The programme’s synopsis provides BBC audiences with inaccurate information:
“… why a performance by the band Radiohead in the Israeli capital Tel Aviv has become controversial.” [emphasis added]
“Now one of the world’s biggest bands, Radiohead, have [sic] been playing to thousands of fans tonight in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv but the concert has been controversial. Earlier this year an open letter signed by more than 40 public figures urged the band to pull out and instead join a boycott against what it said was the Israeli government’s denial of freedom to Palestinians. About an hour or so ago we spoke to the BBC’s Tom Bateman at the concert – he assessed the mood.”
In fact, many of those who signed that letter are hardly household names but Bateman likewise promoted that chimera.
Bateman: “[…] The controversy behind this gig began with a campaign calling for a boycott against Israel: the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, or BDS. […] …but their [Radiohead] latest journey to Tel Aviv has been marked instead by recriminations. The open letter to the band in April asking them not to play in Israel was signed by more than 40 public figures including South African archbishop Desmond Tutu, the film director Ken Loach and the Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters. It accused Radiohead – a band it noted had campaigned for Tibetan freedom – of failing to stand up for Palestinians under occupation. Such was the pressure on Radiohead in the midst of its world tour. One Tweet from Ken Loach said the band must decide whether to stand with the oppressed or the oppressor.”
As usual, the BBC made no effort to either unpack the BDS campaign’s propaganda slogans or to explain to audiences exactly what that campaign is really all about. Bateman ostensibly ticked the ‘impartiality’ box by including a pre-qualified eighteen-word comment from an Israeli in an item which was otherwise dedicated entirely to promotion of BDS campaign PR messaging.
Bateman: “The Israeli columnist Ben Dror Yemini has long campaigned against what he calls a movement of elites, believing it denies Israel a right to exist and disempowers moderates on both sides.”
Yemini: “I want the elites in London, in Europe, in the United States to be in favour of reconciliation.”
He then went on to tell a sorry tale of “Israeli controls over travel for Palestinians” without clarifying that the orchestra concerned has, according to its own website, “performed in Palestine, Germany, France, Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon, Greece and Italy” and just last year went on tour in the UK.
Bateman: “The soundtrack changes in Ramallah in the West Bank and the perspective is different. Zeina Khoury runs the Palestine Youth Orchestra and supports the boycott campaign. […]… she spoke to me about a tour planned for the autumn. She says Israeli controls over travel for Palestinians mean she can’t fully assemble the musicians in Jerusalem or bring people from elsewhere in the Middle East to the West Bank.”
Khoury: “Every year that we apply for these permits they get denied or they just…they don’t give us an answer – the Israelis. So we’re never able to have a full orchestra in Palestine. But in this festival in Israel Radiohead can just come in through the airport and it’s so easy for them. So they don’t get the point that it’s not the same case. It’s not the same thing for Palestinian musicians, Arab musicians or any festival in Palestine.”
Bateman: “Well the Radiohead singer Thom Yorke has described the public call on them to avoid Israel as, he says, upsetting, divisive and a waste of energy. He’s been pretty emphatic that the band understand [sic] the issues, that they don’t support Israel’s government, he says, but they still choose to play here. It is far from the first call by the boycott campaign that has divided opinion. Tonight, as you can probably hear, the music goes on. It will leave a debate that is far from concluded.”
Yet again we see that the BBC is regularly providing a consistently unchallenged PR platform for the BDS campaign, thereby mainstreaming a crusade aimed at delegitimising Israel and eliminating Jewish self-determination – but without providing audiences with the full range of information that would enable them to make up their own minds on the issue.