Critiquing the media’s approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict

Hewitt was joined by Tim Llewellyn, a former BBC Middle East Correspondent, and David Hearst, the current foreign leader writer for the Guardian. The event was chaired by Mark McDonald, a human rights barrister and a founding member of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East.

The panelists discussed the book but also broadened the discussion to include media bias in reporting on the Palestine-Israel conflict over the last ten years, particularly regarding coverage by the Guardian and the BBC. McDonald began by asking Llewellyn whether he believed the BBC to be biased in its reporting of the Israel-Palestine question. Llewellyn replied:

“Yes. Absolutely no question about it… After 2000 the Israelis geared up and put so much pressure on the BBC that now their reporting is absolutely bent… The way they question people, the way presenters interpret people, the number of times Israelis get on the air… It’s unbelievable how bent the BBC is at the moment.”

Answering the same question but on his own newspaper, Hearst argued the reason for the pressure was because:

“If you talk to the Israeli Press Attache, he says the enemies of Israel are the BBC and the Guardian.”

He continued that reporting on Israel:

“…is like kicking a wasp’s nest. You have to be prepared to get stung… You have to have an almost Rottweiler approach to the facts…”

It is for this reason that Hewitt’s book is so valuable. For Hearst it is an example of “exactly what we’ve all been doing.”

Discussing the nature of bias present in the media, Llewellyn explained about what he calls “corrective context:”

“When the Israelis bomb Gaza the BBC always says ‘in response to a Palestinian rocket.’ But you have to imagine that Palestinian rocket against their rocket. Nobody ever says that. You know it’s bad they shouldn’t do it, they’re idiots… The next thing is the Israelis are using the weapons of war against these people. The Palestinians are not an army and you know, I’m not pro-Palestinian, I’m looking at it from the human rights perspective. These people are being punished.”

On writing in the Guardian, Hearst explained that:

“When you have half the Israeli cabinet saying there shouldn’t be a two-state solution it seems unlikely there will be one. The peace process has been described as moribund, dead. I think it’s dead… But I can’t write a leader saying that… Because the Guardian is in favour of a two-state solution.”

Hewitt too argued that the BBC is biased:

“There are some sections of the BBC that are clearly biased… There are journalists not asking the questions they should be… Because they provoke uncomfortable answers.”

Listen and watch the full event here: