Saturday, 24 January 2009

BBC Allows Suffering in Gaza: no old men were embarrassed.

Another one of these strange parallels occurred again yesterday.

If you recall, a while back, the BBC fired comedian Russell Brand and suspended presenter Jonathon Ross after a few thousand knee-jerkers complained to the company about a prank phone-call that none of them had actually heard.

An old man had been embarrassed by being told true facts about his grand-daughter, and for that two careers were put on hold and there were calls for scrapping the entire BBC as a morally bankrupt institution.

Well, yesterday, Jonathon Ross returned to work at the BBC, and almost immediatly the corporation was involved in a much more serious scandal, but one I don't see Middle England angrily rallying against, and one I don't see ending any careers in shame and resignation.

But the crime was much more severe.

Instead of an old man embarrassed, possibly thousands will be denied essential aid, food and medical supplies, as the BBC decided not to allow the Disasters Eamergency Committee have any airtime in which to ask for humanitarian support to help Palestinians currently suffering in the war-torn Gaza region.

The DEC is an umbrella group for charity organizations such as the Red Cross, Save the Children, and Oxfam. They have been given such airtime by the BBC countless times in the past, and through it have helped raised millions of pounds for aid-work in areas stricken by war, such as the Congo or Darfur; and for victims of natural disasters such as the South Asian tsunami in 2004, and recent devastating cyclones in Burma and Bangledesh.

On Gaza, however, the organization has been denied such airtime by the BBC under the spurious and questionable argument that by helping them to ask for aid for dying Gazans in an ongoing conflict, it might hurt perceptions of the corporation's impartiality over the Palestinian issue. They have also questioned whether aid will be able to get through to the people of Gaza, or if it might get co-opted by Hamas.

The position is ridiculous, and has not seemed to be an issue when asking for money for humanitarian crises in the Congo or Darfur. Both of which are ongoing crises in which there are obstacles in place that might prevent the aid from getting through.

The only plausible reason for their move therefore, is their support of the actions of Israel - a dent in any perception of impartiality if ever I have seen one.

Giving money to the Red Cross or Oxfam has never been about picking a side, it has been about helping get necessary aid to people who are dying or in distress. If Israel had been attacked on the scale that Gaza was, those same organizations would be just as quick to seek financial support to send aid there. By denying them the opportunity to effectively raise donations for the people of Gaza, therefore, the BBC are not being impartial, but are helping Israeli terrorism achieve its cruel objectives. Indeed, since the Israel attacks that started in December, the only people denying aid and supplies to Gaza have been the Israeli army itself, not Hamas, as the BBC seems to fear.

This ban on the DEC's appeal is an entirely partisan move. It gives credit to the fallacious Israeli narrative of events, denies essential aid to a dying and devastated people, and helps further the aims of a military strategy that has been called by the UN a 'war crime' and has no basis in international law.

Luckily, Tony Benn gave me some reason for good cheer as I woke up to his familiar voice this morning.

A protest has been called for later today, outside the BBC Broadcasting House, and Benn was on Radio Four's Today show to talk about the issue. Instead of doing so, however, he simply used his airtime to call for donations for the appeal, reminding listeners that they could send gifts to PO Box 999 London EC3A 3AA or donate via freepay account 1210 at the Post Office.

He called the organization a disgrace, and was promptly told that the interview had 'run out of time', but I must give credit to the Today show host Ed Stourton who let him speak his piece without cutting him off when he was giving out the forbidden details. As Benn said 'Look Edward, you agree with me, you know you agree with me...there's been an absolute crisis in Gaza. You can't allow the BBC to say that if we help people who are dying, we are going to be engaged in controversy.'

Indeed, whilst even the government denounce the BBC for what they have done, one can't help but still respect the corporation a little, for allowing the controversy over the ban such coverage, thus managing to still publicize the appeal in a way which undermines to orders from on high to silence it.

Still, if you're interested in giving, here's the web address for the DEC appeal, and the DEC website itself.

I also highly reccomend reading this excellent recent article by Noam Chomsky, which might put these recent events into some perspective.

There are so many more scandals in the world than Jonathon Ross saying inappropriate things to an old Fawlty Towers actor, and for their actions over the DEC appeal, the BBC should be disgraced.

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