Written by Richard Millett
What makes an editor leave in a comment such as “Jewish people are good with money”? And what makes the main presenter not pick up such a comment?
This was the scenario in Chris Tarrant’s Extreme Railways shown on Channel 5 on Monday night when Tarrant visited Jordan and Israel. In Jordan he travelled the route of the now defunct Hejaz Railway and visited Petra.
As he entered Israel Tarrant’s mood became inexplicably darker. This was his first visit and in response to a sign stating “Welcome to Israel” he asked “Am I welcome?”
He said there’s more money in Israel and, thus, better railways than Jordan and explained Zionism in terms of the spiritual home of Jews for thousands of years. But he described the railways as helping to bring thousands of “settlers” into Israel when referring to those Jews.
Tarrant described railways as the centre of tensions between Arabs and Jews dating back to the “second Arab revolt” (1936 to 1939). He described that revolt being due to Arab frustration at the influx of Jews.
There was no mention of the Peel Commission in 1937 that offered Arabs a state on 80% of the land and which they rejected and the Jews accepted. And no mention of the revolt leading to the closing of the doors of British Mandate Palestine to Jews in 1939 which contributed to six million Jewish deaths by the Nazis.
Tarrant merely continued that Jewish groups then attacked the trains in the 1940s due to being frustrated by the British.
In Haifa, he visited a Jewish hummus restaurant the owner of which, Adam, he described as an “upstart”, although he enjoyed Adam’s hummus.
He then went to an Arab-owned hummus restaurant across the road and was discussing the idea of a hummus war with the Jews when the Arab owner said:
“Jewish people are good with money, with politics.”
Tarrant merely replied “Arabs are good with hummus.” It was a totally free pass for one of the many antisemitic canards about Jews and money which, based on polls, are shared by the overwhelming majority of Palestinians.
Despite describing Israel as “war-torn”, “on an almost constant war footing” and saying, when trying to board a train with soldiers, “machine guns add to the stress of the morning commute”, Tarrant enjoyed Haifa.
On the train to Tel Aviv, Tarrant analysed the 1947 UN partition map showing the areas meant for Jews and those for Arabs. He described the idea being that both countries would “coexist peacefully together” before adding “It was never going to work, was it?”
Tarrant described Tel Aviv as “fantastic” before repeatedly referring to it as a “bubble” because “along the coastline is the Gaza Strip notorious for its desperate poverty and governed by the Hamas Palestinian group.”
Finally to Jerusalem and to what Tarrant called “the Wailing Wall”.
Having briefly layed his hand on the Wall with a look of utter bemusement he was more intent on showing us another wall.
He took a journey on the Jerusalem Light Railway and then gratuitously gave us the haters’ narrative that some see the railway as a “typical act of Israeli aggression as it runs through illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land”. He acknowledged that others see it as a great place for people of all races and religions to get together.
Then in front of what he called the “separation wall” he said “Israel claims it prevents terror attacks”. However, Tarrant again gratuitously presented the haters’ narrative that “others see it as racial segregation against Palestinians.”
Then signing off to camera Tarrant said “I’m British and I think it was us that started the whole thing.”
No, Chris. You should have blamed the problems on Hamas violence and Arab rejectionism but you gave that and an ancient antisemitic trope a free pass.