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Arrogant Angles: the BBC, Israel, the Vanunu Show and Dr David Kelly
Last uploaded : Tuesday 22nd Jul 2003 at 22:21
Contributed by : The Editor


Update 27 July: We recommend the following articles to accompany this editorial:



Those who have been following the Israeli actions against the BBC will feel little sympathy for Andrew Gilligan or for the Corporation as a whole as they are pilloried in the wake of the Dr David Kelly tragedy.

In recent weeks Israel has made it clear to the BBC that its unbridled freedoms in the Jewish State will be curtailed due to the charges made in a documentary about Mordechai Vanunu. I watched the programme in March and immediately complained to the BBC about its bias; what I found disturbing about the style of journalism employed was the undertone of ?Israel the rogue state not being challenged by the Americans whilst they go after Iraq .?

The staggering story of the death of Dr David Kelly has dominated the British news since the story broke on Friday 18th July. I had watched Dr Kelly being savaged by the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee and felt desperately sorry for him, although I wondered how such a senior UNSCOM inspector and high-powered arms expert could be so timid under interrogation. Indeed, the papers were cruel on the following day, even mocking Kelly as a dead-ringer for mass murderer Dr Harold Shipman. Tragically, we were to learn a few days later that these parodies devastated Dr Kelly and contributed to his despair. In his final hours he is reported to have sent an e-mail to Judith Miller of the ?New York Times? describing ?many dark actors? playing games.

What has so intrigued the nation is the part the BBC played in this dark saga. In today?s ?Independent? there is a report that Dr Kelly, one of the world?s most respected experts on weapons of mass destruction, talked to no less than three BBC journalists in the lead-up to several television and radio programmes that told Britain about the ?sexing up? of the crucial September 2002 intelligence dossier on WMD. Andrew Gilligan, who, along with his employers, the BBC, has now confirmed that Dr Kelly was his main source, having withheld this admission. Although it was, in this editor?s opinion, unwise for Dr Kelly to have gone to the press to suggest that Downing Street had tampered with intelligence reports (in previous decades he would have been finished had his indiscretion been exposed), it must have been agony for him when the BBC resisted the call to name its source. Journalists consider sources sacred and work throughout the free world under a universal code to protect our sources. However, there is now suspicion that Gilligan may have ?sexed up? his own report about government interference in the dossier. This may be why Dr Kelly appeared so equivocal during the punishing inquisition by Parliamentarians.

How does this fit in to my own personal rage -- and Israel's fury -- at the BBC's misrepresentation of Israel in its March Vanunu feature?. Most recently Dan Cruickshank's biased series about the Holy Land was a lamentable one, and last year many were incensed by the BBC series 'It Ain't Necessarily So' in which (our interpretation) Jeremy Bowen was trying to tell the world that the Jewish Bible is just myth and therefore does not justify Jewish statehood.

In the context of the Kelly tragedy, it is emerging that Andrew Gilligan?s poetic license may have been as upsetting to the scientist as was his grilling by his superiors and by the Parliamentarians. Peter Mandelson MP has today referred to Gilligan as a ?loose cannon;? this description could be attached to the legion of reporters who fly out to Gaza and within hours are spluttering with breathless fervour on live BBC television about Israeli brutality. If it is proven by the Official Inquiry that Kelly?s name was ?outed? by the Ministry of Defence with the approval of Downing Street, Defence Minister Geoff Hoon and the Blair government will be seen by the public as having unduly humiliated a civil servant. Conversely, one would have to be a Martian not to have registered that since early 2002 the BBC has gone out of its way to lean towards the anti-war bloc. The HMS Ark Royal is reported to have removed BBC News 24 from the ship because the servicemen and women were feeling demoralised by the cynical reporting during their deployment in the Gulf.

Another disturbing example of the arrogant angles taken by BBC journalists was the documentary aired in May on the ?Panorama? strand that chronicled the sinister world of the ?neo cons? (neo conservatives) in the Bush Administration. Instead of examining the effect of Evangelical Christianity on President Bush, the programme set out to expose a large conspiracy of Jews dominating the Administration. Watching the faces of Richard Perle, Bill Kristol and other Jewish supporters of the Administration?s policies as the interviewer suggested they were part of a ?mafia? made one realise how little Americans -- left or right wing -- comprehend the magnitude of distortion and suspicion with which Europeans still hold towards Jews. The programme also purported -- as do so many British journals -- that Bush is driven by extreme Zionists. I bet Perle, Wolfowitz, Kristol and Feith haven?t been on an extended trip to Eretz Israel in a long time. I bet they are not sitting glued to Arutz Sheva. I bet Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, Powell, Rice and Card have an infinitely more powerful influence on the President than do the ?Zionist cabal? of the BBC?s documentary.

The BBC, in making such representations of American Jewish officials in high places, perpetuates the anger and resentment held by so many non-Jews around the world. I have even been moved to telephone them to warn that their wild assertions could arouse violence amongst disaffected young Muslims in Britain?s crowded urban enclaves.

Am I biased? Yes. I should not be. I am a journalist and should be reporting rather than condemning. However, the BBC has been responsible for countless reports from Israel that misrepresent that tiny state and that show only brutality and military confrontation. I have yet to see any major BBC 'on the ground' reporter do a special segment about the Habima Theatre or Weizmann Institute. Greater Israel is never seen on the BBC.

In the Vanunu special it was suggested by the BBC that Israeli forces use chemical gases against Palestinians. (I'd love to know how much truth there is in this.) When I watched the programme in March I could not get anyone in my circle excited enough to phone the BBC. But my instincts were correct: after its recent transmission Israel took the unprecedented view that the BBC?s journalists will no longer be given carte blanche when press privileges are being distributed. In our view this is not censorship but an admonition to news agencies to report factually or suffer penalties. Whatever Downing Street?s and the Defence Ministry?s failings in the Kelly affair the BBC?s anti-war stance appears to have clouded the care its journalists must take in reporting state-inspired misdemeanour. It is the duty of investigative journalists to expose state deception, but having been monitoring the tangents on which BBC reporters embark when reporting Israel?s struggle against unending terrorism we suspect Dr Kelly was a pawn in the network?s arrogant crusade to discredit the war camp.

Now a man is dead and a Prime Minister is under fire as the BBC stumbles through a crisis that is far from over. The Lord Hutton is to set up a formal enquiry and we understand Gilligan will ?not be reporting in the foreseeable future.? If the result of this government crisis is a moment of truth for the arrogant elements in the BBC it will be a mitzvah felt far beyond the shores of Great Britain.

To read the latest editorials on the Kelly story:







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