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Boycott of British Journalists

Boycott of British Journalists

British media's deep animosity towards Israel

by Chas Newkey Burden

The British public's perception of journalists has sunk so low that when I am asked in social situations what my job is, I am sometimes tempted to pretend I am part of a more respected profession -- like drug trafficking. I exaggerate, of course, but only a little. Most people view journalists as immoral liars who would sell our own grandmothers for a front-page scoop. I am an altogether softer writer, so when members of my profession publish sensationalist or intrusive stories, I don't sit and flog myself on their behalf.

However, when the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) passed a motion at its annual meeting to boycott Israel, I hung my head in utter shame and despair -- despite the fact that I am no longer an NUJ member. Those emotions of shame and despair were not joined by shock, though, because the British media has long been absorbed by a blind hatred of Israel. Newspapers like The Independent and The Guardian print editorials that are so biased and distorted that Osama Bin Laden would probably blush at them. The BBC refuses to describe suicide bombers who blow up buses full of schoolchildren as "terrorists" and one of its correspondents told a Hamas rally that he and his colleagues were "waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder with the Palestinian people".

I visited Israel for the first time last year to research some articles about tourism there. Within hours of my return I received a call from a journalist acquaintance who asked me with genuine shock: "What's all this about you going to Israel?" He said that a mutual journalist acquaintance of ours was "absolutely disgusted" with me for going there and that he hoped I was "going to put the boot in" when I wrote my articles.

These were not close acquaintances, I hadn't even spoken to one of them for nearly nine years and it must have taken them some digging around to find my telephone number. They obviously thought it was worth the trouble to have a dig at a writer who was friendly to Israel. Apparently the "absolutely disgusted" man -- a weekly columnist on a high-profile magazine -- has since tried to get an article published that claims that Tony Blair murdered Yasser Arafat.

'Those suicide bombers have got guts'

The evening after my return from Israel, I met up with some journalists for some drinks in the West End of London. I was again abused for my trip. Their hatred of Israel was matched only by their adoration of the Palestinians. One of them gushed: "Boy, those suicide bombers have got guts. I wish more people in the world had their courage." Another of them erupted when I told him that most people in Israel wanted a peaceful settlement to the conflict. "So why," he asked, "did they murder their most peaceful Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?"

Well, I guess if you're going to get your facts wrong you might as well get them spectacularly wrong -- I wonder if anyone else has ever got Netanyahu confused with Yitzhak Rabin?

The editor of another magazine once told me I was not allowed to write that Yasser Arafat turned down Ehud Barak's offer at Camp David in 2000.

I was also warned not to get any ideas about trying to get a positive account of my trip published. In the end I did manage just that but only after an unprecedented, almost sentence-by-sentence dissection of my article by the commissioning editor during the course of which I had to repeatedly remind him that there is such a thing as an Israeli Arab and that not everyone in Israel is an Orthodox Jew. Both facts seemed to come as huge shocks to him. I've no doubt that if I had written on "The Hidden Wonders of Tehran" or "The Joy Of Jeddah," I'd have had a much easier ride.

The editor of another magazine once told me I was not allowed to write that Yasser Arafat turned down Ehud Barak's offer at Camp David in 2000. I asked why and he replied "because of a need for balance." I pointed out that nobody, including Arafat, has ever disputed that he rejected Barak's offer and the editor replied: "Well, I don't know about that but you still can't write it." The article in question was an "opinion" piece, so taking sides was exactly the brief -- as long as it was not Israel's side, apparently.

The same magazine had happily published articles accusing Israel of "war crimes" and carried advertising accusing Israel of apartheid policies. The need for balance is relative, it seems.

There was certainly nothing balanced about the NUJ boycott motion. The factual errors in the motion's wording are clear: For instance they seem not to have noticed that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. It's a contemptible motion. There's a phrase that became popular in Britain before the run-up to the war in Iraq. I've never liked this phrase because to me it reflects the selfishness of the anti-war lobby. However, in the aftermath of the NUJ motion it sums up perfectly how I feel about the boycott: Not in my name.

This article originally appeared on

April 28, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 64

(64) LUIS ELBAUM, July 6, 2009 2:48 AM



(63) Carol Ann Read, December 9, 2007 10:11 PM

Easiest Way to View "War on Britain's Jews"

Sorry I gave such a difficult web address in my previous comment. For anyone interested in watching the UK Channel 4 series, "The War on Britain's Jews," an easier way find these shows is to go to and search for "The War on Britain's Jews."

(62) Carol Ann Read, December 6, 2007 8:46 PM

Excellent UK TV Series About British Anti-Semitism

This is an important topic. There is an excellent six-part series by UK Channel 4 called "The War on Britain's Jews." To view this on-line, go to:

If this link doesn't work, a search for "UK Channel 4 The War on Britain's Jews" should give a link where you can watch this.

(61) Elyada Levi, June 4, 2007 12:56 PM

Ashamed to be British

Like many I'm shocked at the way the BBC, once a respected and fair organisation, now misrepresents The nation of Israel. The joke is that their new name is the Beirut Broadcasting Co. Any decent editor would have fired Orla Guerin for blatant lies. Truth is not the goal anymore, just pro Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian propaganda. I was also surprised to learn that Arabs have a right to the Holy Land, even though it was promised to Father Abraham, Moses, Joshua et al. No doubt when Islam takes over Europe, in a few years, the BBC will find out, too late, the difference between a democracy (Israel) and brutal oppression (Islam) I thank HaShem, though born in Britain, I now live in the USA, where Islam will be slower to take over, and it won't be in my lifetime.

(60) Puregoldj, May 4, 2007 11:00 PM

I'm not the only one who noticed...

I read the European press, and the British press is by far the most biased against Israel. And pretty much uniformly so. It's good to hear that there are British people such as Mr. Evans who understand this and are disgusted by it.

A lot of people complain about the French, but le Monde is refreshingly balanced, responsible, and professional in its mid-east reporting, and you'll get interviews with leading Israelis, and visits to Israeli towns. And the French journalists don't search out any opportunity to accuse Israel of human rights abuses like the British.

Some of what I have seen in otherwise responsible British papers is laughable. For example, last year, the Independent made a big deal about Israel's attack on Lebanon being "pre-planned". Yo, Dude, anybody that knows ANYTHING about military affairs knows that any responsible military has laid out worst case scenarios based on how to respond to threats from enemies. In other words, Israel's attack on Hezbollah was no more pre-planned than Britain's attack on Argentina when the Argentines took over the Falklands/Las Malvinas.

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