Playing softball

Say you’re an international organisation with a lot of skeletons in the closet. Say you know that your reputation will be damaged when news of these skeletons gradually filters into the public mind, as it must.

I suppose under such circumstances everything would come down to PR- you’d probably admit that bad news was going to come out and so suggest to a friendly party to conduct an “investigation” which would spread the blame nice and thinly, and then release the news through a friendly organ. It would be a little painless bloodletting, and then… back to work. The organ would probably begin its main article something like this:

“Children as young as six are being sexually abused by peacekeepers and aid workers, says a leading UK charity.

Children in post-conflict areas are being abused by the very people drafted into such zones to help look after them, says Save the Children.

After research in Ivory Coast, southern Sudan and Haiti, the charity proposed an international watchdog be set up.”

Sounds like a good idea. A watchdog. Sounds like a job for the UN- they’d be perfectly placed considering their clean hands and incorruptibility.

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52 Responses to Playing softball

  1. WoAD says:

    Rape has traditionally been the reward for victorious armies.

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  2. Dr R says:

    What was truly astonishing in the Radio 4 reports this morning was that the nationalities of the rapists was studiously not mentioned.

    Why the hell not? The most basic journalism, I would have thought….

    Do you feel the vile, disgusting BBC would have possibly mentioned this if the perpetrators were, say, errr, American?

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  3. Martin Adamson says:

    Also underplayed in the report: the fact that several of the abusers worked for Save the Children and Oxfam! Compare that to the coverage the Catholic Church gets.

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  4. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Dr R | 27.05.08 – 3:59 pm |

    Do you feel the vile, disgusting BBC would have possibly mentioned this if the perpetrators were, say, errr, American?

    As I’m sure you’re aware, this has been going on – and not exactly unknown to the media – for years, and mainstream media have shied away from acknowledging which countries tend to supply the abusers. You’re quite right that the BBC – as well as CNN International and the usual European rags – would make a huge fuss if even one of them was an American soldier.

    After all, sexually abusing children who have already been traumatized by war is almost as bad as defiling the Koran.

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  5. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    Someone has been reading my post below, eh? 😉 😉

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  6. So what were the nationalities of the rapists?
    Obviously, there’s no point in me asking the BBC for such info, which is why I visit this site.

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  7. rightofcentre says:

    To be fair to the BBC (gag!), the clip on the web page, and BBC news 24 both have said that “Elizabeth” was raped by Pakistani soldiers.

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  8. Dr R says:

    Ah, the religion of peace. What a surprise!

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  9. JohnA says:

    The BBC has been very soft in its interviewing on this – including with UN spokesmen. The UN hides behind the screen that in warzones there is no local justice, and any disciplinary action is left to the nations providing the troops.

    But surely the first thing is for the UN itself to arrange for every incident to be investigated immediately. Again – BY THE UN ITSELF. if not by local inadequate police services. It is ridiculous to think that some of the overseas armies would investigate properly. Especially where the national culture demenas women.

    I have never heard a BBC journaslist make this obvious point.

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  10. David Preiser (USA) says:

    So when does the UN lose its moral authority?

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  11. Dr R says:

    More to the point, when will people realise that the BBC has already lost its moral authority.

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  12. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    UN and moral authority in the same sentence? Ah, well …

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  13. max says:

    A UN spokesman, Nick Birnback, said that it was impossible to ensure “zero incidents” within an organisation that has up to 200,000 personnel serving around the world.

    “What we can do is get across a message of zero tolerance, which for us means zero complacency when credible allegations are raised and zero impunity when we find that there has been malfeasance that’s occurred,” he told the BBC.

    Zero credibility

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  14. Martin says:

    The BBC made a big fuss over the rape of Iraqi women by US marines.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6930845.stm

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  15. libertus says:

    rightofcentre – the truth is well hidden – you have to go into video to find out; most readers won’t bother. So the BBC can keep up the pretence of ‘full disclosure’. Since they know who is responsible, why are they concealing this on the ‘front page’, so to speak?
    Did the BBC ever reveal it was Jordanian ‘peacekeepers’ who were raping boys in Africa on an earlier ‘mission’?
    & still nothing about Karsenty.

    Well, BBC – comment, please!

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  16. Mugwump says:

    JohnA:
    The BBC has been very soft in its interviewing on this – including with UN spokesmen. The UN hides behind the screen that in warzones there is no local justice, and any disciplinary action is left to the nations providing the troops.

    JohnA | 27.05.08 – 5:35 pm

    Obviously the attitude of the BBC is somewhat different when it comes to cases involving US service personnel. But then again American officials, unlike the UN, can never be granted a presumption of good faith.

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  17. Sim-O says:

    Sky News, The Times and The Mail.
    None of those three have mentioned what nationalities are involved in the abuses. They should be shut down. Pandering to the UN like that.
    They should be ashamed of themselves, fucking lefties.

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  18. amimissingsomething says:

    should they be shut down? you decide

    but i will/would/could cancel my subscription, and not go to jail as a result

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  19. glj says:

    You couldn’t make this sort of stuff up, could you? When I first read that crap I thought, is it just me who see’s this as grotesquely biased crap. The BBC is a lost cause, ne l’est pas?

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  20. Jack Bauer says:

    Sim-O:
    Sky News, The Times and The Mail.
    None of those three have mentioned what nationalities are involved in the abuse

    Well of course not, why would they?

    It’s not as if they are “news” organizations employing “journalists” trained to ask:

    WHO?
    HOW?
    WHERE?
    WHEN?
    WHY?

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  21. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    Here we go again – the lazy mindset.

    Once more, from the top:

    Sky News, the Mail and the Times are NOT statutory state broadcasters who levy a statutory tax.

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  22. gharqad tree says:

    David Preiser (USA):
    So when does the UN lose its moral authority?
    David Preiser (USA) | 27.05.08 – 5:43 pm |

    Only when it stops attacking Israel exclusively, and antagonising the USA with its large anti-western bloc votes.

    That, in the BBC’s eyes, is when the UN loses its moral authority. Rape and child abuse, failure to implement its own resolutions re Hezbollah, failure to do anything in Darfur etc – these are mere side issues.

    Behaviour is immaterial: all that matters is identity politics, racial politics, the great progressive causes. This is why a Catholic priest abusing chidren is emblematic of a corrupt and worthless belief system, while the identity of Pakistani rapists who rape while on UN duty is immaterial.

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  23. Joel says:

    Here we go again – the lazy mindset.

    Once more, from the top:

    The point is not that you dont pay for them. If you are saying the BBC is biased then 1 objective measure of the BBC’s coverage is to compare it with the coverage of every other national newsppaer and broadcast on the planet.

    You must be able to figure that out surely? It means you are saying that the Daily Mail has a left-leaning bias.

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  24. Joel says:

    And as it turns out, the story is not just about the UN, but the UN and Aid agencies.

    Another ‘example of bias’ demolished because its based on the ignorance of a small minority.

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  25. gharqad tree says:

    “because its based on the ignorance of a small minority.”

    You need an apostrophe in “its”, Mr.Anti-Ignorance.

    Is this the official BBC attitude to minorities? Or only minorities of a certain hue? I didn’t think there was anything inherently wrong with being part of a minority or having a minority view, but I learn something every day.

    Look at the sheer size of the BBC website, the number of hours broadcast in total each day by BBC news, the unparalleled resources paid for by a guaranteed £3.2bn extorted by threats from the public, and tell me that the BBC shouldn’t be covering every major news story in twice as much detail and depth as any of the other broadcasters or newspapers mentioned.

    When they fail adequately and clearly to disclose the basic elements of a story (such as WHO is committing rapes and child abuse – basic information, yes?) then they cannot (“because of the unique way the BBC is funded!”) blame lack of space or lack of resources for the failure. Other broadcasters do not have those risk-free advantages.

    That is why the fact of the Licence Fee IS connected to bias. It takes away the BBC’s excuses for not reporting stories in the depth, the clarity, or the detail they warrant, especially when those stories concern the UN or aid agencies committing rapes, rather than US soldiers using a bundle of printed material as target practice.

    The extorted Licence Fee is the reason the BBC has no excuse except bias for failing to report these things clearly and comprehensively. You’ve demolished nothing.

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  26. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    The point is not that you dont pay for them. If you are saying the BBC is biased then 1 objective measure of the BBC’s coverage is to compare it with the coverage of every other national newsppaer and broadcast on the planet.

    The point is exactly that I am not forced to pay for them. They are private enterprises. Within the laws of libel and incitement to commit crimes etc, they can publish whatever the hell they like.
    The BBC is a statutory body funded by tax. The Mail isn’t. You seem to have a real problem grasping this difference.

    It means you are saying that the Daily Mail has a left-leaning bias

    I am saying that I don’t care what the Mail publishes. I am not forced to pay for it. Is that really so hard to grasp?
    Your phrase ‘every other national newsppaer and broadcast on the planet’ is totally meaningless. There is no agreement among that set of bodies on what are the true facts.

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  27. Ben says:

    The issue at hand is whether their coverage is biased, the title ‘Biased-BBC’ is a bit of a giveaway.

    Do you not think using a specific example to prove the BBC has a left wing bias when right leaning papers are doing the same undermines the credibility of this assertion?

    Is this another ‘but you just know…’ instance?

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  28. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    Beside the point. There is bias. The BBC is required by its charter to be unbiased. ‘Right-leaning’ papers are not.

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  29. Ben says:

    But conversely there is no issue using articles in these papers as evidence of ‘bias by omission’?

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  30. glj says:

    Ben the point is that most of us don’t give a stuff what the newspapers print, or which way they lean, or what they omit because we don’t have to pay for them.

    The BBC on the other hand, which we are obliged to fund, has an obligation to be completely unbiased.

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  31. Ben says:

    Sure glj, but how can these be cited on this site as a measure of BBC bias but then declared irrelevent in cases that disprove (or at least fail to prove) this?

    I’m not trying to wind people up here, it’s just something that seems to stick out to me.

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  32. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    They are only cited as the factual background on which the BBC’s bias is analysed – you know, evidence of this that or t’other having actually happened. The question then may arise, e.g., ‘Why did the BBC not report this’, or ‘Why did it hide this fact in paragraph 14’, or ‘Why did it do a stealth eidt’. Nobody is expecting the BBC to mirror exactly what a particular paper is saying.

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  33. gharqad tree says:

    I prefer not to compare the BBC’s coverage with that of other news organs because as N Oxf points out, the BBC is the only one legally obliged to neutrality and impartiality in return for the right to legally extort money from us.

    However, when it can be shown that the BBC’s coverage of an event or a speech is radically different from the coverage of most other media sources, then we can fairly imply a bias. That bias is almost always left-leaning. One of the reports linked to above by Sim-O actually has the phrase “child sex abuse by UN peace troops” – as part of the headline. Strikingly different from the BBC’s headline, and more immediately informative.

    That the BBC report shoddily on an issue that some other media outlets don’t even bother to mention, in no way diminishes the BBC’s obligation to report the news fully and impartially, or our right to compare the shoddy and vague reporting (unwillingness to name UN and aid agency staff as rapists) with the precise and to-the-point language employed when US or Israeli troops are accused even of far lesser crimes.

    So Ben you are absolutely right: comparison with other news organisations can be a way in which bias is spotted. But it is not the only way, and it is not obligatory. The absence of such a comparison does not somehow immediately absolve the BBC.

    There are 3.2 billion reasons why we are perfectly entitled to demand better of the BBC than we do of the Daily Mail. When the BBC reports things less fully than a newspaper, we are entitled to complain. When the BBC reports something as shoddily as a newspaper, we are entitled to complain. When these shortcomings are constantly slanted in favour of the left, we are entitled to complain of deliberate bias. Is that so mysterious to you?

    It is also fair – is it not? – to compare the BBC’s headlines and writing style when dealing with other issues? US soldiers, Israel, are almost always named as perpetrators in the BBC headline, and repeatedly throughout the article. Even when they have done something that harms no-one but merely distresses fragile religious egos. In such an instance, to continue the comparison you are pushing for, we can ask the question: yes, these other news organisations have also (mostly) failed to name the UN in condemnatory headlines, but does this practice depart from the normal levels of reserve they use when discussing the actions of American troops, Israeli troops, etc etc? In most instances the answer is no, it does not. Only in the case of the BBC can we honestly and consistently say that such reticence is a novelty.

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  34. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    Excellent, gharqad tree.
    And one may add: Israel and the USA are almost invariably named in headlines, while ‘Palestinians’ (if we even accept this fabricated term, but let’s do so for the sake of argument ONLY) is routinely omitted on the spurious grounds that ‘it’s too long, there is no space’. The same applies to ‘Arabs’ (not very long, is it?), ‘Moslems’ etc.

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  35. gharqad tree says:

    N Ox, very true – and this has been demonstrated in exhaustive analyses over extended periods of coverage. It is not merely a “you can just tell how biased they are!” rant. It is demonstrable and provable. Proven, in fact.

    As far as the Palestinians are concerned, my standard practice is to call them “Palestinian Arabs”, a generous description which glosses over the fact that most of them are actually the descendants of recent arrivals from southern Syria etc, who arrived in the area looking for work when Jewish immgration began to transform the area from the forgotten shitheap it apparently was into something resembling a modern state, which these southern Syrians now demand as their historical and inalienable homeland.

    I’ve always taken the forced mass expulsions of the Jews by the Arab states as a de facto admission that Israel is rightfully the homeland of the Jews, but perhaps I am too generous there as well.

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  36. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    I don’t think you are giving due credit to the convolutions that the antisemitic mind is capable of, GT – as in ‘Jews go home’ to ‘the country we refuse to accept is yours’.

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  37. libertus says:

    As TV tax payers we are also entitled to ask why the BBC shows no interest in investigating ‘the other side’ of the Israeli-Palestinian question, to wit, questions like these:
    1. Why are Gazans firing rockets on Israel when the Israelis have left?
    2. Why is the Gaza-Egypt border sealed (except when Hamas blows it up)? IOW, why is Egypt ‘blockading’ Gaza?
    3. Why were 800k or so Jews expelled from Arab lands after 1948? Where did they end up? What happened to their homes?
    4. Why are the children (or grandchildren) of those who fled in 1948 still living in ‘refugee’ camps? Why have they not been settled, as were the millions of DPs after WW2 and every other conflict in the world?
    5. Why are Palestinians detested in Kuwait?
    6. Why have most Palestinian Christians departed for Sydney and elsewhere?
    An impartial agency would try to answer these questions.

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  38. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    Why are ‘Palestinians’ detested in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, … ?

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  39. libertus says:

    Jordanians, at least, *are ‘Palestinians’, so I put that down to self-loathing.

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  40. Ben says:

    Thanks for taking the time for that response. I agree that the BBC should be held to a higher standard than the mainstream press. I still believe however that it comes across as somewhat opportunistic to use other media here as a measure of BBC objectivity (whatever their political inclinations, though invariably right) and then disregard instances where they have covered a story in a similar way (or not covered it at all).

    The ‘bias of omission’ seems to come down to being able to discern between bias and professionalism (i.e. – capability to spot a story). The only evidence of this is the size of their budget and an assumption of bias based upon other evidence of bias. This therefore is reliant on the judgement of individuals on here as to what constitutes bias in an article.

    This wouldn’t be an issue if I hadn’t seen numerous occasions where people have criticised BBC articles for displaying all the traits of leftism, when other publications have covered them in similar terms. While it’s true other media don’t have an obligation to objectivity, can it really be believed that the FT, Wall Street Journal and Economist are all left-wing (accusations I’ve seen this year)? Is the Daily Mail liable to print any left-wing articles at all? The Telegraph article that either Bryan or David Preiser deconstructed as an example of left wing bias – thinking they were viewing a BBC article • is another example.

    Sorry if I can’t post any responses this afternoon.

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  41. Anonymous says:

    “… can it really be believed that the FT, Wall Street Journal and Economist are all left-wing (accusations I’ve seen this year)? Is the Daily Mail liable to print any left-wing articles at all? ”

    Maybe you’re right concerning these publications, but nobody here cares.

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  42. gharqad tree says:

    Ben – thanks for that response. There is a good deal of logic in what you say, but I personally believe it is flawed because it’s built on a false premise: that we cite other media only when it suits, and that this invalidates our arguments in some respect.

    How about this for a scientific approach:

    a) examine a BBC article: compare it to the treatment of the story in other media. If it takes a different angle from other news media we can ask why. If it is not a story given equal weight by other news media, we can ask why. If only the BBC have attached any importance to it, we can ask why.

    b) if the BBC angle does not differ from that of other media organisations who have covered the story, then we can check for internal BBC consistency – eg, (yes, you guessed it) – US troops named as rapists / Israel labelled the aggressor-killer in screaming headlines, but the name of the UN kept as far from sight throughout the article as can feasibly be managed). If there is a difference of approach between two equivalent stories, we can again ask why.

    There is nothing wrong with this approach. When the BBC alone takes a leftist angle, we call it bias. When the BBC and other media take an instinctively deferential angle in reporting accusations of widespread child abuse and rape by UN troops, we are entitled to point out that even though others are doing the same (though 1 out of 3 examples offered actually did not!), those newspapers are not the ones spewing out a dozen stories a week villifying the US and Israel by name and in no uncertain terms for supposed crimes of equivalent or lesser moral magnitude.

    We’re not here to make sure that the BBC says the same thing as the rest of the media. We’re here to try to point out bias. I would agree with you that sometimes we overreach and find bias where really I can’t see much, but if bias can be pointed out by comparing the BBC with other media, we’ll do that, and if it consists of pointing out purely internal (and persistant) contradictions of approach in its own output, we’ll do that too.

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  43. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    “Jordanians, at least, *are ‘Palestinians’, so I put that down to self-loathing”

    Some are, some aren’t. Some are recent arrivals from Saudi, incl. the royals.

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  44. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    “I still believe however that it comes across as somewhat opportunistic to use other media here as a measure of BBC objectivity”

    Complete strawman, I fear. Nobody is doing that at all. What we are doing is checking to see how others do it as a point of reference and mainly to clarify the reportable facts, without claiming that those other media ARE objective.

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  45. Biodegradable says:

    “Jordanians, at least, *are ‘Palestinians’, so I put that down to self-loathing”

    Some are, some aren’t. Some are recent arrivals from Saudi, incl. the royals.
    Nearly Oxfordian | 28.05.08 – 3:20 pm

    Or rather “Palestinians are Jordanians” in that Jordan is what was intended as the Arab state in “Palestine” while Israel is the Jewish state in “Palestine” as provided for by the League of Nations and subsequently the UN.

    You are correct in noting that the Hashemite rulers of Jordan hail from what is now called Saudi Arabia and claim to be the rightful “Guardians of Mecca”. They were given what is now Jordan by the British in exchange for allowing the Saud family to become the rulers of Saudi Arabia.

    Those that claim that Israel is an invented state with no prior history, peopled by immigrants from abroad, forget, or ignore, that all of the Arab states are inventions, none of them existed as such until the British didvided them up and designated rulers, and Jordan is a perfect example of that. The Jordan “royal” family traces its blood-line back to Arabia.

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  46. libertus says:

    Quite correct, all these Middle East states are basically British or French creations (lines on the map) of the 1930s and 40s, marked by population movements and changes of borders:
    Egypt once claimed Gaza;
    Jordan annexed the ‘West Bank’ and East Jerusalem in 1950;
    Jordan changed its borders with Saudi Arabia etc.
    There is nothing timeless or fixed about these lands other than the historical fantasies of Hamas (did you know the Palestinians built Tel Aviv, only it had a different name? I learnt this from Hamas TV!)

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  47. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    Bio:

    Except, it is important to remember, that of all those countries Israel and Egypt alone have a history as nation-states going back thousands of years. None of the others do.

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  48. Biodegradable says:

    Egypt once claimed Gaza;
    Jordan annexed the ‘West Bank’ and East Jerusalem in 1950

    Exactly. Gaza, and Judea and Samaria (“The West Bank”) were originally designated as part of the Jewish state. The Jordanian occupation of east Jerusalem was never recognised internationally either. As Golda Meir once said, “How can we return the occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to.”

    See: http://www.mythsandfacts.com/Conflict/mandate_for_palestine/mandate_for_palestine.htm#01

    Nearly Oxfordian | 28.05.08 – 4:43 pm

    Indeed, the rest were nomadic, warring tribes, including those Arabs living in “Palestine” before the early Zionists began turning Israel into what it is now.

    One can do worse than to begin looking at the history of Saudi Arabia and the links to other Gulf states here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_Arabia
    The Kingdom was founded by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud, whose efforts began in 1902 when he captured the Al-Saud’s ancestral home of Riyadh, and culminated in 1932 with the proclamation, and recognition of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qatar
    After centuries-long domination by the Ottoman and British empires, Qatar became an independent state on September 3, 1971.

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  49. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    Which it had never ever been before.

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  50. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Ben | 28.05.08 – 1:14 pm |

    Is the Daily Mail liable to print any left-wing articles at all? The Telegraph article that either Bryan or David Preiser deconstructed as an example of left wing bias – thinking they were viewing a BBC article • is another example.

    Yes, that was me. However, you seem to forget that David Gregory (BBC) pointed out my error, and in doing so linked to a BBC article that was far more biased. He eventually owned up to that fact, once he stopped laughing at me for the initial error. Apparently you haven’t stopped laughing at my error, and didn’t notice that the BBC was even more biased. So that’s not an example to support your argument. Just because I was wrong doesn’t make the BBC right. If anything, they missed out on one chance to get it right.

    And let’s dismiss with this myth that just because a “right-wing” newspaper says something similar to the BBC doesn’t mean it can’t be biased to the left. In the case of the article I misidentified, it was still wrong, regardless of the overall editorial policy of the paper. That doesn’t trump my mistake, either. I realize this may be very hard for you to accept, but the article I mistakenly identified as BBC was still biased in the way I said, even though it was in the Mail.

    Another fallacy I would like to dismiss is that not all “right-wing” media outlets are in lock-step at all times on all issues. To the contrary, I would argue that Leftoid media types are more likely to exhibit that kind of journalistic synchronized swimming. In this case, it’s just that too many people still believe in the UN fairy tale, so articles like this are unavoidable on both sides. It’s also still quite fashionable in many quarters to bang on about Guantanamo or whatever other US “human rights violations” are the flavor of the month, regardless of the essential right or left leanings of the media outlet doing it. It feels good, exercising all that moral authority.

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