BBC R 4’s ‘Terror Through Time’ asks a silly question, gets a silly answer

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Terror Through Time’ – presented by Fergal Keane – is back with a new series and its November 24th edition was titled “Mossad: The Wrath of God“.Terror Through Time

The programme’s synopsis states:

“In the first episode of ten examining the world of terrorism in the run-up to 9/11, Fergal Keane asks if the reputation of Mossad has been a help or a hindrance to peace in the Middle East. Has the agency’s ruthlessness destroyed the efforts of moderate voices on both sides or stopped the worst perpetrators of violence in their tracks?”

Leaving aside the fact that (contrary to the asinine suggestion repeatedly promoted by the BBC) “peace in the Middle East” is obviously a much broader issue than the Arab-Israeli conflict, solving that particular conflict is not part of the job description of The Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations – or Mossad – and hence that is a rather odd and redundant question to be asking in the first place.

And in fact, Keane does not really ask the question or provide any relevant or enlightening answers to it in his programme. What he does do, however, is to use it as a hook upon which to place some political messaging from a contributor misleadingly (and in breach of BBC Editorial Guidelines on impartiality which demand that the viewpoint of interviewees should be summarised) presented merely as an academic.

Keane: “So is it a successful policy as far as Israel is concerned? Have the assassinations weakened Israel’s enemies? Rashid Khalidi is professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University. He’s convinced that the killings have fundamentally weakened the political capabilities of the Palestinians.”

Khalidi: “I think it is the case, going back to the 1970s, that what Israel has done in assassinating Palestinian leaders – some of whom are literary figures, some of whom were spokespeople, some of whom were organizational leaders, some of whom were military leaders – has been to decapitate the secular Palestinian movement. If you look at the leadership of Fatah, at least a dozen of the most gifted leaders were murdered: most of them assassinated by the Israelis, some of them unfortunately assassinated by the intelligence services of Arab regimes; whether Syria or Libya or Iraq. And this has had a devastating effect on Fatah and on the PFLP and on other of the groups that make up the PLO. Something of the same sort has happened to Hamas and to Islamic Jihad in the more recent period when they were the ones leading…err….armed resistance and carrying out attacks on Israeli civilian and other targets, such that in a certain sense, the best and the brightest are all six feet under.”

Anyone familiar with Rashid Khalidi’s record of political activism will of course not be in the least bit surprised by his attempt to turn arch-terrorists such as Fatah’s Abu Jihad (Khalil al Wazir), the PFLP-GC’s Ahmed Jibril or Black September leader Ali Hassan Salameh into “the best and the brightest” and “gifted leaders” or by his far-fetched implication that a political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict has been thwarted by Israeli assassinations of the terrorists who – according to his spurious theory – would have made it happen.

The trouble is that the majority of listeners to BBC Radio 4 will not know who Rashid Khalidi is or what the political motivations inevitably underscoring his commentary entail and hence will be unable to put his words into their appropriate context. The bigger problem is, of course, that the BBC has denied them that ability. 

 

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One comment on “BBC R 4’s ‘Terror Through Time’ asks a silly question, gets a silly answer

  1. Pingback: Political messaging and inaccuracies in BBC Radio 4’s ‘Terror Through Time’ | BBC Watch

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