BBC’s former Mideast correspondent: BBC is much too pro-Israel

June 22, 2004


1. Former BBC Mideast correspondent says the BBC is far too pro-Israel
2. "And the sun revolves around the earth"
3. BBC's Orla Guerin: Israel behind ill treatment of Iraqi prisoners
4. Greg Philo, making waves
5. No criticism allowed, unless you think media should be more critical of Israel
6. Amputations and beheadings
7. "Daily Tel Aviv"
8. The Guardian says "It's official" BBC is biased in favor of Israel
9. "The story TV news won't tell"
10. PLO admits to breaking AFP journalist's arms (but AFP is not covering this story)
11. The BBC "felt entitled to lie and, when caught lying, felt entitled to defend its lying reporters and executives"


[Note by Tom Gross]

This is a follow-up to yesterday's dispatch on the BBC (The BBC conducts its very own Middle East foreign policy).

Thanks to all those who wrote to me; I'm sorry I don't have time to answer you all. The article has been picked up by dozens of websites. Andrew Sullivan, for example, wrote yesterday on, one of the world's most widely read internet sites on political and current affairs:

"THE BBC EXPOSED: If you missed Tom Gross's astonishing evisceration of the BBC's news operation, go read it now. It's devastating - and completely true."

I mention this because in Britain, home to the BBC, there is a very different climate of opinion, as outlined in the following email.



In an article on BBC Mideast coverage published last Sunday (titled "The story TV news won't tell") Tim Llewellyn, a former BBC Middle East correspondent for 10 years, accuses British broadcasters, including his former employer, of "systematic bias against the Palestinians." The Observer is the Sunday edition of the London Guardian. At 1800 words, this was one of the longest articles in the Observer (June 20, 2004). (I attach extracts of the article below.)

The last time that the Guardian ran one of Llewellyn's pro-Palestinian pieces, ("ITC approval of John Pilger's documentary is a shot across the bows of mainstream Middle East coverage," by Tim Llewellyn, Wednesday January 15, 2003), the Guardian had to run the following note two days later (on January 17, 2003) in its "Corrections and Clarifications" column:

"We should have mentioned that Tim Llewellyn is an executive member of the Council for the Advancement of Arab British Understanding (CAABU)."

CAABU is an Arab-government paid lobby group.

In spite of having to make a "clarification" last time, there were no references to Tim Llewellyn's CAABU connections on Sunday in the Observer.

It comes as little surprise that it was the Observer that chose to run this piece. The Observer, among other things, is the paper that ran as "poem of the week" a poem comparing the Israeli army with Hitler's SS.



But as Melanie Philips wrote yesterday: "To say the BBC is pro-Israel is the media equivalent of saying that the sun revolves around the earth. It is a truly staggering conclusion." (see

It is clear that the BBC and their sympathizers in the British media have learned nothing form the Hutton enquiry's scathing criticism of the BBC's news coverage. (Lord Hutton is an impartial judge, although some BBC staff will no doubt now say he is under the influence of some mythical all-powerful Jewish lobby in Britain.)



Orla Guerin, the BBC's Jerusalem correspondent of recent years, was so anti-Israel (former Soviet political prisoner of conscience Natan Sharansky also publicly called her an anti-Semite) that some say even the BBC felt the need to transfer her from Israel.

Now she is in Iraq. On BBC "News at One" on June 21, 2004, Orla Guerin reported on the American servicemen on trial in Iraq for ill treatment of prisoners. Referring to the Americans' alleged behavior, she said (according to a subscriber to this email list) that it was "undoubtedly learned from the Israelis in their treatment of the Palestinians."

The subscriber adds: Such subjective and spurious slander on the State of Israel, a sovereign and democratic state, is unacceptable and is irrelevant to a report that is unconnected with the Israeli-Palestinian issue.



In his article, Llewellyn makes much play on a new book by Greg Philo and his Glasgow University Media Group, called "Bad News From Israel," which claims systematic bias on BBC and other television in favor of Israel.

Philo is receiving widespread publicity in the UK media, especially on the BBC. For example, last week (on June 15) BBC Radio 3 "Night Waves" program focused on misleading media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet they invited no one to put the Israeli side. The three guests were two BBC editors, and Greg Philo.

Philo also appeared yesterday morning on BBC's flagship "Today" program. The segment of the program was ostensibly going to be about how people do not understand complex political issues. But instead of referring to the way the media doesn't adequately explain issues of vital importance to Europeans, such as the proposed European Constitution, the BBC invited Philo to speak, and, in the words of a subscriber to this email list, "turn the program into an Israel bashing exercise... the BBC is also increasingly using its entertainment programs to bash Israel such as during Ned Sherrin's 'Loose Ends' this past weekend."

In one TV program on the BBC today, a BBC official denied the BBC is pro-Israel, insisting they are fair, for example, by insisting on every occasion that Jewish settlements are illegal and that Israel is an occupier. In other words, the BBC refuses to address its anti-Israel bias but will defend itself against charges of being pro-Israel (no doubt because it knows that in this case it has a defense).

The BBC also gave the allegations plenty of publicity on its website:, followed by a box for reader's comments.



In fact, not only is much of the British, and European, media heavily slanted against Israel, but almost no major news outlet in the UK, will allow anyone to say this.

For example, the British media has carried no articles by those with opposing views to Llewellyn's, such as London lawyer Trevor Asserson. Asserson has co-authored three detailed reports on the BBC, which can be read at (A fourth report will be published next month by Asserson, who is a subscriber to this email list.) Despite offering to discuss his findings on air, Asserson, unlike Philo, has never been invited by the BBC.

Also, until now, no British publication has agreed to print my Jeningrad article. Even when a shorter follow-up piece on Jenin and the media was commissioned by the opinion desk at the Daily Telegraph, the then editor of the Telegraph vetoed its use on the grounds that it criticized British papers for their reporting on Jenin. (In fact, the Daily Telegraph too participated in the lies. One Telegraph news report, for example, said "Israeli troops executed nine men. [They were] stripped to their underwear, they were searched, bound hand and foot, placed against a wall and killed with single shots to the head.")

The Jeningrad piece ( has now been referred to or reprinted in full in six major books, and has been translated by news outlets in Germany, France, and Italy. But it has never been published in the UK. I mention this because Philo and Llewellyn argue the contrary: that the UK media is dominated by pro-Israel sentiment.



Llewellyn's article, while perhaps heartfelt, is riddled with inaccuracies and omissions. I shall not attempt to address them all here. Some may see Llewellyn's views as indicative of the kind of persons the BBC employs as its Middle East correspondents.

If, however, it turns out that during his many years as a BBC Middle East correspondent (from 1976-80, and again from 1987-92) Llewellyn compiled reports on the rights of women and gays in Saudi Arabia, the hundreds of amputations and beheadings carried out during this period in various Arab states, the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, the corruption of the PLO and of Yasser Arafat personally, Arab press freedom, the lack of rights of Christians in the Middle East, and so on, then it might be argued that he balanced his Israel bashing with some other reports pertaining to the reality of the Middle East.

Llewellyn has invited other BBC correspondents to the CAABU. For example, he chaired a meeting for a new book by Jeremy Bowen (another former BBC Middle East correspondent) on 17th November 2003 (

BBC staff helped Philo with his study, too. According to the publicist for Philo's book, "those helping and taking part also included: John Humphrys, Sue Inglish, Paul Adams, Nik Gowing, Sian Kevill, Alan Hayling, Evan Davis and Fran Unsworth from the BBC."



Elsewhere in his writings, on specialist anti-Israel websites, Llewellyn has used much harsher language. For example, he calls Jane Corbin, a BBC presenter, "weaselly" for saying there was a "dispute" over territories like Hebron and the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem's old city, whereas she should just call them "Israeli-occupied". He also calls the Daily Telegraph the "Daily Tel Aviv"; and so on.



Llewellyn speaks alongside Greg Philo and John Pilger (described as an "award-winning investigative journalist, Daily Mirror columnist and producer of the documentary 'Palestine is Still the Issue'") this evening, Tuesday June 22, in London "at the launch of Philo's ground-breaking book Bad News from Israel."

The book is already gaining very good reviews. For example, "The Bookseller" (the magazine of the book trade), writes: "This volume, from the world-renowned Glasgow University Media Group, is a meticulously and scrupulously fair analysis of media coverage of the conflict in Palestine, focusing in particular on TV news."

Another review called it a "superb study".

Naturally it is being praised on anti-Israeli websites such as this one



The Observer
June 20, 2004

Tim Llewellyn writes: "Since the Palestinians began their armed uprising against Israel's military occupation three years and eight months ago, British television and radio's reporting of it has been, in the main, dishonest - in concept, approach and execution.

"... Legions of critics have formed similar views [as mine] and put them to the BBC and ITN, to no avail. In my case, the BBC, who employed me for many years in the Middle East, was no doubt able to categorise me as a veteran journalist who had spent too long in the region, though executives are always polite and prompt in their replies. Even making such criticisms carried the risk of my being labelled parti pris. (BBC producers are instructed not to mention that I was a BBC Middle East correspondent on air, in case my views might be associated with the BBC.)

"... The reasons for this tentative, unbalanced attitude to the central Middle East story are powerful. BBC news management is by turns schmoozed and pestered by the Israeli embassy. The pressure by this hyperactive, skillful mission and by Israel's many influential and well organised friends is unremitting and productive, especially now that accusations of anti-Semitism can be so wildly deployed."

"... The Arabs have little clout in Britain, and their governments and supporters have much responsibility to bear for not presenting their side of the story and for abysmal public relations."

"... The events of 11 September 2001 reinforced this endemic bias. It is easier to invoke Islamic extremism or al-Qaeda or ask why there is no democracy in Palestine than go to the awkward heart of the matter."

"... Orla Guerin, the BBC's fearless and candid Middle East correspondent, drew on herself not for the first time unwarranted Israeli wrath recently when she reported how the Israeli army had kept a Palestinian boy in a bomb belt waiting at his, and everyone else's, peril while the camera crews showed up. She told viewers, 'these are the pictures the Israelis wanted the world to see'. The Israelis did, of course, but they did not want such frank exposure of their cynicism."

"... Israel's hysterical reactions to frank and critical reporting show the uselessness of British broadcasters' trying to appease Israel by constraining and falsely 'balancing' coverage. Spin doctors and media bullies must be seen off whether they are in Westminster or west Jerusalem. Nervousness in London has caused tension between reporters on the ground and their managements as the news teams try to survive the trigger-happy Israeli army, a paranoid Israel government and their own masters' tentativeness."

The full article can be found at:,6903,1242833,00.html
And again at:,2763,1242896,00.html



The Guardian followed up on the Observer's publicity for Philo the following day (Monday June 21, 2004) with a story subtitled "Israeli bias: it's official," by veteran British journalist Roy Greenslade.

Greenslade writes: "... a research study by the Glasgow University media group entitled Bad News From Israel, is being published in book form this week.

"Its findings confirm what so many impartial observers already know... there is a clear bias in television news bulletins in favour of the Israelis... There are also major differences in the language used to describe the two sides, with Israel benefiting from its official statist position and the Palestinians suffering as stateless rebels.

"Most important of all is the lack of context and history... Many viewers told the researchers they saw the conflict as a border dispute between two countries.

"... One 20-year-old interviewee said he thought the conflict was about Palestinian rather than Israeli aggression. He had no idea that the Israelis were occupying Arab-owned land.

"... A study of one week in March 2002, during which the BBC reported that there had been the greatest number of Palestinian casualties since the start of the intifada, showed there was more coverage of Israeli deaths. [Tom Gross adds - many of the Palestinians killed that month, a record month for Palestinian suicide bombing and shooting of Israeli civilians, were not innocent civilians.]

"There were also differences in the language used by reporters for Israelis and Palestinians: terms such as atrocity, brutal murder, mass murder, lynching and slaughter were used to describe Israeli deaths but not Palestinian.. [Tom Gross adds: It is not quite clear which TV reports he has been watching.]

"... What is remarkable about the survey is its comprehensiveness... Lindsey Hilsum from [Britain's very influential] Channel 4 News, says: "...the study does make valid points, especially over the use of the word 'retaliation' when the Israelis assassinate someone, because it's usually the case that Palestinian suicide bombers are retaliating too"..."

[The full article can be found at the second half of,7558,1243416,00.html]



The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (the armed wing of Yasser Arafat's Fatah) admitted yesterday to attacking a Palestinian photographer employed by AFP (Agence France Presse) last April. Three masked men broke Jamal Arouri's arms.

This is the kind of incident that occurs all too often in the Palestinian Authority, but neither Llewellyn, Philo, or anyone else in the mainstream media reports on not even AFP themselves. That is because the international news agencies have unofficially "reached an understanding" with the Palestinian "militant" groups not to do so. Full article:

Aksa Martyrs admit attacking journalist
By Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post
June 21, 2004

The Aksa Martyrs Brigades have admitted that their members were behind the attack on a Palestinian photographer in Ramallah in April. It is the first time that the group has taken responsibility for an attack on a Palestinian journalist.

Three masked gunmen attacked Jamal Arouri, who works for Agence France Press and the Palestinian Authority's daily newspaper Al-Ayyam, as he was parking his car outside his house. Arouri suffered moderate injuries, including broken arms.

At the time, no one claimed responsibility for the attack, and the motive was unclear.

Earlier this week, however, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades an armed wing of Fatah, sent a letter to Arouri in which they admitted that their men were behind the assault and offered an apology. The motive for the assault remains unclear.

The letter came following mediation efforts by the PA Information Ministry and Fatah officials in Ramallah. The PA announced that no legal action will be taken against the attackers since they had apologized and promised not to carry out similar assaults.

The admission comes as the PA is working toward integrating Aksa Martyrs Brigades gunmen into its security forces. Earlier this week, PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei announce that the PA has no intention of dismantling the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, and that efforts are under way to absorb them in the revamped security forces.

The Information Ministry announced that Arouri agreed to drop the charges against his attackers after he received a written apology. It said that since the attackers had apologized, the case has been closed and no charges will be pressed against them.

Deputy Information Minister Ahmed Subuh led a delegation of senior PA and Fatah officials who visited Arouri's family to thank them for agreeing to close the case against the assailants.

The delegation was dispatched to Arouri's village near Ramallah by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, who personally oversaw the investigation, a source in the ministry said.

Subuh told the family that, because of the "extraordinary" circumstances in the West Bank, the attackers will not be put on trial.

He did not elaborate. But it is believed that those responsible for the assault on Arouri are all wanted by Israel, and the PA fears that putting the men behind bars or on trial would make it easy for Israel to arrest or kill them.

The Information Ministry did not reveal the identity of the attackers in announcing the close of the Arouri case, but Palestinian journalists in Ramallah said the three were members of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades.

The beating of Arouri was the latest in a series of attacks on Palestinian journalists and editors in the past few months. The attacks triggered a wave of protests by the journalists, who at one stage decided to suspend coverage of all news related to the activities of senior PA officials, including commanders of the security forces.

With the exception of the Arouri incident, the remaining cases remain unresolved. The most serious attack occurred in Gaza City two months ago, when unidentified gunmen killed Khalil Zaban, editor of the monthly Al-Nashrah and an adviser to Arafat.



Last week, the UK media watchdog Ofcom sided with the BBC (not surprisingly since Ofcom itself is biased). Ofcom criticized American reporter John Gibson for saying that the BBC displayed anti-Americanism that was "obsessive, irrational and dishonest". He also said the BBC "felt entitled to lie and, when caught lying, felt entitled to defend its lying reporters and executives". He pointed out that searching for the phrase "BBC anti-American" into the Google internet search engine resulted in 47,200 hits.

Here is the report on this. It is from BBC news itself, and so is not fully objective.

US channel's BBC remarks censured
BBC News online
June 14, 2004

UK media watchdog Ofcom has criticised US cable channel Fox News over views a presenter expressed about the BBC. Ofcom said Fox News breached guidelines when commentator John Gibson claimed the BBC had displayed "a frothing-at-the-mouth" anti-American bias.

Gibson made the comments on the day the Hutton Report, which found a BBC report on Iraq was "unfounded", was published. Gibson's comments were broadcast on The Big Story: My Word a personal comment section at the end of an hour-long news programme on 28 January.

The Hutton Report into the death of weapons inspector Dr David Kelly contained criticism of BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan and the corporation's "defective" editorial processes.

In his show, Gibson said the BBC displayed anti-Americanism that was "obsessive, irrational and dishonest". He also said the corporation "felt entitled to lie and, when caught lying, felt entitled to defend its lying reporters and executives".

A total of 24 viewers complained to Ofcom that the piece was "misleading" and "misrepresented the truth". Fox News said the basis for Gibson's piece was the fact the BBC had appointed an executive to look into its Middle Eastern coverage.

The network also said searching for the phrase "BBC anti-American" into the Google internet search engine resulted in 47,200 hits. They added that the BBC "continually bashed" American policy.

And although Fox accepted Gilligan had not actually used the phrase attributed to him, it maintained Gibson had paraphrased the BBC reporter.

But Ofcom did not accept the argument that BBC's decision to monitor for "pro-Arab" bias backed up Fox's assertion that it proved an "obsessive, irrational and dishonest" anti-Americanism.

The network also failed to provide evidence that the BBC "bashed" US policy or ridiculed the US president without any analysis, the watchdog said.

Ofcom also said it did not accept that the Hutton Inquiry supported the statement that the "BBC felt entitled to lie". The regulator said: "Even taking into account that this was a 'personal view' item, the strength and number of allegations that John Gibson made against the BBC meant that Fox News should have offered the BBC an opportunity to respond."

A BBC spokesman said: "We have noted Ofcom's findings."

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.