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Middle East Issues





BBC: Israel, Gaza and Hamas


BBC interviewers are justly famous for challenging their guests with tough, skeptical and sometimes even sneering questions and retorts, and never more so than when interviewing Israeli spokesmen or supporters.

A case in point is this interview by Emily Maitlis of the Israeli Prime Minister's spokesman, Mark Regev, on July 25, 2014, regarding the shelling of a Gaza school being used as a safe area.

In the course of the interview Maitlis simply assumes Israel's guilt in the incident and interrupts Regev repeatedly:
 
 
 
Maitlis: The UN told us that it tried to coordinate a window with the Israeli army for civilians to leave and that was never granted. Now either the Israeli army is not speaking to the government, or else you're calling him a liar, which is it?

Regev: My information is that Israel agreed to a four hour period for a humanitarian corridor, and that was disrupted by the Hamas terrorists themselves who didn't want to let –

Maitlis: – interrupting – So you knew that there were children in that building...

Regev: That is a consistent pattern of behavior by the terrorists who deliberately want to leave civilians to protect ...

Maitlis: – interrupting – Mark Regev, you knew that that was being used as a shelter by people fleeing the fighting in northern Gaza, you knew there were women and children who had come there to seek shelter.

Regev: And we've been asking people to leave ...

Maitlis: – interrupting – And you knew that they hadn't been able to leave that building.

 
Compare that interview with this deferential performance on July 24 by the BBC's Stephen Sackur interviewing Hamas leader Khalid Meshall. Not a single interruption and just one slightly challenging question about storing rockets in UN schools in Gaza. But when Meshall's only answer was that the Palestinian-dominated UNRWA was lying, there were none of the typical BBC theatrics that Maitlis used with Regev, just more deference:

 
It should be noted that Mr. Sackur was once the BBC's Jerusalem Bureau Chief, where he did not exactly distinguish himself as an objective chronicler of events in the region.
 
Of course, the deference Sackur shows to Israel's critics is the norm at the BBC. Consider one more example, a July 24 BBC Newshour interview precisely on the question of the rockets that were found in UN-run Gaza schools.

The host, James Coomarasamy, interviewed Chris Gunness, the spokesman for UNRWA in Gaza, and Gunness, himself a former BBC reporter, was asked about the incident, and specifically about reports that UNRWA had simply handed the rockets back to Hamas.

Incredibly, Gunness denied the charge by claiming that UNRWA had turned the rockets over to "bomb disposal experts" who were answerable not to Hamas but to some imaginary "Government of National Consensus which Hamas has left."
 

Regular BBC listeners would usually expect such a claim to provoke, at the least, peals of derisive laughter and sharp, skeptical, even sarcastic, questioning by the BBC host. Indeed, that sort of eruption is exactly why many listen to the BBC.

But as with the Meshaal interview, there was nothing of the sort, just an agreeable "Right" by a seemingly comatose Coomarasamy.

One wonders what a Meshaal or a Gunness would have to say on the BBC to elicit the kind of reaction that Israeli spokesmen and supporters routinely face.


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