Tuesday 30 June 2015

No offence

We’re havin’ a heatwave.  I’m alone at the helm of the good ship “Is the BBC Biased?” while Craig is on holiday so postings might be few and far between for the next few days, and less diverse than those to which you’ve become accustomed. 

As I write I’m defrosting the freezer because someone left the door ajar all night and the drawers have iced up and won’t budge. 

I haven’t listened to much radio or TV apart from a small segment of the Today programme, (Giles Fraser was on TFTD again) and a tiny bit of last night’s Newsnight, which was about Greece. Evan Davis looked gaunt and cadaverous and Emily Maitlis looked tired and weary. Nothing new to say about it.

I think the BBC’s unpopularity has reached a new low. Both the audience and the BBC staffers seem to have lost their enthusiasm. Maybe it’s the heatwave, maybe it’s the stress of the imminent charter renewal and funding issues, maybe it’s just because there’s no new talent and all the old talent, whomever or whatever that was, has moved on or died.  

There’s no heavyweight politics - the nearest is Andrew Neil’s politics show, but that’s a bit curate’s egg, what with his erratic choices of whom to savage and whom to suck up to.

The comedy is stale and repetitive or entirely dependent on shock, or someone’s idea of being offensive, (as long as it’s not offensive to Muslims.)  The drama is formulaic and safe and the reality shows are unreal, set up, contrived or faked.

The Scandi serials on BBC4 are refreshing - that’s partly because of the unfamiliarity of the scenery and of the actors, but even they seem interchangeable and ubiquitous  once you get used to them. The current series from Belgium, Cordon, is weird. It’s full of scenes where you can only wonder what the hell is supposed to be going on. Why, for example was there only one room  with one bed in it at the National Institute for infectious diseases?  Actually I don’t even want to go there. (a....tisshhoo!)

Everything that threatens to get serious is hobbled by political correctness. Here is something by Douglas Murray you’ll have read already
The night after the Charlie Hebdo atrocities I was pre-recording a Radio 4 programme. My fellow discussant was a very nice Muslim man who works to ‘de-radicalise’ extremists. We agreed on nearly everything. But at some point he said that one reason Muslims shouldn’t react to such cartoons is that Mohammed never objected to critics. 
There may be some positive things to be said about Mohammed, but I thought this was pushing things too far and mentioned just one occasion when Mohammed didn’t welcome a critic. Asma bint Marwan was a female poetess who mocked the ‘Prophet’ and who, as a result, Mohammed had killed. It is in the texts. It is not a problem for me. But I can understand why it is a problem for decent Muslims. The moment I said this, my Muslim colleague went berserk. How dare I say this? I replied that it was in the Hadith and had a respectable chain of transmission (an important debate). He said it was a fabrication which he would not allow to stand. The upshot was that he refused to continue unless all mention of this was wiped from the recording. The BBC team agreed and I was left trying to find another way to express the same point. The broadcast had this ‘offensive’ fact left out. 
I cannot imagine another religious discussion where this would happen, but it is perfectly normal when discussing Islam. On that occasion I chose one case, but I could have chosen many others, such as the hundreds of Jews Mohammed beheaded with his own hand. Again, that’s in the mainstream Islamic sources. I haven’t made it up. It used to be a problem for Muslims to rationalise, but now there are people trying to imitate such behaviour in our societies it has become a problem for all of us, and I don’t see why people in the free world should have to lie about what we read in historical texts.

I always notice the rolling updates on our sidebar. Nine times out of ten the BBC’s are lightweight and trivial, or celebrity or sports related, while all the others tend to feature news and topical issues. I don’t know why this is. I suppose it’s to do with our old friends Dave and Sue. They’re politically correct, left-leaning and a bit thick. 

Warning. Turn away now

Luckily I’m not Jan Moir or a high profile journalist who might get annihilated on Twitter, so I’m going to say a mean thing. If you’re squeamish about inappropriate, bad taste remarks, turn away now. 

We just didn't know where to go...

This is it. Congratulations to John Humphrys for his extraordinary professionalism this morning. How does he do it?  
I mean remaining straight-faced during the interview with the Yorkshire family describing their close encounter with the gunman (or men) in Tunisia.
Their eye witness accounts, delivered in the broadest Yorkshire accents I’ve ever heard outside the realms of parody, were garnished with malapropisms and onomatopoeic effects. 

Confusion between the words 'apprehended' and 'reprimanded' provided unintended hilarity. The image of the perpetrator, having shot dead several sunbathers and hurled grenades at others being ‘reprimanded’ made I larf. 
Let’s hope he got a jolly good telling off.  Kudos to the bomb disposable team, whom one hopes might still have some more life left in ‘em. (Before the bin beckons)


Monday 29 June 2015

Nothing to do with Islam

Please stop calling IS 'Islamic State'!

David Vance has written on Biased-BBC about this morning’s exchange between the Prime Minister and John Humphrys, in particular the bit where David Cameron said: 
I wish the BBC would stop calling it ‘Islamic State’ because it is not an Islamic state,”
Suitably chastised, John Humphrys complied. 
David Vance introduced his post thus:
 “Ok, here’s a curious one in which I defend the BBC against the Prime Minister.” 
and of course, with this I concur.

What I find confusing is this. No, it’s not an Islamic State (yet) but it aspires to be one. (Palestine is not a state (yet) but people keep  calling it Palestine as if it were.) So is David Cameron's objection directed at the fact that we’re prematurely calling it a state, when we hope it never  succeeds in becoming one? Or is it because we don’t like to call it Islamic, because it’s NOTHING TO DO WITH ISLAM (which is a religion of peace?) 

Boom boom boom

You could have knocked me down with a feather this morning at 6:48 am if I hadn’t already been lying down (half asleep) in bed.    The Today programme. 6:38. 
I heard a report by Kevin Connolly about the American led negotiations with Iran over their nuclear programme.

Normally the BBC’s reports on this topic come from what might be seen as a pro-Obama perspective, and I don’t doubt that this short item will attract some complaints from the people who claim the BBC is pro Israel.  It was an audio version of this article on the BBC website, but the sound effects Connolly introduced from a civil defence operation in Israel simulating an Iranian attack were emotive in a way that was, for the BBC, unusually empathetic with the Israelis.

He also managed to include some real sound effects, the boom boom boom that can be heard from the Golan, which emanates from the fighting in next door Syria. 

Justin Webb. “22 minutes to seven.  It’s worth pointing out that the American led negotiations going on with Iran to try to work out a final decision on their nuclear programme, those negotiations are coming to a head, world powers offering a trade a relaxation of sanctions in return for a limit to Teheran’s nuclear ambitions, but deep fears in many places on the Middle East that however much it denies it in public Iran is still hell-bent on acquiring a nuclear weapon. The Sunni powers headed by Saudi Arabia are worried, but nowhere does that fear run deeper than in Israel, which thinks it might be a target for a future Iranian nuclear bomb.
Our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly has been measuring the mood this week, in Jerusalem.

Siren wails.

 “As the world powers, negotiating with Iran hope for the best... Israel prepares for the worst.”

Sirens and crowd noises.

“In a nationwide civil defence drill, rocket attacks leave the streets littered with the dead and the dying”

More noises.

“Schoolchildren are shepherded into air raid shelters as the country braces for further incoming missiles.”

Sirens again.

“No-one in Israel doubts, this is about preparing for an attack by Iran, or Hezbullah, its heavily armed Lebanese proxy army”“This was Israeli might that people are convinced that once the Iranians get their hands on a nuclear warhead they would launch it on Israel.”Ronin Bergman writes well-sourced books and articles on Israel’s intelligence community, which devotes most of its time to the Iranian threat. 
Iran has for years called for Israel's destruction

Hezbollah receives financial and military support from Iran

(?) talks indicate that Israel might try to destroy Iran’s nuclear structure in bombing raids may have receded in recent years, but it’s still part of the picture.”
“Menachim Begin, when he was the Prime Minister back in the early 80s said that Israel would never tolerate and would never accept the fact that a hostile country that calls for its destruction, holds the means to deliver such an annihilation. This is why he ordered the strike on the Tammuz/ Osirak reactor near Baghdad in 1981, and this is why any Israeli Prime Minister would order the bombers to take off against the Iranian nuclear project if he received reliable intelligence that Iran is getting too close to a bomb.”

Benjamin Netanyahu (at the UN)
“So how much enriched uranium do you need for a bomb?”

“When Benjamin Netanyahu appeared at the UN  two and a half years ago he brandished a huge Loony Tunes-style cartoon of a bomb to illustrate Iran’s nuclear progress, Israel’s many enemies sent hypocrisy and pointed to Israel’s own nuclear arsenal, on which its policy is to offer no comment. Israel’s argument is that Iran is different. It’s not just that the revolutionary religious power has talked about destroying Israel, a nuclear Iran would be a more aggressive player in every regional dispute, but Dan Meridor, a former Israeli intelligence minister said the West should not feel that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are unstoppable.”

“You need to stop it. They are serious, and they mean it, and they are smart people, but they understand what the Germans used to call realpolitik. They understand realites; and when there was heavy pressure on their economy by the EU, America and others, you saw a change of face, and maybe a change of behaviour on the Iranian side, so I don’t think we are that weak and I don’t think they are that strong.”

“For Israel this is not just about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. From the Israeli controlled Golan Heights you can hear the sounds of Syria’s civil war....

boom boom boom......

....where Iran’s own soldiers and its well-funded proxies from Hizballah are fighting. Tamara Cofman Wittes from the  Brookings Foundation  sees  a link between Iran’s nuclear talks and attempts to capitalise on chaos in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen by arming and funding Shia militias. She says the hard-liners in Teheran are going to win, whatever the outcome of those negotiations.


“They are either going to be compensated by the regime for a deal giving Iran a freer hand, or they are going to work on their own to undermine a deal, by escalating their activity. And if there is no deal, and Iran is anticipating a broader confrontation with the international community over its nuclear programme, then why would it not want to escalate these other activities as leverage. So I actually think that, form the perspective of the nuclear negotiations, we should expect to see Iran’s destabilising activities scale up, regardless.”

Sounds, screams, bombs.

“You can find on the internet “The Last Day”. This graphic Israeli home movie imagining an Iranian nuclear attack. Israelis hope that American led negotiators have done enough to ensure that this remains the stuff of dark fantasy. But they are skeptical.


Sunday 28 June 2015

Sunday Masochism Live

Radio 4’s Sunday programme was but an amuse bouche served before the meal proper, which was Sunday Morning Live; quite a meal it was too. It was roughly to do with Ramadan and I.S.

First we have the permanently startled looking Sian Williams who’s supposed to keep order. The guests inflicted upon her by the BBC speed-dial department don’t make matters easy. They tend to favour verbally incontinent Muslims like Ajmal Masroor, who can’t bear to listen to anyone but themselves,  and who often keep going without even bothering to do that.

In the middle sat Sian wearing a skimpy skirt made out of a scarf perilously held together by a short frontal zip. The strain of keeping it in place must have added to the general stress. 

Today, from left to right, we had John Gaunt, who isn’t the least bit gaunt, in fact he’s built on a different scale to many of us. He has invented a word, ‘unequivicedly’, which is  similar to ‘undoubtably’, but a tiny bit more emphatic. 
Sian invented ‘commonalist’ for ‘columnist’, probably because of the skirt.

Next to Gaunt was Dr Saleyha Ahsan whom Sian introduced as an A & E doctor and a former army captain.  
Dr Ahsan said “I’m an A & E doctor. Y’know, I spend my time fixing people. I have nothink in common with the people that pick up a gun and shoot - and murder people. Why do I then... have to....”     wave my hands around all the time? is what she might have been about to ask. I for one would like to know. 

On Sian’s left, but to our right, was a Christian lady called Andrea who wasn’t going to get much of a look in, and to the extreme right was our old friend Ajmal.

"Are we ignorant about Islam?" flashed across the screen. 

Yup. We are, and so is everyone else, especially Islamic State, infidels, moderate Muslims, extreme Muslims and, really, everyone but Ajmal Masroor. Luckily he was there to enlighten us.

Andrea wants to go the the Koran .”They justify this by the text, they do this for Allah...” 
People were looking daggers at her. “The text of the Koran actually permits them to do it” she continued. “Jihad is one of the five pillars!” 

Chaos ensues. All hell breaks loose.

“Hold on Hold on!” “You’ve just shown the depth of ignorance that even remains within our civilised discourse. There’s no Jihad in the five pillars. Let me finish. No no hold on”.

Shouting ensues. All hell breaks loose again.

Ajmal told us what the five pillars are, one for each finger - the thumb being ‘testification of God’ - and he added that Islam was tolerant, that hijabs are cultural not Islamic, and he recounted that his nephew said “Uncle, I don’t want to be an Muslim any more. People in the playground are calling me terrorist.”  
I was hoping someone might ask Uncle Ajmal what would happen if his nephew did stop being a Muslim, but no-one did. 
“If our ignorance about Islam is terrorising young Muslims and stopping them identifying as Muslims, that’s why we need to know about Islam”, said Ajmal.

John Gaunt doesn’t need to know anything about Islam, but  Ajmal said we all need to know about our neighbours. Everyone started saying “I respect your views”, before laying into each other. Their voices rose to high-pitched shrieks.

Sian has a giant pair of specs. She isn’t sure whether to use them or not. She peers through them without putting them on.

The funniest thing is that they’ve done away with the poll. The audience always got it wrong, so they’ve acquired a large TV screen for displaying emails instead, and someone behind the scenes picks out some suitably balanced interjections from the general unintelligentsia. 

Forums for dummies. Islam for dummies. TV for dummies equals morbid fascination.

The rest of the episode continued in similar fashion, with some different guests and a cute Sudanese refugee with a large prayer bump on his forehead and soulful piano music playing in the background. Amnesty International said we should take them all.

The whole thing is even more unedifying that The Big Questions, and that’s saying something.

Aaqil, trying

Craig is on holiday, but I didn’t intend to eviscerate Radio 4's Sunday programme for him, or even listen to it on his behalf. As it happened I did hear it, and what caught my attention was Edward Stourton’s conversation with the BBC’s head of religion and ethics Aaqil Ahmed. 

My ears pricked up because there have been quite a few complaints about Islam overload by critics of the BBC and people who are not quite as keen on hearing what Muslims are doing every five minutes as the BBC is.

We also heard an item about the ‘militarisation’ of our education system. Lord Dannatt was pitted against a Quaker called Paul Parker who spoke negatively about putting the military on a pedestal. He probably wasn’t a fan of Help for Heroes, rather like Anjem Choudary, and it did occur to me that now isn’t the best time to start promoting extreme pacifism.

An item about the Empathy Museum offered an easy segue to Aaqul Ahmed’s  project for Ramadan.

Now I don’t want to be nasty, but did Aaquil Ahmed sound like he had the nous to be head of religion and ethics? Or did he sound a bit like someone from W1A?

Some of Aaqil’s remarks need translating. When he said ‘some of our audience is a diverse audience’ I  assume he means ‘the Muslims’; I wish he’d call a spade a spade.

He kept saying ‘attempt to try‘ , and sometimes ‘try’ or ‘attempt’ on their own. There’s far too much trying going on. Why does the BBC think it’s their job is to try such things? Does that cover the ‘education’ part of the BBC’s remit?

Aaqil feels he should attempt to do something about our lack of religious literacy. Look. there’s already no lack of attempts to impose (Islamic) religious literacy on us, the airwaves are bombarded with them, but the trouble is no-one even agrees what Islam is. Theresa May just said that thing again on the Marr show. Islam, she insists, is a religion of peace. A peaceful religion. Violence is a distortion of Islam. And don’t you forget it.

This religious literacy malarky could apply to any calendar moment in the year for any other faith, Aaqil assured Edward. It could, but as you know, it usually applies to Islam. There’s going to be even more output than usual to this effect, e.g. weather forecasts that tell us what time the sun officially goes up and down, which you may have noticed.

All this striving to make Islam acceptable to us makes one wonder what the equivalent is in the other direction. Where can we see the BBC trying to market the benefits of Western civilisation to the Muslims? 

“I think it’s just to try and normalise something like Ramadan” he explained. However hard you try, Aaquil old chap, you will never normalise Ramadan. It just isn’t biologically normal. Sorry. Apart from that, I know there are millions of Muslims in the UK now, but in the scheme of things, they’re still a minority. The BBC has a dedicated Asian network, kindly use that for your My Ramadan.

As far as many people are concerned, you Muslims can have Your Ramadan. But please don’t think you should impose it on me. Fast if you must.  If it makes you feel more holy, more righteous, more reflective it would be nice. If it made you more tolerant of others or something, so much the better. Good luck. 

Here is the transcript.

ES “ It’s 29 minutes to eight. Still to come. Does the suicide bomb attack on a Shi’a mosque  in Kuwait mark the opening of a new sectarian front? (go on, tell me.)
A BBC poll published at the start of Ramadan found that while most people think cultural diversity is a good thing, only half of those surveyed said they clearly understood the Muslim holy month of fasting, which began ten days ago. The BBC also announced a project called “My Ramadan” and I asked Aaqil Ahmed the BBC’s head of religion and ethics what it is.

AAWell the purpose of My Ramadan is two-pronged really. One is actually a recognition that some of our audience is a diverse audience, in this instance they actually talk about religion being important to them so this is an attempt to try and corral as much of our output together around one particular moment an acknowledgement of them as an important audience for us, but also for them to understand that we do do a lot of programming in this territory. And the second  area as well  is that there is an issue of a lack of religious literacy within society and this is an attempt to try and do somethink about that; now we’re using Ramadan in this instance, but it could be any calendar moment in the year for any other faith. And the point is to try and help people understand what’s going on, and what people believe in in this country.

ESHow will that change what people see on their screens and hear on the radio?

AAUltimately, there’ll be more output at one particular moment than there would be normally, so there’ll be a combination of the kind of programmes that we would normally spread out across the year and just some surprising areas, insert some programmes where we wouldn‘t necessarily expect to see something about Ramadan. You may have noticed on lots of the local weather bulletins that we now have the sunrise and the sunset times and link to My Ramadan, and we’re doing some really exciting experiments with social media as well to try and reach out to some of our young audiences 

ESYou mentioned social media experiments and there’s one coming up this week called Ramadan in a day, can you tell me what’s that?

AAYes, Ramadan in a day is on the 2nd July, it’s a very exciting experiment it’s on 2am till 10pm, and this is using a variety of different platforms, youTube, Periscope Tumblr, all these kind of like words that are very new to me and the idea is to reach out to a younger audience who is far more tech savvy and may not necessarily be watching some of our programmes or dare I say even listening to some of our radio shows, and it’s an attempt here to, with the Asian network, and with the social media, tap into what people are doing and for it to be interactive as well so that people throughout the day will be telling us what they’re doing, what they’re going to eat, where they’re going, what they normally do, what their favourite moments are and I think it’s just to try and normalise something like Ramadan, you know there are 2.7 - 3 million, whatever the numbers are these days of millions who are fasting during this particular month and I think for them it’s a big moment and we try and mark it in many different ways and this particular way is to mark it for that young audience.

ESObviously the news is dominated by events in the last few days, Given what you say about religious literacy, what do you make of the IS claim to ramadan, the way that they’ve said that it’s a time when attacks are justified?

AAWhen you think about the vast majority in fact virtually everybody apart from these people are celebrating Ramadan, I mean Ramadan is a month of celebration. It may look like to outsiders a terrible month because you’re fasting for so many ours, but actually it’s a very blessed month for all Muslims, so when IS try and turn it into something which is a bloodbath, carnage etcetera it possibly shows their lack of religious literacy in therms of their understanding of what Islam really is. It seems to fly in the face of what the most holiest month for Muslims is supposed to  be about and so for that reason and that reason alone, the need their own version of My Ramadan quite frankly because I think they’re lacking in a bit of religious literacy themselves.

Friday 26 June 2015

Buck the trend

You’ve probably heard of those well-known experiments that show we’re all psychologically programmed to go with the flow.     Conformity R Us.

Even when confronted with overwhelming evidence - logic, past performance, common sense and all manner of things that stare us in the face, the well-meaning and the ill-willed alike still believe what they believed in the first place if that’s what they want to believe, and of course, if everyone else they know believes it too. 

Colleagues, relations, your best friend, people whom you’re fond of and who seem fond of you come over all funny when the conversation turns to Israel and the Palestinians; or even just to Israel. Despite never having been there, (or, in the case of a renowned craftsman who attended a course but ‘disliked seeing a lot of people wearing army uniforms’) they know quite a lot about Israel. It’s ‘aggressive’, and they feel ‘things would be a lot easier’ if it weren’t there.

It’s the one topic about which people suddenly don’t want to listen to you, even though they know you’ve been there done that got the T shirt, whereas they only know what they’ve seen on the TV and read in the Guardian. That is because you’ve been brainwashed, obvs. It can’t be them, because because because.

Worse, if you’re a respected or high profile figure and you stick your head above that particular parapet you risk marginalising yourself and ruining your credibility.

Look at Col. Richard Kemp. He presents detailed evidence in support of the IDF’s integrity informed by his own specialised military expertise, and what does he get in return? He’s told he’s Israel’s paid lackey.

Even a relatively obscure website like the one you’re reading now is dismissed as hasbara, the Zionist lobby, Israel right or wrong-ist.
You can see from past events how it works. You can cry ‘injustice!’ for years and years, and still no-one will take you seriously, until the zeitgeist shifts or that mysterious thing called a sea change occurs.
The Dreyfus affair is a prime example. Currently, Asian grooming, various medical scandals, Jimmy Savile and all sorts of ‘no-one would believe me’ stories of gross injustice keep on coming. The ignored whistle-blower, the discredited victim, the intransigence of those who didn’t want to know. 
Remember the way the Arab Spring was misrepresented by the BBC?

Chickens can come home to roost. A friend has just succeeded in bringing a fraudster to justice after a 9 year battle, primarily with police who didn’t want to know, amongst other obstacles. Tenacity, perseverance and determination rule okay.

Even Thomas Wictor, who looks, at first, like a flamboyant conspiracy theorist, needs proper scrutiny. As he himself might ask: “what if I’m right?” 

In doing so, he risks yet again being vilified for going against the flow. He is such a good communicator. I can’t understand why his arguments are not universally taken with the utmost seriousness and treated with the greatest possible respect.  
“ Judge Davis accuses the Israel Defense Forces of “serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.” Yet no evidence is put forward to substantiate these accusations. It is as though the drafters of the report believe that any civilian death in war must be illegal.”
They do! They do! Not only the drafters of the report! Everyone under the sun believes this - but only when Israel is involved. There’s absolutely no logic in it, but they do sincerely think it.
“The report is characterized by a lack of understanding of warfare. That is hardly surprising. Judge Davis admitted, when I testified before her in February, that the commission, though investigating a war, had no military expertise. Perhaps that is why no attempt has been made to judge Israeli military operations against the practices of other armies. Without such international benchmarks, the report’s findings are meaningless.
The commission could have listened to Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said last November that the I.D.F. had taken extraordinary measures to try to limit civilian casualties. Or to a group of 11 senior military officers from seven nations, including the United States, Germany, Spain and Australia, who also investigated the Gaza conflict recently. I was a member of that group, and our report, made available to Judge Davis, said: “None of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the I.D.F. last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population.”
The reason so many civilians died in Gaza last summer was not Israeli tactics or policy. It was Hamas’s strategy. Hamas deliberately positioned its fighters and munitions in civilian areas, knowing that Israel would have no choice but to attack them and that civilian casualties would result. Unable to inflict existential harm on Israel by military means, Hamas sought to cause large numbers of casualties among its own people in order to bring international condemnation and unbearable diplomatic pressure against Israel.

Let’s wait and see how many more terrorist atrocities have to happen before crowd-psychology turns the entire tanker around till it faces the right direction. I hope it’s soon for all our sakes. 

First the BBC must stop leaving out half the news and stop turning a blind eye to naked prejudice against Israel whether it’s from the Middle East or right in front of its face. 

Paranoid Android

Please can you stop the noise. I'm trying to get some rest.

Even by recent standards, today is proving a particularly depressing news day though, what with Tunisia, France and Kuwait...

Having had an unnerving personal scare this afternoon over events in Tunisia, I feel in the mood for a reflective post. So here goes...

I've admitted before that I often find myself viewing tragedies and atrocities through a peculiar prism - the prism of someone who blogs about BBC bias. 

I watch the news, I take on board the horror of the situation, but I've still always got one eye firmly fixed on what might often seem (to people other than me) a relatively trivial side issue: BBC bias.

Today I was forced to think about that habit.

Whether I'm watching a series of fascinating reports on the transformation of a Chinese village into a fully-fledged city within ten years (Carrie Gracie on Newsnight this week), or a report from on board an illegal immigrant ("migrant") vessel in the Med, or Countryfile (Tom Heap's heavily-steered piece this week on travelling gypsies who want to stay put illegally), or listening to a science programme on Radio 4 (usually BBC Inside Science - or, as I like to think of it, Guardian Science), or...God help me!...watching the News Channel and reading the BBC website this afternoon, frantically trying to find out what exactly is happening in Tunisia...some part of my brain is always on high alert for evidence of BBC bias.

Now, I don't think BBC bias is a trivial side issue. Obviously. If I did I wouldn't have spent most of the past six years blogging about it! I think that BBC bias is a serious problem and that, in many areas, its influence is pretty much proven and deeply harmful, and that it needs vigorously resisting.

But I'm growing increasingly queasy at the extent to which I view pretty much everything I watch and hear and read on the BBC through this particular prism of mine.

Even today, when I was fretting myself into a state of near illness about a friend's daughter (on holiday in Tunisia), I found myself simultaneously monitoring the BBC's coverage of the story, with a mind to blogging about it.

Yes, really.

At the risk of sounding like a commentator on Radio 4's The Human Zoo though, I'm holding out the hope for myself that I'm not that odd after all.

Most people seem to respond to the news through their own peculiar prisms.

A BBC reporter whose Twitter feed I read today responded to one of the Islamist atrocities by quickly seeking to interpolate himself into a Twitter conversation (also involving, of all people, Mo Ansar), to make the VIP (Very Important Point) that because one of one today's murderous Muslim loons cited 'God' (i.e. Allah) as the justification for his atrocity not all "bleevrs" are "psychos".

Obviously true, but really the VIP to make today? Well, yes. if that's the peculiar prism you see things through.

Applying my own prism then, in what light did the BBC respond to this lunchtime's breaking news?

Well, I did a screengrab (naturally) of the BBC News and Sky News lead articles at around 1.00 pm:

The immediate thing I noticed was that Sky News had the Islamic angle straight away in the blurb below its headline and then in the first paragraph of the main part of its article while the BBC left introducing that angle until its fourth paragraph.

Then I noticed that Sky News was far more explicit about the barbarity of that Islamist attack. Where Sky said, in its second paragraph:
The severed head had Arabic writing scrawled across it and was found on a fence next to two jihadi banners.
BBC News put in far more coyly:
The dead man was found with Arabic inscriptions on him and an Islamist flag was found near the site.
There was a clear difference there - and, for a seasoned BBC bias watcher like me - it was the expected difference and strongly suggestive of BBC bias.

Is it wrong to point that out? Obviously not.

Whether it's entirely healthy to be so determined to do so, however, is another matter entirely. It wears me out, it wears me out...

Thankfully, I'm off on holiday now to somewhere exotic (Florence? Sorrento? Amsterdam? Plymouth? You guess!), so I'm giving myself a break - like Melanie Phillips, who always has a summer holiday (starting in Morecambe, ending in Israel apparently)...

...so best wishes and please don't get too depressed by the news...or the BBC.

Adam and Ellie

In the post above - which, by the Paul Daniels-like magic of Google Blogger, appears above this later post - I refer to my various, fleeting 'catches' of BBC bias this week.

There were two: Countryfile on BBC One and BBC Inside Science on Radio 4.

Both are prime examples of generally excellent BBC programmes that are, to those minded to worry about BBC bias, often scarred by BBC bias.

As for Countryfile, besides some excellent farming stuff, we had Ellie being staggered by gannets plunging into the sea (which was fun) and those pretty Rastafarian sheep I posted about the other day. There was also, inevitably, some heavy BBC plugging (the Countryside Calender).

Watchers of BBC bias, however, might have cavilled at three things: 

  • (1) a kittiwake expert's prognosis that kittiwake decline in the UK is down to the decline of sand-eels due to global warming [one for people who don't like the BBC featuring experts who think such things are down to global warming]. 
  • (2) another BBC feature [following Springwatch] on how much harm humans are causing the animal population with our careless discarding of plastics [one for those who don't like the BBC to be a campaigning organisation, even if the cause is a very good one].
  • (3) Tom Heap's carefully-balanced-but-very-blatantly-skewed piece about the need for local councils and communities to give our time-honoured, unjustly-maligned gyspy/traveller communities a much more sympathetic hearing [one for those who think the BBC is drippingly 'left-liberal' over such matters and prepared to whitewash claims of mass criminality and anti-social behaviour on behalf of the 'marginalised' in the interests of BBC niceness].

The last one in particular did seem to be clearly arguing a case - a controversial case - possibly in breach of BBC editorial guidelines [but, given that he ended with a 'balanced' question (his get-out-of-jail-free card) and featured people from the 'other side of the argument', that would be very hard to 'prove'].

BBC Inside Science, also heavily interested in global warming stories, followed up its 'special' last week on 'sexism in science' (following Sir Tim Hunt's apparently deeply unjust misrepresentation - and subsequent filleting -  by a mixture of activists and cowardly academics) by featuring....some listener responses. 

All but one of those listener responses (reporting positive and negative stories about female experiences in science) got an uncritical hearing. The exception? This one, from Michael:
Every week I listen to your programme to find out about science, but this week the programme was completely devoid of any science. Equality in the work place is a very important issue but there are lots of programmes who deal with these issues. Please just stick to the science and leave these issues for others to deal with.
That brought the following highly defensive 'editorial' from BBC Inside Science presenter (and Guardian columnist) Adam Rutherford:
Well, Michael and others, it is a valid point [meaning, as you'll see, that it's NOT a valid point at all!] but I believe that science is part of culture, not outside of it. The overwhelming majority of the content of Inside Science does concern (global warming) new discoveries or the process of discovery, but the culture in which that research is done is also science, and that is done by people. My mission on this programme is to show how science works - or doesn't - from beginning to...well, there is no end. Lab life is part of that and social issues are part of that package. 
BBC Inside Science can be fascinating but Adam's wrong not to realise that his mission is a mission that might appeal to his colleagues at the Guardian/BBC but might not be one wholly appreciated by people beyond his circle (like Michael) - especially if it's skewed too blatantly in the direction of a cause, as BBC Inside Science can sometimes - as with last week's edition - give the impression of being.

Guess which "Journalist (BBC News)"?

Have I (Not) Got Baroness Trumpington For You

Sorry for not posting much in recent days, but - the blogger's curse - I've not been able to do so.

I have, however, had time to read a book. 

Yes, a book. Complete with paper and a hard back cover. And not on Kindle either. 

The book in question was Coming Up Trumps by 92-year-old Conservative peer, Baroness Trumpington.

I don't usually buy such books (I tend to stick to science, maths and history books these days), but the reviews were so enthusiastic and the Baroness herself is such a hoot (as she'd doubtless put it!) that I impulse-bought it.

I remembered the Guardian review of it too, and even most Guardian commenters seemed to rally to the noble baroness's banner (beating off their more traditional, PC Guardian-reading compatriots).

And, my goodness, I enjoyed it no end. It was an absolute hoot. And jolly interesting too. What a woman!

There was nothing about the BBC though, except for this - which might interest you:
They wanted me to go on Have I Got News For You when she [Baroness Thatcher] died. I agreed to do it, but when I got there I realised they were going to use the programme to make fun of her. It seemed very clear to me that they were getting a mob up to make silly jokes about a woman who had just died and I wouldn't do it. Well, you can imagine the chaos and the fuss. They got the ex-leader of the Greater London  Council instead, Ken Livingstone. Fine for him to be rude about Mrs Thatcher. Not fine for me. I think it was quite brave of me because I did have to cause a terrible scene, but sometimes you have to stand up for something.

Thursday 25 June 2015

The BBC is biased!

A couple more pieces in the press about Roger Mosey’s  book.
Damian Thompson has written in the Daily Mail and Rod Liddle in the Spectator.

Damian and Rod both singled out the story about the Newsroom’s fear of racists and bigots airing their nasty views on the BBC.

 'One night on the Ten O'Clock News we broadcast a package from a racially diverse part of Britain, where ethnic minorities had become a majority of the local population,' writes Mosey.'People there were interviewed about how they felt about the immigration that had led to the ethnic mix. Only one white man was featured, and he said he was perfectly happy with the way his neighbourhood had developed.'
It’s a good story, which neatly sets out the problem we’ve all been trying to prove. 


He recounted a story of the Ten O’Clock News broadcasting a package from an ‘ethnically diverse’ (i.e. monoculturally Muslim) part of Britain in which all the comments but one from the indigenous white folk were edited out because they were deemed ‘racist’: the one comment that remained expressed great satisfaction that these colourful and interesting people had so enriched all of our lives. It was not hugely representative of the real feelings in the community. It was, instead, a travesty.


Both journalists have been known to complain about the BBC’s bias before, and Roger Mosey has given everyone a good excuse to go on about it some more. The evidence seems incontrovertible.

Goodness knows what good it will do.

Ignorance or design?

If I worked at the BBC (winking emoji) I might be one of the views-my-own Tweeters who whiles away their spare time opining on antisocial media. I might take on matters about which I know dangerously little, and I might promote causes by reTweeting political messages. (innocent face) 
I’m not though. I don’t have a Twitter account and I access Facebook vicariously. That means through someone else’s Facebook account, like I’m a spy. A peeping Tom, if you will. Something about Facebook makes me uncomfortable. The most prolific posters are so confident that everyone else has the same political outlook as theirs that they link to creepy stuff with total bravado. I don’t want to see it, so that’s why I’m out. Logged off.

It’s already like that on Channel 4, and now it’s getting more and more like that on the BBC. You often have to switch off just because you don’t want to see people with agonisingly wrong-headed opinions, opining.

Further to Craig’s post about last week’s ridiculous edition of Sunday Morning Live, there was a lively thread on Harry’s Place about Dilly Hussain’s longing for the Ottoman Empire and loathing for the UK. 
Do read it. The particular aspect I wish to pursue is to ask why the BBC persists in inviting misfits and, well, fruitcakes - virtually into our homes? More specifically why do they bring them on to their Sunday Morning religious-ish slot. 
The producers might be hoping liven up a boring topic, and think they’re hiring people with outrageous views. They seem unable to tell the difference between the mavericks and iconoclasts they might wish to recruit and the fools and knaves they end up with.
Listening respectfully to the opinions of Hussain and the unprepossessing Peter Owen-Jones reduces the level of discussion to absurdity.

They engage similar spokespersons for some of their dumbed-down political-themed jamborees  on other days of the week as well, like the youth forums they put out on BBC3.

Somehow Dilly Hussain, Asghar Bukhari and Mo Ansar managed reach positions of  authority; head of this, spokesman for that and leader of the other. They seem quite like impostors who pretend to be doctors and get away with working for the NHS for years before being found out; they don’t even have any medical knowledge whatsoever, they just wing it.

The truth is, many of these telly imams and celebrity religious experts don’t know much about anything, let alone the religion they’re supposed to represent.
And it’s exasperating that they get treated with so much respect and are given so much  credibility till someone exposes them.

On Harry’s Place Mark commented:
  “I've no idea if it was through ignorance or design that the BBC invited him on. His smugness was tangible, but he got even smugger when "clergyman" Peter Owen-Jones trashed all British History in a kind of ashamed, head-bowed manner.In fact, what Peter Owen-Jones did was to feed the talk of radicalisation on a kind of Asghar Bukhari level.While I wouldn't go around saying that the British Empire was completely built on countries asking us in for a cup of tea and then agreeing to everything, there's otherwise much through history to actually be proud of.Dilly Hussain is one of those who hate this country, and certain people in the media, nod sagely and say, "I think you have a point." Who else gets that sort of treatment?

Lamia replied:
On previous form, it is absolutely deliberate, Mark.The BBC ought to be ashamed to keep inviting Hussain on as a commentator. He's a crypto-ISIS fan who has a habit of abusing people - especially women, and extra especially female Muslims - who disagree with him. To put him into perspective: when even the odious Haitham al Hadad and other Islamists went through the formality (sincere or otherwise) of 'urging' ISIS not to murder hostages, Hussain angrily refused. He's pretty much on the level of Anjem Choudary, and in a sense is a worse influence because while the mainstream media views Choudary (rather inadequately), as a nasty clown, it seems to think Hussain's a completely different species of Islamist.
James Delingpole was on the programme too. "The BBC's new pet Islamist::
Now I’m all for the BBC canvassing as wide a range of viewpoints as it possibly can on programmes like this (yes, even evil climate change deniers!) but it does worry me — as a licence fee payer, a keen upholder of the nation’s moral standards, and a tireless campaigner against prejudice in all its forms — that the BBC may inadvertently be guilty of racism by having invited Dilly onto the show. No worse, of full on Islamophobia.
Certainly if I were a typical, law-abiding, well-integrated British member of the religion of peace, I think I might find myself being mildly troubled that this Dilly fellow had been invited on by the BBC to represent my faith. “An incredibly thick and ill-informed extremist,” I’d be thinking. “That’s just what we British Muslims need to improve our tarnished image.”

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Ice cold in Gaza

It’s hard to fathom how Roger Hearing got from this to this  and this 

When Roger Hearing went to Gaza for a BBC World Service series about business he obviously went with a load of baggage; if you know what I mean.

Now I do realise that the interviews recorded for these programmes need to be edited, so I imagine a good deal of recorded material stays on the cutting room floor, and there’s probably some off the record gossip and chatter as well that goes unreported. In other words, what we end up with is not necessarily the truth, the whole truth (and / or  nothing but.)

So let’s just use what we’ve got; the broadcasts the BBC saw fit to release, via the airwaves into our brains.

Roger Hearing and his entourage went to the Gaza strip to see how business was doing in Gaza. On the 19th May the first of three Business Matters reports went out on the BBC World service. 

We heard Roger giving an on-the-spot account of a (not very) arduous border crossing, and excerpts from a conversation with Ashraf Abushaban, the ice-cream businessman whom befriended Roger as they walked together along the lengthy border-crossing corridor.

Ashraf, who was to become a little bit famous as the ice-cream entrepreneur of Gaza, provided a rich source of material for a couple of Roger’s future BBC ventures, eg., From Our Own Correspondent Radio 4, and the BBC Website.

To help you understand my confusion, I’ve transcribed the conversation, lucky you, between Roger and Ashraf during a very very long walk within the crossing (from Israel)

fluorescent ices

“I was in Tel Aviv yesterday, and Ramallah today, and I just crossed the border going back to Gaza.” 

RH:And what were you doing in Israel? 

Well, I was having a course, like a seminar of making Italian gelato. 

          Ah! Right. 

RHWell in this kind of weather, Ice cream very popular I imagine. 

AA: Ice cream is very popular in Gaza. We have an ice cream store since 1950, but I took the responsibility of developing the ice cream, bringing new flavours to Gaza, and as you know Italians are very good at that, so I took a couple of courses from Italy in Tel Aviv and right now we have Gelato in Gaza” 

RH:  Is it easy for you to come and go across the border? 

Well, I’ve been going back and forth for the last year only - only after I grew up after 35 years, because you’re only allowed if you’re over 35 and if you are a businessman and if you prove to them that you do import so many stuff from Israel and Europe.’ 

RH: Right, so you’re importing the goods to make the ice cream” 

It  (?) for me because I do have to pay the taxes in Israel and I do have to pay another 18% taxes to the PA, and then it comes to the Hamas government in Gaza because you know we have two governments actually. 

RH:I know, I know,” 

AA:So Hamas decided they want more taxes right now so I pay more taxes  - for the government of Gaza. 

RH:Wow. That’s expensive. But the business works? It’s profitable? 

Well, it’s not bad, I can’t complain about it. We’ve been in the market since 1950 we’ve got like a good name in Gaza. But we have a lot of expenses for electricity  we have four generators which consumes - sometimes I pay more than $ 5,000 just for fuel. 

RH:And are there enough people in Gaza with enough money to buy ice cream to make it work ?  

AA:Well. Let me say that people in Gaza are kind of used to war and these difficult situations so sometimes you can see gelato on the beaches as the only way they can express their feelings. Sometimes business depends on the PA workers, if they get their salaries in time it’s good business. If they don’t get their salaries then business is very down. 

RH:What do you feel about the way Gaza is at the moment for businessmen like yourself? You think you can keep going? 

AA:If the borders are open to Gaza, trust me, it will be a great city. And too -  much great friends in Israel, they don’t mind dealing with me and I don’t mind dealing with them. When you do business with people for a long time you make good relations with them. My Israeli friend his name is Judu(?), he even, like, just yesterday, he saved me a product worth more than 70.000 shekels to Gaza without taking any money from me because you know  there is trust between us we’ve been dealing for a long time. I was with him yesterday in Tel Aviv, we had lunch, we had dinner together, we went together for a seminar and he sent me some products for more than 70,000 shekels. I think this is called friendship.”

So, what impression did you get from that conversation?
Not much like the Ashraf who appears one month later in this web article that accompanies the FOOC.
Evidently Ashraf has metamorphosed. From the enterprising businessman who has established a great business and good working and personal relationship with his Israeli supplier, who has had freedom of movement because he is known to be ‘above board’ - let’s call it kosher - from all of that, he’s transformed himself into a frustrated do-gooder, selflessly working amongst the rubble despite all the restrictions needlessly imposed by the Israelis. All, in the creative imagination of the BBC’s Roger Hearing, in the space of one month. 

The FOOC is of course a monologue. No Ashraf, no Mohammad, and no Nasser, more of whom later. Only Roger, and we’ll just have to take his word for it. 
“He proudly showed us the shiny Italian gelato machines installed in the back rooms of his cafe building. When he was trying to import them, it was hard to convince the Israelis apparently that there wasn't some other, more threatening purpose for the tall chrome boxes with pipes and chutes and nozzles.”  
Says the web.

The first sentence is profoundly patronising and the rest is unadulterated out-of-context Israel-bashing spin. I can’t even be bothered to explain why, and if you don’t know what I mean then you’re reading the wrong blog.
“He draws some comfort from the fact that the Israelis do know who he is and what he is doing.”
He draws some comfort?  The Israeli guy has just entrusted him with 70,000 shekels worth of goods. He’s been to a bleeding seminar. He’s been to lunch and dinner with the guy. What an arsehole Roger Hearing looks for spinning this story in such a manner.

So, let’s talk about baggage.  The baggage Roger brought with him from the BBC to Gaza. 

See what BBC Watch has to say about the FOOC, which was obviously cobbled together from the BBC World Service Business Matters jaunt. Heres’ the blurb from the Business Matters webpage:  
How does the economy work in what some have described as the world's biggest prison? Presenter Roger Hearing is live from the seafront in the Gaza Strip at the start of a week of coverage from Israel and the Palestinian territories. He hears from the man who arguably makes Gaza's best ice-cream, the factory owner rebuilding from bombed out rubble and the singer of a band that can't tour because they can't leave. Joining him are Nasser Elhelo who has a business making steel doors and is also on the board of the Gaza Chamber of Commerce and Muhammed Al Alamy who runs the Future Tech IT company here in Gaza City and is on the board of the Pal Trade association. (Image: Ice cream producer Ashraf Abushaban, BBC)

Roger’s grasp of the situation in Gaza was set out very clearly in the first part of the Business Matters episode featuring Ashraf and co.

Here’s Roger’s intro:
“But first, let me describe where we are. The Gaza strip is a rectangular area of land slightly more than twice the size of Washington DC. It’s sandy, flat and runs along the Mediterranean coast between Israel and Egypt.
These 360 sq. Kilometers contain almost 2m people, so, it’s one of the most densely populated places on the planet. (bingo) 
More than 5,000 people per square  kilometer. One more statistic - three quarters of the people here are under 25 - and the vast majority of these people can never leave. (bingo)
Why is that? Well, the answer lies in the controversial and complicated politics of Gaza.Now it is technically, not a state but an entity.
 Let me give you a necessarily abbreviated history.
Back in 1948, when Israel became a state Palestinian refugees crowded into camps here. Then it was run by Egypt, until Israel occupied it in 1967.Israel finally pulled out of Gaza in 2005, leaving it to the control of the Palestinian Authority.The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, regarded by Israel, the E U and the US as a terrorist organisation took over in 2007, and they’ve run Gaza ever since.”
 A potted history indeed. Piss-pot variety. Next, the current situation, BBC style :
And since Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel, Israel closed down the borders. For a while the border with Egypt was open, but that’s been shut now, under the new Egyptian government.And now the most controversial part of all. Hamas fired rockets into Israel and staged raids across the border in what Palestinians say is a response to the terrible conditions they’re in as a result of the blockade.
 Israel has launched drone strikes and bombings and conducted full scale military offensives into Gaza as well as tightening the partial blockade, they say, in response to the Hamas rockets.
The most recent war, last summer was the most destructive, more than 2,000 Palestinians, many of them children, died, 66 Israeli soldiers and 6 civilians were killed.large areas of the Gaza strip were reduced to rubble.
In this programme we’re going to try and park the politics and look at how the economy”

A neat idea, parking the politics at that point, after having driven all the way along a one-way street in the wrong direction and, phew, we got away with it.
.......”One  of the reasons Gaza’s described as the largest open prison in the world (bingo) is the difficulty of getting over the border with Israel.

Before his meeting with Ashraf Roger makes some observations during his mighty battle with the Erez crossing. Some excerpts: 

“People are allowed in and out for medical reasons.” “Got through the Israeli part, now the Palestinian part.”  “Not great for us, but we’re through! People trying to get through with massive bags of stuff they’ve brought through with them”“What this is is a barrier between the Israeli controlled area - the Israeli border - and what they describe as an entity -  Gaza - controlled by a group they consider to be terrorists. So it’s somewhat unusual as an international border.”

Let’s try and park this.
The difficulties of getting through didn’t seem all that difficult, but lest his experience gave the ‘wrong’ impression Roger was keen to point out that the press seemed to have it easier than the riff-raff.

People were bringing stuff in? We’ll let that pass.

This ‘entity’ thing - which Roger appear to find unseemly. He might just recall that the Arab World’s description of Israel is ‘ Zionist entity’. Okay, that’s a bit of whataboutery, but what about it?

A group they consider to be terrorists. Hamas ARE terrorists, in that they perpetrate terrorist activities. They target Israeli civilians with rockets, suicide bombings, stabbings, kidnappings and try to kill them by whatever murderous means they can;  and, by the way, they are committed to Israel’s destruction. 
So even Roger Hearing might admit that Hamas are fully qualified terrorists with up-to-date terrorist credentials;  probably even under Amnesty International’s Human Rights restrictions on nasty descriptions of groups they adore. 

So really, no need to be all shy about calling Hamas terrorists yourself, Roger. You know you ought to.

 Roger is very interested in the opinions of his guests, businessmen Muhammad and Nasser, and they discuss fracking. They don’t like it. They think 100 years ahead, talk about clean energy and the price of oil. Nasser says we should think about human health. One of them says it’s hard to bring solar panels in.
Roger moves on to more bingo-scoring territory. See if you can tell what it is yet.

Nasser’s story. RH:Everyone in Gaza has a story about how they came to be here. How did you come to be in Gaza? 

NE:My grandfather was in Gaza part of my uncle left in 67to Egypt and stayed in Egypt to have their families over there. My father preferred to stay in Gaza, and many Gazans prefer to have their dignity in Gaza because they feel that they are something big in Gaza and they might be just a fig...just a number in anywhere else out of Gaza. 

RH:Could you have left Gaza yourself? Could you have gone elsewhere, perhaps had a more comfortable time? 

NE:For study, for business, for journey, yes. But to stay out of Gaza, I don’t plan for that and I don’t think in this way. 

RH:Okay, Muhammed, let me ask you. Now you were telling me earlier that your family originally comes from Jerusalem, is that right?

Exactly, yes, we moved to Gaza in 1930s, my grandfather - and I was born in Gaza and I lived most of my life in Gaza I had to go to the States for a few years for my education and came back to Gaza in 1995” 

RH:So you certainly could have left if you wanted to. So many people can’t leave, but you could. 

MAAI had the opportunity to stay in the states but I chose to come back home, this is home where I was born. i have to contribute to the community where I was raised in.And, yes this is home. 

RH: Do you like living in Gaza? 
I love it” 

RHDespite everything. Nasser, do you enjoy living here. 

NE:Of course we suffer, during the last eight years, due to the blockade, from the sea, from the air , from the land, but we find that we have our dignity on this piece of land.

And of course many people feel the same but they are under a lot of pressure , I mean let me give you a few statistics, I mean we’ve put a few in before, here’s a few more.
More than a fifth of the population is in what the US describes as deep poverty, I mean surviving on less than $500 a month, unemployment is more than 40% and under 25s it’s more than 50%. Now since the Egyptians recently closed the tunnels under the border that brought smuggled goods into Gaza, poverty has in fact got worse here and in fact many civil servants are not being paid at all. So how do ordinary Gazans make ends meet? How do they get the basics of everyday life. 

A steel worker interviewed by one of Roger’s colleagues used to work in Israel for 25 years earning good money but since the intifada he can’t anymore. A market is bursting with goods. Fruit and veg. A mini market stocks products from outside Gaza. .....

I gave up at this point, but I’m willing to have another go at the latter half of these at a later date. This has taken up too much of my time thank you. 
I’d just like to say that Roger got a lot of unexpected, perhaps unwelcome answers to his leading questions, time and time again. I can't help thinking that he was a bit disappointed that neither Nasser nor Muhammed's parents had been 'driven out of Israel' in 1948, and wasn't it a shame for Roger that neither of them had been unable to get out of the biggest open prison on the planet? But he didn’t let any of that distract him from the main message. 

He’s like the producer who flew home early from a war zone because ‘he’d already told the crew on the ground what he wanted’

Roger took little notice of what the Gazan businessmen actually said. He spun it till he got what he wanted.