Friday 10 January 2014

Key question

Further to my pieces about  the Christmas festival at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly  (Bethlehem Unwrapped) one of the participants has posted an article on Harry’s Place

It’s an edited version of the speech he made in an official debate that was held during the festival.
Professor Alan Johnson, editor of Fathom and senior research fellow at BICOM was the lone pro-Israel voice on a panel of four.The debate was chaired by David Loyn BBC correspondent,.

I may have unfairly criticised Professor Johnson for participating in this pantomime. I assumed his participation implied a degree of complicity on his part, especially since the Israeli Embassy ‘felt unable’ to accept the organisers’ invitation. They probably knew full well that they stood little chance of a fair hearing as the dice was so heavily loaded against such a thing. 
See me? Assuming things again. tut tut.

Alan Johnson must have felt the same, and if so, his experience on Ed Stourton’s Sunday programme will have proved it beyond doubt.  As I said in an earlier post, time constraints and  the format of the interview forced him into a corner. It meant he could state the bare statistics of Israeli lives lost/saved before and after the wall, and little else.

It’s not up to me to judge whether his participation in the event was of benefit. Did his presence lend it legitimacy? Or did the contents of his arguments make a difference? 
His speech was very impressive, and I recommend it. Here’s a flavour to whet your appetite

“Isolated, back-covering, throat-clearing, half sentences about security, disconnected from the entire thrust of the festival’s speakers, topics and the exhibit itself, is not good enough. Especially when even those half sentences hint that it’s only a ‘claim’ of the ‘Israelis’ that the barrier is there to meet security needs. A mere ‘government position’. And when you have cleared your throat in that way, and then mount over a week of activities that takes one side – tear this wall down! – you don’t then get to say to the media ‘we are not taking sides’. There really is a good deal of having your cake and eating it going on.”

What was missing was an account of the panel’s and the audience’s response. That is key. At the time of writing some of the btl commenters at H/P are beginning to ask the same question.


  1. I think the key question, given the title and raison d'etre of this blog, is what "BBC Correspondent" David Loyn was doing there at all.

  2. Your link about David Loyn, the BBC's International Development correspondent, is revealing. It's that famous BBC impartiality in action again:

    "Focusing on recent conflicts, Loyn believes that the mistakes that have been made in the last ten years are the worst of any made in the last 100 years. He was particularly critical of Tony Blair, who, he revealed, had been uninterested in how important it was to understand Iraqi history before making decisions about going to war. “Tony Blair didn’t do history.” Under the leadership of Blair and George Bush, convictions replaced questions, and spin replace debate.

    Citing the historian E.H. Carr, who said that history was an “unending dialogue between the past and the future”, Loyn said that British and Russian engagements in Afghanistan over the last 100 years had provided enough intelligence to inform decisions in the 21st century. Yet Bush and Blair ignored these hard-fought experiences when they decided to send troops into Afghanistan, engagements that Loyn argued has left a catalogue of failures, from high maternal mortality rates and few rights for women to a tyrannical government and corrupt elite dependent on foreign donors."

    Quite an opinionated chap for a BBC reporter.


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