Letters: Reporting in the Middle East

Difficulties of impartial reporting in the Middle East

Related Topics

In comments on the Jeremy Bowen affair there seems a constant confusion between two different meanings of "impartial". The first it that if two parties disagree a report should give equal weight to the arguments of each and imply they have equal strength. The second is that if an impartial look leads to the conclusion that one side has the better of the argument then there is no harm in letting that become apparent.

I am also struck by how small both supposed errors are in the context of Bowen's work as a whole. I am astonished the BBC report did not take the opportunity to place these two points in a wider context, and to defend its Middle East reporting as a whole – particularly when any reporting not favourable to Israel is routinely subject to organised attack.

No doubt some of these attacks are consciously biased. But in my own wide Jewish acquaintance I am more struck by a degree of self-deception, of a sort for which it is hard not to have some sympathy. Such people are not simply in the usual political position of making the strongest possible claims for their own side. They rather remind me of fond parents who cannot bear to face the fact that their only child, reared after such tribulations, over such a period of time and with such care, is in danger of turning out to be a monster.

David Boll

London NW6

Robert Fisk writes: "Anyone who has read the history of Zionism will be aware that its aim was to dispossess the Arabs and take over Palestine." ("How can you trust the cowardly BBC?", 16 April).

It appears that Fisk is not very familiar with the history of Zionism. In November of 1947, the Zionist leadership accepted the UN partition plan, while the Arabs vehemently rejected it. They refused to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state in Palestine, regardless of its size. They started a war to prevent by force the implementation of the UN plan. Had they accepted the UN plan, their state would have been 61 years old today and thousands of lives would have been spared on both sides.

To speak of the security barrier between Israel and the West Bank, without acknowledging that it was constructed in response to a flood of suicide bombings, that killed hundreds of innocent civilians, is obscene.

Dr Jacob Amir


Time to test law on crowd control

In rejecting the case of Lois Austin, who sued the police for false imprisonment after being held for several hours by a police cordon during the Oxford Circus demonstrations in 2001, the House of Lords stated that "crowd control measures would fall outside the application of article 5 (protection of Individual Human Rights) if they were resorted to in good faith, were proportionate and were enforced for no longer than was reasonably necessary". This included situations in which violence had occurred or was likely to occur, and where there was no way of singling out the troublemakers from the peaceful demonstrators.

This decision appears to have given a green light to the police to use this method of imprisoning entire groups of people as a convenient method of crowd control. Who decides whether this action is "proportionate", "in good faith" etc? Is it the police authority, or does the law now mean that people who suffer in this way will have to sue police officers individually? Perhaps this is the time for some of those who were trapped in this way during the G20 protests to bring a class action against the police and to test the law.

This attempt to erode the right to demonstrate has certainly been effective. I, for one, have decided not to go on any future demonstrations when I run the risk of being trapped for hours in a peaceful protest without water or toilet facilities, simply because a senior police officer has decided that there is a potential for violence or because it makes the job of policing easier.

In the 1960s we witnessed violence from both police and demonstrators but we were never banned from demonstrating, as is now effectively the case. Then, that kind of denial of free speech only happened under totalitarian regimes.

Helen Mordsley

London N20

That a police officer shown assaulting a protester in the most recently published footage had, in clear breach of regulations, obscured his identification number is more disturbing than the assault itself.

This incident, taken together with the semi-obscured faces of the police shown accompanying Mr Tomlinson's assailant, makes it clear that superintending officers tolerate or condone breaches of police regulations by their subordinates.

Conspiracy to cause a breach of the peace is a criminal offence. The clear and unequivocal statements by senior police officers prior to the G20 demonstrations, taken together with the recorded criminal acts of their subordinates, provides a prima facie case of such a conspiracy, and must be investigated immediately. If this does not happen, policing "by consent" is over.

Bill Robinson

London W2

G20 footage shows police attacked with scaffolding poles, smoke bombs and fists, and countless protesters intent on mass harm.

Armchair strategists say that as most protesters were peaceful, zero tolerance for the group was not fair; but the reality of crowd control is that disorder spreads in seconds when attention is focused on individuals and not the group dynamic. This was a very dangerous situation, where zero tolerance was warranted, and aside from a few incidents the worst most protesters experienced was the inconvenience of kettling, shoves and ruffled feathers. A small price to pay for the protection of the city, and I am grateful to the Metropolitan Police.

Anna Cross


The twentieth anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster seems an appropriate time to consider the progress made since then. In those days, the police thought nothing of herding people into confined spaces like cattle and attacking them arbitrarily and with impunity, whereas now, well, Nottingham Forest no longer get anywhere near the Cup Final.

Steve Mainwaring


Humans trapped in a computer

Mary Dejevsky's article about the triumph of computer systems over intuition (16 April) chimed with my experience of trying to renew my annual travel insurance. Because I had ticked the box saying that my medication for hypertension had changed during the past six months, there was an immediate and automatic increase of my premium by £180.

I explained, first to an unqualified telephone agent and then on my insistence to a qualified doctor, that the change in medication had not been caused by any change in my condition or problem with the previous medication, but was because I had voluntarily taken part in a nine-month hospital-based drugs trial, and there was a recommendation that I stick with the drug I was taking at the end of the trial. The doctor said that he understood my problem, but that when I ticked the box the "system" kicked in and the added premium was not variable. He had no authority to make his own professional judgement based on medical evidence.

He didn't answer when I asked how he could bear to take a job that debarred him from making such a judgement.

David Buckton

Linton, Cambridgeshire

The burdens on Blair's conscience

John Rentoul ("Those now attacking Blair over religion are missing the point", 16 April) says: "Never mind allegations that Blair or his people lied about the case for military action, which they did not." Yet he apparently listened to Mr Blair in an interview with Joan Bakewell on the recent BBC Radio 3 programme, Belief.

From what Blair said there, and he says it twice, you could reasonably conclude that the UK went to war in order to remove Saddam Hussein from power and not in connection with the weapons of mass destruction Iraq was alleged to have; indeed WMD were not mentioned in the interview.

Had the objective of the war truly been "regime change" it would have been unequivocally illegal under international law. As I understand the situation the government case for the legality of the war rested on the alleged failure of Iraq to comply with UN resolution 1441, which forbad Iraq from developing WMD.

Mr Blair must be a man with much on his conscience, but retreating into the cosiness of the Catholic Church and rewriting history in his favour ought to cut no ice with a mature modern electorate. Indeed, the culture of lying and dissembling that has thrived since 1997 and reached some kind of an apogee in the Gilligan affair, is to a large degree responsible for the lack of public trust in politics today, and that also ought to lie heavily on Blair's conscience.

Keith Baverstock

Bonn, Germany

Youngsters on strike in France

Maybe a clue as to why the French unions are so successfully militant is that they start young.

After the national day of strikes throughout France a few weeks ago, my French daughter-in-law emailed me her photos of the strike in Marseille, where she and my grandchildren live. To my surprise one of the photos was of my eight-year-old granddaughter Maia at the very head of the marchers, carrying a banner and blowing a small horn.

When I asked her if she knew why she was marching she replied (in English): "Of course. Our President Sarkozy [this said with such contempt that it sounded like a cough-and-a-spit] will not give the teachers or schools any more money, and there are more and more children in the classes, so the poor teachers cannot teach so many children, and that is why we are striking." I'm willing to bet the money is forthcoming.

Philippa Vibert

Falmouth, Cornwall


Fans of Lisbon?

Am I right to assume that Matthew Elliott ("Where exactly does the EU's development money go?", 13 April) and his Taxpayers' Alliance support the Treaty of Lisbon, which will at last give the European Parliament full budgetary powers? The treaty will also allow the European Development Fund to be properly integrated into the EU budget, instead of being treated as a special preserve of jealous national governments, answerable only to un-coordinated national parliaments.

Andrew Duff MEP

Leader, UK Liberal Democrat European Parliamentary Party, Brussels

Irish example

Ireland's finance minister, Brian Lenihan, announced to the Dail further cuts in Irish MPs' pay and pensions. He said: "Before we ask anyone else to give, we in this House and in this government must examine our own costs. Those of us in politics have been entrusted with a great privilege by the people. We must lead by example." Not much chance of our grasping MPs doing this. When they won in 1997 we had a little afternoon party to celebrate. Now we'll have one to celebrate the end of this awful government.

Peter Day

Doncaster, South Yorkshire

Help for alcoholics

Government plans to cut benefits to alcoholics who refuse treatment (report, 15 April) again demonstrate this government's detachment from reality. As a family doctor, I have frequently experienced the frustration of being unable to get the help my motivated alcoholics need to combat this life-threatening affliction, due to under-resourcing of the Cinderella speciality of substance abuse. In-patient detoxification is frequently unobtainable. To add a torrent of patients who are not motivated to overcome their addiction but simply to go through the motions to retain their benefits does a disservice to all.

Dr Peter Glover

Rayleigh, Essex

Depleted ranks

If Harriet Harman is honest she will admit that the only reason Labour is, as she puts it, teaming up with anti-fascist groups to counter the BNP (interview, 10 April) is because her activist base has vanished. Ex-members like myself, who believed in old Labour values, volunteered to deliver party literature to the doorsteps come rain or shine. Labour foot soldiers no longer have the drive to tramp the streets promoting its failed policies, so she resorts to using others to get her message through.

F Bell


Euro in your pocket

A BBC investigation finds that 5 per cent of £1 coins are fake. A John Peters of Winchester survey finds the figure to be 20 per cent (letter, 11 April). Following my own extensive pocket-based survey I can announce that counterfeit coins do not actually exist (0 per cent), but fully one in four appears to be a Spanish euro. Either I've badly misjudged what makes a valid statistical sample, or the Government is trying to foist the single currency on us by stealth. I know which one my (so-called) money is on.

Neil Stewart


React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Read Next

If I were Prime Minister: I'd put the creative industries at the top of the agenda

Christopher Frayling

How I’ve backed the winner in every election since 1959

Andreas Whittam Smith
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power