Thursday, 5 February 2009

BBC refuses to Broadcast appeal for Palestinians: A Response

The essence of the BBC's argument seems to be that providing aid to the victims of conflict may be seen to be non neutral and that not all of the aid would go to where it is intended.

Breaking this argument down, we see that a lack of neutrality is only likely to occur where the victims of conflict occur disproportionately highly on one side compared to the other, as has happened on this occasion and on many others where the BBC has broadcast such appeals.

Further, it is an unfortunate fact of life that where the rule of law is weak corruption and theft have a negative impact on aid however this does not mean that one should never support charity where one is not sure of the outcome of giving, every society has its share of crooks who will seek to profit from the sudden influx of goods or money and I cannot think of a major aid effort where some of the intended aid did not make it to its intended recipients.

Thus we have no general argument which justifies treating this request to broadcast an appeal any differently from other, so we must conclude that there is some specific characteristic of this situation that is, so far, unique.

I have heard three possible reasons advanced in one form or another.

Firstly, Israel is a special case because of the religious justification for its existence and territorial claims, and because of its genesis in the wake of the holocaust.

There is no principal of international law which gives a state, based on membership of a religion, permission to abrogate the rights, including the right to life, of some of the population, be they inhabitants of its own territory or of territory it has occupied. Whilst I acknowledge that suffering of the Jewish people in Nazi occupied Europe was a unique crime in modern history, I see no justification the pre existing political philosophy of Zionism to claim in their name, a special status as regards which laws to follow and which to ignore.

Secondly, the character of Hamas is such that it in the greater good to do everything possible to prevent them acquiring any resources.

Whilst Hamas is the party elected to form the government of the Palestinian authority I do not pretend that is a wholly nice organisation; it has adopted tactics of violence and intimidation against its Palestinian opponents, it has been responsible for suicide bombings (though it renounced them some years ago and now works to prevent people being recruited to be such) and its Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades have used their rockets in such a way as to kill endanger civilians, indeed they are so inaccurate that any claims of targeting the Israeli military cannot be taken seriously.

However even Israeli sources admit that over 90% of Hamas's spending goes on social welfare projects such as schools, healthcare, housing and technical support for small businesses. It is this grass roots, parish pump politics, together with a perceived lack of corruption that has led to Hamas's strong electoral base. This compares favourably with many organisations and governments that receive official support from western governments.

This leaves the third claim to the uniqueness of this conflict, that there is something about the Palestinian people that makes them undeserving of aid.

Surely it cannot be that they participated in one of the few free and fare elections in the Middle East, or that they are guilty by association as some of their people have engaged in acts of terrorism (a charge that would damn most peoples in the world) or that they simply will not do what they are told by their betters?

It must be that they are simply Palestinian, an inferior people who do not possess the same rights as others and who may be subjected to the racist views of those who, like the senior executives of the BBC, are empowered to make our minds up for us.