Palestinians vs. Morality

The BBC and Sky News have come under fire for refusing to air a two-minute appeal for donations on behalf of Palestinians in Gaza. The group of British humanitarian organizations behind the appeal is furious. Along with a number of British politicians and public figures, like the archbishop of Canterbury, they have railed against the two television networks. What’s their beef against the broadcasters?

The broadcasters explained that they did not want to compromise their journalistic impartiality, since airing a solicitation for charity to Palestinians might be seen as endorsing one side in the recent war. Sky is a private satellite broadcaster, and so it should be free to decide what it airs; the BBC is in a more complicated situation, because it is publicly funded and required to serve the “public interest,” but its position is not unreasonable. (For the BBC, like other “public” institutions, there’s ultimately no objective way to determine what is in the “public interest” nor what content the network should air. Ayn Rand’s point re the “public interest” is particularly relevant here.)

But the British charity groups behind the appeal believe that there’s a more important issue at play, and that the broadcasters must put aside their own decision regarding what they’re willing to put on the air. The two networks are being urged to sacrifice that–in the name of what?

Mr. ADRIAN LOVETT (Director of Campaigns and Communications, Save the Children): Whatever the – what we acknowledge are deeply complicated issues around this crisis, at the heart of it are 400,000 people today without running water, 50,000 people who are homeless today, raw sewage running down the streets, and children who tell us on the ground in Gaza that they are afraid, that they’re traumatized….[Read the NPR transcript.]

Richard Burden, a Labour member of Parliament, has been leading the charge against the BBC and Sky:  ”This is not about taking sides in the conflict. It is about providing urgent help to people in desperate need.”

Need, on this moral outlook, is paramount — regardless of one’s own convictions and values, and regardless of the actions and moral character of the people deemed needy. Even though the Palestinian people overwhelmingly embraced the anti-Western, jihadist group Hamas for its leadership–that doesn’t matter. Even though so many of the people in Gaza are complicit in the attacks on Israel — that doesn’t matter. Even though some, if not all, the charitable funds sent to Gaza will end up with Hamas — no, all of that must be put aside, because there is a duty to serve others. Any evidence that the needy are in fact hostile and undeserving is papered over and evaded (hence the common fiction that Hamas and the Palestinian people are utterly distinct and separate groups, with Hamas somehow rising to power against the wishes of the people).

Given this moral ideal of service to the needy, is there anything the Palestinians might say or do that would disqualify them from receiving Western largesse? Seemingly not.