March 9, 2021

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Jeremy Bowen’s "Get Out of Jail" Card

By Daphne Anson


The BBC’s woeful “Middle East editor” Jeremy Bowen, he of the shoddy reportage (“BBC’s ME editor advances his own partisan narrative in summing up of Trump visit”) who offers “analysis” so pedestrian as to be already bleedingly obvious to anyone with an IQ above room temperature, is marking 25 years reporting from the Middle East for Al Beeb.

To mark this milestone, BBC Radio 4 has been broadcasting a series of talks of his regarding his reminiscences, under the encompassing title “Our Man in the Middle East”.  It’s in ten parts, and I must admit that, when I saw the title of Part Nine, “A Blunt Instrument,” the thought occurred to me that it might be referring to Jezza’s brain.

Predictably, the series is being hyped on Twitter, where BBC reporters just love to spin their personal prejudices and big-note on Twitter and elsewhere the (subjective) books they have written arising out of their already nicely-paid employment (nice work if you can get it, eh?)

How different from the now far-off days when the BBC was a byword for integrity and for objective reportage, when reporters realised that they were not news in themselves and did not behave like stars or prima donnas, and when, in consequence, the Corporation was deservedly respected and admired.

“Conflicts in the Middle East have deep roots and a lot of history.  Fighters in every war on every side de-humanise their enemies.  They regard them as something less than living and breathing people who can feel love and happiness.  That way it’s much easier to kill.”

So intones Jezza at the conclusion this instalment in his series, Part 10, entitled “The Nearness of Death”.

In so doing he’s implied that the IDF (about which the heroic Colonel Richard Kemp, with his characterisation of it as an eminently moral and humane force, is far more trustworthy than the pathetic Bowen’s malevolent take) is on a par with the bloodthirsty warped Islamic fighters who maim, torture and slaughter for the thrill of it.

In the instalment Jezza, with a softly softly approach as far as Hezbollah is concerned (“a highly effective gueriila force”) laments that Lebanese “civilians have suffered disproportionately at the hands of Israel” and warms to that theme for some time.

The instalment, you see, concerns the sad and unfortunate accidental killing by an Israeli tank crew on 23 May 2000 of Bowen’s Lebanese driver and fixer, of whom he was very fond.  The driver was in the car when it was shelled, Bowen having got out to do some filming: “I’ll feel guilty until my last day that we stopped to film …”

For Jezza’s ignorance see HERE

Bowen has spoken and written of this episode many times.  It undoubtedly traumatised him and for that he merits pity, as, of course, does the blameless driver who lost his life.

But, as I’ve pointed out before, when the BBC found that the incident had had such a devastating emotional impact on Bowen, leading in consequence to an obvious contempt and loathing of Israeli policy, it should have plucked him out of the Middle East into another zone for reportage.

The incident has left Bowen with an unshakeable residue of bitterness and prejudice towards Israel, and the fact that the BBC allowed him to continue in the region, let alone (given all the controversy that his biased reporting has engendered, not to mention his very weak analytical powers) appoint him “Middle East editor” defies commonsense and compromises journalistic standards.

From that standpoint the culpability for Bowen’s evinced prejudice is as much that of the higher echelons of the Corporation as it is his.

But as we know only too well, the BBC habitually falls back on a mantra-like answer to those who protest its unbalanced reportage, its sins of omission and commission, as far as Israel is concerned: namely, that as the pro-Palestinian side also accuses them of bias (towards, in the sense of in favour of, Israel) the BBC is satisfied that it gets things “just about right”.

That is, so to speak, Al Beeb’s (and Jezza’s and Jon Donnison’s and Yolande Knell’s and the rest of the pack with an agenda’s “get out of jail” card.)

Here’s an example of that card, one of a number of messages beamed onto BBC headquarters in London recently as part of an initiative by Israel-demonising activists.

But, as that message, like others shows, the difference between the pro-Israel and the anti-Israel sides in their respective protestations to the BBC is that we want Al Beeb always to be scrupulously fair in its reportage and commentary, favouring neither one side nor the other, as its Charter and Producers’ Guidelines mandate, whereas the protesting Israel-haters want it adopt an editorial line that invariably undermines and de-legitimises Israel.

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