Sunday, August 21, 2005

Goodbye to Gaza

I'm not one of the people who rails against the BBC virulently. I'm not the biggest fan of the license fee, as I think that people should have the freedom to choose which TV services they wish to receive, and thus pay for. I also think that BBC News, TV-wise at the very least, does have a slightly left-leaning bias - and that there is no harm in admitting that. If you are open about your influences, it allows your content to be judged more fairly, rather than giving grist to the mill of ideological enemies.

However, the main news picture on the BBC website when I logged on this afternoon was the picture in the top left of this post. I don't pretend to understand the complexities of the Israel-Palestine debate; as far as I can tell it is too far enmeshed in memory, identity and history to be solvable. What I am fairly sure of is that a withdrawal from the Gaza settlements was a hard and courageous decision of Ariel Sharon to make; whilst I feel for those who have lost their homes in the withdrawal, hopefully gestures like this can be the first tentative steps on the way to peace.

However, I can't help but feel that the BBC is playing into the hands of forces they really do not want to be encouraging with pictures like that. The Israeli flag is not just the symbol of a country; the Star of David is the symbol of a religion - and a much-hated one. Seeing the Israeli flag shrouded in flames is a highly inflammatory picture (no pun intended); and, to my mind, almost certainly is encouragement to those who wish to see the state of Israel destroyed. The picture is undoubtedly striking and effective; for a national, taxpayer-funded organisation known around the world to be broadcasting it is far more questionable.