BBC2 Newsnight, complaint

Newsnight, Tuesday 19th January 2010

I was repelled by the ‘Newsnight’ segment featuring Colonel Tim Collins on Tuesday night. He was on an obvious mission to justify the Israeli massacre in Gaza that occurred a year ago. Given the BBC’s callous refusal to publicise The DEC appeal that followed this inhuman and, universally acknowledged, disproportionate attack, it is astonishing that you would follow this up with a downright justification of Israel’s horrific war crimes. The BBC’S claim to impartiality has been completely discredited by this sequence of events.

Colonel Collins, who has been compared to a character out of ‘Apocalypse Now,’ made no effort to make sense of the numbers of deaths involved: 13 Israelis (four of those were ‘friendly fire’, 1,400 Palestinians, involving hundreds of civilians, including women and children. Instead, he seemed unmoved by the evidence in front of him and chose only to see Hamas posters and interview the usual suspects in their ‘lair’ with an arsenal consisting of homemade rockets.

At Sderot, his guide was Mickey Roosevelt, ‘from North London’ who showed Colonel Collins the rockets collected since 2000 which have caused so little damage. He was not taken to review Israel’s arsenal of F16s, nuclear weapons, phosphorous bombs and all the other paraphanalia of the world’s fourth largest army. It was as if Israel was the unarmed victim, living in fear of having homes demolished, schools flattened and hundreds of civilians slaughtered.

The programme presented a complete distortion of the facts and made no attempt to inform, provide context, or even the slightest attempt at impartiality.

Colonel Collins is well-known for his gung-ho speeches (‘show them no mercy’, ‘we are their nemesis’) and boasts of his war record in the most brutal military interventions of the past decades. ‘Not as bad as Faluja,’ he commented, eyeing a flattened mosque. He claimed to have found proof of weapons having been stored in the crypt of this building, but there was no evidence shown on camera.

As he toured the region in an Israeli-piloted helicopter, he flew over Qalqilya, one of the Palestinian towns most grievously affected by Israel’s apartheid wall. ‘It’s to protect the main road,’ said the pilot, speaking of an Israeli-only road built on stolen Palestinian land.

Given the BBC’s complete blanking of the recent VivaPalestina Convoy, the Gaza Freedom March, and other efforts by civil society humanitarian activists from around the world, the programme takes on a special meaning. The depth of the BBC’s bias is demonstrated across the entire output of your programming and not only by the skewed nature of this particular item on ‘Newsnight.’

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