Mystic Atwan’s crystal ball at the service of the BBC

With Mystic Meg apparently otherwise engaged, the BBC’s ‘Dateline London’ programme of January 5th 2013 (available here for a limited period of time for readers in the UK) had to make do with predictions for 2013 from, among others, its very regular contributor Abdel Bari Atwan

Among other things, Atwan’s crystal ball revealed to him that Israelis going to the polls in two weeks’ time will elect “a very, very right-wing government”.  Not right-wing  – one notes – or even very right wing, but “very, very right-wing”.

Phew! One cannot help wondering how Atwan and his BBC hosts describe the current Egyptian administration which, inter alia, recently repeated its refusal to allow children of the Bahai faith to enrol in public schools. They ‘verys’ must be off the scale. Or perhaps not.

Atwan also informed the BBC audience that:

“his [Binyamin Netanyahu’s] [election] campaign is going around bombing Iran so I wouldn’t be surprised if, actually, Israel dragged the West into a war against Iran and then Iran could retaliate against American bases in the Gulf, maybe against some of the Gulf States, against Israel – so God knows what will happen. It could really be hell.”

As a self-confessed Israeli politics junkie, I was quite surprised to discover that even though party political broadcasts will only commence on the evening of January 8th, I had apparently missed the Likud-Beiteinu election campaign calling for me to vote for them because they promise to bomb Iran, so I had a hunt around the internet to see what I’d missed. 

On the Likud website one of the lead items is the newly completed fence along the border with Egypt and the related subject of illegal migrants in Israel. The Likud Facebook wall is full of pictures of a party for Young Likud members in a Tel Aviv nightclub and that same event is reported in the local press. In a recent interview, Netanyahu did relate to the subject of Iran, but one would have to be pretty obtuse to describe his words as part of an election campaign focused around “bombing Iran”.

“Netanyahu said preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons will be the main priority of another term. He listed other objectives as having Iron Dome batteries provide cover for the entire country, build a security fence – similar to the one just completed in the south – on each of Israel’s borders, tend to the economy, create more jobs and bring down the price of housing.

Amid increased talks of renewed talks between Iran and the world powers – the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s position that Iran must stop all uranium enrichment, export out of the country all of the enriched uranium, and close the underground enrichment facility at Fordow.”

Two recent polls conducted in Israel suggest that Atwan’s definition of “very, very right wing” may not be among the commonly accepted parameters of that term.

“Two opinion surveys conducted by different Israeli pollsters in December show that most Likud-Beiteinu and the further-right Habayit Hayehudi voters would support a peace agreement establishing a demilitarized Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, Israel’s retention of major settlement blocs and a division of Jerusalem. The two polls also revealed that two thirds of all Israelis support such an agreement. […]

The responses of Likud-Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi voters to the two surveys were surprising. The Dahaf poll showed 57 percent of the voters of these two parties as supporting such an agreement, with 25 percent opposed. Rafi Smith’s poll showed 58 percent in favor and 34 percent opposed. Among Habayit Hayehudi respondents to the Dahaf poll, 53 percent said they would support such an agreement and 43 percent said they would not.”

Abdel Bari Atwan’s ‘concern’ regarding war in the Middle East must, of course, be seen in light of his political views. He is, after all, the man who endorsed a terror attack on Israelis near Eilat, justified the murder of students at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva and declared that he will “dance with delight” in Trafalgar Square if Iranian missiles strike Israel. 


By the way, how does one categorise the politics of a person who publicly expresses a wish for the deaths of people based purely upon their ethnicity? Would the appropriate term be “very, very, very right-wing”, perhaps? And can one really imagine the BBC regularly hosting an ‘analyst’ with a track record of glorifying and justifying terror and violence against civilians if those civilians held any nationality other than Israeli? 

The BBC has long needed to get a grip on the subject of Atwan’s frequent appearances on ‘Dateline London’ and other programmes. My prediction is that in 2013 it will continue to neglect to do so. 


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