Thursday, January 29, 2009

Benn: Pro-Israeli BBC policy, disgraceful

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 19:25:53 GMT | PressTV

Tony Benn
The following is an exclusive Press TV interview with the prominent British socialist politician, activist, and former labor minister, Tony Benn, over publicly-funded BBC's controversial decision not to broadcast a charity appeal aimed at collecting aid to ease the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Press TV:Are you surprised the BBC has not overturned its decision?

Benn: Yes I am. I though they would, because the case is so overwhelming. See, the BBC have tired to pretend that if they broadcast this humanitarian appeal it will look as if they are siding with the Palestinians against Israel. Of course, it has nothing to do with it. It is a humanitarian issue: 1,330 people have been killed, 460 of them children and man of them women.

The devastation shocked the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon when he was there. To me it is a disgraceful decision, and I had hoped that they would reverse it, because two government ministers have called on them to broadcast it.

Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, the two most senior English Archbishops [have called for it]. [BBC Director-General] Mark Thompson himself, I believe, went to see [former Israeli defense minister Ariel Sharon, a few years ago. It is quite unlike what everyone would expect of the BBC.

Press TV: Well, they of course are saying that it is because it would risk their objectivity to air this appeal, and now Sky has jumped on that bandwagon so to speak as well. Is there not something to their defense?

Benn: The opposition to the BBC is so strong, almost all the newspapers today, that I don't remember an occasion that it has been so strong.

One political thing that you have to mention is that the BBC said that it did it to avoid controversy, but the BBC has launched a huge controversy about their own behavior, and I mean, coming back to your earlier item on the news, the opposition to Israeli policy in Britain is higher that I have ever known it. Support and sympathy for the Palestinian is higher that I have ever known it.

So this war is not going to have helped Israel in any way, and they will find more and more people that are now understanding the argument that the Palestinians have made that they are an occupied country and they have not even been recognized by the United Nations.

Press TV: When you speak of that large public disgust over the war on Gaza, and we have seen a massive demonstrations, unprecedented almost, what could be behind this public outrage. It obviously is not because of the broadcasting of news from a well-known establishment like the BBC?

Benn: Yes, there is no doubt that the news coverage of the war in Gaza, although the Israelis would not allow any correspondents to go to Gaza, they banned any movement of television units and so on, but the coverage that we have had has indicated the destruction and brutality of what Israel has done.

From that point of view, which stirred even more opposition to the war, then [what] occurred at the beginning of the Iraq war, because Iraq was a long way away, and people did not know much about it.

But everybody knows about Israel and Palestine, so it had produced a really dramatic shift of opinion in support of Hamas and the Palestinians.

Press TV: What is about the Israel and Palestine issue that gets organizations like the BBC so touchy? We have had these appeals for many places, for Africa, in the Congo after the tsunami. Never a mix of political and humanitarian issues there.

Benn: Well that is a very good question to ask. I share the views that have been expressed that the coverage by the BBC has been ant-Palestinian pro-Israeli.

For example, whenever a Palestinian is killed the BBC always says a "Palestinian militant." They never talk about Israeli militants, its always Palestinian militants.

Very little recognition by the BBC that Hamas won the election in Palestine three years ago, and is therefore in that sense, the established government of Palestine. Jimmy Carter, the former American president went to Gaza last year, and he made it absolutely clear that Israel was an apartheid state.

I think what is happening is that the BBC is left behind, and now that Bush is gone, the British government is seeming to have a little more courage, although [US President Barack] Obama has not been clear yet about the policy he will adopt towards the Palestinian case.

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