Friday, February 17, 2012

A win and a loss in media bias cases

A win and a loss in media bias cases

A great morale-boost was granted to Israel yesterday when a French court acquitted an Israeli doctor of slandering a Palestinian in the Mohammed al-Dura case.
For those who do not remember, Mohammed al-Dura became one of the abiding icons of the violent Second Intifada when he was apparently shot dead by IDF troops while cowering behind his father.
His killing became a rallying cry for Palestinians and their supporters, in particular terrorist supporters and their Western fellow-travellers in academia and the media. He became a cudgel with which to beat Israel about its murderous ways and abuse of children, war crimes, and almost every other evil on earth.
The “killing” was eventually exposed as a hoax by Richard LandesPhilippe Karsenty andothers.  (h/t CiFWatch which has extensive coverage of the Al Dura affair here).  None of this exposure and rebuttal has stopped the Israel-haters from continuing with their libel.
This is why this acquittal is so important and is such a moral victory for Israel as well as for the individual doctor in the case.
The French Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted an Israeli doctor accused of slandering a Palestinian man who claimed he was injured by the IDF during the second intifada.
The Palestinian man, Jamal al-Dura, and his 12-year-old son Muhammad, became the symbol of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, when the two were caught in a fire exchange in the Netzarim Junction. The boy was killed in the incident, triggering a blame game: The Palestinians accused Israel for Muhammad’s death, while Israeli officials claimed he was hit by Palestinian fire.
The father, who survived the ordeal, relayed his version before the media, showing the scars that he incurred in the incident. The claim prompted Dr. Yehuda David of Tel Hashomer Hospital to reveal that the scars were actually a result of a surgery the father had performed years earlier, afteral-Dura was attacked by Hamas operatives who suspected him of collaborating with Israel.
Al-Dura decided to sue David, and last year a Paris court ruled against the doctor due to the fact he released information from al-Dura’s medical records. He was ordered to compensate al-Dura with €13,000, but decided to appeal the ruling at the French Supreme Court.
“It couldn’t have turned out better,” David told Ynet after the ruling was overturned. “It means that I spoke the truth, and the father just lied.
“We managed to deconstruct their false statements. All the scientific evidence that we collected for the past 12 years proves that the incident was staged and fake. They made up the father’s injury, and the IDF troops never shot the boy.”
Biased BBC
Biased BBC
Unfortunately, pro-Israel activists have not been so lucky in their dealings with the BBC.  In 2004, after many complaints and pressure from Jewish and pro-Israel activists that the BBC’s coverage of Israel, particularly during the Intifada, was biased against Israel, the BBC opened an investigation and produced a report known as the Balen Report. However the results of that investigation have never been made public, leading us to presume that the findings were not in favour of the BBC.
A British Jewish lawyer, Steven Sugar, sued the BBC to publish the Balen Report and it has been winding its way through the courts ever since. Yesterday, the Supreme Court finally issued its verdict – that the BBC may keep the report private.
The Supreme Court will not force the BBC to reveal a report commission into potentially biased reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The court’s five justices unanimously dismissed the appeal of solicitor Steven Sugar, who had demanded the BBC release the internal 2004 report, compiled by the BBC’s senior editorial consultant Malcolm Balen, under the Freedom of Information Act.
Mr Sugar, described as a “respected solicitor and supporter of the s tate of Israel”, had fought the case since 2005. He died of cancer in January last year. His widow, psychologist Fiona Paveley and Mr Sugar’s former firm, Forsters, took on the case.
The BBC had argued it was exempt from releasing the report because it was “for the purposes of journalism, literature or art.”
Lord Wilson ruled that if information was held “predominantly” for the purposes of journalism, it was outside the scope of the act, and he judged that to be the case with the Balen Report.
They dismissed the argument of appellant barrister Tim Eicke QC, that the withholding of information would violate the European Convention on Human Rights Article 10, the right to receive and impart information.
The BBC said in a statement: “We welcome the Supreme Court’s judgment, which upholds the rulings of other courts in this case, and will ensure that the BBC is afforded the space to conduct its journalistic activities freely.
“Independent journalism requires honest and open internal debate free from external pressures. This ruling enables us to continue to do that.”
The Information Tribunal ruled in Mr Sugar’s favour in 2005, ordering the BBC to release the report. But the decision was overturned by the High Court, and upheld by the Court of Appeal.
The BBC’s claim that this decision will enable “honest and open internal debate free from external pressures” almost made me choke.   The Beeb is so politically correct that it practically turns itself into a pretzel in order not to offend the “right” (i.e. wrong) people, while having no compunction in misreporting on and misrepresenting Israel. Their chutzpah knows no bounds and the Supreme Court’s decision remains a mystery to me.