A Conservative MP has demanded an explanation from the BBC for its “inexcusable” lack of coverage of the Fogel murders a fortnight ago and condemned the broadcaster for “exceptionally biased reporting” — and even antisemitism.
Louise Bagshawe, MP for Corby, said she would formally complain to the BBC after the broadcaster failed to carry on any of its television channels anything about the brutal slaughter of five members of the same family in the West Bank town of Itamar.
Before Ms Bagshawe entered parliament she was a best-selling romantic novelist. She expressed outrage that the BBC chose to cover in detail the Israeli government’s announcement of settlement construction the day after the murders, but “buried” the details of the massacre, ignored the reports of Palestinians handing out sweets in celebration of the attack, and Hamas’ statement praising the murders.
“Why was it reported that the children had only been stabbed,” she said, “whereas in fact the throats of the children had been cut, and the three-month-old Hadas Fogel had been decapitated?”
Ms Bagshawe, who sits on the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport, urged more people to hold the BBC formally to account. She also said she would submit parliamentary questions and write to Lord Patten, the new chair of the BBC Trust.
She said that as a mother she found the BBC’s behaviour even more infuriating. “It was heartrending and it so viscerally grabbed me that the BBC could ignore it,” she said.
“It’s about a family of little children who got butchered, not politics. As it happens, I don’t think Israel should be building settlements, but that has nothing to do with my outrage at the absolute lack of humanity.
“The BBC should have had much more coverage, huge coverage because it was a brutal murder,” she said, adding that had it been a Palestinian child that had been butchered, there would have been “round the clock coverage” from the BBC. “It struck me as antisemitism, frankly,” she said.
“I’m not Jewish, but the Jewish community must now believe that Jews don’t count and settlers count even less. The sense is ‘who cares, it’s just more dead Jewish babies’.”
Julia Ockenden, the BBC’s senior adviser for public affairs, said that the story was not given airtime because of “the weight of other news on the day,” including events in Japan and Libya. Ms Bagshawe said she wanted “a full list of all the other stories that were covered on their news channels that day”.
Ms Bagshawe called on the entire UK media “to examine their consciences over this story”, pointing out that as Britain’s national public service broadcaster “the BBC is held to a much higher standard”.
She said: “There is a long history of feeling that the BBC has an anti-Israeli bias. In that context, its lack of coverage of the barbaric Fogel child killings is inexcusable.
“Who made the decision that it was not worthwhile of broadcast coverage?
“I’m not a regular BBC basher, but this is a problem and they need to explain it — they have no excuse.”
Ms Ockenden said: “We cannot agree that our reporting of the killings constitutes anti-Israeli bias.
“We felt it was more appropriate in the circumstances to highlight the gravity of the incident by reporting that Palestinians as well as Israelis were shocked by the killings.”
She added that the wider airtime given to the settlement decision was because it was “an important political development”, adding: “Given its timing we felt it was appropriate to refer to it in our coverage. Given that the killing of the Israeli family may well be attributed to an act of Palestinian political violence, it was important to place the settlers’ deaths within the overall context of the conflict.”