On February 7th and 8th 2013, BBC Two and BBC News broadcast an edition of the flagship interview show ‘Hardtalk‘ from Doha with Khaled Masha’al as its guest.
It is worth watching the whole interview – if only to see Khaled Masha’al try to disavail Stephen Sackur of a few obviously dearly-held illusions concerning Hamas.
At 2:13 Sackur says:
“[…] but what I am interested in is the nature of the language you used when you went to Gaza afterwards [after Operation Pillar of Cloud]. For example, you said ‘Palestine is ours from the river (the Jordan River, that is) to the sea. There will be no concessions of any inch of land’ you said. It was the most hard-line speech and yet it doesn’t actually fit with the rhetoric that you and other Hamas leaders have used at different times in the last year, so what is going on?”
Interrupting Masha’al’s reply at 3:27, Sackur goes on to say:
“Yeah, but hang on. If you’re saying that it [Masha’al’s Gaza speech] was just natural emotion, are you telling me that it was nothing more than symbolism – it’s not something that should be taken seriously in terms of the politics of any future negotiation?”
Masha’al continues to try to explain, but at 04:31 Sackur interjects:
“But I just want to nail down what your current position is on the question of a two state solution to provide a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The Saudi newspaper Al Sharq reported just the other day that you are now prepared to accept a two state solution. You have told this, according to the newspaper, to King Abdullah and you’ve asked King Abdullah to…of Jordan…to relay this message to President Obama. Is that true?”
Masha’al replies unequivocally:
“This is not true.”
In fact, various Hamas officials had denied the report by Al Sharq a whole week before the ‘Hardtalk’ programme was broadcast and four days before it was recorded.
Sackur goes on to suggest to Masha’al that Hamas cannot achieve reconciliation with Fatah or join the PLO if it refuses to accept a two state solution. Apparently he is not sufficiently able to read between the lines of Masha’al’s reply – or to relinquish romantic notions about Fatah – in order to appreciate that in fact, among the obstacles to Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, that issue is far from being the greatest stumbling block.
The question which naturally arises from this interview is whether there will now be any sort of reappraisal by the BBC as regards the topics it frequently presents as ‘obstacles to peace‘.
But perhaps the most telling part of the interview, as far as the BBC is concerned, comes at the beginning when Masha’al gives his view of the recent conflict.
“It was Israel that started the aggression when they assassinated the martyred leader Ahmed al Jabari at a time when Egypt was seeking a truce”
“Netanyahu did not think about the war. He just wanted to have a tactical victory over Hamas and the resistant [sic] in Gaza in order to exploit such victory in these elections.”
Those two claims are of course identical to the BBC’s line of reporting throughout and after Operation Pillar of Cloud in which it repeatedly promoted both the ‘Israel started it’ and the ‘it’s all in aid of the Israeli elections’ themes.
Is the BBC really comfortable with the fact that the proverbial cigarette paper cannot be inserted between its own reporting and the propaganda of a racist terrorist organisation?