Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page in recent days may have noticed that its ‘Features & Analysis’ section currently includes promotion of a film festival organised by BBC Arabic in partnership with the British Council.
According to the information provided:
“Aan Korb is a new film and documentary festival in London, presented by BBC Arabic in partnership with the British Council.
The festival will screen the very best work across feature and short films, documentaries and investigative and citizen journalism, that has been created about the Arab world since the start of the uprisings in December 2010.
Taking place in the fantastic surroundings of the iconic Radio Theatre at BBC Broadcasting House, the festival will be packed for four days with screenings, talks, debates and workshops.”
There is of course nothing novel about collaboration between the BBC and the British Council. In fact, we recently noted here some of the joint projects carried out in the Middle East by those two organisations (both of which receive part of their funding from the UK taxpayer via the government) and the disturbing fact some of the partnership groups with which they work are associated directly or indirectly with the anti-peace movement known as BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions).
One of the British Council-supported projects which openly promotes the anti-peace BDS movement is the ‘Palestine Festival of Literature’ – or PalFest as it is better known. Writing about the 2012 PalFest in the Guardian, Alison Flood noted that:
“Supported by organisations including Arts Council England and the British Council, with patrons including Chinua Achebe, Seamus Heaney and Philip Pullman, it endorses the Palestinian call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, and states as its mission the reinvigoration of “cultural ties between Arab countries, ties that have been eroded for too long”. [Ahdaf] Soueif is its founding chair.” [emphasis added]
Readers can find out more about the birth of ‘PalFest’ and its “founding chair” and Palestine Solidarity Campaign patron Ahdaf Soueif here. Ms Soueif is also named as one of the judges for this latest BBC Arabic/British Council film festival.
The British Council has claimed to oppose the BDS movement’s efforts to delegitimize and isolate Israel.
“The British Council is firmly opposed to an academic boycott of Israeli universities. Academic boycotts are bad in principle, and would be bad in this specific case… dialogue is unlikely to be sustained without exchange between academics and academic institutions…”
Past and present British governments have repeatedly claimed that they do not support the anti-two state solution BDS movement – for example in 2009:
“The British government is opposed to any kind of boycott of Israel.”
“…the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) stated: “The UK Government does not support the BDS movement,” and “we have been very clear that the boycotts movement is not productive… it could be deeply corrosive.” “
And just this month, British PM David Cameron stated:
“And to those who do not share my ambition who want to boycott Israel I have a clear message. Britain opposes boycotts. Whether it’s trade unions campaigning for the exclusion of Israelis or universities trying to stifle academic exchange Israel’s place as a homeland for the Jewish people will never rest on hollow resolutions passed by amateur politicians.”
Such analgesic rhetoric however takes on the sinister complexion of doublespeak when UK government-funded bodies such as BBC Arabic and the British Council engage the services of a prominent anti-peace BDS campaigner such as Ahdaf Soueif.