It is not clear when the January 17th edition of the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk‘ was recorded, but certainly by the time of its broadcast Stephen Sackur’s guest Dani Dayan had already tendered his resignation from the post of chair of the Yesha Council (or ‘Israeli settler movement’, as both the synopsis and the interviewer call it), having announced that move on January 8th 2013. Getting the facts right about an interviewee’s official positions should, one might have thought, be pretty basic stuff for an organisation committed to accuracy.
The programme’s introduction promotes the currently popular BBC theme of a ‘far-Right government’ being about to be elected in Israel.
“Arguably the most Right-wing government in Israel’s history may soon be replaced by a government even further to the right. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is the clear favourite to keep his job after next week’s election, but his next governing coalition may depend on hardliners in the Jewish settler movement who want to annex large chunks of the West Bank and end all talk of a two-state peace deal.”
Some Israelis might feel that there is little point in their going to the ballot box at all on Tuesday if things are as clear-cut as the BBC makes out. But actually, some of the final public opinion polls (carried out before Israeli electoral law forbids any further publication of polls) seem to indicate that they are not, with the Likud-Beiteinu list down to an estimated 32 seats and Yair Lapid’s centre-Left party passing the Jewish Home. Without taking into account the Arab or Orthodox parties, the Left and Right blocs appear to be pretty much balanced.
That, of course, will probably do nothing to deter the BBC from yet more ‘doom and gloom’ crystal ball-gazing, but at least it could try to get its facts right. Contrary to what Sackur says at 02:34, the Jewish Home party is not “new” – it has been in existence under its current name since 2008, although it is actually a conglomeration of even older parties. It has three seats in the outgoing Knesset and one minister in the outgoing government.
This interview undoubtedly gives many fascinating glimpses into the views of the host (not least his determination to advance the ‘apartheid’ canard), but one of its really interesting parts comes at 15:59 when Sackur – having just dismissed the possibility of spending “the next half hour talking history” – defines what he calls “the nub of this issue”:
“The Palestinians living in the West Bank today are dispossessed of basic rights. They do not get a right to vote for the power that has ultimate sovereignty over them and that is the fact. You cannot get away from it.”
At 19:14 Sackur repeats his argument:
“Is not one of the basic human rights to be able to vote and determine the political power that actually controls your life? Palestinians do not have that right.”
One could almost believe that Stephen Sackur (and his fact-checker, if he has such a thing) has been in some sort of Rip Van Winkle slumber for the past 20 years and hence has perhaps never heard of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian President who recently began the eighth year of his four-year term of office or the 2006 election in which Palestinian voters elected a Hamas majority.
I suppose that is what happens when one doesn’t have time to talk about history.