‘Nice country you’ve got there’ Hague gets a soft ride on BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’

The February 6th edition of the BBC Two and BBC World News programme ‘Hardtalk’ featured presenter Stephen Sackur interviewing the British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Most of the programme (which can be seen here) was dedicated to the subjects of Syria and to a lesser extent Afghanistan, but a segment towards the end related to what Sackur described as “important policy areas” and termed “Israel-Palestine”. 

That particular part of the programme was also aired separately on BBC News programmes and was in addition promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page

Sackur opened:

“The Americans, it seems, are going to publish their vision – their plan – for a two-state solution very soon. In getting ready for that, John Kerry warned the Israelis that if they reject this push for peace, he said, it is going to intensify calls for the isolation, for a boycott upon the Jewish state – upon Israel. Do you echo those sentiments? Do you see Israel’s isolation becoming more complete?”

William Hague: “Ah..he’s right to warn about that and I have warned Israeli leaders as well as Palestinians that much of the world will see this as the last chance at a two-state solution. You know, if John Kerry – and I really pay tribute to John Kerry and to the energy and the commitment that he has put into this – and many observers will say, if it doesn’t work – that if John Kerry with all of the weight of the United States, all his experience and standing in the Middle East and the world – cannot bring the two sides together to reach final status agreements, then who can?

SS: “But in talking of isolation of Israel, Kerry put Israeli government ministers’ backs up. One – Yuval Steinitz who was on my programme recently – he said in response to Kerry’s words: ‘Kerry is holding a gun to Israel’s head’. Is the EU, with its own boycott of Israeli businesses that have operations in occupied territory, is the EU putting a gun to Israel’s head?”

WH: “We don’t – just to be clear – we don’t have boycotts; we have guidelines.”

SS: “But you’re blocking loans and grants to….”

WH: “That is a different thing from a boycott. We’re not putting a gun…nobody is putting a gun to anybody’s head. In fact what the EU is offering is an unprecedented package of economic partnership and assistance to work with Israelis and Palestinians if this is successful. There is a real positive…”

SS: “And if it’s not? That’s the question: if it isn’t going to go further..”

WH: “If it isn’t, that can’t take place. And if it doesn’t happen, if there isn’t an agreement on these things, then I think it will be a very dark time both for Israelis and for Palestinians – for both sides actually. There are terrible consequences to fear. And certainly it would bring a great deal of international pressure on Israel, including at the United Nations and there’ve been many moves for Palestinians to seek greater recognition at the UN which would command a huge amount of international support. That is evident from previous votes. Britain hasn’t committed itself on that but…

SS: “But if we’re painting that scenario – exactly – if we’re painting that scenario…”

WH: “It would be difficult for Israel but it would be difficult for Palestinians as well because without embracing a two-state solution, their situation would be pretty desperate as well.”

As we see, not only did Sackur provide a platform for the promotion (and subsequent BBC amplification) of Hague’s blatant ‘nice country you’ve got there; would be a pity if anything happened to it’ tactics, but he failed utterly to clarify to viewers that Hague’s presentation of the issue as though it were all down to what the parties involved want to do – rather than what they are currently capable of doing – is plainly ridiculous.

Viewers were at no point made aware of the fact that the party negotiating on behalf of the Palestinians does not include the faction – Hamas – which secured the largest number of votes in the last PLC elections. They were not told that the current president of the Palestinian Authority lacks the authority or the ability to sign any agreement seeing as his term of office expired over five years ago and elections are long overdue and currently impossible to carry out. Neither was it made clear that the Palestinian Authority has no control whatsoever over the Gaza Strip – one of two areas projected to become part of a future Palestinian state – and Sackur avoided asking Hague how any signed peace agreement could possibly be implemented in an area ruled by a third-party terrorist group which categorically rejects the two-state solution, is committed to the destruction of one party to any potential agreement and has a significant presence (along with additional rejectionist terrorist groups) in the area which is controlled at present by the Palestinian Authority. 

But Hague also got off scot-free with regard to other issues. Sackur failed to challenge him on the subject of UK government and EU funding for organisations and NGOs which promote, support and operate the BDS movement against Israel. He failed to demand accountability from Hague regarding the doublespeak of a UK government which claims in public to be opposed to any boycott of Israel and yet, for example, funds the British Council and Arts Council England – both of which have in turn funded the BDS supporting, anti-two-state solution project known as the PalFest.  Neither did he solicit a response from Hague with regard to the recent claim published in an Israeli newspaper according to which a senior British diplomat told a reporter “It’s my job to f*** settlement factories like this one in Ein Gedi”. 

Sackur also conveniently refrained from dissecting Hague’s cringingly transparent ‘equality’ chimera of EU or UK censure of the Palestinian Authority (the same body which was recently revealed to be holding explosives and weapons in a diplomatic mission on EU soil) should peace negotiations collapse. After all, as past experience shows, even when the PA actively sabotaged the Oslo Agreements by initiating and financing an unprecedented campaign of terror against Israeli civilians in 2000, the EU continued to fund that body and even raised its contributions to the tune of an annual average of 250 million Euros. Hence, there is little reason to anticipate an about-face this time around and just as little reason to anticipate any letting-up in EU and UK funding of anti-Israel NGOs or an end to the practice of paternalistic, diplomatically illiterate finger-wagging from the hand which still feeds sections of the BBC. 

Thanks to Sackur’s ineffectual performance, the licence fee paying public remained oblivious both to the existence of many objective factors which make the culmination of the current talks in a workable agreement extremely unlikely and to the redundancy of the FCO’s pompously simplistic approach to such a serious and complex subject.

So much for the BBC’s obligation to “[e]nhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” – and journalistic independence.

29 comments on “‘Nice country you’ve got there’ Hague gets a soft ride on BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’

  1. Well, why would a PeeCee UK politician and an anti-Israel BBC ‘journalist’ have any fundamental differences re Israel, even on a programme describing itself as Hardtalk.

    Softtalk would be more like it, with an occasional murmured disagreement just for show and no badgering of the interviewee.

  2. Some time back the BBC’s John Humphries interviewed Hague on the World Service.

    He indignantly pushed Hague to commit to military intervention in Syria.

    And almost in the same breath he indignantly pushed Hague to speak out against Israel intervening in Iran to stop its nuclear programme.

    It would be difficult to find a better example of BBC hypocrisy and bias.

  3. What your article clearly shows is that the UK Foreign Office is viciously anti-Israel. By all accounts it has been strongly pro-arab for the best part of 100 years.

  4. It’s very apparent that the posters on this site have a strong viewpoint against the BBC, but could someone elaborate on what positive suggestions for ‘the future’ they have for either a 2 state, or 1 state solution?

    How do posters on here see the region arriving at a lasting peace without submitting something positive and concrete for others to discuss?

    What I’d like to know is what will the final solution look like? I mean, 9 million Israelis and 4.5 million Palestinians won’t disappear over night – so how does this get settled? Who goes where, and how?

    • That’s a legitimate question Mike, but this web site is, as you’ve noted, dedicated to exposing the BBC’s anti-Israel bias.

      You’ll no doubt find a variety of opinions among those who comment here on possible solutions.

      The more important issue, in my opinion, is what suggestions the BBC’s larger audience may have based on the BBC’s overt anti-Israel/pro-Arab reporting.

  5. I feel a duty to reply to your comment, ‘Biodegradable’.

    I am disappointed that you have chosen to avoid the question instead of addressing the question I posed regarding a possible final solution.

    To say that my point is ‘legitimate’ and then refrain from putting your thoughts into this forum leads one to question your motives behind such an omission: if not resolving this issue peacefully, what is ‘ultimate’ purpose of this entire website? It is not, I might add, to correct the BBC’s journalistic skills ‘in a vacuum’ but to make sure that the public’s mind is fully informed of the facts of the middle east crisis so that they can better arrive at a lasting and peaceful consensus through their political representatives.

    There are many comments on this site that appear to forget that resolving the crisis is the aim – glib comments as to who killed who and how they were ‘right’ to do so do not add to this debate, from either side.

    It would be a disservice to all those involved to not address the question asked above.

    I trust that you will do so?

    • I am disappointed that you have chosen to avoid the question instead of addressing the question I posed regarding a possible final solution.

      I’m sorry to disappoint you Mike but my views on any possible peace between Israelis and Arabs would only be my own and not relevant to the prime objective of this website. It’s possible that others who comment here while agreeing with me on the subject of BBC bias would have differing views on how best to achieve peace in the region and I’m not disposed to going “off topic”.

      I must say the phrase “final solution” sends shivers down my spine.

      To say that my point is ‘legitimate’ and then refrain from putting your thoughts into this forum leads one to question your motives behind such an omission

      I said that your question was a legitimate one, but not one that requires a response from me, or anybody else, here.

      … what is ‘ultimate’ purpose of this entire website? It is not, I might add, to correct the BBC’s journalistic skills ‘in a vacuum’ but to make sure that the public’s mind is fully informed of the facts of the middle east crisis…

      Yes, quite. That’s what is attempted here every day, and every single day at least one example, if not more can be found of the BBC’s lack of “journalistic skills” and outright partisan bias.

      There are many comments on this site that appear to forget that resolving the crisis is the aim – glib comments as to who killed who and how they were ‘right’ to do so do not add to this debate, from either side.

      “Resolving the crisis” is indeed an honourable objective, but not one I believe this website aspires to, and nor do I.

      I limit myself to supporting a website, such as this one, which aims to fill the information gap created by the BBC’s lack of professionalism, as exposed, for example, in the latest post:

      Why was the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem disappeared from a BBC website article?

  6. Dear Biodegradable,

    With respect you cannot, from an integrity standpoint, champion the cause of this website without having a public stance on how the final solution for 4.5 million Palestinians looks.

    You owe it to the readers here, the 9 million Israeli’s, 4.5 million Palestinians and to yourself to have a vision in mind for the end state – otherwise what are all these anti-bbc comments for?

    Surely you few this website as a means to an end, not an end it itself.

    And if that is indeed the case, what is the end that you put forward to the international community and those involved?

    To say that your viewpoint is not wanted/required/merited here, is disingenuous.

    How does do the final-status talks end? Where do (combined) approx 14 million ‘go’? How are they ‘arranged’? How does this peace become a lasting and just one?

    You can not be taken in good faith, based on your previous comments across various postings, if you do not explain your vision. It would strengthen your position to make this transparent.

    best wishes

    • With respect you cannot, from an integrity standpoint, champion the cause of this website without having a public stance on how the final solution for 4.5 million Palestinians looks.

      Please stop using the phrase “final solution”!

      Unlike you I am not presumptuous enough to suggest a solution to anybody’s problems, much less for the “Palestinians”. Although elections for a new president of the “Palestinian Authority” seeing as how the current president’s four year mandate expired six years ago, or a stop to terrorism and incitement might be a good start.

      You owe it to the readers here, the 9 million Israeli’s, 4.5 million Palestinians and to yourself to have a vision in mind for the end state – otherwise what are all these anti-bbc comments for?

      I owe nothing to anybody.

      You can not be taken in good faith, based on your previous comments across various postings, if you do not explain your vision.

      Take me or leave me as you wish. Perhaps the problem with the BBC’s reporting of Israel is that it’s correspondents have “a vision” which they project onto their reporting rather than accurately and neutrally reporting.

  7. Dear Bio,

    You do appear presumptuous enough to make comments that assert an Israeli position in contravention of the majority interpretation of international law when it comes to Palestine and its pre-1967 borders.

    Why is this any less daring than having an opinion on the final status of Palestine?

    Please clarify

    Best wishes

  8. Dear Bio,

    In response to your denial, I shall make it crystal clear for you so that you may not wriggle free of your comments.

    You assert, in another post that you only just now commented on, that Palestine and the Palestinians do not exist, and have never existed.

    This is a direct misrepresentation of the consensus on international law, and a direct sop to pro-Zionists. It is obviously untrue.

    Please explain yourself.

    best wishes.

    • Please quote the “International law” that gives legitimacy to a Palestinian State. Note that the current status of “observer” doesn’t count. Note also that the 1967 cease-fire line is just that and not a border. You should also remember that the territories occupied by Jordan between 1949 and 1967 were never part of any Palestinian state, neither were they offered by the Jordanians to the”Palestians” to be their own state.

      All of the above is fact, not an “assertion” of any “Israeli position”.

      I said at the start of this exchange that I was not interested in this kind of discussion with you so I won’t be replying to any more of your comments.

      • Biodegradable!

        This is wildly off topic but I was wondering what you think of Spain’s sudden twang of conscience in inviting the descendants of expelled Jews back to Spain.

        • Hi TT!

          Well, considering many Spaniards believe that Jews run the banks, Hollywood and the Whole World in general, and Spain is currently going through a severe economic crisis, my personal opinion is that the Spanish government truly believes that Jews returning would get them out of their financial mess 😀

          I read somewhere that some rabbis have decreed that Jews should not return to Spain.

          The bill still has to pass through parliament and the senate and there are conflicting reports that there has been a “deluge” of requests for citizenship at the Spanish embassy in Israel, and other reports that mostly the Sephardim aren’t too interested.

          Surprise, surprise the BBC covered the story almost a year ago but nothing concrete seems to have been done on the ground since then:
          http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21631427

          • Well, considering many Spaniards believe that Jews run the banks, Hollywood and the Whole World in general, and Spain is currently going through a severe economic crisis, my personal opinion is that the Spanish government truly believes that Jews returning would get them out of their financial mess.

            Thanks for the chuckle, Biodegradable.

            Actually, many a true word is said in jest, and you might have something there.

            I also read about some Israeli rabbis being against the idea. It was in the Israel news.

            I also read that some Sephardim are keen on the idea because it will automatically grant them an EU passport.

          • What’s new about this new proposal is that they will be able to retain Israeli nationality too, so an alternative EU would clearly be useful. Previously, and actually for Brits like me, one has to renounce other nationalities to obtain a Spanish passport, something I’m not prepared to do, and anyhow I’m Ashkenazi. 😉

            Sephardic Jews hoping to fulfill 500-year Spanish dream

            Portugal has also offered citizenship but I’m not sure if the same applies regarding dual nationality:

            Portugal gives nationality to descendants of Sephardic Jews

            Antonio Jiménez Barca Lisbon 31 MAY 2013 – 11:20 CET

            […]

            Spain introduced a similar law to offer nationality to Sephardic descendants but has not implemented it. According to a recent article in The New York Times, six months have elapsed since the naturalization scheme for Sephardic descendants was introduced without the process actually becoming available to applicants.

            From that NYT link:

            […]

            Several Sephardic Jews complained, in e-mails, about Spain’s failure to make the changes, saying they had sought information and help from the authorities in Madrid and Spanish diplomats overseas, to no avail.

            “The way they handle the subject is very disappointing, and in a way I find it insulting,” said Jacob Levy, an Israeli-American retiree who speaks Ladino, the language of Jews originating from Spain.

            Mr. Levy said he had contacted the Spanish Consulate in New York and was told that he must renounce his current citizenship if he wanted to apply for a Spanish passport.

            Rachel Delia Benaim, an American student, said she was related to the Toledano family, one of Spain’s most illustrious Sephardic families. She said Spain had let her down in her citizenship bid and blamed either the country’s inability to put promised laws into practice or “resistance from the Spaniards to actualize their promise.”

            Either way, she said, becoming Spanish “has proven no easy feat.”

          • Thanks for that info, Biodegradable. I guess we’ve gone way off topic. Anyway, I can’t reply to your latest comments of yesterday and today. Ain’t no ‘Reply’ button.

          • I’ll just add that it sem to be taking Spain a helluvah long time to enact that law, visit or no visit by the king.

  9. ‘Observer’ does indeed count, it’s all adding up my friend.

    The territories occupied by Jordan were Palestinian, not Israeli.

    I am glad that you will not reply any more – you add nothing of value.

    UN Resolution 242 is the answer that ‘law’ you are looking for.

    Here are all the answers you need: http://www.resolution242.co.uk

      • That sock-puppet that wiped the floor with you!

        You’re love of this hate filled, biased website shows that you really have no final solution in mind for the combined 14 million people who live in the ancient area of Palestine, home of modern date states of Palestine and Israel.

        You’ve refused from manning up and answering any truly relevant question put to you shows that you have no real desire for peace.

        Why don’t you convince us that you do?

    • Rubbish. UNSC 242 nowhere declares any of the territories taken during the Six Day War to be “Palestinian”, as there was not then – or ever – a sovereign Paletinian state. And even as the resolution called for withdrawal from “territories” – and not “the territories” or “all the territories”, there was not a hint that said withdrawal would result in the creation of a new sovereign Arab state.

      In 1967 it would appear that diplomats hadn’t yet been taken in by the emerging Palestinian narrative. UNSC 242 was also less biased against Israel in recognizing that it too, like its neighboring Arab states, was entitled to “secure and recognized” borders. There was again no mention of a Palestinian state. That also meant that Israel was entitled to *defensible* borders, as almost everyone accepted that the 1967 lines were not defensible.

      Apropos, the PLO was only formed in 1964, and their founding charter made clear there were no designs on territory held by Egypt (Gaza) or Jordan (the West Bank), only on Israel.

      The policies promoted by today’s leadership in the US and UK are de facto abandonment of the framework of UNSC 242, which they themselves drafted. But there’s a lot of that going around. The Geneva framework dealing with the Iranian nuclear project negates all UNSC resolutions demanding Iran halt *all* enrichment activity. So I guess all such resolutions are binding until they’re not.

      • One day they don’t exist, the next they do! There is no ‘right way’ to be recognised, just that you are.

        There is also no reason why just because that part of the world had been free from colonialism of the nation state since ‘forever’, that it must have pre-defined its borders and claimed statehood before Israel for the people there to have rights to self-determination and statehood. No reason what so ever.

        This logic is counter intuitive, and would mean that the first nation state had the right to be ‘the state’ of everywhere , as no where else ‘claimed’ this title first. Clearly a nonsense, and the UN Charter recognises this. Why don’t you?

        It is ‘a people’ that claim self-determination, not a state.

        Do you see?

  10. This crisis CANNOT be resolved thru negociations with a non entity and a president whose term has expired since 5 years! And this is less than 1% of the reasons it cannot be resolved this way. The main reason is that this “crisis” can be solved only with neighbouring arab nations,NOT with fake “palestinians” who want to replace Jews in Palestine!!! And arab nations will never make peace with Israel as long as “palestinians” squat Judea/Samaria/Gaza. No one seems to understand this not even israelis politicians,but…te peopel do!

  11. Pingback: The BBC, the British Council and BDS: what Simon Cox didn’t report | BBC Watch

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