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November 2, 2015 7:26 am

The BBC Explains Why It Cannot Report Israeli History Truthfully

avatar by Hadar Sela

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Pre-state Israel/British Mandate of Palestine, 1947. Photo: Wikipedia.

Pre-state Israel/British Mandate of Palestine, 1947. Photo: Wikipedia.

Readers no doubt recall the audio report from BBC Jerusalem Bureau staffer Kevin Connolly, which — despite including inaccurate portrayals of both Israeli and British history — was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s “From Our Own Correspondent” on October 24.

A citizen who wrote to the BBC to complain about that report received a response that includes the following “explanations.” [all emphasis added]

I fully appreciate your concerns surrounding BBC reporting of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians during “From Our Own Correspondent” broadcast on 24 October, 2015.

There are lots of newsworthy events happening the world over that deserve just as much time spent on them as that dedicated to the Middle East. We’ve to make difficult decisions based on the evidence and independent verification our news teams can gather in order to report on the news we do. This does lead to subjective decisions being taken on what news we report on and as is often the case the lack of reporting on any issue lays the BBC open to criticism from interested groups/supporters who accuse the BBC of deliberately failing to tell the whole story. This is never our intention.

We’re subject to ensuring our news coverage is of national interest to our domestic audience and there isn’t the time or resources available to cover every current or historical aspect of a conflict that some sections of our audience would like.

As a public service broadcaster and ingrained in our Royal Charter all journalists and news teams have a firm commitment to impartiality and we cannot be seen to be taking the word of interested groups and we always aim to verify all stories we receive before we give airtime to them. The situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories is fraught with difficulties, two sides with opposing views, each seeking to undermine the other. It is a difficult path our journalists take, they’ve to bury their emotions as much as possible to remain impartial when reporting on the attacks that take place in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and any other conflict. They come under intense pressure to report on what one side is saying but they’ve to keep a clear head and remain committed to reporting events as they happen to avoid emotional language.

I can tell you feel very strongly that the BBC has failed to properly convey the impossible situation that Israelis are in. Our only goal is to report truthfully and honestly the situation faced by both Israelis and Palestinians without bias.

Common sense would of course dictate that if indeed “there isn’t the time or resources available to cover every current or historical aspect of a conflict,” then it would be prudent to avoid featuring sloppy and inaccurate accounts that mislead the BBC’s “domestic audience” about its own (and others’) history. The “national interest” of that audience is surely not served by misrepresentation of Britain’s administration of the Mandate for Palestine, and one must also ask just how much “time or resources” are required in order for BBC correspondents to portray the well-recorded events of history accurately.

Perhaps if the BBC focused more on reporting facts rather than promoting narratives, it would find the presentation of historic events — which in this case were crucial to audience understanding of the context of a news story — far less time- and resource-consuming.

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