Yesterday on The Big Questions on BBC 1 and this evening on Newsnight on BBC 2, Nicky Campbell and Jeremy Paxman, the two BBC frontmen for these programmes asked more or less the question, and I paraphrase:
‘why are the western nations so keen to protect Libyan citizens from a monster like Gaddafi when they sat on their hands when Israel was bombing Gaza?’
On the Big Questions, Campbell clearly asked it to draw out a distinction without endorsing the moral equivalence, nevertheless, the fact the question was asked at all is significant in that not everyone would see it that way, and would be nodding sagely that Livni was somehow like Gaddafi.
On Newsnight, Paxaman had Bernard-Henri Lévy, a renowned French journalist and philosopher, born in Algeria and a Jew. He had been to Benghazi and as a result had called President Sarkozy to encourage him to endorse and support the no-fly zone and stop a massacre.
In the studio was Abd al-Bari Atwan, a rabidly anti-Zionist Palestinian journalist and editor of Al-Quds Al-Arabi in London who has said “If the Iranian missiles strike Israel, by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight.”
So we know where Atwan is coming from.
However, it was Paxman, who, before asking Atwan for a response, posed the same question Campbell had done, albeit, with more conviction on the moral equivalence front.
Atwan needed no encouragement. He accused the UN and the West of being selective – well I agree as I wrote yesterday. But rather than laying into Bahrain or Yemen, instead, having had the proverbial red-rag waved by Paxman, he had his horns well and truly sharpened and gored Israel.
He compared Israel’s bombing and ‘massacre’ of 1400 Palestinians in Gaza and Israel’s bombing of Lebanon with Gaddafi. Why did the West not intervene then, he asked.
I’ll not go into the charming way Henri-Lévy stepped aside as Atwan’s horns approached his crotch and how he administered the coup-de-grâce with a well-placed rapier thrust.
The important thing is that Israel’s retaliation against two murderous opponents bent on Israel’s destruction are seen as aggression and deliberately targetting civilians.
Instead, the fact that Hizbollah and Hamas had been firing rockets and abducting Israeli soldiers and were being armed by Atwan’s beloved Iran and that both Hamas and Hizbollah were implacably committed to the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews, was turned into an aggression equivalent to a tyrant targetting his own people in an attempt to hold on to power.
Surely the real equivalence here is that the UN should have seen Israel as the force for democracy fighting a maniacal fascist enemy and the UN should have been protecting and should now be protecting Israel from assault by Hamas and Hizbollah.
BBC presenters do not view Israel as a beleaguered democracy fighting for its existence against murderous tyrannical regimes which surround it. Instead it is Israel who is at least worthy to be considered seriously as part of the tyrant versus freedom-fighter paradigm.
It takes the Jewish North African Henri-Lévy to put the case for the defence and support of Muslim Arabs whilst all Atwan can do is attack Israel and say the West should tell the Arabs to defend their own people.
In some part, I agree with Atwan: the Arab League should be sorting this out, not the former colonial nations.