Nureddin Sabir – Redress Information and Analysis Dec 4, 2012

Campaigners for justice for the Palestinian people nowadays expect the BBC to act as a mouthpiece for Israeli propaganda. It is after all Britain’s state broadcaster, and Britain, let us not forget, is the creator, midwife, loyal international spokesman and facilitator of the Jews-only state, working on its behalf from the United Nations to the European Union.

History of complicity

The BBC’s role as a tool of the British state is longstanding and beyond doubt. In 1953 it broadcast the code word that was used to launch the coup that overthrew the democratically-elected government of Mohammed Mosaddeq in Iran. And in 2006 confidential papers obtained by The Sunday Telegraph showed that the BBC allowed the domestic security service MI5 to investigate the backgrounds and political affiliations of thousands of its employees, including newsreaders, reporters and continuity announcers.

Just as well documented is the BBC’s history of bias towards Israel, and the reasons for this bias have long been the subject of serious academic studies, the best known of which is Greg Philo’s and Mike Berry’s More Bad News from Israel. In fact, an independent report commissioned by the BBC’s own governing body concluded in 2006 that BBC coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “does not consistently constitute a full and fair account of the conflict but rather, in important respects, presents an incomplete and in that sense misleading picture”.

Nonetheless, each time the BBC speaks Israeli propaganda unto the world we are shocked, and the morning of Monday 3 December was no exception. The platform on this occasion was a programme called “Start the week“, broadcast on Radio 4 and hosted by the corporation’s former political editor, Andrew Marr.

Straightforward, barefaced lie

The subject of the episode broadcast on 3 December was “the prospect of an Iran with nuclear weapons”. It featured four guests: David Patrikarakos, a writer, essayist and journalist; Shirley Williams, Liberal Democrat peer; Geoffrey Robertson, human rights lawyer, academic, author and broadcaster; and Douglas Murray, Associate Director of the neo-conservative Henry Jackson Society, author and political commentator.

About half way through the programme (22 minutes and 15 seconds, to be precise) the neo-conservative Murray tried to justify Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons by distorting history, and he did so with a straightforward, barefaced lie. He said:

Why does Israel seek to have nuclear power? Because every few years, until it was a nuclear power, its neighbours en masse went over its borders, invaded and tried to eradicate the whole state. Now, you could argue that since Israel has been nuclear its neighbours haven’t tried to do that…

You can listen to the relevant excerpt by using the audio player here.

Given the magnitude of Murray’s lie, one would have expected the programme host, Andrew Marr, at least to challenge him, briefly and without obstructing the flow of conversation, to avoid misleading listeners on such a vital matter of historical fact. All he had to do is observe the BBC’s mandatory Editorial Guidelines, paragraph 3.4.11 of which states: “We must not knowingly and materially mislead our audiences with our content. We may need to clarify the nature of some content by labelling (for example, verbally, in text or with visual or audio cues) to avoid being misleading.”

But, alas, he did not, and nor did any of the other guests. So, the lie went unchallenged and, in the minds of uninformed listeners, probably passed off as “fact” – one more in the pile of myths-cum-”facts” on which the entire state of Israel is founded.

The real facts

Andrew Marr could have asked Douglas Murray about the 1956 war – was the premeditated Israeli invasion of Egypt, which was carried out jointly with Britain and France, an attempt by Egypt to eradicate Israel?

Or let us take the 1967 war: were the Arabs poised to attack and was Israel’s very existence at stake, or is this claim “a big, fat propaganda lie”, as the respected journalist and author Alan Hart put it?

The answer is provided by none other than General Matetiyahu Peled, Chief of Logistical Command and one of 12 members of Israel’s General Staff during the 1967 war. Addressing a political literary club in Tel Aviv in the spring of 1972, he said: “The thesis according to which the danger of genocide hung over us in June 1967, and according to which Israel was fighting for her very physical survival, was nothing but a bluff which was born and bred after the war.”

In a radio debate Peled also said: “Israel was never in real danger and there was no evidence that Egypt had any intention of attacking Israel.” He added that “Israeli intelligence knew that Egypt was not prepared for war.”

A year earlier, on 14 April 1971, a report in the Israeli newspaper Al-Hamishmar contained the following statement by Mordechai Bentov, a member of the wartime national government: “The entire story of the danger of extermination was invented in every detail and exaggerated a posteriori to justify the annexation of new Arab territory.”

And what about the 1973 war? Was the coordinated Egyptian-Syrian operation an attempt to annihilate the Jews-only state or was it simply intended to liberate the Sinai Desert and the Golan Height – territories occupied by Israel during the 1967 aggression? The answer is obvious to any self-respecting journalist, scholar or student of Middle East politics.

Andrew Marr let his audience down by failing to challenge a piece of deliberate misinformation by Douglas Murray, a highly partisan guest on his programme. In doing so he not only breached his employer’s own rules, but also cast a dark shadow over his own journalistic integrity and professionalism.