By Jenni Frazer
January 15, 2009
An extraordinary exchange this morning on Radio 4's Today programme between Israel government spokesman Mark Regev and the programme's resident rottweiler, John Humphrys. The latter, in full attack-dog mode, launched proceedings with a terse "Good morning to you!" and it was all downhill from thereon in.
Humphrys, in his self-appointed role as the representative of all journalists, everywhere, had two complaints for Regev: 1. why hadn't Regev allowed the BBC into Gaza, and 2. why hadn't Regev taken into account that there were going to be civilian casualties — "you must have known."
Ok, it is undeniably Mark Regev's job to fend off this kind of interviewing, but even the most casual listener might have congratulated him on his self-restraint. Most people would have lost their temper with Humphrys long before: his sheer snarling rudeness surely went beyond the bounds of tough questioning - of which, incidentally, I am in favour.
But it ought to be possible to ask questions without dripping with cynicism, especially from the comfort of a warm BBC studio. Regev's reply, incidentally, to Humphrys' second question, the "you must have known" thing, was masterly. Would you, he asked Humphrys, put the same question to Nato before it bombed Serbia? The question is irrelevant. Splutter, splutter, from Humphrys, whom you could almost hear spinning on his heel and flinging his cape over his shoulder before slamming his top hat on at a rakeish angle and uttering "I bid you good day, sir!"