One of the BBC journalists flown in to Israel especially for the occasion of the visit by President Obama was the North America Editor, Mark Mardell. On March 22nd Mardell produced an article entitled “Obama plays a Long Game in the Middle East” in which he gave his summing up of the presidential visit.
Mardell spends a considerable part of the article advancing his own rather flowery interpretations – psychological and otherwise – of Obama’s words and actions during the trip, but one rather bizarre sentence stands out.
“Before the visit, several American commentators urged him to learn to speak Israeli – now his fluency is almost frightening.” [emphasis added]
Readers of the article can either choose to despair over the fact that a senior BBC journalist does not know the name of the language spoken in Israel or to wonder why – if Mardell was intending to say that Obama had been urged to learn to understand the Israeli viewpoint and how to communicate effectively with the Israeli people – he did not manage to make that clear either by better choice of wording or by means of appropriate punctuation.
Whichever interpretation of that sentence – literal or figurative – one elects to adopt, Obama’s “fluency” is obviously seriously over-exaggerated by Mardell, particularly in light of the fact that the President chose not to address the Israeli people as a whole through their elected representatives, but instead played safe by speaking to a carefully selected audience which excluded certain sectors of the public in advance.
As for the rather bizarre – and unexplained – use of the words “almost frightening”, one can only speculate as to what would scare a BBC correspondent so much about the possibility of a US President being able to communicate with the people of another country.
Mardell’s article – which appeared in both the Middle East and US & Canada sections of the BBC News website was opened for comments by the BBC. Once again, a lack of appropriate moderation on that thread meant that the BBC made itself complicit in the spread of antisemitic discourse.