Most of us used to be strongly
conditioned to the once legendary reliability of the BBC and can hardly
believe it might have changed. We still love the talks, theatre and
history on the BBC; the problem seems to lie with the BBC News and the
political commentaries, being too politicized for the largest and
supposedly most impartial news organisation on earth.
The mounting criticism of the BBC News
and political commentary in recent years have culminated in the harsh
findings of the Hutton report, which lead to the immediate resignation
of the BBC's Chairman and Director-General in 2004. The continuing
criticism reaches now a new peak, asking a question about a once
unthinkable serious suspicion: could the BBC's liberalism towards
terrorism, its pro-terror biased language and other reporting
malpractices have actually encouraged (no matter how
unwittingly) terrorism? Is it possible that the BBC has in certain
cases actually contributed to losses of innocent human lives? Could it
in cases have acted as accomplice to terrorism? We present here the
procedure of a semi-legal inquiry into this suspicion of complicity and
its first results.
We can tell in advance that this
article could not satisfy the burden of proof required in criminal
proceedings to show causality between BBC malpractices and the
commission of more terrorist acts. However, one who follows its logics
and tries to sincerely answer the questions arisen here may find this
suspicion real and not so far-fetched any more. This and the moral case
which does stand against the BBC's stance on terror, justify this
publication and our demand of an investigation.
After five civilians were killed and
48 wounded at the entrance of a Tel-Aviv disco on Friday night, 25
February 2005, the BBC's major report "A Family in Mourning" paid
condolences to the family of - not any of the Israeli victims but the
Palestinian killer, whom the BBC never even referred to as a murderer or
a 'terrorist'. Many similar examples illustrate that for the BBC such
adverse sympathy is common practice. The question arises: is this
merely tactlessness, or can it be a degree of covert support to the
purpose of terrorism, which is: to achieve political goals by
terrorizing a certain population while gaining publicity and support of
others? And, if so, is not this complicity?
To leave nothing to speculation we
carefully examined five fundamental questions:
a) Is it really 'terror' of which we
b) Is the BBC reporting really biased in favour of terror organisations?
c) What, if any, is the effect of biased reporting on terror and on the
global fight against terror?
d) What is an 'accomplice'? Can covert media support for terrorism
amount to it?
e) Has it actually happened in the BBC's reporting?
our first question: a recent definition of 'terrorism' as declared by
the High Level Panel appointed for this purpose by UN General Secretary
Kofi Annan, is: "Terrorism is an action that is intended to cause
death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants when the
purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a
population or to compel a government or an international organization to
do or abstain from doing any act” - and it goes on to say: “there
is nothing in the fact of occupation that justifies the targeting and
killing of civilians” . This definition removes any doubt that
organized Palestinian attacks targeting primarily the lives of Israeli
civilians - are acts of terror.
the second question regarding partisan BBC reporting,
there was at least one widely respected investigation and document; the
Hutton report, which found the BBC to be biased and politicized, in its
reporting on the Iraq war and on terrorism there. Beyond making one huge
blunder, the BBC consistently favoured - not their own country and of
course not the US, but – both the fallen Saddam regime and the local and
the infiltrating global terrorism. That is why the BBC Chairman and
Director-General had to resign.
Similarly, the BBC has been found
biased and politicized in its reporting on the recent
Palestinian-Israeli conflict too, by several well researched and
documented reports and websites. Such are the reports of the prestigious
BBCWatch founded by Trevor Asserson, a London attorney (http://www.bbcwatch.com);
http://www.discoverthenetwork.org, the Daily Telegraph's 'Beebwatch'
and more. A concise article on the subject, "Living
in a Bubble"
presents a whole series of the BBC News' pro-terror, anti-US and
anti-Israel biases cases as part of "the
BBC’s very own Mideast foreign policy". Such bias is in
stark opposition to the BBC's own charter, its Producer's Guide and its
once well deserved credibility. By the way, some of this credibility
still exists partly due to the mistaken impression of the public that
the BBC is closely supervised by an independent British authority.
While bias can sometimes be argued
about, there are BBC cases which are not questions of opinion but
deliberate choices to represent the interests of one side only - and it
is terror's side. We can remind here only a few.
One famous and still painful case is
Jenin. In March 2002 a dozen terror bombings killed 126 Israeli
civilians within one single month. In April the Israeli Defence Forces
entered to the city of Jenin to capture those who had proudly taken
responsibility for the killings. From that day on the BBC radio and TV
news and special reports "informed" the world in sensational hourly
reports on the "Israeli massacre" of the Palestinian civilian
population, citing unchallenged the Palestinian Authority spokesman,
Saeb Erekat's "data" of 500 and 520 civilian casualties. The BBC
broadcasted very intensively for months the big story of the Israeli
massacre of 500 civilians. It downplayed and ridiculed the dry official
Israeli statements on 52 Palestinians dead, almost all wanted
terrorists. A year later a UN Committee found the Israeli figures right;
found that 53 Palestinians were killed: 4 women, one child and 48 young
adult males. The Palestinians admitted that most of their dead had been
fighters. The 'Israeli massacre' story turned out to be a
straightforward lie. Israel paid the life of its 24 soldiers for doing a
surgical land operation saving civilians, instead of bombing the
terrorists together with the civilians the Palestinians used as human
If there was a massacre in Jenin it
was the massacre of truth by the BBC. The BBC has, until this day, never
seriously apologized and made honest attempts to clean the blood libel
it had so effectively spread in hundreds of broadcasts to hundreds of
million people. We believe that the BBC's false and libelous coverage
on Jenin has contributed to a climate of opinion in the UK and elsewhere
today, that tolerates the deliberate killing of children, women and men
- provided that they are Israeli Jews.
Another extreme story of deliberately
pro-terror partisan BBC practice is about
their longstanding senior correspondent in
Gaza, Mr Fayyad Abu
Shamala. He made
in 2001 when, speaking at a Hamas gathering,
he said that 'journalists and media organizations in Gaza',
including the BBC "are waging the campaign
shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people” (Douglas
Davis in the Jerusalem Post,
24May2001). Recently, the
same BBC journalist was found beyond doubt to be part of the Hamas
terrorist organisation! The man
responsible for Hamas’ communications system in Gaza, Fathi Hamad was
recorded in an internal discussion saying: “Hamas man Faiz Abu Smala
(Fayyad Abu Shamala) works for the BBC, and there he writes the story in
favour of Muslims” . The BBC responded that: "(Shamala's) standard
of balance is up to the BBC's own high standard of balance" - and they
simply continued to employ the 'Hamas man'. Let's bear in mind that
Hamas has been listed as a terrorist organisation, by the UK, the US,
the EU and more. If we believe to the BBC that Shamala's standard is up
to that of the BBC, it means also that the BBC's 'standard of
balance' is down to the level of objectivity of a Hamas man.
our third question: what, if
any, is the effect of biased reporting on terror and on the global fight
against terror? - we do not have a proven answer. We break this
crucial question to components, so that it may be easier to attempt an
- Do we believe, (bearing in mind the
high PR-awareness of terrorists) that the long series of deliberate
killings of Israeli civilians by terror organisations would have
continued the same way and with the same deadly efficiency in the
theoretical case, had the BBC condemned the 'terrorists' and their
senders in the strongest possible terms?
- Would terror have continued the same way, had the BBC, with all its
trend-setting influence, clearly stated on each occasion that deliberate
killing of civilians was inhuman and criminal, could not be justified by
any explanation and wouldn't be tolerated ever by the civilized world?
- Could it have weakened terror's trigger-happiness?
- Could it have saved human lives? Surely not? Maybe yes? One or
- Could the BBC have saved human lives? Has it done its best to do so?
fourth and fifth questions are on the focus of the present article;
complicity and not bias. And
even the BBC's bias given, 'complicity' is a much graver charge,
necessitating thorough scrutiny before getting publicity. For this
scrutiny we took the legal definition of 'Accomplice' in British Law
(abridged from Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1993):
"An Accomplice is a person who
becomes guilty in the crime of another person by knowingly and
voluntarily aiding the other to commit an offence.
The Accomplice is either an accessory
or an abettor. The accessory aids a criminal prior to his crime, whereas
the abettor aids him during the act itself."
"The abettor aids the commission of the
crime, incites, encourages or assists the offender constructively."
Also, "one may assist the offender by failing to try to prevent the
offence, when a duty to act is imposed by the law."
"The accessory is not present during
the commission of the offence but who assists, procures, encourages, or
counsels the offender. In most jurisdictions there must be evidence that
the accessory intended to facilitate the crime."
"The statutes continue to recognize a
separate offence – that of being an "accessory after the fact". Such
an offender is one who "harbours, protects, or assists a person who has
already committed an offence or is charged with committing an offence."
this definition of 'accomplice' we tried to examine a number of the
BBC's many documented cases of pro-terror biased reporting and practice,
including the cases of Jenin and the "Hamas man". These cases were not
found firmly proven of guilt, partly because causality was very
difficult to prove. However, alarmingly, the cases could not
be relieved of the serious suspicion of complicity either.
In our limited space here we wish to
look not into details of further single cases of partisan BBC practice
but into the signs of a pro-terror biased editorial policy regarding
Israel, as expressed by the director of BBC News then, Mr Sambrook. The
BBCWatch asked him, after thoroughly documenting its research, why did
the BBC discriminate against Israel by never calling the bombers of
civilians there "terrorists", while in the cases of IRA, Bali, the BBC
Tower, Saudi Arabia or Morocco bombings it used this term, sometimes
without even waiting for the conclusions of any investigation. Sambrook's
own letter provides this astonishing answer:
“We prefer to use neutral language
political legitimacy of particular actions is hotly contested.”
The implication of this statement seems to be far
beyond the problem of
discriminative language. It is
not a slip of tongue, but Sambrook's written explanation of the BBC
policy. As the
BBCWatch report says: ''What Sambrook appears to suggest here is that
the blowing up of teenagers in a disco, of old age pensioners at a
religious service, of children on a school bus, and kids at a pizza bar
– these are actions which could have 'political legitimacy' '' –
in case they occur in Israel.
Mr Sambrook wrote to me recently that "this certainly does not represent
my (his) views" and threatened me with legal actions. I would like to
believe Sambrook's statement and it will be easy to support it by his
future consistent strong condemnations of terror against Israel,
including terror in the past.
The fact is that the BBC News, headed
by him, had a years-long consistent practice of humanizing and
rationalizing 'suicide bombings' in Israel. They started it with naming
vaguely 'suicide bombings' what actually were terror; deliberate mass
murders of children, women and other civilians. They continued with
rationalizing the acts, consistently using the clichés of 'occupation,
hopelessness, poverty'. They completed it with humanizing and glorifying
the Palestinian killers by icon-like photos and by sympathetic reports
with their families. Not a critical word on those who brain-washed Arab
minors - and sent them to kill Israeli minors. There appears to be much
less sympathy for the Israeli victims who are not humanized by their
names, their faces and their life stories by the BBC.
Now, deliberate attacks on civilians
are war crimes. Accordingly suicide bombings
against civilians are condemned as brutal acts of terrorism by the
civilized world, except a few terror-supporting Arab and Islamic
governments - and the BBC, when reporting from
We are talking about more than 700 pre-meditated killings of Israeli
civilians in the last five years and on several thousands maimed; on
deliberate killings and not lateral damage of military operations, in
above one hundred "successful" terror attacks out of several thousand
mostly thwarted attempts. The BBC's pointed lack of condemnation of
these suicide bombings in
Israel and their rationalization
instead can only be described as outrageous.
legal aspect regarding complicity is, however, how did the BBC's
humanization and rationalization of the suicide bombings influence these
events? Could their verbal
support qualify as complicity? Part of the legal definition - "the
accessory is not present during the commission of the offence but…
encourages… the offender" - seems to fit: both to the category of
"accessory after the fact" and to "encouragement of the next offences".
But we do not jump to early
conclusions. The definition also says "by knowingly and voluntarily
aiding" the offender. Voluntarily? The BBC surely was not coerced to
declare what it did. About 'knowingly': of course the BBC did
not intend to cause those crimes. I never assumed that the BBC or Mr
Sambrook personally really wanted to reach these grave results. However,
a calculated act is not a pre-condition of being an accomplice. If
someone ought to have known that his act may help the commission of an
offence, it may constitute complicity. Now, could the BBC News have had
any doubt whom did they support and whose efforts did they weaken with
their policy and its years-long application in the BBC reporting? Did
they, at the end, in effect support the anti-terror warfare or
For the BBC's bias and manipulations
on the Iraq war its two most senior managers had to go. Mr Sambrook, the
third most senior manager involved, remained. And the BBC's much worse
manipulative negative reporting on Israel's life, war and fears -
continues. The BBC practice of humanization and rationalization of
terrorists seem suspicious of "encouragement of the offender" and "of
the next offences". It may mean complicity and being an accessory after
the fact. This suspicion must be thoroughly investigated.
Among our conclusions:
Bearing in mind the high
PR-consciousness of terrorists it seems evident that the BBC could, by
clear, accurate and substantiated information on, and consistent
strong condemnations of terrorism, have weakened it
to some extent. In fact, by
consistent concealment of terror's true nature it weakened the fight
against terror instead. Had the BBC disclose terror's identity and
true nature honestly, it could probably have saved innocent lives and
it is, therefore, suspected of complicity in having failed to do so.
The BBC News' years-long
practice of humanization and rationalization of terror in Israel seems
suspicious of "encouragement of the offender"
and "of the next offences" - which may constitute complicity. This
report could not satisfy the burden of proof required in criminal law
to show causality between the BBC malpractices and terrorist acts. But
the moral case against the BBC does certainly stand. And there
seems to be enough evidence to justify a thorough investigation
into whether the BBC did or did not act in certain cases as an
accomplice, particularly as an 'accessory after the fact', to
Such an investigation
should be immediately started by the BBC's renewed management, and if
necessary by the British government.
Until such an investigation is
completed and its conclusions are properly implemented, the public and
the media should keep asking this, loudly.