Not content with having misled audiences worldwide on December 31st by propagating the inaccurate notion of a ‘ban’ on Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan’s novel ‘Gader Haya’, the BBC World Service has continued to promote more inaccurate information about that same story.
The January 12th edition of ‘The Arts Hour’ included Lyse Doucet’s interview with Rabinyan already broadcast on ‘Newshour’ on December 31st. As was noted here in connection with that programme:
“…during her subsequent conversation with the book’s author, Doucet makes no attempt to relieve listeners of the inaccurate impression given by Dorit Rabinyan that the decision not to include the book in the curriculum was made by politicians rather than by a pedagogic committee.
Rabinyan: “This is a time of extremers [sic]. I think deciding to reject a book is an act of the regime that has been controlling Israel in the past decade.” […]
“There is a professional artistic committee who had recommended this book to be taught and the ministerial committee had rejected it and then they appealed again […] the ministerial guys rejected it again.”
Neither does she challenge Rabinyan’s later inaccurate and misleading allegations concerning the significance of the committee’s decision.
“and it’s [purchase of the book by members of the public] a big declaration of support and belief that the freedom of speech – the artistic freedom – shouldn’t be harmed, shouldn’t be even threatened….”
On the menu page for ‘The Arts Hour’ the item is described as follows: [emphasis added]
“Israel bars an Arab-Jewish love story written by Dorit Rabinyan from schools”
The programme’s synopsis states:
“Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan responds as her prize-winning novel about a love affair between an Arab and an Israeli is taken off the school curriculum.”
Both those statements are inaccurate and misleading. Rabinyan’s book was never on the school curriculum and it has not been ‘barred’.
The synopsis to the January 8th edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘World Have Your Say’ is equally inaccurate and misleading.
“A banned book and a Facebook video highlight the taboo of love between Jews and Arabs in Israel.” [emphasis added]
That inaccurate description was repeated – with no challenge from presenter Chloe Tilley – by one of the interviewees in the programme itself. Listeners were also told by another interviewee (ironically, from Haifa) that: [emphasis added]
“You need to understand that Israel is not going…it’s going into a very dark place. This means that the segregation that they have between Arabs and Jews makes a certain demonification of the Arabs.”
“A whole society is united behind a hatred for Arabs.”
And – again from the previously mentioned interviewee:
“…in 2016 the Ministry of Education in Israel still afraid from Palestinians, still says oh don’t mix it up, don’t hang up [out] with Palestinians, don’t marry, don’t kiss, don’t love Arab men or Arab women.”
As has been the case in all the BBC’s coverage of this story, no effort was made to inform audiences what the literature curriculum in Israeli schools does already include. Writer Liel Leibovitz recently provided some insight into that topic.
“Because I aced my Bagrut in literature, and was taught very well at HaRishonim High School how to closely read text, I was a bit puzzled as to why a decision by professional educators not to include a book in a list of mandatory novels amounted to anything akin to a ban. And because it hasn’t been that long since I graduated high school—or at least that’s what I like to tell myself while shaving away those gray patches in my beard—I remember the list of mandatory novels quite well: It already includes Sami Michael’s A Trumpet in the Wadi, the moving tale of Huda and Alex—she a young Arab woman, he a musically inclined Jew, both beautiful and doomed in Haifa in the 1980s; Amos Oz’s My Michael with its Jewish heroine, Hannah, overcome with erotic fantasies about her friends, the Arab twins Halil and Aziz; and I.B. Singer’s The Slave, in which an indentured Yid falls in love with his master’s shiksa daughter Wanda. For a ministry allegedly run by a bunch of right-wing guardians of racial purity, that’s quite a list.”
Only one of this programme’s six interviewees was a Jewish Israeli and Tilley twice noted that it was “a real challenge to get an Israeli Jewish perspective”. Although the topic of gay relationships did feature in the conversation, the fact that three of her gay Arab interviewees live in the Tel Aviv area did not prompt Tilley to enquire about the level of tolerance for gay and/or mixed couples in their home towns. The impression listeners to this show received from the personal stories of participants was overwhelmingly that their Muslim Arab families are far more tolerant of mixed relationships that the Jewish families of their partners.
As usual, listeners to the programme were invited to participate via social media and as has all too often been the case in the past, the ‘World Have Your Say’ Facebook page moderators failed to handle offensive comments appropriately.
While this story has been covered very generously by the BBC, it is starkly obvious that the corporation’s interest in it has been fueled primarily by the opportunity it presented to promote existing politically motivated narratives of a ‘dark’ society which ‘bans’ books, ‘silences’ free speech and frowns upon the multi-cultural icon of racially mixed relationships. So keen has the BBC been to promote that narrative that its reporting has failed to meet the basic editorial standards of accuracy which would supposedly have ensured that audiences would not be repeatedly fed a story about a ‘book ban’ which does not exist.
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