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. 

52 comments on “BBC Radio 4’s Eddie Mair does a Paxman on Israeli Ambassador

  1. It’s is legitimate to task ambassadors on their country’s actions, though one does note which countries get tasked on which actions can with the BBC vary rather according to the degree of emotional attachment the corporation and its staff have for them, as would any professional or impartial news entity/person [sarc off].

    However, I am still trying to get my heard around a serious national broadcast interviewer banging away such as this:

    EM: It meant nothing to you emotionally.
    EM: [interrupts] Please tell me what emotion it inspired in you.
    EM: How does that make you feel?

    This is as facile a tack as I can imagine, and reminds me of movies from the 70’s when idiot media types ask folk ‘how they feel’… as the ‘public [who could probably care less] have a right to know’, and then get decked to cheers from the audience.

    Mr. Mair should look in the mirror and ask if he’s really cut out for a serious job like this.

    • Many Israelis do feel a little uncomfortable about how isolated they have become. That’s no news and has been widely commented in the country and abroad.

      Ms Sela may dusagree but it does not mean much. She does not represent Israel, only herself.

      • And whom do you represent, you foul troll?
        Who’s been instructing you to spam?
        Still lying about being from Israel, eh, “Nat”? Didn’t we cover your need to keep up with all your prevarications?

      • Your ad hominem attacks on the clever and cogent Ms Sela are wearisome, Ned. They make you look as if you’re one of that monstrous breed of internet trolls who delights in targeting women. And of course you’re not. Are you?

        • I agree Hadar is clever, cogent and talented. I just wish she would do something useful with this talent. I mean entertaining me can’t be all that satisfying.

      • Nat, what a sad man you are. When did Ms Sela say she represented all Israelis?

        Bit of a thicky, aren’t you?

        • Dear Adam, I just wish that Ms Sela would use her considerable talent to do some serious journalism – there are so many excellent newspapers in magazines in Israel, why can’t she join one?

          It seems to me that writing on a tiny website criticizing journalists is a waste of her talent, especially in a country like Israel, where democracy and freedom of the press are enshrined in the law.

      • Don’t be silly, Nat.

        Israeli society comprises a large number of citizens and their older generations who have seen and experienced a darned sight worse than a few politicians wagging diplomatically motivated fingers in their direction.

        Israelis aren’t and won’t be isolated. Bilateral trade agreements. joint Research & Development projects and shared security interests are strong, And, though it may come as a shock to some egocentric folk, there is a world beyond Europe and America.

        • Many Israelis do worry about how isolated the country is becoming due to rightists’ settlement policy. This concern is shared by many politicians in the country. Israel is a democracy; settlers’ attempts at severing Israel’s ties with Europe because of a handful of settlements is an extremely worrying development. What Israelis need is peace, security and some stability, not more settlements built in violation of international law outside Israel.

  2. One can find fault with Eddie Mair’s questions but I found Walzer woolly and vague. He could have come out with a few good soundbites about how the Palestinians are in breach of the Oslo agreements and that the EU gets more exercised about bricks and mortar than rockets.

  3. “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]”

    Getting the Ambassador’s name wrong is not only the height of disrespect; it is also a tool of antisemitic belittlement and Jew baiting, e.g. when antisemites spell Israel as “Isreal.” Duvid’s father once explained to Duvid that the “emotion” elicited in the speaker as “any Jew name will do.”

  4. Must be honest this really frustrates me. The Government of Israel ritually let the BBC walk all over them. Why ?

    It is high time that Israel’s Government took a tit for tat approach. If (or more usually, when) the BBC’s interviewer becomes hostile, why not turn the tables on them ? It shouldn’t be too hard to embarrass the BBC. Sites like BBC Watch provide plenty of ammo.

    Most British folks are increasingly frustrated with the BBC for many well publicised reasons. Israel’s failure to take them on looks very much like appeasement, and invites even more hostility

    • I have to agree with you Neil, although I wouldn’t just stop at the BBC.
      We all know the agenda of the BBC, and that of the Western nations that get behind the Palestinian ploy of circumventing genuine peace efforts while doing its best to put Israel behind the eight ball.

      For Israel to pretend it’s any different is to make itself a doormat, in which it can’t then complain if others wipe their feet on it. There is justification to build, and until such time as the Palestinians ratify a peace deal there is no such thing yet as ‘their land’.
      How can the Arabs defy the UN to agree land be apportioned, so as not to grant Israel its State, and then use the UN as a tool to delegitimize Israel.

      Any rational and moral mind can understand it, therefore we can see the motives for those who pretend otherwise. There’s really no purpose for Israel to continue to try and exist within continually shifting goal posts, according to an attempt at appeasement to a barbaric and vile mindset, by those who should understand. It’s high time that this appeasement was confronted, logically, morally and without budging.

      Let this appeasement be made clear to all – this is what it is, AND WE DON’T BUY IT.

    • I once had a conversation with an Israeli Consul-General immediately after a news story that was not only harshly critical of an anti-terrorist operation, but also factually flawed. I asked him why his office, which was ostensibly responsible for media relations, did not respond. His reply was something along the lines of “we don’t want to make waves.” I tried to convince him otherwise, but he was steadfast in his opinion. I seem to remember a more assertive PR effort by Israel in the ’70’s.

      • That’s interesting Roddy. It does seem Israel is afraid of the playground bully, the BBC. Maybe with the GOI Press Office carpetting Jon Donisson we are seeing a change of tack ? Hope so.

      • ‘…don’t want to make waves’
        This weakness certainly accounts for the anti-Israel stance becoming more and more blatant. People who don’t really know the history or circumstances are made to believe what they read in media reports is true. Like I say, if you make yourself a doormat, one can’t blame others for wiping their feet on you.

        To allow the ‘not making waves’ mindset to continue is criminal, and Israel will continue to reap the negative results of it, unjust or not.

  5. What an vapid, stupid and dumbed-down angle to take – and very worrying in an educational sense.

    Perhaps Mair wants our political and diplomatic bodies to base all their judgments and resulting policies on how they ‘feel’, but personally, I’d rather they used the actual facts of the matter at hand, applying the more difficult method of impartiality, wisdom and intellectual analysis.

    Time and again, vapid journalism such as this leads some members of the public to see the world through a lens of emotions and feelings. The tone of the presenter inevitably telling them what the ‘correct’ view is.

      • Very much so and if you are happy that Israel’s existence is entirely dependent on there being no change in the the American mood…..Well that is quite a gamble. Feeling lucky are we ?

        Personally I would prefer to put the whole thing on a sounder footing.

        • Souinder footing? Being on the mercy of Europe maybe…
          Don’t worry too much RZ Israel stands on its own feet and as any other country has allies and enemies. At the moment its enemies are the scum of the world, its allies are the strongest superpowers meanwhile the the more and more insignificant Europe is sitting on the fence and is busy with destroying itself financially and socially.

        • Peter Israel receives more American aid than the whole of sub Saharan Africa put together. Add in America’s be nice to Israel bribes to Egypt and Jordan which you can also count as aid to Israel and….well…..

          Let’s not even consider the diplomatic protection without which Israel would be swamped with condemnatory Security Council resolutions.,sanctions etc etc etc. The biggest mistake that can be made in geopolitics is the same as the biggest mistake that can be made in business, social affairs etc. That is to assume tomorrow will be just like today.

          Imagine a world in which America was indifferent to Israel, not anti just indifferent. Bit of a gamble huh ? Such a world could never be ? Feeling lucky are we ?

          The idea that a small nation of 7 million people could stick two fingers up to the world in these circumstances is ludicrous.

          My advice to Israel is to get an insurance policy. Normalise.

          • If I were you, Peter, I wouldn’t take political analysis from someone who says he doesn’t know who George Osborne is – and cites ‘mood’ as a political consideration.

          • RZ, Israel is normal – it’s neighbours are the ones who are nuts. But for people like you, craziness has become “normal”.

            Amazing isn’t it…US monies to the Muslim Brotherhood constitutes a “bribe to Israel” in your twisted mind…and just to let you know, it ios the Palestinians who receive more aid than the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. In return, the US gets Palestinian hatred. Israel does not get “aid” from the US, it gets military assistance (because they are faced with openly intended genocide form assorted nuts) – almost all of which gets ploughed back to US companies. In effect, the US is subsidizing its own arms manufacturers.

          • Bullshit#1
            …Israel receives more American aid than the whole of sub Saharan Africa put together.
            In real value Israel gets much less US aid than the new observer state of Palestine or Egypt. Maybe you should compare the effect of the use of this aid, a hugely successful economic and technological-scientific powerhouse vs. two third world hellholes.
            Let’s not even consider the diplomatic protection without which Israel would be swamped with condemnatory Security Council resolutions.,sanctions etc etc etc.
            Maybe you don’t follow the world events in the media so let me inform you that
            Israel has been swamped (and probably will be swamped) with condemnatory SC or GA resolutions anyway and will give a flying sufganiya about them in the future as it did in the past. The UN lost its moral authority a long time ago and never had any real authority anyway.
            Imagine a world in which America was indifferent to Israel, not anti just indifferent.
            Why should anyone with the exception of clueless Jew haters to imagine this very improbable scenario? Naturally you are free to imagine that the Earth is a big dumpling filled with plum jam and you can swallow it for lunch.
            The idea that a small nation of 7 million people could stick two fingers up to the world in these circumstances is ludicrous.
            You must be thinking about the Muslim world RZ and maybe it is very disappointing for you but we have been doing exactly that in the last 63 years and we are very successful doing it.

            And the final pearl of your wisdom:
            My advice to Israel …
            You are really so dumb and delusional that confusing Israel with someone else who gives a shit about your advice? You must be a bad caricature of a condescending English asshole who didn’t realize yet the end of the British Empire.

          • Peter you will know I am sure that GA resolutions that demand action are not binding. Can you point me to a SC resolution that required Israel to do something ?

          • Peter at the end of the day the guarantees that America provides keeps Israel afloat. In particular it guarantees Israel a qualitative military advantage in the region. It could subsidise it’s arms industry equally well by handing money to any country in the world on condition it spent it on American arms.

            The other biggie is that the US is all that stands between Israel and SC resolutions that amounted to any significant threat to it’s survival.

            The US does not supply aid to the Muslim Brotherhood. It essentially supplies aid to the Egyptian army.The deal is we will fund your predominant role in Egyptian society, supply the gear so you can strut around like peacocks. In return you will ensure that no Egyptian govt adopts policies that are too unfriendly to Israel. They can make noises but in practice……..
            Like I say Israel is THE most dependent nation on earth. No other country is ENTIRELY dependent on another for its very survival.

            A very precarious state of affairs.

          • Peter at the end of the day the guarantees that America provides keeps Israel afloat
            The usual laughable bullshit of every Israel hater. Israel not only survived but developed an uniquely successful society without any US help.

            In particular it guarantees Israel a qualitative military advantage in the region

            This very sentence shows that you don’t have even the slightest clue about the capabilities and achievements of the Israeli military industry and its connection with the US.

            The other biggie is that the US is all that stands between Israel and SC resolutions that amounted to any significant threat to it’s survival.

            Do you know any country who didn’t survive as a consequence of any SC resolution? Or do you really think that the UN would be involved against Israel militarily? Which armies will volunteer? Dream on.. but after awakening don’t kick your cat please.

        • Adam – although you are right in saying that the aid to Israel is military aid and that much of it is recycled back into the American economy, it isn’t wholly correct to say that the aid is granted solely due to Israel’s hostile neighbours. Governments who supply foreign aid to any country – although often comprising a moral component – also do so for very pragmatic reasons.. Having a strong ally in the ME helps America in many ways.

          It is also the case that the savings to America in terms of Israeli intelligence, research and development are quite considerable.

          • Point taken pennylan – thanks. It is true that the US gets a lot from Israel. On the other hand, it gets zero from Egypt, and outright hatred from the Palestinians, who they also bankroll for some inexplicable reason.

          • Mr Levick, considering the considerable financial aid and political support that Israel gets from the USA, its closest ally, please show some respect.

            It is unacceptable to bash a nation that has always stood on the side of Israel, including in difficult times.

      • Adam, with respect, I disagree that Israel is normal.

        “Normal” countries don’t absorb thousands of rocket attacks from neighbouring populations that have unambiguously declared, in word and deed, that they want that country to be destroyed.

        “Normal” countries don’t truck in thousands of tons of supplies to those neighbouring populations.

        “Normal” countries don’t allow hundreds of people from that neighbouring population to come in for regular medical treatment–at the expense of the country.


  6. Just because someone asks who George Osborne is doesn’t mean he doesn’t know who George Osborne is. Good job you are not a fish Jenny, biting on every hook. You wouldn’t last five minutes.

    I assume Penny you are feeling lucky too ?

    • Excellent article. I think all the complaints about Israeli housing construction is thinly veiled bigotry. Since when does a building have a religion or ethnicity or nationality? Whatever the government giveth today, the government can taketh away tomorrow. If the government chooses to develop land, then everyone in the region benefits. More schools, more medical facilities, more utilities, and more roads. The new housing projects could one day be part of a Palestinian state. In the meantime, the Israeli government has a clear non-discrimination policy on housing. Arabs could just as easily live in these new homes. Anyone who visits Haifa would see how closely Jews and Arabs can coexist, often living in the same apartment buildings. You never see that in any PA controlled territory. In fact, you can not find any Jews whatsoever living in PA controlled land. The hypocrisy of our western leaders is stunning.

  7. ” Israel not only survived but developed an uniquely successful society without any US help.”

    That was then this is now.

    “Do you know any country who didn’t survive as a consequence of any SC resolution?”

    No but there never was another country that was so dependent.

    “In particular it guarantees Israel a qualitative military advantage in the region”

    That’s not an opinion of mine Peter, it is an explicitly stated American guarantee.

    I dunno why you call me an Israel hater. You got any evidence for this ? I am an occupation hater that is true, but on the grounds that it is hell for the Palestinian people and a grave threat to Israel’s survival.

  8. There never was another country so dependent?

    You don’t half talk a load of tosh, RZ. You seem to peer out at the world through a tiny window..

    Putting aside the ‘never was another country” – because of course, the UK could have handled WWII on its Jack Jones – which countries are not inter-dependent? While you’re busily (and some might say, happily) imagining a world in which America gets up in the morning – in an off mood – and decides not to contribute military aid to Israel (which, given its own interests would need to be a very bad mood indeed) you might try imagining a world in which the oil prices spike too high for too long, or just stop. As the saying goes, we’re only 3 days (9 meals) away from anarchy. We cannot produce enough domestically to cover our needs but as a society we are wholly dependent on oil and therefore dependent on oil-producing nations.

    America is in great debt to China (Israel-Chinese relations are on the up) and, in effect, pays China twice by borrowing from it, recycling the money back into the Chinese economy via imports and then trying to repay the loan.

    Britain has had to cut back on its military spending and in the ‘Entente Frugale’ it has with France has had to create a Joint Expeditionary Force which, as Time describes “..will leave each other potentially needing the other’s permission to defend its own citizens”.

    And that’s not touching on inter-dependency in terms of defence and strategic agreements (Suez? Hormuz?) trade, research & development and intellgene

  9. Penny there is a mega difference between interdependency and ONE country being ENTIRELY dependent on ONE OTHER country.

  10. RZ – but no country is ENTIRELY dependent on ONE OTHER!! This is the whole point that is being made, but one you seem completely unable to grasp!

    You wrongly assume America has no strategic and mutual interests with Israel but simply donates to a charity case, and that is simply wrong-headed. America – like any and all nations of the world – needs to protect its interests and because of its location and form of governance, Israel is its strategic ally in the ME. Why do you think there are joint military ops? Why does the 6th fleet use Haifa? Intelligence-sharing is also critical and there are few that do intelligence better than Israel.

    Look – it only takes common sense to realise that no country exists purely on the whim of another. No country is that stupid. The UK may now be part of Europe but it still fosters a strategic relationship with America. Similarly, Israel does the same thing and has forged links with emerging superpowers.

  11. “Look – it only takes common sense to realise that no country exists purely on the whim of another. No country is that stupid.”

    Except Israel.

    This is how it is. Penny the only real difference between you and I is that you are content for Israel to blindly blunder on in this way and I want to do something about it. We will never agree. But I guess agreement always has been wildly over rated. Maybe creative tension is best.

    • “Look – it only takes common sense to realise that no country exists purely on the whim of another. No country is that stupid.”

      Except Israel
      Repeating a stupid lie won’t make it true. But your concern is very touching.

      RZ as the protector of Israel…. You are not the first here who says that Israel must be saved from itself by giving up its existence and the Jews must be on the mercy of you and your poor Palestinian victims. Thank you for your concern but stop worrying and go back to the JC blog when you can vent of your hate of Zionism and its representatives.

  12. Speaking of tension I need to get along to the pub. And when the guys have had a few and the racist chit starts to flow, guess what ? Neither Israel or Jews will get a mention. How weird is that.

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