Monday, August 10, 2009

BBC Bowen omits 'non-political' Jewish refugees

On 3 March 2009, the BBC Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) ruled that the BBC Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen had violated BBC guidelines calling for accuracy and impartiality in a piece on the effects of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. In its 'inside look' at the investigation, the media watchdog CAMERA noted Bowen's silence on the thousands of Jewish refugees exiled from Arab countries after the 1967 war. Bowen justified his mention of Palestinian and 'internally displaced' Syrian refugees because they were a 'political issue', while Jewish refugees were not. (Pardon my ignorance, but I thought a BBC reporter's job was to report the facts, not to attach value judgments). Regrettably the adjudicating committee did not find Bowen's assertion on refugees had violated its guidelines.

From the CAMERA report:

"Regarding CAMERA's point that Bowen mentioned Palestinian and Syrian refugees but ignored the Jewish refugees from 1967, the ECU (Editorial Complaints Unit) stated that, "in an article about the consequences of 1967, it seems reasonable to me to concentrate on the Palestinians."

It added,

... it seems to me that [Jewish refugees] have not given rise to the kind of major political problems that the Palestinian refugees have raised, specifically their claim of a right of return to homes now within the State of Israel. Looking at the text of the "Road Map", there is some discussion of "refugees", but none of it refers to Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

"It is telling that the ECU views it as "reasonable" to focus on how 1967 affected Palestinians and not the war's effect on Israelis and Jews. That aside, Jews expelled from their countries in 1967 are certainly no less of a political issue than than the Syrians from the Golan Heights who were internally displaced that year; yet Bowen saw it fit to mention these Syrians while ignoring the Jewish refugees.

"The ECU's assertion that the "road map" peace plan does not mention Jews is true, but extremely misleading. The peace plan does not explicitly mention Palestinian refugees either. It refers only to "refugees" in general.

Palestinian, Syrian and Jewish Refugees: Bowen told the adviser that his article did not mention Jewish refugees along with Syrian and Palestinian refugees because he felt the Palestinians, and not the Jews, are a political issue:

Jewish refugees from the Arab world have made homes in a strong and prosperous state. There may one day be the matter of compensation for them as part of an overall settlement, but they are not a political issue. The Palestinian refugees are a political issue because they live in limbo, usually in very bad conditions. Look at Gaza. Most of its population of 1.4 million are Palestinian refugees.

"Bowen's reference to refugees in Gaza is strange. Most Palestinians escaping the fighting in 1967 fled from the West Bank, where they had lived as Jordanian citizens under Jordanian rule, to the "East Bank" of Jordan proper, where they remained Jordanian citizens under Jordanian rule. Refugees in Gaza, on the other hand, are almost exlusively from the 1948 war.

"Moreover, Bowen's explanation did not address why he felt it was appropriate to mention the Syrian internally displaced. But even though Bowen said nothing about the Syrians here, it seems that he nonetheless led the adviser to wrongly believe the Syrian displaced of 1967 constitute some sort of "political stumbling block." The adviser summarized the section on refugees as follows:

The ESC will want to assess whether the article mentioning only Palestinian and Syrian refugees because it is those that have been the political stumbling block - not any Jewish refugees either then or now – is duly impartial in the context of a piece looking at the problems resulting from the six day war. And to ask if is fair that this sentence is cast as it is in spite of the "many thousands of Jews expelled from Arab countries as a result of the 1967 war" that Mr Ini mentions.

"(The BBC Trust, following the adviser's framing, would later rule that Bowen's assertion on refugees did not violate the accuracy guideline.)"

Read CAMERA report in full

1 comment:

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Bowen is a loyal employe of the Ministry of Truth right out of Orwell's 1984. Facts that don't fit go right down the memory hole. The whole argument that only those refugees should be reported who later on represented a "political problem" is just too absurd and sinister to accept. After this, one has even less respect for the bbc.

The argument is sinister for several reasons. One is because it encourages mass murder. After all, the dead no longer represent a political problem. So, in order to avoid letting a group constitute a political problem in the future, simply wipe them out. No more problem.

Another sinister aspect of the general reasoning at the bbc and among many Westerners generally is the notion that a "fair" solution would be to let everyone "go home." For example, after the Holocaust, the USSR and the new Communist govts in eastern Europe told the Jews that they should stay there and "build socialism." But in fact, the Jews did not want to stay for some very good reasons, including personal safety. Nor did the eastern European peoples especially want the Jews to stay, nor were the Jews considered "natives" or part of the "nation" in most of those countries.

The notion of the Jews' "going home" to Poland, Lithuania, etc after the Holocaust did not much appeal to either the Jews there or the dominant nationalities in the various countries. It is noteworthy that British officials too wanted the Jews to "go home" to Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany etc after the HOlocaust, just like the Communist leaders in some of those countries. Moreover, PLO officials, I think arafat himself, also --quite graciously-- announced that the Jews in Israel can go back to where they came from. Since, as the PLO charter claims [Article 20], they are "citizens of the states to which they belong." That is, citizens of states that don't want them much more than the Arabs of the Land of Israel want them, or the Arabs of Iraq or Egypt or Yemen, etc.

Jewish Communists in Iraq mainly came to Israel with the other Jews, despite their Communist "internationalist" and "anti-imperialist" ideology. While some came to accept Israel, other Jewish Communists in Arab lands, like Simon Malley or Abraham Sarfati in Morocco, took the same line as did Polish Jewish Communists, for instance, who tended to stay in Poland after the Holocaust, until they were thrown out of their jobs in 1968.

There is a curious convergence of positions among Western policymakers --especially British, I think-- and the Communists and Arab nationalists. They all opposed Zionism to one extent or other, sometimes calling for the Jews who left Arab countries to "go home" just as they and others called on Jews to "go home" to Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Rumania, etc. But Jews had good reasons for not feeling fully "at home" in those places. Indeed, both in Europe and Arab lands, Jews were traditionally legally inferior, persecuted, exploited, humiliated, etc.

I feel more "at home" in Israel than in the country where I was born.