BBC’s Harriett Gilbert stereotypes Jewish and Arab Israelis

Readers outside Israel may perhaps not be familiar with the work of journalist and author Sayed Kashua who was born in Tira but now lives in Ramat Denya in Jerusalem. Having studied sociology and philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Kashua went on to become a journalist, at present writing a weekly column for Ha’aretz, and is the author of several highly acclaimed novels (in Hebrew) which have been translated into a number of foreign languages. He won the Prime Minister’s Prize for Hebrew Writers in 2005 and the Kugel Prize for Literature and the Bernstein Prize for an original Hebrew novel in 2011. Kashua is also the writer of the popular television series ‘Avuda Aravit (Arab Labour) – winner of the award for the best television series at the Jerusalem Film Festival – which was first broadcast on Channel 2 in 2007 and takes a humoristic and satirical look at Arab-Jewish relations in Israel.

On March 1st 2013 the BBC World Service’s daily arts programme ‘The Strand’ interviewed Sayed Kashua about his latest novel – available for listening here

The Strand March 1st

The short interview is particularly interesting due to the fact that whilst the interviewer Harriett Gilbert is talking to an acclaimed author who in much of his subject matter deals in dismantling the stereotypes which exist in different sectors of Israeli society, she appears to be intent upon using the interview to entrench her own stigmas and stereotypes relating to that society. 

At one point, for example, Gilbert refers to “Yonatan’s Jewish ID card” – implying (wrongly) that Israeli Jews carry a different Identity Card to Israeli non-Jews. Later she refers to “Israeli prejudice and discrimination” – by which she clearly means Israeli Jews – as though this were some kind of universal national characteristic. In one particular section of the interview Gilbert says: 

“What’s interesting in the novel though, Sayed Kashua, is that as well as having very practical reasons for wanting to pass as a Jewish Israeli, one of your characters in particular – the lawyer – seems to be rather seduced by the whole idea of being…like…Jewish people; having the same culture; he wants to adopt the Jewish culture. Is there something you’re talking about here which happens a lot with the oppressed minorities? Is it that they begin to think that maybe the oppressor is actually better than them in some way?”

Gilbert’s facile categorisation of Israeli society into “the (Arab) oppressed minorities” and (Jewish) “oppressors” could be taken straight out of the Socialist Workers Party handbook and of course does nothing to contribute to her listeners’ understanding of the intricacies of the rich tapestry of Israeli society.

The antiquated notion that no matter how successful a writer, lawyer, doctor or entrepreneur of Arab heritage may be in a multi-cultural democracy which affords equal rights under the law to all its citizens, he or she remains “oppressed” purely on the basis of ethnic background, is clearly as disconnected from reality as the concurrent suggestion that an illiterate fifty five year-old female immigrant from Ethiopia who works in a food packing plant in a development town is the “oppressor” purely by virtue of the fact that she is Jewish.

If the BBC really does aspire to inform its audiences about Israeli society, its journalists and presenters first need to abandon their own politically inspired stereotypes and stigmas relating to both Arabs and Jews in that country.  

BBC World Service promotes Gilad Atzmon – again

h/t Adam Holland

The BBC World Service has an arts programme called The Strand which, according to the blurb:

“ a daily 18 minute programme highlighting the best of what’s going in the arts.

Wide-ranging and with eclectic interests, The Strand reflects the artistic response to the BBC’s news agenda.

Presented by Harriett Gilbert and friends, it features discussions, reviews, big-name interviews and location reports as well as live studio performances and Hollywood, Bollywood gossip.”

Since the beginning of the year, The Strand has been running an occasional music series called ‘Hear my country in which listeners were asked to write in with a nomination for the song which they feel best represents their homeland. The series also includes music selected by people who were invited by the BBC to contribute their choices of music best representing their particular country. Here, for instance, one can hear three songs selected by a presenter from Radio 3 in Madrid. 

One might perhaps have assumed that an essential qualification for being asked by the BBC to select music representing one’s country would be to live in it. Obviously not, because the person the BBC asked to choose music representing Israel is an old BBC World Service favourite who has not lived there since 1994.  

Hear my country Atzmon

Atzmon being Atzmon, he uses the platform provided by the BBC to spout his usual propaganda and throws in a bit of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions promotion to boot.

“My first choice is a song that was sung by the Nahal choir – an Israeli military band basically – and it is called הוא לא ידע את שמה – ‘He didn’t know her name’.

And this music was very important for me because – as I understand it now – as youngsters in Israel, my generation and earlier generations, we were heavily indoctrinated with a lot of patriotic music that was there to prepare us for the ultimate sacrifice on the Jewish altar.” 

Those wishing to hear the rest can do so here

Gilad Atzmon is not just a “writer and jazz saxophonist” as the BBC claims. Despite his place of birth, he is also well known as a Holocaust denier and an unabashed antisemite, as was previously documented here and here when he was also promoted by the BBC World Service last October. 

Would the producers of ‘The Strand’ invite a neo-Nazi to choose music to represent Germany for no other reason than that he happened to have been born in Bonn or ask a violin-playing member of the Klu Klux Klan to select American music? Of course not – because BBC producers are able to identify those versions of racism and the BBC does not normally collaborate with racists in the spreading of their hate-filled ideas. But the BBC apparently does not grasp that by refusing to recognise Atzmon’s well-documented antisemitism for what it is and by repeatedly providing him with a platform from which to champion his odious propaganda, it is actually complicit in the spread of racism.