BBC Under Fire Over Gaza Appeal Ban

The BBC, the world’s largest broadcaster, is provoking outrage in Britain over refusal to air an appeal by British charities for aid to the homeless Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip following a deadly Israeli onslaught.

"I write to express my disappointment at your decision not to support the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Gaza Crisis Appeal," International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said in a letter to the BBC cited by the Guardian on Saturday, January 24.

The BBC has refused to air an aid appeal by DEC, a coalition of British charities including Oxfam, British Red Cross and Islamic Aid, to raise funds for the Gazans in need of food, shelter and medicine.

The British broadcaster said that the broadcasting could compromise its impartiality.

"I think the British public can distinguish between support for humanitarian aid and perceived partiality in a conflict," Alexander told the BBC.

"I really struggle to see, in the face of the immense human suffering in Gaza at the moment, that this is in any way a credible argument."

Thousands of people will demonstrate in London Saturday against the BBC’s refusal to broadcast the Gaza aid appeal.

"The decision of the BBC to refuse to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza, which has left aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations, is a betrayal of the obligation which it owes as a public service," veteran politician Tony Benn will address the protest organized by "Stop the War" coalition.

"To deny the help that the aid agencies and the UN need at this moment in time is incomprehensible and it follows the bias in BBC reporting of this crisis, which has been widely criticized.

"I appeal to the chairman of the BBC Trust to intervene to reverse this decision to save the lives of those who are now in acute danger of dying through a lack of food, fuel, water and medical supplies."

More than 1,300 people, including 410 children, were killed and 5,450 wounded in 22 days of air, sea and land Israeli attacks in Gaza.

The deadly Israeli onslaught also left 4,100 homes totally destroyed and 17,000 others damaged, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

About 1,500 factories and workshops, 25 mosques, 31 government buildings and 10 water or sewage pipes were also damaged.

The bureau estimates the physical damage so far to about $1.9bn (£1.4bn), including about $200m (£140m) of damage to infrastructure.

Disgraceful

British Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said that the BBC’s reasoning is "flawed" and "completely feeble".

"First, the one about delivery – the British government is giving £25m to Gazan relief, we don’t have a problem getting it in. There’s no reason why there should be any problem getting the relief in," said Bradshaw, a former BBC journalist.

"Secondly, this nervousness about being biased. I’m afraid the BBC has to stand up to the Israeli authorities occasionally."

British Muslim leaders also lamented the BBC’s Gaza aid appeal ban as "disgraceful".

"The excuses given by the BBC are simply untenable and the governors need to act quickly before the corporation’s image is irretrievably tarnished," Muhammad Abdul Bari, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), said.

He said the BBC’s aid appeal ban was "a serious dereliction of its public duty".

Mohammed Sawalha, president of the British Muslim Initiative, was also appalled.

"The BBC should be ashamed for its coverage of the Israeli aggression which failed to address the catastrophic suffering on the Palestinian side, and now it’s concerned about its impartiality," he said.

"Never was the BBC impartial throughout this crisis."

The BBC’s news coverage of the Middle East frequently provokes controversy among commentators in Britain.

In 2006, a report by the BBC’s board of governor found that the BBC’s coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is "inconsistent, incomplete and misleading", failing to adequately report the hardships of Palestinians living under occupation.

(IslamOnline.net and News Agencies)

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