Archive for April, 2003

The strategy of accumulated abuse is permissible – depending on who you choose as its hapless victim

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2003

To the programming editors at Sky News,

I wish to draw your attention to the following quote, as close to verbatim as I can manage:

These proceedings can take anything up to a year or a year and a half, but in the meantime the damage will have been well and truly done.”

Mr al Bari, editor of Al Quds newspaper and a frequent guest on Sky News, made the above statement in the channel’s newspaper review just before 9 am on Wednesday, 23 April.

At the time, Mr al Bari was reflecting on allegations of financial impropriety that have been levelled at British Labour MP George Galloway. The point Mr al Bari was making was that even if the allegations were refuted in a court of law and ultimately proven to be totally unfounded, the accumulated damage caused by their constant repetition in the interim would be irreversible.

Mr al Bari does of course know what he is talking about – he is an incessant practitioner of this effective tactic. He employs it in a constant barrage of attacks against Israel. In my (admittedly incomplete) records of Mr al Bari’s appearances on Sky News, he has never to my knowledge ever – ever – spoken on TV without in one way or another abusing the opportunity by casting slurs on Israel, however tenuous the links between that country and the subject under current discussion.

This time, for instance, in a review of the press coverage of the as yet unproven allegations against Mr Galloway, Mr al Bari actually managed to shoot off at a tangent and mention – of all things – a mayor of Nablus on the West Bank who lost his legs in a bomb attack purportedly carried out by Israel about 25 years ago. Mr al Bari thereby did – yet again – exactly what he protests is unfair in the case of Mr Galloway – whom he reveres.

What is at issue here is not the substantive content of Mr al Bari’s allegation – he may well be entirely right or abysmally wrong in his claim. What is at issue is his constant barrage of attacks against Israel whenever he is privileged to appear on TV. Can he not be persuaded to focus at least nominally on the subject at hand? There is, surely, a time and a place for everything – including criticism of Israel, the PA, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, the Lebanon, Zimbabwe. Every occasion can surely not be hijacked to pursue a highly personal agenda bordering on a private vendetta?

For the sake of scientific repeatability, may I suggest that Mr al Bari be invited to comment on the Sky News weather forecast or your channel’s excellent traffic updates – his skill at weaving negative comments on Israel into such a neutral context would be put to the ultimate test.