50 MPs SLAM BBC OVER GAZA

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‘BBC Radio Israel’, says a placard, during Saturday’s protest against the BBC refusal to broadcast an emergency aid appeal.
‘BBC Radio Israel’, says a placard, during Saturday’s protest against the BBC refusal to broadcast an emergency aid appeal.

More than 50 MPs have signed a House of Commons Early Day Motion (EDM) condemning ‘the refusal of the BBC and other broadcasters to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee Gaza Crisis Appeal’.

The EDM, tabled by the Labour MP Richard Burden, ‘notes the unconvincing and incoherent explanations given by BBC spokespeople for the decision; and draws attention to the fact that people wishing to contribute to the Gaza appeal can contact the DEC by calling 0370 60 60 900, writing to DEC Gaza Crisis, PO Box 999, London EC3A 3AA or visiting www.dec.org.uk.’

The DEC is an umbrella group for major aid charities, including the British Red Cross, Save the Children and Oxfam, which wants the appeal to be broadcast on TV and radio from today.

Pressure continued to mount on the state broadcaster and Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV after Saturday’s protest and the decision of ITV, Channel 4 and Channel Five to break ranks and broadcast the appeal today.

Many BBC journalists and presenters are angry about director-general Mark Thompson’s decision and his claim that broadcasting the appeal would threaten the BBC’s ‘impartiality’.

Health Minister Ben Bradshaw has told the BBC to ‘stand up to Israel’, and International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander urged the BBC to broadcast the appeal.

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears called on the corporation to review its decision, but Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said the BBC is right to make its own judgement over whether to air the appeal.

This came after BBC Trust chairman Michael Lyons said politicians’ comments were coming close to ‘undue interference’ in the BBC’s editorial independence.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of York became the latest figure urging the corporation to change its mind.

He said: ‘This is not a row about impartiality but rather about humanity.’

He added: ‘This is not an appeal by Hamas asking for arms but by the Disasters Emergency Committee asking for relief.

‘By declining their request, the BBC has already taken sides and forsaken impartiality.’

The Charity Commission repeated its call on the BBC to show the appeal, and also urged Sky to lend support.

Oxfam’s Campaigns and Policy Director Phil Bloomer warned yesterday:  ‘Oxfam’s distribution of food parcels to 22,000 people, which has been delivered for the past two weeks, will have to end on Monday morning as we don’t have the $200,000 we need to continue it.’ 

He stressed: ‘It will take many, many months to help people get back on their feet, even if the blockade of Gaza is permanently lifted.

‘And, as always, the generosity of the British people  will help us to reach so many more.’ 

Meanwhile, Hamas warned that it will resume its resistance if the siege on Gaza is not lifted.

Minister of social affairs, Ahmed al-Kurd, who heads the National High Committee for Relief, said: ‘From now on we will not accept a slow death by blockade.’