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The BBC's Reality-Free TV By: Carol Gould
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, March 28, 2005

The BBC has done it again.


On 13th March on the 10 o’clock UK BBC news broadcast, images were offered of a large crowd of Palestinian men in a fierce street fight. The level of violence was palpable and the men were pitching large objects at one another.


The commentator, James Reynolds, did not explain the nature of the pitched battle but instead said that these young students in Hebron were indeed fighting in the streets, their anger and frustration exacerbated by looking up and still seeing an Israeli presence on their streets. The next shot showed an Israeli flag flying on a wall outside what seemed to be a military outpost.


I was dumbfounded. I had just read on the Internet several reports of violent clashes in the Palestinian territories between Hamas and Fatah. The background to this is the power-struggle that is ensuing amongst various factions for ultimate supremacy in what they envisage as a Palestinian state. I called the BBC and attempted to point out that James Reynolds had not provided a responsible report but had put his own spin on the riot: blame Israel for the street fighting.  No sooner had I begun to explain to my interlocutor the true nature of the pitched battle than he interrupted me with what seemed considerable irritation if not anger.


My temper began to fray and I asked him if he had ever been to Israel. ‘No,’ he said, to which I responded that I had been many times, and he interjected, ‘That doesn’t make you an authority!’ I went on to observe that the rioting ‘students,’ whom James Reynolds had implied were suffering deprivation under Israeli rule, were all extraordinarily well-dressed and outfitted (my point was to have been that oppressed peoples do not have such energy and freedom of expression), but he interrupted me again and snapped, ‘What does that have to do with anything?’ and as I tried to make the point about Israeli rule obviously not causing them poverty, he began to rant about Israel.


Please keep in mind, dear reader, that the man on the other end of the telephone at the BBC Comments Line is supposed to take down viewer comments and complaints and pass them on to the program makers and management, not embark on an attack on the caller. I offered the man a potted history of the Jews and of the State of Israel and he began to calm down. In addition, I reminded him that billions in aid destined for the Palestinian people were unaccounted for and that Hosni Mubarak had demanded of Arafat some years ago an accounting of the aid provided from the Arab League. Israel’s fault?


After the call I was angrier at the BBC Viewer Services man than at the news reporter. Then along came Fox News. Their on-the hour-report at 11PM gave an accurate account of the events in Hebron. They reported, without fanfare, that Hamas and Fatah factions were fighting it out on the streets of Hebron and that -- of all things -- men from Islamic Jihad had weighed in to break up the riot. Their footage was identical to that shown on the BBC but no mention was made of Israeli oppression having caused the men’s anger.


According to the wire services, 'A brawl broke out on Sunday between Hamas and Fatah students on the eve of a ballot for the student council at Hebron University. At least nine students were injured.' The Jerusalem Post reported: 'The Fatah students accused Hamas of violating regulations banning parties from campaigning 24 hours before the election. The two sides used stones and clubs during the melee, which was broken up by Islamic Jihad supporters who acted as a buffer to end the fight.'


It is astonishing that the European media try to find every imaginable way to blame Israel for the events in the Middle East.


One is reminded of the joke about the Spanish football team being driven by a Dutchman through Belgium when their coach is hit by a German trucker. The United Nations convenes --- to pass a motion to blame Israel.


No sooner had I watched the BBC’s report on the disturbances in Hebron than a programme was broadcast on BBC Four TV hosted by former Conservative MP Michael Portillo. He had decided to explore the world of cartoonists in the Middle East.


Portillo is usually fairly pro-Blair/Bush but he spent 80% of the programme visiting with a poisonous and scary Palestinian woman cartoonist who dreams of the day when ‘Palestine's army’ will defeat the Enemy.


She is part of the family of a terrorist and the programme tried to show what a desperate life she has 'trapped in Gaza City,' and of course what a desperate existence Palestinians have under the heel of the IDF.


Then we went to Israel for 20% of the show about the cartoonist of 'Dry Bones.' Portillo made sure to say that the gentleman came to Israel from New York a rabid Zionist. (Throughout my lifetime it has been impossible to explain to Europeans the concept of ‘Zionism;’ the very continent whose virulent anti-Semitism spurred the secular Theodor Herzl to establish a Zionist movement seems to feel this is a form of rampant fascist imperialism by galloping Jewish hordes.) 


Portillo showed the Israeli cartoonist at his moshav. The group of guests, all well-dressed and enjoying the opulence of a particularly sprawling garden and dining table, heard about his swimming pool and the loads of money he has.


I have never seen such a biased program.


The Palestinian woman's cartoons were grotesque and really quite vile beyond words. One showed Ariel Sharon washing his hands in blood in a US-manufactured basin whilst he stood on a rug with the UN symbol. (If only the UN-adoring Left would understand that the terrorists even hate the UN, too. They just want everyone dead, including the UN...) Her work was violent and nasty and had no humor whatsoever. Portillo had NIL understanding of Dry Bones' Jewish humor, and it was unfortunate that he kept referring to the two peoples as opponents who so detest each other.  Because so few non-Jews in Great Britain visit Israel or get to know Israelis, the concept of a nation filled with angry, violent and hate-filled Jews misrepresents the majority of the population. It is regrettable that the media, and now Mr. Portillo, try to portray Israelis as so full of hate and ill-will towards their neighbors.


The Palestinian cartoonist was quick to tell the interviewer that she had a vision of a formidable Palestinian army prepared to take on the Jews. She did not have one ounce of compassion for Israelis, whilst on the other side even the families of the victims of suicide bombers want to work for peace. 

Michael Portillo’s program demonstrated a breathtaking lack of understanding of the Jewish and Israeli mind. It was a documentary about humor: inasmuch as the Jews have given the world Jack Benny, Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, George Burns, Walter Matthau and scores of other legendary entertainers, it is a source of dismay that one BBC program can portray the Jewish State as a nation devoid of compassion when its violent neighbors have time and again made it clear since 1948 that only one thing will bring them true joy: Israel’s ultimate destruction.

Carol Gould is a Drama and documentary producer based in London, and the author of Spitfire Girls.

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