He may not be in the same league as Barbara ‘tears for Arafat’ Plett and Orla Guerin when it comes to anti-Israeli bias, but the BBC’s Martin Asser is clearly toeing the company line. His follow-up report on Monday’s rocket attack on an Israeli nursery school by Islamic Jihad is a classic hit-job on Israel, in which Asser rolls out the familiar prejudices, and wallows in moral equivalence.
Initially, Asser seems to be offering straight reporting:
Three such strikes within 10 minutes seemed precisely designed to catch children on their way to school, rendering the elaborate protective measures (a metal canopy covering the school building) useless.
But, it turns out, the terrorists had a perfectly good excuse:
To the Islamic Jihad militants who fired them, the rockets were pay-back against Israel for the deaths of a number children in Israeli air strikes in Gaza in the past week.
To the best of my knowledge, Islamic Jihad hasn’t issued a press release claiming that the attack was in retaliation for any particular incident, in which case Asser is quite simply making excuses for attempted murder on their behalf. Islamic Jihad, and groups like them, don’t need any encouragement to try and kill Israelis. And, even if this was ‘retaliation’, Asser makes no distinction between the deliberate or indiscriminate targeting of children by terrorists, and the accidental killing of children by Israeli troops.
It’s been said many times but it bears repeating: when Israeli forces kill Palestinian civilians it’s because they made a mistake; when Palestinians terrorists kill Israeli civilians it’s because they’re trying to.
For the record, the three children who were killed most recently were playing near a rocket launcher which had been placed close to their homes by terrorists. The sad reality is that the extremists value the deaths of their own children even more than the deaths of Israelis, because they know that the BBC and other sympathetic media will give disproportionate coverage to such incidents, and will report them with little or no context.
Asser’s report is headlined 'Israel town anger at school attack'. Of course, you would expect the parents of those children who narrowly escaped death to be angry – but it turns out they’re not angry at the terrorists who tried to kill their children, but at the Israeli government:
"After today we demand that the government take all our children out to a safe place outside Sderot,” one mother is quoted as saying. "I don't care if it takes one year, two years, 10 years, our children must be made safe".
The overwhelming feeling among Sderot residents – the only civilians in Israel sharing the Palestinian experience of life under siege – seems to be [that] the government has abandoned them to their fate.
It’s understandable that the people of Sderot should feel the Israeli government isn’t doing enough to protect them, and if security measures are inadequate then those responsible should be called to account. However, Asser is putting the cart before the horse here – and that’s putting it kindly – in a bid to stir discord between the Israeli people and their leaders. I find it hard to believe that out of all the residents of Sderot interviewed by Asser, not one had a bad word for the people who fired the rockets.
And let’s go back to the aside in that last quote – the claim that the residents of Sderot are “the only civilians in Israel sharing the Palestinian experience of life under siege”. If the people of Gaza are under siege it’s because they’ve thrown their lot in with murderous extremists dedicated to the destruction of Israel, who murder their opponents and crush any sign of dissent. The people of Sderot, for their part, are under siege because those extremists want to kill as many of them as they can.
This is by no means the first time that Asser has been selective with his facts or parroted Palestinian propaganda. Here he is making mischief in Iraq back in 2003 (there’s no permalink so you’ll need to scroll down about ten posts), and here he is playing fast and loose with the facts in Lebanon in 2006. He's also attracted the attention of CAMERA (the Committe for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) on several occasions.
It’s been reported that Asser, who has his own blog, is a British convert to Islam. If that’s the case then serious questions need to be asked about whether he can be employed as impartial observer of events in Israel or anywhere the Middle East. Then again, perhaps at the BBC it’s a qualification for the job.