Three days after amplification of Jibril Rajoub’s delegitimisation campaign against Israel at FIFA was heard by listeners to the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’, another show on the same station picked up the baton on May 12th.
‘World Football’ – presented by Alan Green – included an item (from 14:30 here) described as follows in the programme’s synopsis:
“And we visit the West Bank settlements to find out more about the football clubs at the centre of a political row between Israel and Palestine.”
The BBC Academy’s ‘style guide’ lays out best practice concerning the use the term ‘Palestine’ thus:
“There is no independent state of Palestine today, although the stated goal of the peace process is to establish a state of Palestine alongside a state of Israel.
In November 2012 the PLO secured a vote at the UN General Assembly, upgrading its previous status as an “entity” so that the UN now recognises the territories as “non-member observer state”.
The change allows the Palestinians to participate in UN General Assembly debates. It also improves the Palestinians’ chances of joining UN agencies.
But the UN vote has not created a state of Palestine (rather, it failed in its bid to join the UN as a full member state in 2011 because of a lack of support in the Security Council).
So, in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.
But clearly BBC journalists should reflect the changed circumstances when reporting on the UN itself and at the Olympics, where the International Olympics Committee recognises Palestine as a competing nation.
Best practice is to use the term Palestine firmly and only in the context of the organisation in which it is applicable, just as the BBC did at the Olympics – for example: “At the UN, representatives of Palestine, which has non-member observer status…”” [emphasis added]
Alan Green’s introduction to the item included unqualified amplification of inflammatory Palestinian messaging and a one-sided portrayal of ‘international law’. [emphasis added]
Green: “Now to a very controversial argument which could have serious repercussions for football in the Middle East: an argument that has led to calls for Israel to be suspended by FIFA. The Palestinians are angry. They say that there are six Israeli football teams playing on their land: territory which was stolen from them following the Six Day War in 1967. The Israeli settlements, which have grown and developed over the years, are illegal under international law and considered to be a violation of the Geneva Convention. And to have football clubs playing there goes against FIFA rules. The Israelis deny any wrong-doing, insisting that the teams are free to participate in Israeli leagues.”
Green’s references to “their [Palestinian] land” and “territory which was stolen from them [the Palestinians]” obviously do not meet the requirements of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality. While Green may of course claim to have been paraphrasing the Palestinian position, he clearly should have informed listeners that the said territory was captured from Jordan (rather than the Palestinians) in 1967 after 19 years of unrecognised occupation and that agreements signed between Israel and the PLO – the Oslo Accords – clearly state that the region concerned, Area C, will have its status determined in negotiations, meaning that it is both premature and highly partial to portray that territory as ‘Palestinian land’. Additionally, Green’s one-sided presentation of ‘international law’ and the Geneva Convention does not inform listeners of the existence of differing legal opinions on those topics.
Neither did Green provide listeners with a proper presentation of the “FIFA rules” that he claimed are being breached by football clubs in Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, Kiryat Arba, Givat Ze’ev, Oranit and the Jordan Valley. While article 72.2 of the FIFA Statutes says that “Member associations and their clubs may not play on the territory of another member association without the latter’s approval”, had Green bothered to clarify to audiences that the territory concerned is disputed and subject to final status negotiations, their understanding of this story would have been greatly improved.
“Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu even got involved this week. He personally called the FIFA president Gianni Infantino. The issue was supposed to be on the agenda in Bahrain. But shortly after that telephone call, the FIFA council decided it was too early to take any final decision, much to the annoyance of the president of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub.”
World Service listeners then heard Jibril Rajoub’s propaganda for the second time in three days.
Rajoub: “This is a clear-cut violation of FIFA’s mission, principles, statutes. How does the prime minister of Israel has [have] the right to exert pressure on the president of FIFA? I think they have to face sanction by FIFA. We are insisting to have a solution. As long as the Israelis want to continue behaving like the bully of the neighbourhood, I think they should be punished.”
Green: “The president of the Palestinian FA, Jibril Rajoub. There are six clubs based in the Israeli settlements which are now at the centre of this political storm. World Football’s Raphael Gellar travelled to the West Bank to find out more about them.”
Listeners next heard freelance reporter Raphael Gellar give a context-free description of the journey to Ma’ale Adumim which made no mention whatsoever of the Palestinian terrorism that brought about the construction of the anti-terrorist fence.
Gellar: “We’re driving by the separation wall where essentially two peoples are split by this massive wall that Israel built. You can see several armed soldiers. Now we’re heading into the security checkpoint to cross into the Israeli settlements.”
Gellar interviewed Ben Hadad, sports director of Beitar Ma’ale Adumim, before he too promoted the canard of “stolen land” and gave amplification to a delegitimisation campaign run by a political NGO active in lawfare against Israel which has received similar BBC promotion in the past.
Gellar: “But the Palestinians say these settlements are built on land which is part of their future state. In September Human Rights Watch published a report accusing FIFA of tarnishing football, saying they’re allowing games to be played on stolen land. There have also been protests.”
Listeners then heard a voice which Gellar did not bother to identify promote the following falsehoods:
“This protest is to show the FIFA council that there is racism. The land that we are marching towards is land that belongs to these children and their families behind us yet they’re not allowed to access it and they’re not allowed to build football stadiums or even schools on their land.”
Gellar went on to interview the chairman of FC Ironi Ariel, Shai Berntal, who also appeared in the previous World Service report on this topic three days earlier before continuing:
Gellar: “Well back here in Tel Aviv things are getting personal. The International Legal Forum, headed by lawyer Yifa Segal, filed a law suit this week against the Palestinian FA president Jibril Rajoub. They accused him of violating FIFA’s code of ethics.”
In fact the International Legal Forum (which is based in Jerusalem rather than “Tel Aviv”) appears to have filed a complaint with FIFA rather than a “law suit” as Gellar claimed.
After listeners heard Yifa Segal explain why the complaint was made against Rajoub, Gellar closed his report as follows:
Gellar: “Following the intervention of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu the situation has reached another stalemate. But it is a stalemate which will suit the Israelis more than the Palestinians. For the moment at least, these football clubs will continue playing in the West Bank settlements.
The item then returned to Alan Green who also claimed that a “law suit” has been filed against Rajoub.
Green: “Raphael Gellar reporting and during his speech in Bahrain the FIFA president Gianni Infantino confirmed that any decision on the issue will be pushed back until October. And with regard to the law suit filed against the Palestinian FA president, we put those complaints directly to Jibril Rajoub and this was his response.”
Rajoub then got yet another chance to promote completely unchallenged falsehoods, including the claim that “the Israeli security services and government” are “behind” the complaint.
Rajoub: “OK. If all those accusations against me, why the Israelis so far let me free? Why they don’t put me in jail? You know all those incitements the Israeli security services and the government is behind. And if I am so criminal and I’m doing all those bad things, why did the Israelis let me be free and even let me travel and so and so. I think this is some kind of a very cheap character assassination against me.”
Failing to inform BBC audiences of Rajoub’s record, his additional political roles, his past actions and statements and his previous attempts to use sporting bodies to delegitimise Israel, Green closed the item simply saying “the Palestinian FA president Jibril Rajoub”.
This latest installment in the BBC’s generous portrayal of the campaign against Israel at FIFA initiated by Jibril Rajoub and assorted politically motivated NGOs once again shows that the corporation has no intention of presenting its audiences with the full range of background information necessary for proper understanding of both the story itself and the political motivations behind that delegitimisation campaign.
Moreover, the unnecessary use of unqualified and highly partial terminology such as “stolen land” clearly calls into question the BBC’s intent to report this story accurately and impartiality.