Jewish despair as Queen Elizabeth set to honor the BBC’s Orla Guerin

April 21, 2005

* Jewish despair as Queen Elizabeth II set to honor the BBC's Orla Guerin with an MBE


[Note by Tom Gross]

The BBC's Jerusalem correspondent Orla Guerin (one of several the BBC keeps in the city) is regarded by many as the most anti-Israeli journalist reporting from Israel today.

Her revulsion for the state of Israel has been documented on several occasions and she has been criticized publicly by other British journalists for her partiality.

Referring to Guerin, Israeli government minister Natan Sharansky last year asked the BBC why they employed a correspondent whose reporting "smacks of anti-Semitism."

In 2002, a columnist in the (London) Daily Telegraph said Guerin and two other British correspondents in Israel were "doing the work of Goebbels without bothering to wear the brown uniform identifying their agenda."


One of Guerin's reports later that year was titled "How the Israelis Stole Christmas."

The (London) Evening Standard, which interviewed Guerin in 2003, said she "questioned Israel's claim to be a democracy" and "compared its press freedom with Zimbabwe's."

Several times, the BBC has had to "clarify" Guerin's reporting after complaints.

According to a senior British journalist, after the Hamas leader in Gaza Dr Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi was killed by Israel last year, Guerin's report was removed from the BBC website after even the BBC regarded it as unduly favorable to Rantissi.


Now, on the recommendation of Tony Blair's government, the British Queen is to honor Guerin with an MBE (Member of the British Empire) for her "outstanding service to broadcasting."

Dublin-born Guerin is an Irish national and it is rare for a foreigner to be given an MBE. A spokesman for the BBC said: "We are delighted that Orla will be awarded an honorary MBE."


Now living in Jerusalem, with her Arab husband, Guerin has covered the Middle East for four years. She recently said one of the most memorable moments of her career was Arafat's funeral

She stood unsuccessfully as a candidate for the Labour party in Dublin at the European elections in 1994.

Yesterday and today, Guerin and the BBC refused to answer questions about her award from Jerusalem Post journalists. I attach two items below.

-- Tom Gross



This is an extract from concerning Guerin's reporting of the double suicide bomb in Tel Aviv in January 2003:

"The shameful Orla Guerin excelled herself on tonight's BBC News. Reporting on the murder of 22 people by Palestinian terrorists, she concluded her report thus: 'But for the Palestinians it never stops; 50 of them killed by the army each week'. So grotesquely biased is Ms Guerin that she is unable even to report on a clear, straightforward example of Palestinian terror without finding a way of including dubious at best Palestinian propaganda and insinuating that it Israelis are only getting their just deserts."



Israel 'shocked' at BBC reporter award
By Herb Keinon
The Jerusalem Post
April 21, 2005

Israeli officials expressed dismay this week that BBC reporter Orla Guerin, who has come under sharp attack for what some perceive as an anti-Israeli bias in her coverage, will receive an MBE honor from the British government for "outstanding service to broadcasting."

Diaspora Affairs Minister Natan Sharansky, who last year wrote a formal letter of complaint to the BBC over Guerin's coverage, said it is a pity that a lack of anti-Semitism was not a criterion for the award.

If it were a criterion, he said, Guerin would not be receiving the honor. The MBE stands for Member of the British Empire, one of a number of honors issued each year by the Queen.

"It is very sad that something as important as anti-Semitism is not taken into consideration when issuing this award, especially in Britain where the incidents of anti-Semitism are on the rise," Sharansky said.

Guerin, when contacted Wednesday, would not speak without receiving permission from her home office in London. A phone query to the BBC offices in London, followed as requested by an e-mail with a short description of the line of questioning, did not yield a response from either the BBC or Guerin.

According to the Sunday Times, the 38-year-old Guerin will be presented the award by Baroness Symons, the minister of state for the Middle East in the British Foreign Office. According to this report, Guerin who has spent 10 years reporting from war-torn countries was to receive the honor last year, but the ceremony was postponed so she could report from Ramallah on Yasser Arafat's funeral.

In addition to Jerusalem, she has also reported from Kosovo, Grozny, Moscow and the Basque country.

One Israeli official, who responded to the news by saying he was "shocked," said Guerin is among the most anti-Israeli journalists reporting from Israel today.

According to this official, granting her an award fits into a pattern that began in 2003 when the United Kingdom's Political Cartoon Society awarded Dave Brown of the Independent its "cartoon of the year" award for a cartoon he drew depicting a naked Ariel Sharon biting off the bloodied head of a Palestinian child.

"It seems if you are anti-Israel, you will get an award," the official said.

Last year, in response to one of Guerin's dispatches about Israel's capture of a mentally challenged 16-year-old would-be suicide bomber, Sharansky wrote the BBC that it employs a "gross double standard to the Jewish state" that smacks of anti-Semitism.

Sharansky protested that Guerin, in her report, portrayed the event as "Israel's cynical manipulation of a Palestinian youngster for propaganda purposes." He said this "reveals a deep-seated bias against Israel. Only a total identification with the goals and methods of the Palestinian terror groups would drive a reporter to paint Israel in such an unflattering light instead of placing the focus on the bomber and the organization that recruited him."

The report, he said, "has not only set a new standard for biased journalism, it has also raised concerns that it was tainted by anti-Semitism."

In his letter, Sharansky quoted Guerin as describing to viewers how the IDF "paraded the child in front of the international media," then "produced" the child for reporters, "posed" him a second time for the cameras, and then "rushed him back into a jeep."

Likewise, the Evening Standard, which interviewed Guerin in 2003, wrote that she "questioned Israel's claim to be a democracy, compared its press freedom with Zimbabwe's and accused its officials of paranoia."

During that interview, Guerin - referring to a period that year when Israel refused to cooperate with the BBC - said "I can't imagine any other government thinking like that - Zimbabwe is the comparison. I'm absolutely stunned that they think it's appropriate."

"Israel talks regularly - at this point, in my view, with less justification - about being the only democracy in the Middle East," she said. "But how can you still be a democracy and try to harass the press? This is not how a democracy behaves."

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