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Bowen Arrow Against Israel

Just Journalism reports on what ostensibly looks like another outrageous example of bias from a BBC reporter.

Then when you dig deeper, it looks like even more outrageous.

Jeremy BowenBBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen has admitted in an analysis article for the BBC News website that the recent strain in relations between Israel and the US has been ‘enjoyable’.

In ‘Analysis: Bleak climate for Mid-East talks,’ published on Sunday 9 May, the head of Middle East coverage at the BBC examined the background to the recent resumption of (indirect) talks between Israel and the Palestinians. In an undeniably candid move, Bowen wrote the following:

‘It has been an unusual and enjoyable new experience to be able to look on as the Israelis argued with their most important ally. The fact that the dispute is over Jewish settlements is even better for the Palestinian [sic].’

His choice of words here reveals a strong personal sense of satisfaction at Israel’s diplomatic difficulties, not in line with the BBC editorial policy that:

‘our journalists and presenters, including those in news and current affairs, may provide professional judgments but may not express personal opinions on matters of public policy or political or industrial controversy. Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC programmes or other BBC output the personal views of our journalists and presenters on such matters.’

It seems unlikely that the readers of this BBC article would not be able to tell the personal view of Jeremy Bowen in this instance. The fact that he claims openly to have enjoyed watching Israel struggle in its relations with its most important ally more or less precludes the possibility of an interpretation of neutrality.

Whilst the BBC does allow for ‘the authored view of a specialist or professional including an academic, scientist, or BBC correspondent’, it is not clear what is meant by ‘authored view’ and whether this would permit a journalist to openly express happiness when one side in an incredibly controversial conflict suffers a setback.

UPDATED as of 4.45pm on 12 May 2010: Jeremy Bowen responded to our report via email, saying that there was a ‘glitch in [his] editing process’ and that when calling a chill in U.S.-Israeli relations ‘enjoyable’ he had meant to attribute this view to the Palestinians. The article was subsequently amended on the BBC News website but no acknowledgement of an error was made.

I am calling BS on Bowen’s excuse. For a start, the offending words clearly sound like they are being expressed from the point of view of an outsider “looking on”, rather than the palestinians, a party to the conflict. Then there’s the update without acknowledgment of error, suggesting the BBC did not want to draw any attention to this since the “technical glitch” argument seems so far-fetched. Throw in the fact that Bowen has a history of anti-Israel bias, and I think it is patently clear that a technical glitch exists not in the BBC’s editing process but rather in their hiring and firing process.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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