I’m sure many of you must be aware of the issues surrounding the BBC refusing to air the Gaza appeal. If not, the reason for the controversy is the BBC’s decision not to air the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) Gaza Appeal. The committee is made of 13 aid agencies, including British Red Cross, Oxfam, Christian aid, Islamic relief, Save the Children, CAFOD, and Action Aid.
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I’ve heard a number of reasons to excuse the action by the BBC. First is the idea of impartiality, specifically that of the BBC, and how that would be compromised if the appeal was to run. Secondly, the argument is made that the BBC is following a tradition of not airing such appeals. Finally the argument is given that it is doubtful whether the appeal will be able to have an effect and whether the aid will reach Gaza.
Let’s examine those reasons one by one, starting from the last one. Whether or not the appeal is effective is a judgement that should be left to each person individually. It is not for the BBC to make the decision for us, and to judge above us where we spend our money on. It is slightly arrogant of the BBC to pretend greater expertise on the subject than the aid organisations running the appeal. Regardless, even if that is truly how the BBC feels of the appeal, it should still allow its viewers to view it and make their own decisions.
As to the argument that the BBC has not aired such appeals before, I cannot pretend expertise on the subject- I’ve heard otherwise from others, but cannot know for certain. The point is irrelevant in any case. If the BBC made mistakes in the past, it does not mean it should repeat them now, and judging a specific event now, on the precedent of different events in the past is wrong.
But the most offensive argument is that of impartiality. Apparently by running the appeal, the BBC seems to think it will be taking ‘sides’ and be partial in a ‘controversial’ issue. That’s nonsense. A humanitarian appeal is by definition merely humanitarian- it does not endorse or support one side over the other- it provides relief for the innocent.
But what if the decision was, indeed, ‘partial’. This is a reflection of a new dangerous attitude regarding the conflict, that sees so called balanced observers needing to be completely neutral, and treat both sides identically. So whenever a discussion on the conflict is brought up, these new ‘impartial’ commentators cannot criticize Israel once without mentioning a ‘but’ in there, followed by how the Palestininas need to be more reasonable and less agressive at the same time. It is an attitude that wants to show the conflict as two sides of equal blame, who just both need to learn to be reasonable to achieve peace.
I cannot recall who said the following, but it is worth repeating. Balance does not mean giving the same treatment to both sides. Balance means that you start by seeing both sides as equal.
If by using the same standards of judgement on both sides, its obvious to see that one side is the offending party, and one side violates the rights of the other, then balance ‘demands’ that you give the sides unequal treatment, and punish the offending party.
I will not repeat the entire history of the conflict here. Those who’ve studied it, those who know recent history, and those who follow current news, know full well that this is not a conflict of equal blame and responsibility. What balance was there in South African Apartheid, in African-American racial discrimination, and in German Nazism?
The BBC ‘is’ indeed not being impartial. It discriminates against the Palestinians, and portrays an unbalanced view of reality.
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