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  • A response to BBC’s John Ware

    by Sunny
    19th August, 2006 at 2:43 am    

    A recent BBC Panorama documentary investigated the London-based charity Interpal which gives funds to charities on the Palestinian territories of West Bank to help needy Palestinians.

    Its presenter John Ware said it revealed that some of the charities are linked to Hamas and help build support for the movement by spreading its Islamist ideology.

    It should be pointed out that while standing by my own and Sabina Ahmed’s comments, this response is not a defense of the MCB’s own views. The latter seem to think calling journalists “pro-Israeli polemicists” or “Zionists” constitutes an intelligent answer.

    1) The timing. The documentary was broadcast at a time of considerable tension over Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and a blockade of Palestinian territories that was making it difficult even to get aid into both those countries and areas. Why was more sensitivity not shown by postponing the documentary?

    2) John Ware does not respond to Sabina Ahmed’s point that a green flag at the school was a Hamas flag and did not accept the teacher’s explanation it was the flag of Saudi Arabia.

    3) In a debate hosted on the Islam Channel, Mouin Rabbani - author of International Crisis Group’s Islamic Social Welfare Activism in the Palestinian Territories: A legitimate Target?‘ - stated that the documentary had curiously chosen not to include crucial comments that he had made, i.e. accepting the integrity of the decisions made by the Charity Commission that Interpal was a bona fide charity not involved in illegal activity.

    4) The Charity Commission has previously upheld complaints against Interpal. The programme does not mention that the Jewish Board of Deputies and the Jewish Chronicle had to apologise in the past for making false accusations. The Charity Commission has admitted it did not look in enough detail at Interpal’s activities in the past and would investigate further, but this is by no means a sign of guilt.

    There were two previous formal investigations - in 1996 and 2003. Both led the Charity Commission to believe Interpal did not fund terrorist activities. A spokesperson for the Charity Commission told AIM that it was still in the process of receiving evidence from the BBC. Again, this does not imply that the Charity Commission is misusing the money it is donated.

    5) The tone. This is perhaps the biggest point. The documentary was aggressive and negative from the start which made it difficult to come to its conclusions objectively. There was a quick reference to the preacher Al-Qaradawi and a video of comments he made that provided no context. There seems to be a loose connection between Qaradawi and Interpal. But how does this relate to the video excerpt?

    There were constantly interspersed videos of children singing songs glorifying death. While I made it clear I did not approve of the lyrics, it is also true, as others have said, that many national songs around the world end up glorifying death if they are borne out of struggle. Westminster has a statue of Oliver Cromwell, a man recorded as responsible for untold Irish deaths. I do not support so-called “freedom-fighters” or suicide bombers anywhere, yet it must be acknowledged that national songs and national history frequently ends up glorifying death.

    The usage of certain techniques - black and white photos of people in rallies; constantly interspersing videos; saying Hamas “took power” as if it were a coup; linking it constantly to Al-Qaradawi as if he was directly involved with the running of the charity - all gave the psychological impression of guilt by association. And this comes from someone who neither wishes to see Israel destroyed and nor have a direct attachment to either Palestinians or Israelis.

    6) Its aim. It should be noted that Hamas neither enjoy complete support with Palestinians nor British Muslims. So if John Ware’s aim was to persuade the latter that they were helping Hamas then it seems he failed miserably. This is entirely because that most watching the documentary would feel defensive over the fact that rather than investigating Interpal’s role in a wider context, there was a narrow focus on its activities. And that does not do any justice to what is a very complicated conflict. Even cursory context would have been useful.

    7) Context. It was not made clear that the children were orphaned not as a result of suicide bombings or Israeli aggression but rather natural causes. Given that many more Palestinians have died than Israelis since the Intafada, many viewers would assume that the children were orphans as a result of the conflict.

    Presenter John Ware provided a lot of context to the charity Interpal’s links as well as its history and its methods of fund-raising. Yet he studiously avoided providing context to why so many Palestinians live in dire poverty and needed aid. He did not go into too much detail on what would happen without Interpal’s support or why aid is actually needed in Palestine of the effects of the blockade by the Israeli Defence Force.

    While true that Panorama needed to draw a line somewhere in giving context, discussing the role of Interpal cannot avoid the impact of economic sanctions placed by Israel. That gives only half the picture and a biased one at that.

                  Post to

    Filed in: Media,Middle East

    12 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. Osama Saeed — on 19th August, 2006 at 11:19 am  

      I’ve also made a number of serious points regarding Ware’s documentary -

      These institutions in Palestine have been funded by numerous (non-Muslim) charities from the US and Europe. So why was Interpal uniquely singled out for criticism?

      There were also some glaring inaccuracies in the information Ware had. He got it wrong on the songs and flags. They were not indicative of support for Hamas. Additionally, the orphanage where all the boys put their hands up say that the teacher was in fact a caretaker, and the class had to be put together as there were no classes that day.

      I had a very strange response to all this from Ware on one the PP threads -

    2. Tasneem — on 19th August, 2006 at 1:02 pm  

      When will someone note that a miserable void does exist in terms of welfare networks in the region? That Hamas and Hezbollah cash on their welfare work to gain a footing among the population while states are engaged in monkey business and boot-licking the empire. And end of the day, this guy goes after an aid-organisation! That’s not what we call smart journalism.

    3. waxon — on 19th August, 2006 at 1:08 pm  

      Never watched it, but did Ware talk about the Israeli funding of Hamas?

      Or the American/British funding of Israeli bodies….

    4. Sylvie — on 19th August, 2006 at 1:24 pm  

      Ah yes, the ‘tone’. One mustn’t speak out of ‘tone’ about the Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas.

      John Ware you disgraceful uppity disgrace. Speaking out of tone about the Muslim Brotherhood.

    5. S — on 19th August, 2006 at 6:35 pm  

      yeah-but-no-but he didn’t put it in context of how evil Israel is!

      that’s a weak-ass riposte to his cool debunking of your earlier complaints. You’ve effectively conceded by moving to non-substantive criticisms.

    6. Tim B — on 19th August, 2006 at 9:31 pm  

      Yet he studiously avoided providing context to why so many Palestinians live in dire poverty and needed aid.

      You mean he should have described how Yasser Arafat spent much of the previous EU aid on Paris shopping trips for his young blonde wife?

    7. Sunny — on 20th August, 2006 at 1:43 am  

      I have no problems with criticisms of Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood. I make no secret of my opposition to them. But the documentary was about Interpal and the tone regarding its activities.

      I object to programmes that are made to be emotional in nature - whether they be pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli.

      You’ve effectively conceded by moving to non-substantive criticisms

      Not really. Bias does not have to be reflected in facts alone. I’m sure John Ware did his research thoroughly (although there are a few factual issues too). But that does not mean the way it was filmed, and its timing, cannot be construed as bias.

      The same applies to criticism of the BBC’s coverage of the recent war in Lebanon, with bloggers and other commentators claiming the BBC was biased towards Lebanon (without making any factual errors).

    8. peter — on 20th August, 2006 at 9:36 am  

      Must try harder. ‘Tone’ and ‘timing’ are the kinds of criticisms that any editor/media lawyer would laugh off. Indeed, regarding ‘timing’, you might argue that media organisations are always looking for a peg, of which the Israel/Hezbollah conflict is undeniably one. And if there “are a few factual issues too”, then where are they in your run-down?

    9. winrock — on 20th August, 2006 at 2:17 pm  

      This sort of reports, only helping Islamophobia in Western Countries!.

      Look at the other example here,

      “Mutiny as passengers refuse to fly until Asians are removed”

      I hope some one, one day will show a better side of Islam.

    10. Old Pickler — on 20th August, 2006 at 4:38 pm  

      Westminster has a statue of Oliver Cromwell

      And that is absolutely no different from little children singing about making a ladder of their skulls.

    11. Bikhair aka Taqiyyah — on 20th August, 2006 at 6:27 pm  


      And leaving the plane is exactly what they should do. Passengers, any passengers are not responsibile for the safety of the plane. The airline is responsible, or in my country, USA we sometimes have air marshalls. Now if a passenger fears that the planes security has been breached he/she/they, should get off and fly with a competitor. Thats business. If an airline doesnt appeal to the concerns of their potential customers, they should go with a competitor that they believe has taken the proper security cautions.

      No passengers are allowed to decide who flies. Security has that job. If they make security, they should fly. If a person doesnt feel comfortable with those fellow passengers who have made security, they get up, get off, and fly with a competitor. Done and Done. Thank the free market for allowing you so many choices.

    12. iWitness — on 22nd August, 2006 at 3:01 pm  

      Cant understand why Sunny would have to post such a weak response when Ware’s documentary can be debunked on the facts

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