Monday, November 29, 2010

On Hard Talk

Kenneth O’Keefe talks about the israeli terrorist attack on the MV Mavi Marmara which killed 9 humanitarian activists.

By: Paul de Rooij

This HardTalk interview with O’Keefe demonstrates the bankruptcy of journalism at the BBC. True to form, Sarah Montague, the interviewer, fires off an incessant number of hostile questions at the interviewee prefaced with “Israel says”, “Israel argues”, and “Israel claims”. This isn’t playing the “devil’s advocate”, this is playing “Israel’s advocate” role. NB: if one counts these prefaced questions with “Israel says/argues/claims” there are twenty two of them. The questions Montague avoids are the ones dealing with O’Keefe’s motivation to go to Gaza and to be such a committed freedom fighter (the word activist is rather lame when one witnesses his courage and decency). And the implication throughout is that the activists aboard the ships were merely asking for it and getting what they deserved given that they resisted. The focus is on the slice of time when the Israelis commandos stormed the ships killing some activists. The purpose of the trip and what led to this civil society action are avoided. In the process Montague manages to imply that it is the activists who are at fault — possibly criminal – and who also consort with unspeakable organizations such as “Hamas”. The evidence about IHH presented by Montague is certainly tainted, yet it is no bar to fling it against O’Keefe. Shouldn’t journalistic standards have implied that the BBC should have determined the veracity and credibility of the claims?
Journalism or quality interviews shouldn’t merely put forth the case of the opposing party – in this case it would be the issues disingenuously raised by Israel, the oppressor nation. The aim of quality journalism should be to determine what happened, and for this Montague should have asked “What happened on the Mavi Marmara?”, but even more important, she should have asked “why did you choose to go on the Mavi Marmara?” Instead all the questions dealt with “who initiated violence” or “was it worth it?” This is the same type of question asked of the Palestinian victims in Gaza after the 2008-2009 massacre by asking them “who do you think is responsible for this?”
And isn’t it amazing that it is the peace activist who gets questioned in this hostile manner? Now, would HardTalk countenance asking Israeli officials hostile questions about the nature of their assault on the Mavi Marmara? Would such questions be prefaced with “peace activists say/claim”? Would HardTalk ask about the nature of the siege it has imposed on Gaza with the consequent humanitarian disaster? Or would HardTalk ask about Dov Weissglas’ statement about “putting Palestinians on a diet”, a quotation that seems to cause much amusement among Israelis today. Given the nature of current day BBC, the possibility for asking such questions of Israeli officials would be non-existent.
Imagine for a second if during the apartheid years in South Africa if a peace activist had attempted a similar humanist gesture to help the oppressed black South Africans, and if such person had been beaten savagely by the soldiers. Would the BBC have prefaced hostile questions with “South Africa says” or “South Africa claims”? Would HardTalk have intimated that such person was the cause of violence? Or would they have avoided the main reasons that drove the activist to this level of sacrifice? If this analogy sounds preposterous, then why can Montague play such an ignominious role? This can only be explained by the pusillanimity and bias of BBC journalists and their editors. The order is out at the BBC to hide the true nature of the Israeli colonial project and it genocidal consequences. The order of the day for Montague was to put the onus on the peace activists and attempt to discredit them. But by discrediting the likes of O’Keefe, the only thing achieved is for the BBC to have discredited itself.

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