BBC’s Panorama defends Israel’s flotilla massacre

The BBC’s latest piece of pro-Israel propaganda is an insult to the brave volunteers who were murdered on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, and has provoked a storm of protest among decent people.

Proletarian writers

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Proletarian writers

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No informed viewer could fail to have been disgusted by the blatant bias shown by presenter Jane Corbin during the BBC’s ‘Death in the Med’ edition of Panorama that aired in August.

The amount of airtime and credence given to Israeli lies throughout the programme was shameful. Viewers were constantly asked to identify with the Israeli soldiers, whose lies about the peace activists on board the flotilla were repeated over and over again, without any serious questioning.

The Israeli forces’ ‘right’ to board the ship was likewise never questioned, nor was their use of the word ‘terrorist’ to describe the volunteers on board the boats. Not one of the British volunteers and journalists on board the Mavi Marmara was asked to take part in the programme.

Although she felt the need to talk about the ‘thousands of rockets’ launched from Gaza against ‘southern Israel’, Ms Corbin made no mention of the huge quantities of the chemical and nuclear weapons – white phosphorous and depleted uranium – used against the civilian population of Gaza during the massacre 18 months earlier, and the ongoing devastation these horrific weapons are causing for people, animals, crops and the environment.

Nor did she mention the fact that ‘southern Israel’ is in fact illegally-occupied Palestine, and those firing the rockets are many of them refugees from towns that were ethnically cleansed of Palestinian occupants in 1948 and 1967. Under international law, they have a right to fight against the criminal occupation and colonisation of their land.

Apparently, while the majority of world opinion is finally turning away from supporting this pariah apartheid state, while consumers, trade unions, investors, academics, musicians and artists are boycotting Israel, the BBC thinks it’s the corporation’s job to help the war criminals cover up their crimes.

In our party’s recent pamphlet on the Freedom Flotilla, we reported the personal testimonies of people who were on board the Mavi Marmara. The torture and barbarity they were subjected to was unjustified and unjustifiable (to re-use a Cameron quote).

The stories put out by Israeli soldiers and generals in their defence are total fabrications. They claim to have ‘returned fire’ once on deck, yet the first volunteers were shot from above and died before a single Israeli boot had hit the deck. None of the eye-witnesses to these deaths was interviewed. (See ‘Murderous attack on the Freedom Flotilla,, July 2010)

Moreover, the autopsy reports on the murdered volunteers shows that each one was shot several times at close range, in a way that can’t possibly constitute ‘self-defence’. This information was, of course, not mentioned during the programme. Nor was there any attempt to explain how it was that the Israelis suffered no serious casualties when under the alleged ‘terrorist attack’ of the flotilla volunteers.

Audio footage that was obviously doctored, and which Israel has since admitted to tampering with, was played over images to give the impression of anti-semitic insults being broadcast from the flotilla. Once more, the BBC failed to question the authenticity of this footage. (See the ‘Clarification’ posted on, 5 June 2010)

Just one point puts it all in perspective: if Israel hadn’t been intending to kill unarmed civilians, why did they send their deadliest fighting force, equipped with live ammunition, to stop the flotilla in the middle of the night? Surely Israel has plenty of police trained in opposing civil disobedience-type actions? The flotilla was heading away from Israel at the time of the attack, trying to avoid a night-time confrontation. It posed no military threat to Israel, and if it had, there are many ways to stop boats without attacking all those on board.

Even more to the point: the UN calls the blockade and the occupation unlawful. Under international law Israel has no right to stop aid ships that are bound for Gaza. Moreover, they stopped the ships in international waters, which no nation has the right to do. And given that they did that, any defence the people on the ship put up was perfectly justified under international law. It comes to something when a BBC reporter nods sympathetically as an international pirate complains that he came under attack, when he was the one who forcefully boarded a ship in international waters while shooting live ammo!

The Israelis stole all the camera and video footage taken by those on board the flotilla, as well as their personal possessions. (Some people even found that soldiers had used their credit cards when they got home.) Anything the Israeli army is now releasing has clearly been selected and edited by them to back up whatever specious arguments they want to make. No footage of the assaults on the murdered volunteers was shown, although we know it exists.

The fact that the Panorama programme made no serious mention of most of these basic facts; no mention of the illegal blockade; no mention of the illegal occupation; no mention of the ethnic cleansing, bombing, executions, house demolitions and many other crimes committed by Israel, and which explain the background to the flotilla’s mission, but instead chose to give the majority of airtime to Israelis keen to present those on the flotilla as crazy muslim terrorists and the attack as a ‘slightly misjudged’ but perfectly acceptable and even normal ‘operation’, tells its own story about the role of the BBC and its alleged ‘values’ and ‘impartiality’.

Similarly outrageous was the Beeb’s keenness to emphasise the ‘Islamist’ aspect of the flotilla, and of the Turkish government, following the racist Israeli logic that the merest hint of ‘muslim’ involvement is enough to justify their barbarity or to negate the concern that people in Turkey (as in most other parts of the world) feel for the plight of the Palestinian people.

The repeated slanders against humanitarian aid organisation IHH volunteers as ‘terrorists’ is another example of this. No mention was made in the programme of the charity’s UN-recognised status, or of its many projects building wells in Africa or feeding refugees in Pakistan; of its orphan-sponsoring programmes all over the world, or its clinics in Haiti.

The unspoken conclusion that was being pushed onto British viewers was that those on board the flotilla were ‘muslims’, in which case, we needn’t take their concerns seriously or mind much if they got killed! (This being an easy bit of racism to peddle in the light of the routine covering up and normalising of massacres against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

Media workers should be ashamed to be associated with this kind of programme, which has more in common with Goebbels than with honest journalism. We applaud the PSC’s campaign to bring the broadcasters to account and let them know that they do not speak for decent British people.

No cooperation with war crimes!