BBC’s Kevin Connolly tries wit, promotes jaded memes

The BBC programme ‘From our own Correspondent’ – broadcast on Radio 4 and the BBC World Service – promises its audiences:

“Insight, wit and analysis as BBC correspondents, journalists and writers take a closer look at the stories behind the headlines.”

On March 16th 2013, the broadcast included an item by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly (available here from 21:58), the synopsis of which reads: 

“People in Jerusalem are awaiting the imminent arrival of Barack Obama. Kevin Connolly speculates on what may emerge from the trip and wonders if, afterwards, streets will be named in honour of the American president! “

Connolly’s attempts at wit unfortunately come across as more embarrassingly parochial than amusing.

“Foreigners tend to be commemorated here, naturally enough, according to the degree of enthusiasm they showed for the Zionist cause. So you’ll find streets named after Balfour and Lloyd George alongside roads named after men who are now otherwise figures of total historical obscurity. The back bench British MP Josiah Wedgwood, for example, or the colonial official Wyndham Deedes. The street map of Jerusalem can seem more like a ‘who’s he?’ rather than a Who’s Who.”

<i><i>Josiah Wedgwood</i></i>

The ‘Josiah Wedgwood’ sailed from Italy in April 1946 with some 1,250 Holocaust survivors aboard. Arrested by the British off the coast of Haifa in June 1946, its passengers were interred in Atlit.

Of course it actually might be of some benefit to Mr Connolly’s listeners’ familiarity with Israel’s history (and Britain’s too) were the reporter to refrain from dismissing a figure such as Colonel Josiah Wedgwood as obscure before familiarizing himself with the latter’s tireless campaigning against British limitations on Jewish immigration to Palestine and against restrictions on entry to Britain for persecuted European Jews in the pre-war years. 

The most notable feature of this report though is the slick manner in which several beloved BBC memes are inserted into it. The introduction to the item begins with presenter Kate Adie saying:

“Barack Obama arrives in Israel next week. It’s the first foreign trip of his new presidency and it promises to be a tricky one; not least because he and the Israeli prime minister Netanyahu don’t apparently get on.” [emphasis added]

Later on we have Connolly repeating that meme:

“Mr Obama is widely thought not to have warmed to Mr Netanyahu personally, but Congress loves him.” [emphasis added]

Thought by whom? The listener is not made privy to the source of the BBC’s ‘Chinese whispers’.

Another rather suspect meme promoted by Connolly comes in this passage:

“Obama did come here as a presidential candidate: a prudent step to woo the Jewish vote at home and to please the powerful pro-Israel lobby.” [emphasis added]

Connolly also informs listeners that:

“There will be much talk of Iran whilst President Obama is in Israel. Its nuclear ambitions worry most Israelis and they sometimes seem to obsess Prime Minister Netanyahu.” [emphasis added]

Can we then assume that if a neighbouring enemy country which had vowed to wipe Britain off the map was developing nuclear weapons, Kevin Connolly would not expect his prime minister to be preoccupied with that issue?  

And we also have an insertion of the much touted – but entirely unfounded – meme that all would be sweetness and light in the Middle East if only the Israelis and the Palestinians would make peace.

“One reason perhaps why there was no visit in that first Obama term was the sudden fluidity of the Middle East – a kind of breaking of the political pack-ice after decades of stagnation. America suddenly needed changing policies for changing times in Tunisia and Libya and – above all – Egypt. [….] In those long years of stagnation there was an unspoken belief that the key to unlocking everything was to find peace between Israel and the Palestinian people of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” [emphasis added]

As ridiculous as that “belief” may be, it was – and is – certainly not “unspoken” as Connolly claims. But one really would expect that analysts and commentators (and Western politicians) would have learned from the past two and a quarter years of Middle East turmoil that the fact that their own assessments and predictions proved redundant time and time again shows just how little of the region’s dynamics they actually understand. That applies just as much to the concept of the ‘peace process’ as the key to regional stability as it did to the ‘expert’ schools of thought which assured us that revolution would not happen in Libya and Syria, that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was ‘moderate’ and democracy-loving and that Bashar al  Assad was a ‘reformer’. 

The BBC’s seemingly limitless obsession with ‘the peace process’ as the only show in town – even as Al Qaeda affiliated militias stalk the Syrian side of Israel’s northern border and a Hamas minister tries to establish terror cells in PA controlled territories – is dismal testimony of the standard of Middle East-related “analysis” and “insight” it offers to its audiences. 

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13 comments on “BBC’s Kevin Connolly tries wit, promotes jaded memes

  1. He forgot to mention what a warm welcome the Palestinian are prepering for him. By burning the american flag and his picture.

    • Mr. Obama is well advised to make this visit because the Israeli letters to the editor in most venues here in Israel seem generally hostile to him. I hope that this is not just an empty, cynical political gesture. Unfortunately, his Chicago neighbor and mentor, Rabbi Arnold Wolf, was a bitter anti-Zionist in spite of the fact that his own near and dear uncle, Rabbi Felix Levy, was one of the US’s leading Zionists in the 30′s to 60′s, and a frequent guest speaker in both synagogues and churches alike.

  2. “Mr Obama is widely thought not to have warmed to Mr Netanyahu personally….

    I thought it was widely known that Obama can’t stand Netanyahu. There is quite a bit of evidence to substantiate that, the most striking of which was Obama responding to Sarkozy’s dislike of Netanyahu by saying, “I have to deal with him every day,” when they thought the mike was off.

    But it’s obvious that international diplomacy proceeds anyway, whether the players like one another or not.

    “One reason perhaps why there was no visit in that first Obama term was the sudden fluidity of the Middle East…

    I think it’s likely that the Egyptians insisted that Obama either visit them or Israel, but not both. That would be typical of the Egyptians, with their anti-Semitism set in stone.

    • It’s Obama’s first overseas trip anywhereof his second term as POTUS and he’s in Israel, but the BBC’s caption beneath the live video of his arrival and the speeches says it’s his first visit “to the Middle East”. Maybe they’ve forgotten about this:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/04/us/politics/04obama.text.html

      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/04/us/politics/04obama.text.html?pagewanted=5
      “Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.”

      As far as I can tell Jerusalem is already “a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims”, as long as it’s Israel’s united and indivisible capital. It wasn’t like that under Jordanian occupation from 1948 to 1967.

      • Hey Biodegradable!

        So what was on the World Have Your Say programme this evening as the President of the most powerful country on earth visited the country at the centre of the world’s central hot spot?

        The shmucks were talking about Iraq.

        Ok, it’s ten years and all that but we’ve had Hugh Sykes with his awful After Saddam repeated over and over until everyone is convinced that the Americans are pure evil and the Iraqis all sweetness and light and various other steaming piles of fertiliser, so one would think the World Service could give it a break and tune into the historic Obama moment, if not the Netanyahu moment.

        They might well be kicking themselves that they didn’t because, while WHYS was going on abut Iraq, there was a great live moment during the press conference addressed by the leaders. It went something like this:

        Obama (After thanking Netanyahu for his welcoming words): I was pleased to meet your two good-looking sons. I’m sure they must take after your wife!

        Netanyahu: And I’m sure your daughters must take after your wife!

        I guess I’ve mangled the quotes but the real thing must surely be availabe on the Net somewhere. Wonderful to have a bit of levity to break the ice, even if it may not have been spontaneous, but agreed on beforehand.

    • It’s Obama’s first overseas trip anywhere of his second term as POTUS and he’s in Israel, but the BBC’s caption beneath the live video of his arrival and the speeches says it’s his first visit “to the Middle East”. Maybe they’ve forgotten about this:

      Obama’s Speech in Cairo

      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/04/us/politics/04obama.text.html?pagewanted=5
      “Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.”

      As far as I can tell Jerusalem is already “a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims”, as long as it’s Israel’s united and indivisible capital. It wasn’t like that under Jordanian occupation from 1948 to 1967.

  3. Jon Donnison is peeved, poor diddums (my spellchecker suggests “dumdums”):

    http://twitter.com/BBCWorld/bbc-middle-east

    Jon Donnison ‏@JonDonnison 1h

    Don’t think Palestinians got a mention in #Obama’s speech at Tel Aviv airport. #Israel #Palestine

    Maybe Jon, it’s because Obama is in Israel and his speech was to his Israeli hosts?

      • At last Donnison has found something else to report in a balanced and unbiased manner, from B’Tselem no less.

        Jon Donnison ‏@JonDonnison 53m

        IDF says it has detained 7 Palestinians children on suspicion of stone throwing near Hebron. B’Tselem say some between ages of 8 &10.

        He probably doesn’t follow the IDF blog along with his usual sources of Ha’aretz, Mondoweiss, the ISM and the like, otherwise he’d have tweeted this:

        Rocks Can Kill

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