By Alan Hart
2 February 2012
Alan Hart views an instance where, as a result either of pro-Zionist bias, Israeli pressure or cowardice, BBC television censored a report by one of its own correspondents, originally broadcast on BBC World Service radio, cutting out from an audio clip a passage in which a Tunisian Jew stated that it would be crazy of him to emigrate to Israel.
There was a moment in a report from Tunisia by the BBC’s Wyre Davies when I could not stop myself laughing. I was listening to it on the Corporation’s generally excellent World Service radio. (In my view this particular BBC service is generally excellent because, unlike all other BBC news and current affairs outlets, radio and TV, it often reflects some of the truth about what is happening in and over Palestine that became Israel.)
“Go to Israel? I’m not crazy!”
Jacob Lelouch, a Tunisian Jewish restaurant owner, says: “Go to Israel? I’m not crazy!” This passage was removed from the BBC TV version of the report, which you can see here.
Davies was in Tunisia to find out how its remaining 2,000 Jews (down from 300,000 once upon a time) were responding to a call from an Israeli government minister for them to move to Israel. The case the minister made was, apparently, that their security and wellbeing were no longer guaranteed in an Arab country with an Islamist government in place of what Davies called a “sectarian dictatorship”. In other words, Tunisia’s Jews were in danger and would be safe in Israel. (My guess is that the greatest concern of the Israeli minister and his colleagues was less the fate of Jews in Tunisia and more the need for Jews from anywhere to go to Israel to help defuse the ticking demographic time-bomb of occupation.)
The story as told by Davies for the BBC’s World Service radio was honest reporting at its best. Its explicit message was that Tunisia’s Jews have rejected the Israeli call.
One of those interviewed by Davies said to him and a listening world: “No one here is afraid.”
Another said, “Go to Israel? I’m not crazy!”
That’s what made me laugh.
A subsequent development wiped the smile from my face.
A friend in Italy sent me a web link for the television version of the Davies report from Tunisia. I opened the link to check that it was the same report I’d heard on the World Service radio. It started in exactly the same way so I assumed it was, and I tweeted it as “MUST WATCH: Tunisia’s Jews reject [Israel’s] call to leave”.
Bias or censorship?
An hour or so later I made the time to view the complete television version. The Jewish gentleman who said, “Go to Israel? I’m not crazy!” had been edited out.
On past BBC form there are four possible explanations.
1. Driven by a personal commitment to Zionism and support for its monster child right or wrong, a senior BBC executive ordered the quote to be dropped on his own initiative.
2. Senior BBC executive received a telephone call from the Israeli embassy in London, or possibly the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, telling him or her that Israel would not be pleased if the BBC gave more air time to a Tunisian Jew who was saying “No” to Israel in a way that suggested he had some contempt for the Zionist state and thought that many Israelis were crazy.
3. A senior BBC executive anticipated that giving the Jewish gentleman in Tunisia a wider audience would provoke Zionism’s wrath and decided (as BBC excutives often do) that it was better for the Corporation to censor itself than provoke that wrath.
4. For reasons of limited space in a television news bulletin, the report for the World Service radio had to be edited, shortened.
I have to say that I consider the fourth possible explanation as summarized above to be the least likely one. Why? There are many very good journalists in the BBC and they know as well as I do that the single most revealing and therefore newsworthy statement in the original Davies report was that of the Jewish gentleman who said, “Go to Israel? I’m not crazy!”