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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Revealing remarks about Alan Johnston and the BBC's Gaza coverage

At The Augean Stables, Richard Landes pointed out some 'revealing' remarks about how Alan Johnston and the BBC have covered events in Gaza:

Again the BBC has an article about the (fairly feeble) attempts of Gazans to protest his kidnapping. As one Restaurant owner Mohammed Zomlot, who is from Gaza, said:

…the Palestinian community in the UK wanted to support Mr Johnston. “I feel that we are the people who really should care about Gaza, and who should care about Alan,” he said. “Because Alan, at the end of the day, he’s one of the people who cares about us and he works for us, and that’s why we have a responsibility to protect him, and we have to ask for his immediate release.”

Now there are multiple observations we can derive from such a statement.

  • Johnston was not a “balanced” reporter, but an advocate. “He worked for us.” One can well imagine that Johnston’s reporting reflected, articulated, translated the “Palestinian victim narrative” very faithfully in order to have Gazans describe him so. No foreign reporter in Israel would allow himself to fawn over the Israeli narrative the way Alan did over the Palestinian.
  • If Johnston, a tireless advocate for the Palestinian cause got kidnapped by a clan of Muslim extremists, imagine what would happen to a reporter who actually showed skepticism about Palestinian claims, and wrote articles critical of Palestinians — say, something on the way they have turned their schools and media into factories of hatred. As I suggested in my essay on Steve Erlanger’s weak and misleading essay on the “lost generation” in the Palestinian territories, if he were to speak about the poisons that Palestinians administer so generously to themselves, he wouldn’t be welcome back. Johnston was not the “last foreign reporter reporting from Gaza” by accident.
  • Whether Johnston was an advocate from conviction (I assume he was), or malicious (any evidence?), he was dishonest. His advocacy, if only by omitting the negative, badly misled his public, and left them with blaming Israel as the only way to explain the utter failure of Gazan society to take advantage of European largesse and getting the Israelis out of their hair to get on their own two feet. One wonders how he would have covered the Gaza Sewage Tsunami, or the current civil war.
  • All the overwhelming evidence that Johnston did not even try to be “fair and balanced,” that he sided with the people who allegedly “reported back” to a Western audience about, has not harmed his reputation at all. On the contrary, the BBC article concludes this damnably revealing account by noting that “Last week, Alan Johnston was named broadcast journalist of the year by the London Press Club for his work reporting from the Gaza Strip.”
Read the whole thing.


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