Monday 12 June 2017

The BBC's 60-year war with Israel

It’s nice that the BBC is covering the 50th anniversary of Israel’s notorious 6-Day war.

17 years ago Jeremy Bowen’s driver Abed was killed by ‘trigger-happy’ young Israeli soldiers who had mistaken their car for the sign of a possible terrorist attack; by a quirk of fate Bowen was filming a ‘piece to camera’ some yards away from the unfortunate Abed patiently waiting for him in the the car and our intrepid reporter lived to tell the tale. He has borne a grudge against Israel ever since. His brush with death left him with survivors’ guilt as well as a deep-seated hostility to Israel. Despite the obligatory grafted-on lip-service to “Israel’s side of the story” his feelings seep into his reporting.

This is where the BBC’s judgement in appointing him their chief Middle East editor comes into question. We’re resigned to hearing events described from the Palestinian perspective by Jeremy Bowen and other here-today-gone-tomorrow BBC journalists who report from the Middle East under his supervision. We know there’s nothing to be done about it. The BBC shares Jeremy Bowen’s outlook and that’s that.

This would be fine if the BBC routinely added one of their famous footnotes to their reports; something like “May contain nuts.”
When Alan Johnson was being taken hostage in Gaza, he pleaded to his captors in a panic-induced outburst of honesty: “But I’m telling your story!”

Now Paul Adams is lecturing us about the Six Day War and I have to ask - by what authority?
Why has Paul Adams been commissioned to write an article called “The Six Day War : Six ways the conflict still matters” on the BBC website? Is he a historian? Did he graduate from Oxbridge with first class hons. specialising in Middle East studies? Did he study history?

Not really. I think he’s an pro immigration BBC correspondent with a left-wing attitude, an English degree and an unapologetically Arabist outlook.  (I Googled)

BBC Watch is able to deconstruct his piece far more knowledgeably than I, but I can make some observations from the perspective of a blogger with a useless fine art degree and an unapologetically pro-Israel outlook.

The slightly florid language with a whiff of menace in the first paragraph is classic BBC. Think Fergal Keane meets a poor man’s Michael Burek. It could almost have been written by Jeremy Bowen.
“For many Israelis, this was a moment of euphoria. Their young state's military prowess had been amply demonstrated. The whole of Jerusalem, and all of Judaism's holiest places, were back under Jewish control for the first time in 2,000 years. Just 22 years after the Holocaust, the Jewish people's future now seemed secure, in their ancestral homeland. This was heady stuff.”
To readers who already see Israel as an expansionist, aggressive and warmongering country, the short phrase: “Back under Jewish control” is loaded with ominous undertones. I’m no authority, but my understanding is that under ‘Jewish control’ (after the 6-day war) people of all faiths visit Israel’s “holiest places”, whereas before the 6-Day war, (under Arab control) only Muslims were allowed - Jews and others were excluded. To omit that small detail is to be economical with the actualité.

The cavalier: ’both sides have experienced profound division” seems to me to be a throwaway line that compresses a half-truth into the distortion of a whole truth.
My understanding is that the religious minority that holds some sway over the Israeli government bears no comparison to the religiously fuelled turmoil that permanently rages within much of Palestinian society. Added to which, the fact that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are continually at loggerheads causes massive disruption to everyday life. Failure to pay Gaza’s electricity bill is one consequence of that. However, both Palestinian factions are ultimately committed to the destruction of Israel, each going about the business at their own pace. Paul Adams has:
“the Palestinians have been deeply split for over a decade, between a PLO-dominated Palestinian Authority, willing to negotiate with Israel, and an Islamist militant movement, Hamas, which still says it wants to liberate "all of Palestine”.
“the PA’s willingness to negotiate with Israel “ is stretching it a bit. It’s no secret that Abbas’s negotiators have continually procrastinated and shown little appetite for negotiating with Israel; instead they've invented a series of spurious preconditions before even entertaining the possibility of coming to the table. They’ve painted themselves into a corner with that one and they’re stranded there.

The other side is more up front with their uncompromising plan to liberate all of Palestine from the river to the sea. The Islamist militant movement Hamas are quite clear and open about the fact that they are hell-bent on eradicating Jews, and when Jeremy Corbyn’s followers chant “from the river to the sea”,  make no mistake, that is exactly what they align themselves with.
I digress.
“the Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, suffered the same fate as Anwar Sadat: gunned down by a religious zealot” says Adams, using an aberration to draw a false analogy, which is exactly what apologists for lslam do when they wheel out Anders Breivik’s killing spree to deny the specificity of Islamic terrorism the minute someone has the temerity to specify it.
All this would be fine and dandy, if the BBC were honest enough to add one of their special health warnings, for example:
“The author of this article sees things from the Palestinian perspective. Other brands are available.”
BBC Watch is another brand, and is available here

The following sample is BBC Watch's summarising paragraph:
“Like the other recent Six Day War features by Tom Bateman and Jeremy Bowen, this article by Paul Adams is essentially an exercise in advancing a transparent political narrative according to which the modern-day conflict is exclusively rooted in the outcome of those six days in June 1967 – especially the ‘occupation’ and ‘settlements’. And like those other two articles, Adams’ advancement of that narrative does not serve the purpose of enhancing audience understanding of either the root causes of that war, the ones that preceded and followed it or the continued lack of progress in resolving the century-long conflict.”


  1. Being near the impact point of an incoming tank shell must surely rattle a few brain cells.

    Losing a colleague to it at the same time must further stir the mental mix.

    I merely note that Jez and his entourage more often than not seem to be lurking around places where hostile fire at the IDF is coming from, though I believe his latest brush with a shotgun pellet my have been 'friendly' fire.

    All terribly derring do, and understandably burning much that is not objective into the soul.

    However, not the stuff of an editor who leaves anything at the door, even decades later. The BBC seems to love certain conflicts, and that of interest more than most.

    It is beyond professional contempt.

    In other news, at a recent husting the mumsie Greenie candidate was doing OK until she went off on one about arms sales to Israel. To which I took exception.

    Her share of vote, such as it was, plummeted even further, matching only the Lib Dem's.

    Labour clearly won, and trumpeted doing so by pointing out they had more votes than all other opposition parties combined. Rather neglecting to mention the winning Conservative retained his seat with an increased majority, in excess of the votes of Labour AND all other opposition parties.

    We might be simply country folk, but we are not that daft.

  2. Couple of things...I think I heard them say on Radio 4 this Bowen thing is going on for 25 instalments...tell me I got that wrong! That would be unprecedented access to the airwaves to present a very personal view of a conflict that threatens a much persecuted people with genocide (and I don't mean the Palestinians of course).

    Another point, I heard a vox pop in the general post election news on Sky where a guy said "I am a British Jew, so I would never vote for Corbyn." Not the sort of sentiment that makes the BBC News. Must have cost Labour quite a few marginal seats I would have thought if British Jews were abandoning Labour en masse.

    With someone like Bowen, who conventionally claims only to be interested in the story because of the human suffering, why don't you concentrate on all the other stories where the human suffering is off the scale: Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Libya...and leaving that aside there are far more violent deaths in countries like South Africa and Brazil. Why this relentless focus on the Israel-Palestinian conflict? And more particularly, why the relentless focus on Israel rather than Palestine or the wider Arab world. Why no focus on the vile hate media in the Arab world, the genocidal propaganda? Why no focus on that fact that Jews have been expelled from most of the Arab world, formally or informally. Why? Because it would disrupt the narrative and spoil his 30 year holiday.

  3. It would be interesting to research historical BBC reports and discover exactly when their war with Israel started. I was fairly young in 1967, but my recollection was that there was a widespread feeling of support for Israel at the time. I can remember Sunday supplement articles about Moshe Dayan. Students would spend their Summers working on a Kibbutz. Even in 1973 I don’t remember the kind of unquestioning hostility that has now become routine whenever the BBC reports on Israel. In fact if my memory serves me correctly there was a grave concern for the predicament Israel found herself in when faced with seemingly overwhelming Russian-supplied state-of-the art weaponry. What has happened since then? Is this simply the BBC and the left, in a rather twisted and misguided way flaunting the “anti-racist” credentials, or is it something much darker?

    It’s very difficult to counter this kind of article. There is the complaints procedure, but that will always be a private matter between the complainer and the BBC and will always be met with the same stock response. At one time HYS served a useful function, but it must have become clear to the BBC that people weren’t saying what they wanted them to say, so it was neutered. Its present location on Twitter is just a series of meaningless soundbites that offer no possibility of presenting a reasoned argument. Paul Adams article and the previous one by Tom Bateman make me extremely angry, not just because of the dishonesty, but because I can do nothing about it.

    1. Israel was originally seen as a progressive leftist cause. Most socialist parties in Western Europe and the Democrats in the US supported it. The first country to recognise it was the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia provided it with arms. How things changes is an interesting question.

      I think there were several factors that came together (a) the decolonisation process made it appear an anomaly to have people of recent European origin running a state surrounded by recently colonial peoples (b) the removal of long established European population in Algeria established a precedent (c) oil money meant the concerns of Arabs were given much more weight and (d) getting caught up in the Cold War conflict once the USSR gave up on Israel.

      I remember the BBC in the 1960s was actually v. pro Israel and had a Jewish Middle East correspondent (Michael Elkin?) who was fairly obviously sympathetic to Israel. Abba Eban seenmed to be on the TV alot explaining Israel's policies in sonorous tones. The UK media were incredibly indulgent towards Palestinian terrorism initially (remember Leila Khaled?). As always terrorism worked, and got attention for the Arab cause.

    2. I have a vague recollection of Michael Elkin. At least the name rings a bell. I might just add to what you have written: the Soviet Union’s initial support for Israel was based on the belief that Israel would naturally fall under the influence of the Soviet Union. When it became clear very early on that Israel would turn instead to the United States their position rapidly changed to hostility, where it remained. Perhaps not directly connected to the BBC’s position vis-à-vis Israel but an important point nevertheless.

    3. Anti-Americanism is a crucial issue for Marxists like Corbyn. I doubt he's an "anti-semite" in any meaningful sense but he sees the USA, the prime capitalist nation, as the enemy and Israel the US's ally as a defender of US interests. It is therefore a "legitimate target" as Gerry Adams might say.

      Another factor has been the opposition of the RC and Orthodox Christians to Israel. This is partly routed in traditional Bible-based anti-semitism but also I think Israel had antagonised them by claiming the whole of Jerusalem for itself. The initial UN partition plan envisaged Jersualem being "internationalised" (as was central Vienna at the time). Israel could do itself a favour by putting something like that back on the table - but I hasten to add that all this would only make sense in terms of a Sadat-style policy where the Arabs gave up on their urge to wipe Israel from the map.

    4. Terry, I have blogged in the past about this issue. Keith Kyle appears to have been the daddy of all anti-Israel BBC reporters.
      See also

  4. Anonymous nailed it at "c) oil money meant the concerns of Arabs were given much more weight". Wasn't that indeed one of the reasons for the Arab oil embargoes and price shocks of the 70s?

    Oil money is vast and it's the same reason we see (suffer) the insurgency of Islam across the West.

    1. It's very interesting that Qatar is now in the frame for supporting violent anti-Western Jihadists. OK, Saudi Arabia pointing the finger at them is like the pot calling the kettle black, but of course both the pot and the kettle are black, that's the point.

      Of course, Qatar has been involved in destabilisation of this country for many years.

      We need a Royal Commission (they've gone out of fashion haven't they?) to investigate the full extent of the corruption of our media, academia, strategic companies, royals and politicians by assorted Islamic entities (states, charities and individuals).

  5. Paul Adams is the son of Michael Adams, who worked briefly for the BBC, and afterwards for The Guardian. He was a rabid Israel-demoniser and became foundation direct of CAABU.
    Chip off the old block?

  6. I also made my findings into a guestblog on Elder of Ziyon in 2015. Unfortunately, the font went awry, and if Craig and Sue would like to repost it on here, for the interest of people like Terry, I'll have no objection and neither will Elder. I do think this history of BBC collusion with the anti-Israel lobby should be made known to as wide an audience as possible:

    1. Thanks Daphne, I quite agree.
      I’m looking at this now; I’ll see what I can do.


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