Archive for May, 2003

School quiz is political propaganda

Monday, May 12th, 2003

I am writing with regard to your quiz no. 9 (May 2003, Basic), which my 13-year old son enjoyed doing this morning.

I would like to congratulate you on putting together a well-expressed and highly topical quiz that trains the spotlight on current events in an interesting and easy to understand way, yet without talking down to youngsters.

I do, however, take serious issue with one of the questions in this quiz:
The first question asks: “Yassir Arafat is the President of Palestine. Now the country also has a Prime Minister. What is his name?”

While it is highly laudable to draw attention to such a topical event of great current interest and potentially far-reaching importance, I strongly object to what is at best perhaps an unintentional error, at worst an invidious departure from fact designed to indoctrinate impressionable young children: there is no country called Palestine.

The facts of the matter are that Arabs of former Jordanian and Egyptian colonies – people who never previously expressed a wish for independence while under Arab occupation – now express a wish to create an independent state on lands currently administrated by Israel, lands that were secured from the aforementioned two Arab countries by Israel following a series of wars aggressed against Israel by these and other Arab states. Before that, Palestine was a geographical area (not a politically defined entity) administrated by Britain, and before that by Turkey. This historical Palestine included all of what is today Israel, as well as parts of the Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, all of Jordan and Egypt.

It is an unequivocal fact that local Arabs on the West Bank and in Gaza identify themselves as Palestinian Arabs. Equally so, it is an unequivocal fact that the region as a whole stands to reap immense benefits from a solution to the conflict that would grant the Palestinian Arabs the right to determine their own future once they stop perpetrating suicide-bombing massacres and armed ambushes against Israeli civilians. There is a wide gap, however, between this highly desirable theoretical state of affairs, on the one hand, and the presentation of “Palestine” as an already existing fact, on the other – this simply smacks of the indoctrination of impressionable schoolchildren.

Until the current state of conflict is resolved, might I suggest the use in future of the internationally accepted definition for the area under advisement? It is referred to by all the foremost authorities, including the UN, as “the Palestinian Territories” or “the Palestinian Authority Area”. I feel sure you would not wish to put yourselves forward as a greater authority on the subject than even the UN – the very body under whose auspices the conflict erupted in the first place.

The BBC continues to wage war against Israel

Thursday, May 1st, 2003

On Tuesday the world witnessed yet another atrocity perpetrated by young British Muslims against innocent civilians and non-combatants, following in the footsteps of actions such as the attack against the USS Cole, the beheading of Daniel Pearl and the attempted shoe-bombing of a civilian airliner.

Yet the BBC continues its highly one-sided reporting as though it plays no part in creating the climate in which these misguided young people are nurtured and sucked into the path of violence.

Our TV screens came alive (Thursday 1st May at 9 am UK time), with close-up images of the grief of Palestinians after an Israeli incursion into Gaza which left six people dead and a number of others injured. There was no mistaking the anguish of the civilians – and the numerous armed militants – as the camera caught every line of bitterness and sorrow on their distraught faces. The cameras really were that close.

Of course, this came just 24 or so hours after two young Muslim assassins – by all accounts holders of British passports – killed 3 innocent bystanders and maimed about 50 others in a bar in Tel Aviv. No pictures on the BBC of anguished Israeli civilians, of distraught survivors looking for loved ones or friends amid the rubble. Only a few fleeting images of broken concrete, smashed furniture, torn curtains. The inanimate detritus of any violent action – a tropical storm, a hurricane, an earthquake. Not much graphic connection to the human perpetrators, not much graphic imagery of the human suffering.

It is about time the BBC publicly acknowledged its responsibility in the creation of the climate of violence that many young extremist Muslims find so appealing. This climate is a direct result of the asymmetrical image of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict that this publicly funded public-service organ conveys with such unbounded enthusiasm and unwavering determination.

With an ever-sharper focus on the need to combat terror and prevent the targeting of civilians, there may well be a case for fighting a legal case against those responsible for encouraging the perpetration of such acts. A terrible shame if the BBC were to become embroiled in a legal battle to save its face when it should instead be following its charter – reporting the news, not shaping it.