Tony Benn: How he defied the BBC on Israel

14 March 2014

Tony Benn, probably the last real socialist to serve in a British government, died today aged 88.

I’m posting a short video of him below in action (long after his retirement from politics) in early 2009. It sums up what was so great about him.

Here he is using a three-minute interview on BBC news not to self-aggrandise but to subvert a BBC decision to refuse to publicise a charity appeal to help Palestinians in Gaza deal with the humanitarian crisis provoked by Israel’s Operation Cast Lead.

It was notably the first time the BBC had rejected an appeal for help from the Disaster Emergencies Committee. The decision was so embarrassingly craven towards Israel it ended up even being criticised by members of the British government, the BBC’s paymasters.

In those three mins, Benn twice reads out the address for people to send in donations; points out that all the BBC staff he has spoken to objected to the management’s ruling; notes that the BBC decision was capitulation to Israeli pressure (a capitulation that continues to this day); and ends with a savage indictment of BBC policy by telling viewers the BBC will be responsible for the deaths in Gaza caused by the refusal to publicise the appeal.

It’s an example of why Benn was that rare beast: a politician with truly democratic instincts. Another short video offers some condensed wisdom, with Benn arguing that the US and Britain fall short of being democracies.

(h/t John Hilley)

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