The culture of modern journalism rests firmly on the notion of avoiding bias. This important principle may often be observed in the breach, but a firm belief in an individual's own lack of bias seems to be one thing that unites just about everyone in the press, whether the actuality remains true or not.
Armed with the notion of their own incorruptibility, press and broadcast outlets often act as if accusations of media bias are not to be taken seriously, a point that is deeply frustrating to critics.
So it must be considered something of a surprise to learn that there's at least one group of prominent journalists who feel there is no shame in publicly admitting that they take sides on an important issue. The case in point was the April 13 resolution by Britain's National Union of Journalists to boycott Israel.
The resolution not only compared the State of Israel to apartheid-era South Africa and asked for international sanctions against it, but threw in gratuitous criticisms of the war against Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon last year, as well as measures of Israeli self-defense against terror attacks emanating from Gaza.
How can people who are supposedly pledged to objectively report the news engage in this sort of blatantly false propaganda?
Just as with similar motions debated by academics, this measure demonstrates the depth of antipathy in British society to the existence of a sovereign Jewish state, and that of its people to live in peace. Apparently, the demonization of Israel and Jews runs so deep in Western European culture these days as to cause even those whose job it is to avoid bias to embrace it eagerly in this case.
Ironically, the union voted while the fate of BBC reporter Alan Johnston, who was kidnapped in Gaza by Palestinian terrorists, is still unknown. The union claimed its vote was, in part, a "thank you" to Palestinians who've worked for Johnston's release. But even that point highlights British bias because the union went out of its way to demonstrate that Johnston's work had been largely dedicated to supporting the Palestinians against Israel.
While we hope for Johnston's safety and his swift return, the idea that his slanted reporting against Israel ought to render him off-limits for terrorists remains deeply offensive. Implicit in the union's statements about his kidnapping, and their boycott, is their assumption that terror against Israelis and Jews is okay.
Even though the British journalists' decision represents a dark day for journalism, there is a silver lining to it. Never again can the sacred cows of British media outlets, such as the BBC, claim that their reputation exempts them from well-deserved criticism for their biased coverage of Israel and the Middle East. The vote makes it official that none of their reports that routinely stack the deck against Israel should be taken as anything more than the opinions of a group that values their grudge against Israel more than the demands of their profession.
In particular, listeners to BBC radio, whose news programs are featured on local public radio stations throughout the United States, have a right to ask why taxpayer-funded broadcast outlets should continue to present the fruit of such bias.
BBC news is heard regularly here in Philadelphia on WHYY-FM, where it is highlighted as an example of outstanding journalism unavailable elsewhere. But it's high time that WHYY's local donors, as well as American taxpayers who provide generous indirect subsidies to NPR, asked why the undisguised prejudices of British journalists against Israel is tolerated on our airwaves.
If British journalists think that boycotts of Israel are okay, then perhaps friends of Israel should make it clear that American broadcasters who disseminate the work of these biased Brits should be held accountable for their words and actions.