The BBC put out two interviews, one with Israeli opposition politician Tzipi Livni, the other with deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely In both cases the interviewer was Sarah Montague
The Today Programme broadcast the first one January 23rd, and on February 21st HardTalk featured the other.
HardTalk's raison d’être is adversarial and confrontational, but both interviews were distinctly hostile. Numerous interruptions halted the flow, and Sarah Montague’s disinclination to listen sidelined the answers, throwing all the emphasis on her loaded questions. A bit like current press conferences.
It’s obvious that Sarah Montague takes the BBC’s ‘Arabist’ approach to the Israel / Palestinian conflict. The religious/Islamic element is ignored. All Palestinian claims and accusations are taken at face value, while Israel’s are treated with cynical disbelief. The issue of settlements is of particular interest to Israel’s critics who will cite the UN and International law to support their argument, while all counter argument automatically falls on deaf ears.
That sets the scene.
BBCWatch has a transcription of the Today Programme interview with Tzipi Hotovely here.
Now there’s a new episode in that particular saga. Before I go into detail, here is the relevant excerpt.
“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?”
BBCWatch made a complaint about the lack of impartiality - specifically in the latter part of that exchange. They argued that Sarah Montague’s odd remark about ‘flourishing’ was both irrelevant and subjective.
Initially they received a bungled, slapdash reply which misidentified interviewer, prematurely recognised Palestinian statehood, misunderstood the complaint and delivered a haughty and patronising lecture on the BBC’s infallibility.
BBCWatch made the complaint a second time, and received an apology and a new reply. Again the complaints department misunderstood the complaint.
Once again, here’s where the word “flourish” first appears in the conversation.
Tzipi Hotovely said:
When settlements were not there, instead of having democratic flourish in the Palestinian side, we just saw extremist radicalism and radical Islam taking over”
She was explaining, in less than perfect English, that when Israel withdrew from Gaza (and settlements were no longer there) the opportunity to establish a flourishing democracy was not taken up by the Palestinian side; instead, “extremist radicalism and radical Islam” took over.
Again, this obsession with settlements dominated the debate. Sarah Montague let her emotions steer her response and seized on the word ‘flourish’.
“The Israeli Jews in settlements are flourishing, of course the Palestinians are not.”
Sarah Montague is emoting that the settlements are ‘crushing’ the Palestinians. She believes this because she treats all Israel’s arguments with disbelief.
“You would continue building in settlement blocks” she says, provocatively to Livni on HardTalk. Demographic reality and any mention of final status negotiations fall on deaf ears and always will while the BBC takes a hostile and partial approach to Israel.
“Ms Hotoveley, (sic) however, did not take issue with the suggestion that Palestinians were not flourishing as a result of the settlements.”
concluded the BBC in its second reply to BBCWatch. That is eerily similar to the police caution on arrest:
“……it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in Court”
The BBC’s kangaroo court.