By Terry Lacey
The decision of the BBC to refuse to broadcast a humanitarian appeal for the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) made of up British NGOs working in the Gaza Strip to help the wounded and homeless of Gaza is one of the most craven acts of political and legal cowardice in the history of British television broadcasting.
In all my years as General Secretary of War on Want, as Chairman of the International Broadcasting Trust, as Patron of the One World Broadcasting Trust, and as a member of the previous Educational Advisory Committee of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, I never came across such a huge political misjudgement as that made by Mark Thompson, the Director General of the BBC. He must resign or the damage to the Corporation will be cumulative and global.
During the Thatcher years when War on Want was in a constant battle with the Charity Commission on politics and charity law there was no parallel to this.
This appeal by the Red Cross, Oxfam, Save the Children, Help the Aged, Christian Aid and World Vision is to raise money for Gaza civilians, especially children.
These are the most professional disaster relief and development agencies in Britain and would not propose an appeal for political effect, but to serve the humanitarian needs of those who have suffered in a war in which 1330 people died and 5,450 were wounded, with the dead including over 400 children, and over 100 women.
The Appeal was already broadcast by Channel 4, ITV and Channel 5. The shots of the destruction of Gaza actually included a voice-over that said, “Today this is not about the rights and wrongs of the conflict. These people simply need your help”.
What has to be done now is quite simple. This is not directly to do with the politics of Israel and Palestine. This is not about the British Government. This is about the BBC.
British taxpayers must demand an end to the television licence as an extra indirect tax in a time of recession. It is unfair on the poor and the unemployed and unjustifiable in support of a publicly backed TV corporation which has become so distant on this matter from the concerns of the public it serves. Unless this is reversed or put right.
This is also an implicitly anti-Muslim and anti-Arab decision. Similar problems did not arise for appeals during earlier conflicts in Central America or Southern Africa. The Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) should take note of this. The London embassies of every Arab and Muslim country should make a report to their governments. Muslim and Arab companies and people worldwide should respond with a boycott of BBC goods and services, until such time as this decision is reversed.
The BBC must offer an alternative if the original opportunity to help Gaza is lost. Those responsible for this decision must be fired or resign.
– Dr Terry Lacey is a development economist who writes from Jakarta, Indonesia, on modernization in the Muslim world, investment and trade relations with the EU and Islamic banking. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.