Thursday 15 January 2015

A sackable offence

The BBC doesn’t understand why some people are calling for the sacking of Tim Willcox.  As Hadley Freeman says in her article, reminding Jews about ‘Israel and the Palestinians’ to apologise for Muslim antisemitism is fair game to the BBC. To them  “It’s swings and roundabouts”

The person who really ought to be sacked is Jon Donnison. His relentless Tweeting is so blatantly biased it’s almost as if he’s playing a game of chicken. Seeing how far he can go before getting the boot. Some kind of bravado or something.

Jeremy Bowen might like to take a refresher course as well. I’m not 100% sure, but I think there’s a whiff of that pendulum swing I used to write about.

Look at the article in the Guardian of all places - I seem to be using that phrase a lot lately - by Hadley Freeman.
She begins with a tale about her great uncle Alex and his experiences of France. A dramatic escape from a train destined for Auschwitz; time in the resistance; returning the Légion d’Honneur after de Gaulle’s derogatory and antisemitic remarks

The article was Hadley’s response to the increasing antisemitism here in the UK. She mentions the BBC, Tim Willcox, Maureen Lipman’s feisty letter to Ed Miliband, Mumbai, Dieudonne and of course Charlie Hebdo. It was a lucid and sympathetc piece, and what surprised me - I’ve used that phrase  a lot recently - was the tone of the below the line comments. This is the Guardian!

The surprise was that some of the comments are relatively even handed; there is a trend towards separating ‘pure’ antisemitism, which they abhor, from anti Zionism, which they’re not quite so sure about, but there are signs that the sheer violence of Islamist Jihadism around the world has made some people think twice about Israel’s predicament.

Just as many people are slightly uncomfortable with the media’s habit of using images of orthodox Jews whenever anything Jewish is on the menu, I’m also sort of conscious that articles in the Guardian that tackle antisemitism need a heartwarming story to sweeten the pill.

How much of that sympathy would Hadley have lost if she hadn’t mentioned  great uncle Alex? 

Here’s a piece by Geoffrey Alderman  entitled “Antisemitism:the half-truth” The Government says:
"As we reflect (the report says) on the upsurge of antisemitism recorded in the UK over the summer, it is more important than ever that Britain says loudly and clearly that there can never be any excuse for antisemitism. As a government we continue to be committed to doing everything we can in the fight against antisemitism … this is undermined when British Jews are sought out, attacked and abused by individuals or organised groups on the extreme right, the extreme left and Islamist extremists. These attacks are regrettably exacerbated at times of heightened tension in the Middle East."

What is the government going to do? wonders Professor Alderman. Chuck a bit of funding at various projects, he says, but “there is almost no mention of the part played by UK-based Islamic groups in fomenting this upsurge.”

Well there wouldn’t be, would there? It’s for community cohesion, innit?

While we’re looking at the Guardian, what about this? Ed Miliband demands zero tolerance approach to antisemitism?  (What does he think antisemitism is? )
Motes and beams. He’s got a whacking great cabal of antisemites in his own party so when is this zero tolerance going to kick in? Get your own house in order.
Martin Linton, Andy Slaughter, David Ward, Gerald Kaufman, Ken Livingstone and fistfuls of Labour peers are amongst the most infamous. But Ed himself, by prematurely voting for “Palestine” isn’t entirely blameless. 

What’s my recipe? Normalisation of Britain’s relations with Israel.  Closer collaboration with Israel. As a country under increasing threat of terrorism, we need Israeli expertise on security. We need close relations so we can share Israel’s cutting-edge technical, scientific and medical know-how. Academia needs collaboration. Academic BDS is a prime example of cutting off one’s nose to spite your (and everyone else’s) face.

Allow British viewers some  exposure to normal, light-weight, run-of-the-mill material from Israel. Embed one of the BBC's open-minded correspondents (if they can find one) in Israel to cover domestic matters. Not Gaza or the West Bank, they’ve got Yolande Knell and goodness knows how many more.
Documentary coverage of ordinary life, culture, domestic matters etc, from as friendly and benign an angle as the films we're currently treated to about plucky Gazans or the Olive harvests of Israel's neighbouring countries, with the aim of dispelling the myth that Israeli Jews are more ‘other’ than Muslim Arabs.
At present the nearest we get to non-hostile coverage of Israel is the occasional report about a scientific breakthrough or a technical innovation. 
For years the British public has been seduced into empathising with Gaza. Now it needs to be seduced into empathising with Israel. We need to see something of the incitement that comes from the Arab press and the Arab leadership. Put us on a level playing field at least.
That’s not a big ask, surely. 

I don’t think we’ll ever get to see the contents of the Balen report, which in any case must now be outdated. How about a new one, which takes present day circumstances into account, adhering to the principle de rigueur, transparency.   


  1. The Pope's not onside. He's as good as said the Charlie Hebdo dead deserved it - or at least some form of punishment.

    "The Pope says people 'cannot insult the faith of others', adding that he would punch someone if they offended his mother, as he debated freedom of speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack."

    Well, at least we know where we stand then.

  2. The Pope is just a Lourdes pencil sharpener on the Guardians news desk these days...not fit to wear Dorothys red shoes, unlike Benedict and JP2.
    Frankie comes unstuck only eight years after Regensburg 2006.
    Is he really saying that his predecessor was wrong to say anything factual or theological at his own alma mater?...and does he reckon the deaths of all those nuns as a consequence lie at Benedicts door, by way of blame?
    Serious error from the church...Francis wants them around for tea, Islam wants him and his followers either dead, submitting or taxed and enslaved...probably all three.
    Francis acts like he listens to the likes of Stourton and Longley...they will bury him and let Islam take over. Blokes a dupe.

  3. It all goes to show that the Pope's not infallible.

  4. Very good sense from Polly Toynbee, all of people, here (and I agree with every word she wrote):

    On the day another cartoonist victim was buried at Père Lachaise cemetery, the pope came as near as dammit to suggesting that Charlie Hebdo had it coming. “One cannot provoke; one cannot insult other people’s faith; one cannot make fun of faith,” he said.

    Oh yes, you can. You may not choose to. It may not be wise or polite or kind – but you can. And to show you can, without being gunned down, Charlie Hebdo has just gone on sale in the UK, in bolder outlets, proudly defiant with an image of Muhammad on the cover – though with a tear and a kindly thought: “All is forgiven.”

    The pope pointed to his aide as he said “If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

    No, it’s not normal to punch someone who insults you; the pope’s Christ certainly didn’t think so. Verbal provocation is never an excuse for violence – that’s the wife-beater’s defence.

    Is he saying we must respect any old cult: followers of Black Sabbath, Odin, Scientology, astrology? Or is it the size of a faith that earns it the right to gag mockery?

    Whenever the faiths come together to protect their rights jointly, you should smell a rat. They don’t just believe very different things; their professions contradict one another. In real life, it’s Catholic against Protestant, Hindu against Muslim, except in the soup blender of Thought for the Day, where only gentle and similar voices preaching peace and understanding get a voice. Absent is the red-hot ferocity that fuels the Islamists of Isis as they slaughter Christians, or the proselytising Nichiren Bhuddists, or the extremists from Northern Ireland’s religious fringes. Religion is gentle only when it’s powerless, without secular influence.

    Charlie Hebdo’s cover will no doubt offend some Muslims – and possibly provoke some. That’s the role of a satirical magazine: to stick two fingers up to propriety. It is a belch in the face of established taste and dignity. You can buy it or not, find it funny or not. Its previous circulation was small, but knowing anything can be said keeps the outer edges of free expression healthy.

  5. The pope went on to say: “There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity … in freedom of expression there are limits.”

    Yes, free speech always had limits – the old shouting fire in a theatre or inciting others to violent racial hatreds: those boundaries will be forever disputed. But there has been much ducking and diving over the last week, with a pretence those limits include a ban on offending religious sensitivity. That’s what the pope was proclaiming, demanding a special, anti-Voltairean status of protection for religious ideas – a respect never given to political or other ideas just as passionately held.

    Today another 50 lashes with the cane rain down on Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia. “Je suis Raif” is starting to trend on social media as he faces 19 more weeks of flogging for writing his secularist blog Free Saudi Liberals. Governments that flocked to march in solidarity for free speech in Paris last Saturday have done little about this atrocity – far worse when inflicted by a state than by God-delirious terrorists acting as divine executioners. If all those leaders linking arms turned their backs on any dealings with Saudi Arabia, whose Wahbabist insanity has been sent out to infect parts of the Muslim world, they would make more than a gesture for free speech.

    The right to make fun of popes, imams and prophets is fading fast as self-censorship for commercial, as much as self-preserving, instincts stops the presses.

    The flurry of scandal over Oxford University Press stopping its children’s writers from referring to pigs or pork for fear of risking Middle East sales – or the Harper Collins atlases for export that mysteriously omit Israel for the same reason – show how easily freedom slips away unless scurrilous outriders like Charlie Hebdo can keep mocking church and mosque.

  6. Balen II? What use would it be if the BBC refuses to allow anyone to see it?


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