On February 21st 2013, on the Middle East page of its BBC News website, the BBC informed audiences of the news that Barcelona FC plans to visit the region in an article entitled “Barcelona to play Middle East ‘peace’ match“.
“Barcelona are set to play a “bridge-building” football match against a team of Israelis and Palestinians.”
“It is not yet know [sic] who will make the one-day trip for Barcelona, but there are high hopes that star striker Lionel Messi will be among the visitors.
The exhibition game will bring together top Israeli and Palestinian players to face the Barcelona side, says the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem, although the team’s composition has yet to be confirmed.”
In fact, that idea was scuppered the very next day by the President of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub (also head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee), who dismissed the idea of a joint Israeli-Palestinian team. No update to that effect has been added to the BBC’s article.
Of course such a move from Rajoub hardly comes as a surprise to anyone familiar with his record.
The article goes on to say:
“Last year the Spanish club inadvertently became embroiled in Middle Eastern politics when Gilad Shalit – the former Israeli soldier held by Palestinian militants in Gaza for five years – was a guest at its Nou Camp stadium for a match against archrivals Real Madrid.
Amid Palestinian anger, an invitation was also extended to a footballer on their national side – Mahmoud al-Sarsak, who had recently been released having spent three years in an Israeli jail without charge – but he chose not to attend.”
As readers may remember, the BBC’s coverage of that story at the time distinguished itself by a lack of accuracy and persistent downplaying of Sarsak’s connection to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror organization.
But it seems that any Palestinian who kicks a ball around now and again not only automatically qualifies for the title of ‘footballer’ in the BBC’s eyes, but that reports on any other activity in which he takes part are eclipsed by the mere existence of that title. The article goes on to state:
“Last year the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) unsuccessfully lobbied European football’s governing body, Uefa, to stop Israel from hosting the continent’s 2013 under-21 championship over the issue of Palestinian players in Israeli detention.
Palestinian Olympic squad goalkeeper Omar Abu Rois and Ramallah player Mohammed Nimr are currently being held in Israel without trial.”
Mohammed Nimr actually plays for the football team of the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah and Omar Abu Rois (also a resident of Amari) is an employee of the Red Crescent in Ramallah – known for his connections to Hamas – when not playing football.
The two were arrested about a year ago in connection with a terror attack against IDF soldiers on January 20th 2012 in which Abu Rois and his accomplice Tsalah Bara’al – also a Red Crescent employee from Amari – fired some 20 rounds of ammunition from Kalashnikov (AK47) rifles supplied by Munzar Abbas – an arms dealer from Amari who is also an officer in the PA’s ‘General Intelligence’ forces and responsible for the Red Crescent’s security guards. Mohamed Nimr was an accomplice to the attack and supplier of weaponry. After the cell’s arrest, it transpired that other terror attacks were also planned.
The BBC, however, would apparently have its audiences believe that the only thing they need to know about these two men is that they play football. By concealing the reasons for their detention, the BBC not only fails to meet its obligations as far as accuracy goes, but also clearly tries to distort the audience’s understanding of the story, thus yet again compromising its own reputation for impartiality.