Witless in Gaza: The BBC, Fox News, and the Western Press

By Rozenman, Eric | Midstream, January-February 2008 | Go to article overview

Witless in Gaza: The BBC, Fox News, and the Western Press


Rozenman, Eric, Midstream


When Hamas purged the Gaza Strip of its Fatah rivals in June's "five-day war, Western news media seemed virtually unaware of the meticulous planning behind the violence. Coverage of the abduction of British Broadcasting Corporation's Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston three months earlier, and of his eventual release by the "Army of Islam" on July 4, helped explain why.

When it comes to the Palestinian Arabs, many in the British media see their role as publicists, not journalists. And not only Brits. Knees jerked in much the same manner in America when kidnappers seized two Fox News Channel staffers in the Strip in 2006.

After the BBC's Johnston was snatched, his father appealed to those responsible. This "is no way to treat a friend of Palestinians," he said (The Daily Mail, March 20). Graham Johnston explained that his son "felt the Palestinian story had to be told. It was a piece of the Middle East jigsaw."

One day after Johnston's seizure, BBC diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams explained, on a network Web site, that "it is his [Johnston's] job to bring us day after day reports of the Palestinian predicament in the Gaza Strip." That is, Johnston's job was not to report news from Gaza--including the fact that much of the "Palestinian predicament" is of their own making--but rather constantly to publicize Palestinian claims of victimization.

Then-Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett informed the House of Commons that she'd raised the kidnapping with P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas. "I think it is particularly sad ... when someone who has been a long-standing friend of the people of Palestine suffers in this way, and it does nothing to help," (Associated Press, March 20).

It is one thing for a worried father to curry favor with his son's kidnappers by describing him as sympathetic to their cause. It's another when the foreign secretary assumes that a journalist, in particular a reporter for the government-subsidized BBC, should be "a long-standing friend" of one party to a conflict he is covering.

Beckett was not alone. Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian Authority information minister until Hamas's June offensive, called for "severe measures" against Johnston's kidnappers. He explained that "we are opposed to the kidnapping of foreign journalists who serve the Palestinian cause" (The Jerusalem Post, March 18). In Barghouti's remark, one heard the echo of Yasir Arafat's description of the Western press in Beirut in the 1970s as his "best battalion."

Johnston, who also had reported from Afghanistan, himself said in a January segment titled "Abductions in Gaza" that ...

   ... so far, all the foreigners kidnapped [15 journalists and 17 aid
   workers] here have been freed quite quickly and unharmed. Often
   they have been used as bargaining chips, a way for a group of
   gunmen to get attention.... And the whole business of kidnapping
   goes very much against the local social grain. Palestinians are
   extremely hospitable people, and one of the dangers of being
   abducted here must be that you could get fed to death.

Perhaps that extreme hospitality explains why, during the first quarter of 2007 (which included Johnston's kidnapping), 34 Palestinian Arabs were killed either while attacking Israelis or during Israeli counter-terrorism, according to Israeli military figures, but 147 were killed by their brethren, occasionally after being kidnapped, by the count of a Palestinian organization called Al Mezan. During the May and June battles between Hamas and Fatah, a number of partisans were murdered after being kidnapped.

Why was Johnston the last Western journalist based in the chaotic Gaza Strip? Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens suggested it was because Johnston and his superiors at the British Broadcasting Corp. thought their pro-Palestinian sympathies would protect him.

BBC news executive, Fran Unsworth, called Stephens' column "scurrilous" and charged the Wall Street Journal with "lack of sympathy" and failure to question itself "over the appalling tragedy of Daniel Pearl," kidnapped and decapitated by Islamic terrorists in Pakistan in 2002. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Witless in Gaza: The BBC, Fox News, and the Western Press
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.