Saturday 8 August 2015

A non-shabby 'Dateline'

Well, I must say that I enjoyed Dateline London today. 

It was one of those occasional editions where a wide range of different opinions was heard - and, even rarer, a genuine right-winger found a place on the panel.

Especially enjoyable was the closing section on the man of the moment (no, not Alan Yentob): Jeremy Corbyn. 

ConservativeHome's Alex Deane and the New York Times's John Fisher Burns could scarcely believe their ears when the Guardian's Rachel Shabi began arguing that Mr Corbyn occupies the centre ground of British politics. She stood her ground though, citing opinion poll evidence showing majority public support for all manner of nationalisations and tax rises on the rich. That's where the public is, she argued, and that's where Jeremy Corbyn is. 

There may be some truth in that on certain issues, but not on others - like immigration. And she forgets that in the general election some 51% of the votes went to parties traditionally characterised as 'right-wing' Britain isn't a left-wing country, I think.

The opening section on Turkey's recent military action against the so-called De'aIShlamicstate and the Kurds (especially the Kurds) was genuinely interesting, if less fun. A newbie to the programme, BBC Turkish analyst Guney Yildiz, contributed most to this section (you may not be entirely surprised to hear).

The main question here was: What in Allah's name is Erdogan up to? - and this was followed by: Why the massive imbalance in the strikes (overwhelmingly against the Kurds rather than Islamic State) and why is the Obama administration giving Turkey the green light to bomb the best fighters (and our allies) against IS, the Kurds? 

Well, the answer to the Obama question (as outlined by Alex Deane) seems to be that the U.S. is now being allowed to use a major Turkish airbase under this new deal, thus making it easier for the U.S. to operate militarily in the region. And the answer to the first question (also as outlined by Alex Deane) is that Turkey's concern for its own territorial integrity will always mean it goes after the Kurds first - especially if that stops the anti-Turkish Kurds gaining a permanent semi-state across the Northern Syrian border with Turkey. Everyone seemed to agree though that the U.S. position is confused, to say the least.

The central portion of the programme, however, was given over to matters Israeli, following the horrifying attack by a murderous bigot on a gay rights march there and the atrocious murder of am 18-month-old Palestinian baby (and his father too, in now turns out) in an arson attack carried out by fringe Israeli extremists. 

Rachel Shabi launched into a long, passionate and wholly negative critique of Israel, ending up tying both attacks to 'the Gaza War' and the 'climate' created by the 'very right-wing' Israeli government, the settlers and 'the occupation' (completely ignoring the prompt and unequivocal denunciations of both attacks by that very Israeli government). 

Despite her Iraqi Jewish ancestry, she's a quintessential Israel-bashing Guardian journalist in every respect. The makers of Dateline would have been well aware of that - especially her negative views about Israel - beforehand; hence, no doubt, her invitation to appear today [*a BBC bias bit*].

Still, at least Alex was on hand to make a point Rachel was never (willingly) going to make - and which deserves to be quoted in full: 
I think the conversation is a bit weird because Israel is a beacon of gay rights in a region that systematically represses them. 
And I think it is important that the person who did the stabbing was a marginalised nutter and not the state that was persecuting homosexuality. 
And indeed, beyond just the point of the state, the chief rabbis of Israel took out full-page advertisements next day in the Israeli national newspapers condemning this kind of violence, saying it was un-Jewish and it should never be done. If only other community leaders had that kind of unambiguous approach to the persecution of minorities, the persecution of homosexuals, the persecution of people who disagree with them. 
So I start from that point of view. I'll start from the fact that Tel Aviv is one of the world's most thriving LGBT-welcome cities in the world and that this weekend, like every weekend, there will be beach parties in Tel Aviv where gay people from around the world go to enjoy themselves and know that they will be safe. A country that allows gays in the military. A country that protects gay rights in the work place. 
This is, to say the least, unusual in this region and I don't think we should let the conversation about what was a terrible incident go past without saying, "That's the norm in Israel", because people who hate Israel seize on examples like this all the time and say, "Oh well, they're just as bad as everywhere else." Actually it's not true.
Bravo, Alex!

The BBC Turkish analyst Guney Yildiz conceded some of this (how could he not?) but (being a BBC man) sided more with Rachel Shabi, saying that the "mainstream" in Israel allows such nutters to walk freely and that those same mainstream politicians who condemned these attacks went back to expressing "hate" the following day. (No evidence was provided for that assertion) [*another BBC bias bit*].

I'm glad Dateline brings in BBC correspondents. It allows us to hear them speak their views and, thus, show us where the BBC (generally-speaking) is coming from. It always seems to be exactly where 'people like us' would expect them to be coming from. 

1 comment:

  1. Rachel Shabi should read this:
    (I wish I could make hyperlinks work on this awkward comments system)
    (I've given up trying)


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