Unreasonable demands

From today’s Independent:

The Taliban, whose extreme interpretation of Sharia law and its harsh punishments made Afghanistan one of world’s most repressive and reviled regimes, have agreed to soften their position on such things as beards and burqas as part of a trade-off in negotiations with the Afghan government…Although the new stance shows a shift in the Taliban posture, some demands are certain to be rejected by both President Karzai’s government and the Americans. They include the stipulation that all foreign forces should withdraw from Afghanistan within six months.

The Rise of the Machine

Could this be the machine?

An article in yesterday’s Financial Times reported some interesting (if characteristically deluded) perspectives from the Israeli right in its closing paragraphs.  International condemnation of Israel’s latest atrocities has apparently been blamed on the ‘Palestinian PR Machine’.  At first I thought this ‘machine’ was as subtle and obscure as other figments of the neocon/Likudnik imagination.   However, readers should be aware that according to a security source of mine it is indeed as powerful and frightful as these bizarre statements suggest and furthermore it can be launched within 45 minutes.  Its existence is also confirmed by Emanuele Ottolenghi of St Antony’s College, Oxford (oh yes and the American Jewish Committee’s Transatlantic Institute).

So it’s no laughing matter.  In fact it’s so powerful that it requires an even greater propaganda assault than Israel has already launched (in retaliation naturally).   According to the Financial Times:

To counter these forces and repair Israel’s standing, one rightwing commentator this week went so far as to call for an Israeli ministry for PR. Adi Mintz said the ministry should be fitted out with “many dozens of video teams, editors and producers that would generate materials and immediately distribute them to all media outlets”. Israel’s message, he added, should be heard not just in America, but also “on television screens in Romania and China”.

BBC rejects play on Israel’s history for impartiality reasons

The Guardian reports today that the BBC declined to broadcast a play examining Israeli history and attitudes to war despite believing that it is a ‘brilliant piece’.  This follows some criticism of the play in the right wing press.

The BBC has declined to broadcast a radio version of Caryl Churchill’s controversial new stage play about Israeli history, claiming it needed to remain impartial ‑ the same reason given for declining to air the Gaza emergency appeal.

In a move likely to resurrect the row over the BBC’s refusal in January to broadcast the appeal to help the people of Gaza, Radio 4 rejected an unsolicited manuscript of the play, Seven Jewish Children, which recently finished a short run at the Royal Court theatre. BBC sources suggest that a significant factor in the decision was awareness of the controversy stirred by Seven Jewish Children during its theatre run and the fact that the BBC has only recently survived the onslaught of criticism for its refusal to broadcast the Gaza appeal. In an email seen by the Guardian, Radio 4’s drama commissioning editor Jeremy Howe said that he and Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer thought Churchill’s play was a “brilliant piece”.

Continue reading “BBC rejects play on Israel’s history for impartiality reasons”

anti-zionism and good manners

Anyone who doubts that liberal intellectuals have a habit of conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism should read a bizarre and rather pitiful column in the New Statesman this week.  The author is a London based Jewish-American journalist called Rhoda Koenig.  Koenig’s piece seems to be intended as an exposé of an alleged undercurrent of anti-Semitism amongst the British upper middle classes.  However, whilst the article does make mention of an anti-Semitic comment, in the main it focuses on the betrayal felt by the author when one of her friends casually agreed ‘that Israel is becoming very unpleasant’ and then had the nerve to suggest visiting Syria.  Koenig describes how her ‘heart sank deeper and deeper, [as] he enthusiastically described the archaeological treasures, the history, the romance.’ 

Its a silly article and I think only worth mentioning because the New Statesman apparently considered it worth publishing.

Criminalising Resistance

Following yesterday’s article on the criminalisation of dissent by Seumas Milne in The Guardian (posted below), The Guardian today reveals that the Government’s new ‘counterterrorism’ strategy due next month called Contest 2 will define as ‘extremist’ anyone who believes in ‘armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military.’ It would also include those who ‘fail to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.’

The gall of this plan is quite breathtaking. Not content merely with providing political and material support to Israel’s illegal occupation, not to mention launching illegal wars and occupations of its own, the British Government will now explicitly label all resistance to these illegal and unethical projects as ‘extremist’. 

This represents a shift from the misuse of anti-terrorist legislation to attack and smear organised resistance as violent or as being infilitrated by violent extremists, towards the active repression of citizens who oppose the policy or ideology of the British Government, apparently even pacifists.  A Whitehall source told BBC Panorama that Contest 2 is a “move away from just challenging violent extremism. We now believe that we should challenge people who are against democracy and state institutions “

And of course there is no suggestion that ‘Contest 2’ will cover those who support atrocities by the British or Israeli state.  Nothing extreme about massacring Arabs obviously.  And those who are “against demoracy”?  How about the EU’s response to the election of Hamas?

Jeremy Dear on the BBC and the DEC appeal

The general secretary of the National Union of Journalists Jeremy Dear has written a piece for Tribune criticising the BBC’s DEC decision.  Dear says he has received “emails from senior BBC journalists who say this decision makes the BBC look pro-Israeli and indifferent to the plight of 1.5 million Palestinian victims and those who say the BBC has breached its own rules on impartiality.”  He also makes some contentious observations on the BBC’s coverage of Israel’s assault and criticises the response from the anti-war movement:

This week, I witnessed protestors outside Broadcasting House chanting: “BBC hear us say, how many kids have you killed today?” Well, none. It is not true, as many anti-war groups have claimed, that the BBC has “capitulated to the Israeli lie machine”. There has been some excellent journalism during this conflict by BBC and other journalists, despite the Israeli ban on foreign reporters entering Gaza and the arrest and the killing of five Palestinian journalists.

And those who threaten a boycott of the BBC licence fee are mistaken. Those on the right have spent years trying to undermine BBC funding for their own political and commercial self-interest. We shouldn’t fall into the trap of destroying the BBC in the long term because of heartfelt, but short-term, anger at this decision.

Israeli Settlements

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has revealed that roughly 75 per cent of construction of Israeli settlements has been carried out in contravention of Israeli law.  The statistics are taken from a secret database compiled by the Ministry of Defence in order to fight legal challenges against the settlement programmes brought by the Palestinians.  Scandalous indeed.  You’d think that an illegal occupation would at least respect its own bogus laws.

More to the point, neither Haaretz  nor the BBC, which  picks up the story on its website, mention that 100 per cent of the Israeli settlements have been declared illegal by the World Court.

The BBC on basic moral values

The following is an extract from a BBC internal document from 1972 called Principles and Practice in News and Current Affairs.


The BBC cannot be neutral in the struggle between truth and untruth, justice and injustice, freedom and slavery, compassion and cruelty, tolerance and intolerance.  It is not only within the Constitution: it is within the consensus about basic moral values.


Evidently this is no longer BBC policy.