Palmed Off

I hope they warned Mark Regev that the focus of his interrogation had been altered at the last minute, from the original version on the Today website –

“The “million people march” is due to take place tonight in Tel Aviv, protesting against the high cost of living and shortage of housing in Israel. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev looks at the state of Israel today”

– to this updated item, an interrogation about Israel’s refusal to apologise to Turkey for the deaths of nine activists: Israel ‘had right to board flotilla’

So John Humphrys has read the Palmer Report. Well, parts of it, he assured Mark Regev. The parts of special interest to the BBC. Not the main parts, the ones that confirm the legality of Israel’s blockade against the smuggling of arms into Gaza, but those saying Israel used excessive force when they boarded the Mavi Marmara.

The fact that the BBC brought Mark Regev on at all will have irked a particular type of listener. The type who is instantly up in arms at the sound of his voice, writing letters to the BBC about disproportionate pro Israel favouritism. They’re the ones that enable the BBC to claim impartiality ‘because we get complaints from both sides’.

The Palmer report concludes that the blockade is legal, as was the interception of the boat in international waters. The problem seems to arise with how this was enforced. The Israelis’ reaction to the violent reception they faced was criticised because in the end nine activists were shot at close range, some in the back, and some several times.

The fact that the activists were armed and uncooperative doesn’t seem to have been taken into consideration; it certainly wasn’t by John Humphrys.

I’m wondering what the difference is between being shot dead, or being shot dead several times. They must have been very dead indeed.

Would it have been acceptable to the BBC if the Israelis had waited to see just how far the activists were prepared to go before retaliating?

If they had allowed one or two Israelis to be beaten to death, say, before deciding that shooting back was fair and proportionate?

Or should the Israelis have given in, after polite requests to lay down weapons and comply with international law?

It seems that is what Mr Humphrys would have advised. He must have seen the footage of the reception that greeted the boarding party when it landed on the good ship Mavi Marmara, it was shown on Panorama after all, but given that he is aware of the violence, and who initiated it, he seems to think the Israelis shouldn’t have boarded the ship at all!

“It is hard to see how they could have initiated violence had you not boarded their ship.” he says.

I suppose he would think that Britain had no right to intercept armed shipments from Libya to the IRA in international waters, either.

Were the activists armed and resisting arrest? Yes they were. Were the Israeli soldiers being attacked and beaten with iron bars? Yes they were. Was Israel within its rights to intercept the ship in international waters? Yes it was. Was there a “Complex combative chaotic situation and close hand-to hand combat?” as Mark Regev repeated, and John Humphrys disregarded. Yes, undoubtedly.

The truth is that the BBC thinks the ship should have been allowed to break the blockade, which they still want to believe is illegal, just as they still want to believe the flotilla was carrying aid, which they still want to believe Gaza needs. They still believe that Israel is the most evil place in the world, and they still want to doubt its legitimacy, no matter what any reports or investigations come up with.