Sunday 29 August 2021

Is Bari at the BBC no more?


Israel today is in a state of confusion, in a state of panic. They know very well that what happened in Kabul Airport will repeat itself at Ben Gurion Airport. But Ben Gurion Airport will be closed, there will be no planes in it…. Israelis should listen to the advice of [Hezbollah leader] Hassan Nasrallah and start learning how to swim, because their only option will be Cyprus, their only option will be the Mediterranean Sea.
Abdel Bari Atwan, Lebanese television station Mayadeen TV, 18/8

'Who's that?', recent newcomers might ask.

Well, he's a Palestinian leftist journalist based in the UK who sports a fulsome Saddam moustache and loathes Israel and is/was a favoured BBC go-to voice.

My main encounter with him was via watching the BBC's foreign flagship Dateline London and counting the number of appearances of each and every panellist on every episode over several years, and regularly posting an ongoing tally and analysis.

Every single year, without fail, Abdel Bari Atwan - came top of the tree as the most-invited panellist on the Dateline London panellist charts. 

He was the programme's most regular guest, frequently ranting away like an ill-informed maniac on most subjects yet being treated, on matters Middle Eastern, as if he were the expert's expert. 

It was weird.

The main Dateline presenter throughout most of that time, Gavin Esler, called him 'Bari' and even hosted Bari's book launch. He wanted his friend on the programme, he said, because he was ''subversive''.

And Bari was always a highly controversial figure, having made statements openly rejoicing in terrorist attacks against Israel and fantasising about dancing ''with delight'' in Trafalgar Square if the Iranians attacked Israel - something Gavin Esler and the BBC knew, yet evidently let pass.

Has he been finally dropped? I've searched via various methods and not found him on Dateline London recently.

He's evidently not been quiet though. As ever, he's been ranting away, away from UK television, recently expressing his hope that what happened at Kabul Airport will repeat itself at Ben Gurion Airport, and that Israelis should learn to swim like “rats fleeing a sinking ship".

To sum up: The man who the BBC made their MOST-frequent guest on their flagship foreign affairs panel programme over the course of several years - and treated with love and kid gloves - was an Israel-hating zealot, and the BBC knew this and kept him on, continually inviting him on more than anyone else.

So have they finally dropped him though? 

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