BBC editor tells staff to be soft on Israel

BBC News website Middle East Editor Raffi Berg

By Nureddin Sabir
Editor, Redress Information & Analysis

The Electronic Intifada today published a shocking report exposing the extent to which Israeli propagandists have penetrated the BBC, Britain’s state broadcaster.

According to the report, Raffi Berg, the editor of the BBC News website’s Middle East section, has been sending his staff emails advising them to write more favourably about Israel.

Berg was promoted to his current position earlier in August, having already worked as a journalist on the Middle East desk. He replaces Tarik Kafala, who has moved over to head the BBC’s Arabic Service.

The emails

The Electronic Intifada reports that in one email, sent during Israel’s eight-day assault on Gaza in November 2012, which killed nearly 200 Palestinians, Berg

asked BBC colleagues to word their stories in a way which does not blame or “put undue emphasis” on Israel for starting the prolonged attacks. Instead, he encouraged journalists to promote the Israeli government line that the “offensive” was “aimed at ending rocket fire from Gaza”.

This was despite the fact that Israel broke a ceasefire when it attacked Gaza on 14 November, a ceasefire which the Palestinians had been observing – firing no rockets into Israel

In a second email, sent during the same period, Berg told BBC journalists: “Please remember, Israel doesn’t maintain a blockade around Gaza. Egypt controls the southern border.” He omitted to mention that the UN viewed Israel as the occupying power in Gaza and has called on Israel to end its siege of the Strip. Israel’s refusal to do so is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1860.

According to Electronic Intifada, the emails were originally posted onto the Zionist website Biased BBC on 21 November 2012 by a user going by the name “soothsayer”. They were reposted on another pro-Israeli website, Is the BBC biased?, on 13 April this year.

Absolving Israel of blame

The Electronic Intifada relates that in an email exchange in the last week of August with a British-Palestinian activist, Berg admitted that the emails were his.

The activist drew Berg’s attention to the fact that neutral sources agree that Israel’s assassination of Hamas commander Ahmad Jabari was the trigger for the assault which followed, and asked why Berg was requesting BBC journalists to de-emphasize this fact.

Berg replied:

The cause of the conflict in Gaza is contentious, with Israel giving ongoing rocket attacks as grounds for its assassination of Ahmed Jabari… As you will appreciate, we do not take sides on issues but to avoid appearing to put a definitive starting point on the violence, a neutral form of words was found.

However, as the Electronic Intifada points out, in the days preceding the execution of Jabari, Israel killed seven Palestinians in Gaza, including five teenage boys, in just 48 hours. But rather than report impartially on the scale and regularity of lethal Israeli aggression in Gaza, “BBC journalists stuck doggedly to the line, pushed by Berg, that Israel’s eight-day pounding of the besieged Strip was about Israel defending itself.

Urgent need for investigation

Berg is not the only Israel pimp working at the BBC. Others include the notorious Zionist James Purnell, who in February this year was put in charge of BBC policy and strategy, and the head of BBC News, James Harding.

According to Electronic Intifada, in 2011 Harding spoke at a media event organized by the Jewish Chronicle, telling his audience:

I am pro-Israel. I believe in the state of Israel. I would have had a real problem if I had been coming to a paper [The Times, of which he was editor before taking up his BBC job] with a history of being anti-Israel. And, of course, Rupert Murdoch is pro-Israel.

Seven years ago the BBC’s governing body commissioned an independent report which concluded that BBC coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “does not consistently constitute a full and fair account of the conflict but rather, in important respects, presents an incomplete and in that sense misleading picture”. The reasons for this have long been the subject of serious academic studies, the best known of which is Greg Philo’s and Mike Berry’s More Bad News from Israel.

Without a doubt, the presence of Raffi Berg, James Purnell, James Harding and other Zionists in key positions at the BBC will ensure that the corporation’s lopsidedness in favour of Israel will not only continue but will get worst.

However, while Berg is relatively junior compared to Purnell and Harding, the audacity and blatantness with which he is trying to shape the BBC News website’s coverage of the Palestine-Israel conflict is a cause for grave concern and should be urgently investigated by an independent authority.

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