Sunday 7 December 2014

Olive Wars

BBC Watch reminds us that Jeremy Bowen's heavily-trailed Radio 4 documentary Olive Wars is to be broadcast this afternoon. 

Having read the accompany BBC News website article by Jeremy Bowen, I think I'll give it a miss. The article is staggeringly one-sided, even by the BBC's standards, and comes so close to reading like pro-Palestinian propaganda that it probably is pro-Palestinian propaganda.

It begins with Jeremy Bowen recalling his first taste of "delicious" West Bank olive oil at the hands of a generous Palestinian farmer. That farmer was "unlucky enough" to live near a big Jewish settlement. Israel has "inserted" such settlements into Palestinian land and build a "complex of walls and high tech fences" which "takes big bites out of land Palestinians consider to be theirs". Israel "says" the separation barrier is necessary to protect its people. This farmer, whose generosity towards Jeremy Bowen, is then further described, had his land divided by the fence. 

After this heart-tugging tale, we hear another from a kindly Palestinian farmer, for whom the olive trees are a symbol of Palestinian identity. He loves the trees so much. But the separation barrier runs near to his favourite tree. (Wonder if the documentary will feature ominous music at that point?)

The UN blames Jewish setters, Jeremy Bowen tells us. But so does Jeremy Bowen, blaming Israel's occupation for causing the spiral of violence:
The Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is enforced by violence and breeds violence.
Next, we meet someone who the BBC's Middle East editor paints a far less flattering portrait of - an Israeli goathead, an "ideological settler", originally from Brooklyn, New York (something mentioned twice in the article). 

He's a "sharp, charismatic, religious Jew", related (by marriage) to a "notorious Jewish militant". He "carries the Torah" and "brandishes his holy book". Jeremy Bowen paints him as a threatening religious bigot. ("And then Mr Herzlich produced what he said was not a threat, but a statement of fact"). His importance is that he and his kind "dominate Israeli right wing politics and the debate over the future settlements is one of the key issues that would need to be discussed if ever there was to be another peace process."

Then it's straight back to a Palestinian villager and his wife, and their heart-tugging story. They've just had their trees cut down by settlers with chainsaws:
Mrs Rashed was close to tears and full of anger: "It feels like bringing up a child, and then losing him. Those trees are our base and roots.
"We felt we were burying a family member. Every week the settlers try to come down to our land. Our men try to stop them and fight them.
After hearing at length from Mrs Rashed, we very briefly encounter two young Israeli soldiers who "insisted" the Israeli army does all it can to stop trouble and doesn't automatically favour Israelis.

Their cameo is set in the context of yet more Palestinian generosity. A local Palestinian landowner invites them (and Jeremy) in for tea. We hear no more from the soldiers, presumably just sitting there, drinking the man's tea, and it's on instead to the Palestinian landowner who rubbishes what they've just said, accusing the Israeli army of standing aside and letting the settlers do what they want. (Did the Israeli soldiers say anything in reply?) He is quoted at length, airing other grievances, and the article ends by giving him the last word:
"It's a symbolic issue. This is the only thing that we have left to be honest. What else can we grip on, we have to hold on to the trees. Our goal is to protect our land," he says.
Now if that's fair, balanced, dispassionate reporting then I'm Jon Donnison. And, no, I won't be listening this afternoon. I think I might write another complaint and maybe send an email to an MP or two instead.

Update: Sue did catch most of the Radio 4 programme. From her description it doesn't sound as shamelessly propagandist as this online article. She says it "was infuriatingly full of omissions and came across as though he was desperately but disingenuously trying to appear impartial."


  1. Not exactly. It was awful. I may have given you the wrong impression.

    In fact Bowen’s piece was a whisker away from parody. A cartoon. The sentimentalised Palestinian farmer; his olive trees are as his children.

    Jeremy has actually tweeted an image of a couple of tolerant, long-suffering Palestinians smiling benignly.
    The ‘settler’ Jew prowls, wolf-like, attacking the Palestinian farmer, uprooting trees and sending goats to destroy them.

    The (ideological settler) Jew is a religious fanatic who says God has given the land to him. “If you think you’re doing God’s will, there isn’t much room for negotiation” says Jeremy meaningfully. Yep. Palestinians to a T. Many a true word is spoken by accident.

    “Palestinians argue that if there wasn’t the occupation, there wouldn’t be attacks!”
    An easily disprovable fantasy.
    The so-called separation barrier doesn’t follow the boundaries (before Israel captured east Jerusalem in 1967!) Gosh, Israel captured east Jerusalem! The greedy bastards.

    The apartheid wall cuts through Palestinian land and separates some Palestinian olive farmers from their treechildren. The Israeli soldiers pretend to be even-handed, but Jeremy and his Palestinian interviewee dispute that. Jeremy eulogizes the Palestinians’ artisan harvesting. He’s a salivating olive oil connoisseur. The Israelis taint their oil with their degenerate, mechanized method of harvesting.

    “In their search for a state”, opines Jeremy deceitfully, “the Palestinians have tried violence, they’ve tried diplomacy they’ve tried negotiations................” Not exactly Jeremy.
    Superficial anti-Israel crap rounded off with some faux profound platitudes. I see Italy’s Olives aren’t doing too well this year. Maybe Jeremy should import a few flagons and make a fast buck. He could give up ‘reporting’.

  2. Outrageous rubbish and lies from Bowen.
    Deeply patronising to the Muslims( but that`s OK for the jihadists)...and truly deeply evil in the eye of any Christian or Jew who knows or cares.
    Bowen cares not a fig for the Fogels, the lads killed by Hamas a few months back-and isn`t bovvered by all those rockets that rained down on the only literate, functioning and democratic country in the whole of the Middle east.
    Instead Bowen wants to dip his wick in pressed virgin olive oil that has fragrant lemon notes, has no Jews involved in its creating-and can be shared with Dame Polly at the House of Hummus on Hampstead High Street.
    A preposterous fake-Bowen cares more about the girth of gnarled olive trees(oo er!) than the lives of Israelis-witness his venomous repeated use of the word "settler" when it comes to Jews. Bowen is a[pagan tree-hugger who wants no truck with any balance, any history or any need to face down Islam.
    The Jebusites seem to be the only people who might seek a settlement with Israel..for they may have been unfairly cast from the land...the Muslims took it all by force, as the Romans shrank back home...and they will take it again if we don`t back the Godly People of Israel.
    Read Romans 9-11...and then see why I`m so f***in furious with Bowen for his lies...Pauls analogy of the grafted Olive tree is vital to our faith...and we`re paying Bowen to desecrate our scriptures, as well as the Jewish ones.

  3. I only lasted a few minutes in the middle of the programme before giving up. It was predictable. Palestinians good, Israelis bad. His constant drip of nastiness adds to the anti Semitism here and I guess in Israel /Gaza I guess adds weight to the Palestinians telling their lies for re telling round the world by a gullible western press.

  4. Sounds awful. Does the BBC do similar programmes about poor Mexican or Native American peasants living in land occupying by American "settlers". Probably - but only once in a blue moon, whereas we see this sort of thing several times every year on the BBC. The thing is, they won't refer to American citizens as "settlers".

    Another land dispute which is perhaps a bit more relevant is Cyprus about which we hear very little from the BBC, despite the Cyprus Republic - which claims the whole of the island - being part of the EU. I can't imagine Jeremy Bowen doing a piece from a Turkish occupied olive grove, not least because there probably aren't any Greek farmers left in the north.

    Dan Read

    I take issue as well with this constant mythologising of the simple hospitable Arab, living by simpler values...a trope that has been going on for years. Palestinians buy big TVs and designer jeans (at least the men do) as well, you know, Jeremy. And Arabs have displayed appalling "hospitality" to female journalists covering demos in various parts of the Arab world.

  5. I listened to Jeremy Bowen's broadcast as a land sharer in a Spanish property which has scores of 100 year old olive trees. My children were born in the finca amongst them and slept in hammocks under them and learned to climb them.
    I understand another persons affection for them and used to wonder where olive firewood came from -- must be a townie wanting to plant a tennis court, we used to jest. In New Zealand where I was born, land grabbed by force from Maori tribes has been returned. A farmer business friend of mine who ought to be ambassador to Israel, then patiently negotiated some 10 year leases from the new Maori owners. He needed more pasture for his milking herd, the Maoris did not want to farm. They preferred a rental income to go towards schooling and higher education of their youngsters. Improvements like milking sheds belong to my farmer friend. The Maori Elders so like the arrangement that they recently extended the lease. Jeremy Bowen did not raise the obvious. Why do Israelis not seek leaseholds whereby appropriate covenants
    give each side what they want. Freehold can remain with the Palestinians.
    Why do the commentators get so worked up. Justice for both sides is possible. I lease property in the UK for working purposes -- I do not need to
    have the freehold for my children. They will probably live and work elsewhere as I do.

    1. Don’t be fooled into thinking the parties involved are amenable to reason.

      What might appear to be a dispute over land is inextricably tied to the religious and historical issues. The rejectionist, antisemitic nature of the Arab/Islamic culture has, over time, cemented the resolve and perhaps the intractability of many Israelis understandably determined to assert their legitimacy.

      If you think your friend would have any luck in negotiating (with Hamas and the PA ) Israel’s right to exist, you might be onto something.

  6. Occupied Territories, eh? Well, in my knowledge, they were indeed occupied - from 1948 to 1967, by Jordon, one of the countries whose arab soldiers were intent on snuffing out Israel. In 1967, the so-called West Bank ceased to be occupied.


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