Comedian Frankie Boyle has written an open letter slamming the BBC governing body's cowardly rebuke of his jokes about Palestine.
The BBC Trust's editorial standards committee apologised earlier this week over comments made by Boyle two years ago, comparing Palestine to a cake being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew .
In his letter, the former Mock The Week star said he had been moved to tears after watching a documentary about life in Palestine and had promised himself he would do something.
He said that the BBC wished to deliver the flavour of political comedy with none of the content , and also slammed the BBC's decision not to air a charity appeal for aid to Gaza last year. He said: It's tragic for such a great institution,
but it is now cravenly afraid of giving offence and vulnerable to any kind of well-drilled lobbying.
Boyle made the remarks on Radio 4 show Political Animal. He said: I've been studying Israeli Army martial arts. I now know 16 ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back.
Update: Open Letter to the BBC Trust
17th May 2010. See article
Obviously, it feels strange to be on the moral high ground but I feel a response is required to the BBC Trust's cowardly rebuke of my jokes about Palestine.
As always, I heard nothing from the BBC but read in a newspaper that editorial procedures would be tightened further to stop jokes with anything at all to say getting past the censors.
In case you missed it, the jokes in question are: I've been studying Israeli Army Martial Arts. I now know 16 ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back. People think that the Middle East is very complex but I have an
analogy that sums it up quite well. If you imagine that Palestine is a big cake, well…that cake is being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew.
I think the problem here is that the show's producers will have thought that Israel, an aggressive, terrorist state with a nuclear arsenal was an appropriate target for satire. The Trust's ruling is essentially a note from
their line managers. It says that if you imagine that a state busily going about the destruction of an entire people is fair game, you are mistaken. Israel is out of bounds.
The BBC refused to broadcast a humanitarian appeal in 2009 to help residents of Gaza rebuild their homes. It's tragic for such a great institution but it is now cravenly afraid of giving offence and vulnerable to any kind
of well drilled lobbying.
I told the jokes on a Radio 4 show called Political Animal. That title seems to promise provocative comedy with a point of view. In practice the BBC wish to deliver the flavour of political comedy with none of the content.
The most recent offering I saw was BBC Two's The Bubble. It looked exactly like a show where funny people sat around and did jokes about the news. Except the thrust of the format was that nobody had read the papers. I can only imagine how the head of
the BBC Trust must have looked watching that, grinning like Gordon Brown having his prostrate examined.
The situation in Palestine seems to be, in essence, apartheid. I grew up with the anti apartheid thing being a huge focus of debate. It really seemed to matter to everybody that other human beings were being treated in that
way. We didn't just talk about it, we did things, I remember boycotts and marches and demos all being held because we couldn't bear that people were being treated like that.
A few years ago I watched a documentary about life in Palestine. There's a section where a UN dignitary of some kind comes to do a photo opportunity outside a new hospital. The staff know that it communicates nothing of the
real desperation of their position, so they trick her into a side ward on her way out. She ends up in a room with a child who the doctors explain is in a critical condition because they don't have the supplies to keep treating him. She flounders, awkwardly
caught in the bleak reality of the room, mouthing platitudes over a dying boy.
The filmmaker asks one of the doctors what they think the stunt will have achieved. He is suddenly angry, perhaps having just felt at first hand something he knew in the abstract. The indifference of the world. She will
do nothing, he says to the filmmaker. Then he looks into the camera and says, Neither will you .
I cried at that and promised myself that I would do something. Other than write a few stupid jokes I have not done anything. Neither have you.