A few years back the Daily Mail reported on the BBC’s “impartiality summit.” The story discussed the political correctness that suffocates the BBC. Only a few years earlier, the BBC was publicly disgraced in the Hutton Inquiry. The Hutton Inquiry failed to prompt the kind of historical examination of the BBC that it richly deserves. The institutional rot at the BBC is generations old.
Biographies of Winston Churchill note mostly in passing, for example, that the BBC systematically barred Churchill from discussing his defense and foreign policy views during the 1930′s. Sir John Reith was head of the BBC at the time. Reith was something of a fan of Hitler. After Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Nazis in 1939 he wrote: “Hitler continues his magnificent efficiency.” In the second volume of his Churchill biography, William Manchester states that “Reith saw to it that [Churchill] was seldom heard over the BBC…” Reith confided to his voluminous diaries regarding Churchill: “I absolutely hate him.”
The old animus seems to have carried over to Israel. Among the beneficiaries are enemies of Israel including Hamas.
The death of the young son of the BBC Arabic picture editor Jihad Masharawi in the course of Operation Pillar of Defense this past November, allegedly at the hands of Israel, sent the BBC into paroxysms of grief indistinguishable from hatred. This time it was personal.
BBC Middle East editor Paul Danahar, whom we will get to tomorrow, happened to be on hand with Masharawi in Gaza at the time and tweeted a continuing stream of observations that seemed to me supportive of Hamas and hostile to Israel. At the Washington Post, foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher picked up Danahar’s tweeted photographs of the damage done to Masharawi’s dwelling by the munition that killed the young Masharawi, including the one below.
The munition that killed the young Masharawi has been described by news outlets and human rights organizations as a missile, as Isabel Kershner noted in the New York Times this week. BBC West Bank man Jon Donisson so described it just this week in his story on the advance copy of the UN report attributing responsibility for the munition to Hamas.
Masharawi’s son was widely reported to have been killed in an Isareli airstrike, as in the headline of the Independent’s story on the incident and in the text of the Sun’s. For good measure the Sun ran its story on the death of young Masharawi with the famous photo of Masharawi holding the body of his shrouded son as well as a photo of one of the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza (not the one below, which the Sun has disabled from copying, but one like it).
Did anyone bother to notice that the hole in the roof depicted in Danahar’s photo hardly looked like the damage done by an Israeli missile? So far as I can tell, no one did.
In his plaintive broadcast report on the death of the young Masharawi — “What did my son do to die like this?” — Donisson had filmed Masharawi attributing the death of his son to shrapnel. Hamas rockets, packed with metal shards to inflict gruesome injuries on their victims, make holes passing through roofs and inflict damage by shrapnel. Did anyone bother to notice? So far as I can tell, no one did.
Least of all Donisson himself, who had forgotten about “shrapnel” and moved on to the “missile” in his BBC story arguing with the observations and tentative conclusion of the UN report earlier this week. (Donisson also transliterates the first name of Masharawi as Jehad rather than Jihad. One senses that Donisson is not exactly an honest broker.) Donisson writes:
[Jihad Masharawi's son] Omar was killed, along with an aunt and an uncle, after a missile hit the family home in Gaza City.
It happened only an hour after Israel launched its operation with the killing of Hamas’s military commander.
The family, and human rights groups, said that the house was hit in an Israeli attack.
The Israeli military made no comment at the time of the incident but never denied carrying out the strike.
Privately, military officials briefed journalists that they had been targeting a militant who was in the building.
Now, though, the United Nations says the house may have been hit by a Palestinian rocket that fell short.
This is despite the fact that the Israeli military had reported no rockets being fired out of Gaza so soon after the start of the conflict.
UN officials visited the house four weeks after the strike.
They said they did not carry out a forensic investigation, but said their team did not think the damage was consistent with an Israeli air strike.
However, the UN said it could not “unequivocally conclude” it was a misfired Palestinian rocket.
A UN official said it was also possible the house was hit by a secondary explosion after an Israeli air strike on Palestinian weapons stores.
Jehad Mashhrawi dismissed the UN findings as “rubbish”.
Let’s just say that the BBC is still with Jehad, or jihad, and will not be reexamining its reportage any time soon.