The BBC’s muddy ‘Moral Maze’

Some discussions on the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict actually reveal more about the speakers and the climate of the society in  which they function than about the subject itself. The latest edition of BBC Radio 4′s ‘Moral Maze’ on the subject of “Morality and Ethics in the Gaza Conflict” (available here or here) is one of them.

Why is the subject matter never referred to as “the Southern Israel Conflict”, by the way? After all, the real bottom line is the refusal by Hamas to accept the presence of Israelis in the region at all, as they are not shy to admit.

Nevertheless, in this programme you can hear one British academic describe Israel’s taking of action against rocket attacks on civilians as “revenge” and a “base form of behaviour” which “provokes the enemy”. He also gets rocket statistics drastically wrong, saying that 300 missiles were fired during Operation Pillar of Cloud when the total number was actually 1,506. 

You can also hear another British academic argue that “Zionism has failed” and “there is no future for Israel”, whilst choosing to use the politically loaded term “Bantustans” (designed to equate Israel with the South African apartheid regime) and to claim that Israelis “live in terror of their Palestinian minority” – meaning Israeli Arabs.

Another contributor declares a belief that “Israel should behave with moral generosity”, whilst it is admitted that the lack of democracy in Gaza means “I don’t expect so much from Hamas”. That seems like a win-win situation for repressive dictators everywhere. 

And of course the usual irrelevant Northern Ireland analogies are brought up, as happens so frequently when British contributors are involved.

Thankfully, some of the other contributions were better, but the one question I have for the BBC’s distinguished cadre of moral debaters is this: which country are they going to discuss next in terms of its “right to exist” and potential dismantling?

Upcoming on BBC Radio 4: ‘Moral Maze’ on Gaza

Here is a programme of which readers might like prior notice.

Described on its webpage as “combative, provocative and engaging live debate examining the moral issues behind one of the week’s news and engaging live debate examining the moral issues behind one of the week’s news stories”, this week’s edition of BBC Radio 4′s ‘Moral Maze’ – to be broadcast on Wednesday, November 21st at 20:00 GMT – will relate to the subject of what it describes as “the current conflict in Gaza” (apparently not having noticed that there is also conflict going on over the border, with 3.5 million Israelis under attack from over a thousand military-grade missiles in the past week alone).

The blurb reads:

“Both sides in the current conflict in Gaza have been claiming the moral high ground. To the Israelis it’s an issue of self-defence and they’re trying to avoid casualties. To Hamas it’s about responding to the oppression and aggression of a much more powerful neighbour. The world looks on, counting the bodies and is almost inevitably drawn to the graphic simplicities of competing victimhood. The Palestinians win that hands down, but, terrible though it is, there’s more to morality than suffering. What if, as the Israeli writer Amos Oz says, they’re both right? Should we substitute pragmatism for morality? Stop trying to weigh up competing moral claims in the interests of some sort of solution. Or is giving up the idea of right and wrong, relativism of the worst kind, that could lead to a different kind of moral tragedy? Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Michael Portillo, Anne McElvoy, Matthew Taylor and Claire Fox”