Friday, 25 July 2014

Freedom Come All Ye, weans of Glasgow, Gaza and beyond

It's been nice being out and around my Games-hosting city of Glasgow, taking in the sunshine and warmth of its hospitable people.

The Commonwealth is an elite fiction - big wealth is never held in common - helping to maintain monarchic-loaded notions of an enduringly benign Empire. Hopefully a Common Weal, rather than Commonwealth, may be a future game in town.

It's been a corporate bonanza too, and, some nice sporting infrastructure aside, we need to look much harder at what social 'legacies' such gatherings really do bring to people, such as those in deprived Dalmarnock who have seen their area taken apart for the Games. But, for all that, it's still good just to simply indulge the happy atmosphere.  

The opening night saw a sweet-jar mix of panto-cringe, gallus humour, gay assertion and some beautiful Glasgow-spirited performance, from camp kailyard, whirling teacakes and Irn Bru props (go figure, global viewers) to the much more authentic Amy Macdonald leading Glasgow punters in a great song and 'flashmob' dance around George Square.

We had all the baton idolatry too, of course, and the strange, republican-churning sight of the Queen addressing her subjects from the old 'Jungle' side of the stadium. And, before that, wee council czar Gordon Matheson with a welcome speech so intensely stated he could have been raising an emergency motion at a party conference. 

More pleasing was Billy Connolly's lovely, quiet meander up the Clyde and around his old city, waxing kindly on its harsh struggles, industrial backstory and relentless generosity. We also had a serene little Proclaimers re-scored ballet, Nicola Benedetti's exquisite violin strains to Loch Lomond, and, most memorably for me, South African township-raised soprano Pumeza Matshikiza with an inspiring rendition of Hamish Henderson's radical anthem Freedom Come All Ye.

Around the Merchant City, built on the blood profits of war, empire and slavery so lamented in Henderson's song, a nice festival buzz, as with Glasgow Green's fun-filled stages, tented stalls, picknicking families and kids running happily with their ice cream cones.

Behind all the security lockdown and upheaval, there really is, beyond the cliche, a sense of 'come-on-in' welcome, a quiet, courteous confidence that, one hopes, translates appropriately on September 18. 

Yet, amid the happy reverie, returning thoughts on the weans. My weans. Your weans. Our weans. All the weans. For aren't all the weans our collective weans? Yes, indeed, the poverty-stricken African weans those celebrities at the Games ceremony asked us to support through UNICEF. But also, not so readily highlighted these last bittersweet days, the weans in Gaza, right now being mercilessly bombed by a violence-addicted state. Aren't they also much-deserving weans?
 

It's too late, tragically, for nearly two hundred of those weans, now wilfully murdered. And what survival or life for the more than three thousand Gazan weans now terribly injured? 

Israel's war on children has continued unabated, including the massacres around Al-Shejia, the bombing of a UN shelter in Beit Hanoun and other UNWRA schools. To think of the lost, broken and forever traumatised kids across Gaza and the West Bank who can't run freely like those weans on the Green, living without the wanton terror of an occupier's bombs.

Freedom Come All Ye, go the words, maybe a song for a new-coming republic of humanity, here in Scotland and beyond. A place where we act not as subjects, but as true commonwealth-deciding citizens, raising our children in a state of economic wellbeing and moral decency, free from brutal warmongering, helping them to understand the need for other children to live likewise.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Doctors and scientists support Gaza, denounce Israel

The shocking death and injury toll in Gaza mounts. As Ben White documents (via facebook):  
According to Gaza's MoH, as of 04.30 on morning of 24 July, Israel has killed 718 Palestinians, and wounded a further 4,563. Just overnight, Israeli attacks have killed at least 23, including 10 members of one family. The death toll for Wednesday was 73, with intense (and ongoing) strikes on the Khazaa and al-Fakhari areas of Khan Younis. A new briefing by UN OCHA yesterday said that Israel's atta...ck has, so far, damaged 90 schools, destroyed or severely damaged 2,655 homes, otherwise damaged a further 3,175, and damaged 18 health facilities. The UN agency put civilian fatalities at 77% of the total Palestinian death toll, including 161 children. Hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza are now completely without power, while hundreds of thousands more are rationed up to five hours of electricity a day. A particularly horrific insight from Gaza's MoH yesterday - over 17 days, Israel committed war crimes in 44 massacres of families that killed 226 Palestinians. Also yesterday, a Palestinian from Husan village nr. Bethlehem died of his wounds after being shot in the head by Israeli forces during a protest against the Gaza massacre, the third Palestinian killed in the West Bank this week. Meanwhile, 3 more Israeli soldiers were confirmed killed in Gaza by the authorities, bringing the total Israeli military death toll to 32 (in addition to 2 Israeli civilians and 1 Thai worker).


With Israel now facing a UN war crimes investigation, an  admirable range of international doctors and scientists have produced an open letter in the Lancet detailing the appalling suffering in Gaza, and denouncing Israel's wicked onslaught.

The letter begins:
We are doctors and scientists, who spend our lives developing means to care and protect health and lives. We are also informed people; we teach the ethics of our professions, together with the knowledge and practice of it. We all have worked in and known the situation of Gaza for years. 
On the basis of our ethics and practice, we are denouncing what we witness in the aggression of Gaza by Israel.

We ask our colleagues, old and young professionals, to denounce this Israeli aggression. We challenge the perversity of a propaganda that justifies the creation of an emergency to masquerade a massacre, a so-called "defensive aggression". In reality it is a ruthless assault of unlimited duration, extent, and intensity. We wish to report the facts as we see them and their implications on the lives of the people.
Please read the letter in full and share widely:
 
An open letter for the people of Gaza 

A letter has also appeared in the Guardian denouncing the BBC's relentless distortion:
We are concerned at the very partial nature of BBC reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While some reporters have shown great bravery in war zones, much home-based journalism lacks context and is unable to report the Palestinian perspective. The attacks on Gaza are presented by Israel and the BBC as being directed at militants, while for Palestinians they are an extension of military rule and collective punishment by a brutal apartheid state.

This inability to report the reality of the Israeli occupation has been repeatedly shown by academic studies and reports, including that led by Quentin Thomas, commissioned by the BBC, which noted the "failure to convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other lives under occupation", and said: "In short, we found that BBC output does not consistently give a full and fair account of the conflict." (Thomas, 2006: 4-7) The BBC has failed to act on any of these findings.

The search for peace is not well served by giving the public such a partial and limited view. We ask now that the BBC produce a televised, public debate to discuss how to redress the deficiencies in its coverage to offer a better account of the sources of this conflict and therefore how it might be resolved. 
Professor Greg Philo, Professor Avi Shlaim, Professor James Curran, Professor Natalie Fenton, Professor Julian Petley, Professor Ilan Pappe, Professor John Dugard, Professor Etienne Balibar, Professor Graham Murdoch, Professor Alan Riach, John McDonnell MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Christine Grahame MSP, Juliet Stevenson, Roger Waters, Alice Walker, Breyten Breytenbach, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, John Pilger, Mairead Maguire, Bella Freud, Frank Barat, Mustapha Barghouti, Gerda Stevenson, Pam Parsons, Mike Berry, Aimee Shalan, Hugh Lanning, Shamiul Joarder, Diana Buttu, Linda Ramsden, Jeff Halper, Hatim Kanaaneh, Karma Nabulsi, Paul Laverty, Gilbert Achcar, John Hilary

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

While its hospitals are bombed, Gaza is relegated as news

The 'most moral army in the world' have bombed two hospitals in Gaza, Al-Wafa and Al-Aqsa, killing doctors and patients lying in intensive care unit beds. That, in itself, should be enough to see Israel vilified by the 'international community'. 
 
Yet, with over 600 now dead, the vast majority civilians, families, children, it seems that even the deliberate murder of sick people in hospital wards can be allowed as the 'unfortunate consequence' of Israel's 'right to defend itself'. 
 
The admirable Dr Mads Gilbert has talked about how Al-Shifa hospital is managing to go on in the face of Israel's wicked onslaught. He commends the enduring, determined spirit of the Palestinian people. Dr Mads is a shining example of caring humanity.
 
In shameful contrast, Obama, Cameron and most of the Western political class remain loyal to Netanyahu. Not even the wilful shelling of hospitals could invoke a moral or political about-turn. Indeed, the US Congress has just voted 100-0 to continue supporting Israel.
 
Predictably, calls for an arms embargo against Israel have also been been shunned. And how could it be otherwise, with America and Britain up to their necks in running guns and arming Israel.   
 
Complementing the political silence, Gaza has been editorially relegated down the 'news' table. At the top, every facet of the Malaysian plane disaster has been seized upon, as, following the establishment line, the BBC and other media turn the screw on Russia.
 
The murder of innocents on a passenger plane is, of course, worthy of serious political and media attention. But why has this story, the issue in Eastern Ukraine and vilification of Putin superseded the story of Israel's mass atrocities in Gaza? 

Just what more, one wonders, must befall an already bombed and massacred people before the West and its service media mount the same indictment and denunciation of Netanyahu and the Israeli state? 
 
The demotion of Gaza and the cosy consensus on Ukraine/Russia can be seen in almost every selected ordering of BBC news.

As Media Lens tweet:
18 Palestinians killed in Gaza this morning but Costa Concordia gets BBC live feed. Keeping the massacre low-profile http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-28428224
Alongside its main news programmes, Newsnight, for example, has headlined and pored over every detail of the plane crash, the 'diplomatic fallout' and Putin's 'culpability', while Gaza gets the 'and now in other news' treatment.
 
Last night's edition was a case in point. The leading story and bulk of the programme covered the plane issue and multiple angles on Russia's implied 'blame' (despite the US itself announcing "no direct [Russian] involvement"). This was followed not by Gaza, but, continuing the 'focus on deviant Russia' theme, a major feature and interview with the wife of murdered Russian dissident Akexander Litvinenko. It then returned to the plane story with a long piece from the Netherlands on tributes to the bereaved and an interview with a Dutch MEP in which presenter Kirsty Wark explored the possibilities of imposing greater sanctions on Russia. 
 
When we finally got to Gaza - slotted-in before some polite BBC 'self-examination' (featuring Sir Peter Bazalgette, President of the Royal Television Society and former producer of Big Brother) on whether the faces of dead people should be shown on TV, and a piece on FIFA corruption and England's World Cup woes - there was no film report from Gaza, just the briefest resume of unfolding events, headed by news of the US suspending flights to Tel Aviv because of a Hamas rocket, and mention of the death toll. Noting that Kerry and Ban Ki-moon were heading for more 'rounds of talks', Wark went straight to US 'peace negotiator' and former US special envoy Martin Indyk, all too typical of the pro-Israel diplomat class given prime attention by Newsnight.   
 
A flavour of the exchange: 
Wark: You left just three weeks ago, and when you left you said you were battered by the whole situation. Did you simply give up?

Indyk: [patronising laugh] I said battered but unbowed. No, we didn't give up. We reached a point where the parties themselves gave up. The Israelis suspended the negotiations because the Palestinians had decided to reconcile with Hamas, which is not interested in negotiations and devoted to Israel's destruction, so there wasn't anything more that we could do...

Wark: But if you thought it was hopeless three weeks ago, what do you think of it now? Do you think the Israelis were right to start this offensive in Gaza?

Indyk: They didn't start the offensive...

Wark: [stumbling] Sorry, to take the offensive into Gaza with a ground invasion, and air power as well.

Indyk: Yeah, the offensive was started by Hamas rockets into Israeli cities...

[...]

Wark: You talk about chronic conflict. The figures are more than 600 dead on the Palestinian side, more than 30 dead on the Israeli side. But let's just look at these UN figures. Of the Palestinians who have died, the UN says 75 percent are civilians, we've got 25 from one family, 100 children, two hospitals. Is that disproportionate?

Indyk: You know, I'm not here to offer judgement on these kinds of things...

Wark: But people are making judgements. The French foreign minister has called it a massacre and the opposition leader Ed Miliband in Washington said that Israel was wrong to go into Gaza. Do you think that Israel should have held back this time?

Indyk: Look, I don't know what you want from me, I'm not here to make judgements on either side...

Wark: But you're a man who knows the area well...

Indyk: But let me finish my answer...I do not believe that...Netanyahu was a man who wanted to go into Gaza on the ground, he was seeking ways to achieve calm before that, but the rocketing of Israeli cities and the attacks through the tunnels were such that it got to the point where he couldn't get a ceasefire, so he decided to move in and try to destroy the tunnels...

Wark: But is it going to make Israel more secure? Right now Israel looks isolated...is Israel going to be more secure by making more enemies of young Palestinians?
Indyk ends with more ponderous rhetoric on the 'need for peace', a ceasefire and the 'key issue' of how to stop Hamas rockets.

So much for someone 'not here to offer judgement on these kinds of things'.

But what of Wark's own judgement of these issues? On the surface, we heard her citing the humanitarian crisis, the disproportionate killing and a certain international concern. But consider the much more vital points Wark could have put to Indyk.     
 
She could have confronted him on America's direct arming and consistent support of Israel, its posture as a 'neutral' actor in a spurious 'peace process', and Indyk's own questionable role as a 'peace envoy'. 
 
She could have reminded him that it is Israel which has repeatedly violated the 2012 ceasefire by relentlessly killing farmers, fishermen and other civilians in Gaza.

She could have asked him why the Palestinians should accept a stitched-up ceasefire and return to the same state of imprisonment without any prospect of change. 

She could have reminded him that Gaza remains under military lockdown and an illegal siege, as defined by the UN. She could have specified the settlements and the Occupation. 

She could have pointed out that, contrary to Indyk's apologetics for Netanyahu, this latest offensive was, indeed, initiated by Israel as a deliberate exercise to break the Hamas-Fatah unity government.

Rather than ask if Israel was wrong to go into Gaza 'this time', she could have asked whether there had ever been a 'right time' for such murderous attacks and gross violations.

Why, also, the vital concern over whether such aggression makes Israel, rather than Palestine, 'more secure'?
 
And, unlike the previous discussion on Russia's punishment and her suggestions to the Dutch MEP on planned sanctions, Wark could have specifically asked Indyk what kind of emergency international punishment should now be enacted against Israel, including the options of deep sanctions and an arms embargo.

Precisely none of this was mentioned, for unlike the demonisation of Putin and treatment reserved for official enemies like Russia, presenters like Wark know precisely how far to tread when it comes to 'criticising' Netanyahu, Israel and its Western protectors.

    

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Israel kills relentlessly, but no 'Al-Shejaia moment'

The wickedness continues, with at least 425 Palestinians, mostly civilians, now murdered by Israel. The names of those killed is being updated by the authorities in Gaza. 
 

Al-Shejaia, decimated 
In one of the most horrendous assaults to date, over 60 people have been massacred in the Al-Shejaia area of northeast Gaza. (Strong warning: the images from Al-Shehaiai are deeply disturbing.) 
 
Norwegian surgeon Dr Mads Gilbert has been at al-Shifa hospital, working in desperate conditions trying to save the dying and assist the injured. 
 
In A doctor writes from Gaza - 'there are lakes of blood', he observes:
 
My respect for the wounded is endless, in their contained determination in the midst of pain, agony and shock. My admiration for the staff and volunteers is endless. My closeness to the Palestinian "sumud" - or steadfastness - gives me strength. But, in glimpses, I just want to scream, hold someone tight, cry, smell the skin and hair of the warm child, covered in blood, protect ourselves in an endless embrace - but we cannot afford that, nor can they.
Channel 4 News reporter Jonathan Miller has recorded much of the horror, a traumatic experience in itself.
 
He tweets
Jonathan Miller @millerC4
#c4news #Gaza Doctors at Shifa Hospital describe last night as "a massacre". I have seen there which I will never be able to unsee.
It's admirable that such journalists are there on the ground witnessing the killing and terror. But isn't it also just as vital that they bear witness, via their reporting, to the true cause and context of that killing and terror: Israel's enduring siege and the relentless Occupation of Palestinian land?

That needs to be said, clearly and consistently. Otherwise, we see the suffering - or what fraction of it the media deem permissible - but remain ignorant or mystified about the fundamental reason why it's happening.

All of which helps reinforce the spurious 'two-warring-sides' line, the facile 'tit-for-tat' narrative so seamlessly delivered by the BBC. 

This vast media distortion provides invaluable cover for political evasion. As with previous mass attacks on Gaza, where's the outcry from the US, Britain and all those 'responsibility to protect' liberals? Where's the international reaction we heard when Nato was rushing to 'defend' and 'liberate' Libya, that 'Benghazi moment'? Would we ever remotely hear them talk now of an 'Al-Shejaia moment'?

Kerry has, apparently, been caught 'off mic' reacting to Israel's blanket killing in 'Al-Shejaia: "It's a hell of a pinpoint operation", he said. 

It was a small, but revealing, moment, confirming not just what craven elites like Kerry really do see, but, much more shamefully, what they pretend not to. As he continued flawlessly again into 'we support Israel' mode, it confirmed the sheer venal deceit of his 'peace-shuttling diplomacy'.     

Contemplating the poor victims of Al-Shejaia, the horrors being inflicted on Gaza, and the West's protection of the perpetrators, people may despairingly ask: how do those like Kerry live with their wicked deceptions? Their work is not remotely about the promotion of peace and resolution, but the calculating mitigation of state terrorism. 

Yet, as Jonathan Cook suggests, we should also think deeply about the seemingly 'human motivations' behind Kerry's unguarded words, for, together with his pledge to keep supporting Israel's killing machine, they help explain the darker, delusional psychology that allows such people to rationalise mass slaughter in the 'higher interest'.

Alongside Israel's state gangsters, we can only hope such Western criminal complicity is one day exposed in the highest court of law.   

Friday, 18 July 2014

Israel's historical abuse still being hushed

Moving, artistic tribute to the Bakr children,
murdered by Israel on Gaza's beach
As the ground invasion and wicked attack on Gaza intensifies, including the wilful massacre of four small boys - a fifth died later - on Gaza's beach, Alexei Sayle offers this most fitting analogy: 'Israel is the Jimmy Savile of nation states'.

The Zionist mindset conceals its own deep psychosis. But much else in Israel's disturbing development has come from learned behaviour.

America, Israel's principal 'parent', has spoiled, protected and indulged this occupying, apartheid state now for over six decades, from defending its multiple violations at the UN, to its Congress handing over an unconditional $3billion a year 'allowance', while Israel struts around like a bragging coward killing, abusing and terrifying the neighbourhood.

Britain, likewise, has played the complicit role of silent, coddling mother, occasionally chiding the Israeli 'bad boy', but never willing to raise the alarm over its monster progeny. With its own part in a massive arms network, no worried 'we need to talk about Israel' realisation here. 

Israel has grown to watch and copy the rapacious parents, invading, occupying and mass-murdering for selfish, imperialist gain all across the globe.   

Little wonder we're seeing such naked abuse from this now fully-grown regime, through its violent birth act of purging Palestinians to its 'family model' of settler occupation; from its military chauvinism to its bleating plea that the world understand its 'plucky defensiveness' and 'victimhood'. 

Rather than deal with these posturing delusions, the West has once again turned on the real victims, telling Palestinians they've only themselves to blame. As Seumas Milne comments:
But instead of demanding a halt to Israel’s campaign of collective punishment against what is still illegally occupied territory, the western powers have blamed the victims for fighting back. If it weren’t for Hamas’s rockets fired out of Gaza’s giant holding pen, they insist, all of this bloodletting would end. “No country on earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” Barack Obama declared, echoed by a mostly pliant media. Perhaps it’s scarcely surprising that states which have themselves invaded and occupied a string of Arab and Muslim countries in the past decade should take the side of another occupier they fund and arm to the hilt.
Parentally approved, Israel displays the same disregard for those it has invaded, robbed and colonised, a brutality manifest in much of its citizenry, as it gloats and cheers above Sderot at the spectacle of Gazans being massacred.

And the target of their macabre celebrating is more of Gaza's tiny children, as in this harrowing report from Peter Beaumont:     
Salem Antez, 29, approached with a purple plastic bag and opened it, its contents terrible. "This is my son," he said and nothing else, tears tracking down his face. Mohammad, another family member explained, was two. The other dead were Abed Ali, 24, and Mohammad Ibrahim, 13.
But while a certain number of deaths are reported, the vast bulk of the over 1500 of Gaza's and the West Bank's murdered children remain peripheral and nameless, their terrorist killers and military methods still given due deference.

And isn't it darkly apposite - given the BBC's own hierarchical harbouring of abusers - that Israel should be getting particular institutional protection from that same British state media?

Now clamouring to appear 'more balanced' after thousands protested its gross bias, Ali Abunimah has reminded the BBC of its still-running 'Israel responds' line, its utter distortion over the 'ceasefire issue' and other loaded narrative, saying: 'I would strongly recommend the BBC do some journalism'.

Ever keen to 'intervene', proclaiming their 'responsibility to protect' others, Israel's political patrons are massively responsible for failing to protect Palestinians. As serial abusers themselves, how could it be otherwise?      

But how can a supposedly 'impartial' media continue to shield and mitigate the actions of this craven bully? The answer, basically, lies in the establisment-serving acronym 'BBC', and an institutionally understood fear of overly-criticising Israel.  

As ex-BBC Middle East correspondent Tim Llewellyn confirms:
The BBC is now culturally and socially stuck in the Zionist frame. Whether this is fear of the Zionist lobby and its many friends in the three British political parties, sheer inbuilt prejudice, ignorance of the facts, history and nuances that every reporter, producer and editor should by now know, I am not sure. I suspect a combination of all three.
Such is the intimidating presence of the Israel lobby, and the apprehensions of senior BBC editors awaiting that call from the Israeli embassy.

How much longer can this dark compliance continue? The horror of those football-kicking kids being ruthlessly blown apart on Gaza's beach should be enough in itself to foster mass-media condemnation and real political action. Some worthy journalists are recording such graphic, terrible detail. But the core problem - the illegal occupation - and sheer historical scale of Israel's criminal abuse is still being dutifully hushed. 

---------------------------------------------------------- 

* Updated detail via Amena Saleem (Facebook):

The slaughter of Gaza's children, from morning till nightfall, on Friday 18th July:

Five-month-old baby Faris Juma al-Mahmoum was among those killed by 'heavy and indiscriminate' Israeli shelling in southern Gaza. Rizk Ahmad al-Hayk, aged 2, was killed by air strikes in Gaza City, Sarah Muhammad Bustan,13, was also killed in Gaza City. Three siblings, Ahmad Ismail Abu Musallam, aged 14, Walaa Ismail Abu Musallam, aged 13, and Muhammad Ismail Abu Musallam, aged 15, were killed... when their apartment building was shelled in northern Gaza. Eight members of the Abu Jrad family, including four children were killed when a missile struck their home in Beit Hanoun. The children were 6 month old Musa Abd al-Rahman, Haniyah Abd al-Rahman Abu Jrad, Samih Naim Abu Jrad and Ahlam Musa Abu Jrad. Imad and Qassim Alwan, both children, were killed as a result of artillery shelling in eastern Gaza City.

------------------------------------------------------------------

* Update:
Names of the victims of Israeli terror.
          

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Glasgow turns out to support Gaza and shame BBC

Buchanan Street, Glasgow
Yesterday saw a tremendous display of humanity in Glasgow as people gathered to denounce Israel's wicked bombardment of Gaza and the media's disgraceful coverage of it.

While the people of Gaza are being bombed and murdered, the BBC in particular is not only failing to report Israel's actions as the high crimes of a rampant occupier, it won't cover mass protests over those crimes and the misreporting of them even at its own front door. 
 

Condemning the appalling death toll, and expressing solidarity for the people of Gaza, many of those addressing the crowd highlighted the false 'Israel responds' narrative being repeated by state media.

Key points were raised about what never gets reported: that Israel has Gaza's 1.7 million people under enduring military lockdown, that the context of the Occupation is never presented, and that, alongside its daily killing and repressions in the West Bank, Israel have consistently violated the 2012 Hamas-agreed ceasefire by murdering Gaza's farmers, fishermen and other civilians, most notably children.

How, others wondered, can the so-called 'international community' stand aside and allow Israel to engage in such a barbaric act of collective punishment - an act declared illegal by the UN. 

A Jews for Justice for Palestinians speaker also reiterated their admirable message that 'Israel does not speak in our name'.

And, in deliberating on what can be practically done for Palestinians, strong opinion was registered that an independent Scotland with control over foreign policy offers a much more promising means of support than a UK state which embraces Israel and its US military sponsors.    



Afterwards, the entire crowd, in spontaneous mood, flowed down Buchanan Street for an inspiring march along the Clyde-side towards BBC Scotland HQ.

People from all walks joined in the swell of Palestinian colour, young and old, people of religions and none, families pushing babies in prams.

At one point the entire 'Squinty Bridge' and a long mass behind stopped, sat on the road and fell silent for Gaza.

At their glass-fronted offices, people announced in voluminous voice: 'BBC - shame on you'.

And, shamefully indeed, not a word or picture of
this event has been offered by the BBC.

What kind of 'public broadcaster', with an 'impartial' remit to 'inform', can be so fearful of reporting such strong humanitarian feeling?

Despite such blatant censoring, people are turning to - as this superb gathering in Glasgow showed - a much more highly-effective social media to organise, communicate and disseminate information.

So, while the brutality of Israel's war crimes and other apartheid oppression continues unabated, one hopes that Palestinians can, like us, take great encouragement from the kind of resilient protest and activism going on here and in cities all around the world.

Meanwhile, Gaza suffers.

Muhammad Hamad, 75, lost his wife, three sons, daughter-in-law and grand-daughter when his house was wiped-out by an Israeli bomb. Here's his painful words:

"I went into shock. The neighbours held me because I couldn't stand. I felt I was going to faint from the horror of it."

What horror, indeed.

What horrors our leaders are allowing to continue with their sanctimonious words about a 'peace process' and the need to ensure Israel's 'security'. And what consequential horrors are being hidden from public view by a shameless state media repeating those distortions on Palestinian 'militants', Israel's 'rocket-preventing mission' and the great fiction of the West's 'benign brokering'? 

As Glasgow's and other outpourings for Gaza have shown, the capacity for rejecting such propaganda is growing, as is the heroic resistance of suffering Palestinians to their criminal occupiers.      

*Thanks to John Pacetta of
Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign
for the above images.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Cameron 'keen to rekindle Middle East peace process': BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit's finding

A final exchange with the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit, following previous correspondence.
 

British Broadcasting Corporation White City, 201 Wood Lane, London, W12 7TQ

Telephone: 020 8743 8000 Email: ecu@bbc.co.uk

Editorial Complaints Unit

Mr J Hilley
 
Ref: CT/1400241
8 July 2014

Dear Mr Hilley

News (6.00pm), BBC 1, 13 March 2014
 
I am writing to let you know the provisional finding of the Editorial Complaints Unit’s investigation into your complaint about a news item on the above bulletin. I do not believe there are grounds to uphold your complaint but I hope I can explain the reasons why I have reached this decision.

As you will no doubt recall, the phrase which prompted your complaint came at the end of a brief report, as follows:

David Cameron has urged the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to be partners for peace. On the second day of his visit to the Middle East the Prime Minister held talks with the Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas. Mr Cameron also met the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who is a peace envoy in the region. Mr Cameron is keen to rekindle the Middle East peace process.
 
You have asked what evidence there was to support the assertion that

"Mr Cameron is keen to rekindle the Middle East peace process". I have to say that it seems to me to be a reasonable interpretation based on Mr Cameron’s words and actions. As you will recall, he visited the Middle East and held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In his joint press conference with Mr Abbas [1], the Prime Minister said:

We have had good discussions today and I want to focus on three issues. First the peace process and the leadership that both you and Prime Minister Netanyahu show by entering these negotiations. As I said in the Knesset I believe you are a partner for peace. I know that achieving lasting peace means difficult decisions and real determination to keep going. Britain has faced its own experiences on this front and we will do everything we can to help you.
 
Our position is clear and has not changed; we want to see a two state solution. A sovereign, viable and independent Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps, alongside a secure Israel. And Jerusalem, a sacred city to three great world religions, must be the shared capital for both sides, with Gaza a fundamental part of the Palestinian state…

… Over the last two days I have been encouraged from my discussions with both yourself, Mr President, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, that the will is there, so I urge both sides to seize this window of opportunity.
 
The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on Impartiality [2] allow journalists to "provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence" (Section 4.4.13). I think the extract I have quoted above provides sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that Mr Cameron was keen to rekindle a Middle East peace process and did not require the kind of caveat or attribution you have suggested.

On the third of your numbered points, I think the use of the phrase "peace process" was reasonable; whether or not a settlement can be reached is open to question but there is undoubtedly a process
(backed by various international governments) to try to find such a settlement.

On your fourth point, I have explained that it was acceptable for the presenter, Sophie Raworth, to provide a professional judgement based on evidence. I do not believe, therefore, that there was breach of the Impartiality guidelines.

On your final point, the Editorial Guidelines on Impartiality include particular requirements relevant to long-running or continuous output (Section 4.4.26). These make it clear that

"due impartiality may be achieved over time by the consistent application of editorial judgement in relevant subject areas. For instance, it is not usually required for an appearance by a politician, or other contributor with partial views, to be balanced on each occasion by those taking a contrary view, although it may sometimes be necessary to offer a right of reply". I think that makes it clear that there was no requirement in this context to provide a counter view to Mr Cameron’s.

In conclusion, therefore, I don’t have grounds to uphold your complaint but, as my letter of 16 June explained, this is a provisional finding. If you’d like to make any comments on it before I finalise it I’ll be happy to consider them, providing you let me have them by 23 July.

Yours sincerely

Colin Tregear
Complaints Director

1 https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/press-conference-in-jerusalem
2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines/page/guidelines-impartiality-introduction/

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9 July 2014
Dear Colin Tregear
 
You say:
"Mr Cameron is keen to rekindle the Middle East peace process". I have to say that it seems to me to be a reasonable interpretation based on Mr Cameron’s words and actions.
Indeed. And it would have been truly amazing had Mr Cameron's words not seemed anything other to you.

You simply repeat Cameron's speech and cite this as a ''reasonable interpretation" of events. How very 'considered'. How very BBC.

This and the rest of your 'reasonable' ruling is entirely predictable. As ever, the point of such complaints is not to expect acknowledgement or seek redress, but to help expose such routinely biased output and the multiple levels of BBC officialdom, including the ECU, serving to defend it. 

So, I have no further comments regarding the complaint other than to hope that readers of this exchange are able to see what's deemed 'impartial' coverage by the BBC, and the kind of dutiful establishment-speak that passes for 'independent adjudication'.   

It's rather fitting that your letter comes as Gaza is being brutally bombed once more, with the BBC again engaged in its own assault of 'Israel responds' news and comment.

No doubt Mr Cameron and Western others deeply complicit in allowing that suffering to continue, through their enduring support for Israel, will declare themselves 'keen' to see an end to the killing. And no doubt the BBC will continue to amplify those hollow sentiments through their own slavish reporting of such words.

Yours sincerely
John Hilley