Monday, April 26, 2010

The BBC's endemic bias against Israel bias (Zvi)

Zvi comments in response to my post on BBC bias yesterday:
The BBC Mideast department has an extreme anti-Israel bias, which gets injected into every story that they write about Israel and which shows up strikingly in the headlines and story selection on their web page.

I once did a a non-scientific study based on their headline word selection ("war crime", "massacre", etc.), active accusations against specific parties vs. passive voice headlines, and to an extent, story selection. Essentially, I was trying to determine whether the bias that I perceived was in fact a general bias against the region, or a specific bias against Israel. I assigned numerical values to headlines based on such criteria. After tracking the site for months, it was apparent that there was a strong, constant bias against Israel by the mideast dept. There were only a handful of positive headlines in all that time, and most were attached to stories that were apparently written by other departments (sports, science, medicine, for instance). There was a less extreme bias against Iran. There was distinct bias in favor of Saudi Arabia. Egypt was mostly mentioned in headlines only in the context of accidents. Iraq was a bloody mess at the time, but was usually portrayed as a victim. The Palestinians were nearly always shown in a positive light. If Hamas did something wrong, its actions were nearly always anonymized in the headlines, or the headlines talked about Israel's responses rather than the attacks that caused them.

A much simpler selection bias that I've noted relates to THE BIG PICTURE image on the Mideast page. This one does not require a lot of effort to track, but of course it only provides one data point out of many. Following the BIG PICTURE images since their inception, the number that humanized Israeli Jews is vanishingly small. There are numerous pics that show Arabs, especially Palestinian kids. When Israel pictures are included, they seem to focus on either Israeli Arabs, Israeli soldiers or (bizarrely) animals in Israeli zoos.

And you have only to read the BBC's Shalit FAQ to understand that there is a strong bias here against Israel - strong enough to ignore an unabashed war crime, strong enough to ignore the non-Palestinian roots of the Army of Islam and the fact that they kidnapped Alan Johnston and held him for ransom, strong enough to focus on bashing Israel rather than on the topic that the FAQ purportedly explains, strong enough to completely ignore the strong human elements of the Shalit story and claim that the situation is only important because "Israel is a highly militarized society" etc.

The consistent pattern is that the BBC avoids humanizing Israeli victims. It only humanizes their attackers. It avoids humanizing Israeli soldiers, preferring to accuse them of war crimes.

I would love to find out that the BBC has read this and, in order to prove me wrong, evened out the bias.

But it won't happen.

The BBC has hypocritically, and with extreme prejudice, prevented a report on its culture of anti-Israel bias from being read by the public who fund the BBC.

The BBC Shalit FAQ is indeed remarkable, in that the entire medium-sized article is oriented to bashing Israel. It goes into some detail on supposed Israeli disproportionate reactions to Shalit's capture and not a word about the many violations of international law that Hamas has committed concerning Shalit: taking a hostage, not allowing the Red Cross to visit, using him for propaganda purposes, not allowing regular mail communication, and violating the right to know his location, to name a few. The fact that an article purportedly meant to be a definitive backgrounder about Shalit ignores his own human rights and the war crimes that the Gaza government has committed concerning him speaks volumes about how the BBC perceives the Middle East.