The BBC’s Sunday morning political programme, The Big Questions, is a sort of Question Time’s Little Brother of a programme.
The front man is Nicky Campbell who does a decent enough job of directing debates. That is until the subject of the debate is Israel/Palestine.
And when that debate takes place in the Israel-hating heartland of Glasgow in Scotland you know Israel is in for a rough ride.
What annoyed me before the get-go (you see I can use right-on Americanisms with the best of them) was the motion in this debate, if I can grace it with that title. So here it is:
IS IT TIME TO FREE PALESTINE?
The ‘debate’ descended into the usual shouting match with Campbell barely able to keep control. Had it not been for the presence on the panel of ‘experts’ of Peter Hitchens and two particularly brave pro-Israel members of the audience, including Sam Westrop of the British Israel coalition, every lie, misrepresentation and fallacy trotted out by the pro-Palestinians, or more accurately, the anti-Israeli, anti-Zionist, rent-a-flotilla members of the audience, would have gone unchallenged.
Even the venerable Denis MacEoin, looking somewhat shell-shocked as if he were expecting a reasoned debate, could hardly get in a complete sentence before he, like everyone expressing a more nuanced approach to the conflict, was shouted down. The Palestinian side was loud, vociferous, aggressive and hard to shut up; the pro-Israel side was calm and dignified.
The very motion of this debate is what I think (though somebody will no doubt correct me) is a ‘fallacy of many questions’. It is also a loaded question. This is the Wikipedia definition of such questions:
Such questions are used rhetorically, so that the question limits direct replies to be those that serve the questioner’s agenda. The traditional example is the question “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Whether the respondent answers yes or no, he will admit to having a wife, and having beaten her at some time in the past. Thus, these facts are presupposed by the question, and in this case an entrapment, because it narrows the respondent to a single answer, and the fallacy of many questions has been committed. The fallacy relies upon context for its effect: the fact that a question presupposes something does not in itself make the question fallacious. Only when some of these presuppositions are not necessarily agreed to by the person who is asked the question does the argument containing them become fallacious. Hence the same question may be loaded in one context, but not in the other. For example the previous question would not be loaded if it was asked during a trial in which the defendant has already admitted to beating his wife.
In this case, Palestine cannot be ‘freed’ because Palestine does not exist. To answer the question one has first to admit that there is a country called Palestine and second, that it is not free. The second part of that proposition cannot be true because the first part is a fallacy, namely, Palestine exists.
All this is compounded by Campbell’s preamble which focused on the UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency) report which was damning of Israel’s policy toward Gaza:
It’s hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution.
As this is a UN Agency it must be right. Just like the UN Human Rights Council must be right? I think not.
Now, a proper debate would have been: “Is it time for Israel to lift its maritime blockade and ease restrictions in and out of the Gaza Strip?”
I would have no problem with that debate. But Campbell seemed determined to set out an uneven playing field.
Or how about: “Are the reported conditions in Gaza solely due to the Israel maritime blockade and other restrictions?”
That would have been a more nuanced and reasonable debate. But the BBC producers, true to form, are obviously uncomfortable with the paucity of opportunities to attack Israel of late and seized upon what I deem to be a flawed UNRWA report coming from an Agency which helps perpetuate Palestinian victimhood and makes them dependent on aid.
Israel’s crossing points send in hundreds of trucks everyday with food and other necessities. There are large parts of Gaza which, as Peter Hitchens was trying to point out, are perfectly normal, have shopping malls, restaurants , newly built mosques and other amenities. The debate never questioned what was the effect on Gaza of an extreme Islamist Hamas government and aid-dependency.
Nor did the debate refer to this post in the Huffington Post Monitor which refers to an article in the Israeli left-wing newspaper, Haaretz:
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is opposed to lifting the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip because this would bolster Hamas, according to what he told United States President Barack Obama during their meeting at the White House Wednesday. Egypt also supports this position….
European diplomats updated by the White House on the talks said that Abbas had stressed to Obama the need of opening the border crossings into the Gaza Strip and the easing of the siege, but only in ways that do not bolster Hamas.
One of the points that Abbas raised is that the naval blockade imposed by Israel on the Strip should not be lifted at this stage. The European diplomats said Egypt has made it clear to Israel, the U.S and the European Union that it is also opposes the lifting of the naval blockade because of the difficulty in inspecting the ships that would enter and leave the Gaza port.
Abbas told Obama that actions easing the blockage should be done with care and undertaken gradually so it will not be construed as a victory for Hamas. The Palestinian leader also stressed that the population in the Gaza Strip must be supported, and that pressure should be brought to bear on Israel to allow more goods, humanitarian assistance and building materials for reconstruction. Abbas, however, said this added aid can be done by opening land crossings and other steps that do not include the lifting of the naval blockade.
So the BBC and those members of the audience whose shrill voices attempted to drown out all dissenting argument are being more Palestinian than President Abbas.
At one point in the debate it seemed that Campbell was implying that Gaza was Palestine. He wondered what sort of state there would be with Hamas in control once Israel broke ranks with Abbas and the Egyptians and opened up its borders to suicide bombers and Iranian weapons.
In fact, the debate, as was predictable from its premise, soon accused Israel of being an illegitimate, ‘artifical’ state founded on murder and stolen land, the most corrupt regime in the Middle East (why not the world?) etc.
If only Israel were to let in all the ‘refugees’ everyone would get on just fine. They don’t hate Jews, just Zionists (as if Israeli Jews are somehow not committed to the idea of self-determination for Jews in their homeland). The Hamas Charter, apparently, which Campbell and others mentioned, does not call for killing of all Jews (like, yeah, that bit was written in invisible ink), Palestine would be a multi-ethnic democracy observing human rights for all and all this would be bestowed by the tooth-fairy. (I made up that last bit but it’s just as credible as the nonsense in the debate).
Some Scottish comedian woman who I have never seen before but wasn’t funny at all, poo-poohed a suggestion that the security wall had prevented suicide bombers and could only see it as ‘an Apartheid Wall’. Obviously Israeli lives are not important to her. She only saw Arabs being evicted and their houses being turned over to Jews. Well that’s a good reason for Israel to be dismantled, now, isn’t it.
The BBC showed that a perfectly respectable and often interesting programme hosted by a likable and usually balanced, though sometimes provocative presenter, can introduce a debating motion so skewed and so fallacious that it is no debate at all, but a forum to trot out the usual slogans and lies of the left and their Hamas-hugging affiliates.
Every vacuous trope was expressed including one of my favourites: “The Palestinians should not suffer because of what Hitler did to the Jews”. Setting aside the Mufti of Jerusalem’s role in the Holocaust and 4000 years of continuous Jewish presence in Israel, those uttering these fallacies support groups who express a wish to finish Hitler’s work in no uncertain terms.
I loved this quote of JE Dyer cited at CiFWatch.com today:
the withdrawal last week of the Mavi Marmara from the so-called ‘Freedom Flotilla 2′ means that we are left with a largely North American and European project: a collection of far-Left Westerners volunteering their services to Hamas and its support network in order to try to enable unfettered access to Gaza for weapons sent by a totalitarian, theocratic state with the aim of destroying a liberal, democratic one by means of one of its religiously fanatical proxies. One might think that it doesn’t get much more surreal than that, but it does
This sums up the position of the debaters. As one of them said, why do we have to worry about the security of the oppressors (Israel) we should care about the security of the oppressed (Palestinians).
So the Israelis, and especially the Jewish Israelis, have nothing to worry about then.
It’s truly awful the level to which proper debate on Israel has sunk in this country.
UPDATE H/T CifWatch
Kaz Hafeez responds to Margo MacDonald’s accusation that Israel is an ‘artifical’ state. http://cifwatch.com/2011/06/22/letter-from-a-muslim-zionist-to-margo-macdonald-on-her-accusation-that-israel-is-an-artificial-state/
Biased BBC has another take and introduces the main players in ths farce: http://biased-bbc.blogspot.com/2011/06/what-time-is-it.html