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February 2, 2018 1:54 pm

BBC News Kicks Israel in the Face

avatar by Pesach Benson

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The Israeli Knesset building. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Of the 120 Knesset members that the BBC could have interviewed for an Israeli point of view on Ahed Tamimi’s trial, reporter Jeremy Bowen chose a disgraced, provocative politician — and well-known enfant terrible — Oren Hazan.

Viewers of “Is a Slap an Act of Terror?” on the prime time “BBC News at Ten,” wouldn’t be aware that Hazan, a Likud MK, has a history of disgraceful PR stunts and character issues — or that he had been suspended from the Knesset the same day that the segment aired.

This was not a random selection made by Bowen, the BBC‘s Mideast editor.

Hazan’s history includes:

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• Threatening Palestinians who were visiting imprisoned relatives.
• Accepting a Jordanian lawmaker’s challenge to a fist fight (called off only by the personal intervention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu).
• Sparking the ire of Israelis and French Jews by endorsing far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.
• Breaking protocol to take a selfie with President Donald Trump.
• Being suspended from the Knesset for mocking another lawmaker’s disability.
• When Hazan sued Israeli Channel 2 for a report accusing him of pimping prostitutes and using and dealing hard drugs while managing a casino in Bulgaria, the judge ruled that there was sufficient evidence of the drug use and pimping — and that Channel 2’s only error was saying that Hazan had dealt drugs.

And on Tuesday, reacting to his current suspension, Hazan called Knesset speaker and former refusenik Yuli Edelstein “Stalin.”

You get the picture.

Bowen knew about the MK’s provocative personality, and still selected him — clearly in the hope and expectation that Hazan would say something embarrassing and/or outrageous. Bowen saw the lawmaker as a useful idiot. And Hazan, happy to oblige, seized an opportunity to play to a narrow thuggish fan-base, and notch another 15 minutes of fame.

After showing footage of the teenage Ahed being escorted from court, Bowen pivoted towards the Israeli perspective, saying “Some Israelis are horrified by the imprisonment of children. But most feel that she should be punished and perhaps her family too.”

And who are those “most Israelis” represented by?

Cue Hazan, who is not introduced to viewers, except for a caption saying “Oren Hazan, Israeli Member of Parliament.”

If I was there, she would finish in the hospital for sure. Nobody could stop me. I would kick, kick her face, believe me.

It’s like spinning disgraced ex-congressman Anthony Weiner‘s views on #MeToo as a reflection of mainstream American views on the subject.

As for the rest of the report, Bowen’s assertion that “settlements are illegal in international law” violates the BBC’s style guide, which at least instructs journalists to acknowledge that Israel contests that view — which Bowen didn’t do:

When writing a story about settlements, BBC journalists can aim, where relevant, to include context to the effect that ‘all settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.’

While Bowen blames “the occupation” for the presence of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Nabi Salah, and the courtyard of the Tamimi house, he doesn’t mention why the soldiers were there — because Palestinians throwing stones at Israeli motorists had fled into the area of the Tamimi house.

Bowen also calls Ahed “a seasoned activist.” But a closer look at the activism that made her a household name in the West Bank and earned her recognition from Mideast leaders, shows a young girl repeatedly attacking and haranguing Israeli soldiers over a significant period of time — hoping to provoke a response in front of a video camera.

And her parents can be described as propagandists in their own right. Her father, Bassam Tamimi goes on global tours campaigning against Israel, while her mother, Nariman, filmed the incident for which Ahed was arrested. (Nariman was also arrested.)

The issues that Bowen reported on are legitimate, but British viewers would have been left aghast by this report — exactly the outcome that Bowen set out for. In a ruse of false balance, Bowen kicked Israel in the face.

This article was originally published by HonestReporting.

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