I was left scratching my head last week when I read on Electronic Intifada that the BBC has defended its failure to report civilian deaths in Gaza during the so-called ceasefire on the grounds that these deaths, along with the uninterrupted harassment of Gazan fishermen and various other acts of IDF aggression, were not ‘material facts’ the British public ought to know.

I certainly wasn’t surprised that the BBC reaffirmed its commitment to its pro-Israel bias, which I’ve addressed before on this site, and which is backed up by independent research. Instead I was curious about the adjective ‘material‘ which I looked up in the dictionary in an effort to penetrate the Orwellian semantic gymnastics the public broadcaster has embraced in order to obscure its intellectual and professional dishonesty. Given that we’re not talking about matter and the cosmos here, the only definitions I could find that appear relevant are ‘pertinent’, ‘of much consequence’, and ‘important’.

My goodness. Where to begin?

First, I’m sure no one is in much doubt about whose deaths would be considered ‘pertinent’ and whose ceasefire violations would be deemed ‘important.’ Conversely, if a campaign of continuous and systematic military violence during a ceasefire following a 50-day siege of a civilian population living under a seven-year blockade is not ‘material’, it follows naturally that the death of five year-old Inas Khalil who was mowed down by an Israeli settler last week as she walked down the road with her friend was not ‘of much consequence’ either. And presumably the death of the 13 year-old Palestinian boy who was shot in the chest by the IDF would not be ‘important’. Nor would the gunning down of the 14 year-old Palestinian-American kid in Jerusalem just a few days ago be deemed ‘pertinent’. Using the BBC’s all purpose framework, that is.

That notion was contextualised for me in a video I watched yesterday of Steve Salaita‘s recent comments at the University of Chicago. Salaita contends that Palestinian humanity is granted only when Palestinians ‘grovel’, and I would add that even then it is conditional. Conditional on agreeing not to matter unless someone else says so. Conditional on accepting no entitlement to rights. Conditional on acquiescing to a narrative sleight-of-hand in which we are instructed to bestow sympathy on the assassin, and forbidden to mourn the dead.

This conditionality is also implicit in the logic of the ‘anti-Semitism’ smear that’s trotted out Tourette’s style at any expression of concern about Israel’s conduct. The idea that one might be moved enough by the Palestinian plight as to raise questions of justice, rights and dignity is so suspect and so absurd the only possible explanation for such concern must be anti-Jewish racism. Several weeks ago now the historian Simon Schamas held up Jewish forbearance during the Nazi period as an example from which the restive Palestinians should learn. Tell that to the Irgun, the Haganah, the Palmach, I thought. Their call to arms produced a homeland. We’re told that Palestinian aspirations produce anti-Semitism.

As for the BBC, in case you need reminding the assessment of ‘materiality’ in question here comes from a media organisation that embarked with great enthusiasm on apportioning blame for ceasefire violations during Operation Sturdy Edge – as opposed to the current regimen of casual violence that is the IDF’s stock and trade – and repeatedly got it wrong. This is the same outfit, too, that set to its Head of Statistics, one Anthony Reuben, the task of revising the Gaza casualty figures to reduce the number of civilian deaths, for which the BBC was forcefully and unequivocally condemned by Chris Gunness of UNRWA.

Admittedly, the BBC is in good company. You might recall that Jodi Rudoren of The New York Times took the unprecedented step of re-defining ‘childhood’ so that it would exclude a large number of young people’s deaths in Gaza and thereby rehabilitate Israel’s image. Besides its PR value, Rudoren’s cynical manipulation worked in aid of hasbara spin that suggests any teenage Palestinian boy is likely to be a ‘terrorist’ (or throw stones at an occupying army, depending on your POV). The mainstream media are rife with similar distortions and omissions.

Indeed, the deaths of Israeli-American and Palestinian-American children last week prompted Rania Khalek to write a compelling piece documenting the vast differential in media coverage of the deaths of children, and in the treatment of the perpetrators of those deaths by both the media and Israeli authorities.

In a similar vein, on Saturday Glenn Greenwald wrote this piece on The Intercept documenting the huge disparity in how the US State Department responded to the deaths of its own citizens based on their Arab or Jewish origin. Again, I don’t think you need me to tell you whose lives are ‘pertinent’, ‘important’ and ‘of much consequence.’ Or not.

Still, the BBC is a public broadcaster and as such it ought to be accountable to the taxpayers who support it. In the interest of fuller disclosure, then, here are a few material facts the BBC doesn’t think you need to know:


via @mirabarhillel

2. Israel to build over 1,000 settler homes in East al-Quds via @PressTV

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved the construction of 1,060 new settler units in the occupied Palestinian territories amid mounting criticism of the regime’s expansionist policies.

Israeli authorities made the announcement on Monday, noting that the new housing units are slated to be built in East al-Quds (Jerusalem), Israel’s Jerusalem Post newspaper reported.

The officials stated that the new plans also include building civilian infrastructure in the occupied West Bank.

3. Settlers burn 100 olive trees near Nablus in the occupied West Bank via @Jew4Peace

Extremist settlers set fire on Wednesday to agricultural lands in the town of Huwara, south of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank, Al-Resalah newspaper reported.

According to Al-Resalah, the mayor of the town said that a group of masked settlers had sneaked onto the land in western Huwara and then poured incendiary fluids on the trees, setting them on fire, which led to the burning of at least one hundred olive trees.

4. Israel teargases anti-settlement activists in W. Bank via @Jew4Peace

Scores of Palestinians on Friday suffered temporary asphyxiation when Israeli army troops used teargas to disperse anti-occupation demonstrations in the West Bank, a Palestinian NGO has said.

Israeli forces fired stun grenades and teargas to disperse Palestinians protesting the construction of Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land and Israel’s “separation wall,” the Popular Resistance Committee said in a statement.

5. Israeli raids, arrests continue in WB via @occpal

The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) arrested at dawn Thursday 20 Palestinians from occupied Jerusalem and West Bank as they carried out a wide raid campaign in different towns of the northern West Banker city of Jenin.

6. Activists sound alarm bells over Israel’s torture of Palestinian minor captives

Sworn affidavits released by Palestinian minor captives launched distress signal over the wholesale psycho-physical torture they have been made to endure in Israeli jails and investigation centres.

7. Israel prosecutes eight Palestinian women via @jncatron

Eight Palestinian women have gone on trial in Israel after being detained yesterday while they left Al-Aqsa Mosque.

According to an Alresalah correspondent, Israel held a session this morning to prosecute the women who were arrested after noon prayers yesterday accusing them of attacking Israeli forces.