A BBC Car Crash

BBC News Channel’s Dateline London on 13 April discussed the outcome of the Israel election. You can watch the replay here or here. The discussion – moderated by the BBC’s Carrie Gracie (who resigned as China Editor because she felt she was paid less than male colleagues) – starts at 13:28.  Jonathan Sacerdoti speaks first. He advances reasons why Netanyahu might have won the election – for example, standing up to the hostile Obama Administration, successfully holding his ground on the Iran deal, having a good relationship with President Trump, presiding over a strong economy and cultivating relationships with the Arab world. At 16.55 Gracie brings in Abdel Bari Atwan who has clearly been itching to jump in over Sacerdoti. Sure enough, the bile against Israel comes out: Trump was the “election director” who assured Netanyahu’s victory, Netanyahu is leading Israel towards an “apartheid state”, the Nation State law deprives non-Jews of their Israeli citizenship. All ridiculous lies. When Sacerdoti challenges this nonsense, Annalisa Piras – not known as a Middle East expert – supports Atwan. (If you search Google and Twitter you will find that the sum total of Piras’ expertise on the Middle East appears to be this):
pirasAt 19.46 Sacerdoti – who seems to be the only one of the four who has any knowledge of the topic – clarifies what Netanyahu said about annexing parts of Judea/Samaria. Now watch Piras at 20.52. With shocking rudeness she tells Gracie to silence Sacerdoti ! – “it seems to be quite a monologue”. Gracie obliges (!) and turns back to Atwan. Atwan then blames Netanyahu for “killing the two State solution” (the truth was that the Palestinian Authority killed peace talks by joining with Hamas). Sacerdoti is far too well-mannered to jump in but at 22.38 his appalled look into the camera says it all. (Maybe he is thinking about Atwan’s 2013 comment that Osama Bin Laden was only “half a terrorist”……….).

Like Piras, Iain Martin of The Times appears to have little – if any – track record as a Middle East expert or even indeed in international relations more generally, beyond Brexit issues (presumably why he was chosen, as the first part of Dateline London was about Brexit).

So when at 23.30 Martin goes to town on the hyperbole, it’s hard to take him seriously: Netanyahu’s victory is “a tragedy and a potential geopolitical catastrophe”. It will “provoke among the Palestinians’ allies an uprising and a backlash which will have very serious consequences.” (This is analogous to the argument that women should not wear short skirts).

At 25:15 Piras at last gets the floor. She shows her ignorance by criticising the US for “recognising Jerusalem as the new capital”. Wrong. Jerusalem has ALWAYS been the capital.  

All in all, a BBC car crash. Apart from anything else, to expect the same panel to be knowledgeable about both Brexit and the Middle East is a big mistake.