Denis MacEoin is well-known for writing letters defending Israel against defamation, and his letter to the BBC and the reply he received from Tarik Kafala the BBC’s online editor are just worth an extra mention here.
Dr. MacEoin wrote to the BBC to express his alarm and disgust that a ‘Viewpoint’ contribution on the BBC Website gives a platform to someone who regards returning Palestinian ex- prisoners as heroes. Heroes solely because they murdered Israeli civilians. He feels, as many of us do, that this implies tacit approval on the part of the BBC.
Mr Kafala, who “was appointed as Middle East editor of BBC News Online in order to add extra authority to our website” (extra authority to……. Jeremy Bowen?) has form when it comes to answering complaints about the BBC’s coverage of matters M.E, notably relating to Israel. From here, circa 2005
“I emailed the BBC to complain about this outrageous misrepresentation of Judaism. I eventually got an extraordinary reply back, from which this is the key extract, from a Mr Tarik Kafala, the editor of the BBC News website on which I had originally picked up Tim’s report.”
This time Mr. Kafala justifies his editorial decision to publish these quotations because he believes another ‘Viewpoint’ article provides that vital balance. But the article is by someone who disapproves of the prisoner exchange altogether. So on the one hand we have an anti Israel ‘viewpoint’, and on the other hand, or should that be on the same hand, another anti Israel ‘viewpoint’.
I can only assume Mr Kafala thinks balance was achieved because one ‘viewpointee’ was a Palestinian, and the other was an Israeli.
“These two articles were intended to allow and[sic] Israeli and a Palestinian to explain in detail their views and feelings about the prisoner releases. Each article is highly opinionated, personal and partisan. They are both clearly labelled as ‘viewpoints’ ”
But what about the context? Presumably the website is intended to educate and inform people. Who, apart from Israel-bashers, would want to read “how many Palestinians feel about the issue of prisoners in Israeli jails and about the acts of violence carried out by them against Israelis in Israel and the occupied territories.” even though “Such views are widely held by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza,” without reading, in the same article, or by a link, why they were imprisoned or how they were treated in prison, or to consider these things in comparison to Shalit’s ordeal?
Does the absence of context imply tacit approval? And why is it “important to represent them as a means of explaining the importance of the events we are reporting on the news.” without representing the views of someone who understands the situation from all perspectives, or who is sympathetic towards the dilemma Israel faces when dealing with fanatical Islamists such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad?
As for finding out about “the acts of violence carried out by them against Israelis in Israel and the occupied territories.” I see little or no evidence of that in this web article. The opposite is more the case.
An article by Rupert Wingfield-Hayes represents the Israeli perspective in the BBC’s inimicable fashion. He says:
“However, in the case of Gilad Shalit, it has always been clear that he was alive. His Hamas captors had taken him for the very reason of doing a prisoner swap.
Hamas also knew very well just how much Israel would eventually be willing to pay to get him back.
And that is why, despite the price Israel has now paid, 80% of Israelis are solidly behind this deal.”
Firstly, no, it has not always been clear that he was alive. Hamas’s reasons for kidnapping him were no assurances of that whatsoever. The last prisoner swap hostages were returned in coffins.
Shalit was kept in isolation, with no humanitarian aid at all. And if, as Wingfield-Hayes says, 80% of Israelis really were behind this deal, why didn’t we get a page of their “viewpoints” as well? As “a means of explaining the importance of events we are reporting on the news”, as Tarik Kafala is so keen to justify publishing his ‘heroes’ article.
I don’t want to leap to the conclusion that someone with a name like Tarik Kafala would automatically be prejudiced against Israel. That would make me the same as Richard “I have developed a habit, when confronted by letters to the editor in support of the Israeli government to look at the signature to see if the writer has a Jewish name. If so, I tend not to read it” Ingrams. We mustn’t be hasty. But in my cursory research (Google of course) I couldn’t find anything to justify the BBC’s statement that appointing him as their Middle east editor of BBC news online would bring extra authority to their website. What was his expertise?
It appears that by labelling something ‘viewpoint’ one can get away with publicising any views whatsoever. Any views other than criticising Islam I daresay.