BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part three

The third item (see the first here and the second here) relating to the Balfour Declaration centenary that was aired on the November 2nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs show ‘Today‘ was an interview (from 01:32:28 here) with Israeli deputy minister Tzipi Hotovely conducted by the programme’s co-presenter Nick Robinson.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Robinson: “Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Downing Street today. The Israeli prime minister’s official residence back home is known simply as ‘Balfour Street’. That name: a recognition of the role of the British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour who, a hundred years ago today, declared Britain’s support for a Jewish homeland in the Holy Land. I’ve been speaking to Israel’s top diplomat – deputy foreign minister Zipi [sic] Hotovely about the significance of this day.”

After listeners heard Hotovely describe the Balfour Declaration as the beginning of international recognition of the Jewish right to self-determination and its wording as “very precise” in stating that the Jewish people should have their homeland, Robinson stepped in with yet more inaccurate paraphrasing of its text.

As was the case in the previous two items in this programme as well as in many additional BBC reports on the same topic (see ‘related articles’ below), he erased the all-important words “civil and religious” from his portrayal of the statement “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

Robinson: “It was precise in another way though, wasn’t it? The second half of what’s called the Balfour Declaration said nothing shall be done which prejudices the rights of the people already living in that area. That is unfinished business, is it not?”

Hotevely replied by clarifying that all Israeli citizens have equal rights and quoting the Declaration of Independence on that point. Robinson interrupted:

Robinson: “Those are the people living in Israel proper but of course there are many people living under Israeli occupation on what the world refers to as the occupied West Bank. They do not have equal rights, do they?”

At no point throughout this item were listeners informed that the people to whom Robinson refers are not Israeli citizens and that vast majority of Palestinians living in Judea & Samaria do so under the rule of the Palestinian Authority in Areas A and B as defined under the terms of the Oslo Accords.

While Hotovely was answering that question, Robinson – adopting an increasingly aggressive and patronising tone – interrupted her again:

Robinson: “Let’s be clear: when you deny the notion of occupation you are denying something recognised by every government round the world. You are denying something recognised by the United Nations, which all say that Israel is occupying land after the 1967 war and there should be the prospect at least of a Palestinian state there.”

As Hotovely tried to point out that the Palestinians rejected the 1947 Partition Plan, Robinson interrupted her again:

Robinson: “Yeah but we’re talking about your idea. You’re saying that it is not occupied. In what sense…well forgive me…let’s deal with what you said. In what sense is it not occupied?”

Hotovely’s response referring to the ancient Jewish connections to Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem was again interrupted by Robinson:

Robinson: “Well let’s go back to Balfour. Let’s go back to what he said. […]

Nobody said that Jews don’t have a connection with them. The land is occupied after a war. Now Balfour; let’s go back to him.”

Hotovely appears to have tried to raise the topic of the Six Day War at that point but Robinson interrupted her again with an even more inaccurate paraphrasing of the declaration’s text.

Robinson: “Forgive me. Let’s go back to Balfour. The Balfour [sic] said nothing should be done which prejudices the rights of the Palestinian people. Now you’ve got children. Imagine they were Palestinians living on what the world refers to as the occupied West Bank. Are you really saying that they would have the same rights as your children have?”

Just a few words into her reply, Robinson yet again interrupted:

Robinson: “That wasn’t the question.”

When Hotovely raised the point that there is no occupation or settlements or Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip and that the area is nevertheless under the control of a terrorist organisation, Robinson interrupted once more.

Robinson: “OK. Let me go back to Balfour one more time if I could. The British government said […] OK; so the British government…it is the British government’s position that there is unfinished business in the Balfour Declaration. Your prime minister is in the UK today and will be celebrating the Balfour Declaration. It is the British government’s position that only half of Balfour has been delivered. Let me just put the same question to you again. You have children. Imagine they were Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank. Would they have the same rights was my question. And the answer – you know – is no, they would not.”

Hotovely then spoke about Palestinian incitement and “schools and squares” named after terrorists that glorify violence against Jews but was again interrupted.

Robinson: “Well as you know there are many children who don’t believe that and many schools that don’t teach it. Let’s talk about the future if we could, minister, because that’s what matters now.”

Hotovely’s response to that interruption included the observation “it doesn’t seem like you’re shocked from [by] the idea that young children are being raised on this legacy of terrorism” but Robinson continued with yet another ‘question’ to which he also provided the answer.

Robinson: “Has Israel now abandoned the goal set by so many of a so-called two-state solution? In other words; of Israel living alongside and in peace with a Palestinian state. From everything you say, you have.”

Hotovely’s attempts to reply were repeatedly interrupted.

Robinson: “What’s your policy though? What’s your policy?”

Robinson: “So there will be no Palestinian state?”

Robinson: “Let me ask what you think the future is rather than your view of the Palestinians. Is your view of the future then a larger Israel incorporating what you call Judea & Samaria – what other people call the occupied West Bank – with second class Palestinian citizens live [sic] there? Is that your vision?”

After Hotovely’s reply to that question (and without it being clarified to listeners that her personal political views on that topic are not the majority view in Israel) Robinson continued by asking whether her three year-old and one year-old daughters have “Palestinian friends”:

Robinson: “Well let me ask you finally and personally – do you, do your family, do your children have Palestinian friends?”

Hotovely managed to say that her brothers live in Judea & Samaria and use the same facilities as Palestinians before Robinson interrupted yet again:

Robinson: “They have friends?” […]

He then proceeded to lecture his guest.

Robinson: “Well going to a Palestinian shop is not the same as having friends. The reason I ask you the question is peace needs hope. What the Balfour Declaration did was to give the Jewish people hope. What hope are you offering to the Palestinian people?”

One cannot but arrive at the conclusion that the sole aim of this aggressive, patronising and ultimately tediously uninformative interview was to amplify yet again the BBC’s chosen political message that the Balfour Declaration is ‘unfinished business’ by means of inaccurate representation of its text.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bateman amplifies PLO’s Balfour agitprop

More Balfour Declaration agitprop promotion on the BBC News website

BBC News portrays propaganda installation as a “museum”

BBC report on UK Balfour dinner follows standard formula

More BBC Balfour Declaration centenary reporting from Yolande Knell – part one

More BBC Balfour Declaration centenary reporting from Yolande Knell – part two

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part one

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Balfour Declaration centenary special – part two

 

Comparing BBC R4 ‘Today’ interviews with two Israeli MKs – part one

Earlier this week the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today‘ programme conducted interviews with two members of the Israeli Knesset on consecutive days.

On January 23rd presenter Sarah Montague spoke with Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (from 01:23:56 here), introducing the item as follows: [all emphasis in the original]today-23-1-hotovely-int

Montague: “Israel has approved the building of hundreds of new homes on land it has occupied in East Jerusalem. The settlements are illegal under international law, although Israel disputes that. The deputy mayor of the city, Meir Turgeman, is reported as saying since Donald Trump became US president, ‘now we can finally build’. Well, Tzipi Hotovely is Israel’s deputy minister of Foreign Affairs and a member of Likud party. Good morning to you.”

Hotovely: “Good morning”.

Montague: “Five hundred and sixty-six new homes approved in East Jerusalem on occupied land: are we going to see more settlement building now that President Obama is gone?”

Hotovely: “Well, this is not an occupied land. This is the Jewish land, forever, and I must say that every time this terminology is being used, I must say this is a political terminology; this is not legal terminology because according to international law, when you think about Judea & Samaria – look at the words: Judea – this is part of the Jewish heritage. Think about Jerusalem; the only capital that it was, it was of the Jewish people. So you can’t…”

Montague [interrupts]: “Of course it is only Israel’s interpretation of international law.”

Hotovely: “No, no. This is history. This is pure history because in international law and according [to] all the peace agreements that were signed, never said that Israel can’t build on Jewish land and this is definitely a Jewish land.”

Montague: “Of course, as I say, the majority of the rest of the world take a very different view but one thing that – clearly you think differently – but do you recognise that the building of these homes makes peace less likely?”

Hotovely: “Absolutely not. What we saw throughout last year is that every time Israel went through a process of concessions and when Israel committed disengagement from the Gaza [in] 2005, what we saw was more extremists on the other side. We saw Hamas regime taking over; terror regime that the Palestinians chose on a democratic vote. So what we saw is actually the opposite. When settlements were not there, instead of having democratic flourish in the Palestinian side, we just saw extremist radicalism and radical Islam taking over. Unfortunately…”

Montague [interrupts]: “You’re talking about a flourish…yes…you’re talking about flourishing of a particular one [laughs]…the…the…Israeli Jews in settlements; they are flourishing. Of course the Palestinians are not. I wonder, do you think that the idea of a two-state solution – because this is of course land that would have been Palestinian under the two-state solution – is the idea of that now dead?”

Hotovely: “Can you ask yourself how come, after 25 years that Israel said that it would [be] willing to give the Palestinians a Palestinian state, it never happened? Never in history when a minority wanted sovereignty it refuses to get the sovereignty. Now, the Palestinians are unique on this. When you see other minorities in the world that want to be independent, whenever they were offered the independency they said yes. The Palestinians are singling themselves out from this process – this historic process – because they said no to every international or Israeli offer, what [which] means that this is not what they really want. We see leadership that refuses to come and negotiate…”

Montague [interrupts]: “What…do you really believe…do you really believe that the Palestinians don’t want their own state?”

Hotovely: “Absolutely, because they said no to every Israeli offer and to every international offer. You can ask every American secretary of state that spend more time in the Middle East than in any other conflict and eventually, after so many years, so many offers, so many programmes…”

Montague [interrupts]: “What is it that you think…can I ask you, sorry…what is it you think they want if you don’t think they want their own state?”

Hotovely: “Well at the moment, unfortunately, they prefer Israel’s delegitimation [delegitimisation] than having a good life, than having sovereignty. They definitely don’t do any step in order to achieve any kind of agreement because when you want to reach an agreement you usually sit and negotiate. They refuse to negotiate for the last few years.”

Montague: “So settlements will continue and more settlements will be build [sic] on land that had… for decades has been considered to be the future Palestinian state?”

Hotovely: “Since 1967 this is a Jewish land as you know and of course when we build there…can you imagine that when….”

Montague [interrupts]: “Since Israel occupied it in 1967.”

Hotovely: “No. Israel was in a defend [defensive] war because after not accepting any kind of partition from the UN, from the beginning of the way the state [of Israel] has started, the Palestinians and other Arab states refused to accept the idea of a Jewish state in the Middle East and this is really the issue. I think that the international community…you know what? Let me quote Theresa May. Theresa May – your prime minister – said in a very clear voice that the settlements are not the main issue. And I think this should be the guiding line for the international community. Everyone has been dealing with the settlements even though everyone knows that the Palestinian…the PLO…was established in 1964 when there was not even one settlement…”

Montague [interrupts]: Tzipi…Miss Hotovely – the arrival of Donald Trump as American president; does it change the way that things operate in Israel between Israel and the Palestinians? Is this a game-changer?”

Hotovely: “First of all we think that we have a true friend in the White House. I think that all the declarations of the Trump administration were showing a deep friendship to Israel. They understand the complexity of the circumstances in the Middle East. The fact that in a world that everything is falling apart around us, when we see countries that are basically…are just not becoming countries anymore – we saw that in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen all these circumstances that are creating more and more radicalism. When Israel keeps on being the only democratic regime in the region, they want to keep Israel in its best shape and I think….”

Motague [interrupts]: Tzipi Hotovely; we must leave it there. Thank you very much.”

Hotovely: “…we are very happy about the new administration.”

So what did audiences hear in this interview? They heard an Israeli MK interrupted at least seven times in a six minute-long interview. They heard Hotovely’s statements and positions challenged on numerous occasions – including Montague’s inaccurate claim that “only” Israel has a different “interpretation” of international law than the one promoted by the BBC.

Listeners also heard Montague twice inaccurately state that the area of land designated to a Palestinian state according to the two-state solution principle has already been fixed – with the added implication that negotiations on topics such as Jerusalem and borders are in fact superfluous.

And of course listeners heard Montague’s inappropriate editorialising in the form of the statement “Israeli Jews in settlements; they are flourishing. Of course the Palestinians are not” which clearly breaches editorial guidelines on impartiality.

The following day another Israeli MK – Haneen Zoabi of Balad – was interviewed on the same programme. In part two of this post we will be comparing that interview with this one.