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Another BBC stunt to polish Israel's image?

Reports in Haaretz say that the BBC's Top Gear team has been seen entering Israel from Jordan. "Viewers," said the newspaper's Daniel Schmil, "will be able to hear exactly what Clarkson, Hammond and May thought about Israel's roads in the coming season." The objective of the Top Gear visit is to film Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May driving roadsters to Jerusalem, modifying them along the way to suit the local conditions, "in the amusing and entertaining style for which the programme is famous".

This visit comes at a time when Britain, Spain, Turkey and Canada are boycotting the OECD tourism conference in Jerusalem, so questions must be asked about the BBC's timing and intention in this choice of location for the popular programme. Put aside the fact that Mr. Schmil's "Israeli roads" on the road to Jerusalem will, in fact, be roads on the occupied West Bank and not Israeli at all, will the Top Gear team drive on the settler-only roads that lacerate the Palestinian countryside? Will they have to drive on the tracks used by most Palestinians to circumvent the Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints? Will they, in fact, be stopped at such checkpoints and be delayed for hours on end as Palestinians are, or denied free passage completely? Probably not, although we will have to wait and see the programme itself before we will know for sure.

Nevertheless, the BBC and other Western media outlets have ignored the release of the latest report by the UN's Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories. Prof. Richard Falk "called for the support of the international boycott and sanctions campaign against Israel because of its continued occupation of Palestinian land." The Lebanese newspaper Al-Nahar covered this story just a couple of days ago; the BBC was probably too busy with Clarkson's cronies and their boys' toys to care about yet another senior UN official condemning the "racial discrimination practiced" by the Israelis and the "dual standards that affect [Palestinians'] freedom of movement within the West Bank" and from Jerusalem to the West Bank". What Prof. Falk has to say is, though, of huge relevance to the BBC and its choice of location for this popular television series. The BBC has a responsibility to be impartial; filming an entertainment programme in territory occupied by Israel in which human rights are abused daily, is not impartiality, for it signals to Israel that it can do what it wants, the BBC will still treat the Zionist state as a member of the civilised world.

It may not be too late for Top Gear's production team to make amends. The producer should insist to the Israeli government minders that Top Gear wants to tackle the same roads, and face the same harassment as the Palestinians; doing so would expose Israeli claims of being a democratic state for what they are; lies, damned lies and Israeli propaganda. If the BBC misses this opportunity, it will confirm that the BBC misses no opportunity to serve the interests of Israel, acting as an arm of Israeli hasbara which seeks to disguise the Zionist state's occupation and oppressive policies under a cloak of normality. Top Gear's challenges for its presenters usually entail driving in conditions that are far from normal, and that is arguably their appeal. It is hoped that the abnormality of life for ordinary Palestinians living under Israel's brutal occupation of their land will be made clear in the resultant programme. Jeremy Clarkson is known for his robust, no-nonsense stand against many of the ills in the modern world. Will he have the courage to stand up and be counted as an opponent of Israeli injustice? Let's hope so.

Commentary & AnalysisEurope & RussiaIsraelMiddle EastPalestineUK
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