BBC thinks that some humanitarian aid is more biased than others: the exceptionalism of Israel, yet again.

The Guardian UK notes that the BBC has refused to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza, “leaving aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations.” (Jenny Percival, ‘Broadcasters refuse to air Gaza charity appeal,’ The Guardian, January 23, 2008;”

BBC claims that they didn’t want to show bias. They also weren’t sure about how the money would be spent. The appeal went out on three other UK stations and was from a consortium of 13 major aid organizations such as the Red Cross, Oxfam, and Save the Children. The BBC decision has spurred world wide condemnation, massive protest outside the BBC headquarters, and the censure of the British parliament. The refusal has even prompted noble prize winner Mohamed El Baradei, the director of the UN nuclear agency to cancel an interview with the BBC. He said the refusal “violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people irrespective of who is right or wrong.”

If we step back a bit, we need to ask how this kind of situation might have come to pass. Surely, aid appeals for Darfur, the Congo, Rwanda, Kosovo, last years earthquake in China, etc, were not subject to the same level of scrutiny and concern, notwithstanding the “complex” problems which exist in each of these situations/conflicts.. Muzzlewatch issues are actually at the core of this newest outrage. Under the barrage of ostensibly “pro Israeli” efforts, most mainstream and corporate news agencies learn to be very cautious regarding all things Israel.  (see the recent post on Bill Moyers and Bob Simon) Thus, in the present Gaza crisis, Hamas fighters are called “Hamas militants” although the government of Gaza is run by Hamas. Could we say the same thing about Israeli militants instead of soldiers?

The problem is that the core condition here, that of a settler colonial state occupying and/or oppressing those it occupies, is hardly ever referenced, thus we are left with two warring parties with “equal” claims coming from both sides. This “Hatfields versus McCoy’s feud” overwhelms, at least in some parts of the world, the stark and ostensibly obvious humanitarian need. The same forces that have allowed a 40 year occupation to continue, (US unquestioning support of Israel with European acquiescence) also allow the BBC to confuse the too-and-fro of political disagreement with the uncontroverisal demands of humanitarian assistance.  Thus, notwithstanding the staggering level of destruction visited on the captive Palestinians of Gaza by Israel, we get “side-by-side” comparisons of distraught Israeli mothers running to shelters in Sderot and distraught Palestinian mothers sitting by the corpses of her dead children. Trauma is never comparable ultimately, but simply having two terrible pictures allows us no insight into the actual context of the problem. We are, per the usual, left to throw up are collective hands at this “interminable” conflict. Instead of reacting in a humane way to the truly staggering loss of life and material damage, we get the BBC equivocating on potential bias and not broadcasting calls for humanitarian help. 

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