Go With the Flow

Anyone who is conscious of BBC bias should read Howard Jacobson’smoving piece in the Independent. Then read the vitriolic comments it has attracted.

Over many years the BBC has influenced swathes of people, who quite rightly and naturally, feel a strong sense of injustice at what they have been shown. All the BBC has done is to report what is happening, is it not? They have seen something happening and said “Hey, look at that!”

A friend was travelling back from some far-flung trouble spot. Sitting next to him on the plane was a journalist-in-chief. “We’re covering this newly emerging trouble” he confided. “Why then, are you travelling home?” asked my curious friend. “Well, I’ve set them up and told them what shots I need, why would I stay?” was the reply.

BBC denies antisemitism and bias against Israel. Its case might look credible if it did something to redress the balance. The recent Panorama programme raised the question of Islam’s incompatibility with the west. It was a small start. Memorable images are affecting and bound to influence opinion, and perhaps a number of viewers began asking themselves some questions.
Awareness that this kind of exposure doesn’t help Islam’s public face explains why images of extremism in the film ‘Fitna’ were the focus of such strenuous efforts to suppress and condemn them.

Most of the virulent loathing expressed by Israel-haters demonstrates huge factual ignorance and misunderstanding by the public. The underdog theory falls apart when you know the geography, the stolen land theory falls apart when you know the history, and the deliberate baby-killing theory falls apart when you know the facts.
I believe there smoulders an undeniable suspicion and dislike of Jews in Britain, always ready to reignite at the smallest spark. But I wait for the day when the BBC commissions a programme, informative, educational and entertaining, that sets the record straight. I fear I’ll be waiting a very long time.
MPs need to be very determined and steadfast to get where they are, and no doubt high ranking BBC executives and commissioning editors do too, but they still need other people’s approval to keep them in power. They have deliberately or accidentally ‘set up the shots’ over many many years. Now the current is so strong, who is going to risk swimming against it?

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85 Responses to Go With the Flow

  1. Jason says:

    The comments on that article just remind me how glad I am to have left Britain.


  2. mikewineliberal says:

    The Jacobsen piece is fabulous. Restrained anger. And powerful writing. The comments do make one weep though.


  3. Preposteroso says:

    I have to confess to having spoken on the phone the other day to a lady BBC viewer who said “Oh, but the BBC goes out of its way to accommodate the Israelis, doesn’t it?”

    Erased her number now.


  4. Sue says:

    mikewineliberal | 19.02.09 – 4:41 pm
    The comments do make one weep though.
    Yes indeed they do MWL, but where would you say they come from?


  5. Ethan says:

    The comments do refer to baby killers…funny only baby killer I can only recall this ‘Hero’ Samir Kuntar who killed a four year old girl after making her watch her father being killed. He indirectly caused a two year old to be suffocated too.

    Try Wikipedia.

    Syria presented him with it’s highest medal presumably for his baby killing prowess.
    In a civilised country he should have been tortured to death. Israel simply let him go after a while.

    Oh yes I hope those comment authors come to know what ‘hero’s’ they support.


  6. mikewineliberal says:

    Sue | 19.02.09 – 4:54 pm



  7. Anonymous says:

    “In a civilised country he should have been tortured to death. ”



  8. Ethan says:

    Yes Anonymous I meant it exactly as written.
    Try the Wikipedia article.


  9. Sue says:

    mikewineliberal | 19.02.09 – 5:02 pm
    Did you read my post?

    Here’s a clue:
    Over many years the BBC has influenced swathes of people, who quite rightly and naturally, feel a strong sense of injustice at what they have been shown. All the BBC has done is to report what is happening, is it not? They have seen something happening and said “Hey, look at that!”

    and so on.


  10. deegee says:

    Surely the Independent is a lost cause?


  11. Anonymous says:

    So in your opinion, a civilised country should torture people to death. You’ll be at home in Iran then!

    Israel should have hanged or shot him. He should not have been released.


  12. mailman says:


    The reality is, Syria used the guy for its own political ends (to control its people).

    And yes, in any civilised country the guy wouldnt have been accorded hero status.

    But then we arent dealing with any “civilised” country are we…nor are we dealing with “civilised” people.

    The simple truth is there will not be any peace in the ME as long as Muslims focus hatred of Israel for their own political needs.



  13. martin says:


    “…The recent Panorama programme raised the question of Islam’s incompatibility with the west. It was a small start…”

    Oh dear, you’ll upset the lefties that hang out here you know.

    The likes of MWL don’t understand that Islam is as much a fanatical political ideal as it is a barbaric religion.


  14. mailman says:

    Surely Howard is preaching to a brick wall, if those comments are anything to go by.

    Personally…Ive noticed a thin vineer of civility that floats atop a deep chasm of hatred and racism in this country.

    But until Gaza I had only really referred to that when a group like the All Blacks tour up here. Because the racism really comes out when people start talking about the Haka.

    But now I realise its actually much much deeper than that!



  15. Grant says:

    Wonderful article, wish I could write
    like that. And he exposes the psychology of the anti-semites perfectly.


  16. mikewineliberal says:

    Grant | 19.02.09 – 5:50 pm

    He does. But on Israel, the debate is ever polarising. And moderate voices like his are drowned out.


  17. Grimer says:


    I agree. If we were ever to see anything similar to Beslan in the UK, or this heinous act, then I’d happily have the perpetrators publicly tortured to death on Tower Hill – preferably with equipment soaked in pigs blood.



  18. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Looks like Howard Jacobson has been reading this blog.

    The comments to his article pretty much prove our point. The BBC is – finally – dimly aware of this, too, which is why they stepped back from the brink of showing the DEC appeal. Too bad they won’t do anything to correct it.


  19. mikewineliberal says:

    David Preiser (USA) | 19.02.09 – 6:04 pm

    “Looks like Howard Jacobson has been reading this blog.”

    I am sure that isn’t so!

    I think he would be appalled by some of the views about the israel/palestine conflict on this thread alone. He is a moderate, and that’s what makes his piece so powerful.


  20. Francis says:

    “I believe there smoulders an undeniable suspicion and dislike of Jews in Britain, always ready to reignite at the smallest spark”
    This could mean quite a lot of things and no one is denying the problem of Muslims and deranged lefties (are they anti-semitic, racist against whites or simply demented? – im not sure and maybe it doesnt matter).
    However this isnt an accurate of the gentle, tolerant culture I live in. Loony-lefty-London isnt Britain. The tories did after all have two people of jewish backgrounds in the most senior positions at the last election.
    It depends on what is meant by “in” Britain.


  21. Sue says:

    Francis | 19.02.09 – 6:40 pm

    “This could mean quite a lot of things etc etc” Francis, this does mean quite a lot of things. From low level generalisations (That Jews are mean, obsessed with money, control everything from politics to high finance, have sinister lobby groups that persuade governments to support Israel) to full-blown physical attacks and desecration of Jewish businesses, graveyards and synagogues.


    But besides all that, just take a look at the vitriolic comments that pepper any article that tries to defend or explain Israel’s position. Take the ones I refer to in my post, or those on BBC HYS.
    I don’t make these allegations lightly, and I do know what I’m talking about. Most of my friends are Guardian readers, most of them are outside of London, and most of them pride themselves on being gentle and tolerant. They are convinced that their loathing of Israel is logical and dispassionate, and are appalled at the very thought that these feelings have any connection whatsoever with antisemitism. But I hear what I hear.

    And “in” Britain means ‘in Britain’.


  22. Mugwump says:

    mikewineliberal | 19.02.09 – 6:27 pm

    What makes you so sure that moderates don’t read this blog? I happen to be one myself.

    I even voted for (Shh…don’t tell anyone) Obama.


  23. davo says:

    i’m increasingly inclined to believe that it is the rabid antisemites and Israeli haters created in swathes over the years by our media that are fuelling the tragic death of innocent palestinian women and children – shaheeds for the purpose of propaganda in the western media.
    Hamas leaders have said that all palestinians are to be used in their efforts to destroy Israel and that they love death more than we love life.
    Every Palestinian child killed is worth one hundred suicide bombers to hamas .
    Suicide Bombers generate sympathy for Israel whereas child martyrs generate hatred and media frenzy against israel
    Getting their own women and children killed is the ultimate way of winning the media wars and the ‘we are all hamas now’ mob in London are the proof that they are encouraging these horrific practices.


  24. Francis says:

    Sue, I am not an anti-Semite any more than I am a socialist.
    It may not have been very interesting but all I was saying is that not all Britain is like what you were describing. Around where I live a newspaper means the telegraph or the mail. I dont have any left wing friends and certainly no Guardian reading ones (and I am probably happier for it).


  25. Bryan says:

    Howard Jacobson is evidently a deep thinker with a fine turn of phrase. But he’s a little too liberal for my liking:

    …the rightly-detested settlements in Gaza… is a sentiment I can’t agree with.

    Whatever happened to the principle of retaining part of the territory won in a defensive war against unprovoked aggression from neighbouring countries?

    Well, I guess UN Resolution 242 put paid to that way back in ’67. (Well, almost, since it doesn’t stipulate that all of the territories have to be returned, just, by implication, most of them.) It strikes me as tremendously unjust and immoral to return to the aggressor territory from which he has launched his unprovoked attacks. It means, in effect, that there is no price to be paid for waging a war of extermination on another country.

    I suppose Jacobson also believes that the Golan should be returned to Syria and the West Bank to Jordan (except that they don’t want it.)

    Anyway, I reserve judgement, having not yet read the entire article.


  26. DJ says:

    For the full effect, remember that just last week the BBC was trying to tell us that Gerrtie’s little film – featuring actual quotes from the Koran and film of stuff that Muslims have really done – was an indefensibly, inflammatory piece of work. Bogus atrocity stories and deranged conspiracy theories about the Eternal Jew? Not so much.


  27. Anon says:

    So.. just to great this straight: an article which doesn’t mention to the BBC, except in reference to a quote which is favourable to Israel… proves the BBC is antisemitic.

    Christ, you lot really clutch at straws. It’s gobsmacking that parse every second word from “hostile” media but let horseshit like this through without so much as a passing comment.


  28. Aitch says:

    Sue. If ‘most’ of your friends are Guardian readers and think their ‘loathing ‘of Israel is ‘logical and dispassionate’, how on earth can you be or indeed want to be friends of theirs? I suggest you start mixing in different circles. You’ll feel better!


  29. frankos says:

    Loony-lefty-London isnt Britain. The tories did after all have two people of jewish backgrounds in the most senior positions at the last election.

    Yes and Labour tried to portray Michael Howard as Shylock if you remember –nasty bastards


  30. caveman says:

    David Vance:
    The underdog theory falls apart when you know the geography

    Yes, they never show a map on the BBC that shows Israeli lands next to Arab lands as it would show up just how preposterous is the idea that they need even more land.


  31. Gus Haynes says:


    thats a lie. Of course they show maps of Israel in the middle east. You’re spreading disinformation, and I’m calling you on it.


  32. La Cumparsita says:

    I have just returned from abroad where the BBC World Service was the only English language radio station available. Lowpoint – a diatribe against Israel by J Bowen – from comments on this site I reckon it must have been condensed from the notorious Panorama programme broadcast just before the Israeli election. Highpoint – & a pleasant surprise- was a detailed examination of the beginnings of the Al Quaeda war against the West, focussing on the twin bombings of the USA Embassies in Nairobi & Dar-es-Salaam, with graphic interviews with the US Ambassador to Kenya at the time, and with injured Kenyans still receiving treatment over 10 years later. There was a fascinating interview with how the FBI or CIA (can’t remember which) caught out one of the accused. This programme in my view, did not attempt to whitewash or “understand” the terrorists’ motivation and made riveting listening. And it made a change not to want to throw things at the radio.


  33. JohnA says:

    They seldom show maps of Israel in the ENTIRE Middle East – indicating the miniscule scale of Israel compared with some of its neighbours.


  34. caveman says:

    Gus – see JohnA for a reply, and you know exactly what I mean.

    If it was the other way round and the Jews had more land, the map would be on every news item relating to the Middle East.


  35. Gus Haynes says:

    You don’t think that when Israel is highlighted and the other countries around it aren’t is done to show people where Israel is…? I mean kids these days barely know where Britain is on a map.


  36. deegee says:

    Every Palestinian child killed is worth one hundred suicide bombers to Hamas.
    davo | 19.02.09 – 8:37 pm

    I’m far from sure that is true. There are many reasons why people become suicide bombers but Islam, dreams of glory and blackmail dominate over revenge for specific (my brother Abdul) or general (Gaza’s children) victims.

    If Israel was responsible for the deaths of 200-300 children in Gaza there should have been 20,000-30,000 suicide bombers by that calculation but they were notable for their absence. As far as I know not one Israeli soldier died from suicide bombs in Gaza. This was surprising because Hamas boasted that hundreds of bombers would turn Gaza into hell for the IDF.


  37. knacker says:

    FTA, at the conclusion:
    A gradual habituation to the language of loathing. Passed from the culpable to the unwary and back again. And soon, before you know it…

    Well, Britain’s already there. And in an even bigger mess than Mr Jacobson implies, because it’s been true for years. “Habituation to the language of loathing” is precisely what the BBC and fellow travelers have wrought, and all the apologist whining in all the world isn’t going to wash away the stain, much less fix anything. Neither will the vapid outrage of those who ‘deplore’ the comments appended to the article. (Think that puts you in the clear, MWL? Perhaps if you toss a bunch of flowers against a wall, or ask Robert Fisk for tips on how to get beaten up on camera…?)

    What puzzles above all, and I can hardly be alone, is why the many Brits who agree merely sit there, nodding now and again like some tacky bobbing animal in a car rear window, in the hope that identifying evil, then chatting a bit, is enough to make it go away. Er, no.

    That maybe as good a definition of decadence as anyone needs. Why wouldn’t it be terminal?


  38. Simon says:


    The BBC prides itself on providing context. But I have never seen a map with a mileage scale indicating the width of Israel at its narrowest point (approximately 8 miles) were Israel to return to the “internationally hallowed” ’67 borders. This despite the fact that this geography forms the entire basis of Israel’s reluctance to proceed in this direction without the utmost assurances of its security, since it could easily be cut in half should the 22 Arab or 57 Muslim countries that surround it decide one day to invade. It’s simple–there are 500 million Arabs and more than 1 billion Muslims in the world and 7 million Israelis–a 100:1 ratio. If the BBC insists on appending the “numbers killed” in Gaza on just about every single article remotely related to the conflict, thus continually inflaming its readers against Israel (even as Israeli estimates emerge that show a far smaller percentage of civilians was killed than claimed by Hamas and reported without skepticism by the BBC) it ought to in turn repeatedly re-iterate the context illustrated by maps which show Israel’s true vulnerability.


  39. Simon says:


    Here’s a general “Key Maps” section on the BBC online site regarding the I/P conflict.


    There are NO mileage’s provided, and there is no map, from among several, featuring Israel in the greater context of the Middle East. All you get is a kind progression showing Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip slowly being “swallowed up” by big, bad Israel. That’s misleading at best.


  40. Philip says:

    Magnificently restrained article from a justifiably angry Jew.

    Foaming ‘Kauf Nicht Bei Juden’ hysteria from clearly unhinged commentards.


  41. GaryO says:

    Jacobson’s piece really is very moving and a cry. I had commented on Melanie’s blog on this very matter. I was sickened by the dripping anti-Semitism on their comments section.

    How can this rag have the cheek to call itself “Independent” when it is affiliated to Al-Jazeera. It links to that TV station’s news output and online articles. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but on Israeli- Palestinian issue, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, on the wrangling between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, or indeed on any matter concerning islam, since when has Al-Jazeera become a beacon of neutrality?

    By not reporting the full truth and only relying on Palestinian claims and by not even checking out the facts for themselves, bbc is complicit in whipping up the hatred for Jews and Israel, not just here but also in the ME, where it is regarded very highly • no doubt because of its anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli stance.

    BBC is the mouth piece for islam in this country.


  42. Mr Levy says:

    @ Whitewinliberal

    “The Jacobsen piece is fabulous. Restrained anger. And powerful writing. The comments do make one weep though.”

    Weep? Not me, and not the Jews I know.

    Are we surprised that anti-semitic scum exist and that the disgusting BBC hates joos?

    Not all all. And anyway, eventually, they always lose.

    We also have our friends in the Gentile world. More than is sometimes recognised.

    And, thank God, we have Israel.


  43. Muslim Wars says:

    I, too, have never seen the map referred to above on the BBC. Stage 1 below has never been reached.

    Map Stage 1 (not yet achieved)
    A map on the BBC showing Israel next to the Arab lands. And you cannot count a quick shot of the globe • I mean a shot, full screen, lasting more than a few seconds, showing the Israeli part coloured one colour, and the Arab part shaded a different colour, to point out the relative sizes.

    Map Stage 2
    Add crosses to mark each location where billions of dollars of oil are being extracted from. Hmmm, no crosses in Israel, so why do the Arabs obsess about it so badly? Maybe Stage 3 could help.

    Map Stage 3
    Add a small circle to indicate the point where the two main religions that preceded Islam and, let us say, ‘inspired’ Islam, originated. In the immature mind, it is necessary to own that part to enhance the status of Islam.

    Map Stage 4
    Draw arrows on the map, Dad’s Army style, from any Arab country that has openly declared its desire to drive the Jews out of Israel, including ‘into the sea’.


  44. Aaargh says:

    Well lets face it

    Socialism has failed, wherever it has been tried.

    The Left has to hate someone.. and Jews tick all the boxes.

    Socialism is a hate-creed. And Jews help Socialists feel good about hating.


  45. Cockney says:

    “I believe there smoulders an undeniable suspicion and dislike of Jews in Britain, always ready to reignite at the smallest spark.”

    Frankly I think that’s absolute bollocks. Britain is the least anti-semitic nation in Europe by a long long way, and anti-semitism itself is hardly on the scale of wider racial hatreds these days. I’m not saying it isn’t a problem that needs addressing, particularly in the contexct of the vile lies and distortions of media reporting against Israel as eloquently expressed in the article, but it’s massively hypocritical for B-BBC to (rightly) criticise the flinging of public money and attention at blown up race issues elsewhere (“institutional racism” in the Met, “Islamophobia”, downplaying gypsy crime) whilst over-egging this one so spectacularly.


  46. Bob, son of Bob says:

    In my youth when I went to Christian school and to church, and when there was a place called ‘Judea’ on our maps, no-one ever said anything hateful towards the Jews. There was the odd joke similar to jokes about the Irish and Scottish etc, but nothing hateful. In fact there was a general good feeling towards them, due to outrage at the Nazi persecution.

    A holiday of a lifetime for a Christian would have been a trip to the Holy Lands, and it was taken for granted that the Jews would be welcoming to Gentiles visiting, and there was never any thought of the possibility of bad feeling on our part towards the Jews living there. The very idea that there could be bad feeling never occurred to us.

    So I do not recognise any of the sentiment behind the comment “I believe there smoulders an undeniable suspicion and dislike of Jews in Britain, always ready to re-ignite at the smallest spark.” I have never encountered this in my life, apart from when muslims are involved.

    I would, however, say that any Jew who wears the religious dress should remember that when conducting business dressed in that fashion, the rest of your community will, I am sure, disapprove if you are not careful to be fair and honest, as, by wearing those clothes, you are in fact representing your whole community. When negative experiences occur while you represent the Jews, some people become prejudiced against the whole group, whereas a more open-minded person would realise that every group has bad representatives.


  47. Bob Bobson says:

    speaking about how the muslims hate the Jews

    Plus comments about Geert Wilders
    with over a million views so far


  48. Bryan says:

    Speaking of maps of the Middle East, they have an awful programme on the World Service on Sundays called Over to You, which purports to let people have their say about the BBC. It would be better named Over to Us to put one over on You.

    They had that supreme anti-Israel propagandist, Claire Bolderson, on a year or two back. She’d apparently found a map in an Israeli school textbook that portrayed Israel without naming Palestine and used this as the basis for talking a whole lot of ignorant crap about what Israel schoolchildren do and don’t think about the Palestinians. Naturally she ignored the fact (or didn’t know) that there are different kinds of maps and that not all maps will or should show the Palestinian areas. She also ignored the fact (or didn’t know) that the Palestinians are the ones who deliberately excise the name Israel from maps produced of the area between the Jordan River and the sea and that they teach their children to hate the Jews.

    This was such an extraordinary turning of reality on its head that I’m pretty sure it was intentional rather than ignorant. And since this was on Over to You I was wondering when the listeners would come into the picture.

    Then they read out an e-mail from someone who had presumably read Bolderson’s article on the subject on the website and praised Bolderson for enlightening him about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Thus the crap was neatly parcelled up and delivered to an unsuspecting public.

    So anyone who doubts the title of this website, believe it. The BBC is biased to the hilt in many areas. And it is anti-Israel and many of its staff are anti-Semitic. Ain’t a single shadow of a doubt about that.


  49. Dong says:

    There was another factor throughout the period of the Gaza operation. One should be a very brave reporter to conquer one’s fear and this alone could create an unconscious bias. After all Israel was not going to kidnap you or cut your head off.

    In his book From Beirut to Jerusalem published 20 years ago former New Your Times NYT correspondent Thomas Friedman wrote about reporting from Beirut but I am sure Gaza was no different. He wrote:

    Gathering the news in Beirut was one thing – getting it all out was another. No discussion about the reality of Beirut reporting would be complete without mentioning a major reporting constraint journalists there faced: physical intimidation. Reporters, whether they are in Beirut or Washington, don’t operate in a vacuum. In order to do objective reporting a journalist has to negotiate his environment. On the one hand, he has to develop access and intimacy with his subjects in order to gain real understanding of them, and on the other hand, he has to remain disinterested and distant enough from his subjects to make of them.

    It is a delicate balancing act, but one that is essential to objective reporting. A reporter cannot possibly be fair and objective about a person or group if he doesn’t truly understand them, but he also cannot be fair if he understands them alone. Intimacy without disinterest lapses into commitment to one side or another or another; disinterest without intimacy lapses into banality and misunderstanding.

    Maintaining this balance between intimacy and disinterest is a challenge for a reporter at any time, it in a place such as Beirut was unusually difficult. Because you were living amid one side in a multisided conflict, and that side, as well as all the others, was not above doing physical harm to anyone who was too critical of .them or too understanding of their enemies.

    There wasn’t a single reporter in West Beirut who did not feel intimidated, constrained, or worried at one time or another about something he had learned, considered writing, or had written involving the Syrians, the PLO, the Phalangists, or any of the other militias in Lebanon. Every reporter in Beirut was fully aware that for $1.98 and ten Green Stamps anyone could have you killed. Your newspaper would name a scholarship after you, and that would be the end of it. Any reporter who tells you he wasn’t intimidated or affected by this environment is either crazy or a liar. As my colleague John Kitner once wrote, reporters in Beirut carried fear with them just like their notebooks and pens.


  50. Grant says:

    Dong 4:05
    And I haven’t heard any BBC reporters claiming they are afraid of the Israelis or are being threatened or censored in any way !