Sep 2003 Journal

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The BBC, PC and the PM (editorial)

Great institutions, after a period of glory, slip into decline. In this they resemble great men. After all, in the 1930s Mahatma Gandhi advised German Jews to adopt a strategy of passive disobedience vis-à-vis the Nazi state, and last year Nelson Mandela warned that a war on Iraq would turn into a 'holocaust'.

A similar decline of mental astuteness is observable in the 80-year-old BBC. This institution won huge plaudits during the Second World War (and the Cold War) for its commitment to truth and freedom. Latterly, however, its attachment to these supreme values has been eroded by the ever more dominant ideology of the 1980s and 1990s, i.e. Political Correctness.

PC has swept through the opinion-forming classes of Britain - journalists, academics, lawyers, clergy, etc. - to such a degree that in any dispute their first question is not which party is right and which wrong, but which is First World, and which Third? A prime example of this is the strangely muted criticism of South African President Mbeki over his stance on AIDS and his support for the tyrannical Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe.

Since the United States is the very embodiment of the First World, it appears before the bar of British public opinion as the presumed villain in any dispute to which it is a party and, since the arch-villains of the post-Cold War world - Gaddafi, bin Laden, Arafat, the Taliban, Saddam Hussein - all come from the Third World, PC-oriented opinion-formers readily find extenuating circumstances for their atrocious conduct. The missing sense of revulsion felt in the UK at the monstrous toll of innocent lives taken by Palestinian suicide bombers owes less to antisemitism than to the fact that Israel is widely perceived as a 'white', US-sponsored implant in the 'brown' Middle East. This perception is strongly fostered by the BBC, whose reporting on the Middle East seems woefully biased. The Daily Telegraph characterised Dan Cruikshank's 'On the Road to Armageddon', a documentary about the effect of the war on Middle East historical artefacts, as 'a breathtaking farrago of distortions, historical illiteracy and appalling insinuations against Israel. The effect of the programme was to blame Israel for imperilling the historical monuments of the region. There was not a single reference to the shocking defacing of historical architecture in East Jerusalem when it was under Arab control.'

The BBC's bias in this particular area is so blatant that The Times commented: 'Reporting the Middle East, it sometimes seems so remorselessly anti-Israeli that Mr Dyke might as well be open about it and allow his reporters to appear speaking Arabic, riding a camel, stopping occasionally to suck from a long pipe in a crowded souk.'

These two quotes from our largest-circulation quality newspapers show that, despite indications to the contrary, the battle against the demonisation of the Jewish state in this country has not yet been comprehensively lost. The fact that Sharon has taken the first tentative steps along the path towards a settlement must have had a sobering effect on local Israel-baiters from John Pilger to the Muslims in Tower Hamlets who threatened to de-select their sitting MP Oona King unless she did something as obscene as likening the inhabitants of Gaza to Warsaw Ghetto dwellers.

The fact that Israeli-Palestinian tensions have gone into reverse mode from the constantly bloodier escalation of the last two years is due partly to Israel's steadfastness under relentless attack - but, more crucially, to Saddam's overthrow. Regime change in Iraq has radically transformed the situation of that most volatile region of the world. Even if Saddam's malign ghost still hovers over the country, the equation of terror with success which he embodied for so long has at last been challenged - if not entirely laid to rest.

If the world's number one trouble-spot is now an admittedly still dangerous, but even so, vastly better, place than five months ago, the fact has not been recognised by a large section of opinion-formers in this country. The latter, and particularly the BBC, are loath to praise the Prime Minister for his courageous part in transforming the Iraqi situation. Rather than delighting in the torture chambers closed down, and sorrowing over the killing fields revealed, they focus with inquisitorial zeal on the missing weapons of mass destruction. They are, as the Gilligan affair indicates, out to assassinate Tony Blair by depicting him as a warmongering poodle of Uncle Sam. Mary Tudor died with Calais engraved on her heart, and they are intent on incising WMD on the Prime Minister's political corpse. There is a remote possibility that they will ultimately bring him down, as John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln in 1865. However, just as Booth's bullets could not restore slavery, the poison darts of Blair's detractors will not put Saddam back into power.

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