The February 11th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – hosted by Julian Marshall – included an interview (from 40:33 here) with Israeli MK Haneen Zoabi.
Zoabi and two of her colleagues from the anti-Zionist Balad party (which is part of the Joint Arab List) were recently barred from Knesset activity, including debates, by the Knesset’s Ethics Committee. Zoabi and Bassel Ghattas were barred for four months and Jamal Zahalka for two months. During that time the three will continue to receive their salaries and will be able to participate in voting sessions.
The details of the terms of the suspension – together with any information concerning Balad’s political agenda – were absent from Marshall’s presentation of the item.
JM: “Haneen Zoabi is an Arab-Israeli MP who is currently barred from attending sessions of Israel’s parliament – or Knesset. Along with two other Arab-Israeli MPs she’s been suspended for meeting relatives of Palestinians who were killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis. The meeting was condemned by the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. So why did Haneen Zoabi feel the need to meet the relatives?”
In fact, the meeting was the subject of complaints to the Knesset Ethics Committee not only from the Israeli prime minister but also from parliamentarians across the political spectrum.
“The panel received more than 450 complaints about the lawmakers, including from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, and from relatives of people killed by the terrorists whose families the Balad MKs met.”
At no point throughout this item are listeners informed that the meeting which the Balad MKs attended included glorification of the terrorists as ‘martyrs’ and a minute’s silence in their memory. They are also not told about the promotion of material glorifying terrorism on Balad’s Facebook account. Instead, listeners heard the following account from Zoabi.
HZ: “Me and my colleagues from the Joint List we have received an invitation from the families who lost their children in order to help them getting back the bodies of their children which the Israeli police have killed in order to burn [bury] them. It has been four months since the Israeli administration refuses to release the bodies of the young Palestinians from East Jerusalem.”
Marshall then interjects with some framing which Zoabi is quick to adopt.
JM: “So what you were doing in your view was simply humanitarian…”
HZ: “Of course.”
JM: “…but you can understand how many Israelis saw you as consorting with the relatives of people they regarded as terrorists – these Palestinians who had killed Israelis or tried to kill Israelis.”
HZ: “I don’t accept that because our demand was purely humanitarian. It was even according to the Jewish religion and to the Christian religion and to…according to the Muslim religion you should bury…it’s….it’s a very simple dignity for the death [dead]. All the bodies of the Palestinians who the Israelis killed were released because Israel negotiated this matter but in the case of East Jerusalem the families tried for four months to connect with the authorities and the Israeli authority refuses to do so. So their last option was to address us as parliamentarians.”
Marshall fails to provide listeners with a very important piece of background information which is essential to their understanding of why the Israeli authorities have not yet handed over the bodies of those ten terrorists: the families concerned refuse to comply with the demand to hold modest funerals so as to avoid incitement to more violence. Without that crucial piece of information, audiences are obviously unable to put Zoabi’s claims into their correct context.
Despite having also failed to inform audiences of the glorification of terrorism at the meeting and whilst refraining from providing listeners with any insight into the records of the MKs concerned such as the fact that Zoabi was recently given a six-month suspended sentence and a fine for insulting civil servants and that she and Bassel Ghattas have both participated in anti-Israel flotillas in the past, Marshall goes on to provide Zoabi with the cue for the promotion of trite propaganda which goes completely unchallenged.
JM: “One of the members of the Ethics Committee of the Knesset which suspended you and your colleagues accused you of inspiring terrorism and encouraging the murder of more and more Israelis.”
HZ: “In Israel whenever you criticise occupation as a Palestinian member, or even as a Jewish activist, the Israeli consensus will call you disloyal to the state and will say that you are threatening Israeli lives. Actually for me this is not just for the interest of the Palestinians. This is also for the interests of the Jews because if we really seek a normal life for the Jews and for the Palestinians we should also seek for justice. We should struggle for freedom and in Israel this is not accepted. Occupation is accepted….”
HZ: “…but struggle against is not accepted.”
Marshall’s failure to provide listeners with any information concerning Zoabi’s record of whitewashing terrorism also means that they are unable to put her answer to his next question into context.
JM: “But those Palestinians who were killed after attacking Israelis….ehm…do you regard them as terrorists?”
HZ: “We are against killing innocent people. We see that this behaviour is not an act of a struggle: it’s an act of desperation. We believe that we have a just cause and in a just cause you should also use a just tools.”
The item closes with more propaganda from Zoabi.
JM: “Do you and your parliamentary colleagues…do you expect to have to serve out your entire suspension from the Knesset or are you going to appeal?”
HZ: “With this suspension this means that the Israeli consensus is controlling my actions and my performance as a member and this means that in Israel there is no meaning to democracy except the tyranny of the majority.”
The take-away messaging for listeners around the world is that this is a story about Arab-Israeli parliamentarians in an undemocratic state who have been unfairly suspended for ‘humanitarian’ activities. The reason that distorted take-away message can be promoted is because the BBC has framed the story in such a way as to leave out crucial elements which are necessary for its accurate and impartial presentation and has thus denied listeners the ability to see the full picture.