An open letter to BBC’s Tim Sebastian

November 13, 2015
Dear Mr. Sebastian,

I enjoy your programs on Hardtalk and  the Doha debates and I also enjoyed your recent bout with Naftali Bennet although I found this one to be disappointing.  You have been headlined by the BBC as “The man with all the questions” but in your interview with Bennet your questions appear to comprise only selected negative quotations by Israelis conflated as defining Israel.

I would very much appreciate your views as to why remarks and events that go barely noticed when they occur elsewhere, are given overblown repetitive attention with sinister connotation when they occur in Israel?

For example little notice was taken when then MP George Galloway quoted, with approval, Iranian Mahmound Ahmadinejad’s declaration that, “Israel is a cancer at the heart of the middle-east”. But when Benett referred to extreme incitement to violence by Abbas who pays stipends to, and holds parades in honor of  real terrorists,  you equated incitement by Abas to Netanyahu calling on his voters to come to the polls because Arab voters were coming in droves.

I am puzzled and would very much appreciate a clarification as to how you conclude that this political statement was incitement that you said would not be tolerated in any other country. Surely you can’t be serious. How different is Netanyahu’s warning to his supporters that they could lose the election if they did not come out in greater numbers, from the Daily Telegraph urging readers to ‘doom’ Labour by backing Jeremy Corbyn with a step-by-step guide on how to register as Labour supporters and vote for Corbyn in a bid to destroy the party as reported by the Guardian?



If politicians feel unloved in America, they should try Britain. Here, voters castigate politicians as liars on live television, tell pollsters by 10-1 margins that their leaders don’t care for the national interest and have descended into a corrosive countrywide”

Bennet admitted that Israel is far from perfect but his comparison of human rights in Israel with our near and distant neighbours was accurate. This leads to an alternative interpretation of your pointing an accusing finger at Israel in quoting President Rivlin’s remarks that Israel is a sick society that needs attention and that more attention must be paid to eliminating discrimination. Would it not be more fair and intellectually honest to recognize this statement by Rivlin as a laudable  self-critical courageous  public declaration of the  need to observe the high standards Israel has set for itself and continuously strive to improve by excising extremism and eliminating the remnants of discrimination that still exist, despite equality under the law.

I challenge you to do a comparative objective study of discrimination in Israel, Great Britain, Turkey, South Africa  and the USA as well as Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  For a start, the Guardian recently reported a sharp rise in the proportion of young black and ethnic minority prisoners in Britain. Campaigners cite stop and search as a key reason why 40% of those behind bars hail from BME background.  In 2013, the Equality and Human Rights Commission found young BME six times as likely to be stopped, a greater disproportion than in the US and we are all aware of the horrifying events in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere in the US.

GAZA. Your comments on Gaza becoming a prison immediately after Israel’s evacuation is erroneous and Bennett’s statement, that the intention was to assist Gaza to become a prosperous “Singapore” with open borders to Israel and the world is correct. The evacuation was carried out in 2005 and the blockade by EGYPT and Israel was not imposed until 2007 in response to threats from Gaza.

The following extracts from PM Sharon’s disengagement plan paints a picture of good intentions with sadly negative unintended consequences. Referring to the evacuation of an area in the West Bank (Ganim, Kadim, Sa-Nur and Homesh), which few remember, he said this would enable territorial contiguity for Palestinians in Northern Samaria and that Israel would assist the international community in improving the transportation infrastructure in the West Bank to facilitate contiguity of Palestinian transportation, normal life and Palestinian economic and commercial activity in the West Bank.

In Gaza, he said, Israel would transfer industrial, commercial and agricultural facilities to a third, international party for the benefit of the Palestinian population that is not involved in terror.

The Erez industrial zone was to be transferred to the responsibility of a Palestinian or international party and Israel would explore with Egypt, the possibility of establishing a joint industrial zone on the border of the Gaza Strip, Egypt and Israel.

Because too few opinion makers know about the Erez and other beneficial joint industrial enterprises that then existed and that were offered but were wantonly destroyed, it is worth describing them. Unfortunately very little is known, even by experts on Palestine, about the many cooperative efforts established by Israel that were thwarted by the Palestinian uprising, quite apart from those in the pipeline which were not given the chance to be realized.

Before the second intifada, Israel and the Palestinian Authority cooperated in creating employment opportunities along the “seam-line” between Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. A successful industrial zone was created at Erez which grew to employ about  5,000 workers in some 200 businesses half of which were Palestinian-owned. They produced everything from plastics to car parts and continued to do so even as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict raged. This was part of a larger Gaza Industrial Estate (GIE), slated to provide up to 50,000 jobs.  In addition, a joint industrial zone was planned south of Tulkarm intended to provide jobs for more than 5,000 Palestinians. Additional areas were planned for Jenin and the Kerem Shalom area near Rafah in Gaza.

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About the Author
Maurice Ostroff is a founder member of the international Coalition of Hasbara Volunteers, better known by its acronym CoHaV, (star in Hebrew), a world-wide umbrella organization of volunteers active in combating anti-Israel media and political bias and in promoting the positive side of Israel His web site is at