Demonstrators picketed outside the offices of the BBC in Gaza city on Thursday 29th January, to protest against the news agency’s refusal to air the Disasters Emergency Committee’s (DEC) Gaza appeal.
Approximately 30 demonstrators filled the footpath in front of the office building, in order to put pressure on the BBC to air the appeal immediately. The demonstration co-incided with a call for a boycott of the BBC, supported by 15 Gaza-based Palestinian groups, including the One Democratic State group and the University Lecturers and Teachers Association.
Protestors rejected the claim made by the BBC that airing the appeal would compromise the impartiality of the agency – citing numerous examples of DEC appeals for emergency assistance in conflict-zones that have been aired by the station without question. Speakers accused the BBC of maintaining racist double-standards when it comes to issues regarding Palestine.
Demonstrators were particularly angered that the state-sponsored news agency could make such a claim, after the BBC was the only agency to embed its journalists with the invading Israeli military. Placards were held accusing the BBC of complicity with war crimes – referring to the Israeli military’s use of illegal weapons, such as white phosphorus; and their targeting of civilians.
Anger was also directed at the nature of the reports aired by the BBC during this period, which uncritically showed Israeli soldiers invading Palestinian civilian homes; juxtaposed with footage of Israeli residents of Sderot rejoicing at the sight of bombs dropping on the civilian populace of Gaza.
Speakers claimed that to maintain an “impartial” perspective, the BBC would necessarily need to represent the intense suffering of the Palestinian civilians, who comprise 90% of all Palestinian casualties of the Israeli war on Gaza. Instead, they said, the BBC’s actions constitute a clear bias towards Israel.
The Gaza protest complemented a wave of protests in the UK against the BBC including occupations of BBC headquarters in Scotland and London, former Energy Minister and Labour MP Tony Benn persistently reading out the DEC appeal on Radio 4’s popular ‘Today’ program, ignoring all questions posed to him, hundreds of license fee payers refusing to pay the BBC, and a rising tide of complaints and boycotts.