Thursday, October 12, 2006
The BBC and Israeli Propaganda
By JONATHAN COOK
"The Middle East, and possibly the world, stands on the brink of a terrible conflagration as Israel and the United States prepare to deal with Iran's alleged ambition to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel, it becomes clearer by the day, wants to use its air force to deliver a knock-out blow against Tehran. It is not known whether it will use conventional weapons or a nuclear warhead in such a strike.
At this potentially cataclysmic moment in global politics, it is good to see that one of the world's leading broadcasters, the BBC, decided this week that it should air a documentary entitled "Will Israel bomb Iran?".
Other Israeli misinformation, none of it believed by serious analysts, is also uncritically spread by the film-makers: that Hizbullah in Lebanon is a puppet of Iran, waiting to aid its master in Israel's destruction; that Iran is only months away from creating nuclear weapons, a "point of no return", as the programme warns; and that a "fragile" Israel is under constant threat of annihilation from all its Arab neighbours.
But the programme's unequivocal main theme -- echoing precisely Israel's own agenda -- is that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is hellbent on destroying Israel. The film-makers treat seriously, bordering on reverentially, preposterous comments from Israel's leaders about this threat.
Apart from a brief appearance by an Iranian diplomat, no countervailing opinions are entertained in the BBC programme; only Israel's military and political leadership is allowed to speak.
But, as has now been pointed out on numerous occasions (though clearly not often enough for the BBC to have noticed), Khomeini and Ahmadinejad were referring to the need for regime change, the ending of the regime occupying the Palestinians in violation of international law. They were not talking, as Netanyahu and co claim, about the destruction of the state of Israel or the Jewish people. The implication of the speech is that the current Israeli regime will end because occupying powers are illegitimate and unsustainable, not because Iran plans to fire nuclear missiles at the Jewish state or commit genocide.
Overlooked by the programme makers is the fact that "fragile" Israel is currently the only country in the Middle East armed with nuclear warheads, several hundred of them, as well as one of the most powerful armies in the world, which presumably make most of its neighbours feel "fragile" too, with far more reason.
But despite the terrifying scenario laid out by Israel's leaders, the BBC website cheerleads for Israel in the same manner as the programme-makers, suggesting that Israel has the right to engineer a clash of civilisations: "With America unlikely to take military action, the pressure is growing on Israel's leaders to launch a raid."
As should be clear by now, the Israeli government's fingerprints are all over this BBC "documentary". And that is hardly surprising because the man behind this "independent" production is Israel's leading film-maker: Noam Shalev.
Importantly, however, Shalev's films always humanise his Israeli subjects, showing them as complex, emotional and caring beings, while largely ignoring the millions of Palestinians the Israeli government and army are oppressing.
In other words, the BBC, and the other broadcasters who will air this "documentary" in the coming weeks and months, has been dazzled by Shalev's ability to show us the secret world of the Israeli army. So dazzled, it seems, that it has forgotten to check -- or worse, simply doesn't care -- what message Shalev is inserting between his exclusive footage.
It might have occurred to someone at the BBC to wonder why Shalev gets these chances to show things no one else is allowed to. Could it be that the "hasbara" division of the Israeli Foreign Ministry has got far more sophisticated than it once was?
Is the Israeli government using Shalev, wittingly or not, and is he in turn using the BBC, to spread Israeli propaganda? Propaganda that may soon propel us towards the "clash of civilisations" so longed for by Israel's leadership."