I learned the name of a British citizen, one Steven Sugar, after following the battle that he is waging (on my behalf as well, as an Israeli citizen who seeks the good of his country) against the BBC. Sugar is a Jewish jurist who lives in London, pays a license fee and is a listener and spectator who is troubled by the hostile attitude towards Israel that he discovered in the BBC broadcasts. Of course, Sugar is not the only one who believes that the BBC is not balanced in its treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet Sugar stood up and took action.
Recently, the managers of the BBC decided to hold a self-examination, in order to see if there is any truth in the complaints that the broadcasts are biased against Israel. A investigative committee was formed consisting of one person, Malcolm Balen. Balen, an editorial adviser to the BBC, examined tens of thousands of broadcast transcripts, and authored a report of about 20,000 words on the attitude towards Israel in the broadcasts. The BBC, however, has been waging a persistent war against the publication of the report, versus Attorney Sugar, who demands that it be published.
As far as we know, the BBC’s legal battle to shelve the Balen report has cost approximately GBP 200,000 of British taxpayers’ funds. Is it the role of a journalistic body in a democratic country to shelve or to publicize? And what does the Balen report contain? Did the investigator reach the conclusion that the BBC’s broadcasts are biased against Israel? Or did he find no fault in the journalistic reports about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
“The BBC is a public body, which is financed by the British public. I want to know what is in the Balen report,” Steven Sugar said to us in a conversation from London. A final legal decision on the fate of the public disclosure of the Balen report is expected in the coming days. But either way, what kind of “journalistic integrity” can be expected from Britain’s journalists these days? Britain’s National Union of Journalists (NUJ), which includes some 40,000 journalists, recently passed a decision calling for a boycott of Israel due to its “aggression in the Second Lebanon War.” Just so, as if Israel’s citizens were not attacked in this war by thousands of rockets fired from Lebanon’s sovereign territory, while a million Israeli civilians were forced into shelters in the north.
The press in Israel is still debating the Second Lebanon War and its outcome, in a spirit of freedom, even in days of emergency and war. And the British press salutes-as implied by its decision to boycott Israel-the freedom of press that is in effect in Syria, in Sudan, in Saudi Arabia, everything but the freedom of the press in Israel. The term “ridiculous” does not even begin to describe the British decision. But in the NUJ decision, the journalists of Britain are harming only themselves and their credibility, and are shooting themselves in the foot. How can a British reader, not to mention his counterpart in Israel, trust what is written and broadcasted from now on in Britain about the Middle East conflict? Are the winds of boycotting Israel not blowing in the British Isles, and among the journalists there?
We can look even father and recall the boycott decisions made by the academic lecturers in Britain, the increase in anti-Semitic incidents in this country, and now the BBC’s war for shelving the Balen report.
Britain, even by means of its official spokespersons, does not have to excuse, explain or even apologize, since these are not governmental measures. But to the Israeli citizen, I believe, it is all clear and open. Once, when the undersigned warned of such phenomena and similar ones in Britain, out of a sense of sincere and profound disappointment, a very sharp but accurate headline was given to those lines: “Brits, We’re Sick of You.” Former British ambassador to Israel Simon McDonald was very annoyed, and expressed his displeasure on these pages. But this headline, “Brits, We’re Sick of You,” can also be repeated today. Wouldn’t you say so, Mr. Current British ambassador?
—– End forwarded message —–
This article was orginally published in Ma’ariv on April 25th 2007