Excellent piece in the Electronic Intifada exposing the BBC’s footdragging and sophistry to avoid correcting a false claim made by one of its presenters, Martha Kearney, during a Radio 4 interview with Israeli spokesman Mark Regev last August as an Israeli court issued its ruling into the killing of Rachel Corrie by the Israeli army.
Kearney stated: “Clearly Rachel Corrie was one of the casualties of what happened that day, and I know Israeli soldiers died too.”
In fact, no Israeli soldiers died that day, whereas Palestinian civilians did. For a long time, the BBC refused to correct the statement. Finally, they conceded Kearney’s claim was inaccurate but then defended the inaccuracy. The ruling stated: “there was no evidence to support the assertion [made by the complainants] that the audience were knowingly misled.”
According to the BBC, the (non-existent) Israeli fatalities provided the “context” for understanding Corrie’s death, as though her actions were somehow linked to the soldiers’ (non-existent) deaths, whereas presumably the deaths of Palestinians whose homes she was defending were not proper context.
The BBC’s response to the complaint neatly illustrates why establishment journalists like Kearney, when they make mistakes on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, invariably err in Israel’s favour.
I’m sure Kearney did not make the false claim intentionally; she was simply reckless about its accuracy. And she and other leading journalists can afford to be reckless with the truth when it helps Israel’s case and damages the Palestinians’ case precisely because they know that nothing will come of it.
Had she made a similarly erroneous claim – or even simply a controversial but accurate statement – that worked to the detriment of Israel, the Israel lobby groups would heave been down on her like a ton of bricks and she would have been subjected to a disciplinary procedure and reprimand (if you don’t believe me, ask Jeremy Bowen.)
But the antennae of Kearney and other establishment journalists are finely tuned. They know that in most cases the Palestinian solidarity groups, unlike Israel’s supporters, don’t have the resources to pursue complaints. And even if they do, as in this case, media organisations like the BBC will do nothing meaningful about it. Kearney’s career has not been harmed in the slightest.