Monday 6 May 2019

John Humphrys tells us why Hamas exists

Because of the occupation.

I understand the BBC’s revamp, which includes the reputedly unpopular “Sounds” was part of a drive to get down with the kidz - God,  now I sound like that judge who was unacquainted wiv da Beatles - I’m not him. He.

They say they’re aiming to attract the youth, anyway. (Should the BBC be targeting specific demographics? BBC Asian? Women’s Hour? As an ancient, out of touch judge, am I allowed to watch BBC Three? Or is it exclusively for teenagers?)

Not so long ago one could log on, search for ‘the Today Programme’, click on “Running Order” and arrive at the proposed daily timings of the upcoming items including a detailed guest list (albeit subject to change.)

Now they’ve meddled with the website and introduced an obstacle to bloggers about BBC bias, and anyone else who wants to find out exactly what the hell they’ve just been listening to. This change ensures that we can no longer easily listen again to a particular item or identify a particular spokesperson; you now have to use Google, (other search engines are available) to identify the name of the Hamas spokesperson with the impenetrable accent and the samey-similar-sounding name (with multiple alternative  spellings) to any other Hamas spokesterrorist. And all with or without the help of your supernatural powers.

At first, I thought I should search for Islam Hamad. But no.  This was none of the Islam Hamads that came up on Google. Then I realised it was Issam, not Islam, and had another go. Of course, Issam is also spelt Essam, which is par for the course, but it doesn’t help.

You know who I miss? Ron Prosor. When he was Israel’s Ambassador here, he could charm the pants off even the most BBCish presenter. His voice was so fruity he made Geoffrey Cox sound like a Smurf. And voices are important, especially on the radio - that’s why so many women fail the ‘pleasant sounding voice’ test. Mishal Husain’s voice with its scrapey harshness and Martha Kearney’s with its soft but grating timbre. I know they can’t help it any more than Caster Semenya can help her testosterone level. There’s a harshness about this injustice - but, you know, horses for courses. 

I once watched John Humphrys trying to learn how to make a painting. His hopelessness made him appear more ‘master of none’ than Jack of all trades, but I can see that Jack of all trades is what a Today Programme presenter has to be. 

Even so, it would be reassuring to know that your BBC presenter has a basic grasp of an issue that has come up repeatedly over the years, especially if he happens to have been in the trade for almost as many decades as the issue itself has been an actual issue. 

You’ll have realised that I’m talking about the item that came up at about 2h 43s into the programme. I don’t think I know how to link to the exact moment now that “playt=“ has been excised, but if I found it, so can you. I don’t think I can be bothered to transcribe the interviews in full. I’m not in the mood. Just scroll to 2:42:52

Obviously, it was about the latest spate of violence instigated by Hamas, timed, at least in part, to disrupt the wretched Eurovision Song Contest. I suppose Hamas was afraid that the Eurovision tourists would like the Zionist Entity and lose sympathy for the Palestinian cause. (I think that’s already happening, according to one enthusiastic Tweet I saw this morning.)

In this latest battle, the death score is a little less ‘disproportionate’ than is necessary to satisfy the hostile media. That unforgettable “How many Israelis?” interview by scrapey-voiced school-mistress Mishal Husain is forever etched on our (my) memory. 

John Humphrys introduced the item, pointedly using the term “militants’ twice. (Palestinian Militants and Gaza Militants) He then announced that he would be talking to “Islam Hamad, he’s on the steering committee of what is called the Great Return March”  (He definitely used the name “Islam” this time, though he corrected it later, perhaps prompted via the headphones) and he fluffed the description of the other guest’s professional role so awkwardly and confusingly that listeners might still be wondering who Michael Oren is.  Some kind of Israeli Ambassador to the United States, you know, something like that.

At the end of his opening statement, Oren suggested that when the time is right, Israel will probably  “do more to rid Gaza of Hamas.”

Humphrys asked Issam (Essam) (from Hamas) whether he  “wants to see Gaza rid of Hamas.” 

“Aah, Hamas is a freedom fighter” he replied, “It is fighting for freedom. If we are not under occupation there would be no Hamas.” 

Everyone knows that Gaza hasn’t been under occupation since 2005. But Issam doesn’t mean that. He means “Palestine” is under occupation. That’s ‘Israel’, to you and me. He is quite explicit about this, as he refers to the effect the rocket barrage (Schools shut down, weddings and football matches cancelled etc) which Oren has just described, but he (Issam) calls it “Southern  Palestine” and compares it with his own people’s situation, (i.e., similarly incapacitated, but of course entirely as a consequence of  their own decision to instigate the rocket-firing.) 

He says that if the Palestinians achieved their “right of return” there would be peace. (But obviously no Jewish state.) Humphrys missed that. Not being alert to the fundamental problem, he goes on to make a much more simplistic argument, which roughly amounts to “War bad; why not negotiate?” 

“We’ve been negotiating through Egypt. We want Israel not to shoot at the peaceful protesters who are peacefully protesting on the Great Return March. Human Rights Watch says Israel is committing war crimes” […] ” Israel wants to kick out all the Palestinians; if they don’t want to do this they wouldn’t pass the law that Israel is the Jewish State…”

“And Dr Oren, many people will hear what Mr Hamad has said and will agree with him and say yes, Israel is entirely intransigent”

“If they agree with him they know nothing of the facts. Hamas is an Islamist, Jihadist organisation. It’s a terrorist organisation…

“And it exists because of the occupation”

Ron Proser would have eaten them both up for lunch.

The Voice

Here, I give up. I just give up. 


  1. I haven't completely given up - obvs.

  2. We have seen Humphrys obtuseness on a number of occasions. Sometimes he even seems quite disengaged. On this occasion he has certainly disengaged from the history, or from any attempt to be a serious journalist - if that is what he thinks he is. His longevity as a presenter has given him a certain status, but I think it is highly questionable that he has the originality of mind to step outside BBC groupthink.


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