As British readers may know, for the past three years the BBC has been in “global partnership” with the Hay Festival. That means that BBC audiences see and hear coverage of that literary event across a variety of platforms and this year that included an episode of the programme ‘Talking Books’ which was broadcast on both the BBC News Channel and BBC World News on various dates during June.
“George Alagiah meets renowned writer and political commentator Ahdaf Soueif at Hay Festival.”
“George Alagiah meets renowned writer and political commentator Ahdaf Soueif at Hay Festival. Her latest book, ‘This Is Not A Border: Reportage and Reflection from the Palestine Festival of Literature’ is an anthology celebrating the tenth anniversary of her own extraordinary literary festival.”
The ‘Talking Books’ programme is only available to UK-based audiences via BBC iPlayer but a clip from Alagiah’s conversation with Palestine Solidarity Campaign patron Ahdaf Soueif was posted earlier in the month on the BBC’s ‘Culture‘ website.
“Soueif is also a founding chair of the Palestinian [sic] Festival of Literature (Palfest). Her latest book, This Is Not a Border is a collection of writings from people who have appeared on the festival’s programme.
In this clip, Soueif reads from her own essay in the book, on the sanctuary of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Watch the video above to see more of Ahdaf Soueif’s interview from the Hay Festival 2017.”
Those viewing that clip – which of course was specifically chosen to be promoted on the BBC’s ‘Culture’ website – hear the following from Soueif: [emphasis in italics in the original]
“…and I chose to write about Jerusalem because for the last four or five years we’ve really seen the push against and into Jerusalem becoming stronger and stronger. And at the heart of Jerusalem is of course the Dome of the Rock within el Haram al Sharif which is the sanctuary – Al Aqsa.
And it’s always…ever since I started doing this…the first time I went to Palestine in 2000 there was a moment when I walked into the sanctuary and I really, really felt…felt such a peace. I mean it’s such a beautiful space and throughout the festival I have really tried…wanted to give the visitors that sense…to give them that moment when you walk in and the world folds away. So I chose to describe the sanctuary and what it means and its history. And here is just the second paragraph in that piece which says –
A sanctuary on a hilltop. Around it the earth fell away. Palestinians are masters of terracing. They built Jerusalem on a hill and the Old City slopes gently towards the south-east; towards the sanctuary. And there, the central and biggest of 26 terraces is for the Dome of the Rock. From the south, 20 steps lead up to it. From the north, just nine.”
It is of course not in the least bit surprising to find veteran anti-Israel activist Ahdaf Soueif exploiting the wrapping of a literary festival for political ends. Predictable erasing all Jewish history from her portrayal of Temple Mount and using partisan terminology to describe the location, she promotes to Hay Festival goers and BBC audiences alike ridiculous ahistorical notions such as the idea that Palestinians built Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock is situated on specially constructed ‘Palestinian terracing’.
However, the text accompanying this specifically selected clip does not include any factual information that would relieve audiences of those inaccurate impressions created by Soueif and it fails to adhere to existing BBC guidance on the use of terminology when describing Temple Mount and ‘Palestine‘.
The Guardian, PalFest and the ‘culture’ of anti-Israel activism (UK Media Watch)