Richard Burden, a Labour party MP who tabled the Commons motion, said: "It shouldn't be about saving face, it should be about saving lives and by their decision I think the BBC have departed from their proud traditions of impartiality through a wish to not be controversial."

Legal action

Charities in the UK have raised $1.4m for the people of Gaza despite the refusal of BBC and Sky to broadcast the appeal.

Members of the DEC, which include Save the Children, the British Red Cross and Islamic Relief, say money is coming in through internet, telephone and postal donations.

Shaista Aziz, a spokeswoman for the DEC, said that the group was pleased with the response.

Britain's Guardian newspaper reported the BBC was being threatened with legal action alleging its ban was discriminatory.

It said 42 people would argue that the ban discriminated against Palestinians because the BBC had previously shown appeals for other ethnic or national groups, such as in Kosovo and Darfur.

BBC defiant

A meeting on Tuesday between MPs and BBC executives failed to produce a compromise over the appeal.

Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour MP, said after the meeting concluded that about 35 politicians had met with Mark Thompson, the BBC director general, but had failed to convince him that the appeal must be broadcast to help relieve a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza.

Corbyn said: "I was extremely angry and quite discouraged. Thompson was very bullish and very repetitive, saying they couldn't broadcast the appeal and still be impartial, which I see as nonsense.

"He also said they couldn't be sure the aid would get through, which was contradicted by the United Nations."

It is not the first time the BBC has refused to air appeals for the DEC, having refused to broadcast an appeal for Lebanese victims after Israel's war with Hezbollah in 2006.