Explaining Briefly Why Some People are Prejudiced Against the BBC

(Radio 4 Today 7:13)

 A religious studies exam question, “Explain why some people are prejudiced against Jews”, has sparked controversy over whether it is a reasonable question to put to young people. Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, discusses the question.

So says the Today website.

“You’re sitting an exam on religious studies. Question: Explain briefly why some people are prejudiced against Jews. Well, is that a reasonable question to ask  young people?”  asks Evan Davis.

The chairman of the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education thinks not. He suggests it was appropriate for a classroom discussion, to tease out why “these” prejudices arose, but when put as an exam question “you’ve lost the context” and it implies that the prejudices might be valid.  Jon Benjamin agrees. He says the question doesn’t ask for an analysis of ‘prejudice’, but virtually asks for a list of what’s wrong with Jews.

“If a student came up with such a list,” posits Evan, “they’d get an appalling mark.” (Probably.) Evan tried to illustrate the difference between the words ‘explain’ and ‘justify’ by making an analogy that involved substituting ‘Jews’ with ‘criminals’ and ‘self-harmers’.

It begged the question, could one replace ‘Jew’ with ‘Muslim’ here? Not that that would be helpful, because of course the zeitgeist that culminated in the holocaust is generally known to have been founded on ‘irrational fear ignorance and scapegoating.’ Suffice it to say that so far, dare I say, most prejudice against Muslims appears to be founded on the rational fear of misogyny, homophobia, antisemitism and  terrorism.  What’s more, no exam board would imagine for one nano second that they could get away with asking a question like that.

Evan’s snippet of an item was misleading and counterproductive. If it wasn’t for the fact that antisemitism is rearing its ugly head all over again, this whole furore would be a bit of nonsense.  I’ll explain why.

It says in the Telegraph:

“The exam board insisted that the question was part of a paper focusing on Judaism and the “relevant part of the syllabus covers prejudice and discrimination with reference to race, religion and the Jewish experience of persecution”.

“We would expect [students to refer] to the Holocaust to illustrate prejudice based on irrational fear, ignorance and scapegoating,” she said.“Part of the syllabus is that children must study the causes and origins of prejudice against Jews.”

So in that context the same isolated, clumsily-phrased question is arguably a good thing, which we might now see in a completely different light.

If Evan’s poor little snippet of an item had started off with that information, and he hadn’t sensationalised and isolated the question from its context, it might not have looked like an ill-conceived blunder by the exam board at all, but considering the BBC’s long-term barrage of one sided, out of context reports about Israel, it’s become  impossible to ask a question like that without causing offence. In fact the whole caboodle needed to be seen in context, not just the offending question. If it wasn’t for the BBC setting the scene over decades with their ever-present antisemitic innuendos and half-stories, posing such a sensitive question in an exam could have been thought-provoking and perhaps even positive. As it is, everyone concerned made mountain of a touchy, hyper sensitive issue that should have been a molehill.

 

Crying Shame

If anyone still doubts that the BBC reports negatively and one-sidedly about Israel, do look at the comments (296 and counting) below the line at Nick Robinson’s article here.

The dubious standard of literacy and the appalling ignorance indicates that the commenters aren’t in the habit of seeking out details or background beyond their own armchair. In other words they’ve been relying on the BBC.
All they seem to know is that Israel has ‘nukes’ and Iran hasn’t, (so unfair) and anyway Israel is at the root of all the problems in the Middle East; and oh, Israel’s wars are none of our business.

It’s enough to make one weep.

Update. Quite a few pro-Israel commenters are fighting back! (356 and counting!)

Bad Influence

For reasons best known to them (probably), the BBC World service came up with a poll to measure selected countries’ perceptions of certain other countries’ influence.

Israel comes out slightly above Hell on Earth.

Since the BBC and the BBC World Service have been pumping out selected information about the aforementioned countries, and withholding certain other selected information, it throws up an analogy thus:

I run a monopolistic campaign to promote my product for a number of years. I also run a monopolistic negative campaign to discredit my rivals’ products.  I then send out a questionnaire to random consumers and non consumers asking whether they see my product in a positive or negative light.

Since most of the participants in question have been subjected to my campaign but many of them have never tried my somewhat niche product because it isn’t relevant to them, the results cannot show how popular my product is, merely how effective my campaign has been.

The BBC World Service can rest assured. Their campaign has been a great success.

Disaster Day

On BBC News 24 yesterday, Jon Donnison reported the demonstrations in the Gaza strip and the West Bank by Palestinians celebrating Nakba day. I use the word ‘celebrate’ deliberately because Nakba day has become a celebration of victimhood rather than a commemoration of a Nakba (catastrophe) or cataclysmic disaster. Using this name brings it into line, in the world’s eye view, with a real catastrophe when half the world’s Jews were exterminated.

Naming the anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel after the Arabic word for catastrophe puts the largely self-inflicted expulsion of approximately 700,000 Arab inhabitants of the region on a par with the murder of six million Jews.

Jon Donnison’s report was more than a mere account of the demonstrations attended by ‘Thousands of Palestinians’. It was also a history lesson – consisting solely of a dumbed-down version of the ‘Palestinian narrative’, which itself is a very particular version of the creation of Israel. “The beginning of our continued hardship” he quotes Abbas saying, sorrowfully.

The role that Arab leaders played in this fright and flight exercise in 1948 by propagandising and scaremongering is ignored, as is the fact that the exeat was intended as a temporary  inconvenience while the Jews were neatly disposed of by invading Arab armies. Forgotten altogether is the little known “other Nakba”, the expulsion of approximately 800,000 Jews from the Middle East, who were absorbed into Israel.

“How Palestinian Arabs became refugees and how they have suffered at the hands of the Jews,” is a version of history that many have chosen to adopt as *the* authentic account of the creation of Israel. The term Jews has been prudently ‘euphemised’ into ‘Israelis’ as if to dissociate it from the malevolence that dare not speak its name.

Of course many suspect there is another side to this story, but, with the help of the BBC, they have chosen to adopt this one, and this one alone. Glorifying, or ‘rooting for’ the underdog bestows a quick-fix self-righteousness and a comforting sense of belonging. For the activist, the more radical, the more rewarding; the more assiduous, the more smug; the more strident, the more dangerous.

It can’t just be a simple case of unavoidable brainwashing from an overdose of incessant, biased reporting, because it’s easy to discover both sides of a story through the internet. Even if you know you’re not going to like it, the knowledge that the information is there for the asking suggests there’s an element of choice in the Israel-bashing zeitgeist surrounding the intelligentsia and the unintelligentsia, and the fact that so many choose to ignore or reject the so-called “Jewish narrative” out of hand, yet adopt the Arab one unquestioningly indicates that antisemitism resides within the default Israel-bashing epidemic.

Surely the BBC’s own biased reporting can’t be due to brainwashing either, unless they’re hopelessly incompetent, and incestuously regurgitating each other’s biased reporting. Their unique access to funds and resources means they are capable of ferreting out the whole story, so their failure to do so must be because of somebody, somewhere’s conscious decision, and their failure to fulfill their obligation to report fully and impartially must also be a matter of choice.

 

Marching Orders

Israel-supporting blogs have been cross posting an account of the manner in which Richard Millett was roughly ejected from yet another of the sinister pro-Palestinian meetings that abound in London institutions.

The organisers objected to the fact that he was filming, but as there were others doing so too, it is more likely that they simply objected to his presence. He makes it his duty to attend these functions, which are, after all, advertised as public meetings, and he is well known for asking difficult questions and ‘disrupting’ the antisemitic and anti-Israel rhetoric.

The relationship between this incident and the BBC is an indirect one, apart from the fact that one of the speakers who watched this incident take place from his seat on the  platform was our old friend, the BBC’s go-to Middle East talking head, Abdel Bari Atwan.

That, and the fact that the BBC’s biased reporting has fostered a default anti-Israel attitude amongst otherwise well-meaning people who mistakenly think this is a good and righteous principle.

Ethical Woman

Rowlatt is an unusual name, so it didn’t surprise me to learn that Bee is Justin’s other half. Bee is a BBC World Service producer, so should she really be participating in the Palestinian Festival of Literature (affectionately known as PalFest) as Hadar Sela recounts here? Not that anyone could object to a lovely cultural festival of booky wooks written by the Guardian’s favourite authors, poets, and literary geniuses.

Or could they?

When does a literary fest become a hate-fest? When it’s full of Guardian writers, Pro-Palestinian activists and anti-Israel propagandists.

The PalFest website states:

‘“For the first time, PalFest will conduct activities in besieged Gaza, where Palestinians continue to resist Israel’s illegal blockade which has transformed the occupied Gaza Strip into the world’s largest prison camp. PalFest is a sign of the growing solidarity across borders in our struggle against racism and oppression. Intellectuals and writers played a key role in ending Apartheid in South Africa; likewise, Arab cultural figures are visiting Gaza this year to show solidarity with Palestinian academics and artists in support for their call to increase the global BDS campaign against apartheid Israel.”

“On behalf of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel(PACBI), we deeply appreciate the Arab writers’ principled and consistent support for the Palestinian civil struggle for justice and peace in Palestine.”

“British authors Rachel Holmes and Bee Rowlatt will lead extended creative writing workshops in Birzeit with the Palestine Writing Workshop.”

So, BBC World service producer Mrs Ethical Man is promoting the  ill-conceived, mendacious smear that multicultural Israel resembles South Africa under apartheid, and campaigning for BDS. Nice.

Mistaken Identity

Honest reporting alerted me to this Yolande Knell report. Anyone familiar with the UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk and Yolande Knell would not be not surprised to see that the shoogly peg upon which Ms. Knell hung her article was yet another of Falk’s condemnations of Israel. Falk has featured on this website more than once.

Before the article was stealth edited  the BBC got his name wrong, such was its haste to spread Falk’s word. Knell’s piece provided Robin Shepherd with ‘another of those do-I-laugh-or-do-I-cry moments’. He calls it ‘flagrant anti-Israel propaganda.’

The BBC frequently cites Falk on the Middle East, but it persistently fails to define him as the anti Israel fanatic he obviously is. Calling him Robert was a silly mistake, but why bother with the details when you’ve got some anti-Israel material to publicise?

The best ‘Rob to Rich’  joke wins.

What A Difference A Day Makes

This was withheld for one day in case something tragic happened during the Grand Prix. Better safe than sorry, if one *May* say so.

Cartoon.

a) “A drawing depicting a humorous situation, often accompanied by a caption.”

b) “A drawing representing current public figures or issues symbolically and often satirically: a political cartoon.”

At best, a cartoonist will capture a facial expression or encapsulate a situation with humour, brevity and élan, while at worst he will produce a laboured,  racist, malicious, libelous, unfunny, overworked, overrated visual polemic.

On Saturday’s early morning paper review a cartoon was mentioned, depicting a car belonging to Bernie Ecclestone being filled up with blood. Which category that fits into depends on the outlook of the beholder.

F1 racing is cartoon-like, right from the starting grid. Cars, drivers, costumes, commentators in Groucho face-masks and  the octogenarian pixie Bernie Ecclestone who was obviously startled at being asked for a political opinion, politics having never occurred to him until that moment.

The hooha over Bahrain has a cartoon-like quality. The name of the capital sounds like ‘banana.’ Direct-Action Boycott/Divestment/Sanction is an ill-conceived concept that usually amounts to pointless, illogical, vigilante posturing.

I don’t know much about the Bahraini Royal family, but they sound at least as charming as the Saudi Royals who we suck up to, or the Chinese whose human rights abuses we set aside for the sake of sport, or the Pakistanis who I believe we play cricket with.

A likeable Bahraini Prince was interviewed on the BBC. He spoke with a cultured English accent,  like a respectable British businessman; the tea towel on his head was set at a jaunty, possibly ironic, angle.  The protesters, who are they? His Royal Highness compared them to our own rioting protesters, a theory that gains credence with every molotov cocktail.

The QT panel were all for the boycott. George Galloway was off colour that day but even he managed to outdo his own hypocrisy. As if he doesn’t habitually suck up to murdering dictators.

John Humphrys interviewed another pleasant Bahraini spokesman yesterday morning who sounded extremely plausible. Humph was taken aback when this gentleman refused to cave in at the very mention of Amnesty International and human rights abuses. He was far too polite to say bad things about such an inherently virtuous body, but he stood his ground.

The Any Questions panel were all for the boycott. All except Alan Duncan. Far be it for me or anyone else to agree with Alan Duncan, but by the same token if Andy Slaughter and the odious Jeremy Corbyn are campaigning  against F1 in Bahrain, I’m all for it.

Go Lewis!!

 

Propaganda Works

Although the BBC’s current attitude towards Israel is predominantly hostile, certain Jews are always treated sympathetically. Those persecuted and murdered by Hitler.

“Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel is one of the most sombre points in the calendar. This year has seen the opening of an exhibition dedicated to the young men who ran a football league in the ghetto of Theresienstadt in the Czech republic, who left a remarkable musical legacy. ” So says the Today webpage, introducing Kevin Connolly’s item (yesterday) about the type of Jews he and the BBC have no problem with.

It was a moving and memorable piece, but sadly, such undoubtedly well-intentioned features also provide material for the anachronistic but oft-cited complainants who, according to the BBC, contend that the BBC is overly pro-Israel. This conveniently masks the genuine bias and generates our old friend “we-must-have-got-it-about-right”.  It will have been filed away away in the recesses of their consciousness, together with  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s Shoah-themed Thought For The Day, to justify another tedious complaint about catching sight of Mark Regev on television, or to inspire a hateful post on the internet beneath the YouTube clip of the Nazi propaganda film contrived to bamboozle the public into believing that Hitler was kind to the Jews.

Kevin Connolly spoke to Israeli born Oded Breda who has worked at Beit-Terezin since 2009: “That cynical propaganda film still troubles him to this day. Holocaust deniers who find it on the internet want to use it to suggest that the Jews of Europe were not mistreated. Were not slaughtered” said Connolly, and Mr. Breda added:

“The propaganda film is still working. If you look at YouTube, if you look at remarks that people are putting, people are saying ‘look at the Jews in the war. There was nothing. Look how they play. The propaganda film was working very well.” 

The BBC should be made aware that propaganda is a powerful weapon, and reminded that many people are still unhappy with the BBC’s misleading coverage of the “Jenin massacre”, the lingering fallacy surrounding the Al Durah incident, the uncritical publicity gifted to Ken O’Keefe and Sarah Colbourne after the Mavi Marmara debacle and the ongoing misinformation over the unnecessary death and sanctification of Rachel Corrie; not to mention the BBC’s biased reporting of Operation Cast Lead, and for that matter all wars and skirmishes involving Israel, invariably provoked by the neighbouring states, but habitually blamed on Israel. Not forgetting the misrepresentation of Gaza, the air time given to Islamists and unmarked, unnoted supporters of Islamists and terrorists. In fact the incessant vilification of Israel fits in nicely with the conventional present-day perception of righteousness, no doubt just as it did regarding Jews in pre-war Germany. If the Guardian reflects the thinking behind the BBC’s worldview, and the BBC was not hobbled by its charter, Kevin Connolly’s piece might have replicated the Guardian’s insensitive conduct. In reply to the suggestion that it was inappropriate to publish a piece written by Raed Salah on Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day day, Guardian Comment Editor Becky Gardiner said: “No offence intended”.

 

Slap in the Face

Blogger Restoring Britain commented yesterday on Monday’s Open thread about the BBC’s treatment of yet another story which seizes on the Israeli retaliation while ignoring the build-up that led to it.

Here is our old friend Yolande Knell, who might have picked up some of her material from this AP report, which also contains the usual emotive anti-Israel language. For example :

“Israel has branded the activists “provocateurs” who posed a security threat to the country. Calling itself the Middle East’s only democracy, it says the protesters have their priorities wrong and should instead focus on rampant human rights violations in neighboring Arab countries.”

With the Mavi Marmara incident in mind, these activists are undoubtedly provocateurs, it’s not really necessary to use the sneering: “Israel has branded” they ARE provocateurs. End of, as they say in Eastenders. Same goes for “Calling itself”. It IS the Middle East’s only democracy. Get over it, as they say elsewhere.

“In the video, Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner is seen smashing a Danish activist in the face with his M-16 rifle.”

To me that looks distinctly over the top. “Smashing” indicates something is broken. I think the poor fellow had stitches in his lip. Painful, but not exactly smashing.

However the AP article does go into more detail, so sneering aside, we are told:

 “The officer, through his confidantes, claimed the activist had previously struck him with a stick, breaking two of his fingers, Israeli media reported. One newspaper ran a photo of him with a bandage on his hand.”

Yolande Knell has:

“After an exchange, the video shows Lt Col Eisner suddenly slamming his M-16 rifle into a demonstrator’s face in an apparently unprovoked attack.”

 

In her defence, the video does appear to show an unprovoked attack. Probably because that’s the bit they filmed.

This isn’t the first time the press has seized upon such a thing and presented it as though pro Palestinian activists are angels of mercy, and the IDF are brutes. It isn’t the first time Israeli governments have condemned an errant Israeli before the facts have been fully examined. Remember Mohammad Al Dura.

In conclusion, this isn’t the first time the BBC has shown little or no interest in the background to a provocative pantomime by Israel-bashers and useful idiots, but expressed indignation the moment Israel responds.

This blogger has written a series of detailed articles exploiting this incident. He seems particularly upset that several Israelis have been praising Col Eisner, but check out the tenor of the comments to see what sort of attitude they reveal.

 

If Col Eisner’s bad-tempered face-butt was really representative of IDF behaviour and the shy Dane who was afraid to give his name – (“don’t tell ‘em, Andreas Ias”) – was really an innocent bicycle rider and songsmith, I’ll take it all back and apologise.

Telling Tales

What is a “Massacre”?

“The wanton or savage killing of large numbers of people, as in battle. The act or an instance of killing a large number of humans indiscriminately and cruelly” says the dictionary, pedantically.

Ten years ago this month, the media, including the Guardian and the BBC, reported a fairy tale. A massacre had taken place in the Palestinian city of Jenin in the West bank.

This eventually proved to be a falsehood, but rather than retracting the accusation, the Guardian insinuated that Israel’s detailed refutations were merely part of the Zionist propaganda machine.  The Guardian had their story, and they were sticking with it; they stuck to their guns, so to speak.

An article by ‘Myrrh’ in Harry’s Place and cross-posted on CiF Watch examines this example of malicious and shoddy journalistic malpractice, perpetrated way back in April 2002 and still unacknowledged.   Evidently, ten years on they’re still unrepentant; the article was submitted to the Guardian but they declined to publish it.

For about eighteen months during the spring of 2002 there was a sustained campaign of Palestinian suicide attacks, and many Israelis were killed. Eventually a retaliatory battle took place in the Jenin refugee camp from which most of the suicide attacks had emerged. After a few days 23 Israeli solders, and 52 Palestinians, 14 of whom were allegedly civilians, had been killed.

The Guardian’s reports of hundreds of Palestinian deaths were plain wrong. They were simply regurgitating fanciful claims emanating from the depths of a maudlin Palestinian imagination.

The Guardian deliberately uses emotive  language to stir up anti-Israel passion.

“‘Jenin camp looks like the scene of a crime’; ‘Jenin smells like a crime’; ‘Jenin feels like a crime’;”

When they couldn’t find many bodies, they said hundreds were probably buried in the rubble.

“In fact, as aerial shots later showed, the pictures of ostensibly widespread destruction in Jenin and its adjacent refugee camp were all of the same tiny area within the camp which had been the scene of a tactically brilliant ambush — on the part of the Palestinians.  Thirteen Israeli soldiers were killed when a series of booby-trapped buildings collapsed on them.” says Myrrh.

Booby traps  and ambushes severely test the IDF’s resolve to limit the collateral damage associated with air power. When they send in and thus endanger troops on the ground, the BBC’s reporting neither reflects nor explores Israel’s demonstrable humanitarian concerns.

Some of the comments below the line at Harry’s Place cite the BBC as well as the Guardian:

“The BBC came out with the same stories about the “massacre”. Their reports included claims of Israeli soldiers doing things like deliberately forcing a wheelchair-bound man into his house then bulldozing it on top of him.” says one comment. Another refers to this article .

Here’s James Naughtie talking to James Reynolds about the possibility of an investigation by the UN.

While the BBC eventually reported that the UN’s findings corroborated Israel’s claims, they  concentrated instead on Palestinian victimhood.

Jeremy Cooke knows about the UN’s findings, but he won’t let go of the approved scenario. Israeli brutality and Palestinian victimhood.

And here’s Martin Asser empathising with the problems encountered by the Palestinian commuter.  And celebrity kidnapee Alan Johnston recounting assorted heresay from various Palestinians, namely allegations of torture, and being made to take some of their clothes off.

These articles resemble malicious gossip between bored pub philosophers with nothing better to do than egg each other on till they’ve whipped each other up into mutual states of incandescent indignation. Unlike the BBC, the Guardian isn’t hobbled by a charter requiring impartiality at all times, or failing that, balance over-all. The BBC is obliged to keep its prejudices under the counter in plain packaging, but it still manages to get the message across by emoting, omission and innuendo.

Ten years on and much water has passed under the bridge. The aftermath of the Arab Spring, the rise of Islamism throughout the Arab World, the overt threats against Israel from the Ayatollahs and Mr. Ahmadinejad, manifestations of increasing Muslim antisemitism here in the UK. These developments have exposed an unpalatable reality loud and clear and have offered important lessons we obstinately refuse to learn. We won’t make the simple connection leading to the obvious conclusion so we can’t confront what truly lies behind the Israel/Palestine conflict. Lies being the operative word.

And what about accountability from the media. Our trusted National broadcaster habitually passing on unverified eyewitness reports from notoriously  fanciful and unreliable sources without identifying them as such is reckless and irresponsible. Without a subsequent and prominent mea culpa it’s destructive and dangerous.

The damage has been done. The impression has been implanted, and let’s face it, without the long overdue acknowledgements, revisions and apologies the armchair experts will forever be none the wiser.

Gloating With Salah

I admire Harry’s Place. It’s considered a left-wing blog, but their comments field is by no means an echo chamber. Political views expressed are predominantly leftist, but, because of their strong pro-Israel stance, they’ve been accused, in the pejorative manner with which such an accusation is generally uttered, of being  “a right-wing, Islamophobic blog”.

Someone who applauded Theresa May’s failure to send Raed Salah packing was provoked into making such a ludicrous remark about Harry’s Place, after being subjected to what he saw as an impertinent challenge to his unseemly gloating. He didn’t much like being asked to clarify whether he endorsed or denounced Salah’s blood libel either, nor whether he agreed or disagreed that Salah was a generally undesirable lingerer in the UK.

That same person has been captured on film effectively auditioning for Broadmoor. That, and the video of the infamous “ infidels are like cattle” sermon, not to mention various Q.T. appearances that hint that he’s not the ‘sharpest fool on the box’ make his appointment as Senior Editor (politics) of the New Statesman, and his frequent appearances on the BBC all the more baffling. Why?

Harry’s Place has posed this question many many  times, but still no-one has got to the bottom of the mystery.  How far must a body go before getting crossed off the BBC’s speed dial?

As far as banning people, deporting people and declaring people personae non gratae, double standards are the order of the day. What with Geert, Grass and Salah  no-one seems to know whether  they’re coming or going.

 

That Sinking Feeling

That old familiar sinking feeling, courtesy of BBC morning headlines concerning Rowan Williams’s forthcoming Easter address.

According to the BBC, he was going to say: ‘Although the persecution of the Jews justifies the existence of Israel,  harassment of the Palestinians at Israeli checkpoints must stop.’

Updated wording reversed the order. Now harassment of the Palestinians headed the announcement, while Israel’s existence trailed at the tail end.
Later still, Israel was wiped off the face of the announcement and the Archbish’s retirement address was to be all about easing the everyday lives of the Palestinians.

Anyone would think he was about to deliver a sermon on behalf of the PSC. But was he? The press releases hardly mention the Middle East. The Telegraph, for example only says: “The religious leader will touch on the conflict in the Middle East.”, and even in the BBC’s own web article any reference to the topic is buried, and the tenor of that is completely different, more a plea fro God to bring peace to the region than a potpourri of anti-Israel innuendo as per those  headlines.

Who, I wonder chose to give such prominence to this segment of an otherwise, if I may say so, somewhat dull-sounding sermon, in the Easter Sunday  headlines?

Rowan Williams is well known for making foot in mouth announcements, which might pass unremarked if it weren’t for the BBC’s mischievous habit of cherry-picking misguided molehills and making them into populist mountains.
I haven’t heard his speech. But if it’s anything like what’s predicted in the written press, i.e. about Christianity and young people, well, why must the BBC gratuitously stir up more anti-Israel feelings?

Iran Matters

Over the last few days Nick Robinson and Mark Mardell have been speculating about likely topics of conversation between David Cameron and President Obama. They predict that having settled Afghanistan, the new buddies will turn their attention to Iran. Or rather Israel, because the question they will be tussling with is not “How to make sure Iran doesn’t acquire nuclear weapons” but “how to stop Israel taking unilateral military action”.

Because the BBC frames Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons as “Israel’s problem,” the prospect of pre-emptive military action against Iran’s nuclear activities is contemplated with pre-emptive righteous indignation.Israel is blamed in advance for the anticipated consequences such as oil price rises, perhaps Western armed forces being ‘sucked in’, and the probability that it would hand the Islamists in our midst an additional excuse for home-grown grievance-based terrorism. People are preoccupied with the understandable concern that they may suffer because of “Israel’s war”, but their trepidation completely overshadows Iran’s culpability.

Arguments against military intervention are boosted by speculation that Iran hasn’t got nuclear weapons yet, and is a long way off acquiring them. People cite Iran’s repeated reassurances that their nuclear activities are one hundred percent peaceful; yet still they retain, as back-up, the theory that even if the Iranians have lied, perish the thought, diplomacy and sanctions will rescue us.
This argument comes with yet another back-up. If Iran has been fooling us all along, and should sanctions and diplomacy fail, we can always fall back on Mutually Assured Destruction – the all-time, ultimate deterrent. However, in a country ruled by people who are awaiting the End Times with joyous anticipation, an event that entails the coming of the Shia Mahdi accompanied by the apocalypse, the Mutual part of this deal doesn’t seem quite so relevant. Which just leaves the Assured Destruction.
It could be that if we wait too long, we’re in permanent thrall to nuclear-armed Ayatollahs. However, meantime we could bombard Iran with a concerted programme of overt sabre-rattling.

“The dirty secret about President Obama’s generally successful effort to put more pressure on Iran through sanctions and diplomatic methods is that in the last resort its effectiveness depends on exactly the military threats that he would like to downplay. “

It hasn’t occurred to the BBC’s political analysts that if we stick together and threaten, we could give Ahmadinejad the serious willies, which, End Times notwithstanding, could be more effective than trying to ingratiate ourselves with him by pacifying, tolerating and being patient. It’s known as Brinkmanship.

On Tues 6th March 5:05 am the BBC World service featured the meeting between Obama and Netanyahu. I couldn’t blog it at the time because my internet connection was down. Their interpretation appeared to be that Netanyahu is making a big fuss about nothing. Though President Obama’s and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s clearly expressed preference for diplomacy was mentioned briefly, it was all but cancelled out by extremely misleading hinted-at images of Netanyahu straining at the leash like a mad dog, with peace-loving Obama wrestling with all his might to rein him in and save us all from Armageddon.
Mark Mardell and Nick Robinson are not alone in believing Obama is insincere in his friendships, both with the UK and, even more so, with Israel. The BBC portrays Netanyahu as a warmonger simply because they dislike him. They undoubtedly remember Sarkozy saying he can’t stand Netanyahu, and calling him a liar, with Obama’s apparent approval. Why, they may argue, pretend otherwise?
The Guardian.

The president sees the Israeli PM “as a liar who uses subversive tactics, shamelessly meddles in American politics and is encouraging the Republican campaign to topple him,” [Haaretz] while “Netanyahu sees Obama as a spineless leftwinger whose fantasies about world peace are threatening Israel with the prospect of a second Holocaust.” So, not exactly chums, then.”

The BBC attributes President Obama’s abrupt recollection of the unshakeable solidarity between the US and Israel to the upcoming US election. Why else, they imply, would the esteemed Obama bother with a hard-line leader of such a despicable country as Israel?
Obama undoubtedly does hope to curry favour with the Jewish voter, but since the majority of US Jews traditionally vote Democrat come what may, all this does seem an unnecessarily elaborate strategy.

However, whether or not the BBC should really be putting such ideas into people’s heads, it certainly isn’t their job to inspire people like Peter Oborne and Jenny Tonge to scatter sinister warnings about the Jewish Lobby, or to boost the credibility of people who talk about tentacles and tails that wag dogs.

If military action does eventually prove unavoidable, can a pre-emptive surgical strike with a clearly defined target be compared unfavourably with an open-ended military adventure like the one in which we are currently embroiled? The one popularly believed to have an undefined, ever changing, unachievable goal, the success of which is impossible to evaluate and the end of which is likely to be never, ever?

The possibility of a surgical strike specifically targeting Iran’s nuclear activities is not the same as an all-out attack against Iran. Who knows if such a thing is, or ever was, feasible, but the window of opportunity, if there is one, is closing – or closed. What would the situation in Syria be now, if such a thing hadn’t (allegedly) occurred in 2007?
And in any case, the consequences of our existing interference in ‘Muslim Lands’ are already with us. Maybe it would be better to go for it now, before it’s too late; whichever party does the deed, Israel knows it would face retaliation from Hezbollah, and despite what Jon Donnison says, Hamas.

This is not an argument for war. It’s simply about the BBC’s inappropriate advocacy of appeasing the Ayatollahs on top of their willful misrepresentation of the Arab Spring as a benign and enlightened success story. And now, their delusional attitude to the monumental differences between the Western and the Islamic world, framed as though it’s a straightforward case of ‘war or peace, ‘either or’. Meaning either (Israel’s) war or (the world’s) peace.

BBC World service. ‘The World Today with Lawrence Pollard and Roger Hearing’ reported the meeting between Obama and Netanyahu. They called on the services of Professor Avi Shlaim of Oxford University. Prof Shlaim is an Israeli domiciled in the UK, and a harsh critic of Israel, so it’s no surprise that he would be consulted to reinforce the BBC’s stance. He did not disappoint.

He cited a warning to Israel not to take pre-emptive military action, made recently by “ex Mossad hard-liner” Meir Dagan. According to Haaretz Mr Dagan did indeed issue such a warning, but Ynet adds:
”Ultimately, the former head of Mossad said the Iranians cannot be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon, but an attack on their nuclear sites now would be a mistake.” So Dagan wasn’t playing down the threat from Iran, but, for better or worse, handing the hot potato of what to do about a nuclear-armed Iran, back to President Obama.
In the programme, after short sound-bites from Netanyahu and Obama, came Professor Shlaim’s analysis.
He kept referring to the Israeli government as ‘reckless’, without acknowledging that, even if it’s really all bluff and bluster, sabre-rattling is a necessary piece of the jigsaw.

I transcribed this programme, because it ticked all the above mentioned boxes.
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Intro: “We don’t know exactly what went on at the meeting between president Obama and the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Washington but we can be pretty sure Mr. Netanyahu strongly argued the case for urgent military action against Iran to stop it developing nuclear weapons, and that president Obama pressed the case for seeing what sanctions and diplomatic pressure could do before sending in the bombers. In a speech before the American Israel and Public Affairs Committee AIPAC Mr. Netanyahu said time was running out.”
B. Netanyahu:
“My friends, Israel has waited, patiently waited for the international community to resolve this issue we’ve waited for diplomacy to work. We’ve waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer. As prime minister of Israel I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation.”
Beeb:
Well, earlier Mr. Obama said that both he and Mr. Netanyahu preferred a diplomatic to a military solution.
B. Obama:
“I reserve all options, and my policy here is not going to be one of containment. My policy prevention Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, and as I indicated in my speech when I say all options are on the table I mean it. Having said that I know that both the prime minister and I prefer to resolve this diplomatically. We understand the costs of any military action.”
Beeb:
But what complicates this is that in a presidential election year Mr. Obama has to be very careful of alienating the large number of pro Israeli US voters by appearing not to be safeguarding the security of the Jewish State. Avi Shlaim is the professor of international relations at the University of Oxford, here in Britain. he doesn’t think President Obama does have to make concessions to the Israelis.
A. Shlaim:
“I question whether Israel has the ability to take unilateral action against Iran. The whole of the Israeli strategy for a long time has been geared to getting America to take military action against Iran. That hasn’t succeeded, so now there are rumours and speculation that Israel will be forced to take unilateral action.”
Beeb
:
“You think that’s bluff?”
A. Shlaim:
“I do think that it is bluff and more than that I think it is reckless. It’s not I who thinks that Mr Netanyahu and his defence Ehud Barak are reckless. It is the former director of the Mossad Meir Dagan who is a hard-line and former general who said that Israel cannot carry out unilateral military action against Iran, and that Israel shouldn’t be talking about unilateral action, and he called the prime minister and the defence minister of the state of Israel ‘reckless’. So I do believe he is right on this issue.”

Beeb:
“Many in Israel would say it was reckless to ignore what they see as a very real threat from Iran, after all the Iranian president has threatened to wipe Israel from the map, and I suppose, with nuclear weapons they would have the capacity to do that. Isn’t it reckless not to take any action?”

A. Shlaim:
“No, because Netanyahu keeps repeating that a nuclear-armed Iran will be an existential threat to the State of Israel. Well first of all, it would not be an existential threat, because Israel already has nuclear weapons, and therefore Israel’s nuclear weapons would deter Iran from launching an attack. So the worst case scenario would be a nuclear-armed Iran, and there would be a balance of terror, and the Iranians would be committing an act of suicide if they attacked Israel, and They are Not Irrational. That’s the worst case scenario. It wouldn’t be a good scenario, because if Iran had nuclear weapons, other countries, and first and foremost Saudi Arabia would want to have nuclear weapons, so it’s not a good scenario, but we are a very very long way from that worst case scenario because Iran hasn’t got nuclear weapons, it has a peaceful nuclear programme, and the best estimate from the American experts is that Iran has not made the decision yet to acquire a nuclear capability. That Iran’s programme is still peaceful and the decision to weaponize has not been taken yet so at the moment what we have is very serious severe western sanctions against Iran, so there is still the possibility of a diplomatic solution and this is what Obama should be concentrating on rather than threats of military action.”
Beeb:
“Professor Avi Shlaim.”

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Complaints About Complaints

“Hundreds, if not thousands of people think the BBC is pro Israel. And an equal number think the opposite. How on earth do you adjudicate on matters as complicated as that?” asks BBC Newswatch’s Raymond Snoddy.

BBC Trust’s Richard Ayres has been brought in specially to help tell us that on balance the BBC gets it about right.

“It’s extremely difficult! It’s almost impossible for the BBC to do a news report on the M.E. without someone alleging that we are partial on one side or the other,” answers Mr Ayres,
“ sometimes on both” he adds, bafflingly.

(“Dear Sir,” someone has obviously written, “I am outraged by the BBC’s blatant bias against Israel and its blatant bias against the Palestinians” )

If they get complaints like that, no wonder it takes the BBC such a long time to reply.

Enjoy! Can’t wait for the new, speeded up complaints system!