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.
“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.”