I used to enjoy waking up to BBC Radio 5 Live’s breakfast show with Nicky Campbell and Rachel Burden, but not anymore.
In a discussion about whether countries should be boycotting this year’s Eurovision Song Contest being held in Azerbaijan due to Azerbaijan’s human rights abuses you’d think it a safe bet that Israel would go unmentioned for once.
Not so on the BBC.
On this Monday’s breakfast show Campbell interviewed John Dalhuisen, of Amnesty International. Campbell first asked Dalhuisen what’s the problem with Azerbaijan and Dalhuisen spoke of the large scale corruption, of at least 15 prisoners of conscience and of Azerbaijan being “tightly controlled”.
Campbell then asked whether Dalhuisen had raised the same objections about Russia’s hosting of Eurovision in 2009.
Dalhuisen said that they didn’t call for a boycott of Russia and neither are they calling for one of Azerbaijan, but just for the participants to be free to speak their minds about what is taking place in Azerbaijan.
Campbell then said:
“And of course some would say Israel in 1999.”
Campbell then went on to describe Azerbaijan as a “society of fear and hatred”.
Had Campbell’s researcher bothered to look up the Freedom House index for 2012 they would have found Israel designated a “Free” country with a score of 1 for political rights and 2 for civil liberties (1 being the best, 7 being the worst).
It seems that the 2 for civil liberties is down to the passage of the so-called boycott bill which is considered undemocratic because it forbids calls for the boycotting of businesses within Israel and the West Bank.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan and Russia are both considered “Not Free” and both have scores of 6 and 5.
And by 1999 Israel had taken huge risks for peace with the Palestinians. It was the decade of the Oslo Peace process but also the start of Islamist suicide bombings inside Israel which would eventually claim the lives of many hundreds of Israeli civilians.
Campbell should have picked Turkey, who staged the contest in 2004, from the list of past hosts of Eurovision to criticise for its human rights record. Turkey currently has in prison more journalists than China and Iran combined.
The one hero in all this is Steven Sugar (Z”L) who, before he died last year, tried to force the BBC to publish the Balen Report into potentially biased reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The fight was taken over after his death by his brave wife.
But the BBC spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court so as not to reveal the report and won.
With totally gratuitous and inaccurate remarks like that from Campbell and others at the BBC about Israel (also see here for Michael Portillo and Andrew Neil implying that America’s 2.1% Jewish population virtually controls America’s foreign policy) one can see why the BBC is trying to hide the report.
Audio of Interview: