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Both Palestinians and supporters of Israel complain about media bias in coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bias is especially serious when it relates to presentation of fundamental issues that appear in resources presented on the Web, and that color reports as well. These resources are often used as educational tools. If they get the facts wrong, the interpretations that follow will be incorrect. For example, every BBC report about the Israeli security fence has shown an outdated and dubious map of the fence route taken from Palestinian sources, that makes it look like Israel is fencing in about half of the West Bank, justifying claims that the fence is a "land grab."

The BBC has been one of the most flagrant offenders in coverage that is biased against Israel. Pro-Israeli groups insisted that the BBC's coverage is slanted against them. Responding belatedly to these changes, last October, the BBC board of governors appointed an independent panel to examine the corporation's reporting of the conflict. Now the Board of governors has censured the BBC about a report that covered a central issue. As we read in >the Guardian:

The governors judged that the report, contained in a time-line of historical events in the region, failed to give a balanced account of a 1967 United Nations resolution about the six-day war between Israel and a coalition of Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

The report, published late last year, suggested the UN called for Israel's unilateral withdrawal from territories seized during the six-day war when in fact it called for a negotiated "land for peace" settlement between Israel and "every state in the area".

The BBC governors' report concluded: "The committee considered that by selecting only references to Israel, the online article did not accurately reflect this balance and gave a biased impression. It
therefore breached editorial standards on both accuracy and impartiality".

In many ways, this particular issue is crucial. The distortion helps to feed the misperception that the conflict started in 1967 and is only about the occupation. It also provides fuel to the propaganda locomotive of those who insist that Israel and only Israel is violating UN resolutions and International Law.

The institution of this review procedure will perhaps be a welcome corrective not only for the BBC, but for others. The Guardian itself is one of the worst offenders regarding distorted reporting about Israel and the Palestinians. There can be many narratives and nuances, but they aren't all equal. Accounts that reinvent history and ignore clear documentary evidence such as UN resolutions are propaganda, not reporting. Too bad that the corrections do not happen spontaneously, as the result of journalists and media policy makers understanding their professional and ethical obligations. At least however, this insistence shows that concerted efforts by activists can make a difference.

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2006. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000013.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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