Saturday, June 02, 2007

What if Israelis had abducted a BBC journalist?

His Grace does not ordinarily reproduce entire articles, but this one by Charles Moore, on the abduction of the BBC journalist Alan Johnston, is a most worthy read. It highlights the pathological anti-Semitism which pervades much of the mainstream media, and establishes a distinct anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian agenda. He writes:

Watching the horrible video of Alan Johnston of the BBC broadcasting Palestinian propaganda under orders from his kidnappers, I found myself asking what it would have been like had he been kidnapped by Israelis, and made to do the same thing the other way round.

The first point is that it would never happen. There are no Israeli organisations - governmental or freelance - that would contemplate such a thing. That fact is itself significant.

But just suppose that some fanatical Jews had grabbed Mr Johnston and forced him to spout their message, abusing his own country as he did so. What would the world have said?

There would have been none of the caution which has characterised the response of the BBC and of the Government since Mr Johnston was abducted on March 12. The Israeli government would immediately have been condemned for its readiness to harbour terrorists or its failure to track them down.

Loud would have been the denunciations of the extremist doctrines of Zionism which had given rise to this vile act. The world isolation of Israel, if it failed to get Mr Johnston freed, would have been complete.

If Mr Johnston had been forced to broadcast saying, for example, that Israel was entitled to all the territories held since the Six-Day War, and calling on the release of all Israeli soldiers held by Arab powers in return for his own release, his words would have been scorned. The cause of Israel in the world would have been irreparably damaged by thus torturing him on television. No one would have been shy of saying so.

But of course in real life it is Arabs holding Mr Johnston, and so everyone treads on tip-toe. Bridget Kendall of the BBC opined that Mr Johnston had been "asked" to say what he said in his video. Asked! If it were merely an "ask", why did he not say no?

Throughout Mr Johnston's captivity, the BBC has continually emphasised that he gave "a voice" to the Palestinian people, the implication being that he supported their cause, and should therefore be let out. One cannot imagine the equivalent being said if he had been held by Israelis.

Well, he is certainly giving a voice to the Palestinian people now. And the truth is that, although it is under horrible duress, what he says is not all that different from what the BBC says every day through the mouths of reporters who are not kidnapped and threatened, but are merely collecting their wages.

The language is more lurid in the Johnston video, but the narrative is essentially the same as we have heard over the years from Orla Guerin and Jeremy Bowen and virtually the whole pack of them.

It is that everything that is wrong in the Middle East and the wider Muslim world is the result of aggression or "heavy-handedness" (have you noticed how all actions by American or Israeli troops are "heavy-handed", just as surely as all racism is "unacceptable"?) by America or Israel or Britain.

Alan Johnston, under terrorist orders, spoke of the "absolute despair" of the Palestinians and attributed it to 40 years of Israeli occupation, "supported by the West". That is how it is presented, night after night, by the BBC.

The other side is almost unexamined. There is little to explain the internecine strife in the Arab world, particularly in Gaza, or the cynical motivations of Arab leaders for whom Palestinian miseries are politically convenient.
You get precious little investigation of the networks and mentalities of Islamist extremism - the methods and money of Hamas or Hizbollah and comparable groups - which produce acts of pure evil like that in which Mr Johnston is involuntarily complicit.

The spotlight is not shone on how the "militants" (the BBC does not even permit the word "terrorist" in the Middle East context) and the warlords maintain their corruption and rule of fear, persecuting, among others, the Palestinians.

Instead it shines pitilessly on Blair and Bush and on Israel.

From the hellish to the ridiculous, the pattern is the same. Back at home, the Universities and Colleges Union has just voted for its members to "consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions".

Well, they could consider how work by scientists at the Technion in Haifa has led to the production of the drug Velcade, which treats multiple myeloma. Or they could look at the professor at Ben-Gurion University who discovered a bacteria that fights malaria and river blindness by killing mosquitoes and black fly.

Or they could study the co-operation between researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who have isolated the protein that triggers stress in order to try to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, and their equivalents at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.

The main universities of Israel are, in fact, everything that we in the West would recognise as proper universities. They have intellectual freedom. They do not require an ethnic or religious qualification for entry. They are not controlled by the government. They have world-class standards of research, often producing discoveries which benefit all humanity. In all this, they are virtually unique in the Middle East.

The silly dons are not alone. The National Union of Journalists, of which I am proud never to have been a member, has recently passed a comparable motion, brilliantly singling out the only country in the region with a free press for pariah treatment. Unison, which is a big, serious union, is being pressed to support a boycott of Israeli goods, products of the only country in the region with a free trade union movement.

The doctrine is that Israel practises "apartheid" and that it must therefore be boycotted.
All this is moral madness. It is not mad, of course, to criticise Israeli policy. In some respects, indeed, it would be mad not to. It is not mad - though I think it is mistaken - to see the presence of Israel as the main reason for the lack of peace in the region.

But it is mad or, perhaps one should rather say, bad to try to raid Western culture's reserves of moral indignation and expend them on a country that is part of that culture in favour of surrounding countries that aren't. How can we have got ourselves into a situation in which we half-excuse turbaned torturers for kidnapping our fellow-citizens while trying to exclude Jewish biochemists from lecturing to our students?

Nobody yet knows the precise motivations of Mr Johnston's captors, but it is surely not a coincidence that they held him in silence until the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War approached, and only then made him speak. They wanted him to give the world their historical explanation - Israeli oppression - for their cause.

Yet that war took place because President Nasser of Egypt led his country and his allies declaring "our basic aim will be to destroy Israel".

He failed, abjectly, and Egypt and Jordan later gave up the aspiration. But many others maintain it to this day, now with a pseudo-religious gloss added.

We keep giving sympathetic air-time to their death cult. In a way, Mr Johnston is paying the price: his captors are high on the oxygen of his corporation's publicity.

As for Israel, many sins can be laid to its charge. But it is morally serious in a way that we are not, because it has to be. Forty years after its greatest victory, it has to work out each morning how it can survive.

Cranmer has nothing to add. Doubtless his communicants, or most of them, will agree wholeheartedly with the observations of Mr Moore, and pray for him.


Anonymous Miss Jelly bean said...

Hmmmmmm, I think I'll stay out of this one. Wouldn't want Cranmer to call me 'rude, ignorant and offensive' again. I take his opinion very seriously. Besides, I still have that homework on verbal reasoning to do which Voyager set me.


2 June 2007 at 16:36  
Anonymous Permanent Secretary said...

I wish the BBC announcers would improve their diction, yesterday I was wondering why we would possibly want a video of the Education Secretary produced by his kidnappers.......

2 June 2007 at 19:08  
Blogger wonkotsane said...

Would it be beyond the wit of the Israeli's to kidnap a BBC jouranlist and pin it on Palestinian militants? I recall the same theory being put forward in an episode of Spooks. Perhaps, for once, the BBC isn't following a government-led agenda and is trying to tell us something?

I'm no fan of the BBC or of Israel but I like to think that I am capable of looking at it objectively. I think it equally likely that he was abducted by Israelis as Palestinians. If I was part of the Israeli establishment with the objective of making the world think all Palestinians are terrorists and that the Israeli's continued disgusting and illegal behaviour in Palestine is really just self defence then I'd do it.

2 June 2007 at 20:01  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

Forgive me Your Grace but I am confused. The basic argument of the article does not make any sense. Terrorism is a fighting tool used by those who are the underdog. One might argue that it is wrong (killing innocents etc), and that those of the Muslim faith are more likely to adopt this method of retaliation, but it seems to absurd to me to preface an article on this notion. It would be like suggesting that France might abduct a foreign journalist. It is simply ridiculous.

And is it not ironic that His Grace should attack the media for its anti-semitism and then post an article which is very pro-Israel and which appeared in the very media that both His Grace and the author charge with anti-semitism?

And is it not true that Arab-Israelis face constant discrimination in Israel, including strained entrance to university, access to employment etc?

And is it really the case that the British media is excusing Johnston's captors? The media does as it always does, it preys on what is emotional and emphasises how upset his family is etc. But it does not excuse his captors.

I have heard the argument many times about why Israel is not actually responsible for the destabilisation in the middle east. Where did I read it? In the media. And there is, I believe, some truth to it.

But one cannot simply ignore the great injustices that have been caused by some of Israeli policy. And this, I fear, is what Mr Moore is doing.

2 June 2007 at 20:05  
Anonymous Athanasius said...

I'm not a communicant, but agree wholeheartedly with both Your Grace and Mr Moore. Ad multos Annos.

2 June 2007 at 21:30  
Anonymous Observer said...

I recall the same theory being put forward in an episode of Spooks

If you read up on the Lebanese scriptwriter for some of those programmes you would see the BBC has its bases covered on bias by subcontracting

2 June 2007 at 21:42  
Anonymous Colin said...


"Would it be beyond the wit of the Israeli's to kidnap a BBC jouranlist and pin it on Palestinian militants?"

No, it wouldn't. Likewise, would it be beyond the wit of the CIA to cause 9/11? It probably wouldn't. Would it be beyond the wit of MI5 to organise the underground bomb attacks in London and pin it on Islamists? Probably not. But does this prove anything?

3 June 2007 at 00:40  
Anonymous Colin said...

Miss Jelly Bean,

"Hmmmmmm, I think I'll stay out of this one. Wouldn't want Cranmer to call me 'rude, ignorant and offensive' again."

You didn't reply to my question on the other thread how far you wanted to return the wheel of history: 50, 100, 1500, or 2000 years and why? Doesn't an honest question deserve an answer anymore?

3 June 2007 at 00:44  
Anonymous Colin said...

Sorry for the error:

how far you wanted to return the wheel of history

I wanted to say: .. how far you wanted to turn the wheel of history back: ...

3 June 2007 at 00:46  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

Cranmer, right as usual.
Charles Moore, right as usual.
Two observers with sound instincts and the power of independent thought, and long may you continue.

3 June 2007 at 14:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Cranmer, please don't tell you are signing up for everything this middle-aged middle-class mediocrity thinks ? Does he not have sympathy for the travesty of justice which the Palestinian people are being exposed to ? The degrading, disgusting and dehumanising treatment which Israel is inflicting upon them each and every day ? Oh no, I forgot, you have a bit of a blind spot for those people who seem to have a 'get out of jail free' card for any behaviour simply by shouting 'anti semitism' at any legitimate criticism.

Sickening !

8 June 2007 at 18:31  
Blogger Cranmer said...


Another Anonymouse.

Go on, now, run along. Be off with you.

8 June 2007 at 20:54  

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