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BBC Radio 4’s Nick Robinson is unconvincing

BBC presenter Nick Robinson arrives for the funeral of TV presenter and journalist Bill Turnbull at Holy Trinity Church in Blythburgh, Suffolk, September 16, 2022. (Photo: PA via Reuters)

The April 15 edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ program was sharply criticized because of a claim made by the presenter Nick Robinson during a lengthy interview with the British Foreign Secretary.

As reported by the Jewish Chronicle:

“Politicians have attacked the BBC, accusing it of “shocking bias” after presenter Nick Robinson said on Monday that Israel had “murdered tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians”.

Senior Tory Theresa Villiers said there should be an “immediate investigation” into Robinson’s comments.

In an interview with the Foreign Secretary, Lord David Cameron, on BBC Radio 4 Today The presenter said he would raise “a moral question”.

“Western governments appear to support Israel when Israel is under attack, but when Israel attacks and kills tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians, we say the words but do almost nothing,” Robinson said.

Later on the day, Robinson deported a tweet:

The key phrase in that statement is this:

“I should have been clearer that I was not expressing my own views, let alone those of the BBC, when I used the words ‘killings’.”

As Robinson noted, that question was the last question in a fifteen-minute interview (starting at 2:10:12 here). However, Robinson’s introduction to the subject, along with the wording of many of his seventeen questions, casts doubt on the claim that he was not expressing his own views when he stated—without qualification—that “Israel is attacking and killing tens of thousands of people.” innocent Palestinians”.

Introduction: (emphasis in italics in original, emphasis in bold added)

Robinson: “Britain is not just a bystander to the potential slide into full-scale war in the Middle East. We Are active participants. RAF Typhoons flew over the region’s skies to assist to protect Israel launched a direct attack on the country on Saturday evening after Iran launched its first direct attack on the country since the 1997 Islamic revolution (sic). If what follows is what G7 leaders have called a devastating all-out conflict, British bases and British interests in the region could come under attack.

Nor are we bystanders to Israel’s ongoing and devastating war in Gaza, which has done just that tens of thousands of Palestinians killed and – as we heard in the last hour of the program – May soon to see the greatest famine on earth.

Until recently, the British government helped block UN votes for a ceasefire in Gaza. It continues to say that Israel’s actions do not violate international law. It continues to supply weapons to Israel and boycott the UN aid agency UNRWA. The question underlying all these questions is why?”

To ask:

Robinson:Why is the question I ask today. Why risk British lives and spend British taxpayers’ money in defense of Israel?”

Robinson: “Now the former ambassador to Iran – us former ambassador – said this is not our call and pointed out – like almost everyone did that Israel attacked sovereign Iranian territory, albeit a diplomatic mission in another country, in Syria. You can’t dispute that, can you?”

Robinson: “Sure, but Israel has struck diplomatic territorynot true?”

Robinson:Israel has struck diplomatic territory.”

Robinson: “I know you’re giving Israel the benefit of the doubt on this point, when it’s pretty clear to everyone Israel attacked Iranian sovereign territory and you would certainly say that they have the right of self-defense like Israel itself.”

Robinson: “I will turn to Gaza if I may, as you just suggested. There’s another ‘why’ question here. Why does Britain continue to support Israel – sell weapons, say it is not against international law – when you can see what is happening in Gaza and the warnings we heard this morning that we are taking action? the brink of famine; warnings that even the United States has recently repeated.”

Robinson (in response to Cameron’s statements about the arrival of more aid to Gaza, the opening of a new crossing in the north, the transport of aid through the port of Ashdod): “These are all things that they (Israel) say they will do, but they actually didn’t do that. Let me tell you, if I may, that the word ‘frustrating’ is not quite at the level of a famine that may be the largest in the world and the British government chooses it support the Israeli government. It chooses to sell guns, it chooses to say so not contrary to international law.”

Robinson: “If you have been clear and strong, isn’t it possible that they (Israel) are just not listening? That they consider the fact that the British government continues to sell them weapons, does not declare them contrary to international law – which you hinted a month ago that you might do – and think ‘the British government: forget what they say. They are essentially giving us the green light to continue as we have been in Gaza.”

Robinson: “…they (Israel) need the British, they need the French, they need the Jordanians and the Americans and that perhaps – despite the words that I accept you have uttered since you became Foreign Secretary become – you didn’t use the right leveragemeaning, ‘if you don’t do what we recommend, you’ll be on your own’.”

Robinson: “If they (Israel) ignore you in Gaza, they say the words, they promise to do this and that and say those on the ground well, we still don’t see it; the aid is still not coming through, famine continues to become more likely…”

From there it was clearly just a short jump to Robinson’s final question:

Robinson: “I want to end with a moral issue if I can. You will know – I think you have talked about the fact that since the beginning of the war on terror, the West has lost the argument with even many of its own people. The real risk of where we are now is not that Western governments appear to support Israel at the time Israel is attacked, but when Israel attacks and kills tens of thousands of innocent Palestinianswe say the words, but we do almost nothing.

Nowhere in this fifteen-minute interview did listeners hear Robinson use qualifying phrases such as “some might say that…” or “there are those who argue that…”. At no point did Robinson refer to terrorism, Hamas or the October 7 atrocities. What listeners did hear from him were context-free claims – for example about UNRWA and the status of the building next to the Iranian embassy in Damascus – and allegations.

While he may now be trying to do damage control in light of the public uproar over his choice of words, Robinson will have to do much more to convince many that this was not an expression of his “own views.” And if, as he claims, it was not his or ‘the BBC’s’ position, then surely he should be able to tell us whose view it is that Israel is “murdering tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians” and why he saw fit to do so . amplify that patently inaccurate smear for BBC Radio 4 listeners.

This article originally appeared here and is reposted with permission.