Jan 28, 2009

Stop War Crimes – Make Zionism History!

The BBC continues to defy all logic, not to mention morality! Below is the latest crop of people disgusted with it. This also means that the situation in Gaza has become somewhat remote, less prevalent in the news, and the main news in the UK now is about the BBC and its refusal to air the appeal.

Thompson should resign in shame, having embroyled the BBC, one of the more important institutions in Britain, in his most partial support of the Israeli atrocities, by looking for a balance between the murdered and the murderers, and refusing to assist humanitarian aid. He should go NOW. I am sure he could geta ggos job in Tel Aviv, where he belongs!

Note the difference between the BBC official position, and that which comes through the reports! It seems that also withing the corporation (indeed…) itself there is not much time for Thompson’s bizarre views!

Arabs Need 2 Die! by Steve Bell, The Guardian

Arabs Need 2 Die! by Steve Bell, The Guardian

IAEA head boycotts BBC over Gaza: BBC

Mohammed ElBaradei (file image from January 2005)
The BBC said it hoped Mr ElBaradei would accept future interview requests

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency has cancelled interviews with the BBC over its decision not to broadcast a charity appeal for Gaza.

Mohamed ElBaradei believed that the BBC’s decision broke “the rules of basic human decency”, his spokeswoman said. BBC director general Mark Thompson had said airing the appeal would compromise the BBC’s impartiality. In a statement, the BBC said that it regretted Mr ElBaradei’s move.

The IAEA chief had been due to take part in interviews with the BBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos. But Mr ElBaradei cancelled them over the corporation’s decision not to broadcast a three-minute appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) – an umbrella group for major UK charities – for humanitarian aid funding for Gaza. “He believes this decision violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people irrespective of who is right or wrong,” his spokeswoman said. The BBC said it hoped Mr ElBaradei would accept an interview invitation at another time. Britain’s three other terrestrial broadcasters, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, showed the appeal on Monday. But Sky News also chose not to air it, saying it would be “incompatible” with its objective role.

Pro-Palestinian protestors demonstrate outside the BBC in central London

A Commons motion criticising the BBC and Sky for refusing to broadcast a plea for humanitarian aid funding for Gaza has been backed by 112 MPs. The Disasters Emergency Committee’s Gaza Crisis Appeal was screened on Monday by ITV, Channel 4 and Five. The BBC’s explanation that airing the film would threaten its impartiality was described by Labour MP Richard Burden’s motion as “unconvincing”. Meanwhile, protests over the issue have taken place at BBC Broadcasting House. Around 20 campaigners from the Stop the War Coalition walked into the lobby of the central London building with a large banner proclaiming Hands off Gaza. They were removed by police before continuing a noisy protest outside, during which some of them set fire to their television licences.

A Gaza sign
The BBC’s decision not to broadcast an appeal has proved controversial

The BBC’s decision not to air a charity appeal for aid to Gaza has come in for fierce criticism. Director general Mark Thompson has said by airing the appeal the BBC would risk reducing public confidence in its impartial coverage of the conflict. Sky News has similarly declined to show the appeal, also citing incompatibility with its objective coverage of the conflict in Gaza. Politicians have urged a review of the BBC’s decision, and a crowd of 2,000 protested outside the BBC’s London HQ. NICK CLEGG, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT LEADER It’s an insult to the viewing public to suggest they can’t distinguish between the humanitarian needs of thousands of children and families in Gaza and the political sensitivities of the Middle East. It’s a distinction which anyone can make and to suggest the BBC should somehow not allow people to show their compassion because of the wider controversies in the Middle East is a case, in this instance, of the BBC totally getting its priorities upside down. ED VAIZEY, SHADOW CULTURE MINISTER The BBC very rarely, if ever, broadcasts an appeal from a war zone. It didn’t do it after the conflict in Lebanon, it didn’t do it after the conflict in Georgia, and it hasn’t done it – as far as I’m aware – on the Chechnyan conflict. It’s done it from areas where you could argue there’s a civil war – like Congo and Rwanda, and of course it’s done it for natural disasters. But the trouble with broadcasting an appeal from a war zone, is that there are two sides to the argument – and that’s what I think we’re seeing here. That’s why I think the BBC should be allowed to make the argument that it wants to preserve its impartiality on the issue. DOUGLAS ALEXANDER, INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY I think the British public can distinguish between support for humanitarian aid and perceived partiality in a conflict. I really struggle to see, in the face of the immense human suffering in Gaza at the moment, that this is in any way a credible argument. They still have time to make a different judgement, to recognise the immense human suffering and to address the concern – which I think otherwise may develop – that somehow the suffering of people in Gaza is not taken as seriously as the suffering of people in other conflicts. HAZEL BLEARS, COMMUNITIES SECRETARY The BBC’s decision should not discourage the public from donating to this important appeal. I sincerely hope the BBC will urgently review its decision. I think the people in our country are really decent people, they’re generous and this is about a humanitarian situation here. It’s about ordinary people and their families and the people of Britain being asked to do what they can to help. DR JOHN SENTAMU, ARCHBISHOP OF YORK This is not a row about impartiality but rather about humanity. This situation is akin to that of British military hospitals who treat prisoners of war as a result of their duty under the Geneva convention. They do so because they identify need rather than cause. This is not an appeal by Hamas asking for arms but by the Disasters Emergency Committee asking for relief. By declining their request, the BBC has already taken sides and forsaken impartiality.

A Palestinian woman and her child
The appeal is to raise money for emergency supplies in Gaza

The BBC’s decision not to broadcast a Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal for aid to Gaza has come under scrutiny in newspapers and in political blogs. The Times’s leader says the BBC has erred: the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is not a matter of opinion, it insists, but “a simple statement of fact”. The paper’s view The Daily Mail says that the BBC’s reputation for impartiality “was shredded long ago” as a result of to its “institutionally liberal attitude”, and urges it to reconsider. The paper’s view The story has attracted substantial – mostly negative – coverage in the Arab media. Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi, says the BBC has been “caught red-handed” in its bias towards Israel. Al-Quds al-Arabi Mazin Hammad in Qatar’s al-Watan said the BBC resembled an “extension for the Israeli mass media”, and urged Arab viewers and listeners to boycott the BBC. Al-Watan A leader in the Daily Mirror attacks the decision, which it blames on “jelly-legged” BBC executives. It adds that licence-fee payers will wonder why corporation chiefs “consistently bow to every hysterical headline from the usual suspects”. The paper’s view Janet Daley in the Daily Telegraph says the BBC was right not to broadcast the appeal, as its purpose is “making television and radio programmes, not foreign policy”. But she argues that the requirement of neutrality on a publicly-funded broadcaster is an “impossible anomaly” in the internet age. Read the commentary In the Sun, Trevor Kavanagh agrees that the uproar over the decision is justified. “The Beeb is so desperate to avoid offending anyone that ends up offending EVERYONE,” he writes. Read the commentary Peter Preston in the Guardian says that denying the DEC appeal airtime may be “potty”, but entirely in keeping with BBC guidelines adopted in the wake of the Hutton report. His solution? “Burn the rule books.” Read the commentary Blogging for Biased BBC, David Vance suggests the corporation’s decision may be a clever example of “triangulation”. Executives would have been seeking cover, he says, after “three weeks of pro-Hamas propaganda dressed up as news reporting”. Read the commentary

Palestinian woman looks at bags of food aid distributed by the Unrwa
Agencies say current aid supplies are far from sufficient

Aid agencies are battling to meet the urgent needs of tens and thousands of displaced, homeless and injured people in Gaza, as well as to get damaged water, power and sewage infrastructure back even to their ailing pre-war levels. That stage alone will cost “hundreds of millions” of dollars, while long term reconstruction will run into “billions,” the UN has said. Two separate Palestinian surveys have put the cost of the damage just under $2bn. One said it would take three to five years to rebuild even under normal conditions – never mind with the continued Israeli blockade which stops all but humanitarian basics entering the strip. As well as killing more than 1,300, and leaving 5,000 injured, the UN says that at its height, the Israeli operation left two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.5m residents without power, a third without running water and medical facilities overwhelmed and lacking basic supplies. Even before the fighting, most Gazans lived a precarious existence, with half the population dependent on UN food aid and the economy at a virtual standstill. Israeli and international human rights groups also accuse Israel of using closures in the month before the assault to further drain supplies of food and fuel in Gaza. Israel has stressed that it is working to speed the flow of aid into Gaza, and while more truckloads of supplies have entered Gaza than in the weeks preceding the operation, aid agencies say they are far from enough – and all border crossings must be opened if Gaza is to recover. Israel tightened its blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory in November after rocket attacks by militants.

The shortcut to peace: The Electronic Intifada Hasan Abu Nimah

Palestinians in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip huddle around a fire next to their home destroyed during Israel’s 22 days of attacks on Gaza. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

Because it is generally accepted by the so-called “international community” that Hamas is a major threat to Israel, and therefore to world peace and security, France has dispatched a frigate to participate in a new blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Sunday Times reported that United States naval ships hunting pirates in the Gulf of Aden have been instructed to track down Iranian arms shipments (25 January). Many other European states offered their navies to assist. Indeed, United Nations Security Council resolution 1860 emphasized the need to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition.  Unfortunately not one European country offered to send its navy to render humanitarian assistance to the thousands of injured, hungry, cold and homeless people in Gaza rendered so as a result of Israel’s attack. Perhaps helping children dying from white phosphorus burns, or just lack of clean water, would be seen as supporting “terrorism.”

US envoy George Mitchell: ‘It is of critical importance that the ceasefire be extended’

The new US envoy for the Middle East has said it is “critically” important to extend the Israeli-Hamas ceasefire.

George Mitchell’s first official visit to the region came a day after Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian militants in Gaza. He met Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and intends to meet Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, but not Hamas. Hours afterwards, a rocket was fired from Gaza into southern Israel, the first since the ceasefire 10 days ago. The rocket hit the Eshkol region in the western Negev, Israeli officials said. There were no injuries or damage. Mr Mitchell said his visit less than a week into a new US presidency showed the US commitment to peace.

Israeli reservists enter Gaza, 12 Jan 2008
It is not known how many Palestinians were detained during the operation

Palestinians seized during Israel’s operation in Gaza faced “appalling” conditions and “inhuman” treatment, Israeli human rights groups have said.

The seven groups say they have gathered 20 testimonies which indicate detainees were kept in pits without shelter, toilets or adequate food and water. Some detainees also said they had been held near tanks and in combat areas, the groups said. The Israeli military says it is investigating the allegations. The accounts were gathered by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) and Hamoked, the Center for the Defense of the Individual, from Palestinians now being held in Israel. “The reports indicate that… many detainees – minors as well as adults – were held for many hours – sometimes for days – in pits dug in the ground, exposed to bitter cold and harsh weather, handcuffed and blindfolded,” the groups said in a statement.

Israeli soldiers patrol near Israel-Gaza Border on 20/1/09
Israeli troops were in Gaza for three weeks before pulling back

The Israeli military says it has “severely reprimanded” an officer who distributed a booklet to troops that advised they show no mercy to enemies.

The unnamed officer distributed the booklet to troops during the Israeli offensive in Gaza. It said the soldiers were fighting “murderers”. The military said its chief rabbi, Gen Avichai Rontzki, did not know of the booklet before it was given out. A rights group said the booklet bordered on “incitement to racism”. The army described the case as an isolated incident. The booklet cites an ultra-nationalist civilian rabbi who supports the Jewish settler movement in the West Bank.  The rights group, Yesh Din, said the booklet’s contents could be “interpreted as a call to act outside the confines of international laws of war”.

A Palestinian woman stands in the rubble of destroyed houses in Jabaliya, northern Gaza Strip

Even as aid agencies struggle to meet the immediate needs of those left injured, homeless and traumatised by the Israeli operation in Gaza, concerns are growing that reconstruction efforts could become bogged down in a complex political tangle.

Initial Palestinian estimates said rebuilding would cost $2bn (£1.4bn) and take three to five years, even without the host of obstacles Gaza faces.  International agencies are still assessing the scale of the destruction in preparation for a drive for reconstruction pledges. But with the international community refusing to deal directly with Hamas, the militant group which controls Gaza, it remains unclear how the money could be spent. Israel is determined that Hamas should in no way benefit from international aid funds. It also controls everything entering the Gaza Strip. It is demanding strict controls on building materials – urgently needed before the fighting and now required in vast quantities – which it says could be used to build rockets and launching sites.

UN nuclear chief boycotts BBC over Gaza appeal: The Guardian

The head of the UN”s nuclear watchdog has cancelled planned interviews with the BBC in protest at the corporation’s decision not to air an emergency appeal for Gaza on behalf of the Disasters Emergency Committee. In a statement to the Guardian, Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel peace prize winner, unleashed a stinging denunciation of the BBC, deepening the damage already caused by the controversy. The statement, from his office at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the BBC decision not to air the aid appeal for victims of the conflict “violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people, irrespective of who is right or wrong”. It said the IAEA director had cancelled interviews with BBC World Service television and radio, which had been scheduled to take place at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Saturday. A BBC spokesman said: “We regret that Mr ElBaradei was not able to participate in an interview with the BBC while he is at Davos. “Our audience around the world remains interested in what he has to say about a range of topics, and we hope he will accept an invitation at another time.”

For and against: was the BBC right?: The Guardian

Sharif Hikmat Nashashibi is chairman of Arab Media Watch

I applaud ITV, Channel 4 and Five for agreeing to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee‘s appeal to help relieve the humanitarian disaster in Gaza. I watched the appeal, which was completely apolitical – indeed, it rightly stated that “this is not about the rights or wrongs of the conflict”. It is about the unjust, abhorrent suffering of civilians, human beings, a population mostly of refugees, under occupation, bearing the brunt of military and economic siege. The appeal by Britain’s largest charities focused on the child victims of Gaza, and while the imagery used was heartbreaking, it was not grotesque or offensive to people’s sensitivities. It was full of irrefutable facts and reliable statistics to drive home the urgency of the situation. I hope that those responsible for denying the broadcast on the BBC and Sky will have watched the appeal, regretted their decision, and change their minds. The BBC claims that its decision shows its impartiality. Quite the contrary – its bias is revealed starkly in this case in its fear of the pro-Israel lobby, and by turning its back on chronic human suffering. The BBC is in fact defying its own guidelines for approving such appeals: that the disaster “must be on such a scale and of such urgency as to call for swift international humanitarian assistance”, that the DEC “must be in a position to provide effective and swift” assistance, and that there “must be sufficient public awareness of, and sympathy for, the humanitarian situation”. The BBC is effectively saying that human beings are not equal, that suffering Palestinians are less worthy of help than those in need in Congo, Burma, Sudan, Niger, Liberia, and numerous other countries that the BBC has helped through previous DEC appeals. The BBC and Sky should heed the groundswell of opposition – public, humanitarian, media, religious and political – to their refusals. Otherwise, they should be ashamed of themselves.

Gaza aid appeal watched by 4.5 million despite BBC and Sky snub: The Guardian

George Mitchell and the Middle East: The Guardian, CiF

The senator will need all the skill and patience he brought to the Northern Irish peace process. But Hamas must be at the table

In the crowds of Washington’s Union Station last week, I bumped into George Mitchell. We were both in the city for Barack Obama’s inauguration, but at that point there was only speculation that George might be made US special envoy for the Middle East – it wasn’t until I returned to Ireland that the appointment was confirmed. President Obama in his inaugural address signalled a new direction for US foreign policy. The posting of George Mitchell and the referencing of his very significant role in the Irish peace process hint at a more focused engagement by the US in seeking to secure a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinian people.

Arabs Must Die! by Steve Bell, The Guardian

Arabs Must Die! by Steve Bell, The Guardian

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