Thursday, November 02, 2006

Spooked

For the third week in a row, the BBC have shown an episode of their hit series Spooks, that has not only shown Mossad in the worst possible light, but has cast aspersions on the loyalty of Jews to Britain. If this was not in the general context of the entire current series being absolutely farcical in its plot twists, there would be more outrage, but luckily the writers have already discredited themselves to regular watchers with the previous 5 episodes.

Still, this is a programme which prides itself on reasonably accurate depictions of the activities of MI5. It seems peculiar then that they would reduce themselves to "evening the score" for the naturally high proportion of episodes involving Muslim terrorism, by first having a double bill special showing one such attack to be an Israeli "false flag" operation, then following it with another in which Christian fundamentalists attack Muslims and five armed and equipped Mossad agents are taken apart by 2 unarmed and unsighted Brits in a building they do not know.

The Israelis in these episodes make basic errors like using obviously Israeli weapons, saying mazel tov when they should be speaking Arabic, and falling prey to a white British non-Jewish MI5 officer recognising their Arabic accent as being mizrachi Jewish, something which a room full of Arab diplomats had not noticed. Then not only does the Mossad unit suddenly drop their guard and get taken out by the SAS, but the sole survivor is carted off to Gitmo. In the latest episode, Mossad are duped into thinking a non-existent organisation that is trying to kill Muslim extremists is actually antisemitic, so at the drop of a hat, they decide to eliminate its leaders.

The ease with which two armed and trained teams of agents are eliminated is absurd. Still, there are apparently lots of spare Mossadniks in London, and the MI5 boss Harry promises the Cultural Attaché at the Israeli Embassy that he'll "have them all rounded up and deported so fast your head will spin". Because Mossad agents in London, like the guy who makes chicken shwarma at Dizengoff, and Rabbi Grunewald at Pinner shul, and of course me, well, we actually have Mossad business cards and go to the Annual Mossad London Branch Dinner at Bevis Marks once a year. And we are in Yellow Pages under "Spies - Israeli".

Meanwhile, I noticed that in several shots following the MI5 computer screens as they traced various baddies, there were the most appalling basic spelling errors. So a bunch of illiterates, who seem to lose members of their own team at the rate of more than 2 a series, including one hanged by MI6, one shot by a terrorist she had already stabbed, whilst surrounded by fellow MI5 agents, one framed by MI6 again (maybe MI6 is a Mossad front?!), these people have the measure of the insidious Israelis. Yep, sure.

The closest this gets to historical accuracy are a handful of botched operations; the 1950s "false flag" op which emerged in the Lavon Affair, the attempt to kill Khaled Meshaal in Jordan by putting poison in his ear, the unfortunate end to the post-Munich Wrath of G-d op, and a very short list of others. This stands in comparison with the numerous ones we know about (Entebbe, Yihye Ayash, Eli Cohen etc) and the many we do not.

Still, that is not the main problem here - we already know that the BBC cannot be trusted to depict Israel's history or policy in any way other than the most negative. I would even go further - it is great that they help create an image in the public perception that Israel is not a threat and that our dear MI5 and MI6 are world-beaters. I am sure this helps people sleep at night, though a few discussions with members of the military and intelligence communities would paint a diametrically opposite picture.

What concerns me most is the portrayal of British Jews in these episodes.

The villain is one who was married to an Israeli who died in a bus bomb in Tel Aviv, and whose loyalties were always in question after a conversation with the thoroughly British and pretty much self-confessed Arabist MI5-nik, in which he refuses to answer a question about who he would support if the UK and Israel went to war. As if he would ever be allowed a senior position in British Intelligence.

The hero is a Jewish Cabinet minister who helps the UK sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, and ignores threats from a mysterious Israeli against his family.

And of course there is plenty of moralising about how dare these people come into our country and force decisions on who can and cannot get plutonium, with their interfering and false flags. In the previous episode, MI5 ran an international summit during which time they stole from the American Secretary of State's computer and had an African president shot dead on the say-so of one of the kitchen staff. But that's somehow different and the cause more honourable.

Feel free to dismiss these concerns as overly-sensitive, but it seems to me that the BBC has used a work of fiction to plant the seeds of opinion in the fertile minds of millions of viewers about Israel's dirty behaviour and the potential amongst British Jews to have split loyalties.

Funny, because I have a clear memory of the British intelligence services failing to predict and prevent the entry of two British Muslims into Israel where they perpetrated a callous act of terror at a bar in Tel Aviv. Must be time for Israeli TV to broadcast an episode where British MI6 agents infiltrate the country dressed as innocent Tibetans trying to derail an Israeli-Chinese arms deal, only to be gunned down when they speak with the wrong accent and suddenly forget all their training...

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