In addition to the promotion and amplification of the Palestinian Authority’s latest politically motivated attempt to undermine Israel’s legitimacy in international fora which already appeared on the BBC website on May 4th and 20th and on BBC World Service radio on May 21st, the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly produced two further reports on the same topic.
On May 28th a filmed report produced by Connolly for BBC television news programmes also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinians push for Israel football suspension“. The synopsis to that report includes clear signposting for BBC audiences:
“The Palestinian Football Association is asking Fifa to suspend Israel from world football, just as it once suspended apartheid South Africa and Slobodan Milosevic’s Yugoslavia.
The PFA says the Israeli FA has violated rules relating to racism, players’ free movement and where clubs are based.” [emphasis added]
Connolly’s film opens with uncredited footage accompanied by the following narration.
“On the West Bank in occupied Palestinian territory, a routine arrest. But the Palestinian man being detained by Israeli soldiers here is Farouk Assi – a football referee on his way to take charge of a game. He never made it. The Palestinian presentation to FIFA demanding Israel’s suspension from world football also includes video of these troops arriving at the Palestinian FA headquarters. The charge: the Israeli occupation is strangling the Palestinian game.”
Viewers are not informed that the footage they are shown dates from September 2014 or that it was not filmed by the BBC but by a Palestinian film crew which apparently just happened to be conveniently on hand when a football referee travelling from Ramallah to Jericho was detained at a checkpoint.
Connolly’s report then cuts to the PFA president Jibril Rajoub.
“I would like to see the Israeli Football Association coming up with a clear-cut statement denouncing such behaviors [sic] but unfortunately the Israeli federation is not more than plastic surgeon for the ugly face of the racist [unintelligible] Israeli occupation.”
After an interview with Israeli footballer Yossi Benayoun, Connolly’s narration continues.
“But part of the Palestinian case is that teams from Jewish settlements on these occupied territories play in the Israeli league in breach of FIFA rules.”
Here, for a second time in a matter of minutes, we see Connolly’s adoption and promotion of the Palestinian narrative through the use of the politically partial term “occupied territories”. No attempt is made to clarify to viewers that all “Jewish settlements” are in fact located in Area C which more than two decades ago the representatives of the Palestinian people agreed would be under Israeli control until final status negotiations were completed.
“Israel, which staged the UEFA under-21 final at this stadium only two years ago, says the move against it at FIFA is part of a broader political campaign and not really about sport at all.”
Connolly refrains from informing viewers that Jibril Rajoub also tried to get that event cancelled and yet again we see that the topic of the affiliations of some Palestinian footballers to terrorist organisations is not mentioned in the BBC’s version of the story. Moreover, as was the case in previous BBC coverage, audiences do not get to hear an official Israeli response to the accusations amplified by the BBC.
It is, however, quite clear from his closing remarks that Kevin Connolly is fully aware of the tactics and strategies which lie behind Jibril Rajoub’s latest agitprop.
“The Palestinian strategy is internationalization – that’s bringing grievances against Israel to different global arenas. It is a new phase in an old diplomatic conflict. And for now it’s the fate of Israeli football that hangs in the balance.”
The same awareness of what really lies behind the subject matter of this story was also apparent in Owen Bennett Jones’ introduction (from 06:00 here) to Connolly’s audio report on the same topic, broadcast on May 29th on BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’.
OBJ: “Well, FIFA delegates will also be deciding whether Israel should be suspended from world football. The vote is part of a Palestinian strategy of internationalization; bringing grievances into as many global arenas as possible.”
Connolly opened that report with a description of the same footage used in his earlier filmed report.
KC: “We’re in the West Bank, near Ramallah, and Palestinian Farouk Assi is under arrest. Blindfolded, handcuffed and told to shut up by the Israeli soldiers who surround him. Palestine TV is on hand to film the arrest. This is not a rare event but Mr Assi was a football referee on his way to a match in Jericho which had to be abandoned because he was detained. Now the video is part of a Palestinian presentation to FIFA, designed to have Israel suspended over incidents like this. The Palestinian FA official Jibril Rajoub is spearheading the campaign.
Rajoub: “I am going to FIFA to ask to end the suffering of the Palestinian footballers, to end the humiliation.”
Connolly: “But the reality is that the policies you’re talking about are carried out by the Israeli army or Israeli intelligence agencies and not carried out by the Israeli Football Association.”
Rajoub: “You are right. I would like to see the Israeli Football Association coming up with a clear-cut statement denouncing such behaviors [sic].”
Once again, no effort was made by Connolly to provide listeners with the necessary background information which would help them understand why the Israeli army and intelligence services should be interested in the activities of people such as Mahmoud Sarsak or Omar Abu Rois. And whilst Connolly again interviewed Israeli footballer Yossi Benayoun along with former Israeli diplomat Alan Baker, neither of those interviewees represent an official Israeli response.
As readers may be aware, in the end Jibril Rajoub withdrew his original motion from the FIFA agenda – for the time being at least and much to the chagrin of many. Interestingly, there has to date been no coverage of that development in the story on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.
The outstanding feature of all the BBC’s coverage of this latest Palestinian attempt to delegitimize Israel in the international arena is of course that – in common with its coverage of stories relating to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – the corporation has on the one hand failed to adequately explain to its audiences the political motivations lying behind the move whilst simultaneously giving uncritical and unqualified amplification to spurious labels such as “racism” and “apartheid”.
That editorial policy makes the BBC a self-conscripted partner in the carefully orchestrated campaign to portray Israel as an entity which no right-minded person can countenance and that of course is an issue upon which the publicly funded broadcaster must be held to account.