BBC’s Donnison presents jaundiced view of travel from Gaza Strip

On April 3rd 2013 the Radio 4 programme ‘PM’, hosted by Eddie Mair, ran a report by Jon Donnison about a student from the Gaza Strip who is to study at Oxford University. The relevant section can be heard here from 40:38. Listeners will note Donnison’s inability to resist the insertion of a misleading reverse chronology account of recent events in the region which is entirely unrelated to the report’s subject matter.

“…we’ve had an Israeli airstrike and Palestinian rockets being fired in the other direction.”

On April 4th, a written report by Donnison on the same subject appeared on the BBC News website. 

Gaza to Oxford

In that article Donnison informs readers that:

“Rawan has only once before left the tiny Palestinian territory, when she went on a study trip to the United States.”

What he ‘forgets’ to tell his audiences is the fact that Ms Yaghi is a contributor to the anti-Israel blog ‘Mondoweiss’ and that the “study trip” included being the house guest of that blog’s editor. In fact, the young student described by Donnison as “bookish” is actually something of a political activist, running her own blog and expressing opinions on her Twitter account which leave little room for doubt as to her leanings. 

Tweets hacks Rawan

Here she is on the subject of the two Palestinians from Anabta who attacked soldiers at an IDF checkpoint with firebombs:

Einav incident tweets

And here on the subject of convicted terrorist Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh:

abu hamadiyeh tweets

Donnison goes on to assert:

“Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the ongoing conflict with Hamas which governs here make it difficult for Palestinians to leave through Israel.

In the past, Israel has refused permission for Palestinian students to leave Gaza in order to carry out studies abroad.”

Donnison does not provide a source for his throw-away simplistic claim, but it would not be surprising if it had come at least in part from the politicized NGO ‘Gisha’ (which is not infrequently quoted by the BBC), as one of that organisation’s pet projects is the subject of travel for students. 

Donnison makes absolutely no effort to explain to his readers the security concerns which necessitate the close monitoring of the exit of travellers from a hostile entity ruled by a terrorist organisation at war with Israel. Neither does he bother to remind readers that the Gaza Strip has a border with Egypt – through which entry to and exit from the Gaza Strip are conducted without Israeli intervention. 

Although travel for students wishing to attend universities other than those located in the Gaza Strip is not classified as a humanitarian issue, the guidelines on entry into Israel do make provisions for such cases, subject to security considerations. 

“Entry of scholarship holders to Israel – Residents of the Gaza Strip who are holders of a recognized scholarship from a country which has diplomatic relations with the State of Israel or from an international organization which is recognized by the State of Israel (by the Ministry of Welfare, Interior or Foreign Affairs), who intend to take up academic studies abroad, may enter Israel in order to attend a visa interview or for the purpose of travel abroad, subject to a direct application by the Embassy or Consulate of the country in which they propose to study and subject to escort by the Embassy or Consulate.”

Readers may remember the much-publicised case from 2008 in which a group of recipients of American scholarships from the Gaza Strip were initially barred from travel into Israel on security grounds, but after much diplomatic pressure on the part of the US, were eventually given permission. Later, two of them were refused entry to the US after their visas were suddenly revoked due to “new information received by the US authorities”. 

Donnison of course ignores the realities reflected in cases such as the above, as well as those in which Hamas has banned students from studying abroad. According to his narrative, only Israel can be to blame for the frustrated academic aspirations of young Gazans. 

Donnison’s transparent use of this ‘human interest’ story as a hook upon which to hang promotion of the standard, monochrome BBC theme of plucky Palestinians battling an all-powerful Israeli oppressor totally ignores – as usual – the fact that restrictions on travel into Israel from the Gaza Strip for students and others would not be necessary were it not ruled by a terrorist organization committed to conducting  war against its neighbours. Until it begins to inform audiences of the responsibilities of the Palestinian leadership for the situation of its people, the BBC will not meet its obligations on accuracy and impartiality. 

BBC Radio 4′s Eddie Mair does a Paxman on Israeli Ambassador

h/t AB

On Monday December 3rd  2012, the presenter of BBC Radio 4′s ‘PM’ programme, Eddie Mair, interviewed the Israeli Ambassador to the EU on the subject of the Israeli announcement of planning and zoning in the area known as E1, east of Jerusalem. 

R4 PM 3 dec

The broadcast can be heard here for a limited period of time. Beginning at around 35:00 we hear the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly giving his interpretation of events, including his clearly unsourced opinion that “I think most Israelis feel a little uncomfortable about how isolated they have become”. [Emphasis added]

The interview with the Ambassador commences at around 39:34 and due to the broadcast’s limited availability a transcript is provided below, although one really does have to listen to the actual programme in order to appreciate the tone of the conversation and the deliberately confrontational attitude adopted by the interviewer. 

Eddie Mair: I’ve been hearing from Israel’s Ambassador to the EU, David Walter.

[Note: the Ambassador is actually named David Walzer – דוד וולצר]

How did you hear the news about the planned new building?

David Walzer: I have received a notification from my government. I think that this was parallel to the – or a short while before – the public statement regarding the issue – the building of the new homes.

EM: And when you heard the news, did you think “Oh well that’s good”?

DW: I don’t recall attributing to it great, good, bad. I think that according to strategic interests of Israel, communities are being built in different parts of Israel for many, many years and this is yet another stage in this long-term programme I think. Therefore I don’t stop to think about the building of a new project and attributing to it emotional grades.

EM: It meant nothing to you emotionally.

DW: I’m not saying that it meant absolutely nothing emotionally..

EM: [interrupts] Please tell me what emotion it inspired in you.

DW: I’m saying it’s not very important whether emotionally for me it’s good or bad or important or not. 

EM: Hmm.. because the decision has been greeted, as you know, in some European capitals with some emotion stretching from disappointment to dismay and it’s really why I was asking you about your own response but you’ve given that to me. Is this announcement directly related to the vote at the UN about the status of Palestinians?

DW: I hope not. I hope that this is a result of discussions and deliberations. [edited]

EM: When you see some of the reactions coming out of the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Russia, Germany – countries generally friendly towards Israel – pretty unanimous in their view of this decision, do you – as an Israeli and as someone who cares about Israel and its standing in the world – does it give you pause for thought? Do you think “Mmm.. I wonder whether there might be a scintilla of truth in their criticism”?

DW: A) I’m sure that all those very friendly nations you have mentioned are true friends of Israel. I don’t doubt that. I was interviewed before the UN voting and I said that as someone belonging to those who very much support peace in Israel – and there are many like me – I am afraid that the UN move or UN bid will only drive us apart from each other instead of bringing us closer to each other. But to put today the anger or lack of sympathy or empathy on the settlement issue, I think is driving us apart from the core issues which are constituting an obstacle to the peace process and it is definitely not the settlements – or not this settlement or another settlement – which constitutes an obstacle to the peace…

EM: [interrupts] Forgive me but the British government says the exact opposite.

DW: But I can – and I would not share grades with [award marks to] the British government of course – but I can only point to the past…

EM: [interrupts] Well do you mind… do you mind if I point to the present. Here is what the British government says. “The strength of our reaction stems from our disappointment that the Israeli government has not heeded the calls that we and others have made for Israel to avoid reacting to the UN General Assembly resolution in a way that undermines the Palestinian Authority or a return to talks.” Clearly the British government believes this announcement is a very serious detriment to the peace process, if indeed we can still use those words.

DW: You insist to talk about today, but I urge you for thirty seconds to allow me to explain that we have proven more than once that settlements do not constitute an obstacle to peace and we have evacuated settlements when we struck a peace deal with Egypt, when we have evacuated Gaza, all communities have been removed. I don’t think that you can in good faith say that the building of a settlement is a breach of peace efforts. The UN bid is a breach of peace efforts in the region. And again, I respect very much the British government and its opinions, but as an Israeli I find that very difficult to accept. This is something you must also understand – that I am entitled to, as much as the British government is entitled for [to] its opinion of course.

EM: Finally, have you had any calls today or any communication today from other European countries, from people saying “this is a great idea – we support what Israel’s doing”?

DW: No, I must be honest and say that no; I have not received so many calls from colleagues supporting this idea.

EM: How does that make you feel?

DW: It makes me feel not very good to say the least…[cut off]

Although this style of ‘Paxmanesque‘ aggressive and condescending interviewing is far from an innovation at the BBC, especially of late, it is nevertheless difficult to imagine an Ambassador from any other country being treated with such disrespect. It is not, however, difficult to imagine British reactions were a UK Ambassador interviewed in such a manner. 

The open hostility and contempt, together with the clearly unnecessary personalisation of the conversation, frequent interruptions and selective – if not manipulative – editing, leave the impression that what was important to Eddie Mair in this interview was not to allow his listeners to hear the official Israeli side of the story, but to humiliate and chastise the Ambassador and the nation he represents.  

The BBC certainly does its country no favours when it comes to trying to convince the world that the old British colonial mentality of “we know what is best for the natives” is a thing of the past. 

BBC Radio 4 dances with the ‘apartheid’ trope

h/t Sharon, Joe

The small, but noisy, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel  – led by its ‘high priest’ Omar Bargouti – has, according to him, three basic aims:

“… ending Israel’s occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands occupied since 1967; ending racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens; and recognising the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”

As Norman Finkelstein (not one of the better known card-carrying Zionists) pointed out earlier this year, the makers of those demands have one end-game in their sights.

“They call it their three tiers… We want the end of the occupation, we want the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever, because they know the result of implementing all three is what? What’s the result? You know and I know what’s the result: there’s no Israel.”

And indeed, many of the BDS movement’s supporters, founders and activists are very open about that end-game, despite the fact that “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” is defined as antisemitism under the EUMC Working Definition of that form of racism. 

The methods used to try to bring about that end game include the deligitimisation of Israel: the attempt to paint a picture of a country so morally unacceptable that any ‘right-minded’ person cannot possibly tolerate its continued existence.

One way of doing that is to use the ‘apartheid’ trope. By deliberately employing rhetoric which the public associates with a universally morally unacceptable theme, the BDS movement aspires to brand Israel in the minds of the general public with the same stigma as the former racist regime in South Africa. 

Of course a close and factual examination of the situation immediately reveals that the use of the ‘apartheid’ trope in relation to Israel is utterly unfounded.  But sadly, many if not most members of the general public do not have sufficient knowledge of the facts to be able to assess the ‘apartheid’ trope for what it really is: a rhetorical tactic relying on the human mind’s natural tendency to make associations. 

A recent programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (iPM, November 24th 2012), supposedly about the recent  BDS protests against the Israeli dance troupe ‘Batsheva’ at the Edinburgh Festival, did nothing to meet the BBC’s obligations to “seek to ensure that the BBC gives information about, and increases understanding of, the world through accurate and impartial news, other information, and analysis of current events and ideas.” 

Instead – as we have seen happen on various BBC outlets with increasing frequency of late – it provided a platform for an anti-Israel activist, supporting what is ultimately a racist cause, to spout factually incorrect propaganda posing as an ‘opinion’ – unchallenged. 

Scottish play-write and national poet Liz Lochhead stated:

“Well, when I went to Palestine in June this year [….] Well, believe me, I saw a really horrible place to live. After that I was happy to sign the letter against the Batsheva Dance Company being welcomed officially at the Edinburgh International Festival. I used to be naïve enough to think that arts and politics don’t and shouldn’t mix and that is a naïve point of view. People in Israel are not speaking out. They’re not seeing the way the Palestinians live. The ..emm…country is run on such apartheid lines it’s possible for the two sides to just literally not see each other. And that’s a terrible thing and this boycott is a regrettable, but entirely legitimate and very, very useful tool for getting behind the news.”

Did interviewer Eddie Mair demand that Lochhead qualify her statements with facts or himself present any facts which would allow the audience to understand the issue in a balanced manner?

No chance. Listen to the whole programme here