BBC’s Paul Danahar at the Frontline Club

As was mentioned in the comments on this thread, the former BBC Jerusalem Bureau chief Paul Danahar was at the Frontline Club in London on October 15th talking about his new book. 

Courtesy of the estimable Daphne Anson blog readers can now watch a video of Danahar’s talk, which was chaired by Sam Farah of the BBC Arabic Service. 

Both Daphne Anson and the contributor in our comments section who attended the talk noted being pleasantly surprised by Danahar’s comments on Israel. I personally would take issue with his claim that the focus of the Arab-Israeli conflict has shifted from being “about land” and “about borders” to “about God”. Whilst it may be easy to identify the religious inspirations of Salafists currently situated in the Sinai and Syria, as anyone familiar with the ideologies of Hamas, Hizballah and other organisations will be aware, border adjustments have never been the real issue behind their motivations.

I would also take issue with Danahar’s comparison between Israel and the surrounding countries with regard to women’s rights and their participation in society: the major point he ignores is that equal rights are protected under Israeli law and his description of Israel’s Orthodox community is painted with a homogenous and stereotypical brush which fails to distinguish nuances between different groups within that community.

In addition, the much-promoted myth of the Assad dynasty’s keeping the Syrian –Israeli border “kind of quiet” over the years neglects to take into account that the rule of thumb regarding that border has always been that when it was in the Syrian dictatorship’s interest for it to be quiet, it was – but when it wasn’t – it wasn’t. That myth also of course blurs the fact that Assad’s support for Hizballah and other terrorist organisations has to no small degree been based on a policy of ‘having your cake and eating it’: attacking Israel via a proxy in order to avoid direct retaliation.

Have a look at the video and tell us what you think in the comments below.


9 comments on “BBC’s Paul Danahar at the Frontline Club

  1. You are so thorough and well-informed. Naturally I agree with your observations. We had just expected so much worse. And , of course, we shouldn’t be grateful for Danahar beginning to get it. After all it was his job. If after years of seeing everything about Israel through the prism of coarse prejudices and evidence-defying assumptions he begins to see, rather report, the truth, there’s no call for us to cheer.

    Perhaps seeing what cruelty and oppression really look like in Syria and the pusillanimous throwing away of the Arab world’s revolution has allowed him to see that the hyperbolic rhetoric of so much if the Arab world, the nobility if their masses us just nonsense.

    Heaven knows what he will get up to in Washington.

    Thank you for your wonderful work.




  2. I agree with the observations in the article above re Danahar. I’d add that I was pleasantly surprised to hear him say that Israel is not a bunch of Europeans plonked in the Middle East and many Israelis originate from the area and also his understanding of the fact that Israelis are justifiably nervous of changes in the region because of their history.

    He has a laid-back sense of humour. I just wonder why the BBC remained the same old biased anti-Israel propaganda outfit it while he was in charge in Jerusalem.

    • He actually verbalised a lot of BBC heresy in many parts of his (long) talk.

      Listening to it carefully, one could see that he does identify that Israel wants peace and quiet while the poor Palestinians/Arabs/Islamists want to murder Israelis. The point that ‘god’ is suddenly presented as the true basis of the ‘problem’, not occupation as such, not settlements etc, is mind boggling for a BBCnik.

      I follow with interest that infamous BBC ‘correspondant’, Jon Donnison in Australia knowing that what information that he presents will be fraught with imperfections if not downright misrepresentations. The day before the Australian elections, he interviewed four people. Only one supported Abbot with one of the other three suggesting that Abbot was ‘odious’.

      A great statement of BBC ‘impartiality’. Even in Australia.

  3. At the end he points out that people will never understand Israel (and why the Israelis do what they do) if they view it only through the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Hear hear.

  4. I take your points, Hadar.
    But compared to the demons who are sometimes trotted out to address the lefty Frontline Club,and the devilment I’d expected, he was a pleasant surprise. (I suppose the proof of the puddling lies in the book he’s written, but I’m not keen to purchase or plug it! The sense of humour mentioned by True Too above certainly helped. Danahar’s IQ seems to be many notches higher than a certain senior colleague of his!

    • Daphne Anson – You mean Jeremy Bowen? I assume that as long as Bowen is Middle East ‘Editor’ there is no hope at all of the BBC producing balanced reporting on the Israeli-Arab conflict.

        • Problem with Bowen is that his natural anti-Israel bias has been given an edge by the killing of his driver, who was also a friend, by Israeli fire.

          He is obviously unfit to cover the Israeli-Arab conflict in an impartial fashion.

          And yes, bias aside he is also a poor journalist

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