Surreal in Solihull

This is a guest post by Israelinurse
Last week I was approached by the BBC with a request to appear on its BBC1 Sunday morning live religions and ethics debate programme ‘The Big Questions’ as what is termed an ‘expert contributor’. The subject of the debate was to be ‘Is antisemitism on the rise in the UK?’.
Obviously, there is not much debate to be had on that subject as the data gathered by the ever-meticulous CST proves, so it was quite clear that the real debate would be why antisemitism is increasing and I had no doubt that accusing fingers would be pointed in Israel’s direction. I informed Hawkeye of the invitation I had received, and agreed to his request to act as CiF Watch’s representative on the programme.
From the outset, the producers of the programme were well aware that I occasionally contribute to CiF Watch and other forums out of a personal belief that there is a pressing need to try to counteract the tsunami of distortions and downright lies regarding all things Israeli in much of the British media. Indeed, in my initial telephone conversation with the programme’s assistant producer I raised the subject of the BBC’s suppression of the publication of the Balen Report at an estimated cost of some £200,000 so far to the license-fee paying British public. Despite this, they decided that they wanted me on the show.
Then, a couple of days before the journey to Birmingham, I received a further phone call instructing me that I must not mention The Guardian on air. My protests that this rather Fawlty Towers-style ‘don’t-mention-the-war’ restriction was absurd were met with the explanation that as no representative of The Guardian would be present at the time of broadcast, and therefore that organisation would not have the right of reply, there was a danger of legal action being taken against the BBC which they were keen to avoid.
After consulting with Hawkeye and trusting in the intelligence of the British public to connect between a blog called CiF Watch and the publication concerned, I decided that there was in fact no need to mention the ‘G’ word, and so decided to go ahead despite the gag-order.
Upon arriving at the broadcast venue early on the Sunday morning, I considered it prudent to check with the assistant producer exactly under which ‘tag’ (the potted description under one’s name when one appears on screen) I would be appearing. Yet another moment worthy of the Fawlty Towers script writers ensued when I was informed that they did not wish to define me as being connected to CiF Watch as “the public will not know what that is”. So much for the media’s duty to inform; apparently if the public doesn’t know, the BBC isn’t going to tell them!
Having already sacrificed my weekend, there was nothing to be done at this point but just get on with it. Imagine then my joy, dear reader, when I discovered that the ‘expert contributors’ on the opposite side of the debate were none other than Haim Bresheeth and our old friend Tony Greenstein – the latter complete with a ‘Boycott Israeli Goods’ lapel badge the size of a jam jar lid, which fortunately did not make it into the studio. Interestingly, at some point during the programme, both of the above had their ‘tag’ written as ‘Vilified by Zionists’. Now that you really could not make up!
Despite the frustrating format of the programme which at best only allows one to make one or two points in soundbite style, I think we managed to counteract the argument that Israel’s actions are the root cause of antisemitism reasonably well. Alex Goldberg, Jonathan Sacerdoti and Mark Gardner from the CST were all in excellent form and some very pertinent observations came from Rabbi Arkush in the audience.
For those who managed to view the show, the entirely disgusted look on my face at one point aimed in Tony Greenstein’s direction was due to his telling me off-microphone that I had no idea what I was talking about and that I know nothing about Israel!
One does have to ask oneself if a TV programme such as this can in fact make any worthwhile contribution to highlighting the worrying trend of rising antisemitism in Britain. Personally, I very much doubt it. The claim made by the show’s host Nicky Campbell whilst we were in the ‘Green Room’ before the broadcast that the Balen Report is merely a ‘journalistic’ issue serves only to strengthen my view that the ‘group-think’ within the media industry is so well rooted that business – in all senses of the word – will continue as usual until some brave and pioneering producer will stand up and question the commonly held premises which currently prevent the media from tackling the real truths behind the increase in antisemitism in Britain and many other countries.
As long as broadcasters are afraid of legal actions on the part of other media organisations and more concerned about gaining PC credibility by ‘giving a balanced view’ than doing any real analysis …… I’m not holding my breath.

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