The BBC drops a brick

star-Jerusalem-StoneHow old is Rasha Khoury?

There is still time to check out The Brick on BBC Radio 4, if you have the stomach. It’s full of smaller errors but even without them the story fails to be faithful to its own assumptions.

The basic story is told through the eyes of a Palestinian Arab woman, Rasha Khoury, who makes a difficult journey from the Palestinian Authority to Jerusalem or as the notes helpfully inform us Occupied Palestine. On the way she discovers her beloved father had a mistress (OK I can buy that a daughter didn’t know) and mistreated and degraded her mother (She never knew that? Didn’t she live in the same home as her father and mother? Not even plausible).

Playwright Selma Dabbagh† states in the The Making of ‘The Brick’ that she was trying to make a parallel between the ground-down mother and the condition of the East Jerusalem Palestinians. Some introspection, please, Selma. It was Khoury’s father who was responsible not some anonymous foreigners.

Now there’s a parallel with the Arabs of Palestine!

Jerusalem Stone

Her aim in this journey is to recover one brick (hence the title) from an extension to the family home that was unjustly taken from her family. She still refers to it as her family home. It’s here at the premise that the story falls irretrievably apart.

The question no one seems to be asking is whether The Brick is true to its own presumptions? Hence the question, how old is the heroine?

The text is ambiguous. The dry goods seller asks her if she is still single, a question you ask a woman in her middle to late twenties. She dyes her hair which may be to cover grey in an older woman or a fashion choice for a younger‡ although I opt for older but still in the market. Her hysteria, impetuousness, inexperience with checkpoints. (Males between twenty to thirty are given close attention as they most likely to be violent. Women, especially after their thirties are usually waved through. She would know that) , her relationship with her mother (performing errands) and social ineptness (Excuse me would you mind if I take a brick from the garden? would have solved the problem) all point to a younger woman. The British tourist asks how many children (not grandchildren) she has which raises the age threshold.

So here is the problem “We did not accept their authority “ Rasha says.

An act of defiance against whose authority, I ask?
What authority, to make building regulations or in general, I ask?

The play strongly implies Israel (“Who is they? How long have you been in Jerusalem?”) but logically it can’t be Israel.


Municipal laws in Jerusalem require that all buildings be faced with local Jerusalem stone.The ordinance dates back to the British Mandate and the governorship of Sir Ronald Storrs and was part of a master plan for the city drawn up in 1918 by Sir William McLean, then city engineer of Alexandria. So an Egyptian plan; put into effect by the British; continued by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and still in force today. A regulation which IMHO has greatly contributed to the beauty and uniqueness of Jerusalem as a city.

So here we make assumptions of our own. The family home was lost either in 1948 as a consequence of Arab flight during the Israeli War of Independence or 1967 as a consequence of Arab flight during the Six Day War. Any other date rather contradicts the agenda of the lost home and by extension the ‘Right of Return‘, although the British and the Jordanians had no problems with killing or expelling Palestinian troublemakers. From the very specific memories of the house it is fair to assume she was living there from at least the age of ten.

That would make her either about seventy-six or fifty-seven years old.
Her father was defying the British or the Jordanians but not the Israelis!

Fail. Not plausible.

The BBC, Drama & Politics

The BBC is often criticised for injecting political agenda, from one direction – the Left, into their fiction. No one was thrown for a loop when BBC controller of drama commissioning, Ben Stephenson  stated “We need to foster peculiarity, idiosyncrasy, stubborn-mindedness, left-of-centre thinking”. It was greeted with incredulity by some but with a yawn by others. Will they cancel sport to shoehorn even more left-wing drama into the BBC?

So the BBC broadcasting straight Palestinian propaganda in the form of Selma Dabbagh’s The Brick should surprise no one. They are not even ironical. One of the skills is to suggest what the audience can see without making it obvious, Sarah Bradshawe says. That could explain why the word Israel is never mentioned. Always present, always malignant but never directly referred to by name – an international Lord Voldemort.

Personally I think that it’s the daily BBC injection of fiction into their political reporting, especially on Israel, that is more galling.

Extra credit

Yad Sarah building Jerusalem

Modern Jerusalem (Yad Sarah House) building contrasted with an older wall.
Both made with beautiful Jerusalem Stone.

† Selma Dabbagh describes herself as a British Palestinian. “Part of the Palestinian diaspora by birth, she was born in Scotland to a British mother and a Palestinian father”.
‡ Completely off on a tangent. A a twentyish friend of mine from university evolved overnight from ebony hair colour to burgundy. When I asked she told me that black wasn’t natural, either. I’m a man. I hadn’t noticed.

Photographs by David Guy January 2014

About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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