Thursday, 24 July 2014

Jeremy Bowen's Gaza notebook: "I saw no evidence of Hamas using Palestinians as human shields"

The BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen has written a 'Gaza notebook' for the New Statesman. (Well, did you really think it would be for the Spectator or the Jewish Chronicle?). It is strikingly opinionated, even by his standards.

He uses it to dispute Benjamin Netanhayu's claims that Hamas uses civilians as human shields; indeed, even going so far as to paint Hamas in a rather protective-sounding light:
I saw Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, giving an interview to the BBC after Israel had killed more than 60 people in the Gaza district of Shejaiya. He said he regretted the civilian casualties in Gaza but they were the fault of Hamas. Netanyahu said Israel had warned people to get out. Some had taken the advice; others had been prevented from leaving by Hamas.
I was back in London for my son’s 11th birthday party by the time all those people were killed in Shejaiya. But my impression of Hamas is different from Netanyahu’s. I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields. I saw men from Hamas on street corners, keeping an eye on what was happening. They were local people and everyone knew them, even the young boys.
This comes despite Hamas publicly advocating the use of civilians as human shields (something Jeremy Bowen fails to acknowledge). The Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, was caught (by MEMRI) speaking on a local station recently, saying: 
This attests to the character of our noble, jihad-loving people – who defend their rights and their homes with their bare chests and their blood.
The policy of people confronting the Israeli warplanes with their bare chests in order to protect their homes has proven effective against the occupation… we in Hamas call upon our people to adopt this policy in order to protect the Palestinian homes.
And yet Jeremy Bowen dismisses it all, even after UNRWA found Hamas rockets in two of its Gazan schools, and despite credible reports that some civilians are deliberating ignoring Israel's warnings and that groups of civilians have actually gathered at targeted buildings in order to serve as human shields [see Channel 4's FactCheck blog]. 

A week in Gaza, and yet Jeremy Bowen "saw no evidence...of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields". 

Presumably, the blinkers he was wearing at the time didn't help.

UPDATE: BBC journalist: "Whenever I see Netanyahu I remember what happened to ex-PM Sharon! There's GOD wooo!"

Further to an earlier post...

DB at Biased BBC has followed up his spotting of a particularly biased tweet from a BBC journalist with the self-same journalist's apology:
(He probably meant "I sincerely apologise" rather than "I sincerely apologised"). 

On previous occasions, DB's catches have resulted in the Head of BBC News, whether it be Helen Boaden or Mary Hockaday, sending out emails to BBC staff reminding them that they shouldn't compromise the BBC's reputation for impartiality by sounding off on social media:
Helen Boaden (2010):
Dear All,
We have had some occasions recently of BBC News staff using social networking sites to share with the world their somewhat controversial opinions on matters of public policy and the future of the BBC. Unsurprisingly, these have been picked up by the wider web and used to discredit the BBC and its impartiality. We have Editorial Guidelines which cover the personal use of the internet …which everyone should observe. We also have brains and judgement which I suggest people fully engage before rushing to communicate. Hx
Mary Hockaday (2014):
Social media is now a vital part of our work, allowing us to get our journalism to new audiences, connect with people, and gather news as it happens.
But the guidance is clear when it comes to personal activity: 'As a BBC member of staff – and especially as someone who works in News – there are particular considerations to bear in mind. They can all be summarised as: 'Don't do anything stupid.'
"I'd also specifically draw your attention to the following section: 'You shouldn't state your political preferences or say anything that compromises your impartiality. Don't sound off about things in an openly partisan way. Don't be seduced by the informality of social media into bringing the BBC into disrepute.'
The last time this happened, I wrote, "I rather suspect that DB will have many more scoops, thanks to the 'rush to communicate' without 'brains' or 'judgement' of so many incautious BBC tweeters." And, indeed, here we are again. 

Will Mary Hockaday be re-sending that email out now?

Anti-farmer bias at the BBC?

In other BBC bias-related news, according to the Western Daily Press:
BBC is accused of bias over livestock farming coverage
The paper quotes former farmers' leader Richard Haddock accusing the BBC of showing "anti-farmer bias" with a report suggesting beef production is 10 times more damaging to the environment than any other form of livestock production. Mr Haddock's beef? That "the [BBC] report is based on studies carried out in America, where production methods are vastly different from British – but fails to make this sufficiently clear."
But he says few farmers will be surprised by it since the BBC's programming agenda now has a distinctly anti-livestock farmer slant. 
Mr Haddock said,: "How they raise beef in the US and how we raise grass-fed beef here are as different as chalk and cheese. We don't raise cattle on giant feed lots and grass-fed cattle have a natural diet. They are not fed on soybeans – one of the feedstuffs the report quotes."

As for the BBC's report, well, he thinks it's bullshit: 
The report quotes unnamed 'other researchers' as saying the conclusions of the new study are applicable in Europe.
Mr Haddock said: "That could only be asserted by someone with not a shred of knowledge about grass-fed beef production as practised across the South West.
"The only common factors relate to waste products. In fact, beef rearing here has a tremendous environmental benefit since cattle-rearing areas are some of the most well cared-for and attractive landscapes we have and far more attractive to wildlife than cereal or arable farms.
"They also act as a magnet for tourists: studies have shown it's the quality of landscapes in the South West that motivates more than two-thirds of holiday visits.
"No-one would want to visit an American feed lot, but unfortunately these days if the BBC gets a whiff of an anti-livestock farmer story, tiny details such as these are conveniently swept aside."
The report in question comes from BBC environment correspondent Matt McGrath. He seems to have taken over from Richard Black as the BBC's chief red-rag-to-a-bull correspondent for those critical of the BBC's environmental reporting (especially over climate science).

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Moral Maze

Tonight's The Moral Maze was quite something. 

To do justice to the thoughts it provoked would demand a post that took longer to read than it actually took to listen to the programme (and no one wants that), so I will simply sketch my initial impressions of it.

The panel contained two strongly pro-Israeli speakers, namely Melanie Phillips and Jill Kirby (making her debut), and one strongly pro-Palestinian speaker, Giles Fraser. The final speaker, Matthew Taylor, was happier to sit on the fence but dangled his feet on the Palestinian side.

The 'witnesses' were Colonel Richard Kemp and Dr Hugo Slim on the Israeli side, and Mehdi Hasan and Ted Honderich on the Palestinian side. 

Michael Buerk gave a characteristically fine introduction (firm but fair). 

Then came the first witness, Mehdi Hasan. 

Mehdi (characteristically) was very canny in making repeated denunciations of Hamas, saying that they too had committed war crimes. Of course, that concession allowed him to repeatedly make his main point - that Israel is committing war crimes and that Israel is worse than Hamas because of its superior military strength and because it is 'the occupier'. 

His argument didn't convince me but I can well imagine, unfortunately, that his fluency might have struck home with many a Radio 4 listener. 

Melanie's repeated attempts to talk him down, and both her and Jill's attempts to get him to condone Hamas rather misfired. He was perfectly happy to condemn Hamas (#Taqiyya?) in order to make his condemnation of Israel tell, thus (in the process) somewhat taking the wind out of their sails.

Next came Colonel Richard Kemp. 

He was very persuasive, making Israel's case with considerable reasonableness (as opposed to Mehdi's excitability). I suspect (and hope) that Radio 4 listeners will have responded well to his arguments. 

Both Matthew Taylor and Giles Fraser gave him space to make his arguments and seemed rather hard-placed to argue with them. Giles, characteristically, was passionate but also seemed somewhat disarmed by Col. Kemp's quietly-made points. It was a clear win for Col. Kemp.

Then came Ted Honderich. 

Prof. Honderich is a philosopher. [I own an encyclopedia of philosophy edited by him]. He sought to make a philosophical case in defence of Hamas. Yes, really.

I suspect (like me) that most Radio 4 listeners will have failed to make much sense of his arguments. All I took from his contribution is that he thinks Hamas is good and that Israel is bad, and that he thinks that Hamas is justified in deliberately seeking to kill Israeli civilians. Philosophically-speaking.

I almost wish that Michael Buerk hadn't cut him off so curtly from making his initial argument as I suspect that Radio 4 listeners would have been even more put off by the result. (Michael clearly didn't like Ted Honderich). Partly as a result, Prof. Honderich made very little headway here. 

His remarkable (and reprehensible) appearance was dominated by his spiteful encounter with Melanie Phillips. Insults flew in both directions. 

Finally came Dr Hugo Slim, who put the case for Israel well, but who was also willing to give his hands a good wringing in the process. Giles Fraser tried to wax passionate against him but seemed to find him too likable (too liberal) to get into a proper fistfight with, and Matthew Taylor appeared to reach a meeting of minds with him. 

The final panel discussion was lively. Giles Fraser came out (extraordinarily) as being sympathetic to Ted Honderich's pro-Hamas points (well, he is a Guardian editorial writer these days). Melanie Phillips tried to talk him down (and everyone else - until Jill Kirby made a good, pro-Israel point). Jill Kirby floundered somewhat, though she made some good points (first day nerves?). Michael Buerk had a dig at Giles for seeming to back up Prof. Honderich, and Matthew Taylor sat on the fence. 

All in all, a fiercely balanced programme. 

I did note that some people on Twitter denounced it as biased, though I couldn't work out in what direction they meant (and was deeply unwilling to check their Twitter feeds).

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The long and short of it

From the Jerusalem Post today:

No country would accept rockets raining down on its civilians, and all countries and parties have an international obligation to protect civilians, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
Ban, who arrived in Israel as part of his effort – together with US Secretary of State John Kerry – to broker a cease-fire, said at a press conference with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that the UN position was clear: “We condemn strongly the rocket attacks, and these must stop immediately.”
Ban did not say anything during his brief comments to the press about the status of efforts to forge a cease-fire.
The Secretary-General said his message to both Israelis and Palestinians was the same: “Stop fighting, start talking, and take on the root causes of the conflict so we are not back in the same situation in another six months or a year.”
He defined those issues as including “mutual recognition, occupation, despair and denial of dignity.”
Ban said that he “fully shares” and appreciates Israel's legitimate concern and the right to defend itself. He also urged to Israel to “exercise maximum restraint.”
Ban praised the Israeli people, saying that “even in the darkest hour the people of this country have such a tremendous capacity for generosity and good.” He then urged Israelis not to despair of the peace process, saying “there is no viable alternative to a two-state solution. No closure, no barrier will separate Israelis and Palestinians from a fundamental truth: you share one future.”
From the BBC News website today: 
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged Israel and the Palestinians to "stop fighting" and "start talking" to end the conflict in Gaza.
He was speaking in Israel as diplomatic efforts intensified.
More than 600 Palestinians and 30 Israelis have been killed in the past 14 days of fighting, officials say.
'Maximum restraint'
At a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr Ban urged Israel to exercise "maximum restraint", adding that "military action will not increase Israeli security in the longer term".
He called on the Palestinians to pursue a policy of "no violence, recognition of Israel and respect for previous agreements".

"Teacher, what will the Angel Gabriel do if a woman says 'No' to sex with her husband?"

Talking about comparing and contrasting things, the difference between Sky News and BBC News in their reporting of terror chief Peter Clarke's report into the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham is quite striking.

Teachers could face misconduct inquiries, she [Nicky Morgan] told the House of Commons, after Mr Clarke's report found a social media group called the "Park View Brotherhood" used by male senior staff at Park View School.
Mr Clarke's report said this included "grossly intolerant" messages.
He said the social media messages included "explicit homophobia; highly offensive comments about British service personnel; a stated ambition to increase segregation in the school; disparagement of strands of Islam; scepticism about the truth of reports of the murder of Lee Rigby and the Boston bombings; and a constant undercurrent of anti-western, anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment".
From Afua Hirsch of Sky News, however, we go beyond quotes to get some of the shocking details:
Clarke scrutinised 3,000 messages sent via a private, all-male group called the Park View Brotherhood on social networking app WhatsApp, characterising them as "highly offensive".
The messages included the claim that the murder of fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich was a "hoax", that gay people are "animals" and their attempts at marriage "Satanic" and that women belong in the kitchen and have a "perpetual role serving men".
Although these messages were sent in private between teachers, the report reveals a correlation between this ideology and changes in the curriculum at the schools concerned.
At Park View, the report says, all discussion concerning sexual orientation was removed from sex education lessons, and boys were told in a worksheet that: "If a woman said 'No' to sex with her husband, the Angel Gabriel would strike her down and condemn her to an eternity of hell."
Girls and boys were segregated and, at Nansen Primary School, the school day was considered inappropriate both for the young age of the children and for a secular school.
That said, if you want to get the shocking details in shocking detail you have to go to somewhere, yes, the Daily Mail
Teachers at the centre of the 'Trojan Horse' plot to takeover Birmingham schools exchanged messages that the murder of soldier Lee Rigby was a hoax, it emerged today.
A damning report into Birmingham schools has unearthed 'compelling evidence' of an attempt by a group of hardline Muslims 'to gain control of governing bodies', Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said.
The investigation, led by former anti-terror chief Peter Clarke, revealed details of a WhatsApp group called The Park View Brotherhood which also included a description of homosexuals as 'animals' with 'satanic ways’.
Mr Clarke was called in to investigate claims that schools in Birmingham were taken over in a plot to impose hardline Islamic rule. His was one of four inquiries into the allegations.
During his probe he was handed a dossier of more than 3,000 messages posted in the WhatsApp group from April 2013 until it was shut down in March.
Some of the messages suggested the brutal murder of Lee Rigby and the Boston Marathon bombings were both faked.
One post above a YouTube link attributed to someone identified as Teacher L on 24 May last year said: 'ATTACK ON ISLAM! Plz watch and share ASAP before they remove it!!!!! London butcher incident; It’s is a hoax And this is the link to reveal it.'
A message sent by Teacher C on 19 April said: 'Watch PROOF! Boston Marathon Bombing is Staged Terror Attack on YouTube.'
In May last year Mr Faraz allegedly posted a link to a news article about gay marriage followed by the message: 'These animals are going out full force. As teachers we must be aware and counter their satanic ways of influencing young people.'
There was evidence of young people being encouraged to 'adopt an unquestioning attitude to a particular hardline strand of Sunni Islam'
As they say: 'Compare and contrast'.

Islamist agenda

The news conference in Tel Aviv with Ban Ki Moon and Benjamin Netanyahu was beamed into our homes on BBC News 24 a few minutes ago. 

PM Netanyahu was explaining that Hamas is an extreme Islamist organisation, just like Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Al Shabab etc. etc.

 meanwhile a rolling banner was crawling across the screen below...........

“...........a government inquiry into evidence of an aggressive Islamist agenda in Birmingham schools finds clear evidence of extremist views........”

When it was over the BBC anchor summarised the content of the news conference: “Ban Ki Moon has strongly condemned the rocket attacks and Hamas’s use of hospitals, schools and other civilian facilities for military purposes etc etc” But neither Mr. Ban nor the BBC anchor mentioned Hamas’s aggressive Islamist agenda (which is just like Boko Haram, Al Qaeda , Al Shab. etc etc.) 

Where’s Peter Clarke when you need him?

What Jews think

More verbiage about the interview I mentioned below.

I woke up this morning (no, I’m not going to start singin’ de blues) and heard Sarah Montague announcing that we're going to hear later in the programme 'what British Jews think of the situation in Gaza.' 

Oh, I thought to myself, I’ll stick around. Maybe I’ll hear a different perspective from the usual BBC fare, surgically targeted emoting. You know, the precision engineered tearfulness that strikes without any collateral context whatsoever. 

At last, I’m thinking, we might get to hear something to counteract the wall-to-wall one-side-only reporting from a place where the number of innocent civilian males between 18 and 50 killed by ‘the Israelis’ seems to outnumber the entire population of Gaza, for balance. You know, balance, the flagship quality, which is at the heart of the BBC and its charter. Not the heart; the core. 

It was a long wait, somewhat alleviated by the encouraging news about the forthcoming Trojan Horse report. An interview with the headmistress of another Birmingham school who was full of praise for the thorough research and preparation shown by the investigating team. Their findings are anticipated with interest.

Another trail promised the views of “Israeli Jews”, so not British Jews then? 

Never mind, at least we might get a bit of balance as per the BBC’s pledge.

At last, after 8:am and two hours of anticipation, we finally got what we were waiting for.

 If the item had been introduced as “the views of one deranged self-hating Israeli and a Rabbi who is too nice to say anything of substance,” then it would have been fair enough. It would still have been excruciating, but at least it would have been honest.

Says the Today Programme's twitter feed. 

So support for Israel is not just any old support. it’s the special  “BLIND” kind of support. ( Blind; ergo wrong) 
The Audio Boo clip doesn’t do justice to the full extent of the offensiveness. It doesn’t catch Sarah Montague’s introduction, for a start. 
She begins by asking why Mira B-H tore up her Israeli passport, or made a bloody great fuss, very loudly, about threatening  to do so. 

“What is it particularly about this latest ‘trouble’ that has particularly got to you?” Sarah inquires.

Actually, Mira B-H has been an Israel-basher for quite a while don’t you know. Thrives on it. Made a career out of it.  
So, she wants nothing to do with the Jewish community’s almost blind support for the Israeli government, and I don’t suppose they’d want anything to do with her either, even with their eyes wide open.

“And you think that hasn’t been said loudly enough by Jewish communities around the world?” says Sarah, bizarrely assuming that Jewish ‘communities’ agree with such a nonsensical allegation.

“It hasn’t been said at all!” Mira exclaims. “I’m still waiting to hear the voices of influential Jewish journalists and writers in this country” she adds, conveniently forgetting her own influential Guardian contributions, amongst others too numerous to list.

“Perhaps it’s because they don’t think that” ventures Sarah, tentatively.

 Now for the bit about intimidation. We’ve had all this ‘Muslims are the new Jews’ palaver, where Islamophobia has become a fashionable topic for the themed dinner party, almost equalling antisemitism in popularity, but now Mira B-H is bringing us “Jews are the new Muslims”. 

According to Mira B-H’s inner voices, dissenting Jews (dissenting from the common and garden “blind Jews”) are  disenfranchised, ex-communicated and their children are friendless and  bullied at the hand of Jewish community leaders. So, a kind of Jewish Trojan Horse scenario. The Trojan Jew affair.  

“And I have a lot of evidence for that” ..... “Which I can’t divulge”

“Rabbi Laura J-K, how do you feel about what’s going on in Gaza?” says Sarah expectantly.

What is the good Rabbi expected to say? I couldn’t give a shit? Well, she doesn’t say that, obviously.
She says ‘we feel empathy with both sides, we’re heartbroken and what Mira says is not true.’ But she would say that wouldn’t she. That is what the audience will think.

“But supportive of what Israel is doing in Gaza? asks Sarah, her voice trembling with incredulity.

“It’s complicated. People are speaking out.”

“People are too frightened to speak out.” Mira B-H assures us before her next, particularly offensive contribution.

“Heartbreaking pictures of children killed and dying, but you mention the number of Israelis  killed, who, apart from two, are all soldiers doing their duty. You might as well count Hamas militants being killed.”

'Soldiers doing their duty?' Like, robots, mechanical and disposable, as opposed to human beings? as opposed to children of loving parents?  Some of them aren’t even 20 years old you stupid person.

Doing their duty? Of course they have to do their horrible, dangerous, life threatening duty. 

You might as well count Hamas militants being killed” 

Ah. Well that’s another thing altogether. You jolly well might. You jolly well might as well count them because apparently there aren’t many. That’s obvious, because most of the dead are civilians, surely you’ve heard that? It’s been announced enough times on the BBC. In fact, every single time a new death toll is given out, that particular piece of information tops it off. So counting them would indeed be interesting. 

“There is no proportion and there is no balance. If Israel had pictures of dead and dying they’d hand them out, but there is none.”

No they wouldn’t and yes there are.

Rabbi Laura J-K gets irritating now. She’s on the back foot and produces irrelevant and creepy evidence that nice Jews empathise with the Muslims and lots of them fasted on Ramadan to prove it. I think that is quite creepy and pointless, but there you go. I’m not nearly as nice as Rabbi Laura.

Neither is Mira. 
She’s had a lot of trolling. Twitter and that. And an organisation called Cif Watch, which, instead of concentrating on balance, which they purport to do, has 'reported her to the police over some more innocuous stuff' she’d written previously. Sounds pretty balanced to me.

Bad morning

The Today programme trailed this interview with Mira Bar Hillel and Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner as “What  British Jews think of what is happening in Gaza” or “What Israeli Jews think of what Israel is doing”.

However if there’s anyone reading this who doesn’t know who Mira B-H is, let’s just say she’s not a representative of  “British Jews” in any way shape or form. By promoting her untypical opinions the media is clearly exploiting a disturbed individual as provocateur for their own cynical ratings campaign. That’s the Guardian feeding the BBC in this case.

Sarah Montague’s introduction was by no means impartial too. It contained the boiler-plate  misinformation about shortages of “food and medicine” being due to Israel’s blockade over many years, but that’s almost par for the course.

The innuendo in Ms B-H’s allegation that the Jewish community would ex-communicate, bully, and be generally horrid to dissenting voices was plain weird. Are Jews now the new Muslims? Is that what she’s trying to imply? 
The deaths of Israeli soldiers, she says, don’t count as tragedies. Why? Because they’re soldiers. 
Of course they’re bloody soldiers. Israelis, from 19 years of age have to serve their country while they’re hardly more than children. Why ? Because fanatical antisemitic religious Muslims want to exterminate them and theirs.  

So the BBC can report the views of people like M B-H till they’re blue in the face, but don’t let them promote them as the views of “British Jews”.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Less emoting more reporting

Instead of wall-to-wall footage of Lyse Doucet interviewing people like  Dr. Belal Al-Dabour who celebrated at the thought of an abducted Israeli soldier, and the notorious Hamas supporting Doctor Mads Gilbert and tearfully showing us round hospitals, (Lyse, remember what happened to Barbara Plett, sniff sniff?) What fate awaits those that blub on the beeb? well as ‘emoting for reporting,’ what about telling us something we don’t know as well. News about, say, the extent and purpose of Gaza tunnels.

“soldiers discovered there was an underground Gaza just like there was an aboveground Gaza, and that the Hamas movement had invested an enormous amount of resources into constructing that underground Gaza.”
Where did these resources come from? Iran, the UN, the US, the UK? 
"It was suddenly revealed that there are two Gazas: One is the crowded, impoverished and faltering Gaza, but there is also an “underground Gaza,” buried deep below the surface. As of now, the IDF has located 36 tunnels, but even during the current fighting, with the IDF still searching the area, terrorists have been sent to launch attacks deep in Israeli territory through tunnels that have yet to be discovered. According to the security source’s assessment, these are enormous tunnels, the planning and preparation of which probably lasted approximately three years. The cost of excavating, reinforcing and maintaining each tunnel is approximately $1 million, and as far as is now known, dozens of such quality tunnels were dug along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, from the northernmost part of the territory all the way to the south."
That must be why Hamas is willing to have a nice convenient hudna.
The Israeli exit of these tunnels is sometimes as far as half a kilometer beyond the Green Line. Over the years, once the tunnels were completed, they all required routine maintenance to ensure that they remained operational and hidden. It was even necessary to protect them from flooding during winter storms, a problem exacerbated by Gaza’s broken and collapsing drainage and runoff system. One can only wonder why Hamas — a movement that advocated the improvement of life quality for Gaza residents and offered them “change and reform” — did not even invest as little as one-hundredth of the cost of the tunnels to renovate Gaza’s sewage system. Instead, it invested in building more tunnels and rockets.

Then there are the tunnels along the border with Israel. These were intended to allow Hamas activists from the Gaza Strip to infiltrate deep into Israeli territory. Israel had already established a security fence along its border with Gaza, which has successfully prevented countless terrorist infiltrations and attacks. So the border tunnels were dug beneath the fence.Much to the misfortune of the people of Gaza, Hamas has invested far more resources in “underground Gaza” than in “upper Gaza.” The border tunnels and the defensive tunnels intended to ensure the safety of the Hamas command cadre proved that the movement’s priorities were flawed. The movement was founded as a welfare organization, intended to provide for the needy of Gaza, but instead it invested its resources in its own needs, at the expense of the population. Anyone who voted for Hamas in the 2006 elections as a way of protesting Fatah’s corruption received a very different kind of corruption instead. The “change and reform” that Hamas offered its voters was invested in its tunnels at the expense of the people of Gaza.But the tunnels extending into Israeli territory reveal another old-new aspect of Hamas’ behavior and methodology. The motif of shahada, or “martyrdom,” in the person of suicide bombers, has once again taken over the movement. During the second intifada, Hamas used all its force and means to encourage suicide attacks against Israel.

See? These Hamas folk are Islamists.They’re terrorists. You forgot that, didn’t you Lyse? 

...and statistics

I have been asking myself this question. If the situation were reversed would I do the same? Would I produce a body count to bolster my position? And I’d have to say that yes, I probably would do something similar. Not flaunt the images as the Palestinians and supporters of the Palestinians do, but perhaps I might use the casualties to amplify a defensive position. 

Of course the present situation could never be reversed for reasons too numerous to state here, but we don’t have to imagine a case in reverse where the death toll, at least, was disproportionate. We have a ready-made example. The holocaust.

We do cite the holocaust to remind us of the importance of “never again”  and to remind others why Israel needs to exist; when we do so, however, we are met with the following deflections.

  1. belittling the holocaust / denying it or comparing it to other casualties of war.
  2. cynically calling it an ‘industry’, saying we exploit the holocaust and use it to shut down debate.
  3. the ‘you of all people’ manoeuvre, a perfect example of reasoning turned on its head. Logic says that any ‘lesson’ to be learned from the holocaust should be directed at potential perpetrators, i.e., antisemites and Judeophobes, who could do well to learn what hatred and demonisation can lead to. It’s not a lesson for the Jews who already know this. Their lessons have to be “Beware, and Never again.”

Many of those who plaster the internet with images of dead babies rely on nothing more than the body count when questioning or denying Israel’s right to defend itself. That often extends to questioning Israel’s right to exist; they believe that the uneven tally of corpses proves that Israel ‘shouldn’t be there’.

Let them consider whether propagandising with such images amounts to exploiting a tragedy. Let them ask themselves if they are not doing the very thing they denounce, should a Jew have the impudence to mention the holocaust in the same breath as the need for a Jewish homeland, or the have the audacity to say ‘never again’.
Let them consider whether their dead baby scoreboard is a valid justification for Hamas’s use of human shields, digging elaborate smuggling tunnels, diverting cash into amassing weapons and infrastructure solely for the purpose of attacking Jews,  murdering Palestinian collaborators, preventing people (women and children) from escaping from battle zones or receiving medical attention, celebrating Israeli deaths,  artificially enhancing civilian casualty figures, lying about everything to everyone, etc etc etc.

So, quite a bit more than a mirror image of ‘Jews and the holocaust industry.’ Have I thought this through? I'm not sure, but  by the same token we must not blindly minimise the hurt and loss suffered by the parents of dead and injured Palestinian children, or assume their grief is paraded merely as part of a cynical ‘industry’ and not genuinely felt.   

A delicate tightrope has to be navigated on tiptoe, given that Pallywood shows that there is an industry, and unexpected revelations like the BBC’s exposĂ© of “hashtag gazaunderattack” show that many people are exploiting tragedy. 

We should concentrate (which we usually do) on showing that the tragic death toll and suffering is caused by Hamas, Islam and antisemitism, and not by the existence of Israel.

Lies, damned lies......

I’ve been thinking about images of dead babies. In November 2012 I wrote a piece called War Porn
At the first sign of trouble, simply whip out an image, verbal, visual or subliminal, of a Palestinian baby, and you’ve won your own little war.”  I said that then, and now I have to say it again.

Cast your mind back to Question Time, November 2012.  Operation Pillar of Cloud/Defense.  Owen Jones was on the panel, and the Israel question came up. He delivered a lengthy unchallenged and uninterrupted rant devoted to castigating Israel, firstly for the disproportionate number of Palestinian casualties (not enough Israelis) and in particular for the murder of one particular small child whose corpse had been paraded through the streets, filmed and photographed with his distraught father. These images had been plastered everywhere, over and over again, to illustrate Israel’s brutality.  

When it was subsequently discovered that the child’s death was almost certainly due to a ‘shortfall’ incident, a Palestinian own goal so to speak, nobody in the media made nearly as much of a hullabaloo, or any kind of hullabaloo at all. The image is still used in certain circles, like the ‘iconic’ Al Durah image, to symbolise Israel’s malevolence.

Of course dead babies are proof that war is a nasty business. So why aren’t the Palestinians and Israel-bashers everywhere begging Hamas to accept a ceasefire? Why aren’t the press putting that to their spokespersons?

It’s shameful that people are so lazy, so ignorant and so ready, willing and able to use the casualty count as a substitute for properly evaluating Hamas’s conduct, let alone its raison d'ĂȘtre.

Brendan O’Neil addressed that topic. He thinks people are getting a frisson of satisfaction from parading gruesome images of ‘dead babies’. “This photo made me weep. Aren’t I good?” 

Now Owen Jones has written an article in the Guardian entitled: “How the occupation of Gaza corrupts the occupier.”
He’s discovered the psychology of “othering” and quoting Friedrich Engels. Did you know that occupations corrupt the occupier? Corrupted occupiers have to “other” the enemy, and dehumanise them so that they can fully enjoy their enemy's defeat without those annoying pangs of conscience.
“To regard the lives of those your country is subjugating as being equal to your own would make even one death intolerable. If you think their children are much like your own, you would be unlikely to believe any military operation that kills dozens had a justification; you would demand an alternative strategy, however difficult it might at first appear.”
That was Professor Jones’s analysis of the dehumanisation process. He’s benevolently psychoanalysing the poor Israelis who can’t help being corrupted by occupying Gaza (which they don’t) because they themselves have been traumatised by the holocaust, and their victimhood has made them do: 
“a mental process that blames the Palestinian deaths on Palestinians themselves.” 
Ain’t that a shame. All of that bollocks to justify his opening salvo. Yes, it’s the Sderot Cinema. You know, those bloodthirsty whoops and cheers as the corrupt Jews watched the Arabs being blown to smithereens. (or maybe not)

Owen Jones is too smart for his own good. In defining the Israeli Jews’ ‘corruption’ he’s inadvertently described his own. He doesn’t see this of course because he’s too clever. The cosy consensus ( the antisemitic Guardian, the left-leaning/Muslim coalition and the BBC who have officially decided that most of the dead in Gaza are “civilians”) are in a sense the occupiers, and his demonisation of the Israelis is a fine example of “othering”.

About vicars

"Male vicars (as opposed to women vicars whose gender predisposes them to ‘listen to people’) are frequently waiting to fill the first moment of silence with their own intellectual offerings” said the father of a female vicar on Sunday Live. (roughly) It was a negative comment about the latter, but still, in the absence of debate all we can do here on this blog is fill space with offerings. We’re not even vicars.

Anyway that made me think of a vicar I admire, Canon Andrew WhiteThe Vicar of Baghdad” and I wonder how he’s doing now.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Biasless in Gaza, at the BBC with Roger Bolton?

This week's Feedback dealt with the issue of BBC bias over the latest Israel-Palestinian conflict. 

First came two listeners from one side of the argument:
My name's Jean Fitzpatrick and I live in London. I wish the BBC would give more time to hear the Palestinian voice, the Palestinian side, so it's not so much that it's only about Israel but we don't hear the Palestinian voice, the Palestinian situation.
My name's Jenny Hardacre. I'm calling from Cambridge. The current coverage, I think it is very one-sided. I don't think they present the Palestinian perspective at all and they don't give enough information about the historical context. I don't think it's only biased. I think they censor the Palestinian viewpoint. 
Roger Bolton then said that the programme had received "a similar number" of complaints from the other side:
My name's Mitch Hansen. I can't help feeling that the BBC's reporting of the Israel-Hamas conflict is rather skewed in favour of those living in Gaza. The emphasis appears to be on how terrible it is from Gaza to be subject to bombardment by Israeli forces while very little is said about how terrible it is for Israelis to live in constant fear of rocket attacks originating from the territory.
My name is Molly Cooper. How is it that there was no mention of rockets fired on Israel until the IDF began to bomb terrorist targets? It's true I'm elderly but I do look back with nostalgia to the days when the BBC could relied on as being more objective, dispassionate in its reporting.
The senior BBC editor who responded to these complaints - Andrew Roy, World Editor of BBC News - made the familiar case that this shows that the BBC is getting it right. [I thought of transcribing his response, but you really don't need a transcript to guess what he said, so it would have been a waste of time.]

What I would have done, if I were in his position, is to cite whatever evidence I had - especially statistical evidence - to back up my claims that the BBC has been impartial thoughout, but that's something BBC editors never seem to do on programme's like Feedback or Newswatch.

Others, however, do, and the BBC should be prepared for them.

I nearly fell out of bed on Tuesday morning. It was around 8.40 am and I should have been up anyway, but I had only gone back to bed an hour before.
I find sleeping difficult when the sun rises early, so I had been up since dawn working on an obsessive local history project before popping back for a quick nap.
Of course the Today programme was on in the background. It has the peculiar property of being able to send me to sleep and sometimes wake me up. This time it was the latter. A voice from the turbulent past.
I had last heard of Professor Greg Philo in the early 1980s when his Glasgow media Group analysed the Corporation’s coverage of the Miners’ Strike and found it wanting. I was a BBC programme Editor at the time and, although I did not agree with much that he wrote, I was impressed and challenged by his analysis, which certainly made me think, and was a valuable corrective to the parliamentary consensus.
On Today on Tuesday he was also in challenging mode, alleging that the Beeb’s coverage of the conflict in Gaza was pro-Israel. Many Feedback listeners agree with him, and almost as many disagree.
It was refreshing to hear his views, and I look forward to the publication of his detailed analysis, and that of those who allege the opposite. I also hope voices like his will be heard more regularly. Broadcasters need to be challenged. That’s what Feedback is all about.
Roger Bolton is complimentary about Greg Philo there and says he awaits his detailed analysis of the BBC's coverage. 

I, on the other hand, would be much more inclined to be sceptical about any detailed analysis that comes from so biased a source as Greg Philo, especially in light of what he asserted to Mishal Husain on Today last week:
Well, the Palestinian perspective is just not there. The Israelis are on twice as much.
Will his 'research' prove that? 

Well, here's some proper research (if I say so myself) - a complete list of all the people interviewed in set-piece interviews on five of the BBC's main current affairs programmes up until Friday morning [I would have gone further but the BBC iPlayer has been down this weekend].

It is free for you to examine. 

Does it show that "the Israelis are on twice as much"? Please do your own analysis and draw your own conclusions:

Danny Danon, Israeli Deputy Defence Minster 

Daniel Taub, Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom
Mustafa Bargouti, Palestinian National Initiative Party

TODAY 1st July
Ron Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the United States
Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian National Initiative Party

Israa al-Mudallal, Palestinian foreign affairs spokeswoman
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, IDF spokesman
Daniel Levy, European Council on Foreign Relations

Avi Sharit, Ha'aretz

TODAY 2nd July
Oliver McTernan, Forward Thinking 
Dani Dayan, Yesha Council

Husam Zomlot of Fatah's Foreign Relations Committee

TODAY 3rd July
Dr Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the Political Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council
Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli PM

Chris Gunness, UNRWA Spokesman
Giora Eiland, former head of the Israeli National Security Council

Gideon Remez, Harry Truman Institute at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Mouin Rabbani, senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies

Osama Hamdan, Foreign Affairs spokesman, Hamas

TODAY 7th July
Mark Regev, Israeli government spokesman

Avi Sharit, Ha'aretz

TODAY 8th July
Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog, former chief of staff in the Israeli Defence Ministry

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, spokesman for the Israeli Defence Force
Osama Hamdan, Hamas spokesman

Sheera Frenkel, BuzzFeed's Middle East correspondent

TODAY 9th July
Raji Sourani, head of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Daniel Taub, Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom

Osama Hamdan, spokesman for Hamas
Retired Brig Gen Michael Herzog, former Israel negotiator
Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department

TODAY 10th July
Fawaz Gerges, LSE

Dr Yuval Steinitz, Israeli Intelligence Minister

TODAY 11th July
Adele Raemer from Kibbutz Nirim, Israel

WORLD AT ONE 11th July
Hussein Agha, senior associate member of St Antony's College, Oxford, former Palestinian negotiator

PM 11th July
Aaron David Miller, former U.S. Middle East envoy

Dennis Ross, former U.S. to the Middle East
Nancy Soderberg, former U.S. National Security Advisor

TODAY 12th July
Jacob Perry, Israeli Minister of Science
Prof. Manuel Hassassian,  Palestinian Authority's diplomatic representative to the United Kingdom

TODAY 14th July 
Dennis Ross, former U.S. diplomat

WORLD AT ONE 14th July
David Waltzer, Israel's ambassador to the EU
Leila Shahid, Palestinian Authority Ambassador to the EU

Nathan Thrall, Middle East analyst for the International Crisis Group

TODAY 16th July 
Isaac Herzog, leader of the Israeli Labor Party
Greg Philo, Glasgow University
Jonathan Freedland, the Guardian/Jewish Chronicle

Sara Hussein, Middle East correspondent, AFP
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, IDF spokesman

TODAY 17th July
Chris Gunness, UNRWA Spokesman

PM 17th July
Lord Levy, Tony Blair's Middle East envoy

Dr Mkhaimar Abusada, political scientist, Gaza
Daniel Taub, Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom

TODAY 18th July
Daniel Taub, Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom
Mustafa Bargouti, Palestinian National Initiative Party

Greg Philo is talking out of his rear end, isn't he?

BBC journalist: "Whenever I see Netanyahu I remember what happened to ex-PM Sharon! There's GOD wooo!"

The ever-vigilant DB at Biased BBC has spotlighted a tweet from impartial BBC World Service journalist Naziru Mikailu ("views here are personal!")...
As DB notes, Ariel Sharon died after being in a coma for several years. 

To which may be added a further impartial tweet:
He even re-tweeted the following from former Respect leader Salma Yaqoob:

What would Greg Philo make of that?

Amazing Maps

At the risk of crashing the side bar and making the blog look untidy (don't you hate it when that happens?), here are some gems from a Twitter feed called Amazing Maps. This sort of thing is right up my street (which appears on several maps though not on Amazing Maps):

Heavy metal bands per 100,000 people

How many players from each world cup squad play abroad


Age of Sexual Consent in Europe

The Second Largest Religion by U.S. State

How often countries vote with the United States at the UN

The disease most likely to kill you by country

Where does your wine come from?

Naming conventions in Europe, Asia and North Africa

Rigged BBC audiences?

Another group who have a habit of gathering outside BBC buildings to noisily protest against what they see as BBC bias are Scottish nationalists. They have held many a demonstration outside the BBC's headquarters in Scotland at Pacific Quay, Glasgow over the past year.

Another protest will probably be on the way then if today's Sunday Times is anything to go by:
Better Together ‘tipped off’ on BBC debates
SCOTTISH nationalists have voiced fresh concerns about the BBC’s approach to the independence referendum, suggesting a production company organising debates for the corporation gave advance notice to the No campaign.
Emails seen by The Sunday Times show a senior member of staff at Mentorn Media, which also produces Question Time, alerted a Better Together regional campaign organiser 10 days ago of forthcoming televised debates.
A note from its producer, Sheena Lahive, says this would give the organiser “a head start in spreading the word” to get supporters to apply to join the audiences in Stirling, Inverness, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
A Yes Scotland source said the nationalist campaign appeared to have received no comparable message.
If this is so, it would surely contravene the BBC’s guidelines for covering the referendum state, which state that, “Care must be taken over the course of the campaign to ensure that any one individual or perspective — or any one strand of argument — is not unduly favoured at the expense of other parties or perspectives.”

And, of course, it would give credence to the belief that audiences for programmes like Question Time are rigged by the BBC.

The BBC, naturally, rejects the charge completely:
A BBC Scotland spokesman said: “The BBC is committed to ensuring balance in all aspects of the Referendum Debate programmes, including an audience with equal numbers of Yes and No voters. We have been meticulous and successful in this regard in the shows so far.
“In order to ensure we can achieve this, we have occasionally contacted groups on both sides of the argument to ask if their supporters would like to apply to take part.
“Every applicant is vetted and selected using the same process, after filling in an online questionnaire and speaking to our audience producer.
“We will continue to produce our audiences in the same way for the remaining debates, in order to ensure both sides of the argument are properly represented.”
So did Mentorn Media also contact organisers at Yes Scotland? That's the question, I suppose. 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Part Five. (A rational idea from Abu Marzouk?)

Given that the conflict is becoming more intractable than ever, owing to the incitement instilled from cradle to grave through the Hamas/UNWRA education system - (I sometimes idly wonder whether Mahmoud Abbas is really a genuine partner for peace after all, and when he assures his people in Arabic that his peacemaking strategy is for the Western world only and all part of the ‘slow Jihad’, he’s only appeasing his Islamist audience. Well it’s worth a thought.) - anyway, a prominent Hamas speaker has posited the idea that Gaza would be better off under  reoccupation. Better off than as it is at present;  the continuation of the siege, the blockade, and Hamas’s habit of continually sacrificing civilians.

Think Gaza pre 1967, when under Egyptian rule it was a ‘hell-hole”. There was, after all, a dramatic improvement in life-expectancy etc., when the Israelis ‘took over’ after the six day war.) 

I first visited Gaza in August 1967. Israelis had been there only a matter of weeks. It was a hell hole, a vast prison. It had been under Egyptian control, and Egypt would not allow Palestinians into Egypt proper without a special permit, so the Palestinians had been in Gaza since 1948. The Palestinian refugee camps of Gaza, Jordan—now the West Bank—and Lebanon are stains on the world’s conscience; but they are a stain above all on the conscience of those Arab Governments whose purposes it has suited to use the Palestinians for their own political purposes. That started in 1947, when the Arab League rejected UN Resolution 181, which would have made two states, Jewish and Palestinian, out of mandate Palestine and assured the Palestinians that, although the Jewish Agency had accepted Resolution 181, the Arab League would prevent its implementation. With the British mandate ending on 15 May 1948, Israel declared independence on 14 May, which was incidentally immediately recognised by both the United States and the USSR. On 15 May, the forces of five Arab armies, from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Transjordan, which provided the British-trained Arab legion, entered what had been mandate Palestine and fought the 1948-49 war, with the results we all know.

If the Israelis did re-occupy Gaza at least they might be able to halt the negative, obstructive, destructive indoctrination of the next generation.   Who’s going to persuade them to take it on?

Part four. (Headache)

I saw an episode of Head to Head, Al Jazeera’s answer to .... I don’t know what, a kind of debate or something. The person in charge is Mehdi Hasan posing as Islam’s answer to Stephen Sackur. He must think of himself as a thoughtful interlocutor whose penetrating questions and mental agility will slay his opponent with one or two crushing blows. He is wrong. He comes across as a bully, a hypocrite; lazy of thought and shallow.  

The production gathers together an anti-Zionist mob - their version of our very own baying, smirking Question Time audience - well they would, wouldn’t they - to watch Mehdi batter and badger at anyone foolish enough to volunteer to be jeered, sneered, derided and interrupted. The victim was Dani Dayan on behalf of ‘the settlers’. He wasn’t going to get very far. Plainly. Opposing him was a collection of ...oh I won’t even go beyond Ghada Karmi. 

Mehdi bullies, shouts people down, twists their words.  Each time he scores a point he becomes more cartoon-histrionic and more starey-eyed and odd. Talking of heads, since that’s the name of the programme, Mehdi’s head is quite a strange shape. Flat at the back; minus the bit of brain that controls rational thought maybe. The audience smirks expectantly, aware that giving a credible response to Mehdi’s erroneous unanswerable questions is going to be nigh on impossible, which gives them much satisfaction.