 12, 2014, 11:23 am

    Good…should try this at US CNN-NBC-Faux and the rest. Just to let them know we know what they are if nothing else.
    Meanwhile Greenwald exposes NPR …again…for the neo and ziocon central it is.

    NPR Is Laundering CIA Talking Points to Make You Scared of NSA Reporting

    • Rusty Pipes
      Rusty Pipes on August 12, 2014, 9:38 pm

      Maybe it’s time we started emulating the Brits, and protesting outside NPR. Not only is NPR’s coverage of Gaza even less evenhanded than the BBC, NPR has been characterizing European protests about Gaza as an alarming increase in anti-Semitism. For example, Eleanor Beardsley covered the French protests and violence by focusing on Muslim immigrants without a word about the JDL’s and other right-wing Jewish groups’ attacks on Palestinian protesters.

  8. Kay24
    Kay24 on August 12, 2014, 12:01 pm

    Interesting poll in the UK . At least the polling seem uncorrupted, unlike the US.

    Poll: 51% of U.K. voters think Israel used excessive force in Gaza
    Poll results also show that 41 percent say their opinion of Israel has dropped during Operation Protective Edge.

    • annie
      annie on August 12, 2014, 12:18 pm

      i bet it’s a lot more than 51%. 51% sounds like code to me, meaning barely more than half. i bet it’s a lot more than that.

      • Kay24
        Kay24 on August 12, 2014, 12:39 pm

        I am sure you are right Annie. I have a strong feeling that even in the US there are more folks who have realized what Israel is, and have been turned off by the brutality and the scenes of babies being massacred with disgust for the occupier.
        Unfortunately we will never know.

      • Sycamores
        Sycamores on August 12, 2014, 1:25 pm

        to put my two cents in,

        most polls are dubious at best.

        but going with what we have.

        The poll found that 52% of voters believe Israel acted disproportionately when it responded to the firing of rockets by Hamas by launching air strikes against the Gaza Strip. It found that 19% thought Israel had acted proportionately while 29% of those polled did not know.

        over a 1/2 (52%) of voters believe Israel acted disproportionately

        less than a 1/5 (19%) thought Israel had acted proportionately

        over a 1/4 (29%) of those polled did not know

        to be fair there is alway a % of voters who will pick ‘I don’t know’, simply because a lot of people (in the case of Israel and Palestine) are not following the news.

        so going by the ratios there is a very large number of voters who believe that Israel acted disproportionately.

        if 52% is code for barely half of voters who believe Israel acted disproportionately then what’s the code when less than a fifth of the voters thought Israel had acted proportionately?

      • straightline
        straightline on August 12, 2014, 3:55 pm

        But note the question – “responded to the firing of rockets by Hamas”. The question was slanted to get the answer “no” – and of course distorted the true situation. It is surprising, therefore, that 52% voted “yes”. Were the question to be “Do you support Israel’s ongoing blockade of and military actions in Gaza?” I suspect a much bigger proportion would have voted against the Israeli position.

        The Guardian which commissioned this survey is very much a PEP newspaper.

      • lysias
        lysias on August 12, 2014, 5:02 pm

        Scotsman and former UK Ambassador Craig Murray has things to say about The Guardian under its present leadership: Rusbridger: Handmaiden to Power:

        Rusbridger’s Guardian has become an unrepentant unionist, zionist, and neo-con New Labour propaganda vehicle. Particularly deceitful is their attitude to the security services and the “war on terror”, where Rusbridger stands revealed as a handmaiden to power. He was, a very senior Guardian source told me, particularly upset when I described him as “Tony Blair’s catamite”. Let me say it again.

  9. Sycamores
    Sycamores on August 12, 2014, 12:06 pm

    on 15 July there was a 5000 strong protest outside BBC’s London HQ protesting BBC bias reporting. 45,000 signtories open letter to the BBC’s Director General was handed in.

    so does the BBC get the message? the answer is yes but they don’t care.

  10. Bob_Salad
    Bob_Salad on August 12, 2014, 5:15 pm

    I’m wondering if BBC America – the corporation’s lucrative US cash cow, is/was subject to any ‘implicit’ broadcasting conditions imposed by the FCC?

    I can’t image that the FCC would issue a broadcasting license without some kind of caveat ensuring news reporting remains ‘balanced’ i.e. tilted favourably in the interest of you-know-who.

    • lysias
      lysias on August 12, 2014, 5:36 pm

      According to Glenn Greenwald, when Al Jazeera America was set up last year, great care was taken to avoid having the new network labeled as “anti-American”.

      • Murdock
        Murdock on August 13, 2014, 2:35 am

        Considering how in-the-tank Al-Jazeera is for the U.S. government, I find it amusing they still had to go through this ritual loyalty testing. They seem to really be coasting on their early 2000s reputation as the bad boys of broadcasting. Ultimately, AJE is to news as Macklemore is to hip-hop; a kind-of soft-serve, vanilla scoop of reality that is never so real that it might risk offending its key audience of white suburbanites.

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