BBC’s Israel obsession includes the price of chocolate pudding

Why on earth the producers of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ thought that an item broadcast in its October 19th edition concerning one man’s protest about the cost of living in Tel Aviv should be of interest to listeners worldwide may at first seem to be a mystery. However, once ‘Newshour’ had decided to air that item, it should obviously have been presented accurately and impartially.Newshour 19 10 14

The item (from 12:50 here) is introduced by presenter James Coomarasamy as follows:

“Now to a tale of Israeli-German relations, angry Holocaust survivors and a popular chocolate dessert.”

In fact, the story has absolutely nothing to do with “Israeli-German relations”. After a recorded jingle Coomarasamy’s inaccurate presentation continues:

“Now that’s an advert for Milky – the dessert in question – which turns out to be rather cheaper in Germany than in Israel. And when a receipt proving this fact was posted on a Facebook page, that’s when the controversy began.”

The receipt in question was actually for a comparable chocolate dessert – not the original Milky – which cannot be said to be “cheaper in Germany than in Israel” because it is not sold there. Coomarasamy then goes on to interview Naor Narkis for some five minutes, allowing him ample opportunity to make his obviously political points, but failing to provide any kind of background information which would help listeners put the story into its correct context.

Despite Coomarasamy obviously being aware of the fact that “the Facebook page was an anonymous one and seemed to suggest that Israelis should leave their country and move to Germany”, he fails to adequately explore the significance of that aspect of the story and why such a suggestion should cause controversy in Israel.

Likewise he fails to address the topic of why the cost of living might be relatively high in a country in which – unlike most European ones – it is necessary to spend so much on defence. Coomarasamy makes no attempt to verify his interviewee’s claims or to point out that – for example – most British 25 year-olds would probably have similar difficulties buying a house in central London or Manchester. And had he researched the topic a little better, Coomarasamy would be aware that Narkis’ protest is centred around house prices in one specific place – as he previously told Israel’s Channel 10 news:

“When you understand that the cost of living in Tiberias [northern Israel] is identical to that in Berlin, you don’t think twice,” he said.

“I prefer to live in Tel Aviv, but it’s too expensive for me. Here I spend 30 percent less on food and rent, and I still have money left over to go out and have fun,” he said of the German capital.

Coomarasamy should also of course have informed listeners of the inaccurate nature of Narkis’ claim that:

“…three years ago we were rioting in the streets against the high cost of living…”

Although demonstrations certainly took place, rioting did not.

Clearly, the cost of chocolate pudding and housing in Israel is not a topic of interest to anyone living outside that country, but nevertheless this item got BBC airtime because it presented an opportunity for amplification of Narkis’ repeated allegations of “failed leaders” in Israel – and that is a topic which dovetails with the BBC’s political agenda. 

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