The December 13th edition of the BBC Radio Scotland programme ‘Sunday Morning’ included an item (from 1:07:48 here) described as follows in the synopsis:
“Last year saw Bethlehem in the Holy Land welcome well over 2 million visitors packed inside it’s [sic] city walls. This year it’s almost unrecognisable. Former Mayor of the City of Bethlehem and Member of The Palestinian National Council, Vera Baboun, tells Cathy how the city will mark Christmas this year.”
Much of that ten-minute item did indeed relate to the difficulties celebrating Christmas this year in Bethlehem due to the Covid-19 pandemic but Vera Baboun also indulged in some unsurprising political opportunism. [emphasis in italics in the original]
1:12:43 Baboun: “Despondency is so hard on each one of us, mainly when we in Bethlehem do not only live the pandemic. We live the wall as well and that is very hard. […] We have two pandemics in Bethlehem: the pandemic of the wall and this pandemic.”
1:15:40 Baboun: “The relationship, the way we are challenging the nature of our reality – which I would like to call the abnormality of our living due to all the occupational restrictions – built some kind of resilience that is different.”
The coming days will mark a quarter of a century since Bethlehem was placed under the full control of the Palestinian Authority and yet presenter Cathy Macdonald failed to question Baboun’s reference to “occupational restrictions” and made no effort to clarify to listeners that “the wall” to which her interviewee referred was made necessary by Palestinian terrorism.
The opportunistic promotion of politicised messaging has unfortunately been a feature of BBC Christmas content for many years. However, if the BBC is going to provide platforms to a veteran propagandist such as Vera Baboun (as it also did on November 22nd on BBC Radio Sheffield – from 2:53:00 here – when listeners were told that “unlike any other city in the world, Bethlehem as you know is besieged, Bethlehem has the wall…”), its presenters should at least be sufficiently informed to challenge her entirely predictable politically motivated talking points in real time.