How BBC Radio 4 squeezed Israel into programme on Irish history

h/t JG

“Israel offers a florid illustration of how disastrously collective memory can deform a society.”

The man who expressed that opinion in an article promoting his new book  which was published in the Guardian on March 2nd 2016 – David Rieff – was invited two weeks later to take part in a programme marking the centenary of the Easter Uprising which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Start the Week’ show. Listeners heard a panel of historians and writers discuss various aspects of that chapter of Irish history in what was overall an interesting and informative programme.Start the Week

At around thirty minutes into the broadcast the discussion turned to the topic of collective memory with writer David Rieff telling listeners that:

“…collective memory isn’t memory in the historical sense. It is the series of…ah…it’s cherry picking the past, if you will, in the service of the present or some political view struggling for dominance in the present – that’s what it is.”

Listeners may have been somewhat surprised when – at 33:54 – presenter Tom Sutcliffe elected to introduce the Holocaust into a programme about Irish history.

TS: “OK: what about the classic instance of the duty of remembering the Holocaust? Err…would it be better if we forgot that?”

DR: “Well first of all, with respect, eventually we’re going to do. And second – I’m sorry again to bring in geologic time but it is surely at least worth taking to some extent into account. And the second thing is it seems to me…ah…that memory is different as long as there are people alive, or at least people alive who knew people who were alive. So that yes; as long as there are survivors of the camps – of which there are a few – as long as there are the children of those people – of which there are many – and grandchildren, fine. But in a hundred years? In two hundred years? Yeah, I think it might be time to let it go. And, even in terms of the memory of the Holocaust, it seems to me the memory of the Holocaust as it is deployed in Israel has been nothing but negative.” [emphasis added]

Given that Rieff had previously laid out his views on Israel’s ‘deformed’ society in that Guardian article (of which the producers of this programme must surely have been aware), the appearance of that latter throwaway politicized comment cannot have been too difficult to predict – especially following the presenter’s introduction of the Holocaust cue. Nevertheless, Sutcliffe refrained from challenging it –and not least the very interesting choice of the word “deployed” with its military connotations – before moving the conversation along.

And so – entirely predictably – uninformed listeners who had presumably tuned in because they wanted to hear a programme about Irish history therefore went away with the added ‘expert’ impression that Israel exploits the memory of the Holocaust for “negative” ends.

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HMD edition of BBC One’s ‘The Big Questions’ not exempt from political propaganda

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7 comments on “How BBC Radio 4 squeezed Israel into programme on Irish history

  1. BBC and david ah… rieff will surely change their mind soon when they will SEE by themselves in situ that nex holocaust will not be for Israel but for europe in partular places such as Ireland,france and sweden! Since they like it for jews thery will get it for europeans, no use of Learning lessons of the past then let them stike the irish shitty celts.

  2. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if that were scripted. It follows Biased Bollocks Confabulation’s axiom: “when possible, make gratuitous demonizing remarks about Israel.”

  3. Perhaps he was trying to draws an analogy between the memory of the Holocaust “deforming” Jewish memory and, to pick but one example from Irish history, memories of the 19th century Potato Famine “deforming” Irish memory. The deformation is of Irish memory is further enhanced by the knowledge that the Jews “successfully” forced the British to relinquish the entire Mandate territory, while the Irish still pine after the six northern counties. Maybe he was trying to draw an analogy with the Armenians whose memory of Ottoman genocide has “deformed” their historical memory which they “deploy” by attacking Turks today and hope for self-determination. I’m kidding of course and, given the current style of discourse, unfortunately so.
    The Holocaust was an historical fact as to which non-Jews remain sufficiently embarrassed that they can’t wait for memories to fade (aided by what will be an increasing number of denialists and of those who lecture Jews on having somehow drawn the “wrong” lesson from that which they seek to minimize where possible). The Holocaust stands as a warning of the consequences of rabid anitsemitism that places Jews, and Jews alone, as the cause of human strife in the world. Up through WWII, except throughout the Arab world where it remains current, it was fashionable to blame the Jews themselves for various wars, revolutions and social disruption (depending on where one stood politically, Jews were to blame for capitalism, communism and/or socialism). After WWII and a slight pause, Israel became the stand-in for individual Jews (mostly the “trillionaire” Rothschilds and “secret” Jewish who over time included assorted Rockefellers and Roosevelts), as reflected in far too many polls which bizarrely identify Israel as the greatest peril to world peace. This ideology also lies behind the resurgent theory of “linkage” that posits that the Middle East would become peaceable again (as if it ever had been) if only Israel would accomodate its Arab neighbors “legitimate” demands.
    To the extent that Jews “deploy” any message from the Holocaust, it is that, in the final analysis, they can only rely on themselves for protection. It was that realization that spurred on the Zionist movement in the first place and was the point of the re-establishment of their national homeland. How anyone can serioulsy dispute that argument, other than to ask of Israelis that they act in ways no other country would against a seemingly implacable foe whose aggression finds support in its theology, is beyond me. It remains one of those curiosities that Arab Muslims have far more rights to dress and act as they wish in Israel than in an increasing number of European countries, yet it is Europe with its own cultural insecurities that presumes to lecture Jews that are now beyond its control. Old habits die hard, it seems.

  4. I heard the programme. Yet another BBC-beloved anti-Israel bigot. However, I don’t blame Sutcliffe too much. He genuinely suggested we should remember the Holocaust and was probably shocked into silence at Rieff’s gratuitous bigotry.

  5. Hopefully the Grauniad, with it current level of finances, will be going the way of the Indy – and quite soon too.

  6. Pingback: 06/06 Links Pt2: UK professors refuse “Israeli money” but merrily take Arab funds; The Roots of American Support for Israel – 24/6 Magazine

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