IRAN, ISRAEL AND SYRIA

Anyone catch this John Humphyrs interview with William Hague on Today this morning. What fascinated me was how a discussion regarding what could be done to help those people suffering under the Assad regime in Syria suddenly was switched by Humphyrs into trying to get Hague to say that the UK would never support military action against…Iran. And in particular, should Israel move against the Mad Mullahs, would the UK ensure no support whatsoever would be afforded. To be fair to Hague he did repeat the line that NO options are off the table but it’s the way in which the BBC seems to have linked Assad’s butchery of his own people to that of Israel seeking to prevent the annihilation of their people at the hands of the thugs in Tehran. As I recall there was a similar attempted “gotcha” last week using the same trick and it makes me think the BBC worry more about Israel defending itself than Iran attacking it. I’ve had an exchange in the past day with New Statesman Editor Medhi Hasan and he articulates a defence  for Iran that I believe will become the narrative for the BBC as conditions deteriorate.

Hungry Baker!

The BBC’s coverage of Khadar Adnan the Palestinian hunger striker closely resembles the extract from Al Jazeera highlighted by Elder of Ziyon, only the BBC’s version has been dumbed down, so that the public can understand it more easily. You know, large type and tiny paragraphs for those of us with poor comprehension.
To help the public absorb the heroic nature of this martyr more fully and stop us being confused by the unpalatable bits, they’ve left them out altogether.

It’s terrible what they’re doing to this principled man, is it not? Catherine Ashton will sort it out, I’m sure.
Discuss.

Non Story

The following probably comes into the category of ‘what the BBC won’t report’.
Admittedly, few outside the Israeli press have covered the story, but it merits a little mention by the BBC because ill-conceived references to the incident in question still rear their heads in the course of the day-to-day Israel-bashing to which we have become accustomed.

The news that the BBC ignores is that the French supreme court has acquitted an Israeli doctor named Yehuda David who had previously been convicted of slander. He had been sued in a French court by the father of the Palestinian ‘martyr’ Mohammad Al-Durah.The infamous Al-Durah incident in 2000 was very likely a Pallywood production, but this has not been conclusively proven. I have written about it in the past, and the intriguing background is extensively covered here, here and here.
Honest Reporting links to an article by a writer who seems pretty convinced that the Al-Durah case is closed, the evidence of Al-Durah senior’s dishonesty putting the final nail in its coffin. But on the principle that just because you lie about one thing it doesn’t automatically mean you lie about everything, I think it’s safe to just say the jury’s still out.

Doctor Yehuda David revealed that Al Durah senior’s scars – allegedly from wounds inflicted in the incident in which little Mohammad was allegedly killed by the IDF – were in fact from wounds inflicted upon him at a much earlier date by Hamas for the alleged crime of collaborating with the Israelis. The doctor was in a position to reveal this, because, dear reader, he recognised the scars. He was the very surgeon who had operated on Mr. Al-D. several years before the notorious Mohammad Al-Durah incident occurred.

Dr. Yahuda David gave an interview to this effect, which was published in a magazine. Someone stumped up for Mr. Al-D’s legal fees, enabling him to sue the doctor for slander, somehow managing to win damages to the tune of 30,000 euros. But the doctor fought back, and the court overturned the conviction last week; deep joy all round in Israel.

The case looks as though it is set to be one of those never-ending sagas, because it seems Mr Al-D and his backers intend to appeal.

For the information of anyone following the Al-Durah story, it seems that the legal procedure is still ongoing in respect of Philippe Karsenty’s conviction / overturned conviction for slander against Charles Enderlin of France 2.

The question of the Al-Durah footage itself has never been resolved, but there is still the mysterious extra bit of film which Mr Enderlin wouldn’t release to the French court, part of which (I think) can be seen via The Augean Stables. Many people feel this provides convincing evidence that the whole thing was a set-up.
But, with the help of massive press coverage, it sparked a deadly intifada, and that is why the BBC should at least pay their respects and acknowledge the tale.

Balen 2

Who’d have thought that journalists who wish to investigate, uncover and expose scandals and injustices without compromising their freedom or exposing their pet whistleblowers, would be subjected to the whims and fancies of the Supreme court in the course of its earnest deliberations over such things as the meaning of the word ‘predominantly’.

Who knows what was on the minds of Lord Phillips and pals as they grappled diligently on behalf of the BBC with the tricky business of defining what is or is not in the public interest.

The Freedom Of Information Act is supposed to

“promote an important public interest in access to information about public bodies.”

But when the unstoppable Freedom of Information Act collides with the immovable Data Protection Act, there’s bound to be trouble.Thankfully, the judges know what’s good for you. For your own good the BBC and a few other bodies enjoy a special exemption
(safeguard) so that you, the public, can’t poke your snoopy noses in.The safeguards are there

“to prevent interference with the performance of the functions of the BBC in broadcasting journalism, art and literature.”

So in certain circumstances

“……………the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information”

And who decides whether disclosing information outweighs the BBC’s public accountability?

“……………the disclosure of which, in the reasonable opinion of a qualified person (which in the case of the BBC is the corporation itself, acting by its governors)…”

Eureka! The BBC itself is qualified to decide!
However, the judges are aware that this doesn’t look brilliant in terms of PR. They must rationalise the notion that concealment trumps transparency, and secrecy is more ‘in the public interest’ than accountability.

“ In this case, there is a powerful public interest pulling in the opposite direction. It is that public service broadcasters, no less than the commercial media, should be free to gather, edit and publish news and comment on current affairs without the inhibition of an obligation to make public disclosure of or about their work in progress.”

Excellent excuse! But his honour is still slightly apologetic:

“ I would add that I am conscious that this interpretation of the limitation may be seen as conferring on the BBC an immunity so wide as to make the particular statutory redemptions redundant, and leave the BBC almost free of obligations under FOIA.”

It certainly pans out that way, and sweet of you to notice.

“On a broad definition, it could be argued that all of the activities of the BBC are for the purposes of journalism, art and literature, as these are broad descriptions of a substantial part of its broadcast output . . .”

Go on. Why not make the BBC exempt from the FOIA altogether and be done with it? Even the the judge is wondering this:

“However, if a very broad definition was intended, there
would be little point in including the BBC in Schedule 1, Part VI of
FOIA. The BBC could have been omitted altogether from the scope
of the Act.”

However, here comes ‘the chilling effect’.

“The BBC submitted that disclosure of the Report (and any other information held for the purposes of journalism) would have a chilling effect upon their right to freedom of expression;”

The same phrase was uttered by a journalist in respect of the Leveson Inquiry. This monstrous chilling effect, this inhibiting, this compromising, this…..cramping the BBC’s style, evidently justifies concealing the contents of the Balen report for ever and ever. Does this apply to Murdoch’s journalists too?
The BBC’s desire for secrecy almost puts their internal workings in the same category as certain trials being beyond the reach of the open court for fear of revealing secret counter-terrorism information.

The appellant (Mr. Eicke QC,) has the temerity to think accountability is a reasonable request.

“(The appellant) not only disputes that the release of the Report would have a chilling effect on freedom of expression but submits that only the need to protect journalistic sources – or perhaps, indeed, more narrowly still, the need to protect sources who might otherwise be deterred from assisting journalists – would constitute an overriding requirement of the public interest sufficient to justify this interference with the citizen’s article 10(1)right of access to information.”

Quite so. since the Balen report was originally carried out in 2004, can the contents really still be for the purposes of journalism? Balen’s recommendations, if there were any, would surely have been implemented by now, if they were deemed worthy of implementing!
Despite the fact that during the period in question there was a reshuffle of BBC management personnel at the top, certain recommendations were put into effect, one of which is said to have been the appointment of Jeremy Bowen. Perhaps the Balen report concluded that they weren’t biased enough against Israel?

If the Balen report found bias against Israel in 2004 it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s biased in 2012. By this time surely the BBC could have got away with another of those ‘the-bias-was-all-in-the-past’ mea culpas and saved the £300,000. They must have thought it was worth spending the dosh to ensure they could continue to go about their business in any way they see fit, unfettered by scrutiny and without the threat of exposure.

Meanwhile, simmering away on the back burner is the detrimental effect the media’s self-interested or partial reporting has had on society. The BBC’s anti-Israel bias has consequences. One small example; the comments below an article about Iran’s nuclear ambitions on an official BBC blog by Robin Lustig, which boasts the strap-line ‘Trying to make sense of the world’ clearly demonstrates they’ve failed. They’ve only succeeded in making nonsense of it.

“And another thing, how is it that Israel is a ‘stabilizing’ influence on the region while Iran is a ‘destabilizing’ one? One of these countries is a theocratic violent terrorist state that refuses to abide by international law, while the other is a theocratic state that hasn’t invaded another nation in a thousand years? Satire cannot do justice to this hypocrisy”

The moral equivalence given to Iran and Israel elicits neither challenge nor counter argument, and is evidently deemed acceptable by the moderators.
This assumption reared its head on Question Time, which Melanie Phillips discusses here.
The BBC charter stipulates impartiality – not that such a thing is realistically achievable, but balance could reasonably be expected ‘over time’. If this is not happening, someone should intervene. Bias by omission, by emoting, and by overt propaganda are all against the rules, but who will enforce them? It’s not usual to trust bodies to self-police – not even the police – and especially the BBC who won’t or can’t recognise their own bias or admit they get anything wrong.

These legal appeals gather more and more moss the longer they drag on, and each time they’re re-appealed the entire legal history has to be reviewed and reconsidered. The procedure has to scrutinise previous hearings, till it begins to resemble that game where each player has to recite a shopping list from memory, adding another item one by one; as the the list grows longer, the harder and more tedious the task. The judges weren’t memorising shopping of course, they were seeking loopholes and cracks in previous hearings. Looking for hooks on which to hang excuses to keep the Balen Report in the family.

They seemed genuinely worried about creating a precedent that would fetter the BBC, and conscious that the Balen report’s qualification for exemption was tenuous. Did it really come into the category of “for the purpose of journalism art or literature? They admitted they were virtually gifting the BBC complete immunity from the FOIA. They saw that determining what was in the public interest could be stretched and squeezed, describing it as ‘elastic’.
In short they dallied over whether they liked the idea of civilians knowing the content of the Balen Report or not, and having pre-decided ‘not’, excreted copious verbiage in rationalising their fancy.

It boils down to a simple reality. The BBC, or the BBC Trust can continue as before. If there is bias, so be it. Like it or lump it.
The fear that ‘internal frankness’ would be damaged if ‘the public’ had ‘the right to know’ outweighs the fear that biased reporting has a corrosive effect on ‘the public.’ External frankness, external critical review and external analysis of output can get stuffed

On the BBC they refer to Israel as “Iran’s arch enemy.” Is that upside-down description even-handed, logical or accurate? What is the likelihood of an internal review correcting that?

I think I rest my case.

Sea of Darkness

Supplying Gaza with fuel is a complex matter. Various political complications have arisen, and electricity blackouts in Gaza are imminent.
Egypt Independent has:

”The Gaza Strip’s sole electricity station has become inoperative because Egypt has begun to crack down on fuel smuggling activities through their shared border, a Palestinian energy official in Gaza said Tuesday.”

From Palestinian News Agency Ma’an:

“Meanwhile, the director of Gaza’s only power plant Walid Saad Sayil said Wednesday that the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority’s delay in payments for fuel contributed to the crisis, as well as failures by the energy authority and company in Gaza.”

Gaza Energy Authority official Ahmed Abul Amreen held a press conference during which he made various statements about the cause of this crisis, adding, apparently with no particular reason, that “he holds Israel responsible.” Jon Donnison picked that up.

Normally Israel supplies Gaza with 120 megawatts per day, some comes from Gaza’s small power plant and some is brought unofficially from Egypt using underground tunnels.
According to EOZ

Israel is providing exactly the same amount of electricity to Gaza it always has.[…] “Palestinians” instructed the Israelis not to provide the Strip with heavy-duty diesel because they could get the fuel – reportedly cheaper – from Egypt.”

Jon Donnison’s report is unclear and muddled. It is framed as though Israel’s blockade has brought about a crisis in which “The strip would soon be “swimming in a sea of darkness”.

The Egyptian and the Palestinian news agencies appear to be more realistic about the situation than Donnison, who sees everything through a haze of Israelophobia

H/T RGH
Update:
Since writing this piece I have had more time to look at it.
I’ve been comparing Jon Donnison’s report with other reporting of the imminent power shortage in Gaza to see whether Donnison’s is significantly more slanted against Israel than the others.

From the plethora of reports on this topic I decided to confine my comparison to aunews, ABC News, Yahoo and France 24 because I thought it reasonable to assume BBC editors had read the contents, since they were the news organisations in web links provided by the BBC.

Three of these contain sections copied and pasted from each other’s material, (this is normal practice, and I think the original copy probably comes from A/P or reuters.)

For example ABC News, mnnews.com.au, and France 24 start with the paragraph beginning: “Gaza’s sole power plant has ground to a halt” Quoting Ahmad Abu al-Amrin, an official from Gaza’s energy authority. They expand thus:

“The Gaza power plant has completely stopped working because of the shortage of fuel entering the Gaza Strip, and the depletion of diesel it needs to work,” said Ahmad Abu al-Amrin, an official from Gaza’s energy authority.

He called on Egypt “to assume its historical responsibility in supporting the resistance of the Palestinian people by ensuring they had all the necessary fuel to operate the plant”.

According to the UN agency for humanitarian affairs, OCHA, (UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs) the amount of fuel being transported through the tunnels from Egypt to Gaza has dropped by half over the last fortnight, reportedly due to increased restrictions on the movement of fuel by the Egyptian police.

“Only half of the amount of fuel that entered in the previous weeks has been coming into Gaza for the past two weeks,” OCHA said in its weekly report.
“Unconfirmed reports indicate that the reason for this sharp decline is an increase in fuel prices triggered by movement restrictions imposed by the Egyptian police on fuel cargoes travelling to Rafah.”

They continue with identical quotes from Ismail Haniya, calling on Cairo to
immediately intervene and meet all the electricity needs of Gaza in a permanent way” (See? even the Hamas leader isn’t blaming Israel here) All three continue with heart-rending descriptions of the suffering the shortages will cause.

Towards the end France 24 and AU News insert the obligatory:

“Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2006 following the capture of one of its soldiers in June of that year.
The blockade was tightened a year later following Hamas’s forcible takeover of the territory, and Israel began restricting the amounts of fuel allowed through the crossings.”

But they add this ‘mitigating’ paragraph:

“To cope with the situation, Palestinians gradually developed tunnel infrastructure allowing the transfer of large quantities of fuel into Gaza, at a cheaper price, which resulted in an almost complete halt in the purchase from Israel,” OCHA said.
Gaza’s main power plant has closed down on several occasions in the past because of fuel shortages.”

Yahoo hasn’t used so much ‘cut and paste,’ but its report contains roughly the same information, with an additional relevant paragraph.

“Abu Al-Amrain said Israel bore overall responsibility for the ongoing crisis, but Mustafa Ibrahim, a human rights researcher and writer, said Hamas’s administration had failed to provide the territory with an energy safety net.
“(The Energy Authority) made everything depend on fuel smuggled through the tunnels, without having any guarantees that this flow could continue. The current severe crisis is evidence that this was the wrong approach,” he said.

And Yahoo’s heart-rending paragraph:

The sound of generators roared in Gazan streets as businesses tried to keep the lights on, but the PCHR warned that the power cuts could have serious consequences. “The current crisis may impact access … to vital services,
including the supply of drinking water,” it said in a statement.

Yahoo continues:

Gaza’s precarious energy supply is bad at the best of times, with a rickety infrastructure system badly degraded during fighting between Israel and Hamas over the past five years.

Israel maintains a blockade by land, air and sea on Gaza to prevent weapons and material with potential military use from reaching Hamas, which is committed to destroying the Jewish state.

The editor is given credit: ” (Editing by Crispian Balmer)” Hats off to you Crispian!

One does wonder if Donnison is lazy stupid or disingenuous.

As far as I can tell, Jon Donnison’s report owes more to earlier BBC reports than to the aforementioned group.
For example, in January 2008 “Gaza City plunged into Darkness”

“Cars were still driving along Gaza City’s darkened streets
The only power plant in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip has shut down because of a lack of fuel, Palestinian officials say, blaming Israeli restrictions.”

At that time they turned to John Ging, notorious for disseminating anti-Israel propaganda whenever the slightest opportunity presented itself, for their heart-rending plea.

In November 2008 they were at it again. Gaza power cut blamed on blockade.
This time the shortage was blamed on Israel’s blockade because they couldn’t receive parts for the power plant, despite Israel supplying 60% of Gaza’s fuel, and the power plant providing 32% at the time as per the BBC.

“Israel closed the crossings after a rocket was fired at Israel late on Monday.
In the past, Israeli officials have accused Hamas of cynically exaggerating the impact of border closures to garner sympathy, says the BBC’s Aleem Maqbool in Jerusalem. But the United Nations relief agency in Gaza (Unrwa) has warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis unless the crossings are opened.”

(Probably John Ging again)

In March 2010 the BBC website boasted a slideshow of 10 images of various people in Gaza with generators and various people in Gaza who need generators, photographs kindly supplied by Karl Schrembi of Oxfam.

Jon Donnison’s article reads like a series of disconnected and emotive sentences. He could have copied and pasted from non BBC material and still been lazy, but he would have looked less stupid and less disingenuous if he had at least tried to appear less biased.

Sticky Spot

Mark Mardell addresses the difficult subject of US foreign Policy without committing the new BBC crime of “Value Judgement.”

Poor Obama is in a sticky spot. In a period of of electioneering, he must wrestle with the tricky problem of who to suck up to.
Should he choose the disproportionately influential Jewish lobby, which is conspiring to suck America into another of their selfish Jewish wars?
Or should he courageously plump for pleasing the good American people who are “tired of foreign conflicts” and consider it expedient to appease the Iranians.

Carefully avoiding any Value Judgements, Mark Mardell turns to some important experts on the Middle East to find out more. He approaches Cliff Kupchan and Michael Scheuer for their interesting views on the matter. Or should that be interested views.
Professor Matt Kroenig does inject some sense into the mix at this point, but Mardell has not been entirley open about the earlier two spokespersons. We are told is that one is a ‘maverick’ but, what are their political leanings?

“Republicans regard any hesitation in backing Israel as unpatriotic,” says Mark Mardell. His impartial opinion appears to be that good folk vote Democrat.

Seriously, the online article is a little more nuanced, and they did link to a Ronan Bergman NYT article I linked to myself the other day.
To many listeners the Today item I heard this morning would have been a stand-alone item, and that would have been a definite value judgement crime of the first degree.

Road to Damascus

Jeremy Bowen’s Islam-friendly reporting seems to have come back to bite him on the bum.

All those years of Israel-bashing and pro Palestinian propaganda, all that peculiar sucking up to Gaddafi. Now the BBC don’t seem prepared to give his sneakily defensive interpretation of Bashar al-Assad’s desperate struggles, the time of day. (BBC News24) The BBC is squarely on the side of the rebels. Could Jeremy Bowen be the only one at the BBC who suspects, in a ‘better the Devil you know’ Damascene moment, that toppled dictators could really be replaced by something much worse?

All day the outrage at Russia and China’s refusal to support the UN resolution backing an emasculated Arab League peace plan, has been topping the BBC headlines.

There has been a huge, as yet unquantified death toll in Syria, which makes the argument for the stability of Bashar’s murderous regime against the uncertainty of what the rebels might have to offer, (possibly equally murderous) all the weaker.
Melanie Phillips sets out the “utter intrinsic bankruptcy of the UN.”
I don’t recall the BBC questioning the legitimacy of the UN security Council before, but they seem to be hinting at something like that now, in respect of these vetoes. This is obviously because they approved of previous UN resolutions which have, of course, mostly been against Israel.

A great failing of the BBC is that they refuse to see radical Islam as a threat. “They’re just like us,” they always seem to be saying. “Talk to Hamas. Talk to the Taliban”. They wouldn’t entertain the possibility that radical Islam was beyond reason, that the core beliefs in Islam were irreconcilable with our own. At the same time, the group they chose to portray as ‘other’ with a vengeance, were those dastardly Jews in Israel.
Now look what is happening. The Arab Spring has unleashed goodness knows what. Democracy? Freedom? Not on your Nellie.

It must be worth considering the possibility that being controlled by Despots and Tyrants is the only way of keeping a lid on an explosive, unruly, ungovernable, squabbling bunch of religious maniacs whose hatred of each other is only trumped by their hatred of Israel, America and Britain. The intellectuals and idealists who revolted in Tahrir Square have melted away. Now all that’s left is the wild bunch.
So if Jeremy Bowen’s belated reservations about the Arab world’s new-fangled vision of democracy jars with the BBC, they might stop defending his scrupulous impartiality and start treating him as a pariah, as well as the Jews and the Zionists. Wouldn’t that be weird?

The Cancer of Israel

Politics explained in five simple stages.
1) An ideologically driven movement or individual gains power by charisma or by hook or by crook.
2) In order to enact the ideological vision effectively unity must prevail.
3) Dissenters are curbed or controlled by hook or by crook.
4) Suppressing the dissenters eventually overrides the original vision.
5) The situation boils over into another revolution.
The current chess game of world politics is complex, chaotic and intricate. Iran is governed by religious zealots who have persuaded their humble subjects to focus on the afterlife, thus undermining the deterrent effect of Mutually Assured Destruction. At the same time there is a significant pro-western element within the Iranian population, which has so far failed to get itself sufficiently organised to revolt.

As Iran’s specially singled-out hate-object, Israel is being tasked to preemptively deal with Iran. Israel is believed to possess nuclear weapons, although Israel has not confirmed this. The rest of the world hopes Israel will do the dirty work so that it can distance itself from the ensuing nastiness, while blaming Israel’s aggressive character and secretly sighing with relief.
The UK, the USA and Saudi Arabia will be particularly delighted, as long as they can simultaneously condemn Israel and kill the threats emanating from Iran, with one stone.

The BBC is grooming us for this. Renowned Israel-hater Leon Panetta, US defence secretary, has advertised his notion that Israel is nearly ready to strike, thereby purposely compromising any surprise element, should such a strike be thought feasible. The BBC has announced this several times.

But in any case the surgical strike option sounds like a fantasy. Even if Iran hadn’t managed to secrete its nuclear derring-do deep, deep underground and distributed the bits and pieces far and wide so that it would be impossible to take them out at one fell swoop, if Israel went ahead Israel would take massive hits from all directions through Iran’s proxies, and the rest of the Arab world might well jump on the bandwagon.

This isn’t at all simple. Con Coughlin has been investigating. He has found out what Michael Totten has been telling us for years. Iran’s proxy Hizbollah has been building up an extraordinary cache of weapons in Lebanon, aimed at Israel.

The one thing that all desperate failing governments will grasp with both hands, is a cause that is sure to unite disenchanted voters and squabbling underlings. That cause is the destruction of Israel. The coalition has already made its position quite clear on the Middle East. What with the impossibility of appeasing everyone at once it’s out of its depth and floundering. However much of a threat Islam is to us, it’s not impossible that a nuclear device could one day find its way into London, so perhaps the government thinks it expedient not to be too friendly to Israel. This particular government has never been that way inclined anyway, and never mind Obama’s iron-clad commitment..
The BBC has good reason to understand the threat Iran poses with its extended reach. Will it be influenced by Ayatollah Khamenei’s promise: “From now on, in any place, if any nation or any group confronts the Zionist regime, we will endorse and we will help. We have no fear expressing this.”
So if the BBC decides to go along with the Ayatollahs and protect its Persian staff by continuing its Israel-bashing agenda, constantly insinuating that Israel is a rogue state so it doesn’t matter much if it is annihilated, think 1930s.

The Sound of Breaking Glass

The genre ‘Rap’ (as in music) has a comical air, something to do with Ali G perhaps, and the more seriously it’s taken the more comical it becomes. This opinion is my own and does not represent that of the BBC.
So the BBC’s decision to ban the words “Free” and “Palestine” from the lyrics of rapper Mic Righteous, or muffle them with the sound of breaking glass, would be hilarious, if it wasn’t stupid and almost sinister.

Poor Mic Righteous had to chant:

“I still have the same beliefs
I can scream (broken glass)
Die for my pride still pray for peace,
Still burn a fed for the brutality
They spread over the world.”

However, the Beeb changed its tiny mind.

“The BBC Trust has decided it is not “proportionate or cost-effective” to proceed further with the complaint, but the original decision does not seem proportionate either. Indeed, had the BBC allowed the song to go through uncensored, it probably would not have been remarked upon (after all, it was two words, not a long political diatribe). As it is, this incident sends a very uncomfortable message.”

This arbitrary censoring and arbitrary uncensoring shows what a muddled thing this impartiality lark can be.
It would be a mistake to assume that every pro-Israel blogger automatically approved of this ban, just as it would be wrong to assume that they would support the BBC’s decision not to air the DEC appeal, never mind the ensuing brouhaha. Most people were ambivalent. (Glad they didn’t show it, but sorry the ban made the BBC look even-handed.) It’s not that they didn’t want people to donate to the cause – as if the ban would have stopped them – but they didn’t relish the prospect of more propaganda than necessary being thrust upon us via the BBC.

The BBC is a devious beast. Things like this are used to bolster claims that they don’t take sides, but in the face of the constant barrage of pro-Palestinian material we detail here day-in and day-out that’s patently ridiculous.

H/T Sarah AB from Harry’s Place.

Taken For a Ride

Here’s a strange one. It puts me in an unusual position, and could look as though I’m about to defend religious fundamentalism. That’s not what I’m trying to do.
I had a message from someone who was offended by an item featured in the BBC World Service series “Outlook”.
Before going any further, I ought to provide some context.
In Israel there is a problematic issue that we might recognise. It echoes something that is happening here, although our problem could almost be regarded as the inside-out version of theirs. On the surface ours looks like the negative to their positive – in a purely photographic sense. However, this is a matter of ‘two sides of the same coin’ in an entirely superficial way, which I won’t go into here.

Our problem concerns British Muslims who have annexed areas in the U.K. such as Tower Hamlets, within which they prefer to abide by their own laws rather than the law of the land. Israel’s problem involves extreme, ‘ultra’ orthodox Jews, some of whom have annexed certain areas…. within which they wish to abide by their own laws etc. etc.

These situations are part and parcel of difficulties thrown up in pursuing the liberal ideals of a civilized world. How to reconcile differences while embracing principles of diversity and so on. As a secular, non-believing infidel, I find religious dogma hard to understand, let alone defend, so I have to put my prejudices to one side when making this case against the BBC – seemingly on behalf of the ultra orthodox community in Jerusalem.

They have decided for religious reasons to have their own religious bus service, outwith the public bus service. In the religious buses, women are supposed to sit at the back of the bus, for reasons of modesty. This seems like something from a bygone age, and is a jarring, unattractive aspect of religious practice. However, some would say, it’s their own affair, and if they want it, it’s none of our business. It may be an affront to women’s lib, but it’s hardly a matter of life and death, unlike some of the murderous practices that affect women in Islam. I mean the criminal acts that blight the lives of families that observe a primitive version of the religion of peace.

Back to the BBC. The message I referred to earlier was from a listener who had heard a one-sided interview, and was sore affronted. The interview was with a young secular Israeli woman who got on a religious bus to Jerusalem, and refused to obey the rules. She wouldn’t go to the back of the bus, and a bit of a kerfuffle ensued.
The Israeli press got hold of the story and made a big fuss. She became a cause célèbre and turned herself into Israel’s Rosa Parks, and great fun was had by all apart from the Hareidim. (the religious Jews in question.)

Imagine if something similar happened here. Say, for example a blind man and his guide dog were turned away from a ‘Muslim‘ bus or a taxi, the BBC would be all over the story. Wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t they? I think not. The Daily Mail, maybe. But not the Beeb. They would ignore it or bury it in some regional sub division of the interweb, so as to preserve social cohesion.

However the BBC liked the sound of the bus story, and picked it up. The woman was portrayed as the voice of reason. And quite right too, I hear myself say. She was the voice of reason! But wait. Hang on a mo!
There’s something the press are being suspiciously shy about.
The innocent woman who made the unfortunate mistake of stumbling into a humiliating situation but bravely refused to be intimidated, was not being completely open. She was being economical with the truth. She and the media were concealing the fact that she was a well-known activist and anti-religion campaigner, whose bus journey was more of a publicity stunt. In other words, she got her knickers in a twist as agent provocateur, in what was in fact an act of incitement in pursuit of her political opposition to orthodox religious practices. The bus wasn’t a public bus, but a religious special, which she knew perfectly well when she got on board.

Remember Ken O’Keefe to whom a whole edition of Hardtalk was devoted, after he pretended to be an innocent member of the aid convoy peacefully floating to Gaza aboard the Mavi Marmara? Were his antisemitic ravings or his Israel-bashing history mentioned? Not really. Or Sarah Colborne, the not so innocent anti-Israel campaigner who was presented as Gaza’s fairy godmother by the BBC. A pattern emerges.

The Israeli press are notorious for shooting themselves in the foot. They mercilessly publicise awkward internal matters which damage and undermine Israel’s image with a degree of disloyalty that a country in a permanent state of war with its neighbours and increasingly isolated from the rest of the world can ill afford. Doing that is a luxury only the secure should risk. Extreme self examination and self-criticism is best kept within the family. It needs to be tempered with the kind of unconditional love that outsiders might not have.

The listener who wrote to me had a hard time convincing me to write this. I didn’t wanna do it. At first I decided not to, and I thought that a programme like “Outlook” was permitted to be one-sided, as its name implies. I thought of the reply that the BBC would trot out – ‘balance would be achieved over time’.
“In your dreams,” I replied, to myself, trying to imagine an “Outlook” interview sympathetic to a protagonist for the Hareidim.

Then I suddenly thought of the hypocrisy of the BBC. Ready willing and able to promote an Israeli political activist and present her as an innocent bystander caught up in a human rights issue and heroically standing up against Jewish religious extremism, eager to conceal political activism on the part of vigorous pro Palestinian / anti Israel campaigners, yet afraid to stir up trouble and strife here for fear of upsetting devout members of the Muslim community on their own doorstep. That’s how I see it anyway.

What The papers Say

Today: R4. Monday 23rd January 2012.
Yesterday, at about 7:45. Evan Davis read out the newspaper review. An item from the Guardian was singled out, which he articulated with passion and a distinct air of disapproval. What was it? A new scandal about Hackgate? Big Ben toppled over? Breaking news about another atrocity in Syria? No, it was Harriet Sherwood’s article about the ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons. The way Evan spat the words out, you’d have thought he’d been imprisoned there himself.
There’s something in internet parlance, or maybe in general parlance, called ‘whataboutery’. I take it to refer to a rebuttal that solely consists of examples of something worse than the original criticism.
You write about the bloody awful conditions endured by stone-throwing children held in Israeli prisons, and I counter with ‘what about conditions for children who have been tortured to death in Syria?” That’s what-about-ery.

That has nothing to do with Evan Davis, it concerns a CiFWatch article about another of Harriet Sherwood’s stories about Israel’s wrongdoings, real or imagined. These she obsessively researches to assuage the insatiable appetite for such things over at the Guardian.

The CiFWatch piece, cross-posted at Honest Reporting, begins with a graphic and gruesome description of the body of a 13 year old boy who had evidently been tortured to death by the Assad regime. It’s there purely to contrast its stark brutality with the allegations in the Guardian’s special report that Evan spat out with such venom yesterday.

Someone suggested this was ‘whataboutery’. But it wasn’t really, because Honest Reporting didn’t stop there. They went on to include the Israeli response, which, needless to say, was not published in the Guardian.
The Guardian’s video stars two Palestinian youths, one of whom looks like a chubby young Mr. Bean. Shall we call them ‘mature children’.
We are expected to take their testimony at face value. Their interrogations sounded tough, though not horrifyingly brutal, and if there is any truth in their allegations it’s nothing for Israel to be proud of.

It would be naive to believe that there have never been any Israeli violations of those laws specifically meant to protect the rights of minors in detention. If these cases exist, there are authorities tasked with investigating and dealing with such deviations. This is not, however, the norm.”

Not touched upon at all is the matter of why they were in this situation, leaving the impression that they were completely innocent victims of some random act of vengeance by Israel.

Honest Reporting says that Israel maintains that these allegations are completely baseless.
The mechanisms of accountability and rule of law actually exist in Israel” So before anyone says ‘they would say that, wouldn’t they’ it does seem pathetic that the lefty Guardianistas and their BBC bretheren are willing to leave aside their critical faculties, and take the words of all accusers, however implausible, as gospel. Film of stone-throwing Palestinian youths is abundant. We know they do it, and we know that slingshot catapults are lethal weapons. We know that exaggeration and faux news is par for the course. Yet people lap up unverified allegations by agenda-driven reporters. They can’t get enough of it.

The Israel Security Agency and its employees work solely within the law and are subject to oversight and internal and external examination, including by the State Controller, the State Prosecutor, the Attorney General’s Office, the Israeli Knesset and Israel’s courts at all levels, including the Supreme Court.”

That response is dismissed out of hand, deemed not worth listening to.
Mark Regev was allowed just enough time on the video to say that representatives of minors who feel they have been ill-treated should ‘come forward’ as Israel knows it is important to treat young people with extra consideration, but this was nullified by what came immediately after. A reiteration of the original allegations, which was allowed the final word.

This unverified report was singled out by some BBC producer as though it was of particular interest to Today listeners, and maybe they’re right.

Losing Battle

In defending Israel I’ve come to realise that preconceived ideas and gut feelings override all reasonable argument. That is to say however well argued, very few are willing to engage, or even listen to any case you may make.

Even those who see themselves as profoundly logical abandon all reason when it comes to this particular topic. The so-called open-minded can’t literally be so, unless they’ve suffered catastrophic memory loss.
It’s a big ask. Why would anyone cast aside a lifetime of negative input the media has subjected them to, and suddenly agree to re-evaluate, reconsider or unlearn material that they’ve digested and misunderstood? It is firmly embedded, and it’s staying that way, thanks all the same.
Defenders of Israel face a fiercely stubborn resistance, impenetrably and formidably fortified and reinforced on a daily basis by the BBC.

Abandoning reason is not the BBC’s exclusive prerogative. We can all do it. Fruitlessly citing individual examples of unfairness, and still, despite past performance, hoping for a breakthrough in some kind of imaginary BBC future, has to involve blind faith. Where is the logic in believing that One Day someone important at the BBC might have that crucial, eureka-damascene-moment?
Silly me. It’s all water off a duck’s back to the Beeb, but here’s one anyway.
Yolande Knell has noticed that an Israeli hacker has retaliated. She noticed, in the best BBC tradition, the retaliation only. The provocation, no.

Here’s another one, and I’m using today’s examples but I could just as easily have picked any other random BBC day.

Israel is banning Palestinians who marry Israelis from gaining Israeli citizenship. How awful! Newsworthy because it fits a pattern perhaps. Less newsworthy because it does not, is the way the rest of the Arab World treats Palestinians. And the rest of the Arab World, unlike Israel, hasn’t even been threatened with holy Jihad with the intended goal of annihilation. They can be racist, discriminatory and evil to their hearts’ content, and no-one at the BBC bats an eyelid. But the BBC and their sibling, the Guardian, with hostility in their hearts send forth reporters just to put despised Israel under a microscope. The mission is to seek out whatever might conceivably add to their systematic vilification, egging each other on like a couple of gossips revelling in the character assassination of another.

I wrote the above yesterday, but despondency prevented me from posting then. That, and the fact the article did stick more or less to the facts and didn’t contain the BBC’s usual ‘Palestinians-as-victims’ emoting.
However, last night the BBC world Service spurred me into action by broadcasting a self-piying interview with a married couple who had been inconvenienced by this ruling. No, they were not actually inconvenienced yet, but they might be in the future.

Racist, apartheid, discriminatory, nationalistic and any other evil insinuations can be made by the media about ‘Jewish Israelis’ or ‘Israeli Jews’ for ever and a day, but never can the same be made about the people in the places where such things are a reality. We rarely hear from the BBC the openly-stated Palestinian boast that any future Palestinian state will be “Jew-free”.

The BBC will not engage with this simply because it doesn’t choose to. Sixty years of insidious, slippery, stealthy demonisation can’t be undone overnight, and rational argument will have no impact unless the BBC changes its mind.

Fings Aint Wot They Used To Be

The BBC is fond of the familiar. It favours the tried and tested, nay, the formulaic, all year round. But tradition and ritual are an extra special feature at Christmas. It’s what the audience wants, is it not? , “Give them more of what they liked last time round!” those innovative creative commissioning editors must have squealed as they sat round the table in the BBC’s department of inspiration and left of centre thinking.
“Eureka!” They might have cried, “Here’s what we’ll do for Christmas!” “Morecambe and Wise!” “Shrek!” “And don’t forget to go up to the attic and see if you can find the one about the shepherds. I know we put it somewhere. They love that one. What we need is another good old ‘fings aint wot they used to be’ special.”
Israel-bashers unite, far and wide, and the BBC is not averse to a bit of sentimentality at Christmas time, even if it means following the herd. Literally.
“Ring up Carlos Sarras, our go-to Palestinian shepherd, and if he’s available again get Jon Donnison on the case. Yolande Knell can find another old geezer wistfully reminiscing about his goat, his olive tree and his donkey and she can finish with an interview with George Saadah, deputy mayor of Bethlehem, whose message of peace and goodwill to all men we’ll put under the heading “The Wise Man.” Jon Donnison gave him a lengthy spot on BBC News 24 the other day, so the audience will be liking him already.”
“Bring the story up to date with some fresh 2011 references to the apartheid wall, and round it up thus: “Forty years ago, there were just a few thousand settlers living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
(That would be the1967 war of intended annihilation against Israel instigated by her surrounding neighbours, I think you’ll find, Mr D., a simple fact that might have significant bearing on the situation.)

“Put it in context,” they’ll be reminding each other.“Now there are around 500,000 settlers.”
“and finish, as ever, with the perennial: “Settlements are illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.” and Bob’s yer uncle!”

Same old addendum each time, but hardly innovative. Here’s an idea for the creatives at the BBC Left Field Think Tank. Think outside the box! Why stick to that tired old taint as your sole contribution to what you scurrilously call ‘context?’
For a change, why not put some different context, for example: “Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip receive one of the highest levels of aid in the world.” That’s context, is it not? How about a straightforward: “Palestinians receive more aid per capita than any other people on the planet.” Or why not inform the public thusly: “Hamas, who rule Gaza have Israel’s destruction immutably written within their charter!” Or, from the charter itself: “[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement.”
Well, why not? It’s context. It would make a change. Make progress. You love complaining that fings aint wot they used to be, but it’s no use complaining. Fings just aint.

Or, why not go for refreshing honesty? Come out! No more closet. Why not just put “The BBC pledges everlasting allegiance with the Palestinians, and will continue to act as their mouthpiece while promising never to waste an opportunity to denigrate Israel.”

WHILST SHEPHERDS WATCHED…

Bang on cue, the BBC couldn’t let Christmas arrive without having yet ANOTHER go at the pesky Jews. Check out this outrageous item ran on Today this morning. It seems that Israeli security restrictions are causing no end of hassle for Palestinian Shepherds seeking to attend festivities in Bethlehem. (No mention as to why these security restrictions are needed, but then this is the BBC..). Also note the repeated use of the “Occupied” land meme plus the “illegal under International Law” trope. Pure Palestinian propaganda brought to you from Jew hatred central.

Same Old story


Before 12:59, when it was updated, the top story on the BBC’s Middle East page was: “US urges Israel to end ‘isolation in Middle East’ “

Apparently US defence secretary Leon Panetta made another speech about Israel’s isolation.
Just get to the damn table” he urges Israel in his vernacularly vocal style.
Just the other day, in October to be precise, he said more or less the same thing: “The most important thing they can do is go to the negotiating table. You are not going to achieve Middle East peace by trying to slam-dunk it at the UN,” he said.

Okay we’ve already gathered he thinks Israel should make suicidal concessions.
This time he spoke of ‘mending fences,’ (unless they’re in Israel, where fences and building are obstacles to peace). According to the BBC Mr. Panetta also said, again, that Israel should ‘restart peace talks with the Palestinians.’
Surely he’s heard that the Palestinians tore up the rules when they ran off to the UN with their bid for statehood?
If not, he must at least have heard that Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria, Uncle Tom Cobley and all are being increasingly belligerent, and have stepped up the default blame-shifting for all their own internal failings, onto Israel.
Panetta must realise, surely, that a useful scapegoat will not be sacrificed lightly. The Arab World will cling on to these tactics as long as people are gullible enough to fall for them. Taking their conspiracy theories and bizarre distorted accusations against Israel at face-value, as Panetta obviously does, doesn’t show much political intelligence or judgement. Giving his views undue prominence by making his speech top story for several hours on their website with nary a squeak of criticism in sight is bound to look as though the BBC concurs and expects us to too.

See here, in a perceptive article in the Commentator entitled “Same Old Story in the new Middle East” Petra Marquardt Bigman includes these Jeffrey Goldberg quotes :

“the Syrian opposition finds it beneficial to spread the lie that Assad is a Jewish agent.” […..]“Once dictators used anti-Semitism to divert their citizens’ attention away from their own problems. Now expressions of the most ridiculous conspiracy theories seem to rise up organically.”

Leon Panetta thinks appeasing the Arab World will keep the West safe, and his repetitious outbursts make sure we know it. Repeating the same thing over and over may be one way of making your wishful thinking appear credible, but it still doesn’t make it true.
In the context of a plethora of more significant Middle East/World news stories, the BBC concentrates on that, ‘same old story’ speech, but deliberately turns a blind eye to what is slowly but surely dawning on others. The Arab Spring is turning into an enormous Islamist calamity, for Israel and the West, while the BBC fiddles with Jeremy Clarkson.