The fighting in Gaza is quiet, at least for now, but it has sparked an uproar in Britain, where the BBC and Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News are under fire for refusing to air an emotional charity appeal to help Palestinian victims there.
The conflict pits the BBC and Sky News — which maintain they must protect their journalistic impartiality — against British lawmakers and protesters demanding that the Gaza appeal be shown.
It also offers an insight into the difficulties raised by broadcasting anything to do with the turmoil in the Middle East. The conflict in Gaza has ignited passions throughout Britain, where sympathy for the plight of Palestinian civilians is generally high.
Lawmakers and charities that object to the BBC and Sky News’ decision not to air the appeal say the broadcasters are denying viewers the chance to learn about the horrendous situation civilians face in Gaza so they can, if they wish, make contributions that would help provide badly needed food, water and medicine.
Labour Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn said he and many other legislators would demand that the appeal be broadcast when they met yesterday with BBC executives.
“It’s a disgrace,” he said. “They must broadcast as soon as possible. I’m very disappointed in Sky as well. They should remember they have a duty as a public broadcaster.”
He said Sky News, which announced its decision on Monday, and BBC, which acted on Friday, have given in to pressure from the Israeli government.
The BBC has, in the past, broadcast appeals by the Disaster Emergency Committee, a consortium of charities that includes well-known groups such as the Red Cross, Oxfam and Save the Children for help with crises in Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other trouble spots.
And other British broadcasters, including ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, did air the Gaza appeal on Monday evening. It was a two-minute video of wounded civilians and destroyed houses in Gaza with a voiceover that appealed to the general public to donate money for humanitarian work. The video did not blame Israel or any other party for the plight of Gazans.
Disaster Emergency Committee spokesman Ian Bray said actual appeals, which include a telephone number and a Web site viewers can use to make donations, are typically scripted and produced by the broadcasters, not the charities, once they agree to the project.
The heads of both stations remained defiant on Monday in the face of persistent criticism.
BBC director-general Mark Thompson wrote a blog over the weekend on the BBC Web site arguing that in Gaza, “humanitarian issues — the suffering and distress of civilians and combatants on both sides of the conflict, the debate about who is responsible for causing it and what should be done about it — are both at the heart of the story and contentious.”
He said there were concerns about whether the aid raised by the appeal could actually be delivered on the ground.
Sky News director John Ryley also said the conflict in Gaza was “one of the most challenging and contentious stories for any news organization to cover.”
Former US president Jimmy Carter said on Monday that any money raised by the charities for Gaza could reach its proper targets without the aid of Hamas.
“You have to remember that about 70 percent of the total population of Gaza are refugees, and their extreme concerns are administered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,” he said. “So the funds could be channeled through United Nations agencies, or through some other objective agencies, not through Hamas political leaders.”