Saturday 17 October 2015

Well said, M. Roche!

When I was scoffing at Mark Urban earlier today for saying "I think many of us had sort of forgotten about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the last few years" when so many of his BBC colleague most certainly haven't forgotten about it (and some seem frankly obsessed by it, especially on Twitter), I forgot one programme from my little list of forget-Israel-not programmes: namely Dateline London. (How on earth did I forget that?)

Dateline London never misses an opportunity to talk about Israel - and, obviously, it had another go at the subject today, given recent events.

This discussion, however, was genuinely interesting - as many discussion on Dateline can be, if there's a wide range of opinion and plenty of disagreement.

The panel today consisted of Dateline veteran Marc Roche (a left-liberal Belgian journalist). Jeffrey Kofman (a left-liberal Canadian journalist), Ian Birrell (a centre-right British journalist, closely associated with David Cameron's early 'modernising' project) and Dateline newbie Rashmee Lall (an Indian-born freelancer, resident in Haiti, who writes, UK-wise, mostly for - guess who? - the Guardian).

The main clash came between Rashmee Lall and Jeffrey Kofman. Jeffrey was trying to tread a cautious left-liberal path between being critical of the present leaderships of both Israel and the Palestinians when Rashmee launched into an excited babble on about how the #BlackLivesMatter campaign is now twinned with the #PalestinianLivesMatter campaign, how the boycott campaign (BDS) is great, how a "Jewish billionaire" in America held an anti-BDS summit in June (WTF?!!), and how Israeli "apartheid" will fall like South African apartheid fell. Jeffrey's polite exasperation became ever more evident. The more she burbled on the more he sternly pointed to the failings of the present Palestinian leadership and the apartheid trope.

Ian Birrell stuck to being cautious alas, cleaving to registering his depression about the situation, blaming the leadership of both sides - and Barack Obama -, and calling for diplomacy. Marc Roche, on the other hand spoke passionately (as he always does) on what really matters to him here: the danger this present crisis poses for Europe's increasingly beleaguered Jewish population.
Well, I also think it's terrible for the Jewish community in Europe because, of course, every time there is...there are already attacks on synagogues and all that, which happen every time there is tension. And the Jewish community is divided. They don't like the boycott (gesturing with a wistful look towards Rashmee Lall) because it reminds [them of] Germany and the Thirties and the Nazi boycotting of Jewish shops, but at the same time they are quite liberal and they are afraid of the consequence of what will happen in Europe. So it's terrible. I agree with everything that's being said. I want just to put a European side, that it will make it very difficult for cohabitation between Muslims and Jews in Western Europe.
Jewish communities are completely lost because many of them don't want to move to Israel because they are very well-integrated for a long time into western Europe but they feel threatened by their Muslim brethren. their neighbours, when they live in areas like north London and all that, at the slightest Middle East upheaval. So at the end the Jewish community and the Muslim community have the same future, that is in Europe or the Middle East, and they are very close and, at the moment, they are falling apart with disastrous consequences.
I found that quite thought-provoking and moving.

All of which is a reminder (to me at least) of the need to judge someone in the round, not just on some of their views. 

I got Marc Roche wrong for years in assuming that he was French rather than Belgian, and I got the paper he used to be most associated with, Le Monde, wrong by repeatedly calling it 'the French Guardian' in connection with M. Roche, And now I see - and it's been dawning on me for a while now - that I shouldn't inflexibly regard Marc Roche as simply 'Dateline's resident anti-capitalist Eurofanatic'. There's much more to him than that. 

And there doubtless is to the apparently absurd, disturbingly anti-Semitic-sounding Rashmee Lall too. She seemed quite a happy soul after all.

She didn't appear to have taken anything on board from her appearance today, but there's always hope (he says, hopefully).

Returning to BBC matters, host Gavin Esler focused mainly on Barack Obama's role in all of this. (He's very interested in U.S. politics). His guests kept 'moving on' from that back to matters Israeli-Palestinian.

Please make of that what you will (meaning I've got nothing sensible to say about it).

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