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The BBC drew condemnation almost immediately after announcing its abstention last Thursday, followed by written letters and public denouncements ranging from prominent politicians like Douglas Alexander, the international development secretary, to celebrities like Golden Globe winner Samantha Morton who has threatened to never again work for the corporation if they do not acquiesce.
Others, including Health Minister Ben Bradshaw, pointed the finger at Israel. Insinuating the BBC had bowed to pressure from the Jewish state, he said: “I am afraid the BBC has to stand up to pressure from the Jewish state occasionally.”
The appeal ultimately ran on Monday night on ITV, Channel 4 and Channel Five, raising £1 million in just that evening alone.
Welcoming the broadcast, Louise Ellman MP, vice chair of Labour Friends of Israel urged awareness of how and where donations might be spent. She told the Jewish News: “I think it should be aired but there should be questions asked so that the aid gets to the right people and Hamas is not able to use it for their own gain.”
A spokesman for the Board of Deputies said: “There is clearly a pressing need for humanitarian aid in Gaza, but we are not willing to get drawn into a debate about a decision which is in fact a matter for the BBC, Sky and other networks to consider internally in concurrence with their respective operating procedures.
“We had not at any point been asked for a view by the BBC or Sky, nor volunteered one and so choose not to comment any further.
“Of course, there is no doubt that any appeal which simply seeks to raise money for innocent civilians should be applauded and as such, Jewish News readers will remember that at our Peace in Israel, Peace in Gaza rally in Trafalgar Square on 11 January, we launched a text message appeal to raise funds for innocent victims on both sides of the conflict. This is intended to show empathy and offer practical support for all people in the region.”
Eric Moonman, president of the Zionist Federation, said: “I’m baffled by the amount of media coverage that’s been given to this decision by the BBC when many of us have challenged the way the BBC makes its decisions in the past without any support from the press.
“A number of journalists have decided to latch onto this issue and have awakened old prejudices, such as Tim Llewellyn who, in The Observer, opposed the BBC’s actions but then went on to say the citizens of Gaza have been persecuted beyond measure by the Israeli enemy.”
He added: “The fact is that if finances and practical help are needed then every opportunity should be adopted, but one has to remember that behind Hamas there is a massive amount of funding from its paymasters and therefore it seems almost incendiary that there should be conflict about this issue.”
The agency responsible for creating the appeal, the Disasters Emergency Committee, stated: “We really do appreciate the support of the British public who have shown their generosity when confronted with scenes of a dire humanitarian emergency.
“Their donations will improve the lives of so many civilians caught up in a conflict that was not of their making.”
• Should the BBC have broadcast the appeal? Share your thoughts at www.totallyjewish.com/voteGaza Appeal Ban Draws Controversy for BBC by Erica Morris