Tuesday 30 July 2013

About talks about talks

These ‘talks about talks’ in yesterday’s headlines provided the BBC with another opportunity to confuse the listener. 
Monday’s Today featured two items on this topic. In the first, at 7:51, Justin called upon the opinions of two specially selected guests.

Ghada Karmi, a doctor and journalist, and Lord Levy, president of Community Service Volunteers Jewish Care, outline what the talks will be trying to achieve.

Ghada Karmi, "a doctor and journalist"

Lord Levy

So says the Today website. 

It seems odd to describe Ghada thus. She’s a well-known anti-Israel activist.  Her bio says that she was ‘forced to flee‘ from her childhood home in  Katamon in the ‘Nakba’’, or catastrophe, which is how many people perceive the creation of Israel. Accordingly, as it says in Wiki,  (I know, I know, warts and all) she opposes the existence of Israel, and considers its very being nothing but an affront to all Arabs. Therefore it’s fair to assume that when she refers to ‘the occupation’, she means ‘Israel’s existence’. 

So the description ‘doctor and journalist’  seems a little inadequate. In the programme itself, Justin went into a bit more detail, and introduced her as a Doctor, and “research fellow at the Institute of Islamic and Arab studies at the University of Exeter” Impressive, but not completely honest and open.

She may well be a research fellow, but it seems rigor is not her strongest suit, since she wrote a whole book boasting what she probably assumed was a cunningly emotive  title: “Married to Another Man”, which was based on a resonant quotation, namely “The Bride is Beautiful, But she is....etc”) 
which alludes, of course, to the hypothesis that the entire land of Palestine was already  occupied and belonged to the Arabs. The origin of this unsubstantiated cable-from-the-two-Rabbis on a pre-Israel recce is a mystery, but Chinese Whispers comes to mind, having passed through Jeremy Bowen via Avi Shlaim and out the other end of Ghada Karmi. 

(Incidentally, one of her co-signatories calling for a boycott of the Israeli Medical Association and its expulsion from the WMA, happens to be Dr David Halpin, but that’s another story
If he wasn’t so dull and somnambulist-like they’d be getting him on Today to opine about the Israeli involvement in the blackmarket trading of human organs. The video of him doing just that is no longer available on Youtube, fortunately for him.)

I digress.

Throughout her spot with Justin, Karmi punctuated her remarks with feigned sorrowful laughter at the futility of it all. 
Lest her negativity appeared malevolent she opened with a claim that she wishes to resolve the conflict: 

“Well, any move that tries to resolve this conflict is welcome, but .... I don’t think we need to get too excited because we’ve been here before [...] this method has been tried many times in the past and has always failed. It has provided Israel with a cover - with a pretext to continue to colonise Palestinian land....”

Ahh, now we’re getting to the point, which, as ever,  is Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian land.

“Mr Netanyahu the Israeli prime minister is on record as having said ‘I have all kinds of tactics’ he said to an audience when he didn’t realise he was being recorded ‘I have all kinds of tactics for disrupting any peace negotiations.’ 

(“Did he really say that?” someone asks on Harry’s Place) 

“No. This is a right-wing government whose agenda is to continue to colonise the West Bank and to hang on to what it already has. “The Palestinians are, let’s face it, in a very weak position, they’re in no position to refuse any kind of hope of relief from the Israeli occupation, but I’m afraid i don’t think this is the way. It’s not that one doesn’t welcome moves towards peace, it’s just that trying once again  a formula which has failed in the past is not the best way to go forward.”

 In what way Ghada welcomes “moves towards peace” we’ll never know, but methinks it might be somehow related to:
 "There is actually nothing — repeat, nothing — positive about the existence of Israel, as far as the Arabs are concerned.“At the Palestinian Return Conference held in January 2011, Karmi referred to the creation of Israel as involving the "dispossession and theft of a whole country" and that "The only way to reverse that is on the basis of rights and justice; that is the right of return of the refugees and the dispossessed and the exiles back to their homeland." She was then quoted as stating:"If that were to happen we know very well that that would be the end of a Jewish state in our region".[7]
That’s Wiki for ya!
Lord Levy appeared to be acting as P.R. for John Kerry. He could hardly be seen as  a counter-balance to his fellow-guest. Conspicuous by its absence, its invisibility, its non-appearance - neither abstract  nor concrete, tangible or intangible, nor dancing a diabolical version of the hokey cokey, in other words not there at all, was the teeniest smidgeon of a pro-Israel voice; you know, for balance.

Later in the programme, at 8:50 we heard two more opinions.

 Bronwen Maddox, a British-based Anglo-American journalist, and Simon Tisdall, an assistant editor at the Guardian, discuss how effective the talks will be.”

Why? Nobody will ever know. The masculine-sounding Bronwen who I thought was a bloke at first, and the Guardian’s Simon Tisdall are apparently “two people who’ve been “chronicling”.

They didn’t seem to have been doing much chronicling though. I suppose it depends on how you define chronicling. Perhaps they mean listening to the BBC and stuff like that. Neither of them contributed any illuminating insights whatsoever, nor anything that could be remotely considered to be ‘on behalf of Israel.’

See Harry’s Place for a variety of considered and nuanced observations on the topic. For one thing, the matter of the soon to be released prisoners, a topic that was hardly mentioned, if at all, on the Today programme.  Neither, for that matter, was there anything whatsoever about intractable Palestinian rejectionism and incitement. Don’t bother listening to the silly old BBC. 

Key o'the door

Chris Patten

Impartiality is at the heart of the BBC’s commitment to audiences. 
The Trust is committed to making sure that the BBC retains the 
public’s trust and fulfils its obligations to ensure its output achieves 
due impartiality. 
Recently, the BBC published the results of a new survey 
(to be conducted annually) of perceptions of the impartiality and 
trustworthiness of BBC News compared with other media. The 
results were encouraging, with 49% of respondents saying that 
BBC News was the one source they were most likely to turn to 
for impartial news coverage, compared to 14% for ITV and 6% 
for Sky News. 
Other work during the year included an impartiality review 
on ‘breadth of opinion’ in news, current affairs and factual 
programmes, led by Stuart Prebble, former Chief Executive 
Officer of ITV. His report focused on three topics: religion and 
belief; the EU; and immigration. The Trust concluded that, whilst 
there have been problems in the past and some remain, on the 
whole, the BBC goes to great lengths to provide a breadth of 
opinion. Nonetheless, we felt that the range of opinion may be 
narrowed in some subject areas by too great a focus on a 
Westminster agenda. We have, therefore, asked the Executive 
to ensure it has effective systems in place to monitor opinion 
more widely. 
The Trust held an impartiality seminar during the year, with guests 
from inside and outside the BBC. The seminar, on economics 
reporting, reflected the importance of challenging and explaining 
the issues across all economic sectors, given the complexity and 
lack of certainty inherent in this area. 


I just thought I’d stick that on the end for fun.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, it's that BBC Editorial Guideline again about not presenting academics and journalists as unbiased and needing to make it clear when guests are associated with a particular viewpoint.

    Perhaps Justin could have introduced her like this:

    "Let's speak to Dr Ghada Karmi, a research fellow from the University of Exeter who opposes Israel right to exist."

    That would have helped 'Today' listeners to know where's she coming from right from the start of the interview.


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