By Stuart Littlewood
After yesterday’s dismal performance by the BBC’s flagship ‘Today’ news programme in quizzing the Israeli ambassador over the latest bloody assault on Gaza, this morning’s effort was a little better but still well short of what’s required in order to paint a truthful, balanced picture.
We had Sarah Montague interviewing our foreign secretary and long-time Friend of Israel, William Hague.
He started by announcing: “There has been a spike in rocket attacks over recent days and a very large number over recent weeks. What Israel has done is obviously the Israeli response to that.”
This doesn’t tally with the actual sequence of events. And once again, the number of Gaza rockets means nothing unless compared with the number of Israeli bombs, rockets, tank-shells, air-strikes and other armed incursions – which we’re never told about and news programmes never ask.
“The thing that would bring this to an end would be for Hamas to stop launching rockets at Israel,” he continued, and urged Israel to reduce tension and de-escalate the situation, observe international and humanitarian laws and avoid civilian casualties.
He surely knows that no amount of urging over the years has persuaded Israel to show the slightest respect for laws, rights and civilian casualties. And why wasn’t he pressed on the endless occupation of the West Bank, from which no rockets are fired, and the legality of the blockade on Gaza?
However, Sarah Montague did ask about the lull in hostilities followed by a sharp escalation by Israel with the slaying of the Hamas military leader, Hague deflected the question by trying to focus on the “wider point” of getting the Middle East peace process going again, as if this discredited policy had any hope of succeeding while one party was being systematically strangled by the other’s illegal military occupation. He said “the onus in now on the Palestinians to reconcile with each other and Hamas to commit to a deal instead of terrorism…” when, actually, the onus is squarely on the international community to enforce international law and the many UN resolutions relating to Palestine. But the BBC didn’t pursue this line either.
Sarah Montague then suggested that calling up 30,000 Israeli reservists and sending tanks and troops to the Gaza border looked like ramping-up the tension not de-escalating. Hague referred to how previous ground invasions lost Israel international support, avoiding any mention of the illegality and war crimes aspects. Asked if Britain would support a ground offensive now, he continued to duck and weave. “I’ve been clear where the principal responsibility lies. We want Hamas to end its terrorism and violence and Israel to take every opportunity to de-escalate.”
His bias is blatant. Shouldn’t he be calling for Israel to end its terrorism and violence and Hamas to de-escalate?
Finally, would he be supporting the Palestinians’ bid for modest observer status at the UN? “We don’t think it is a good idea to be putting that resolution to the UN General Assembly – we’ve made that clear to president Abbas… there is a danger that it would make the situation worse and make the peace process harder to sustain.”
He’s living in fairy-land. What peace process?
Hague Has ‘Form’
It’s high time serious broadcasters established where the interviewee is coming from. In the case of Hague this is vitally important. Like it or not, he is our top international representative. He has the power to influence whether Britain makes war or peace, whether we make friends or enemies, and whether our soldiers live or needlessly die. Yet he seems to have trouble interpreting intelligence.
He voted enthusiastically to get us mired in the shameful Iraq war. And did anyone hear him speak out against the folly of invading Afghanistan when it was his duty, as a leading Opposition figure at the time, to hold our lunatic Labour government to account?
When he came to his present job Hague played a key part in turning Britain into a safe haven for Israel’s war criminals. He told guests at a reception held by Conservative Friends of Israel that “the last government left us with an appalling situation where a politician like Mrs Livni could be threatened with arrest on coming to the UK… We will put it right through legislation… I phoned Mrs Livni amongst others to tell her about that and received a very warm welcome for our proposals”.
Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister, was largely responsible for the terror operation that brought unspeakable death and destruction to Gaza’s civilians nearly 4 years ago. She has shown no remorse for the blood of 1,400 dead Gazans (including 320 children and 109 women) and thousands horribly maimed.
Who’d have believed a British government minister would tamper with the laws of jurisdiction and undermine our justice system so that the likes of her can safely go shopping in London?
Hague misled us on Operation Cast Lead by claiming, as reported on the CFI website, that “the immediate trigger for this crisis was the barrage of hundreds of rocket attacks against Israel on the expiry of the ceasefire or truce.” The truth is that the ceasefire was deliberately breached by an Israeli raid into Gaza that killed several Palestinians with the intention of provoking a response that would re-ignite the violence and provide an excuse to launch Operation Cast Lead, which the Israelis had been preparing for months.
Are we not seeing history repeat itself?
William Hague was recruited into the Conservative Friends of Israel at the worryingly tender age of 15. In 2007, while shadow foreign secretary, he said: “We will always have strong economic and political ties with Israel. We will always be a friend of Israel.”
In 2008 he declared: “The unbroken thread of Conservative Party support for Israel that has run for nearly a century from the Balfour Declaration to the present day will continue. Although it will no doubt often be tested in the years ahead, it will remain constant, unbroken, and undiminished by the passage of time.”
Hague told the Jewish Chronicle in an interview: “We don’t approve of expanding settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem because it makes the two-state solution more difficult.” Not, mark you, because it’s a barbaric crime to dispossess Arabs of their lands, homes and livelihoods… he doesn’t approve because it’s a bit awkward politically.
“I’ve traveled across the country,” he continued. “I’ve stood on the Golan Heights and swam in the Sea of Galilee. I’ve stood on the part of the West Bank where you can see the Mediterranean, where you really understand Israel’s strategic fragility.”
Hague’s Zionist sympathies ooze from every pore. All things considered the guy is a big worry.
Now he rattles his sabre at Iran and turns the screw of economic sanctions with relish… for no good reason that anyone (except the pro-Israel lobby) can see.
Speaking of which, the ‘Today’ programme perked up after the Chief Rabbi finished his ‘Thought for the Day’ spot lecturing us on how Judaism and Christianity regarded the birth of every child as precious (tell that to Gaza’s moms and dads). He was asked by presenter Evan Davis for his reaction to the situation in Gaza. “I think it’s got to do with Iran, actually,” he replied, then quickly called for prayers.
The BBC in familiar grovelling mode apologised.
– Stuart Littlewood contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.