BBC WS radio fails to challenge activist filmmaker’s disinformation

The last seven minutes and forty seconds of the March 26th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 45:05 here) were given over to promotion of an Oscar nominated fictional short film described by presenter Tim Franks as “rather gripping”.

“It sounds wrong, doesn’t it, a drama all about a man going to buy a fridge? But ‘The Present’ is a short film which proves in its depiction to be rather gripping as it portrays the dreariness and boiling frustration of life for a Palestinian father in the Occupied Territories, particularly as he tries to get through the nearest Israeli checkpoint.”

Franks introduced his interviewee – “British-Palestinian filmmaker Farah Nabulsi” – and asked about the choice of the film’s subject matter. He refrained from informing listeners about Nabulsi’s political activities such as participation in ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ events.

Listeners heard Nabulsi describe one particular checkpoint described as a “monstrosity” and were told that checkpoints are “one part of a much bigger control system that comes under occupation” with “impact […] on the individual on a daily basis”.

Franks’ subsequent ticking of the ‘impartiality’ box failed to inform listeners that checkpoints came into being when the Palestinians chose to launch the terror war known as the second Intifada in the year 2000. Remarkably, Franks used the euphemism “massive damage” and listeners did not hear any direct reference to the thousands of Israelis murdered and injured during those years. [emphasis added]

Franks: “You will be aware that the counter-argument from those who say that these checkpoints are regrettable but necessary is that the Israeli security forces have them because of the recent history of violence, of Palestinians coming from the occupied territories and wreaking massive damage inside Israel and so this is nothing to be applauded but it is something which just reflects the security reality on the ground. I mean that’s what I’m sure the Israeli government would say in response.”

Nabulsi: “Well I’d say that’s very disingenuous because there’s over 100 Israeli checkpoints that are scattered all over the West Bank. That’s not in Israel. There’s another 100 or so more checkpoints that are called flying checkpoints that can appear any time, anywhere and again, this is not inside Israel. This is in the West Bank. This is between Palestinian villages and towns and land. So if these are checkpoints all over the West Bank where the vast, vast, vast majority of the population is the indigenous Palestinian population there, they’re certainly not there for the security of the Palestinians there, then whose security are we talking about? The occupier? The oppressor? The surrounding illegal settlers? Again, illegal in international law. So it really begs the question; security of who? Certainly not for the Palestinians who go through them every day, who are humiliated by them, who are exhausted by them, who are subjected to them.”

Failing to challenge Nabulsi’s categorisation of people – including those born in Judea & Samaria – as “illegal”, Franks went on to ask where the film was made. With regard to the location of part of the filming, Nabulsi replied:

Nabulsi: “We stuck to sort of Area A. You know the West Bank is chopped up by the Israeli military into areas A, B and C and B and C are where you might run into a bit more trouble if you like.”

Although Franks is presumably aware of the fact that the division of the region into areas A, B, and C was not done by “the Israeli military” but is part of the terms of the Oslo Accords which were willingly signed by the PLO representatives of the Palestinians, he made no effort to correct that misinformation.

Given that all four of Farah Nabulsi’s films to date promote blatantly one-sided political messaging, it clearly would not have been difficult for Franks and the ‘Newshour’ production team to be adequately prepared to challenge the activist filmmaker’s disinformation and distortions of facts in real time – should they have wished to do so.  

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