Saturday, 3 November 2012

Ignominious Agenda


By their very nature, dedicated pro-Israel blogs and pressure groups are all too often branded as ‘disgraceful or ignominious’, a definition of the word “stigmatised”, which I hesitate to use because it somehow carries a stigma of its own.
As a supporter of Israel, anything I might say risks being dismissed out of hand as Zionist propaganda according the the Richard Ingrams principle of automatic dismissal. 

(I have developed a habit, when confronted by letters to the editor in support of the Israeli government, to look at the signature to see if the writer has a Jewish name. If so, I tend not to read it”)

 But for that perplexing confession, one’s instinct would be to quite like Ingrams. Now I think of him as part of the vaguely antisemitic British establishment. I once wrote:

I have developed a habit, when confronted by the voice of Richard Ingrams, of finding it pompous, high-pitched and repressed.” 

The website BBCWatch has made an impressive debut, and despite the stigma, I hope Hadar Sela’s authoritative articles about the BBC’s unfair reporting of matters concerning Israel will make the BBC sit up and take note.

Her post of 2nd November 2012 concerns an example of ‘useful idiocy’ by the BBC’s Wyre Davies, showing how he strays into outright propagandising against Israel.
Has he been duped into unintentionally furthering the cause of notorious campaigners against the state of Israel? The statements he quotes are from folk widely known in the region for their political stance, but apparently not by Wyre. If he is genuinely unaware that he is being used, that’s bad enough. If he has deliberately parroted their one-sided viewpoint, that’s even worse. 
Last year I wrote about Yolande Knell’s presentation of the same issue, the plight of Bedouins.
Are colleagues Wyre and Yolande both merely naive  strangers in foreign lands, innocent and vulnerable, having unwittingly fallen into the hands of malign political manipulators? Has the impartiality in their genes been corrupted by dastardly, agenda-driven political machinations? I don’t necessarily just mean Angela Goldstein and  Eid Abu Hamis. 

I do wonder whether the BBC itself is responsible for sending reporters to the region with a set agenda, such as dispatching emissaries to the region with a mission to go forth and seek out tales of victimhood, that they will multiply, and lo, may the world reap the fruits of your labour. Because all these BBC reporters, tasked with “telling your story” seem only inclined to tell one side of it, and that’s not impartiality, now is it?
(Looking back on my B-BBC article, November 13th 2011, it seemed to me almost as if it was written by someone else, so I’m reproducing it in full, below,just because I can.) 
Hadar knows the ins and outs of this issue far better than I, so please read her article even if you can’t stomach mine.

The need to reach the wider community is precisely why I was interested in writing for the blog-dedicated-to-general-BBC-related-biases,  ‘Biased BBC’.
Unfortunately, the B-BBC blog is also stigmatised by being labelled as a forum for right-wing mouth-frothing bigots and “Daily Mail readers”.  Sadly, the comments below most of the pieces in the B-BBC archive have been lost, so we won’t be able to see how it went down with the B-BBC community.
However I think there’s a trend amongst an increasingly vocal number of people who comment on articles in the online Telegraph and other online press who seem, thankfully in my opinion, to be getting fed up with the idea of Palestinian victimhood. Once upon a time the crowd would have been whipped up into a frenzy of outrage against Israel by Nabeel Shaath’s sob storybut now many people seem to be able to see through it.
There are 1525 comments BTL at the Telegraph to date, and the majority are critical.

Now seems to be a good time to keep reiterating Israel’s historical and legal position with the objective of educating the growing number of people who might be beginning to have doubts about “Islam”.  I feel they are crying out for factual information with which to justify their growing concerns. 

If they were properly armed with historical and contemporary information seen from Israel’s perspective instead of the fantasies conjured up by the Palestinian leadership and advocates that the BBC has disseminated for decades, they could at last expunge the fear that misgivings about Islam makes them ‘racist.’ 

The BBC has been spending an inordinate amount of time and effort trying to normalise all manner of cultural and religious practices, but I suspect well-educated, and largely well-meaning, liberals (at least the ones I know) would relish an excuse to acknowledge that their political allegiances have forced them to suppress some of their genuinely liberal instincts.  They might well be relieved to admit that being unconditionally and indiscriminately tolerant throws up some problematic anomalies. 

“How can we embrace a religion that practices terrorism and holy Jihad?” they might be wondering.  “Well, it’s not true ‘Islam, the religion of peace’,” they are assured by the BBC.  “It’s a distorted version of Islam. “

“How can we accept misogyny, homophobia, honour killing, FGM?” they plead.  “Well, this is not not the true Islam, it’s only some primitive cultural practices,” the BBC replies half-heartedly. 

“How can we believe Jeremy Bowen, Wyre Davies, Jon Donnison, Orla Geurin, Barabara Plett, Rupert Wingfield Hayes,  Yolande Knell, Kevin Connolly, ?” they ask. “We’re the BBC,” says the BBC with a smile, “impartiality is in our genes.”

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Moving Tale. Biased BBC November 2011
Our friend Yolande Knell addresses the Bedouin question. I think it is fair to say that she sees it solely from the Bedouin perspective. So much so that her article comes across as another bit of pure Israel-bashing.
The fundamental issue concerns the human rights of a people who wish to hang on to their traditional way of life, when it clearly conflicts with the interests of certain other people who wish to abide by the law-and-order to which they’ve become accustomed.
In an ideal world, live and let live is a fine principle. But the reality is less than ideal. Compromises must eventually be reached and accepted all round.
Yolande Knell’s piece suggests Israel has pushed the noble Bedouin community from pillar to post, deliberately depriving them of their traditional way of life, forcibly relocating them to a static enclosure situated beside a rubbish dump. There are complex facts surrounding the legality of Bedouin rights to land, but Knell dismisses these in a cursory way and skews them till they seem discriminatory and racist:
“They mostly live in areas that Israel declared as state land or on private land leased from Palestinians. Some have deeds showing they bought territory whenJordan was in control of the area between 1948 and 1967.
Many of the nomadic communities settled there after leaving their ancestral land in the Negev desert. The Bedouin that remained became Israeli citizens but still have a tense relationship with the state.” 
  
When Jordan was in control” she says. Or would it be more accurate to say: “when Jordan invaded and occupied it in 1948 and annexed it in 1950”
Knell uses emotive language, sub-headings and pictures throughout.
It’s ‘Dalé jâ vu Farm’ all over again; and as with gypsy and traveller sites that perplex our own communities, these disputes are highly political.
I don’t claim particular expertise on this problem, but from what I’ve read it seems that many people feel that the Bedouin have indeed been treated harshly by successive Israeli governments. Equally their uncooperative behaviour has made things more difficult for everybody including themselves. The anomalies in their demands parallel our own Gypsies’ and travellers’ contradictory demands for the right to proper housing while insisting that they need to travel. Many people ask why should the nomadic gypsy lifestyle be romanticised to such an extent that it trumps the rights of the rest of society? Similarly, the question of enforcing the law in respect of illegal building. Consider the outcry if a traveller’s illegally erected shack is demolished, and its occupants evicted, in other words if it’s treated in exactly the same way as if it had it been constructed by a member of the settled community without proper planning permission, a scenario in which enforcement of the law goes without saying.
There are generally two sides to such tales of woe, and to understand the situation you’d need to know much more than you could learn from Yolande Knell’s one-sided polemic. Actually I suspect that anyone reading it wouldn’t realise that there is an alternative perspective.
One aspect she ignores is:
“The Israeli government has made numerous attempts over the years to solve the disputes with the 40% of the Negev Bedouin population which does not currently live in one of the seven purpose-built towns. Additional new towns are planned, with offers of free land, a waiver on infrastructure development costs and financial relocation packages for those moving there from illegally constructed encampments. No other sector of Israeli society is eligible for these benefits.”
So agree with it or not, if balance of any sort is to be achieved the BBC should be telling us that the Israeli government is at least trying hard to solve this difficult conundrum in as much detail as they tell us about the woes of the Bedouin. I don’t see what is to be gained from incessantly pushing a pro Palestinian agenda by publishing endless Israel-bashing articles and emotive images.






1 comment:

  1. Yolande's Bedouin piece isn't content with one heart-tugging picture of children. It goes for the double whammy - one set happy, one set sad. Ahh!
    (I bet I said that last time!)

    Hadar's piece about Wyre Davies provoked a check of the BBC News website to see if any of the cast of characters in his report had appeared on the BBC before.

    Angela Goldstein has made two appearances.

    There's a piece from 2010 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11175143) featuring four voices from the M.E. reacting to some direct negotiations. The BBC would claim that one to be 'balanced', as there are two Israeli voices and two Palestinian voices. However, as Ange is one of the Israeli voices, joining the two Palestinian voices in criticising Israel, that makes it 3 against 1 in my book. It's that wretched bias again!

    She was also one of their 'Mid-East Voices' in 2009 ("Israelis and Palestinians share their experiences and their thoughts on the possibility of peace") - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8267364.stm - where she does much what you would expect her to do from Hadar's post.

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