Saturday 22 December 2012


There's an article on the BBC News website by Bahman Kalbasi of BBC Persian, New York, concerning the fierce row over the probable nomination of former Nebraskan senator Chuck Hagel to be President Obama's new defence secretary. Mr. Hagel holds views that are causing concern in some pro-Israel quarters. He supports dialogue with Hamas, for starters, and is reported to be unhappy at the labelling of Hezbollah as a "terrorist organisation". He's also made some remarks about the "Jewish Lobby" which have proved controversial, as well as having adopted some fairly doveish positions on the subject of Iran. 

The New York Times's take on the story can be read here and will provide much of the necessary background for you - and before coming to the BBC's article, you might also want to get the full flavour of the debate: Ari Lieberman at American Thinker puts the case for the prosecution here while Chemi Shalev of Ha'aretz puts the case for the defence here. Please read both and then form your own judgement.

I needed to read all three of those articles after reading the BBC piece as Bahman Kalbasi's report begged so many questions. It just wasn't anywhere near informative enough, leaving BBC website readers (like me) largely in the dark as to why Mr. Hagel might be proving so controversial. This seems to be quite a common problem with BBC News website articles these days. They can sometimes appear to be as tight-lipped as a nervous clam at a Mafia all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. You often find yourself needing to read well beyond the BBC to get the full flavour of too many of their under-cooked stories.

As for bias, well, Bahman's article left me in little doubt as to which side he's on. On the one side he presents a mixture of "pro-Israeli groups and neo-conservative centres" launching "a massive and somewhat unprecedented campaign" against Mr. Hagel, including a "prominent neo-conservative pundit" who "rails" against Mr. Hagel. That pundit "charges" something and a pro-Israel organisation "quickly" produces a video against Mr. Hagel. Against these railing and knee-jerking neo-conservative detractors stand moderate, expert supporters, including "more centrist pro-Israeli groups such as J Street and the Israel Policy Forum", "prominent former diplomats", "experts", etc. None of Mr. Hagel's supporters are said  to be "railing" about anything and are quoted at respectful length. "More centrist", by the way, is an interesting (some might say "controversial"!) way to describe J Street, which is more commonly called "liberal" (by supporters) or "left-wing" (by critics). 

So it's a biased BBC article then. Do you agree?


  1. "The record of Chuck Hagel, Obama’s favoured candidate for Defence Secretary, is more troubling still, as outlined here. He has consistently downplayed Iran’s terrorist record and the danger it poses to the free world. He consistently voted against sanctions on Iran to stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons capability; he voted against naming Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization; and he refused to sign a letter calling on the European Union similarly to name Hezbollah – which has the blood of countless Americans on its hands -- as a terrorist organisation. Instead, he advocates ‘engaging’ with Iran – ie, appeasement, which he prefers to parse as

    ‘“... a bridge-building process, an opportunity to better understand” others on the basis of “mutual self respect.”’

    This is all of a piece with his attitudes towards Israel and the Jews. Not only is he associated with gross anti-Israel canards which reverse truth and lies, but he also said that

    'the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here...'

    ‘up here’ meaning Washington.

    Excerpt from Melanie Phillips "Into the Abyss"

  2. I am not as bright as you at analyzing such articles, but it seems apparent to me that all articles are quite clear that Hagel is anti-Israel. What is odd is how the BBC article focuses much on Iran, as the centre of things; whereas the other articles focus on Israel. It shows how the BBC can end up pointing the reader to a diversion. It would seem the most important aspect to appointing a Defence Secretary is to consider Israel as the focus, and not Iran, although Iran would not be far behind. Thank you


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.