Friday 28 February 2020

Compendium For The Day

There was an iconic ‘60s TV drama featuring a young Judi Dench, called ‘Talking to a Stranger. 
An early black and white ‘kitchen sink’ production, its USP was that the same event over one weekend was seen, over four episodes,  from each of the four characters’ very different viewpoints. It’s on YouTube, but weirdly, the fourth (rather crucial) episode is missing.

In addition to the novelty of seeing a youthful Judi Dench, the accents (and the smoking) give it a quaint, retro air, but the revival of 60s nostalgia (the Christine Keeler and Jeremy Thorpe docudramas) might inspire someone to resurrect this one, you never know. It seemed ahead of its time in that the writing was perceptive enough to make the viewer identify with (and empathise with) each character, as the narrative evolved.

It reminded me of the BBC’s presentation of anything connected with Israel. We get it from the Palestinian perspective, which we’re encouraged to empathise and identify with, but seventy years on, we’re still waiting for another perspective. 


The BBC’s anti-Israel bias isn’t necessarily at the top of every bias-watchers’ priorities.  In the hierarchy of biases, although many people are aware of the anti-Israel one, they see other biases  as more relevant to them personally.  For example, default left-wingery, disproportionate obsession with diversity, LGBT issues, youth and the mindless pursuit of ‘controversy’ for the sake of it. Gotchas. Islamophillia.

I’m not going to cite ‘First they came for the Jews’ here, but I will say that biased (fake) news is ultimately a threat to everyone. As for the BBC’s bias against Israel, it ‘gets away with it’ because they have a habit of shrouding it in a passive-aggressive smokescreen designed to make you believe it’s your own paranoia that makes you ‘take it that way’. Gaslighting, it’s called.

Seek and you will find. The bias is there, ‘hiding in plain sight’, but as with the Easter-egg hunt, you have to assume something exists before making the effort to unearth it. Why else would you bother to go scrabbling about in the undergrowth?

Anyway, the BBC pays just enough lip service to ‘the other side’ to provide the complaints department with a few wisps of straw to clutch at.

The other day virusgate shared the headlines on Radio 4’s early morning news bulletin with a story about another outbreak; hostilities involving the IDF. The bulletin included a brief Beebsplanation of what had happened. “That led to this, and this led to that and then this occurred”.

According to the BBC, 'it all started when a Palestinian militant was shot dead by the IDF - and, to add insult to injury, the Israelis recovered the corpse by means of a mechanical shovel.  This infuriated the Palestinians who set off a barrage of rockets from Gaza after which the IDF retaliated with attacks against Islamic Jihad and targets in Syria.'

More information appeared in the online report where the affectionate term “Palestinian militant” had been clarified to read: “Islamic Jihad member”.  BBCWatch adds more information.
“The hostilities began on Sunday morning, when Israel said it killed an Islamic Jihad member along its border fence with the Gaza Strip.
The inbuilt cynicism within the “Israel said” formulation is covertly passive-aggressive (or is that what we now call microaggression?)  It sows doubts. They only said it; we don’t have to treat it as gospel. 

The alleged provocation (planting a bomb) wasn’t included at all in the original radio bulletin, but it does appear in the online report, along with another “said”,
“Israel’s military said the the [sic] man was attempting to plant an explosive device.”
where the absence (in the bulletin) of even that mealy-mouthed (incompetent “man” didn’t even manage to plant a bomb) hint at the fact that the shooting was provoked, left the impression that Israel shoots innocent Palestinians for nothing. (In Israel they murder people a great deal as the Guardian's Michael White once said)
“A video shared widely on social media showed an Israeli bulldozer scooping up the body of the man, provoking anger among Palestinians.”
The grisly detail was bound to ignite revulsion, so no wonder it was widely shared on the internet; less popular was the video of the men (more than one) actually trying to plant their bomb. (Why did the Israelis want to recover the body? I understand as part of a quid pro quo ‘corpse exchange’. The bodies of two deceased Israelis are being held by Hamas.)

That example of ‘bias hidden in plain sight’ was nothing out of the ordinary. Just routine for the  BBC. The third iteration of the house-in-a-cage story that Tom Bateman has made a meal (banquet) out of provides another example. BBC Watch also revisited the story.

This story relies on the viewer’s ignorance of relevant local history; of previous court rulings, of the questionable legality of Jordan’s pre-1967 situation, and utter dependence on the edifice built on sand commonly known as ‘international law”. (BBC Watch provides links to the missing information.)
It’s not only the viewer who’s ignorant of the relevant facts. Tom Bateman and the BBC Middle East contingent seem to be equally ignorant and quite content to remain so. 

Tom Bateman’s report in all its incarnations is an example of serious bias, and ‘because it can’, the BBC calls the shots by supplying or withholding facts to suit their brand of pro-Palestinian partisanship. The BBC is wilfully as blind to the religiously-rooted antisemitism, notoriously imbibed ‘from cradle-to-grave’ / with the ‘mother’s milk’ as it is to its own, left-wing anti-Israel bias.   
Palestinians who subconsciously realise that they’d really and truly benefit from peace with Israel are obliged to continue their eternal Jihad. Encouraged and egged on by activists in the west, including the BBC who kindle the flames with false hope and unachievable aspirations.

A novel is being serialised on Radio 4. Apeirogon by Colum McCann. Actually, it’s not a novel, but a novelised true story based on the friendship between two bereaved fathers, an Israeli and a Palestinian, both of whose young daughters were  killed by ‘the other side.’ 

I only stumbled upon this broadcast belatedly, at episode 3. In order to get a perspective on it, I scoured the internet to see what various critics had made of the book. The Guardian thought it was terrific, but my doubts about the reviewer’s objectivity were sealed when I spotted the words: “Trigger-happy soldier”. The Times reviewer was less keen on the novel, but the negativity was based on the writing style itself, rather than the thrust of the message.

A synopsis indicated that neither man could claim to be truly representative of their ‘tribe’, although the Palestinian’s uniqueness (he found the Holocaust rather moving) seemed more of a one-off than his friend’s (an Israeli who is ‘against the occupation’ ) i.e., not very unique at all. 

I must emphasise that I have not read the book and have only listened to a small part of the serialisation; I’m not tempted to listen to any more. In this case I’m simply reminded that compassion for victims of the Holocaust isn’t an effective smokescreen.  It can’t hide prejudice and it doesn't prove anything.

Just as I was about to post this compendium-for-the-day, I realised that BBC Watch has tackled this book with more authority than I am able to muster. The reference to the political activist Raja Shehadeh I can help with, though.

I know this is another ‘long read’. Please don’t dismiss it as tl;dr until you’ve given it a chance. I allowed myself to lump together what could have been several separate posts, (hence the *******s) but I chose not to. 


  1. I have a very vague recollection of seeing Judi Dench as a very unconvincing prostitute in a sixties TV drama! I shall take a look. My favourite sixties TV drama on You Tube remains "Take Three Girls" - so full of optimism, it's sad when you compare it all with today where everyone seems to have "Mento Elf Shoes" and be either oppressed by or depressed about everything (cf Greta, a true symbol of our times).

    1. Yes, MB, I remember that prog too. It had a memorable theme tune by Pentangle featuring the great guitarist Bert Jansch.

      One of the girls was Liza Goddard who was a neighbour when I lived in Norfolk five years ago.

    2. Six degrees of separation and all!

      Great theme tune-song as you say.


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