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|Why I was banned by the BBC|
|05/27/01 at 22:49:06|
Why I was banned by the BBC
After two reports for The World Tonight, Faisal Bodi was told he could no longer work for it in his field of expertise - a clear case of anti-Islamic discrimination, he says
Monday May 21, 2001 The Guardian
If I had a penny for every time I have complained about the BBC, I would probably get my licence fee in on time. Though why I bother to pay it at all these days is more to the point. Of late, many of my beefs have found their way to the ear of Linda Mitchell, an amiable woman whose title as the corporation's head of diversity belies the invidious public relations brief handed to her to disguise, and thereby protect, the anti-Islamic status quo.
When we met recently, Mitchell conveyed her pleasant surprise at noticing the apparent headway I had made on Radio 4's news programme The World Tonight.
Mitchell thought my article on the disaffection felt among Labour's Muslim voters, particularly those with pro-Israeli MPs, showed "great insight". Unfortunately her colleagues did not share her ear for fresh perspectives, with the consequence that my latest piece, only my second for radio, will also probably be my last.
Three days after the broadcast, I got a call from The World Tonight, informing me that it had provoked serious complaints. Fair enough. Controversy is hardly a stranger to anyone dealing with the political minefield that is the Middle East. But it is the manner in which the programme editors said they had decided to deal with the complaints that got my goat.
Although "satisfied" that my report was "factual, fair and balanced", in retrospect The World Tonight felt that the way they had introduced me was inadequate. I should, they said, in a statement widely reproduced later in the Jewish and Israeli press, have been introduced as "an avowed supporter of Islamic causes".
Their reasoning, explained to me over the course of several tennis-match telephone conversations, was that this was necessitated by the "extreme" views I held on Israel. These are the same views, incidentally, that the comment section of this paper has seen no reason to reject; that Israel, as it is constitutionally and legally configured, has no moral right to exist and that a single-state solution is the only way of achieving a practical justice.
But my opinions are superfluous here since the issue is one of equality, not impartiality. Just take a moment to ponder if any other BBC reporter receives the same treatment. Is John Craven introduced as a country-phile? Is John Humphrys, author of a book on the dangers of modern farming, described as "an avowed supporter of organic farming" when he interrogates Monsanto representatives? Is Andrew Marr ever called the leftwing political editor of the BBC? Or Andrew Neil an unreconstructed Tory?
A better example might be Roger Bolton, who presents Radio 4's religious current affairs programme, Sunday. Although it serves a multi-faith audience, this presenter refers to Jesus as "our Lord". But is he ever qualified as an avowed supporter of Christian causes?
No, of course not. So what's brought on this rare expression of a hitherto latent double standard? It transpires that it's nothing more than complaints led by Mike Gapes, the Labour MP whose Ilford South seat is one of those being targeted by Muslim voters.
Greg Dyke, to whom his grievance was addressed - and whom I should now describe, to preserve consistency, as an avowed Labour party supporter and donor - has spoken. And apparently he concurs with Gapes. (I'd be interested to know if the labelling and differential treatment of Muslim journalists now accordingly amounts to official BBC policy.)
I don't exaggerate when I say such hideous discrimination is a constant feature of my attempts to secure journalistic access to the BBC. Usually I
don't make it past the front door but where I have, producers have offered me work, sometimes even agreed terms, before suddenly withdrawing it because somebody upstream has objected to my Islamic political orientation.
However, discrimination is only one aspect of this affair. The more disturbing element is how the BBC appears to be bending over backwards to appease some offended politicians. In this case it happens to be the shadowy Israeli lobbyists in Westminster.
My crime, it seems, was that I dared to put in the public eye ordinary, very powerless people making a stand against the left's unholy dance with political Zionism. Quite understandably, in view of Israel's shameful record, the Israeli-Labour relationship has always been a love that dare not let anyone speak its name (so much so that the Labour Friends of Israel doesn't even make available to the public a list of its members). But behind the scenes, MPs such as Gapes, Stephen Twigg, Barry Gardiner and Andrew Dismore play a crucial propaganda role, carrying the flag for Israel in parliament, and lobbying editors to toe the Israeli line.
It has been all too evident in the current round of fighting in the Holy Land, where, with a few honourable exceptions, reporting has hugged the contours of Israeli policy. Don't take my word for it. Ask the celebrated veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk, who has courageously attacked western journalists and editors for bias in their reporting of the new intifada.
Don't stop there. Analyse the reports of Newsnight's Mark Urban, for whom "balance" means giving Israeli politicians and generals the opportunity to excuse the levelling of Palestinian homes as a "breakdown in communication" between army and government. Or look at the coverage of Israel's attack last month on a Syrian radar installation, which occasioned a formal complaint by an Arab friend because a BBC news report failed to counter the two Israeli voices with even one Syrian.
My feeling is that the BBC, like most other western media organisations, is allowing itself to be arm-twisted into helping Israel manufacture a new consent for rewriting the terms of peace. Nowhere is this more evident than in the inconsistency with which it describes those who reject the Oslo formula. Since the famous delayed handshake on the White House lawn in
1993, BBC reporters have invariably referred to the rejectionists, be they Jewish settlers or Palestinian fighters, as terrorists and extremists. Yet to date I have not heard those pejorative terms applied to the man who has single-handedly done more to tear up the accords than everybody else combined: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
That is not to say that media manufacturing of Israeli consent is a recent phenomenon. Since Israel's inception, many shifts in media perception (for example the move from referring to an Arab-Israeli conflict to a Palestinian-Israeli dispute) have been inspired by Tel Aviv. Not only Arab and Muslim, but anti-Zionist Jewish voices have been suppressed, such as those of the orthodox Neturai Karta, who oppose the creation of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians as a religious and political disaster. When was the last time you saw one of their rabbis spelling out a Jewish case against Israeli policies on the Beeb? Or for that matter the peaceniks of B'Tselem?
My treatment falls on the same continuum. Having slipped through the net I'm being hauled back up. The World Tonight team say that they are happy to have me back, but only reporting away from my field of expertise: Islamic and Middle East affairs. Why don't they just tell me to direct my next licence fee to the Israeli embassy? Wait a minute. Can anybody tell me how much that is in shekels?
Just thought it was an interesting article!
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