Current affairs vultures cannot but be disturbed by the levels of violence around the globe. Close to home, a 14-year-old moped rider dies in East London. In Northern Ireland, a man is shot and killed on 18 January and a car bomb goes off in Derry last weekend.
Overseas, violence in Zimbabwe, a country of huge British interest, reaches perilous levels with hundreds dead and President Emmerson Mnangagwa accused by human rights groups of responsibility for the alleged killing of unarmed citizens.
In Syria, a suicide bomber blows himself up in the Palace of the Princes restaurant, killing 15. In Sudan, the BBC reports government forces are shooting and maiming demonstrators, murdering among others a medic.
Amid these multiple levels of violence, the BBC’s flagship news show Today chooses to make Gaza its centrepiece.
In the holiday period, Today broadcast its whole programme from the Hamas-controlled territory. One might have understood had the broadcast come from Bethlehem, the place of Christ’s birth, Nazareth, his family’s home town, or Jerusalem.
Instead of delving deeply into what is happening in Zimbabwe, Syria, the Sudan or even East London, Today highlights a confrontation between Israel’s ambassador to the Court of St James, Mark Regev, and cool-headed and super-smart Today presenter Mishal Husain.
Admittedly, Today is known for its tough and forensic questioning, an art form cultivated by John Humphreys over several years, so Regev would not have thought he might face a soft ride. Among potential subjects could have been UK-Israel high-tech, the nation state law, alleged corruption by Prime Minister Netanyahu and the complexities of the upcoming election.
Instead, the interview focused on the demonstrations at the Gaza – Israel border Even Israel’s most ardent supporters cannot but have qualms about recent levels of violence there. Civilians in Gaza, egged on by Hamas, have spent the past six months protesting at the fence. Some accounts put the number of people killed at 168 with more than 17,200 injured. Among those killed was a 14-year-old boy, the same age as the moped rider in East London.
Nor is there a secret about the reason for protest: Hamas has a declared aim of clearing the fence and wreaking havoc in Israeli towns and villages on the other side.
Husain’s fiery questioning of Regev was in the best Today tradition. Her knowledge of the situation has been reinforced by her reporting from the Palestinian side of the fence. But listeners may have found uncomfortable the persistence of the interrogation and apparent unwillingness to give the ambassador a chance to explain.
No one can be happy with the use by Israel of live ammunition or the number of deaths of Palestinians used as human shields for a terrorist ruling clique. What is regrettable is Britain’s top morning news show giving so much time to this border when worse is going on elsewhere.
Fortunately, Regev, a former spokesperson for Netanyahu, was able to take the barrage calmly and answer robustly without raising his voice.
Next, perhaps, questions for the diplomatic representatives of Syria or Zimbabwe – it is hard to believe they would even engage with this programme, let alone respond in a civilised manner.
— Mark Regev (@MarkRegev) January 18, 2019