by Media Lens
January 24th, 2009
Numerous members of the public have written to us expressing their bewilderment at the violence of Israel’s 22-day attack on Gaza killing upwards of 1,300 people and wounding 4,200. To many witnessing the onslaught on their TV screens (especially Al Jazeera) this appeared to be an act of state sadism.
Israeli forces repeatedly bombed schools (including UN schools), medical centres, hospitals, ambulances, UN buildings, power plants, sewage plants, roads, bridges and civilian homes.
On January 15, Helpdoctors.org reported that Al Quds hospital had been “again the target of bombing”. Some 50 patients, 30 in wheelchairs, fled as the burning hospital was “totally destroyed”.
The hospital’s medical director said, “My heart is crying,” as he described how intensive care patients and premature babies in incubators were wheeled onto the street in the middle of the night.
On January 19, UN official John Ging said half a million people in Gaza had been without water since the conflict began — huge numbers were without power. Four thousand homes have been ruined and tens of thousands of people are homeless.
It is now known that the Israeli army (the IDF) used white phosphorus incendiary weapons – designed to burst over a wide area and burn to the bone — against civilian targets, including hospitals and UN buildings. The use of these weapons against civilians is a war crime.
Surgeons in Gaza have reported numerous, unusual cases where bomb victims had lost both legs rather than one, raising suspicions that the Israeli military used Dense Inert Metal Explosive (Dime) bombs — experimental weapons that generate micro-shrapnel that burns and destroys everything within a four-metre radius. Dr. Erik Fosse, a Norwegian surgeon, commented:
“We suspect they used Dime weapons because we saw cases of huge amputations or flesh torn off the lower parts of the body. The pressure wave [from a Dime device] moves from the ground upwards and that’s why the majority of patients have huge injuries to the lower part of the body and abdomen… The problem is that most of the patients I saw were children. If they [the Israelis] are trying to be accurate, it seems obvious these weapons were aimed at children.”1
The IDF also used hideous “flachette bombs” — high-tech nail bombs that shower victims with small metal darts that penetrate flesh and bone.
The BBC: Impartial or Immoral?
Despite this carnage, despite the fact that 89% of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents have received no humanitarian aid since Israel began its assault, the Guardian notes that the BBC has refused to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza, “leaving aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations.”2
The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella organisation for 13 aid charities, launched its Gaza appeal yesterday saying the devastation was “so huge that British aid agencies were compelled to act.”2
By refusing to give free airtime to the appeal, the BBC made a rare decision to breach an agreement dating back to 1963. Other broadcasters then also rejected it. The DEC’s chief executive, Brendan Gormley, said:
“We are used to our appeal getting into every household and offering a safe and necessary way for people to respond. This time we will have to work a lot harder because we won’t have the free airtime or the powerful impact of appearing on every TV and radio station.”2
A BBC website article defending the BBC’s refusal to broadcast the Gaza appeal, asserted:
“The BBC decision was made because of question marks about the delivery of aid in a volatile situation and also to avoid any risk of compromising public confidence in the BBC’s impartiality in the context of an ongoing news story.”
Gormley rejected the BBC’s claim that there were question marks about the delivery of aid, saying 100 lorries a day were entering Gaza. He also challenged the alleged problem with “impartiality”:
“We are totally apolitical and are driven by the principles of the Geneva conventions in terms of impartiality and neutrality. This appeal is a response to those humanitarian principles. The BBC seems to be confusing impartiality with equal airtime.”2
ITV said: “The DEC asked all broadcasters if they could support the appeal. We (the broadcasters) assessed the DEC’s requirements carefully against the agreed criteria and we were unable to reach the consensus necessary for an appeal.”2
Sky said: “We were considering this request internally when the DEC contacted us to let us know that the BBC had decided not to broadcast the appeal at this time. As, by convention, if all broadcasters do not carry the appeal then none do, the decision was effectively made for us.”2
This immoral and callous decision by the BBC in response to the suffering of the people of Gaza should not go unchallenged.
1. Patrick O’Connor, ‘Reports reveal devastation wreaked by Israeli military in Gaza,’ World Socialist Web Site, January 20, 2008. [↩]
2. Jenny Percival, ‘Broadcasters refuse to air Gaza charity appeal,’ The Guardian, January 23, 2008. [↩] [↩] [↩] [↩] [↩] [↩]