BBC’s Evan Davis misleads on BDS, proportionality in warfare

On June 16th Israeli MK and former minister Tsipi Livni was interviewed on BBC Two’s flagship news programme ‘Newsnight’ and – not for the first time – presenter Evan Davis’ lack of Middle East proficiency was on show, along with some typical BBC attention to accuracy.

Photo credit: Eylon Aslan-Levy

Photo credit: Eylon Aslan-Levy

Davis introduced the interview with the following statement:

“Israel is viewed negatively in much of the world and certainly so in the UK.”

Davis of course did not reveal the source of the factual information (if there is any) which led him to that sweeping assumption but, as a poll carried out for Chatham House in August 2014 at the height of the conflict between Israel and Hamas showed (page 5), the majority of respondents did not describe themselves as viewing Israel “unfavourably”.

Davis continued:

“The international image certainly worries the country and Prime Minister Netanyahu said the campaign to delegitimise Israel must be fought. In his sights was the BDS movement – Boycott, Divest and Sanction [sic]. The last thing Israel wants is that any comparison to apartheid South Africa to catch on.”

Not only do we see that – once again – the BBC made no effort to provide audiences with the full range of information concerning the aims of the BDS campaign, but in the course of the conversation with Tsipi Livni, Evan Davis actively misrepresented its agenda.

Livni: “Basically, it’s [the BDS campaign] not for two states for two peoples – it’s basically against the State of Israel. They are not talking about two states living in peace in the Middle East but they are basically against the State of Israel.”

Davis: “I think many in the BDS movement are in favour of the two state solution – aren’t they?”

Having devoted the first part of the interview to the topic of BDS, Davis came up with a question for Livni in which he interestingly managed to get past the BBC’s professed aversion to making “value judgements”: 

 “Would you describe your parents as terrorists?”

He then went on to introduce the topic of ‘disproportionality’ but, rather than using the opportunity to relieve audiences of some of the misinformation on that topic propagated by BBC journalists during last year’s conflict and others, Davis added to it. It is embarrassingly obvious that Davis (apparently along with his editors, who surely must have vetted the questions before they were asked) either has absolutely no idea what that term really means in the framework of the Laws of Armed Combat or elected to mislead viewers on the topic.

Davis: “The UN, others, plenty, think there is disproportionate force used by the Israeli army for the threat against Israeli civilians.” […]

Davis: “What is the ratio of the families losing children?”

Livni: “We are not targeting civilians.”

Davis: “I know you’re not targeting but what is the ratio of civilian to… untargeted killed by the Israelis relative to those killed in Israel by Hamas?”

What Davis is doing here is promoting the false notion that ‘proportionate’ means equality in death or suffering. That, of course is not the definition of the term in the context of war and the fact that he makes no effort to inform his audiences what the term really means is ample indication that the simplistic take-away message audiences are intended to receive is that Israel must be in the wrong because fewer Israelis die.

When such shoddy and blatantly partial ‘journalism’ is broadcast on prime time British television it is once again patently obvious that the BBC’s lack of commitment to its legal obligation to “[e]nhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” is precisely one of the factors contributing to the existence of UK residents’ negative views of Israel touted by Davis in his introduction.

12 comments on “BBC’s Evan Davis misleads on BDS, proportionality in warfare

  1. Fewer British or American civilians died in WW2 than German.

    Does that make the UK or America the aggressor in WW2?

  2. Er the basis of “proportionality” is very simple, as you actually know fair well. If one side sends over a rocket, whether “terrorist” based or people “fighting for their livelihoods” then it does not merit the other side killing thousands, whether on purpose or via “collateral damage”. Does that explain the situation to you?!

  3. Davis was shamefully shoddy. And he’s gay — let him try to be gay in any other ME country except Israel.

    Is it worth complaining to BBC? Which bit of the Charter did he violate?

    • I agree 100% with you about Davis’s appalling behaviour toward Livni. Can you imagine a scenario wherein he interviews a spokesperson from Hamas and confronts him with the same question, “Are you a terrorist?”. It’s unthinkable, isn’t it, because the BBC refuses to call Hamas or any terror organisation that targets Israel, a ‘terrorist’ for fear of not being perceived as ‘neutral.’

      Furthermore I can’t imagine the scenario of an Islamic fundamentalist even allowing himself to be interviewed by an openly gay presenter.

      You could not make it up!

  4. Omar Barghouti the Hypocrite

    Omar was born in Qatar, grew up in Eygpt, attended Columbia University in the United states and moved to Ramallah as an adult. While telling Palestinians to boycott everything Israeli and Israeli Academia in particular, Omar applied not to a Palestinian University to take graduate studies but to Tel Aviv University where he was accepted as just another student.

    Omar also speaks the language of collective, universal human rights for Palestinians but denies that Israelis have any such rights. According to Omar Jews are not a people and they had and have no right to self determination of a Jewish state, no right to their own culture, customs, laws or government institutions and he demands these rights be taken away from Israeli Jews and that they be forced to live with a people who are highly an-Semitic. (According to the ADL over 90% of the Palestinian Arab population in the West Bank and Gaza is anti-Semitic.)

    Omar is a hypocrite because he talks about BDS being non-violent when he supports Palestinian resistance, all forms of Palestinian resistance. This means he accepts violence as a Palestinian right to achieve his goal of the destruction of a Jewish state and replacement by another Arab dominated state. This means he supports resistance in all forms such as suicide bombings, cutting the throats of Israeli children in their beds or blowing them up on their way to school or home. In reality his position is no different than that of Hamas’ charter except that he seeks a secular state instead of a theocratic state.

    Roberta Seid attended a lecture of Omar’s at UCLA in January 2014. She wrote:

    “[Omar] banged the drum for more bloodshed against Israeli Jews, for a fight to the finish that would undo the results of the 1948 war and be Zionism’s death knell.”

    “[Omar]hurled blood libels. Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinian children “for sport.” Indeed, they “provoke” the children, “entice them like mice, and then shoot them” for no reason. Often, it is just because the soldiers are “bored.”

    “He justified terrorism against Israelis, defending the Palestinians’ right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance.”

    “Barghouti repeatedly denied that Jews are one of the indigenous peoples of the region. When an Israeli stood up and said he is a 10th-generation Israeli and indigenous, Barghouti scoffed. “You aren’t indigenous just because you say you are.”

    “He denied that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination. They are not a people, he declaimed, and the United Nations’ principle of the right to self-determination applies only to colonized people who want to acquire their rights. While he insisted that Palestinians must have “the right to have rights,” he denied that the Jewish people had any collective rights.”

    “When asked what he is doing to bring Hamas, the popular Palestinian fundamentalist movement that oppresses women and minorities and wants to establish a theocracy, to share his supposedly progressive vision, he sidestepped the question.”

    Seid wrapped up his article on Omar’s speech

    “I have often wondered what Jews or decent people could have done to push back against the anti-Semitic propaganda of 1930s Germany. I don’t know. But I do know that Omar Barghouti follows in that tradition of the “big lies,” the dehumanization of Israelis and incitement that would lead others to justify or excuse those who murder Israeli Jews. Historically, Jewish blood has been cheap too many times. It is critical that people of good will mobilize to protest and discredit the lies, educate the public, and re-educate the students who have been misled by the heady blend of bigotry, idealism and furious outrage that animates extremists like Barghouti.”

    I advise Roberta Seid not to look for decent people blogging at 972mag because they are promoting BDS and harm to Israel

    BDS is BS. Expose Barghouti.
    September 29, 2013

    Omar Barghouti, the Qatari-born, Egyptian-raised Jordanian citizen and founder of the anti-Israel BDS (“Boycott Divestment Sanctions”) movement, likes to lie and claim that BDS is about fighting “oppression”.

    He likes to lie that slandering Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, is somehow helping “human rights”. He likes to hide the fact that Israeli Arabs and Palestinians under Israel have far more rights than he will ever have in Qatar, Egypt or Jordan – or any Arab state. But sometimes, he exposes his real agenda:

    “We oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine…
    No Palestinian… who is not a sell out… will ever accept a Jewish state in ‘Palestine.’” – BDS Founder, Omar Barghouti

    BDS’ goal is to destroy the indigenous Jewish right to self determination. It is about destroying the democratic rights of all the Arabs, Jews and other ethnicity that today enjoy Israel’s democracy.

    BDS’ goal is to destroy Israel and replace it with another Arab state, and to make Jews as “safe” as the Christians being exterminated in Egypt and Syria and Gaza – the “One State” final solution.

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