Friday 28 February 2014

Hard hearted talk

The episode of HardTalk with Stephen Sackur and Naftali Bennett

I know interviewers aren’t supposed to answer questions put to them by the subject of the interview. The understanding is that the interviewer asks the questions and the interviewee answers them. But Stephen Sackur’s line of questioning took no account of Israel’s circumstances. In other words he spoke as though Israel did not have to contend with people to whom the very idea of normal relations with Israel is considered a deadly sin, never mind the inconceivable proposal that such people might actually contemplate peace while Israel is still up and running.  Ignoring the context  made his line of questioning unreasonable and unanswerable in a “when did you stop beating your wife” way.

It is likely that he was well aware that he was doing so, in which case it seemed perfectly reasonable for Naftali Bennett to resort to asking, in desperation “What would you do?” 
Of course Sackur didn’t have to actually respond. So he didn’t. He merely changed the subject. 

Opinion is divided as to who was the victor at the end of this combative interview. Pro-Israelis thought Mr. Bennetts triumphed. Pro Palestinians did not. Stephen Sackur’s wife is Iraqi, which may or may not explain his tendency to make  less than impartial noises where Israel is concerned, but it did seem to me that he was being deliberately obtuse. BBCWatch has examined the HardTalk episode with Sackur and Saeb Erekat. Sackur’s unsympathetic views towards Israel can be detected therein.

The BBC website has singled out one quote from this episode in their trailer:
“Israeli settlements must stay”  That’s a selective, somewhat mischief-making quote.

It’s all very well taking a harsh line over Israel if you take an equally harsh line over Israel’s enemies. Take, for example the video of Hamas’s response to UNWRA’s recommended revised school  curriculum. Blogger won't let me post it into this piece, but do click on the link below - if that works.

If fairness and balance was one of the BBC’s objectives, it might give its audience some idea of what Israel is up against. The Palestinian mindset. Stephen Sackur was keen to get the answer to his question “Can you understand the mindset of the Palestinian? Can you empathise?”

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