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July 17, 2011

Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, recently appeared on the BBC’s program Hardtalk. As it’s name indicates, Hardtalk intends to be a hard-hitting format of interview. Barkat is getting better at fielding questions about Jerusalem than he used to be, but rhetoric is not his strongest asset.

What is so weird about the interview, however, is how the two men consistently talk by one another. Nir thinks he’s addressing the questions; the BCC-chap is convinced he isn’t. Nir thinks he’s reciting facts (and indeed, much of what he claims is true), while the BBC-chap has done his homework and recites all sorts of facts which sound equally plausible. And yet the two men could be talking mutually incomprehensible languages at each other and the communication would be better.

The one comment I would make to the questions: they totally lack history. Their repeated theme is “this is the way it is, and how can you possibly defend it?” Nir says – when appropriate – “This is the way it is right now, and we’re working to change it”.

Ah, and then, of course, there are the questions about the international community et al: no-one accepts Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, surely this must mean Israel can’t have it? To which Nir responds: yes, we can. Refreshing, that. He might also have said that for millennia (two of them) Christianity told itself lies about the Jews, and still the Jews weren’t fazed. See Vatican II, for example. The fact that “everybody says something about the Jews” is usually a reasonably reliable predictor that “everybody” is wrong.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2011 7:41 pm

    Barkat is a bit like a deer in the headlights on some of these questions. His best point was the split-city model being unworkable. I don’t watch Hardtalk regularly, but that reporter prepped better than anyone I’ve seen in years. Barkat should be far better prepared for comments about the international community’s perspective on Jerusalem. It’s almost like he went into this thinking he was doing a promo on Jerusalem tourism.

    • July 17, 2011 10:58 pm

      You’re right, Victor – but I’m not certain Barkat really cares. I mean, of course he cares, otherwise he woudn’t make the effort, but he doesn’t care enough to prepare correctly. Heseems to feel that if he concentrates on doing the right thing, the narrative will straighten itself out, Of course, it won’t, not by the BBC The profoundly ironic part of the story, however, is that it’s just conceivable that it will make a difference to some of the Palestinians in east Jerusalem. That would be a major coup, even if it never gets reported in the media – and Barkat does seem to be trying to make that happen.

  2. Daniel permalink
    July 18, 2011 12:56 am


    I was very impressed by this interview. He could have been better prepared but he handled himself pretty well especially considering it was so hostile. Has a mayor of Jerusalem ever done this sort of interview before? Barkat constantly talks about not seeking higher office, if that is the case what does he have to gain from sitting down to an interview like this?

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