BBC opens comments on Obama visit article, quotes flotilla organiser

The BBC’s coverage of the visit by Barack Obama to Israel on March 20th 2013 included a rolling article (changes to which can be seen here) featured on the Middle East page and on the Home page of the BBC News website.  

Readers of the article will notice another attempt by the BBC to shape audience perception of the new Israeli government and its usual framing of lack of progress in the peace process as being attributable to “continued Israeli settlement construction” – despite the ten month-long building freeze in 2009/10, during which the Palestinian Authority continued to refuse to enter talks for nine months. 

Photo: US Embassy Tel Aviv

“Correspondents say Israelis are more preoccupied with instability in the wider Middle East region than with breathing new life into the peace process, which broke down in 2010 amid a dispute over continued Israeli settlement construction.

Settlement supporters are a big force in Israel’s new coalition government.” [emphasis added]

Sharp-eyed readers will also notice that the BBC’s article quotes Huwaida Arraf, describing her as a “demonstrator”.

“On Tuesday Palestinian protesters gathered in Ramallah and Bethlehem, some throwing shoes at images of the president and others driving over his portrait, reports said.

Demonstrator Huwaida Arraf told Reuters news agency that Mr Obama’s visit was “a slap in the face”.

“People are angry and disappointed that this far into his presidency, Obama has done nothing, and aid to Israel’s occupation continues to flow,” he (sic) said.”

The article fails to point out to BBC audiences that Huwaida Arraf is one of the founders and leaders of the ‘International Solidarity Movement’ (ISM) and the flotilla-organising ‘Free Gaza Movement’, both of which provide support to Hamas, and who was an active participant in the ISM support group to the Palestinian terrorists who took over the Church of the Nativity in 2002.  

As the BBC Editorial Guidelines clearly state in section 4.4.14:

 “..we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

The fact that Huwaida Arraf is not just a run-of-the-mill Palestinian “demonstrator”, but a dual-nationality professional anti-Israel campaigner with a long record of supporting terrorism, should have been made clear to this article’s readers. 

One of the ‘protests’ against Obama’s visit, which took place in Bethlehem – not far from the Church of the Nativity, was filmed by the Palestine News Network and translated by MEMRI. The footage shows that this BBC report neglects to mention the burning and vandalising of posters portraying President Obama with swastikas. 

The BBC also elected to open this article to comments from the general public, but a lack of appropriate moderation of those comments meant that the thread was soon littered with antisemitic conspiracy theories of “Jewish power” and offensive remarks of other kinds, such as the suggestion that Jews are “driven by greed” or that the US should “start bombing Israeli settlements”. Many of the comments on that BBC article would not be out-of-place on some of the worst Guardian ‘Comment is Free’ threads as highlighted in the 2012 CST report on anti-Semitic discourse. Below are just a few examples.

comments Obama art

comments Obama art 2

comments Obama art 3

comments Obama art 4

comments Obama art 5

comments Obama art 6

comments Obama art 7

comments Obama art 8

As previously noted here in the past, moderation on BBC articles relating to Israel which are open to comments is often very lax – despite the existence of ‘house rules’ prohibiting comments which display racism, abuse or are deemed “otherwise likely to offend”, as well as those which are likely to “provoke, attack or offend others”.

Clearly, there is an urgent need for the BBC to take a much more responsible approach to moderation on its comments boards in order to avoid being any further complicit in the spread of antisemitic discourse.


9 comments on “BBC opens comments on Obama visit article, quotes flotilla organiser

  1. The article fails to point out to BBC audiences that Huwaida Arraf is one of the founders and leaders of the ‘International Solidarity Movement’ (ISM) and the flotilla-organising ‘Free Gaza Movement’, both of which provide support to Hamas, and who was an active participant in the ISM support group to the Palestinian terrorists who took over the Church of the Nativity in 2002.

    What can be said Hadar. The BBC is a disgrace. It is simply appalling their blatant manipulation of the readers minds.

    • Excellent article, Hadar. The number of recommendations gathered by the explicitly antisemitic posts about “Zionist lobbies” etc is incredible, as is the fact that the moderators don’t seem concerned by it either.

  2. The Brazenly Biased C**** simply do not even bother to mask their propaganda

    read the article and watch the video here: – only a few words about the police ‘saying’ about the war crime of firing two rockets at civilians and on the video… the first words the BBC editor ensures the listener hears from the ‘teacher’ are “ISRAEL TRIPLED IN SIZE”

    shameless bastards…… COMPLAIN PEOPLE!!!

  3. Those comments on the BBC article are an example of fascists thoughts in the UK amongst what I believe is a certain demographic. It’s not wonder than in order to fight one extremism one but revert to the opposite extreme. There is no middle ground, unfortunately, it’s either Muslim or English country because there will never be a country (besides Israel) where – dare I say – dark-skinned people live among light-skinned people cohesively and in harmony.

    But worst of all, some actually believe US and Israel are the root of all evil. 1939, anyone?

  4. We are all acquainted with the Mohammed inspired Muslim, 7th century conquest of the Middle East, North Africa and Spain. It took seven hundred years for the reconquest of Spain and the exit of the Muslims. It has taken the Israelis 1400 years to reconquer their homeland from the Muslims, but somehow the cunning Arab League has managed to discredit Jewish efforts in their reconquest. I understand that they speak of taking Spain back. Their behavior suggests that they have more expanionist plans than that. Meanwhile, we shall hold onto our land and regain Judea and Samaria at the very least. Do read your history, liberals!

  5. Looks rather like those commenting got lost en route to a David Icke forum.

    Here in the UK, councils now have to provide sites for Travellers and I was doing a spot of research for a colleague regarding a particular town’s demographics. I happened to come across a BBC article on Travellers which also enabled comments. Unlike the examples above, the thread was quite heavily moderated. I can’t imagine that a comment recommending ‘bombing’ would – or should – have been left standing.

  6. They’ve deleted two of the comments shown in the article – nos 25 and 52.

    It’s extremely unusual for the BBC to have a reactively-moderated article, i.e. to let comments appear immediately, before moderation, and they were flooded with 1171 comments in about 15 hours, more than one a minute.

    Not excusing them, but they would have had to have a team of moderators working on that one article to do a fair moderation job.

    Problem, of course, is that they naturally sympathise with the anti-israel crew and are therefore incapable of fair moderation.

  7. Pingback: Does the BBC’s Mardell think the language spoken in Israel is called “Israeli”? | BBC Watch

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