December 2023

Bias in action

Sir,

Tanya Vatsa’s excellent article on the Israel-Gaza conflict (‘A homeland lost, a homeland found’, November edition) called to mind so many issues relating to this seemingly insurmountable problem and tragedy.

Now more than ever, the longstanding conflict between Israel and Palestine has pitted the West against the Arab world as well as pro-Jewish against pro-Palestinian communities. London, as an example, is now witnessing demonstrations by both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel supporters on alternate days, with politicians nailing their colours to the respective flags of each cause.

As Independent politician, veteran human rights advocate and former leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, addressed crowds at the weekly pro-Palestinian rally – an event denounced by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and former Home Secretary Suella Braverman as a ‘hate march’ by Hamas sympathizers, the contrast between media coverage of that rally to the one against ‘anti-Semitism’ – attended by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, could not be more stark; the latter event was reported as ‘peaceful’ in which protesters conducted themselves in a ‘dignified manner’, in spite of the fact that protesters in support of Palestinians were entirely peaceful too – the only violence  being from far-right demonstrators , whipped up by Sunak and Braverman’s xenophobic rhetoric. 

This blatant level of bias has spilled over into face-to-face interviews too in which Leila Moran, the only British-Palestinian politician in UK government, was asked whether she had known about the October 7 attack before it had actually happened. Other Palestinians are routinely treated with similar disrespect and harangued as to whether they condemn the Hamas attacks is becoming standard practice.  A Palestinian man based in London was even asked this loaded question when invited onto a news programme to talk about the loss of 21 family members who were bombed while they slept. No similar questions are asked of representatives of the Israeli government or members of its military, in spite of the devastating and disproportionate loss of Palestinian life which they have inflicted – even when acting on Israeli orders and fleeing to the purported safety of South Gaza.

No historical context is provided either of the occupation or humanizing pieces of Palestinians victims of this outrage are offered to the viewer in the way that the families of the Israeli hostages or the ‘journeys’ of British-Israeli soldiers have been so widely documented.

Different language is used too; Israeli children are referred to as ‘children’ while Palestinian children are described as ‘minors’; the victims of the October 7 attacks are described as being ‘massacred’ while the 4500 children whose bodies have so far been recovered (many more still lie trapped under the rubble of their former homes) are not killed at the hands of the IDF on the instruction of Netanyahu, nor slaughtered but have simply ‘died’. The absence of any semblance of neutrality could not be clearer.

When journalists from the reputed BBC are intimidated by Israeli interviewees and are brainwashed into toeing the ‘accepted line’, maybe it is time that they gave up any pretense of journalistic rigor and hand back their press cards.

Thank you to Ms Vatsa and Asian Affairs for trying to address this shocking imbalance.

Peter Davidson

London, England

The BRI, pros and cons

The write-up by Yvonne Gill on ten years of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (‘A trail of financial wreckage’) quite rightly underscores very real concerns such as burden of debt and lack of transparency.

But please let us not forget that, for all its faults, BRI has been very impactful at attending to global infrastructure gaps faster and with less bureaucracy than Western countries. It has also woken up the world to the scale and scope of Chinese global ambitions, which we should learn from.

Geraldine Farrier

Cardiff

Competitive cooperation

The write-up on The Democracy Forum’s seminaraboutthe expansion of Chinese nuclear capabilityin the September edition led me to watch the recorded event, ‘Drivers of China’s Nuclear Build-Up’. The calibre of all the panelists was very impressive, as were their well-informed insights into this complex, worrisome issue.

Nuclear weapons as a source of China’s global status was a key point highlighted during the discussion, and this flagged up the importance of status to China generally – a cultural as well as a political aspect of the Chinese psyche which the West should perhaps try harder to understand and incorporate into its dealings with China.

But especially percipient and enlightening, I felt, wasJohn Erath’s comment that the most important level of competition between China and the West is intellectual, in the fields of exchanging ideas and information, which in turn, he suggested, will create an environment more conducive to (nuclear) arms control.

This seminar was just what is needed in our increasingly polarized societies with their too often one-sided mindsets: ahealthy, balanced discussion in which differences of opinion are aired without leading to a shutting down of debate.

Pauline Methven

Bristol

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