Israeli-Palestinian Impartiality Review,

By email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. BBC Governance Unit,
Room 211,
35 Marylebone High Street,
London,
W1U 4AA

24th November 2005

To the panel,
Ms Tarazzi, director of the Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza and one of the very small minority of Christians still left in the remnants of historic Palestine, said this to me. It is a truism of course. "Dr David. If there is no peace in Palestine, there will be no peace in the Middle East. If there is no peace in the Middle East there will be no peace in the world". I repeat her message often but preface it with "If there is no justice in Palestine, there will be no peace in Palestine .....".

If there is to be justice where none exists, truth must be heard.

These twenty letters (selected from about forty) largely speak for themselves. They show I have not thrown brickbats all the time eg at Mr Barron (E). It was good to be listened to now and again. That the number of letters has diminished does not betray less reason for objection as to perceived bias in BBC coverage of Palestine/Israel. The fact is I could have written most days. I now listen or look at very little BBC output, and largely rely on the web and internet to inform myself.

For truth to be served by our public service and world broadcaster, these are some of the requirements:

  • Context

  • Geographical. The maps contained in (F) from Oren Medicks article should be seen by all viewers when borders, 'walls',withdrawals etc are being reported or discussed.
  • Historical. This is complex of course, but it would be better to exclude some items on BBC News and current affairs rather than to leave most listeners/viewers misinformed -often grossly (Philo).

  • Scrupulous Journalism.
    • Balance. Of time spent with opposing spokesmen, in the depth with which they are questioned and challenged – for instance with historical fact, in environment (Palestinian spokesmen are often interviewed with less good audio and video quality – a frenetic atmosphere is conveyed.)
    • Tone. The matters under consideration are deeply serious, especially to those at the bottom of the heap. El nakba – the catastrophe is exactly that for Palestinians. The presentation cannot be funereal, but it must show respect and humanity – even kindliness. Eg James Reynolds often sounds flippant; Keith Sykes sounds interested in the humans involved.
    • Courage. Having visited the 'West Bank' and Gaza four times (the first time was when I chartered a ship to take food and clothes to Gaza in February 2003 www.doveanddolphin.co.uk) I know the degree of danger, surveillance and threat to which a good journalist might be subject. There is a real risk that the reporter is inhibited in a threatening environment, or by the message left on the phone or slipped under the door.

These requirements must only be a few among the many for a BBC journalist in this most difficult but beautiful part of the world.

The greatest need is for a cleansing of all pre-conception and subconscious 'learned' bias. This might be a good example. One news item (?BBC) about the Rafah border referred to Israeli concern about possible smuggling of arms and explosives. Such concern is understood by anyone familiar with the area and its tensions, but to those with less knowledge the piece it conjures up pictures of at least unreliable Arabs with flashing knives, and at worst, murderous snakes intent on further suicide bombing of innocent neighbours.

The BBC should have the courage and nous to set the following against prejudiced speculation and commentary like the foregoing:

  • Israel has the fourth largest army in the world and one of its most advanced.
  • It receives over $3 billion of aid from the US for weaponry plus additional military support.
  • It is responsible for producing 12% of world armaments.
  • It is has a nuclear armoury of great strength, variety and deliverability. (See letter B p 2)
  • It has just concluded a deal with Germany for delivery of 2 Dolphin class submarines, allegedly with enlarged torpedo hatches to allow egress of nuclear tipped war heads. Discount of 1/3.

We cannot expect such journalistic and editorial balance that a part of the latter should be included with a piece like that from Rafah, but this brings home the often grotesque imbalance of some output from Palestine especially as seen through Palestinian, Arab and Muslim eyes. The imbalance/partisanship becomes that much worse when the news channels omit any mention of the right of an occupied people to bear arms against an occupation force. That is capped with the knowledge that guerrilla leaders have been subject to state assassination by Israel using an advanced fighter/bomber, the F16, and firing the most advanced guided rockets. Collateral non-combatant death is common.

All this means that a seemingly small item in a context such as Palestine, should receive the greatest editorial thought. Otherwise untruth triumphs and 'the catastrophe' is helped to grind on in blood and tears.

 

'Nation shall speak truth unto nation'.
Truth nurtures peace.
The BBC falls short at present.

For justice, reason and peace.

David Halpin MB BS FRCS




A.

Deputy Editor - Today

James Reynolds reported the illegal settlement expansion on Tuesday and we heard the Mayor's arrogant disregard for the law and for the neighbours that his state has brutally supplanted. Please report the destruction of Palestinian homes that is happening in parallel and not many miles over the hills.

I append this report from ICAHD and will listen carefully tomorrow. Such horrors must be reported. You will know that Israel has an association agreement with the EU. Article 2 of this treaty records the mutual acceptance of human rights law. The Geneva rules in regard to occupation are also being flouted. And then there is simple humanity, or the complete lack of it. David Halpin FRCS



April 13th, 2005
Just Hours Before Caterpillar Shareholders Meet in Chicago Caterpillar Excavation Drills Destroy Palestinian Homes in East Jerusalem: Two homes demolished by Caterpillar excavation drills in Anata; demolitions underway in Kfar Akab.

At approximately 8:00 am, less than 12 hours before Caterpillar shareholders were scheduled to meet in Chicago to discuss a resolution concerning sales of bulldozers to Israel, 60 Israeli soldiers accompanied two Caterpillar excavation drills to the Yamani home in Anata on the outskirts of East Jerusalem. The family of 12 was given 30 minutes to remove their belongings from the 80 meter home. It took approximately 30 minutes for the Caterpillar excavation drills to destroy the home along with the animal stable alongside the house.

The home was built three years ago on land owned by the Yamani family with the help of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. It was located in Area C of the West Bank in an area where it is virtually impossible to receive a building permit from the Israeli authorities. This was the reason given for the demolition: that the home was built without a permit.

At around 9:30 am, once the demolition of the Yamani home was complete, the Caterpillar excavation drills moved on to the Dahalia home half a kilometer away. The house has served as the residence for the 22 members of the Dahalia family, 15 of them children, for the past two decades. After an hour, the home was reduced to a pile of rubble. The reason given for this demolition was the same as the first: it was built without a permit (in an area where it is almost impossible to receive permits). Both of these actions violate international law.

As this is being written, more homes are being demolished with Caterpillar machinery in Kfar Akab, between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

To join an action against Caterpillar TODAY, April 13th, or to find out what you can do to force Caterpillar to stop selling home crushing machinery to Israel, visit www.catdestroyshomes.org



B.
*Re. Humphrys - Uranium enrichment in Iran -Today -8.10am 21-11-04*


I protest most strongly at this propaganda for further US led pre-emptive war. The possibility that Iran is producing a nuclear weapon and adapting an existing missile was highlighted with little or no information to oppose it. Most particularly no mention was made of the Israeli nuclear armoury (which is neatly excluded from Al Baradei's inspections because Israel is not a signatory to the NPT). Neither was Pakistan's armoury noted. This country is not a signatory either but of course its military dictatorship is nicely under the heel of the US. Below is the official US inventory of the Israel nuclear armoury. I look forward to your inclusion of the essence of this in any future discussion of Iran's offensive nuclear capability, especially since the clamour for war from the 'neo-conservatives' is likely to grow louder. 'Public service broadcaster' be damned. This rubbish has come from the Pentagon via Downing Street or the FCO.

Exhibit 1: Estimates of the Israeli Nuclear Arsenal
(Source: USAF Counterproliferation Center, Air War College citations)

Estimates from Various Sources:
  • 1967 13 bombs
  • 1969 5-6 bombs of 19 Kilotons yield
  • 1973 13 bombs. 20 nuclear missiles and development of a ³suitcase bomb²
  • 1974 3 nuclear capable artillery battalions each with 12 175mm tubes and total of 108 warheads. 10 bombs
  • 1976 10-20 nuclear weapons
  • 1980 200 bombs
  • 1984 12-31 atomic bombs, 31 plutonium bombs and 10 uranium bombs
  • 1985 At least 100 nuclear bombs
  • 1986 100-200 fission bombs and a number of fusion bombs
  • 1991 50-60 to 200-300
  • 1992 Greater than 200 bombs
  • 1994 64-112 bombs @ 5 kg/warhead. 70-80 weapons - ''A complete repertoire' (neutron bombs, nuclear mines, suitcase bombs, submarine borne)
  • 1996 60-80 Plutonium weapons, maybe >100 assembles, ER variants, variable yields. Possibly 200-300. 50-90 plutonium weapons, could have well over 135. 50-100 Jericho I and 30-50 Jericho II missiles.
  • 1997 Greater than 400 deliverable thermonuclear and nuclear weapons
This was sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. initially

-----Original Message-----
From: David Halpin [mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.]
Sent: 09 January 2005 22:08
To: Today Complaints
Subject: Re: Gross bias in presentation of alleged uranium enrichment in Iran

.................................................
Dear Mr Gavin Allen,
Thank you for your reply. (See below in blue) This is delayed because my computer has been 'hacked'. I did 'listen again' and I agree that Mr Humphrys introduction was balanced. The omissions in the body of the interview made sure that the thrust was the opposite. One sentence would have covered the fact that Israel and Pakistan were not parties to the Non Proliferation Treaty. Another should have said all nations have been obliged to give up their nuclear weapons since the resolution in the UN in 1998. I would not expect you to list Israel's nuclear armoury but it is wholly partisan not to allude to it. As you know, it is not acknowledged to exist by Israel, the UK and US, as well as other friends. However, the facts of it were exposed very well by Ms Frankel's film on BBC2, but late at night. You will be interested to know that Mordechai Vanunu said the following when I asked him what happened when Al-Baradei visited Israel:- 'Sharon took him to a border and played a mind game. He never got to see Damona etc'.

The story was stimulated by a 'walk-in'. The source that was considered to be unreliable later on, and for which there was no independent corroboration, had said that Iran was advanced in the preparation of a nuclear weapon and was making ready a missile to carry it. Anyway, it was all very reminiscent of the 'crock of s...' which Chalabi unplugged for the 'shock and awe' that was to come. You will recall Powell twirling the vial at the UN and all the other palpable rubbish which was used to justify the start of the most terrible crimes in Iraq. I stand by my assertion that the unsubstantiated story was pumped out by the Pentagon, given more speed in Downing Street and then presented by yourselves without any proper context. We are used to that in many spheres and especially in regard to the brutal occupation of the remnants of Palestine.

I will make some comments within the text of your letter. I cannot accept you believe what you are saying. .......................................... Today Complaints wrote:

Dear Mr Halpin
Thank you for your e-mail regarding our interview with the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed el Baradei. I note with particular interest your confident assertion that our report was "rubbish", that it had "come from the Pentagon via Downing Street or the FCO". In light of our rigorous and persistent analysis of the war in Iraq - not to mention the Hutton Inquiry, various resignations and the entire WMD saga - the idea that we're in the pocket of US/UK Government is a curious one, to put it mildly.

Leading up to the war, which BBC propaganda helped justify, the BBC gave about 3% of broadcasting time to those who held 'anti-war' views. The parade of neo-conservative 'hawks' (to use a euphemism) was endless and they largely went unchallenged. You will remember - Perle, Bolton,Wolfowitz,Edelman, Cristol etc etc. It was all very obscene. When you refer to your 'rigourous and persistent analysis of the war in Iraq' do you include the 'embedded' reports from Paul Wood in the early days of the ground based bombardment of Fallujah or the silence that lasted for weeks as to the reality of this murderous assault? I exclude from my comments the work of the lady reporter in Baghdad who bravely does her best in spite of being subject to 'restriction'.

Like the BBC, the IAEA is also an independent body. It works with the UN to promote peaceful technology and I fail to see how its reports - or our neutral coverage of those reports - could be interpreted as "propaganda for further US led pre-emptive war".

The IAEA might pretend to be an independent body but we can be sure of that only when it starts inspecting all nuclear arms stocks. It might even start commenting on the use of 'depleted' uranium sheathed munitions in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq. You know very well that the US calls the shots. Any really independent IAEA would be stopping the further deployment of anti-missile 'defence' by the US.

The status of Israel and Pakistan's nuclear capabilities are indeed of interest, but I'm sure you'd accept that it is not possible to include the entire range of the nuclear debate into a ten minute interview.

I would also urge you to listen again to the interview via our website at www.bbc.co.uk/today. The introduction by John Humphrys begins as follows:

"What IS Iran up to? Has it really been developing nuclear weapons and if so, has it stopped now, as it says? Washington has been deeply suspicious of its intentions. Why else, it says, would the Iranians want enriched uranium. Others say Washington is looking for a reason to attack Iran (one of the countries on George Bush's "axis of evil") and is deliberately exaggerating the threat because it wants a new regime there."

Is that really an unfair assessment? And does "deliberately exaggerating the threat" really amount to BBC propaganda for another pre-emptive strike? I do not think so.

Thank you again for your correspondence

Yours sincerely

Gavin Allen
Deputy Editor, Today

I have come to the view, and with some reluctance, that the BBC is now, on balance, a force for the worst. A scan of the TV and radio schedules reveals mostly banal/prurient stuff. On the current affair side there are nuggets, but they need mining. A good example would be Mike Donkin on World Report at 5.50 today - speaking from Jerusalem. I should like to discuss these things face to face. This world is in big trouble and we need a robustly independent public broadcaster which questions and informs.

Yours sincerely David Halpin FRCS

Dear Mr Halpin,
Thank you for your latest e-mail regarding our interview with Mohamed el Baradei.

I'm sorry you feel the BBC is "a force for the worst" and that our output is largely banal. As with your first e-mail, I cannot agree with your conclusions and do not believe that any independent research would support your assertion that "BBC propaganda helped justify (the war)".

I do not have anything further to add, but note your remarks. With respect, I doubt whether a face-to-face discussion would be a fruitful use of either of our time.

Yours sincerely Gavin Allen



C.
4am-GMT- bulletin - Chairman Arafat's 'house arrest'


You reported that Chairman Arafat 'is being held under virtual house arrest'. Is this simply poor editorial writing or a further example among many of a structured bias in favour of the Israeli government. The description suggests a lesser evil than 'actual' house arrest, as was being applied to Aung Su Chi. In Ramallah, the buildings around the shattered refuge of Chairman Arafat have been blown up by IDF engineers and by tank shells. The foul drainage and water pipes have been destroyed. Communication with his senior negotiator Saeb Erekat required the latter to be taken there by armed Israeli guards. Powerful lights and loud sound have been directed at Mr Arafat and his men some nights. He has been imprisoned illegally and in the most threatening manner. The Sharon government have offered him no choice other than exile if he does not list all the men with him. So this is your editor's 'virtual house arrest'. Would it that he/she be so treated and then report back to us.

The BBC World Service is damaging so many vital things in its continued slide into partiality and actual propaganda. There was another instance in your reporting of Colombia and the visit of President Uribe to Washington. You reported that his government was intent on cracking down on the left wing rebels and the right wing paramilitary forces. You will know very well from your own contacts there that the latter forces are given a free rein by the government and that atrocities committed by them go unpunished.

David Halpin 20-10-04



D.
This a letter of complaint to the Complaints Unit of the BBC 17-08-05


John Humphrys said on Today 01-07-05 'Palestinian terrorists .... have kidnapped two Israeli soldiers'. I suspected this was a slip of the tongue made by a rational and well informed broadcaster who with forethought would have chosen a better noun. However, when I came to 'listen again' to confirm my quotation is correct, I find it printed:- ' 06.37 Palestinian terrorists say they have kidnapped two Israeli soldiers - a claim rejected by Israel.' This is indicative of the 'balance' in much of the BBC reporting coming out of Arab countries, and from the remnants of Palestine in particular. The Martyrs of the Al Aqsa Brigade responsible for the alleged kidnapping would not consider themselves to be terrorists and if they are not attacking civilians it is appropriate to call them 'resistance fighters' or 'guerillas'. These men have seen plenty of death and injury done to Palestinian civilians by the Israeli Defence/Occupation Force. Some thousands have been killed and many, many thousands maimed by all manner of weapons including flechette shells fired randomly into the jam packed refugee camps of both Gaza and the 'West Bank' in the dead of night. I cannot recall the word 'terrorist' ever being applied to any member of the ID/OF, but terrorism it is. An apt slogan circulated; a terrorist is someone with a bomb but no uniform.

Of course the same goes for Iraq where the murderous UK/US/Australian 'liberators' have caused terror and human suffering beyond imagining. There, the 'insurgent' of the BBC has become the 'terrorist' of Mr Bush and most recently of Mr John Reid (Today 4-07-05).

Supposing that the forces of the Third Reich had overwhelmed us in '43. Supposing that 57 years later, 57 al nakba (the catastrophe) years later, the remnants of the British population were coralled into ghettoes in the Black Country and in South Wales. See the map below to see how it feels for every Palestinian remaining in what is left of the homeland. Feel the bottled up anger and frustration. Note that a current map would show even greater loss and fragmentation of land in the 'West Bank' since 2000 as the settlements expand and the wall snakes in and out and onwards. Berlin Radio announces that two members of the Wehrmacht have been kidnapped by British terrorists in South Wales. The occupied British remnants would not accept the description would they? But Goebbels' successor would be happy.

The world is becoming ever more grotesque in its injustice. Using truthful words might help to turn this black tide. Your first duty is to truth, and truth nurtures peace. As your coat of arms proclaims 'NATION SHALL SPEAK TRUTH UNTO NATION'.

Speak the truth.

For justice, reason and peace.

David Halpin FRCS



The ball is in Europe’s court

Palestinian land loss
Oren Medicks
Tel Aviv, January 2005


On that basis, I agree with your complaint and apologise. Neither John nor the website should have referred to "Palestinian terrorists", and I'll ensure the wording on our website is amended.

However I don't accept the conclusion you subsequently draw that "this is indicative of the 'balance' in much of the BBC reporting coming out of Arab countries". It's not - it was a slip and nothing more. Whilst truth is indeed our first duty, slips can occur even within the most closely monitored programmes and we remain committed to balance, accuracy and fairness wherever the geographical location. Many thanks again for your e-mail.
Yours sincerely
Gavin Allen
Deputy Editor, Today



E.

Dear David,
Thank you for this. We will certainly seek to make clear the context and background of the situation concerning Gaza in tonight's film, which gives the Palestinian perspective.

Best wishes
Peter Barron
Editor, Newsnight

-----Original Message-----
From: David Halpin [mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.]
Sent: 11 August 2005 11:13
To: Peter Barron; Averil Parkinson
Subject: The remnants of Palestine in context.

Dear Mr Barron,
Averil copied your e-mail to me. I have spoken and acted vigourously for justice in Palestine during these last three years. I chartered a vessel which carried food etc to Gaza via Ashdod in February. This was the voyage of the Dove and the Dolphin. It led to the foundation of the charity of the same name www.doveanddolphin.co.uk

I have written to the BBC several times asking that maps be shown so that the British and World public can see the territorial effects of al nakba. So often the 'conflict' is presented as an armed struggle between equals. Many of our population are so ill informed that a poll of university students showed a majority believing that the Palestinians invaded Israel! I make a strong plea for you to include the following well known maps in tonight's Newsnight piece showing the Palestinian perspective. These maps were included in an excellent article by Oren Medicks of Gush-Shalom last November - 'The Ball is in Europe's Court'. Incidentally, I have visited Gaza 4 times, and know a good deal about the injuries and suffering there. Our charity focuses its work in Gaza.

Thank you. David Halpin FRCS.


This article adds perspective in Sharon's sleight of hand:

Meanwhile, Israel grabs the rest of Jerusalem
By Hind Khoury International Herald Tribune

THURSDAY, AUGUST 11, 2005
JERUSALEM After more than 38 years of its oppressive military occupation of the Gaza Strip, Israel will soon begin evacuating the few thousand settlers who have been denying freedom to more than a million Palestinians there. Israel has marketed the Gaza withdrawal as yet another historic opportunity to jump-start the peace process. But Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem indicate that Israel's unilaterally imposed disengagement was never meant to start a peace process, but rather to end one.



Dear David,
Thank you for this. We will certainly seek to make clear the context and background of the situation concerning Gaza in tonight's film, which gives the Palestinian perspective.

Best wishes
Peter Barron
Editor, Newsnight

( The map was included. Gaza expanded, but it was there showing the remnants of Palestine in the West Bank. Of course, it required time and explanation, which it did not get. This was Mark Urban's report from inside the Gaza prison. I thought it was pretty straight. David.)



F.

From: David Halpin [mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.]
Sent: 20 June 2005 14:48
To: BH Feedback
Subject: Hugh Sykes' interview re Gaza 'withdrawal' - Broadcasting House
19-06-05 9am
A note of appreciation. It was good to hear rational and kindly Israeli Jewish folk being interviewed. In spite of their prominence in the Israeli Peace movement, they are seldom heard here. Yet Avnery, Keller and Margalit are each excellent writers. The usual imbalance in BBC reporting of the slow genocide of the Palestinian people is generally recognised among people who know the facts. Omission is one aspect of this eg the absence of any map on TV coverage showing the tiny remnants of historic Palestine that still available to Palestinians. May this usher in many more realistic pieces to add to the nuggets of Orla Guerin et al., and as distinct from those of James Reynolds for instance. David Halpin

Roger Sawyer wrote:

Dear Mr Halpin...
Sorry for the delay in responding. I have been away on leave. Many thanks for your email and for your kind comments, although I dispute your assertion regarding the "usual imbalance in BBC reporting of the slow genocide of the Palestinian people". However, I am very pleased that, in this instance at least, you appreciated Hugh Sykes efforts. Yours sincerely,

Roger Sawyer
Assistant Editor
Broadcasting House/The World At One/PM/The World This Weekend
mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.bbc.co.uk/radio4

Dear Mr Sawyer,
I appreciated your replying. Thank you. I heard only one more piece from Hugh Sykes in his PM series and that was good too.

As for balance, there is only one way to report slow genocide. The following is a good test. How many times has BBC TV News or Features shown the map which follows (from an excellent article by Oren Medicks - an Israeli peace worker 'The Ball is in Europe's Court')? The current map would show greater loss of land in the ineptly named 'West Bank'. You know that the Palestinian folk are losing ground both in reality and metaphorically, as day follows day.

What knowledge about Palestinian land dispossession has been imparted to the UK and world populations by the BBC over the 57 years of al nakba? The answer is very little and the ignorance is such that a poll showed a majority of UK university students believing that the Palestinian people had invaded Israel! These maps tell a story which is not told by the BBC. The dispossession and the brutality of the occupation, which I have seen at first hand, is characterised as a 'conflict' - between equals.



G.

Evaporation of any case for a massive military assault on Iraq


Dear Mr Humphrys,
I appreciated your interview with Mr Greg Thielman this am. I had liked his measured responses and professional air when he had appeared on C4 News (I think).

However, he was only confirming what many of us knew for months before the war. We had informed ourselves by listening to people like Scott Ritter and reading analyses such as 'War Plan Iraq' by Milan Rai. We spoke out, we marched, we did every thing possible. In my own case it was a secondary reason for spending about £70,000 of our own savings in chartering a ship and sailing with it to take food and blankets to the cold hungry children in Gaza. That was how strongly I felt about the unreason and hatred spewing from our governments. Anyway, the dogs of war were unleashed and Iraq and its long suffering people descended into yet more suffering and terror.

I guessed that you had no time for the war arguments and having a little fellow of your own probably influenced that. But what of your employer, the public service broadcaster? I believe media analysts showed that of all BBC broadcasting whilst the war drums were beating, only 3% involved people giving opinions against a war on Iraq (the lowest proportion of all broadcasters here and in the US I recall). The other day we were told that Mr Sambrook had sent a memo round requesting that no vigourous anti-war view should be given room. Our gatherings and more especially the speeches given at them got little or no mention. In short the BBC followed the New Labour/Bush agenda and gave very little voice to law, reason and humanity.

The grotesque omissions continue. For instance the jaunty voice of James Rogers from Jerusalem told us nothing of the continuing and slow genocide within the remnants of Palestine. I will leave you with an ISM report sent via Gush-Shalom - Peace-Bloc, the Israeli peace group. The copy is below. No room at the BBC inn for such daily horrors. Instead tell our sleeping population when its all over and the Palestinians have been 'transferred'.

Yours sincerely David Halpin FRCS 13-01-04

Monday, January 12, 2004
ISRAELI ARMY OCCUPIES TULKAREM CAMP

Massive round-up of men, women and children [Tulkarem] The Israeli Army invaded Tulkarem Refugee Camp shortly before 11:00 this morning. Approximately 20-30 military vehicles - APCs and jeeps - rolled into the camp, occupied its entirety and carried out operations in three neighborhoods in the central part of the camp - al-Hamam, al-Nadi and al- Balawni. Four international ISM volunteers, who had received an urgent call in the morning, arrived in the camp at 11AM to find that soldiers had called all men women and children in a section of the camp to come out of their homes.

Soldiers rounded up the residents at a local building used as a daycare, which they had occupied and were using for interrogation. They then separated men from the women and children and sent the women and children over to the UNWRA building, which the Israeli military had also taken over.

Shortly before 1PM soldiers loaded approximately 230 men, handcuffed and blindfolded in to military armored carriers and left the camp.

The women and small children were kept in the streets in the cold and rain from 11AM until approximately 9PM, when they were allowed to disperse. However the women were prevented from reaching their homes by military cordons and were forced to seek other shelter.

There has been Israeli military fire and explosions throughout the day as soldiers conducted house to house searches. One house in the camp caught on fire and Israeli soldiers let the house burn for a significant period of time before they would allow a fire truck to approach the house. Soldiers have not only taken over the camp daycare and UNWRA building, but have also occupied civilian homes, including the home of Abu Ghassan al-Sifareeni, who lives with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren.

Currently the entire camp, home to 17,000 refugees is under house arrest and explosions can still be heard throughout the camp as soldiers continue their operation. Two international ISM volunteers are staying in a house across from UN building, where approximately 20 women and 30 children who couldn't get to their own homes are also staying.

For more information from the camp, please call:
Flo - +972-67-361-708 or +972-64-309-753 or
AbdelKarim - +972-59-836-783
END
INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT 



H.

Sharon the Dove.


I only caught the latter part of the contribution by a lady from Israel this morning but that sounded distinctly complacent and partisan. The Palestinian leadership were on the other hand characterised as being 'angry' with the 'plan'. No rational Palestinian view has yet been broadcast. Hannan Ashrawi would give you one from over there (if there is no power cut) and there are many in the UK who would also. Why not interview Afif Safieh of the Palestinian Delegation.

Perhaps you would prefer not to because the first thing the public would be told is that it was Sharon who torpedoed the pretty anodyne 'Road Map', contrary to views broadcast by the BBC. He has intensified a cruelly oppressive military occupation which is squeezing the life out of a long suffering people in the hope that they will flee - as some are doing for the third time.

Attempt some truth for humanities sake. Hear the farmers of Jayyus whose sheep are starving because the Sharon government prevent them from passing through the 'security wall' into their own pastures. Hear the suffering caused in Gaza by the obstruction to the onward passage of a 40 ft container sent by our charity www.doveanddolphin.com that arrived there on August 16th and which still sits in Ashdod. Hand knitted baby clothes and basic medical supplies like colostomy bags seem to present a problem to the Israelis.

Sharon has deepened the nakba in every way. I attach what I believe to be an accurate analysis of his 'plan' from Gush-Shalom (peace-bloc) which came last night.

David Halpin 19-12-03

GUSH SHALOM pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033 www.gush-shalom.org

Gush Shalom Press Release
Tel-Aviv December 18, 2003

Sharon's Speech: Tissue of Lies and Half-Truths
His "Plan" - Recipe for War and Annexation

"Ariel Sharon's speech of today is a masterpiece of misrepresentation, half-truths and outright lies," Gush Shalom declared immediately afterwards. "The polished formulations are hiding the clear intent of annexing more than half the West Bank, while giving up a few far-away and isolated settlements that are the army consider as a burden."

As examples of blatant untruths, Gush Shalom cites:
  • Sharon: The Road Map demands that the Palestinians eliminate terrorism, and that only afterwards Israel is requested to fulfil its obligations. The truth: The Road Map demands that Israel starts to fulfil its obligations at once, simultaneous with and independent of the steps to be taken by the Palestinians.
  • The Road Map demands from Israel to remove "unlicensed outposts". The truth: The Road Map demand from Israel to remove ALL settlements set up after January 2001.
  • Sharon: The Road Map allows Israel to build inside the "built-up area" of the settlements. The truth: The Road Map forbids any building activity in the settlements. The "built up areas" of the settlements have been planned in advance in such a way that tens of thousands of new houses can be built there.
  • Sharon: Lately we have made life much easier for the Palestinians. The truth: While life was intolerable even before, it has become much worse lately. Almost no checkpoint has been removed, free movement is impossible, and, worst of all, the "separation fence" has cut off hundred thousands of Palestinians from their sources of livelihood as well as from their schools, hospitals, universities and even cemeteries.
  • Sharon: The "separation fence" is necessary for security. The truth: The present path of the barrier is not separating Israelis from Palestinians, but Palestinians from Palestinians, in order to imprison them in more than a dozen isolated enclaves.
  • Sharon: A "contiguous" Palestinian state will be set up. The truth: Between the enclaves that Sharon is creating by the "separation fence" and other means, there is no real contiguity. Sharon promises to connect the enclaves by artificial means like bridges, roads and tunnels that can be cut off by the army at any moment.
The removal of some outlying settlements is demanded by the army, which does not have enough forces to defend them. Sharon uses the promise of their removal as an alibi for annexing practically all of "Area C", which comprises more than half of the West Bank.

[Gush Shalom ad in Ha'aretz tomorrow, Dec. 19,
Hebrew follows English]

DON'T LISTEN TO SHARON'S WORDS - LOOK AT HIS HANDS!
Gush Shalom,



I.

Dear John,
I thought the documentary was excellent. Only at one point did I feel a difference. I think you spoke of Islamic fundamentalists in regard to Rafah but I would prefer to call them simply 'Palestinian resistance fighters'. The public here are seldom told that international law accepts that people can use arms against a military occupation. Attacks/assassination/liquidation of civilians of any hue is another matter though I regard that as being so many degrees worse when the killing is planned and executed by a state with all its trappings of 'democracy'. The Israeli Chief of Staff, General Yaalon, was asked at an enquiry into the refusal of a young helicopter pilot to serve in the occupied territories what he should feel if the bombs or rockets he released killed civilians. This question referred specifically to the guided 1000kg bomb designed to 'take out' an alleged Hamas leader in Gaza on the 23rd of July 2002 and which killed 14 others in the apartment block including 9 children. Over 100 were said to have been injured. He replied that one should simply feel the slight lift of the plane as the bomb left it. Nuremberg awaits.

To Mr John Sweeney 8-11-03



J.

The war of terror in Palestine/Israel


Dear Editors and Mr Naughtie,
I have just returned from a second visit to Gaza to do with the charity I have founded ( www.doveanddolphin.com ). I will not trouble you with the details of the 5 hours I spent getting into Gaza.

Almost all discussion in the UK of the response to a crushing military occupation of the remnants of former Palestine have a surreal quality. Crown Prince Hassan made some fair points yesterday but when any crunch comes Jordan shows it is in hock to the US as in the assault on Iraq. Mr Naughtie, in his interview with the Israeli government spokesman today, tried to question the legal and moral basis for the bombing of the Syrian site but the interviewee resorted to the catch phrase 'war on terrorism' that was so quickly adopted by Sharon after September 11th 2001. To get to some truth in these things you need a series of 40 minute programmes in which solid facts can be laid bare. I will detail a few:
  • Sharon has been and is a terrorist. He was a young officer in the infamous Unit 101 which assassinated people within their villages. The Kahane commission which was set up by the Knesset found that he was personally implicated in the massacre of 1700 women and children in the Sabra and Shatilah camps. In the early hours of the 23rd July 2002 the pilot of an F16 directed a 1000kg guided bomb to an apartment block in Gaza and assassinated an alleged Hamas leader. This man had not been identified, charged and heard. !4 others were annihilated including 9 children. There were about 100 injured. A few hours later Sharon said 'I call this a great success'. I can recall no stories from the surviving family members on the BBC. This act was not carried out by a young woman law student who had lost 2 male relatives and all hope for her people. Instead it was carried out with the complete involvement of the Israeli State.
  • The brutal disregard for international law and humanity exists in many who are in power within Israel. There was a recent hearing of a young helicopter pilot who when trained then said that he would not operate within the occupied territories lest he kill civilians. Yaalon, the Chief of Staff, was asked what he should feel when civilians suffered under his bombs and rockets. He replied that one should only feel the slight lift in the plane as the load departed from it. In a just world where the word 'terrorism' had a universal application this chilling utterance would be sufficient for an indictment before the International Criminal Court.
  • There is the terrible blast, rent flesh and screaming in Haifa. We all shudder and properly condemn it. The western world does not condemn the slow, relentless, spiteful and arbitrary terrorism which is meted out hour by hour to thousands and thousands of Palestinians who ironically never wished or did harm to their Jewish cousins unlike many in Europe.
Several dozen women have given birth whilst being held at checkpoints and about 20 have lost their precious babies. Sniffer dogs are used by the IDF to check the Muslim men who are going to the Al Aqsa mosque on Fridays. The Israelis know that Islam requires them to be clean for prayer and the touch or breath of the dog means the opposite. The taxi driver who told me this had retained his sense of humour and thus his sanity. But he said that 'they find every way to oppress the Palestinian people'. If you have not seen the checkpoints and the queues and the treatment then it is difficult to understand that the occupation is several stages worse than existed in France under the Nazis except that collective punishments involve less individuals.

When you transmit reports from Israel you should say that your reporters are subject to restriction. I know that some have received death threats when they have spoken out. The photographers cannot show a good deal eg. the checkpoints, because they are at risk of being shot. You had the 'temerity' to show a documentary about Mordechai Vanunu and the Israeli WMD programme. You were rewarded by ostracism from the Israeli Government.

Please transmit the truth. It is not a level playing field but instead the most tilted one around. Nelson Mandela said the occupying power does not choose the means of resistance. Let us hear more from those who are occupied and who have had the best land and water smashed from them.

David Halpin FRCS 7-10-03



K.

Prisoner release "road map"


In protesting at the balance of the report from James Rogers broadcast at about 06.10hrs this am I bear in mind that BBC reporters and others are constrained in several ways by the Israeli authorities. I also recognise that he has done his best to report the Palestinian viewpoint as was well shown by the report from Bethlehem which I have just caught.

He did point out that the Paslestinian population wanted to see the release of a majority of the 6000+ prisoners against the 500+ that Sharon has finally announced. He did not mention that most are held without charge or trial (though that begs the question of the proper jurisdiction) and that about 300 are children ie below 18 yrs of age. The BBC has not reported much of what the Sharon government have been doing since its reluctant acceptance of the 'road map' to goad their neighbours into a violent response. For instance on the same day of that acceptance with 14 caveats Sharon was telling the leaders of one West Bank settlement to 'build for their grandchildren and their grandchildrens' grandchildren'.

You discussed the willingness of the Israeli population to allow the release of those with 'blood on their hands'. No mention was made then of the 1:3 ratio of killings or that 1/3 is made up of children on both sides. You always omit to draw any distinction between state sponsored terrorism and that arising directly from the response to an illegal military occupation. The former is equivalent to the suicide bombing of civilians within Israel and I condemn both equally. No Israeli political leader, general or actual perpetrator has ever been arraigned for causing Palestinian civilian death. To take one of the most grotesque examples I cite the guided 1000lb bomb in the early hours of 23-07-02 launched from an F16 (probably with a head-up display kit made in Britain). This assassination of an alleged Hamas leader (no crime in itself anyway) involved the killing of 14 others in the apartment block in Gaza and the wounding of over 100. Sharon was quoted as saying 'I call this a great success' though his government later retracted this. I protested at the later World Service and BBC UK coverage then. I have seen for myself some of the children who have been the subject of the arbitrary violence of a military force that is armed to the teeth with all manner of wicked weapons including shells loaded with 'flechettes'. The UK covered up its 'Bloody Sunday' as best it could but Israel's 'bloody sundays' are too numerous to count though exactly equivalent.

There was a fine irony in your later report of Lord Janner's attempts to seek restitution for the heirs of an oil painting. What of the restitution of a people's land, lives and hope?

As the road map disintegrates down the lines of its folds, it is particularly vital you report the motives and manner of that disintegration in detail and with balance. There is no doubt in my mind that in their yearning for a peace (even with great loss to themselves) the Palestinians have kept well to their path in the road map.

David Halpin FRCS. 6-08-03



L.

The BBC continued to demonstrate its partisanship towards Israel in this piece which contributed little or nothing towards understanding the conflict or its resolution. The choice of this freelance reporter was unfortunate given the poor quality of his objectivity as shown in his analyses of Iraq.

He spoke of Palestinian terrorism but not of Isaeli State terrorism. To illustrate the latter I will append just one day's catalogue of death, injury and oppression from within Gaza and the 'West Bank'. He showed how the settlers carried weapons but made no mention of how they are often used against the indigenous Palestinian population or how when they do kill or injure Palestinian people they are never brought to book. No mention either of the UN resolution calling for withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967 (242). Nor that the Likud Party platform has said 'The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river'.

Your reputation is slithering downwards week by week.

David Halpin 28-03-03 re John Sweeney's report of 27-03-03


M.

I appreciated Mr Humphrys' robust interview of this Foreign Office minister. He exposed a good deal of the sham including the disingenuous restatement of 'the road map to peace' in Palestine which will be regarded with deep scepticism throughout the Arab world. I am in the process of counting up the resolutions that have called upon Israel to withdraw so that those who want to see a just solution there can refer to the 49th resolution or whatever, US and UK style.

David Halpin. 17-03-03



N.

Dear Mr Humphrys,
I have written before about my perceptions of bias towards Israel in BBC reporting of violence in 'Palestine'. Therefore I was heartened by the balance in the report from Barbara Plett in Jerusalem today. It must be very difficult interviewing people like Mr Shaval because they are obviously trained to be adept in evasion. He spoke of Hamas 'terrorists'; he needs to be told that it is legal in international law for a people to bear arms against their aggressors in a military occupation. He knows also that if Israel obeyed UN resolution 1435 (passed in 2000) which demanded 'the expeditious withdrawal of the Israeli occupying forces from Palestinian cities towards the return to the positions held prior to Sept.2000' and 'for the complete cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction' then the terrible reprisals would abate. He spoke of the Israeli support for the much vaunted 'peace process' but nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, there has a been a steady escalation in military assaults within the occupied territories using powerful weapons. You know that much worse has been threatened should Iraq explode.

I have recently returned from Gaza and deal briefly with 'terror' in the first paragraph on the second page of my summary. ** You will be interested to learn that BBC Spotlight and Radios Devon and Cornwall covered our voyage well. Interest was partly caught because my wife and I spent £90,000 of our savings on this. Support has been wide and strong so now there is a total of £28,000 donations! Our story and that of the Palestinians in Gaza will be covered by Jenny Cuffe on Radio 4 in a programme called 'Seven Days' I believe.

David Halpin FRCS 6-03-03

** Extract from first newsletter:- 'We spent the next four days making friends and seeing and hearing as much as we could. The reality of their plight is a good deal worse than one can imagine with the help of the media coverage which is usually shallow and reactive. Our day in Khan Younis ‘beach camp’ hit hardest; two of our party wept. We were taken into the home of one family where a shell had plunged through the tin roof two weeks before and exploded. It was explained that the shell contained tiny nails which I think the military call ‘flechets’. The grandfather was killed, an adolescent boy lost an eye and three younger children showed me the entry scars. One of these had ‘shrapnel’ in a lung and was not a well girl. Such shelling occurred in the night and we were told it was arbitrary. Other times military assaults (‘incursions’) are focussed on houses or shelters where the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) say there are members of Hamas (Islamic resistance fighters). Our media here seldom explain that international law allows the use of arms against the military in a military occupation. The targeting of civilians on either side is of course proscribed in international law. Later at a pedestrian checkpoint we spoke to a Palestinian mother who had come away from her smallholding that lay within the Israeli coastal settlement with her 6mth old. She had been trying to get back to her husband and four other children for 4 days. These are just two examples of violence which feed into the cycle of violence."



O.

Dear Mr Bolton, re 'Sunday'
I heard this and 'listened again' to these segments. Your programme sometimes manages a detached analysis or commentary on the religious beliefs which fracture humanity and this leads me, an atheist, to listen each Sunday. Sadly the drumbeat for war in two countries is shaking your confidence in your power to be impartial. That one of those countries has an established 'Christianity' albeit of one brand is not my point today.
  • The Israeli government has legions of spokespeople whose media skills are obviously well honed. Mr Ron Prosser was a good example. He talked over you and we heard from you 'sorry to interrupt you but ...' whilst he continued to speak of terrorism. May I humbly suggest that you have a few examples of Israel state terrorism or actual war crimes to hand so that you can focus the discussion and attempt balance. A good one among very many is the bombing by an F16(incorporating UK parts) of an apartment block in Gaza in the early hours of 23-07-02 for the purpose of assassinating an alleged Hamas leader; a non-judicial conviction and death penalty was assumed by commentators to be normal for a democratic state. As you know 15 other Palestinian folk died in that attack including 9 children and about 100 injured to add to the 22,000 others since the current intafada started. (Never do I hear any BBC employee remind us and tell the Israeli spokesperson that a people which is under occupation has the right under international law to use arms against its military oppressor.) Anyway Mr Prosser had the last word I think by speaking of the imperative of ensuring that Bethlehem was not a 'safe haven for suicide bombers' when every Israeli action ensures that.
  • I am pleased that you interviewed Ken Baker, the husband of Prof. Mona Baker. I thought he spoke evenly and without any aggression. This is in contrast to the vicious hate mail and even death threats which I know that couple and the Roses have been subjected to since the campaign started. The impression was given that that the latter was foundering and that there was widespread opposition to it in academia here. By chance I saw the Jerusalem Post via the web later last Sunday and noted an article reporting increasing concern in Israel at growing support for the boycott. In the face of a torrent of black propaganda for war it is easy to see a conspiracy but one wonders whether this 'ball' was thrown deliberately in the direction of 'Sunday' with its puncture the aim. Again the Israeli state had the last word but via a supposed surrogate, the Academic Study Group on Israel and the Middle East' or similar, by speaking of those in the Israeli 'left and peace movement' as victims of the boycott and 'their right to ratchet up their concerns'. Of course.
David Halpin FRCS 21-12-02



P.

Dear BBC, Please pass this to the serious complaints department. I have only just learnt that this exists. I have made about 15 serious complaints about bias in particular and had no replies. Since you log them all, I now ask whether you can retrieve these directly or whether I should write or e-mail directly.

To: BBCI This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Sent: Sunday, December 15, 2002 6:15 PM
Subject: Bulletin 10.15 pm 14-12-02 Iraqi declaration re WMD

Your reporter in the US said the administration were taking a 'deliberative' approach to the 11000 pages and then contradicted that by saying that the Americans saw holes in it through which a tank could be driven. In medical circles the use of neologisms can be associated with mania. The use is therefore inappropriate for a BBC news bulletin but perhaps not against a Washington backdrop. No one mentioned the commandeering of the document by the US against the rules of the UN and natural justice. I believe I am right in saying that a war on Iraq was made to sound likely, entirely within the power of the US and not perhaps a matter of great seriousness. This has been usual for many weeks. Your piece had all the hallmarks of a comic strip. In short you give space to bellicose and often wicked statements/assertions from such as Perle/Bolton/Wolfowitz/Edelman with little attempt at questioning by yourselves or the provision of a more rational and deeper viewpoint. Levity is a dominant impression aided in many ways by including words from 'Westerns' such as 'end game', 'game plan'. You know that you are forecasting the terrifying death or maiming of many thousands of innocent civilians. I generally avoid your bulletins during the week by watching C4 News but my sampling leads me to conclude that you continue to plumb new depths in your journalism.

David Halpin 01364 661115 15-12-02



Q.

You reported that Chairman Arafat 'is being held under virtual house arrest'. Is this simply poor editorial writing or a further example among many of a structured bias in favour of the Israeli government. The description suggests a lesser evil than 'actual' house arrest, as was being applied to Aung Su Chi. In Ramallah, the buildings around the shattered refuge of Chairman Arafat have been blown up by IDF engineers and by tank shells. The foul drainage and water pipes have been destroyed. Communication with his senior negotiator Saeb Erekat required the latter to be taken there by armed Israeli guards. Powerful lights and loud sound have been directed at Mr Arafat and his men some nights. He has been imprisoned illegally and in the most threatening manner. The Sharon government have offered him no choice other than exile if he does not list all the men with him. So this is your editor's 'virtual house arrest'. Would it that he/she be so treated and then report back to us. The BBC World Service is damaging so many vital things in its continued slide into partiality and actual propaganda. There was another instance in your reporting of Colombia and the visit of President Uribe to Washington. You reported that his government is intent on cracking down on the left wing rebels and the right wing paramilitary forces. You will know very well from your own contacts there that the latter forces are given a free rein by the government and that atrocities committed by them go unpunished.

David Halpin 01364 661115 26-09-02



R.

Interview with Netanyahu today 5-08-05


I protest at the conduct of this discussion.

  • Is it likely that an interview with this man will help illuminate a path out of the vortex which is Palestine today. That he might be a leader again does not justify his inclusion in your programme.
  • As usual this Israeli spokesman talked over your interviewer, in this case Mr Alan Little. And as usual he got away with murder - literally. His condemnation of terrorism and his alliance of the 'West' in its defeat went unchallenged. Why do you not ask how Mr Sharon and others achieved their aims as young men, what part the current leader played in the Sabra and Shatila massacres and whether Mr Sharon was sane when he described the 'smart' bombing by the F16 in Gaza which killed 15 and injured over 100 as 'a great success'. Mr Netanyahu said that Mr Arafat should be 'taken out'. This invitation to murder a head of state by a past head of state produced no comment from Alan Little.
  • Then Mr Little said he had spoken earlier to an Hamas leader. This man did get some words in but then there was silence. He said that the line 'had gone dead' or similar. What he probably should have said was that the interview recorded earlier had been cut short - reason unstated.
Most of the BBC 'output' on Palestine with a few honourable exceptions is biassed,often grossly, against the Palestinians. One has to ask whether the BBC is doing its duty under its charter. Many share my analysis. I am compiling a log of instances of bias to bring to the board of governors.

David Halpin FRCS



S.

Re: FYI reporting of missile attack Gaza 23-07-02
Sent: Tuesday, July 23, 2002 7:11 AM
Subject: reporting of missile attack Gaza 23-07-02

I write in protest about the manner and partiality of your later reports. I am preparing a broad ranging letter of complaint to the board of governors concerning the continued deterioration of standards in the national and World Service outputs, particularly of 'news'. This complaint will be part of the whole.

On the 2am GMT World Today news we were told that an F16 had fired a powerful rocket into a six storey apartment block in a part of Gaza which is densely populated. At least 10 folk were killed and over 100 injured. The 'target', an Hamas leader, who was alleged to have directed several 'suicide bombings' was not one of those killed. There was a report from an 'independent Palestinian economic World Service correspondent' in Gaza which gave good detail and he was questioned appropriately by the lady newscaster.

At 4am this story of horrific state action was blunted in several ways. The male newscaster spoke of a 'number' being injured and later of a 'surgical strike' ( as a world citizen and as a trauma and orthopaedic surgeon I object most strongly to that euphemism). The report from the Palestinian correspondent had been broken up and shortened and the questioning about this crime tended towards the casual. Play was made of the escape of the sheikh, as if his death would have justified the attack. The 6 storey apartment block with the destruction of adjoining properties of the 2am news had become an attack on a house. I will leave aside the Today 'treatment' at 6am BST save to say that the brief report by James Reynolds was a travesty. I wonder how the BBC would report the raid on Guernica if it happened tomorrow. I weep for those Palestinian families and for the shabbiness of our once great BBC World Service. Bonuses for what?

David Halpin FRCS



----- Original Message -----
From: Max Pearson
To:
Sent: Tuesday, July 23, 2002 9:58 PM
Subject: RE: FYI reporting of missile attack Gaza 23-07-02

-----Original Message-----
From: Veli Radev
Sent: Tuesday, July 23, 2002 8:37 PM
To: Max Pearson
Subject: FW: FYI reporting of missile attack Gaza 23-07-02

Dear Sir/Madam,
Just to put the record straight from my perspective, we make every effort to be as impartial as possible when reporting all events. That is, of course, even more important when dealing with a situation like that inthe Middle East where we know we have a large audience. I am the presenter to whom you refer when you take issue with the coverage at 0400gmt.

I used the phrase "a number of dead" at that time because the facts were unclear. First hand reports from the scene gave a conflicting impression about the number of casualties. We were clear that there were more than ten (later that became more than 12) and used that construction as and when we knew that for sure to be the case. And we made clear that there were women and children killed.

The only reference to a "surgical strike" came in the form of a question to a Palestinian representative, when I put to him what the Israelis would argue was the intention of their overnight operation. It was in no sense the BBC's interpretation of the event.

You might also care to note that during the course of the two hours that I was on air, we spoke to four Palestinians in Gaza and our correspondents in the region who reflected the degree of Palestinian anger at the attack. I also spoke to the UN Secretary General's official spokesman who was outspoken in his condemnation of the Israeli action. The Israeli government did not appear in the programme despite our strenuous efforts to secure an interview. Naturally, we wanted to pursue an aggressive line of questioning with the Israelis about the missile strike but they did not put anyone forward to speak to us. Unusually for the BBC World Service, we "empty chair-ed" them on several occasions by saying on air that they would not put anyone forward to speak to us.

I can guarantee you that, while you might feel we have been unfair towards the Palestinians in our coverage of that tragic event, the Israelis will feel that we have been unfair towards them by giving so much airtime to Palestinian representatives.

If you are able to listen to the programme on the morning of Wednesday 24th of July, you will hear me interviewing a senior Israeli government spokesman on precisely the question on which you put your finger - the management of news in a messy conflict.

Please rest assured that we do try to maintain the highest standards.

Yours,
Max Pearson - presenter, The World Today, BBC World Service Radio. ...............................................................................................................................................................................

Dear Mr Pearson,
Thank you for replying to me. I have written about 10 letters of complaint to parts of the BBC (about bias mostly) since 9/11 and yours is the first response. If you had the time I would like to debate the issues raised by my complaint in depth. But assuming you are busy and that you write a lot of your own copy for World Today can I just say this? I thought you spoke of the dead and then of a 'number of injured'. Perhaps I misheard you but it was that seeming conflict with the 2am 100+ injured which started to raise my hackles. The apartment block did become a house where the alleged Hamas leader was 'targeted'. As you know, the term 'surgical strike' was coined for military warfare as in the Gulf War. To use it in the Palestinian civilian context is to blunt the immorality and illegality of rocket attacks via helicopter gunships or F16s, or attacks via tanks using shells or rockets. By using the euphemisms of the Pentagon you are being trapped in a language which should be excluded from the World Service vocabulary. All the terms like 'end game' anaesthetise the people to torn flesh and whimpering children. You and I know the political leaders are already numb to such things. I would appreciate a deeper discourse but pro tempore would you kindly just answer this. Did you broadcast last night the quoted opinion of Sharon that the rocket attack on the Gaza apartment block was 'very successful'?

Yours sincerely

David Halpin FRCS



T.

Report on Palestine - Today at 6.15 am 16-07-02


I wrote in appreciation of the clarity and depth of your broadcast last Saturday. I write now to protest strongly about the above report made by Mr John Line. He referred to the 'quartet' and the inclusion in it of the 'ally' the United Nations. Since when has the UN been so labelled by a BBC employer. If it were an 'ally' it would surely be difficult for it to sit as one neutral and equal partner when the many resolutions passed by it in regard to Israel have been disregarded by successive administrations of that country since the fifties.

He spoke of Chairman Arafat as being 'booted' and later of him being 'kicked upstairs' into a role without administrative responsibility ( I paraphrase). These are deeply offensive ways of describing a leader of a nascent nation, the life and spirit of which survives in spite of the passivity or downright partisan opposition of all the watching nations. Mr Line has added several insults to the countless injuries.

The bias shown by the BBC against the Palestinian people and in favour of the state of Israel has been the subject of analyses by several media 'watchers' and I believe they have confirmed what has seemed evident to many like myself who take a keen interest in world affairs and our national politics and who depend on BBC radio for information and dispassionate dissection.

It is apposite that the governing body of our once great public broadcasting service are discussing the 'dumbing down' of the BBC tomorrow ( I find the phrase inadequate in power and also self fulfilling). To add bias to this 'dumbing down' in the reporting of affairs in this cauldron is an abrogation of the basic tenets on which our BBC was founded. I have never had the courtesy of a reply to the several letters sent by me since Sept 11th and I know that I am unlikely to receive one now. However I am going to pursue my complaints with the responsible authorities with all vigour.

David Halpin MB BS FRCS 16-07-02