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Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The BBC’s Conspiracy of Silence Over Palestinian Hunger Strikes

The BBC’s Apologised for Allowing Jimmy Saville to Roam Broadcasting House

It Should Apologise for Acting as a PR company for Israel's military child abusers


For nearly 40 years the BBC allowed Jimmy Saville and his friends prey on children in its studios.  Saville, a media creation of the BBC without any discernible talent whatsoever, presented Top of the Pops, where had had and took advantage of many young people.  And as a result Saville gained access to institutions where children and young people lived in order to perpetrate his crimes.  Like the Palestinians, children are powerless and the BBC's mission is the protection of the powerful.

For 40 years the BBC covered up the Saville Scandal.  Mark  Thompson, the former Zionist BBC Director General, was twice informed and did nothing.  George Entwistle, his unlamented successor, together with Helen Boaden (who is now Head of Radio instead of Current Affairs) put the screws on to prevent a Newsnight documentary on Saville being broadcast.  However this time, its commercial rival ITV gained access to the story and the BBC’s belief that it was a law unto itself had to give way.   The first excuse for censoring the BBC documentary was that it was an ‘editorial judgment’ in other words, far too subjective to be the subject of analysis.

The BBC doesn’t do apologies unless they are forced to.  The Saville revelations forced the resignation of Entwistle and should have lead to Boaden and other creatures departure.  Unfortunately she has been shifted sideways.  The Palestinians have no such means of exerting pressure.  Much of the liberal left in Britain is still starry-eyed about the BBC even though it is a far more dangerous opponent than say Fox News, because it is believed to be independent.  Only when a mass campaign not to pay one’s licence fee takes off, will the BBC finally be under pressure to be accountable to those who watch it.


The consistent one-sided bias of the tax-funded BBC outrages most supporters of the Palestinians.  Why should Mark Regev have unrestricted access to the BBC in times of crisis, unlike his opponents, who do not have a slick command of English.  Why does the BBC always portray a struggle against occupation as Israeli ‘retaliation’.

The answer to this is simple.  The BBC is quintessentially an organisation representing the interests of the British establishment.  If the British government were to become less pro-Zionist or find itself in conflict with the Israeli government, then the BBC would also shift its position.  The memory of the Hutton Report into the BBC and Iraq, when reporter Andrew Gilligan made mention of the ‘sexing up’ of the secret dossier on the ‘weapons of mass destruction’  is still vivid.  Its Director-General Greg Dyke was forced to resign.  Gavin Davies, BBC Chairman, also fell on his sword. 

Hutton’s Report was, as one would expect of a Unionist Judge, based not on the evidence presented but  on the assumptions he made as to the role and loyalty of the BBC when the British establishment (or part of it) went to war.

Hostility to the working class and strikes and disputes has a long tradition in the BBC, going back to when its first DG, Lord Reith, refused to allow the Archbishop of Canterbury to broadcast to the nation during the General Strike of 1926 because he intended to plea for a compromise whereas the government of Stanley Baldwin was going hell for leather to crush the strike.

None of this is to excuse the criminal behaviour of the BBC in refusing to report the Palestinian hunger strikers.  If they had been Russian dissidents in the Soviet Union or Iranian hunger strikers today then the BBC wouldn’t have hesitated to report.


Below are reports on supporters of the hunger strikes who held a picket last Monday 18th February outside the BBC.


Tony Greenstein


On 11th January, we protested outside the BBC at its refusal to cover the plight of Palestinian hunger strikers. We delivered a letter to the BBC asking for an explanation and a change in policy, the letter (reproduced below) also included a passionate message from Um Ra'fat, the mother of Palestinian hunger striker Samer Al-Issawi.

    Tim Davie
    Director General BBC

    Dear Mr Tim Davie

Today is Palestinian political prisoner Samer Al-Issawi's 169th day on hunger strike, and fellow prisoner Ayman Sharawna having been on hunger strike nearly 6 months before suspending his strike for a week is once again fasting for his freedom. Both prisoners are being held by Israel without charge or trial. According to the internationally brokered deal to release captured Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit both Sharawna and Issawi should be free men today but Israel reneged on its agreement and rearrested both men after Shalit had been released.

The BBC describes its mission as one to "inform" and "educate" and the news in particular is described as "providing trusted World and UK news.." so why have you not covered their story and those of fellow Palestinian hunger strikers?

The search engine Google has indexed over 21 million articles from the BBC website yet it returns no results from the BBC for Samer Issawi or Ayman Sharawna. Neither prisoner has ever been mentioned by the BBC - those 21 million articles.. empty of any reference to Palestinian hunger strikers Issawi and Sharawna, both nearing death after nearly six months without food.

If we do a quick search on Google for "Gilad Shalit" it brings back around 1,120 articles from the BBC which includes around 50 articles from 2012! Shalit was released over a year ago in October 2011 and yet he is still news worthy for the BBC. The last article on him by the BBC is from October 18th 2012 - a special on the anniversary of his release!

The Shalit release anniversary article reports of his "ordeal", the "psychological effects", "trying to come to terms with his fame" the ordeal of the media following "his first bicycle ride after he returned home.. [his] trip to Paris to visit President Nicholas Sarkozy and a meeting with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.. at a concert of the popular singer, Shlomo Artzi, who dedicated a song to him; at various sports events and on the set of the US television drama series, Homeland.." Contrast this 'ordeal', which is newsworthy for the BBC to report, to the ordeal Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike are going through TODAY.

Just two weeks ago Samer Al-Issawi, a wheelchair bound skeleton of a man barely breathing after 140 days without food, was brutally attacked by Israeli guards in the courthouse in front of an Israeli judge, who didn't intervene, as guards punched the dying man in the head and chest resulting in broken ribs. They then attack his mother and sister, all this in front of the cameras - captured on video ready for any news channel to broadcast.. but not the BBC - your mission to 'inform' and 'educate' apparently doesn't extend to Palestinians? An emaciated dog that has lost half its weight due to being abandoned is afforded an article by the BBC which includes a large colour photo, but not Samer Al-Issawi who after 169 days without food has lost more than half his body weight, not even one mention of his name. Why?

The BBC is principally funded by television licence fees - 82% in 2011 ( £3.6 billion). Such blatant bias by omission in its reporting is unacceptable and we as TV licence holders demand the BBC follow its remit to inform and educate by covering the issue of Palestinian hunger strikers.

We have received a message from Palestine, from the mother of Samer Al-Issawi to the BBC which we have included below.

A Mothers Message To The BBC

My son Samer Al-Issawi, 33, a Palestinian prisoner in an Israeli jail and been on a hunger strike for 169 days. His only demand is freedom after the Israeli occupation broke the deal that liberated him, and re-arrested him for no reason, without any charge.

Samer Issawi's is in a very critical condition and has sustained fractures in his rib cage as a result of an assault against him a few days ago in the courtroom by Israeli soldiers only because he wanted to touch his mothers hand.

    The reason for writing this letter is that we know that the role of the media especially the BBC & CNN is very important to highlight the plight of our son Samer.

    Um Ra'fat, Mother of Palestinian Hunger Striker Samer Al-Issawi


    We would like a reply, thank you.
    Yours sincerely
    ..
After nearly 5 weeks we still have not received any reply from the BBC. Not only have they not replied, they have not even had the courtesy to sent us an acknowledgement of receipt of the letter. As the BBC prevented us from entering the building to personally hand the letter to the Director General Tim Davie it was given to the Duty Facilities Manager of BBC Workplace who later confirmed to us via email that she had handed it to the Director Generals Office.

Mothers letter to BBC is ignored

The BBC is still enforcing a reporting blackout on any coverage of the Palestinian hunger strikers. Still no mention of hunger strikers Samer Issawi or Ayman Sharawna who is now 7 months without food.

Both Samer and Ayman are dying. They have shown unbelievable strength in resisting their oppression. The very least we can do is give voice to their heroic resistance, to their hunger strike. We need to ensure the media is shamed in to covering their story. Publicity for their plight is the first step towards their liberation.

Facebook Event Page

Faceboook - Boycott Israel page

Palestinian Prisoners Campaign

The Palestinian Prisoners Campaign aims to raise awareness for the plight of Palestinian prisoners and build solidarity for their struggle and work towards their freedom. The campaign was launched by Innovative Minds (inminds.com) and the Islamic Human Rights Commission (ihrc.org) on the occasion of Al Quds Day 2012 (on 17th August 2012), since then we have held actions every fortnight in support of Palestinian prisoners, if you can spare two hours twice a month then please join the campaign by coming to the next action.

See also Israeli lies unchecked, Palestinian perspectives censored on BBC, Amena Saleem, The Electronic Intifada, London 24 August 2012

Also bearing in mind that the weapon of the hunger strike, the last weapon of the defenceless, was used by the Irish hunger strikers in 1980/1 led by Bobby Sands, who was elected to the British House of Commons.

Former Irish Hunger Striker to Samer Al Issawi "Stay Strong" "Stay Strong"


It is with great sadness I learned the emergency hearing held yesterday in Israeli court for Palestinian Hunger Striker Samer Al Issawi has once again seen his request for release denied.  This man has been illegally imprisoned under so called “Administrative Detention” without charge or trail and is now on day 211 without food. It has now been reported that he is to remain in prison until at least March 14 when his next hearing is scheduled. This is very distressing as his physical condition is currently very critical and growing more dangerous each day. I understand that his poor Mother Um Ra’fat collapsed upon hearing the court’s decision today, my heart and solidarity goes out to her and to his sister Shireen and his brother Shady who was also arrested 2 days ago without charge.

When I recently read Samer’s published letter from Prison it brought me right back to when I was also on hunger strike alongside our great hero Bobby Sands who was the first of ten men to die.  Samer said in his prison letter: “There is no going back, only in my victory” This reminds me of the words of Bobby Sands when he said “We must see our present fight right through to the very end.

Our Martyr Bobby Sands wrote the following words when he was also in Prison and when he had begun the Hunger strike. These prophetic words could today describe Samer’s struggle and the current situation in Palestine with more than 4000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.  Bobby said; “I am a political prisoner because I am a casualty of a perennial war that is being fought between the oppressed Irish (Palestinian) people and an alien, oppressive, unwanted regime that refuses to withdraw from our land.”

To Samer and all his comrades “stay strong.” I think Israel should learn from the Irish struggle and take heed. They should remember what Margaret Thatcher the former British Prime Minister once said to us.  She claimed the Irish Hunger Strike was our “Last Card”   as she let ten of my comrades die.  She thought she had won. Yet today, as I travel the world as a former Prisoner, former Hunger striker and an elected MLA, I know who is remembered, and who is forgotten.

Free Samer Issawi,  Ayman Sharawneh, Jaafar Ezzedine, and Tarek Qa'adan

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