BBC’s WHYS discusses Israel’s ‘moral compass’

In recent weeks the BBC News website has published a variety of articles on the topic of political trends in Europe and the United States which include:

Is Europe lurching to the far right? Katya Adler, April 28th 2016

Guide to nationalist parties challenging Europe May 23rd 2016

Widespread revolt against the political centre Gavin Hewitt, May 24th 2016

However, BBC audiences have not been invited to ponder the question of whether the citizens of Austria (or America, Hungary, France, Switzerland, Finland or Denmark) have lost their moral compass en masse.  

That question was posed –literally – in relation to a country which the BBC has long portrayed as ‘lurching’ to the right of the political map – regardless of the inaccuracy of that framing.WHYS 20 5

The May 20th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ (titled “Has Israel Lost its ‘Moral Compass’?“, from 00:48) based its discussion around the resignation of Israel’s Minister of Defence on the same day and presenter Anu Anand was joined by four telephone interviewees.

In contrast with usual practice, the BBC ‘World Have Your Say’ Facebook page did not run a parallel discussion and so members of the public were spared the antisemitic discourse which all too often accompanies WHYS Israel-related programmes.

Presenter Anu Anand chose to open the item with a particularly long introduction which included some interesting terminology. [emphasis added]

“But first, in Israel a political drama that cuts to the heart of the country’s troubles. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – a hawk whose coalition has a one-seat majority in the Knesset – seeks to shore-up his political strength. He’s invited an ultra-nationalist to join his cabinet, creating what many are calling the most extreme administration in Israeli history. The re-shuffle was already contentious and then today his current Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon decided to resign rather than stay in government. At a press conference today he didn’t mince his words. ‘I’m resigning both from the position of Defence Minister and as a member of parliament’ Moshe Ya’alon told the nation. He said ‘I fought with all my strength against the phenomenon of extremism, violence and racism in Israeli society. In general Israeli society is sane and seeks a Jewish, democratic and liberal state without distinction of religion, race, gender, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. But to my great regret’ he went on, ‘extremists and dangerous forces have taken over Israel and the Likud movement. The general public needs to understand the serious consequences of this take-over by an extremist minority and needs to fight this phenomenon’. So; very strong words indeed from Israel’s outgoing Defence Minister. And the man who could replace him – although this hasn’t been confirmed – is Avigdor Lieberman; a former nightclub bouncer from Moldova and today one of Israel’s most outspoken and divisive figures.”

Anand did not clarify the relevance to the discussion of a job Lieberman did for one year whilst he was a student at the Hebrew University but apparently she believes that it is more important for listeners to know about that than his previous positions as Minister of National Infrastructure, Minister of Transportation, Minister of Strategic Affairs, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister.

Throughout the technically challenged discussion, three of the four interviewees – including the Jerusalem Post’s political analyst Gil Hoffman – tried to explain Israeli politics in general, the context of the broadening of the coalition government in particular, the previous negotiations with the Zionist Union party for the same purpose, the background to Ya’alon’s statements and the myth of a ‘move to the right’. Anand, however, could not let her hyperbolic headline go.

“…to help our listeners understand what’s going on. We heard there the words of Moshe Ya’alon. These are pretty strong words coming from a pillar of Israeli society. He’s the head – or he was the head – of the armed forces. What’s been the reaction?”

“But some of his words are really, really strong. For example ‘has Israel lost its moral compass?’. I mean he’s talking about the country losing its moral compass. Is there any sympathy for those words, any agreement?”

“Michael, I want to put to you the outgoing Defence Minister’s words. He accuses Israel of losing its moral compass. […] What do you think about his words today in his speech?”

(In fact, Ya’alon’s reference to a ‘moral compass’ was not made in his resignation speech, but the previous day.)

“I want to steer the conversation back to the issues that Moshe Ya’alon has raised. Whether or not, you know, he’s being political – the words themselves; he’s talked about Israel losing its moral compass, about the government being hijacked by an extremist minority.”

“We’re discussing the comments of Israel’s outgoing Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon. He resigned this morning. He had some very, very strong words for Israel’s politicians. He talked about fighting against extremism, violence and racism. He said that extremists and dangerous forces had taken over Israel and the Likud movement and were destabilizing the country.”

Towards the end of the item, as Gregg Roman tried to provide listeners with insights into the Israeli political scene, Anand interrupted and refocused the discussion on the programme’s real topic:

“But can I just move you guys back to the…the….you know, the talk about how Israel is losing its values. I do understand there are heavy politics involved, but perhaps for a global audience…”

The last word was given to Anat Hoffman of IRAC when Anand asked her:

“When you talk about the erosion of values, what specifically – quickly – in your day-to-day life do you feel is being eroded?”

Hoffman’s answer included claims of “ethnocentrism, chauvinism, racism”: labels which might equally be found in any discussion of contemporary European politics.

The point is, of course, that the BBC has not to date seen fit to superficially promote to its audiences worldwide the notion (based on the words of one politician) that citizens of a rather large number of nations in Europe are losing their values or their ability to judge what is right and wrong.

Now why would that be?

Related Articles:

Not Right: why did the BBC get the Israeli elections so wrong?

BBC audiences get a blinkered look into Israeli politics

 

Some BBC bright spots and the remarkable reaction of a presenter confronted with reality

They may be few and far between, but there are some bright spots among the BBC’s reporting of Operation Protective Edge.

After its initial failure to provide audiences with any sort of comprehensive background on the subject of Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels (see here and here) and following the distinctly inadequate “Gaza ‘terror tunnels’ in 60 secs” video report, the BBC News website finally got round to publishing a proper backgrounder on the topic on July 22nd titled “Gaza: How Hamas tunnel network grew“. Television and radio audiences – the majority – are obviously in need of a similar backgrounder.Simpson filmed 21 7

Some BBC journalists have suggested in their recent reports that the rising number of soldiers killed is changing Israeli views of Operation Protective Edge. In a filmed report from July 21st, for example, John Simpson opined:

“Israel’s losses are mounting sharply. Nothing remotely like the losses on the Palestinian side, but deeply disturbing for Israelis all the same. […]

Israel isn’t used to losing soldiers on such a scale and pictures like these are starting to have a powerful effect on public opinion.”

How Simpson reached that conclusion (or the sadly incorrect notion that “Israel isn’t used to losing soldiers on such a scale”) is unclear.

It was therefore helpful to see some properly informed analysis of the Israeli mood on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in the form of an article by Gil Hoffman titled “Why Israelis are rallying behind latest Gaza campaign“.

Among the subjects still missing from the BBC’s coverage is some in-depth coverage of the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields and the way in which that deliberate policy contributes to the high number of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip. Without that essential knowledge, BBC audiences will still be unable to reach informed conclusions regarding this particular international issue. One attempt to shed some light on that issue was made by Barak Seener of the Royal United Services Institute in an interview with BBC World News on July 21st – with a remarkable reaction from the presenter when presented with an expert opinion (which is presumably what the BBC sought when it invited the specific interviewee) on the realities underpinning Hamas strategy.

“That is obviously a very…ah…controversial thing to say and many people will refute that the leadership of Hamas want to see their own people, supporters, women and children killed…ah…unnecessarily…”

Edited out: the election analysis the BBC scrapped

As described in a previous article, the BBC’s coverage of the 2013 Israeli election campaign up until the commencement of polling was a one-dimensional affair which focused upon creating an impression of a country veering to the political far-Right and turning its collective back on the ‘peace process’. 

Once voting began, Jon Donnison – brought in from Ramallah for the occasion – reported from one Jerusalem polling station on January 22nd in an article which appeared in the Middle East section of the BBC News website. 

Donnison 22 1Like all the previous BBC coverage, Donnison’s report focused on the Likud and ‘Jewish Home’ parties, once again tapping into the much-promoted theme whereby – bizarrely – ‘peace in the Middle East’ is not only defined solely in terms of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but also suggesting  that it depends entirely upon one factor in the equation:

“And as Israel goes to the polls, that does not bode well for those hoping for peace in the Middle East any time soon.”

Donnison’s report also included an interview with the Jerusalem Post’s chief political correspondent Gil Hoffman. Or at least, parts of an interview. For – as Hoffman later explained on Twitter – it seems that some things said in that interview just did not fit in with the BBC agenda. 

Tweet Gil Hoffman

For those interested in what Gil Hoffman might have had to say – given the chance – here is a recent article in which he explains the myth of the rightward shift. 

But then, a very curious thing happened. Some hours later, Donnison’s report disappeared and – on the same URL and with the same title and synopsis  – a completely different one by Wyre Davies appeared.

version 2 'Netanyahu seeks re-election'

 Hmm…