BBC 4’s ‘Storyville’ resurrects an old theme

The BBC Four’s ‘Storyville’ series – which describes itself as “showcasing the best in international documentaries” – has featured several Israel related films in its past seasons:

2013/14 season: “The Law In These Parts“, “The Village that Fought Back: Five Broken Cameras” (discussed here), “The Gatekeepers” (discussed here).

2015/16 season: “The Six Day War: Censored Voices” (discussed here)

On December 4th at 22:00 UK time, ‘Storyville’ will air a film titled “Forever Pure – Football and Racism in Jerusalem” which is described in the synopsis as follows:storyville-beitar

“Documentary which follows events at Israel’s most notorious football club. Beitar Jerusalem FC is the most popular team in Israel and the only club in the Premier League never to sign an Arab player. Midway through a season the club’s owner, Russian-Israeli oligarch Arcadi Gaydamak, brought in two Muslim players from Chechnya in a secretive transfer deal that triggered the most racist campaign in Israeli sport and sent the club spiralling out of control.

Forever Pure follows the famous football club through the tumultuous season, as power, money and politics fuel a crisis and shows how racism is destroying both the team and society from within.” [emphasis added]

Longtime readers will not be surprised by the BBC’s decision to showcase such an allegation: the actions of a specific group of hooligans at a specific football club have long been employed by various BBC journalists to promote sweeping notions of ‘racist Israel’.

The BBC, football racism and Israel

Obsession: four BBC ‘Beitar’ articles in under a week

BBC binge reporting on Beitar comes to abrupt halt

In which the BBC ignores prejudice in Israeli football

Comparing BBC reporting on English and Israeli football hooligans

Advertisements

Comparing BBC reporting on English and Israeli football hooligans

Last month the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen found it appropriate to respond to an Israeli spokesman’s statement concerning the very real problem of incitement and glorification of terrorism sanctioned and organized by the Palestinian Authority and its main party Fatah by promoting an irrelevant comparison – and false equivalence – between that and the behaviour of a specific group of Israeli football hooligans. 

“The Israeli prime minister’s spokesman told me that “teaching Palestinian children to hate is one of the primary causes of the terror attacks against Israeli civilians today… their impressionable minds should not be poisoned with hatred by the Palestinian Authority.”

“Hate-filled Palestinian rhetoric against Israel is not hard to find. It cuts the other way too.

Fans of one of Jerusalem’s professional football clubs, which has roots in a right-wing Zionist youth movement, are notorious for chanting “Death to Arabs” during games.”

Previous BBC reports concerning a group of Beitar Jerusalem fans (of which there have been far more than necessary) have also alleged a connection between certain political ideologies and racism.

“Beitar Jerusalem is traditionally seen as the club of Israel’s political right wing.

Many politicians, past and present, from the conservative Likud party are lifelong fans.”

BBC audiences have also been told that the actions of a specific group of fans from one particular club prompt general “Football racism fears in Israel”.Davies Beitar

Interestingly, the not entirely novel behaviour of a group of English football fans in Marseille this last week were not deemed by the BBC to prompt ‘football violence fears in England’ or ‘football inebriation fears in England’.

None of the plethora of BBC articles and reports on the topic alleged a link between the rioting fans and any particular UK political party and neither did they suggest linkage between the violent fans’ political views and their actions. And of course no BBC reporter tried to paint the behaviour of a few hooligans as being representative of English society as a whole.

In fact, BBC audiences were told that “there is a small minority who drink too much and get involved in some anti-social behavior”, that “only a “handful” of England fans had been involved” and that “the England fans had done nothing wrong”. In addition, BBC audiences learned that “reports of England football fans being involved in fights in Marseille have been “blown out of proportion” and that “it’s just a small minority who go to cause trouble really”.

Compare and contrast.

BBC’s Bowen does maintenance on his framing of a Middle East story

In addition to the audio report produced by Jeremy Bowen on his recent visit to Jerusalem, a written report appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 4th under the headline “Israel-Palestinian tensions return to boiling point“.Bowen art 4 5

The surge in terror attacks which began last September has of course subsided somewhat in recent months but Jeremy Bowen has not travelled all the way to Jerusalem to tell his audiences that.

“In the week or so I have been back in Jerusalem, a few people have asked me what it is I am here to cover. I thought it should be obvious.

The violence. Repeated attacks on Israelis by Palestinians, and the response by Israeli security forces.

But I have had quite a few bemused shrugs from journalist colleagues. Why now, when it has been going on since last October?

I was in Jerusalem last autumn reporting on it. What has changed? The longer something goes on the more it tends to slip down the news agenda.”

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC’s coverage of that “news agenda” during the first six months of the wave of terror hovered at around five and a half percent.

Neither has Bowen flown all the way to Jerusalem to enhance his audiences’ knowledge on the issue of Palestinian terrorism – as demonstrated by the fact that he manages to describe last month’s bus bombing in the Israeli capital without using the word ‘terror’ even once.

“Eden Dadon, a 15-year-old Israeli girl, is in hospital in Jerusalem with 45% burns that she suffered when a Palestinian set off a bomb on a bus on 18 April.

When I met her mother, Rachel, at the hospital, Eden had been on a ventilator in an induced coma for more than a month [sic]. […]

A bomb on a bus revived horrible memories for Israelis of the attacks that killed hundreds of people during the second intifada (Palestinian uprising) in the years after 2000.

Rachel, who was scared before the bus she and her daughter boarded blew up, is a single mother. She has had to stop working as a carer for old people so she can spend time with her daughter.”

What Bowen has come to do is to continue his promotion of a sense of equivalence between the victims of terror attacks and their perpetrators – and so readers find an interview with the bus bombing terrorist’s mother which is almost as long as the one with the mother and sister of the Israeli victim suffering from severe burns. As has so often been the case in the past, Bowen refrains from mentioning Hamas’ designation as a terrorist organization.

“Abdul’s attack, though, was claimed by Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement.”

He promotes the euphemism ‘resistance’ and provides readers with ‘explanations’ for the attempted murder of a bus load of civilians.

“Not just Abed [Abdul], I think all the people here now prefer the resistance. Because for them peace is a hopeless case.”

“He was angry for everything that happened in Palestine. He was watching what happened everyday. Killings, arrests, destroying homes, everything. Of course he was angry.”

Bowen later adds more amplification of Palestinian propaganda in his own words:

“Palestinians hate the occupation and loathe what they say is Israel’s trigger-happy response to threats, often complaining that they are scared to reach into their pockets or bags near Israelis soldiers and police officers in case they get shot dead.”

Bowen has also travelled all the way to Jerusalem to continue what he and his colleagues have been doing for the last seven months: avoiding informing their audiences in their own words about the incitement coming from official Palestinian sources which fueled the wave of terror.

“The Israeli prime minister’s spokesman told me that “teaching Palestinian children to hate is one of the primary causes of the terror attacks against Israeli civilians today… their impressionable minds should not be poisoned with hatred by the Palestinian Authority.””

Moreover, Bowen uses the ‘smoke and mirrors’ trick of creating an irrelevant comparison – and false equivalence – between incitement and glorification of terrorism sanctioned and organized by the Palestinian Authority and its main party Fatah with the behaviour of a specific group of Israeli football hooligans.  

“Hate-filled Palestinian rhetoric against Israel is not hard to find. It cuts the other way too.

Fans of one of Jerusalem’s professional football clubs, which has roots in a right-wing Zionist youth movement, are notorious for chanting “Death to Arabs” during games.”

But what Bowen has primarily come to do in Jerusalem is some maintenance on his long-standing project of deflecting attention away from Palestinian incitement (in accordance with PLO guidance) and encouraging audiences to adopt the view that the acts of terror perpetrated by Palestinians should be attributed to one cause alone.  

“But hundreds of conversations with Palestinians over many years here have convinced me that the biggest factor that shapes their attitudes to Israel is not the incitement to hate but the occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, that started after Israel’s victory in the 1967 Middle East war.

When Palestinians who agitate against Israel find an audience, it is because of the way that the occupation, which is inherently violent, has overshadowed and controlled Palestinian lives for almost 50 years.”

As ever, Bowen fails to provide audiences with the relevant context concerning the background to the Six Day War and conscientiously avoids giving them any information concerning the legal status of Judea and Samaria before they were belligerently occupied by Jordan in 1948. For Bowen – and, he hopes, his audiences – all that is relevant is ‘the Israeli occupation’ because that is what enables his ensuing framing of the conflict.

“The issues here do not change much. Two peoples have been fighting for generations about one piece of land. That is still the core of the conflict.”

For over seven months the BBC – with Jeremy Bowen at the helm of its Middle East reporting – has avoided carrying out any serious reporting on the issue of official Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism. When Bowen’s post was created over a decade ago it was described as being intended “to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent.”

BBC audiences are not getting that analysis because Bowen’s main priority is not audience comprehension but the promotion of specific framing of the story which serves a politically driven agenda.

Related Articles:

BBC’s ME Editor gives unchallenged amplification to Palestinian defamation

BBC News reports Jerusalem bus bomb without using the word terror

BBC News changes headline on Hamas bus bomber claim

BBC’s ME editor fails to deliver in ‘Newsnight’ item on Jerusalem terror attacks

Explaining away terror BBC Bowen style – part one

Explaining away terror BBC Bowen style – part two

 

In which the BBC ignores prejudice in Israeli football

Readers will surely not have forgotten the bout of BBC binge-reporting a couple of months ago on the subject of a group of racist fans of the Beitar Jerusalem football club. At the time, no fewer than four reports on the same subject appeared on the BBC News website in less than a week.

On March 23rd the Kfar Kama Sports Club youth football team – renowned for its mixed squads of players from Jewish, Arab and Circassian backgrounds and its promotion of tolerance through sport – travelled to an away match in the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the north Golan Heights. The game, however, did not take place

“Dozens of residents of the Majdal Shams village, located in the Golan near the Syrian border, stormed a local soccer field Saturday, demanding that the Youth Division game played on the field – between the Kfar Kama team and the local team – be immediately discontinued.

The reason, the rioters insisted, was that the soccer field belongs to Syrian territory, on which Israeli league teams are not allowed to play.” […]

” “We did not expect such a traumatic incident to happen to the kids,” said Kfar Kama coach Nir Adin, adding that the Majdal Shams team usually hosts games in the Arab town of Nahf in the Galilee and that Saturday was the first time his team played in Majdal Shams.

According to Adin, “After the riot started we didn’t want things to turn violent so we hurried to take the kids down to the locker room. Dozens of people stormed the field and drove us away.”

The Majdal Shams team was also taken by surprise.

Coach Nadib Ayoub said: “This is a disaster for us – especially for the kids. This was supposed to be a historic game for us, hosting a game for the first time. Nothing could prepare us for this scenario. This was very unfortunate.” “

A week later, the troublemakers were back.

Revealingly, this instance of prejudice in football did not warrant four articles – or indeed any articles at all – from the BBC’s correspondents in Jerusalem.  

Of course one does not expect the BBC to provide comprehensive coverage of all sporting events in Israel: for that we have the local media. But if – as it did in the case of Beitar Jerusalem – the BBC is going to cynically employ the actions of football fans as a hook upon which to hang obsessive coverage deliberately designed to create the impression in the minds of its audiences that Israel is a country riddled with racism, then it must acknowledge that it cannot selectively limit that coverage to the actions of Israeli Jews alone without having its impartiality called into doubt. 

BBC binge reporting on Beitar comes to abrupt halt

Doubtless readers have not forgotten the recent spate of binge reporting by the BBC which culminated in no fewer than four reports in under a week on the subject of a group of racist fans at Beitar Jerusalem football club and the torching of the club’s offices. 

Interestingly though, the BBC’s interest in the story suddenly seemed to wane when, last week, the police arrested two fans in connection with the arson at the club’s offices, with a third suspect also arrested the following day. Two of those arrested are to be tried for arson. 

This type of hit and run reporting only contributes to the impression that it was not the story itself which was of interest to the BBC, but the opportunity to exploit an incident in order to shape audience perception of Israel as a country riddled with racism. 

Obsession: four BBC ‘Beitar’ articles in under a week

This is getting ugly. 

On February 14th – just one day after a report about a group of racist fans from the Beitar Jerusalem football club (one of two produced until then by the BBC) had finally given up the place it had held on the Middle East page of the BBC News website for six whole days – two more articles on the same subject were instated on that same page.

ME pge 14 2

The first report, dated February 8th, was a written article. The second one, dated February 11th, was a filmed report by James Kelly which was obviously shown on BBC television news broadcasts and also appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. The third one, dated February 14th, is also a filmed report for BBC television news – by Wyre Davies – and is sweepingly titled “concerns of racism in Israeli football”. The fourth report – also dated February 14th and by Wyre Davies – is a written article. 

Davies Beitar

Davies Beitar 2

Neither of Davies’ reports contains any new information: both merely rehash the same themes which appeared in the previous two already published and promoted prominently during the preceding week.

But in the filmed report, note Davies’ ‘translation’ of the words of the football fan shown at 02:01. Davies says:

” ‘We won’t allow Muslims. This is a Jewish club’ says this man.”

In fact, although the man’s words are hardly the height of polite conversation, he does not say the words ‘allow’ or ‘Jewish club’. That ‘translation’ is pure fabrication on Davies’ part. 

In his written report, Davies tries to imply linkage between racism and a specific branch of Israeli politics: 

“Beitar Jerusalem is traditionally seen as the club of Israel’s political right wing.

Many politicians, past and present, from the conservative Likud party are lifelong fans.”

The BBC’s obsessive focus on this issue is doing it no favours: its ugly agenda is all too clear. Four consecutive and tediously similar articles in less than a week on the subject of a minority group of racist fans at one football club out of dozens in Israel are not an accident of coincidence. They are clearly the product of an editorial decision to exploit an incident in order to dictate audience  perception of Israel as a country riddled with anti-Muslim racism. 

It is precisely this kind of prejudiced coverage which gains the BBC a reputation for bias and compromises its impartiality. 

The BBC, football racism and Israel

“Football racism fears in Egypt”.

That headline did not appear on the BBC website after the events pictured below in April 2011. In fact, a Google search for football racism in Egypt produces nothing as far as BBC reports on the subject are concerned. 

“Football racism fears in Holland”.

That headline did not appear on the BBC website after a player for AZ Alkmaar was subjected to racist abuse during a Dutch Cup match last month. The incident was the subject of one report by the BBC – placed in its Sport section.

“Football racism fears in England”.

That headline did not appear on the BBC website after two Aston Villa fans were found guilty of using antisemitic abuse and making a Nazi salute last week. In fact the BBC News website does not carry either of those stories at all. 

“Football racism fears in Israel”.

That headline appeared on the BBC News website’s home page (not in the Sport section) on February 11th. 

bbc news hp 11 2

The report is the second one to be produced by the BBC on the subject of the actions and alleged actions of some racist fans of the Beitar Jerusalem football club, with the other report having been promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page since Friday, February 8th and still there four days later. 

ME hp 11 2

Kayal Beram, Israel national team

 As previously pointed out here:

“The police have set up a dedicated investigatory team for the incident, which has been condemned by the city’s mayor and the country’s Prime Minister.”

Yes – there is a serious problem with a group of racist fans of one football club out of dozens – most of which (as even acknowledged in the BBC article on the subject) have players from many different religious and ethnic backgrounds – in a country which includes players from minority ethnic and religious groups on its national teams

Deplorable as the racism among some fans at Beitar Jerusalem is, its existence makes Israel no different and no worse than most countries on the planet which have also failed to eliminate racism from football. It certainly does not justify the over-generalised headline “Football racism fears in Israel” or the placing of two separate reports on two home pages of the BBC News website for a relatively prolonged period of time. 

Unless, that is, this incident is being exploited to try to advance a specific narrative about an entire country.