If you haven’t been following the circus at Near 90.3 fm let me give you a quick thumbnail sketch.
- An episode of the weekly and obsessively anti-Israel programme International Politics led to a successful complaint by the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Boaz Modai, to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
- The authority which is legally responsible for content on Near 90.3 fm and not coincidentally provides most of the stations funding made a ruling. The BAI did something most unusual for it (only the second time this year) – it allowed the complaint on the grounds the programme did not fulfil its obligation for fairness, objectivity and impartiality in current affairs.
- The punishment was a slap-on-the-wrist. The BAI’s decision was read in an emotionless monotone at the start of the 6th November edition.
Here’s where the fun starts. I’ve linked to the programme so everybody can judge for themselves.
The broadcast. International Politics 6th November 2013
- Peter Kearney, the announcer/editor and Azizi bin Habeebi, his guest, ridiculed the BAI’s ruling and made it quite clear that they were proud of their position and would do it again.
- Among the least offensive bits of contempt was a reference to the ruling as garbage stinking up the room.
- Near 90.3 fm quietly removed the recording from its website, within 12 hours.
- Kearney replaces it.
- It’s removed again – and so on.
- Kearney uploads it to his personal website.
- Much posturing about freedom of speech and Israel controlling the media from the Israel Haters.
- Kearney is suspended.
Who is Bin Habeebi and what does it matter?
Isn’t he just entertainment?
By now it is clear that Azizi bin Habeebi is the alter ego of Sami Moukaddem, a Lebanese musician, writer, film-maker, counselling psychologist (therapist) dealing with abuse, who has lived in Ireland for two decades.
I had prepared some detective work proving this but the media reports all took it as a fact, anyway.
Moukaddem went out of his way to dissociate himself from bin Habeebi to the point of introducing him on the International Politics show as his mentor and creating a website at his ‘request’. Not finished BTW.
If his aim was, as he claimed, to challenge stereotypes of Arabs he has succeeded in offending just about everyone. If I was an Arab I would object to him as presenting as false a stereotype as the Black & White Minstrels made of Black Americans. Had a Zionist presented an Arab in sunglasses, wild unkempt (fake) beard and ranting in a stage Arab accent a complaint to the BAI would have been made – and it would have been accepted.
At no time is bin Habeebi presented as comic relief but as a serious, regular analyst, part of International Politics’ obsessive anti Israel campaign. It is my belief that Kearney and Moukkadem used the Habeebi character as a ventriloquist’s dummy. As on the stage the dummy says outrageous things that the ventriloquist could never say himself.
Take this out of the Middle East context. How could this be acceptable in any current affairs programme?
What part of Near 90.3 fm’s Principles of Good Governance commitment to fairness, honesty and promoting the organisation’s good reputation don’t Kearney and Moukaddem don’t feel applies to them.
- Irish radio presenter suspended after anti-Israeli comments aired on show, Patrick Counihan, Irish Central, 2 December 2013
- Near FM suspend presenter over BAI/Israel row, Radio Nation, 3 December 2013
- Media player, John Burns, The Sunday Times (paywall), 24 November 2013