Framing the topic in BBC Radio 4’s ‘Any Questions?

The synopsis to the July 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Any Questions?‘ reads as follows: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

“Jonathan Dimbleby presents political debate and discussion from Westminster Synagogue in London with the Vice Chair of the Conservative Party responsible for Women Maria Caulfield MP, the crossbench peer Baroness Deech, the founder of moneysavingexpert.com Martin Lewis and the Labour MP Chuka Umunna. Together they discuss the recent apparent second Novichok poisoning, Sadiq Khan’s approval of an inflatable in the shape of a baby Trump, a second referendum on Brexit, whether the UK should move its embassy to Jerusalem, whether the legalisation of recreational cannabis will follow the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.”

Presenter Jonathan Dimbleby is of course on record as saying that the BBC’s decision to uphold parts of complaints made concerning Israel-related reporting by Jeremy Bowen would “cause serious damage” to the corporation’s international standing, while describing those complaints as “lies and distortions”.   

His interventions during discussion of that highlighted question are hence noteworthy.

The question from the audience member concerning the UK embassy in Israel – actually worded “why doesn’t the UK move its embassy to Jerusalem?” – came at 17:50 minutes into the programme (available here) and was immediately followed by a remark from Dimbleby:

Dimbleby: “As of course the US government has done – or Donald Trump has done…”

As was clearly stated at the beginning of the announcement concerning the relocation of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the decision was based on the ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act’ passed by the US Congress in 1995.

“The Congress, since the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (Public Law 104– 45) (the ‘‘Act’’), has urged the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to relocate our Embassy to Israel to that city. The United States Senate reaffirmed the Act in a unanimous vote on June 5, 2017.

Now, 22 years after the Act’s passage, I have determined that it is time for the United States to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This long overdue recognition of reality is in the best interests of both the United States and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

As the second panelist – Baroness Deech – was giving her answer to the question, Dimbleby interrupted. 

[21:51] Dimbleby: “Do you, do you, Ruth, do you not see that there is a big diplomatic – to put it mildly – dilemma when the city is divided between two communities – two groups that are both national groups – and that until you have managed to solve the Palestinian issue, it’s very difficult not to be sending the message that it’s more important to us that Israel has the capital in Jerusalem than it is that the Palestinians have an equal right to part of Jerusalem as their capital?”

Under the terms of the Oslo Accords signed by the PLO and Israel, the status of Jerusalem is one of seven ‘permanent status’ issues yet to be negotiated. Jonathan Dimbleby is obviously in no need of such negotiations, having already decided for himself on the question of ‘rights’ to the city. However Radio 4 listeners heard him frame his own opinion as fact.

When the third panelist to speak – Maria Caulfield – had a slip of the tongue, Dimbleby quickly jumped in, putting words in her mouth.

Caulfield: “…you know some of the demolition of settlements doesn’t do the Israeli government any favours and so there’s a lot of work to be done…”

Dimbleby: “Sorry: some of the demolition of settlements?”

Caulfield: “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Dimbleby: “The creation of settlements.”

Caulfield: “Sorry – the creation of settlements and the demolition of some of the Palestinian…”

Dimbleby [interrupts] “Palestinian homes.”

Caulfield: “…homes…doesn’t do the Israeli government any favours.”

As the BBC itself reported a year ago, no Israeli government has ‘created’ new ‘settlements’ in well over two decades. Dimbleby’s pursuit of accuracy did not however include informing his audience of the vital context of the absence of building permits in cases in which “Palestinian homes” have been demolished.

At the end of that item (28:19) Dimbleby chose to read out two listener responses of the same stripe.

Dimbleby: “Quite a lot of tweets. This from Jonathan Ross: ‘People in power like to throw their weight around. That’s why Israel and its supporters want Jerusalem as their capital’. But – or and – Steve Brooks: ‘Jerusalem is a city that belongs to a whole series of people. Israel cannot reasonably claim it all’.

Jonathan Dimbleby’s efforts to frame the impressions taken away by audiences on this topic are embarrassingly obvious.

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Two BBC programmes claim criticism of Israel brings accusations of antisemitism

 

 

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Two BBC programmes claim criticism of Israel brings accusations of antisemitism

h/t: DL, Amie

One annoying aspect of being an Israeli, or a person with family in Israel, at a time like this is having to listen to pundits (who it is quite safe to assume have never had to grab their children and rush to a bomb-shelter within seconds because of missile fire from terrorists) sitting safely in a studio thousands of miles away and pontificating about the rights and wrongs of a conflict upon which they apparently believe they are qualified to comment because they have read about it in the papers or watched it on television.Any Questions

This last weekend the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Any Questions?’ had on its panel the former (2000 – 2004) BBC director general Greg Dyke, former LibDem MP Susan Kramer, Harper’s Bazaar editor Justine Picardie and MEP Dan Hannan. In the section of the programme which related to the current hostilities (available here from around 33:13 or here on iPlayer), listeners heard the editor of a fashion magazine opine that life in Gaza “is like living in a big prison”. They also heard a British MEP describe the Gaza Strip as a “sealed concentration camp almost” and then add “I should say sealed refugee camp”. Most interestingly though, they got to hear the following remarks from the man who headed the BBC during most of the second Intifada before resigning his position in the wake of the Hutton Report.

Greg Dyke: “I have to say, I do find the Israeli response massively over the top. [applause] I look at…and I look at what’s been happening this week with horror. I also….the problem is, if you criticize Israel you are – by certain sections of the Jewish community around the world – immediately accused of being antisemitic – which I am not in any way. And we have got to overcome…and you have to look at why is the American response always so limited; why do the Americans actually….because they’re scared of the Jewish community and the Jewish vote in America. We somehow have got to separate the concept of antisemitism…and supporting an Israeli government that I think is not supportable or doing things that are not justifiable. [applause]”

Presenter Jonathan Dimbleby then says:

“Greg, as you will know, historically the BBC has come under great external pressure from the interest groups in this – very severe. At the moment the criticism seems to be coming principally not from the Israelis for the BBC coverage but from those who think that the Palestinians and those who live in Palestine are not being fairly, adequately represented with enough background information to form a clear judgement. Yet…is the BBC eternally locked in that or does the BBC have something to answer for?”

Dyke: “It’s incredibly difficult. I mean I was director general of the BBC for four years in a period of conflict. There was no doubt there was more pressure on me from the Israelis than any other state anywhere in the world. To the extent that in the end I stood up and said look I’m sorry – you cannot be the judge of impartiality. You are so one-sided in this you have got to leave it to us to be the judge of impartiality but we have got to be impartial and we have got to try to be impartial. I do find – I have to say – this week I have found every time the BB…eh…BBC news talks about Israel and then militant Palestinians, I find that a difficult…if I’d been director general this time, I’d be saying hang on – this is…is this not judgemental? We call one bunch a government and the other bunch we call militant Palestinians and the word militant implies somehow illegitimate.”

So, apparently the man who was at the helm whilst the BBC spread the lethal narratives of the ‘Jenin massacre’ that never was and the Al Dura story is more concerned about the risk of implying via terminology that a person who indiscriminately fires military grade missiles at civilians is “illegitimate” than he is with those acts themselves. One can only wonder if that ‘gem’ crops up in the Balen Report of 2004 which the BBC has spent ten years and hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money avoiding publishing.

Another programme broadcast by the BBC this last weekend was the July 27th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Weekend’ – available here for a limited period of time. It is worth listening to the programme in full in order to hear the context-free descriptions of the Gaza Strip from Chris Morris and Ian Pannell, including further promotion of Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demand to “lift the economic blockade” – described as a “smart demand” by Morris.WS Weekend

That programme also has two guests: one a woman in Paris called Vaiju Naravane – a novelist and former European bureau chief for the India’s Hindu newspaper, which apparently qualifies her to discuss the issue of this conflict although the fact that she describes Israeli towns and villages in Judea & Samaria as “colonies” is probably sufficient clue as to her political orientations. Right at the end of the programme she is given a platform to promote the following notions.

“Oh I think it’s a huge challenge [covering the story in the Gaza Strip]. I mean this is bigger than anything we faced in the Balkans in the 1990s for instance. […] and we’re not talking also about the essentials of the problem. I mean when France was occupied during the Second World War there were people who were planting bombs and there were people who were undertaking terrorist acts in order to get rid of the Germans from here and they were hailed as heroes. Now the same thing is not being applied to Hamas. I have no sympathies for Hamas because I think they’re extremists and all that. But at the same time you cannot in any moral sense have the kind of occupation – the way in which these people – this 1.4 million population is living in 140 square meters [sic] of territory without any kind of access and this is going on year after year after year and Israel’s demand seems to me to be submit, don’t do anything, don’t hit back and we’ll be OK with you but we will not remove the blockades, we will not remove the restrictions we place on your life. Now what sort of an argument is that?”

The other guest on that programme was Robert Fox – formerly a BBC defence correspondent and currently an occasional BBC contributor. Notably, Fox came up with the same claim promoted by Greg Dyke the day before.

“One of the difficulties that I’m having is that every time you criticize Israel… somebody of my position who’s been at the game for 47 years….ah, but you’re being antisemitic. That is a confusion of language. It’s a monstrosity… [..] This is a debate. There is an argument on all sides because what the criticism of Israel…what Israel is doing – and it’s a fundamental of international law – it is disproportion.”

So there we go: two ‘cultured’ BBC radio programmes in one weekend – both of which include promotion of the notion that it is not possible to criticize Israel without being accused of antisemitism – with one of the speakers making his own none-too-veiled insinuations based on the ‘Jewish power’ trope and another who – through her claim that Hamas is like the French Resistance and her comparison of Israel’s non-existent occupation of Gaza with that of Germany in France in WWII  – using a Nazi analogy.

Could it get more surreal than that?  

 

 

 

BBC’s ‘Any Questions’ has been at it again

A guest post by Joe Geary.

(The programme can be downloaded here for a limited period of time or listened to here. The relevant section begins at 12:23′. – Ed.) 

Not learning any lessons from harbouring child molesters, the BBC is a natural home for Israel molesters.

First of all – the breathtaking question from one Stephen Bedford:

 “Despite all the foreign aid and support, Israel has spectacularly failed to get on with its neighbours. Does Israel deserve a future?”

How did they possibly allow such a question? Still, it tells you all you need to know about the Political Wing of the BBC.

Cue a vicious anti-Israel tirade from Shirley Williams.

She’s actually visited Gaza, she says (one wonders who showed her round) and it’s “a slum, worse than anything in Britain in the 19th Century”. But wouldn’t that be its government’s fault, Shirley? And you don’t know your history. Average Gazan life expectancy is over 73 years –  in Britain in the 19th Century it was below 40 and in 2011, male life expectancy in Glasgow was 71.

And it’s “crowded out to the gills”.  Yes, and how precisely is that Israel’s fault? Do they put something in the water to make Gazans have more babies?

And Gaza is full of people “who see their land slowly eaten up by more and more Israeli settlements”. Come again, Shirley? Israeli settlements in Gaza as the pretext for violence against Israel? The sheer ignorance is astounding.

So of course Jonathan Dimbleby, the BBC chair, steps in to quietly correct the facts. Fat chance. So yet another anti-Israel lying slander passes through the BBC airwaves.

 As for Williams’s motives. My guess is this. Her party keeps getting a kicking in the press and at polls. So what do you do? Turn round and give Israel a good kicking. Feel better now Shirley?

P.S. Dimbleby’s main contribution was to interject that in the current conflict only three Israelis have been killed but over 30 Palestinians. So the main problem for the BBC man is not enough dead Israelis.