Thursday, 19 April 2018

Blast from the past.

Remember a few years ago when an pseudonymical poster with the moniker “Soothsayer”  ‘leaked’ an internal BBC message to the comments field at Biased BBC? It caused no end of confusion. From November 2012:  BBC Watch summed it up thus:
“Some unidentified BBC persona, perhaps resentful at being advised to report Operation Pillar of Cloud in a fair and impartial manner rather than with the usual partisan anti-Israel  twist, “leaked” the e-mails by posting them verbatim on Biased-BBC, confusingly and mischievously omitting to clarify that they were in fact BBC internal memos.”

“The way we have been wording our paragraph on when the fighting started is causing endless complaints. It’s the specific reference in time which is upsetting people.
We have been saying:
The conflict began last Wednesday when Israel killed a Hamas military leader, saying it wanted an end to rocket attacks from Gaza. More than 110 Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed.
To a lot of people, the conflict was already raging, and they interpret that as blaming or putting undue emphasis on Israel.
Can we please use the following form of words which gets round that:
Israel launched its offensive, which it says is aimed at ending rocket fire from Gaza, with the killing on Wednesday of a Hamas military leader. More than 110 Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed since then.
Raffi Berg
Middle East desk
BBC News website
+44 203 614 xxxx

and later:
Please remember, Israel doesn’t maintain a blockade around Gaza. Egypt controls the southern border. Israel maintains a blockade around its borders with Gaza, as well as a naval blockade. It also controls Gaza’s airspace.
We’ve mistakenly said “around Gaza” in a number of recent stories, which has generated complaints.
Raffi Berg
Middle East desk
BBC News website
+44 203 614 1824

Because of the complete absence of explanation or background, at first glance these comments appeared to be questions posed by a BBC employee and apparently aimed at his critics at Biased-BBC. Messages that were eventually recognised as internal memos from a BBC journalist (presumably addressed to his superiors at the guidelines HQ) initially looked as if someone at the BBC had mysteriously begun to listen, perhaps with the intention of pandering to the 'notorious Israel lobby' at Biased-BBC.  This individual, based in the Middle East, appeared to be asking ‘our’ permission to use terminology we would find acceptable, so that we’d ease off with our constant criticism.  The pro-Palestinian bias is, and has been the status quo at the BBC for a number of years, and a complex variety of events have only emboldened the BBC and allowed it to become more openly pro-Palestinian than ever. Islamist terrorism and the cultural upheaval engulfing the western world has hardly dented the BBC’s anti-Zionist position. (What would it take?)

Who was this Raffi Berg, we wondered, and who was his pseudonymous saboteur? I don’t think we’ll ever know the identity of Mr or Ms Soothsayer, but the answer to the first question can be found in a remarkable Israel-related story has appeared on the BBC website; remarkable in that it goes against the flow. It’s a positive story about Israeli ingenuity, intrigue, suspense and even glamour and it’s written by the very same Raffi Berg.  The Holiday Village Run by Spies.
 H/T Harry’s Place, where it’s going down well.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The BBC's antisemitism problem vol ll

It is completely dispiriting to read comments all over the blogosphere stating that all the fuss and furore over Labour’s antisemitism problem will make little or no difference. Not to the party itself, not to the thousands of new members, not to the voters, not to anyone.
The media is already losing interest. The debate in the HoC has come and gone. Corbyn has “chuntered” and mumbled, has walked out of the debate during some of the most impassioned speeches, has been heckled, has refused to participate in the debate himself, has stymied a forthcoming meeting with the mainstream Jewish community by insisting that the Jewish antisemitism-denying faction is present to shield him from reality, and is sitting tight until the fuss dies down. Which it will.

The media bears a huge responsibility for this state of affairs. Although the debate was impressive and emotional, much of it was irrelevant. Certainly the speeches by the Jewish and non Jewish MPs who had been bullied and abused online, them and their families threatened with rape or murder were affecting. But the only speech that got to the nub was one that hardly anyone else has highlighted. So I’ll do it here.
Chris Green MP 18.37.33

"There is the frequent demonisation - the unique demonisation of the State of Israel, which happens only to the Jewish State. No other comparison happens wit any other country in the world. the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign represents a unique attack on Israel, and lends itself not just to anti Zionism but also to antisemitism. It is the attempted isolation of Israel through commerce, academia, and through culture. 
Isn’t it incredible, that we would seek to isolate Israel to stop businessmen and women, to stop academics and to stop artists and musicians working in and working with the State of Israel. Increasingly Jews in Europe are leaving for Israel; we must deal with antisemitism in Britain before British Jews fee they have to leave our land."

All the fuss about the washed-out has-been Ken Livingstone is a distraction.  Yes, chuck him out. Suspend him definitely. Get him sectioned. I don’t care. But deal with the BBC’s one-sided, anti-Israel reporting or you’ll never ever rid the Labour Party or the political left of antisemitism.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Applause in the HoC

I watched Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons this afternoon.

No, not the emergency debate  secured by Corbyn .....
 “calling for a new War Powers Act that would require Parliament to be consulted on military intervention”.
As it happens, I did watch that one (which seemed to be eating into the time allocated for the following one) while waiting for the advertised business, the debate about antisemitism. (Click to view the whole thing)

Many of the most significant speeches are on Youtube already, and Guido has some of them on his site, where I notice the comments are disabled. That’s unusual for Guido. I wonder why. No I don’t.

Apparently Jeremy Corbyn was “Chuntering" during the speeches (before he left the chamber)

....but  warned he won’t take part…

Luciana Berger got a round of applause, and

So did Ruth Smeeth. The antisemitic comments she read out were not quite as amusing as Richard Dawkins's....

John Mann was terrific, and

Ian Austin was impressive.

The BBC has reported it here:
“The Labour leader, who was present in the chamber for much of the debate, is due to hold talks next week with leading Jewish groups amid criticism of his handling of anti-Semitism cases.”
They describe it in a 'glass half full' way, whereas sone of us might have put it another way “The Labour leader, who was absent from the chamber for much of the debate.."

The News Channel was much more interested in the previous business as was Corbyn.
The leader of the opposition looked even more reptilian than normal during Andrew Gwynn’s statement, but he slunk off in the middle of the debate, missing the most impassioned contributions. 

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Open Thread

New Open Thread


Now with bonus image, courtesy of Loondon Calling:

Arrival of the Floating Pool: After 40 years of crossing the Atlantic, the architects/lifeguards reach their destination. But they hardly notice it: due to the particular form of locomotion of the pool - its reaction to their own displacement in the water - they have to swim toward what they want to get away from and away from where they want to go. Extract from Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas

Lord Adonis is on the BBC again

The BBC has been prominently covering the anti-Brexit 'People's vote' campaign today. 

This morning's Andrew Marr Show featured an interview with Locutus of Borg, leader of one anti-Brexit campaign. (The group's slogan is 'Brexit is futile').

And 'Campaigners demand 'people's' Brexit vote' has been the second story on the BBC News website for most of the day. 

And this afternoon the BBC News Channel, reporting from the London anti-Brexit rally, interviewed Lord Adonis. 

Lord Adonis told the BBC an egregious lie, saying that Theresa May promised £350m for the NHS post-Brexit:
There isn't going to be the £350m that she promised for the NHS every week.
Now, you and I know that Mrs. May never said any such thing and wasn't even on the Leave side of the referendum, but the BBC interviewer (Vicky Young) allowed His Lordship to get away with this absolute whopper. 

The obvious response from all sensible people here is to complain directly to Ofcom about the BBC promoting this anti-Brexit campaign on all their channels, giving Lord Adonis yet another platform and, worse, allowing Lord Adonis to lie live on air with no comeback whatsoever - a BBC shambles.


Saturday, 14 April 2018

Bombing Syria

On Saturdays there’s Dateline London on the BBC News Channel and Any Questions and the News Quiz on the radio. 

It’s awkward to make time for TV on Saturday mornings, and as for Any Questions, I rarely listen on Fridays and I don’t know how many times I’ve forgotten to tune in on Saturday till Any Answers is well underway. I do like using the term “tune in”. (So retro.)

Dateline was very bad-tempered today, what with Theresa May’s reckless foray into Syria without waiting for Jeremy Corbyn to hold a few conversations and reflect, while Assad  has time to ferry his appalling chemicals out of harm’s way. 

So much contradictory information surrounds the matter that I don’t feel equipped to opine. So I won’t. All I will say is that Dateline’s most frequently invited guest Bari (‘Arry Batwan) was more animated, even, than usual; making chopping movements with his arms and flapping his hands in that excitable way of his, eyes popping with rage. He claims that the Russians effectively disabled 70 of the US’s 100 strikes, but a US spokesperson later categorically denied that any had been disabled. 

The issue is often carelessly described as “bombing Syria”, distorting the stated aim (allegedly to reduce Assad’s ability to manufacture chemical weapons, and to send  the message, “up with this we will not put“) and the conversation is almost as if we / Theresa May had personally bombed the al-Assad family plus all the men, women and children remaining in Syria. I do hope this isn’t what happened.

Alexander Nekrassov was angry, but his anger was not entirely in accord with Bari Atwan’s. “There is no proof that Russia was involved on the Skripal poisoning - if it was a poisoning,” he said.  “Novichok doesn’t even exist.”  A very Russian take on the matter.

Bronwen Maddox was the calm voice. The voice of sanity. She sounded maternal and sensible, but  Jane Hill was beaten into submission and chaos reigned.

Now. Any Questions and an extended version of Any Answers, thankfully not involving Anita Anand. There were just two major questions on Any Questions from Oxford, and the audience was so noisy that Dimbles Jr. had to reiterate the plea that the audience was ‘self-selecting’. I say he protesteth too much.

The main question was about the prospect of Britain, France and America collaborating in a joint military exercise in Syria. Unfortunately events overtook them, and by Saturday the deed had been done. Hence the extension to Any Answers. I have to say that most callers were against any kind of military intervention; so much so that they were, perhaps inadvertently, supporting appeasement for fear of repercussions in the form of terrorism or World War Three. Understandable, but arguably as indecisive, directionless and devoid of strategy or long-term planning as the military intervention they were opposing.  Most of them.

The question that gave the most illuminating picture of the Oxford zeitgeist was “Is criticising Israel always antisemitic?" What a question. A non-question. The very phrasing ridicules itself. It makes a mockery of a very serious situation. Critiscim? Shmiticism. They mean denouncing every single defensive measure Israel is forced to take. 

Caroline Lucas’s voice actually shook with passion as she gave an outrageously ill-informed account of Hamas’s Right of Return fiasco. In her eyes, ‘criticism of Israel’ ultimately gives credence to Hamas’s demand that Israel is subsumed by 4 million Palestinian Muslims. To her, that’s what  justice for the Palestinians means. And ’peace.’

Is she really as ignorant of the hate-filled, genocidal rhetoric, the incitement and the antisemitic nature of the Hamas ‘education system” as she appears to be? Either she is or she isn’t. Either way, that is not the same as ‘criticising’ Israel, and it is antisemitic. When she was asked if she felt as passionate about any other injustice, she had to think hard before coming up with the Rohingyas. You could hear her brain desperately trying to come up with a convincing answer. 

The Syria debacle completely overwhelmed Any Answers, pushing the antisemitism question into the long grass and to rumble on and on in the background in the unresolved manner to which it has become  accustomed.