BBC World Service tells sports fans tall tales of ‘stolen Palestinian land’

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.  

He continued:

“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.”

That voice would appear to belong to Fadi Quran – an employee of the political NGO ‘Avaaz’ who received similarly partisan promotion from Yolande Knell last year.

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.

Related Articles:

PA’s anti-Israel campaign at FIFA gets BBC WS amplification again

BBC frames anti-Israel delegitimisation campaign as a sports story

Wind in the sails of Jibril Rajoub’s anti-Israel campaign from BBC WS WHYS

Kevin Connolly continues the BBC’s amplification of anti-Israel delegitimisation

BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

BBC’s Knell relegates impartiality to the bench in campaigning football report

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PA’s anti-Israel campaign at FIFA gets BBC WS amplification again

For years Jibril Rajoub has been exploiting his various sports-related positions in the Palestinian Authority to advance delegitimisation of Israel.

In May 2012, he volunteered to lead a campaign to have Israel expelled from all Olympic unions and committees, stating that he opposes any form of ‘normalisation’ with Israel, including in the field of sports. In June 2012 Rajoub demanded that UEFA cancel Israel’s hosting of the 2013 European Under-21 Championship. 

Not infrequently, Rajoub’s assorted campaigns have been covered on BBC platforms: see for example here, here and here. Over the last two years, the BBC has repeatedly amplified Rajoub’s current campaign against the Israeli football association at FIFA (which is supported by the political NGO HRW) on multiple platforms:

BBC frames anti-Israel delegitimisation campaign as a sports story

Wind in the sails of Jibril Rajoub’s anti-Israel campaign from BBC WS WHYS

Kevin Connolly continues the BBC’s amplification of anti-Israel delegitimisation

BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

BBC’s Knell relegates impartiality to the bench in campaigning football report

The latest installment in the BBC’s coverage of Rajoub’s campaign was broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on May 9th.  The report by Tom Bateman (from 14:00 here) was introduced by presenter Tim Franks as follows:

Franks: “One of the great myths perpetuated by sports administrators is that sport somehow transcends politics; can fill a pristine space unsullied by grubby squabbling and nationalism. Well this week football’s world governing body FIFA is being asked to wade into one of the most intractable conflicts of the lot: that between Israel and the Palestinians. It’s being asked to rule whether football clubs from Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank should be allowed to carry on playing in Israel’s official leagues. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

As is almost inevitably the case in BBC content, the BBC’s new man in Jerusalem ignored the context to the events which led to Israel taking control of areas previously occupied by Jordan for 19 years.

Bateman: “Fragments of past conflict are hard to avoid here. Beyond Jerusalem’s suburbs, past the checkpoint soldiers under a weight of flack-jackets in the afternoon sun, you can hear the sound of bagpipes. This particular British military remnant belongs to the band of a Palestinian football club in the West Bank premier league – Hilal al Quds. On the sidelines – at least for the match if not in his political life – is Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian football association. Israel, he believes, is breaking FIFA’s rules by allowing in its leagues at least six clubs based in Jewish settlements on the West Bank: land captured by Israel 50 years ago.”

Rajoub: “It’s a crime by the international law. The Israeli federation has no right to organize and administer an official league within occupied territories. The Israeli federation has the right to develop the game within the internationally recognized borders of the State of Israel.”

Bateman: “The Israelis say you’re politicising football.”

Rajoub: “No, I’m playing football and I hope that Israelis do understand that they cannot from one side enjoy the statutes and from the other side deny it for the Palestinians.”

Bateman then went to meet the chairman of the football club in Ariel, Shai Berntal.

Bateman: “Well we’re just driving west at the moment and we are heading to Ariel which is one of the largest Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Shai Bernthal [sic] founded the football team when he came here in the 1980s.”

Berntal: “I feel that I belong to this land because [it] is the land of our fathers and mothers from the Bible era. I want to manage the football and to manage the very, very important mission to do a good and genuine football club in Ariel – that’s all.”

Erasing the fact that Ariel is situated in one of the areas that would remain under Israeli control in any realistic agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, Bateman continued:

Bateman: “Of course Palestinians will say that this land, this very turf that we’re standing on here is the land that they want for their future state.”

Berntal: “The Jews live here from 2,000 years before them.”

Citing unidentified “critics”, Bateman went on:

Bateman: “He is interested in football, he tells me, not politics. But critics say the two cannot be disentangled in this case. These settlements are considered illegal under international law. Israel disputes this.”

As we see, despite only recently having taken up the post of Middle East correspondent, Bateman has embraced the BBC’s standard mantra on ‘international law’ which fails to inform audiences of the existence of legal opinions that contradict the corporation’s chosen narrative.

Listeners then heard the sound of a clip from a film.

Bateman: “As a new spoof documentary – ‘The 90 Minute War – suggests one of the world’s longest conflicts can be solved in a football match, the real drama may be played out at FIFA’s congress this week. The dispute between the two football associations is now several years old. Israel rejects the complaints. It has long accused Palestinian officials of using sport to glorify terrorism.”

Of course BBC audiences are consistently denied the information which would enable them to know whether “Palestinian officials” do indeed use sport to glorify terrorism and Bateman failed to inform listeners that just a day prior to his report, Rajoub’s Palestinian Football Association organised a tournament named after a terrorist responsible for the murders of 125 Israelis.

Listeners then heard a voice say “I think it’s just a game”. Failing to provide listeners with necessary context concerning Rajoub’s political standing within the PA and Fatah – information which the BBC has repeatedly refrained from providing to its audiences – Bateman went on:

Bateman: “Opponents of the Palestinian FA focus on its boss. Jibril Rajoub – once jailed by Israel for throwing a grenade at a military convoy – has high political ambitions, they say. Alan Baker – a former Israeli diplomat – knew him well. They became Jacuzzi partners during Israeli-Palestinian talks.”

Baker: “We spent hours and hours and hours negotiating and he’s in this for the political power that this gives him among the Palestinian public. The Palestinians are taking an honourable organisation whose purpose is to regulate international football and hijacking it for political ends and politicising it.”

Bateman: “FIFA’s role as referee in this dispute has already seen any decision delayed. This week’s congress may see that extra time extended even further.”

In fact –as Bateman knows – FIFA issued a press release exactly to that effect prior to the broadcast of his report.

The BBC World Service chose nevertheless to broadcast this report once again amplifying Rajoub’s campaign.

While Bateman’s report is certainly not one of the BBC’s worst on this topic, his pseudo-impartial ‘he said-she said’ presentation does not contribute to audience understanding of the story. Considering that BBC audiences have a permanent deficit of information concerning Palestinian glorification of terrorism through sport (and in general), that they rarely receive information on Palestinian Authority internal politics and that their understanding of delegitimisation campaigns against Israel is decidedly limited, it would have been appropriate for Bateman to supply listeners with actual facts rather than repeatedly and unhelpfully telling them what “Israel says”.  

BBC’s Knell relegates impartiality to the bench in campaigning football report

On October 13th a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Fifa urged to give red card to Israeli settlement clubs“.knell-fifa-art

Knell opens her piece with an account of some pre-planned agitprop which took place on the eve of Yom Kippur.

“A dozen Palestinian boys dressed in football kit and carrying balls, march towards a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli police and soldiers come to block the way as they approach the gates of Maale Adumim, where some 40,000 Israelis live, to the east of Jerusalem.

Surrounded by journalists, protest organiser, Fadi Quran, tells a senior officer that the children want to play a game in the local football stadium.

“You know exactly why they can’t come in,” says the officer.

“Is it because they’re Palestinian?” Mr Quran asks.

“No, no, because you need a permit,” the officer replies.

“Well, people in the world are watching and I think it’s important to know you have segregation,” says Mr Quran.”

Were it not for reports like this one from a member of the pre-conscripted press pack, “people in the world” would of course know nothing about the exploitation of a dozen boys for a campaign which has nothing to do with sport and everything to do with the political campaign of delegitimisation of Israel.

But despite the BBC’s decision to use its world-wide reach to put wind in the sails of this particular political campaign, its editorial standards concerning accuracy and impartiality should at least ensure that audiences would be told the whole story. That, however, is not the case in Knell’s report.

The ‘star’ of Knell’s account of the event is the man she tepidly describes as “protest organiser” Fadi Quran. BBC audiences receive no information concerning Quran’s affiliations and are not told, for example, which organisation – if any – he represents, who funded the boys’ transport to Ma’ale Adumim or who paid for the identical T-shirts they and Quran are seen wearing in the photographs which accompany the article.avaaz-logo

A closer look at those T-shirts and the accompanying placards shows that they bear the Avaaz logo and that would come as no surprise had BBC audiences been informed that American citizen Fadi Quran is a “senior campaigner” for Avaaz. A former employee of Al Haq, Quran is also a “policy member” at Al Shabaka and a “Popular Struggle community organizer”.

Obviously that information is critical to audience understanding of the wider story behind the agitprop she describes, but Yolande Knell refrains from providing it to her audience. She goes on to ostensibly provide readers with the background to that “small protest” but similarly fails to inform them that the meeting to which she refers is the fruit of a long-standing Palestinian campaign to use FIFA to delegitimise Israel.

“The small protest is soon over but it has symbolic significance ahead of this week’s meeting of the council of world football’s governing body, Fifa, in Switzerland.

It is due to discuss whether teams from settlements, including Maale Adumim, should be barred from the Israeli Football Association (IFA).”

Knell’s reporting once again falls short of editorial standards of impartiality when she presents a one-sided portrayal of ‘settlements’ while failing to inform readers that all those communities are located in Area C which – according to the Oslo Accords, to which the Palestinians were willing signatories – is to have its final status determined through negotiations.

“Settlements are built on land captured and occupied by Israel in 1967, which the Palestinians want for a future, independent state. The international community sees them as “illegal” and “an obstacle to peace”, but Israel strongly disagrees.”

As readers are no doubt aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality require clarification of the “particular viewpoint” of outside contributors but Knell makes do with the inadequate term “advocacy group” when describing the political NGO Human Rights Watch which has long been involved in lawfare campaigns against Israel.

“The advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) suggests the IFA should be made to move all Fifa-sanctioned matches inside the internationally-recognised boundaries of Israel.

“By holding games on stolen land, Fifa is tarnishing the beautiful game of football,” says Sari Bashi, HRW’s country director for Israel and Palestine.

report by the group notes that some settlement playing fields are built on privately-owned Palestinian land, and that West Bank Palestinians, apart from labourers with permits, are not allowed to enter settlements and use their services.”

The HRW report to which Knell provides readers with a link was already given context-free and partial promotion on the BBC World Service last month.  Significantly, the HRW country director quoted by Knell has also found it appropriate to give an interview on the same topic to the BDS campaign’s South Africa branch.

Knell goes on to promote an old but unsupported claim:

“To underscore the inequalities, the Palestinian boys leaving the demonstration at Maale Adumim continue to chant: “Infantino, let us play.”

Some come from nearby Bedouin communities, which have lost access to their land due to settlement expansion, and have pending demolition orders against their homes.” [emphasis added]

As has previously been documented here, the Jahalin tribe’s claims of ownership of the said land have been examined – and rejected – in courts of law.

Knell similarly amplifies a specific political narrative when she promotes – as fact – the notion of “Israeli restrictions” on Palestinian footballers without any mention of the very relevant context of the links of some of those players to terrorist organisations.

“…a monitoring committee was set up, headed by the Fifa official Tokyo Sexwale, a South African politician and former anti-apartheid activist.

It was asked to address Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinian players and visiting teams, alleged racism and discrimination, and the clubs based in settlements, all of which play in Israel’s lower leagues.”football-terrorist

And of course Knell’s portrayal of the topic of Palestinian football does not extend to telling her audiences that one team saw fit to ‘honour’ a terrorist who murdered two Israelis in Jerusalem only this week.

BBC audiences are of course no strangers to Yolande Knell’s signature blend of journalism and activism and this latest report provides yet another example of her serial amplification of political narratives and campaigns in the guise of ‘news’. And yet, the BBC remains silent on the issue of Knell’s repeated compromise of its supposed editorial standards of impartiality.

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BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

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BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

For some time now the Palestinian Authority’s Jibril Rajoub has been exploiting sport as a means of delegitimising Israel for political ends. In recent years he has, among other things, tried to get Israel expelled from the International Olympic community, threatened legal action against sponsors of the Jerusalem Marathon and pressured UEFA to disallow Israel’s hosting of a tournament. As president of the Palestinian Football Association, last year Rajoub turned his attentions to FIFA and the BBC produced a series of reports amplifying his campaign to get Israel suspended from world football.Connolly FIFA filmed

BBC frames anti-Israel delegitimisation campaign as a sports story

Wind in the sails of Jibril Rajoub’s anti-Israel campaign from BBC WS WHYS

Kevin Connolly continues the BBC’s amplification of anti-Israel delegitimisation

This week (as civilians in Syria continue to have their human rights violated by being killed en masse) one of the BBC’s most quoted and promoted NGOs found time to publish a report which yet again highlights both the links between the agendas of some so-called human rights organisations and anti-Israel campaigning – as well as the media’s relationship with such groups.

The Human Rights Watch report is titled “Israel/Palestine: FIFA Sponsoring Games on Seized Land” and sub-headed “Israeli Settlement Football Clubs Contribute to Human Rights Violations”. The flimsy arguments behind HRW’s claim that playing football in Area C is a violation of human rights have already been dismantled by Professor Eugene Kontorovich.

“The football-as-human rights-violation arguments against Israel are tendentious and prove too much. So those campaigning against Israel rely principally on a lawyerly claim about FIFA’s rules: The clubs “clearly violate FIFA’s statutes, according to which clubs from one member association cannot play on the territory of another member association without its and FIFA’s consent,” the members claim.

The problem is nothing in the FIFA statutes that equates “territory” with sovereign territory. Indeed, that would be impossible, since many FIFA members are not sovereign states at all. Instead, territory, as is often the case in international texts, means jurisdiction.

This is because the FIFA is not a border demarcation body. That is why FIFA clearly separates any question of sovereign statehood and territory from FIFA membership by not requiring that member federations be recognized states (i.e. Hong Kong, American Samoa, Faroe Islands, Northern Ireland, etc.). The claim that the acceptance of the Palestinian soccer federation into FIFA constituted a recognition of Palestine as a state and a recognition of its maximal border claims is unsupportable. FIFA membership does not imply statehood, nor has FIFA ever taken a position on preexisting border disputes.”

Nevertheless, as noted in a comment on a previous post (thanks to D), the BBC World Service found HRW’s political campaigning worthy of inclusion in some of its summaries of world news on September 26th.ws-hrw-amplification-news-26-9

Listeners to this news summary were told (at 01:47) that:

“…Human Rights Watch is calling on world football’s governing body to force the relocation of six Israeli football clubs located in West Bank settlements considered illegal under international law. The campaign group says that FIFA is breaking its own rules.”

Those who tuned in to a later news bulletin were informed (at 01:45) that:

“…Human Rights Watch has called on world football’s governing body FIFA to force the relocation of six Israeli football clubs based in West Bank settlements considered illegal under international law. The Israeli authorities say it’s not up to FIFA to rule on political questions.”

As usual, no attempt was made to conform to editorial guidelines on impartiality by clarifying to audiences the existence of legal opinions which contradict that well-worn BBC mantra on the alleged illegality of Israeli communities in Area C and parts of Jerusalem. Moreover, despite those same editorial guidelines, no effort was made to clarify the “particular viewpoint” of HRW in relation to Israel and listeners were therefore unable to assess the group’s claims in the appropriate context.

Although this latest example of unchallenged BBC amplification of HRW’s politicised agenda is entirely predictable, it is of course extremely disturbing to see it being promoted in supposedly factual news bulletins.

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BBC’s mantra on ‘international law’ becomes even less impartial

BBC News website promotes anti-Israel activists’ fund raising

On the afternoon of August 22nd an article published on the BBC News website’s regional ‘Glasgow & West’ page was also cross-posted on the Middle East page.

Currently titled “Celtic fans raise £85,000 ‘for Palestine’ after Uefa charge” (and with its date stamp having been changed), the article states:Celtic art

“Palestinian flags were waved around Celtic Park during the Champions League match on Wednesday night.

Uefa later charged the club over an “illicit banner” display.”

Readers are not informed that:

“UEFA said the flag display constituted an “illicit banner,” under a rule which bans “messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature.””

Nearly two-thirds of the BBC’s 223 word article is devoted to amplification (including a link) of a fund-raising campaign organised by the anti-Israel activists who brought about the UEFA disciplinary action. The ten paragraph article includes four paragraphs of quotes from the campaign’s pitch, including:

“We aim to raise £75,000 which will be split equally between Medical Aid Palestine and the Lajee Centre, a Palestinian cultural centre in Aida Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem.”

Readers may recall that the BBC News website recently showcased an anti-Israel activist with connections to the Lajee Centre. The corporation has also used the BDS supporting political NGO ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ (MAP) as a source of information in the past.

Despite the extensive promotion given to the group described vaguely by the BBC as “Celtic fans”, readers are once again kept in the dark with regard to the litany of falsehoods used to advance their anti-Israel campaigning.

The BBC’s editorial guidelines state:

“Apart from the BBC Appeals and cross-BBC charity fundraising initiatives outlined above, BBC programmes and online content should not appeal for funds for charities or urge audiences to give money to any particular charity.”

Using 64.5% of the word count of a report to amplify a politically partisan fund-raising campaign, together with the provision of a link to that campaign’s webpage, might well be considered a breach of that guideline. At the very least, this report undermines the BBC’s reputation as a provider of impartial news. 

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BBC Sport ‘overlooks’ BDS linked agitprop in Glasgow

Sky News’ reporter noticed them. So did journalists from the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Mirror and numerous other media organisations.  In fact, one might well have concluded that only BBC Sport failed to spot the Palestinian flags which were part of a pre-planned political provocation at the Champion’s League match between Celtic and Hapoel Be’er Sheva in Glasgow on August 17th.Celtic match

In its three separate reports on the match – here, here and here – BBC Sport apparently did not find the breach of UEFA rules by a group of Celtic fans and the potential punishment of the football club worthy of mention. The only coverage of incident came in the form of a cryptic mention on BBC Sport’s ‘Football gossip’ page on August 18th and in the BBC News website’s coverage of the Scottish papers:

“Meanwhile, the Daily Record says that Celtic face another UEFA “rap” after their fans flew Palestine flags during the Champions League clash with Israelis Hapoel Beer Sheva.”

A week before the match took place the Jerusalem Post reported that:

“Celtic fans are waiting to greet the Israeli team and its fans with Palestinian flags. A Facebook page set up in honor of the occasion has already attracted 837 “interested” Facebook users. The page, entitled “Fly the flag for Palestine, for Celtic, for Justice,” was set up by a group that goes by the name Celtic Fans for Palestine.

The group says an Israeli soccer team should not be allowed to participate in the soccer competition “due to the system of apartheid laws and practices including religious- and ethnic-based colonization, military occupation and segregation of what remains of Palestinian land and over 90 laws which discriminate against indigenous Palestinians who make up 20 percent of the population of current-day Israel.”

“When someone is representing Israeli state institutions it is sadly never merely a game; football, UEFA and Celtic FC are being used to whitewash Israel’s true nature and give this rogue state an air of normality and acceptance it should not and cannot enjoy until it’s impunity ends and it is answerable to international law and faces sanctions for the countless UN resolutions it had breached,” the Facebook page states. […]

The Celtic group affiliates itself with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, which it hails as “inspiring and unstoppable.”

The BBC’s funding public (and even some politicians) in Scotland might of course have an interest in being fully informed about the background to this and other fringe groups tarnishing their country’s reputation as a hospitable tourist destination year after year with agitprop based on falsehoods and propaganda. 

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BBC responds on use of inappropriate flag picture – and posts another

h/t S

Readers no doubt recall that the BBC’s coverage of the football match between Israel and Wales last weekend included the gratuitous use of an image showing a flag belonging to neither of the countries participating in the game.BBC Wales vs Israel flag

A member of the public who complained about the use of that photograph received a response from BBC Complaints which includes the following:

“During our coverage of the Wales v Israel match on the sport website on Sunday, a picture of a man holding a Palestinian flag was used by mistake. The image appeared for a very short period of time before we removed it.” [emphasis added]

So is the BBC telling us that its staff managed to confuse a red, green, black and white flag with a blue and white one or was it that they did not notice that the flag pictured was missing a rather large mythical creature in the middle?

Luckily, the BBC managed to avoid repetition of that “mistake” when, just days later, it devoted a filmed report, a written report and a report in Arabic to the topic of the UNGA vote to allow the flags of holders of non-member observer status to be flown alongside those of its member states at its headquarters. In that case the BBC managed to illustrate the written article appearing on its website’s Middle East page with the correct flag. 

UN flags written

Over at the BBC Arabic website, however, their version of the story was illustrated as follows: 

UN flags Arabic report

Yes – apparently the only image of a Palestinian flag which BBC Arabic staff could find was a Reuters picture depicting armed Israeli soldiers. Perhaps that is a “mistake” too. 

 

BBC fails to tell audiences what was really behind Cardiff football match demo

Notable aspects of BBC promotion of its coverage of the September 6th football match between Israel and Wales included the gratuitous use of an image showing a flag belonging to neither of the countries participating in the game and no less ‘creative’ use of an apostrophe.

BBC Wales vs Israel flag

BBC Wales vs Israel 5live

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Wales page also found a short article headlined “Pro and anti-Israel demonstrations ahead of Euro game” but in the body of the article the demonstrators previously accurately described as ‘anti-Israel’ became “protestors backing Palestine”.Wales game art

“Protestors backing Palestine and supporters of Israel have held counter demonstrations ahead of Wales’ crunch Euro 2016 qualifier in Cardiff.

Up to 2,000 people joined a march for Palestine from City Hall towards Cardiff City Stadium, where Wales kicks off against Israel at 17:00 BST.”

Whilst other media outlets quoted smaller numbers of participants (WalesOnline had 75% of the BBC’s figure, the Guardian used the term “hundreds” and Ha’aretz “a few hundred”), the outstanding feature of this report is its evasive representation of the organisers of the demonstration and their motives.

“Organisers claim sport is being used as a public relations tool by Israel. […]

The pro-Palestine protest was organised by Fair Play for Palestine, with calls for Israel to be stripped of its membership of football’s governing body, Fifa.”

Readers are not told that the Palestinian delegation to the FIFA congress held at the end of May dropped its motion to have Israel suspended from the organization or that FIFA’s executive committee ruled that the Congress “cannot interfere into political territories”.BBC Wales vs Israel demo poster 

Neither are they told that the organisations behind the ‘Fair Play for Palestine’ campaign (and the demonstration in Cardiff) are the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Stop the War Coalition, Friends of Al Aqsa (headed by Ismail Patel) and a straw-man front called ‘Red Card Israeli Racism’ which includes some of the above actors and which aligns itself with the BDS campaign.

“Our campaign activists are mostly British or Irish members of organisations that strive to support the Palestinian people: PSC (Palestinian Solidarity Campaign), FOA (Friends of Al-Aqsa), JBIG (Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods), BIN (Boycott Israel Network) and BNC (Boycott National Committee, Palestine). We see our work as part of the wider BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) activity that was formally established by Palestinians in 2005. We are part of a group of several European nations active in this area.” [emphasis added]

Without that essential information, BBC audiences were of course deprived of the opportunity to understand that this story is actually not about football at all but concerns yet another of the quotidian attempts to delegitimize Israel by the usual small groups of extremist political actors – as captured on camera by one photographer present.

BBC Wales vs Israel Demotix pic

However, seeing as the BBC does not think its job includes informing audiences of the BDS campaign’s full agenda, the omission of that vital background information is entirely in keeping with the corporation’s existing editorial approach to this issue.   

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BBC Radio Wales promotes and endorses anti-Israel activist with a penchant for Nazi analogy

BBC Radio Wales promotes and endorses anti-Israel activist with a penchant for Nazi analogy

The ‘Stop the War Coalition’ is just about the last organisation one would approach for rational, impartial, factual and informative comment on anything connected to the Middle East. As has been noted here before, the StWC:

“… collaborates with 9/11 ‘troofers’ and antisemites such as Lowkey. It supports the annual Al Quds Day anti-Israel hate-fest organized in London by the Khomenist-regime’s UK supporters at the IHRC. It dabbles in anti-Americanism and antisemitism of its own and has rallied in support of the Assad regime in Syria and the Iranian dictatorship.” 

Nevertheless, that was precisely the group from which BBC Radio Wales solicited comment in an item concerning Cardiff council’s cancellation of a photography exhibition showing coexistence in Israel through football less than a day after it opened which was broadcast on September 4th on its ‘Good Evening Wales’ programme.BBC Radio Wales Cardiff exhib

As readers are no doubt aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality demand that the “viewpoint” of interviewees be clarified to audiences.

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and 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.”

However, no adequate clarification was in evidence when presenter Gareth Lewis introduced the first section of this two-part item (available from 36:36 here for a limited period of time).

Lewis: “The Israeli embassy has called Cardiff Council ‘outrageous’ for ending early an exhibition about multi-faith football between Jews and Palestinians just days before the Wales-Israel European qualifying match. Cardiff Council said it received a complaint about the exhibition and was made aware of the potential for a large demonstration outside the city’s main library where the exhibition was being held. It also said it didn’t want to be seen as displaying political bias. Well, Adam Johannes joins us. He’s from the Stop the War Coalition. Good to have you with us.”

That brief introduction of course did nothing to inform listeners of the “particular viewpoint” lying behind the inaccurate information they heard from Johannes during the next four and a half minutes, which included the following:

Palestinian 'footballer' Ayman Alkurd killed in 2009 (photo: Elder of Ziyon)

Palestinian ‘footballer’ Ayman Alkurd – killed in 2009 (photo: Elder of Ziyon)

Johannes: “Erm, well, I think the exhibition should have never really been staged in the first place. It was sponsored by the Israeli embassy. It was essentially, I think, a PR stunt to gloss over the reality of football in the Middle East which is a very serious situation. For instance – if I can give you an example – over the last decade or so four players in the Palestinian national team have lost their lives at the hands of the Israeli military. Other players have been detained without trial sometimes for months or years. Players are regularly prevented from attending matches. The Palestinian national team for instance…Israel is playing in Wales but at the same time Israel’s preventing Palestinian players going from Gaza to the West Bank to play an important match against the UAE. So when you have a country which prevents other, you know, other FIFA members from playing football, then really I think we have to say that Israel – until it allows Palestinians to play football – should be expelled from UEFA and FIFA.”BBC radio Wales Cardiff cogat tweets

Gareth Lewis made no effort to provide listeners with the much-needed context deliberately omitted by Johannes. He failed to tell them that it is the known connections of some Palestinian footballers to terrorist organisations which have brought about their detention. He neglected to inform BBC audiences that at least three of those four players who “lost their lives at the hands of the Israeli military” were active members of terrorist organisations (two Hamas and one PIJ) who took part in fighting against Israel during Operation Cast Lead. And he omitted any mention of the fact that it is precisely issues such as those above which make security checks for Palestinian footballers exiting the Gaza Strip necessary and that the topic of movement is often more complex than meets the eye.

Lewis also failed to correct the misleading impression created by Johannes’ risible claim that “Palestinians want to keep politics out of sport” by informing listeners of Jibril Rajoub’s record of coopting sport precisely for political purposes. He neglected to inform audiences of the all-important context behind the following statement from Johannes:

“….the Palestine stadium in Gaza has been bombed twice by the Israeli military – the main football stadium, you know, for Palestinians….”

 And Lewis obviously had no concerns about providing Johannes with a BBC platform for the promotion of additional crude delegitimisation:

“…remember the days of apartheid South Africa. People used to hold up these small examples of coexistence […] to gloss over the fundamental reality of institutionalized racism, of apartheid.”

Later on in the programme (from 1:35:55 here) a further five minutes were devoted to the same topic and the interviewee this time was the Israeli embassy in London’s spokesman, Yiftach Curiel. Introduced by presenter Peter Johnson, the segment began with an edited rerun of some of Johannes’ propaganda, again without adequate clarification concerning the views of man and his organisation.

Johnson: “Well earlier on this programme we spoke to Adam Johannes from the Stop the War Coalition who was supporting the withdrawal of the exhibition. He said it glossed over the reality of the situation in the Middle East.”

Johannes: “Erm, well, I think the exhibition should have never really been staged in the first place. It was sponsored by the Israeli embassy. It was essentially, I think, a PR stunt to gloss over the reality of football in the Middle East which is a very serious situation. For instance – if I can give you an example – over the last decade or so four players in the Palestinian national team have lost their lives at the hands of the Israeli military. Other players have been detained without trial sometimes for months or years. Players are regularly prevented from attending matches. So when you have a country which prevents other, you know, other FIFA members from playing football, then really I think we have to say that Israel – until it allows Palestinians to play football – should be expelled from UEFA and FIFA.”

Johnson: “Adam Johannes of the Stop the War Coalition speaking on this programme a little earlier.”BBC Radio Wales Cardiff Johannes FB PSC

In addition to failing once again to provide the much-needed missing background and context to Johannes’ claims broadcast to listeners twice within the space of an hour, during his conversation with Curiel, Johnson even told audiences that they were legitimate.

Johnson: “OK, the point that Adam Johannes made is a valid one – that it isn’t actually easy for Palestinians to play football in the Middle East and that Israel has actually impeded the travel of Palestinian footballers. I mean that much is true.” [emphasis added]

Ironically in an item laden with anti-Israel propaganda, Johnson later added:

“There will be those, Yiftach, who merely see this [exhibition] as an opportunity for Israeli propaganda in Wales….”

So what should BBC Radio Wales have told its listeners about Adam Johannes before it provided him with an unhindered platform for partisan political messaging which even got BBC endorsement from Peter Johnson?

Here, in his own words, is Johannes’ bio from a site called ‘Radical Wales’:

BBC Radio Wales Johannes bio

Audiences should also obviously have been told that Johannes has been involved in football-related anti-Israel campaigning for some time and is one of those involved in organizing the opportunistic agitprop ahead of the Israel-Wales match in Cardiff. Listeners would also have been better able to put Johannes’ contribution to this programme into its correct context had BBC Radio Wales bothered to tell them that he is fond of using Nazi analogies during his anti-Israel campaigning, as the following example from 2012 shows.

Not only did BBC Radio Wales clearly breach its own editorial guidelines by failing to provide listeners with any of the very relevant background on Adam Johannes or the ‘Stop the War Coalition’, but it also materially misled audiences on the topic of Palestinian football by failing to provide the facts and context missing from its interviewee’s politically motivated diatribe.  

Related Articles:

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Resources:

BBC Radio Wales – contact details

BBC Complaints

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the BBC narrative: Cardiff, coexistence and Israel

Cardiff council’s cancellation of a photography exhibition showing coexistence in Israel through football less than a day after it opened has recently been making news – although not, at the time of writing, on the BBC News website’s Wales or south-east Wales pages.

“The exhibition – called Jewish-Arab football: diversity and co-existence through lower-league football – was due to run for a week in Cardiff’s Central Library, but was shut down on council orders after complaints from undisclosed sources were received. […]

[Israeli] Embassy spokesman Yiftah Curiel said: “It is outrageous that the council has capitulated to people who hate Israel. The purpose of the exhibition is to celebrate racial and inter-faith harmony in Israel – something that is in stark contrast to what is happening elsewhere in the Middle East.

“Removing an exhibition showing how football promotes friendship between people of different backgrounds in Israel turns a celebration of coexistence into an ugly politics of division.”

Coexistence and cooperation between different religious and ethnic communities in Israel is of course evident in many other spheres besides football. Our colleagues at CAMERA recently reported on a meeting of Israeli Christian, Druze and Bedouin leaders in Nazareth, documented in this video.Nazareth

“As Ayoob Karra, the former Deputy Minister of Development for the Negev and Galilee pointed out: “If you look around in Syria, in Lebanon, in Egypt, you can find that it is not the human rights for Christians in all these states. Only in Israel they have power to say everything loudly.””

The article notes a growing new trend:

“The number of Christian Israelis in national and military service increased to 30% of all Christian high school graduates last year.

This surge in Christian enlistment in defense of Israel supplements the involvement of the Druze and Bedouin. Since 1957, at the request of their community leaders, IDF service has been mandatory for Druze men. It is not mandatory for Bedouins, but as in the case of Christians, the number of Bedouins volunteering for the army continues to increase steadily.”

Unfortunately, the daily coexistence of different religious and ethnic communities in Israel is not a subject with which BBC audiences in the UK or elsewhere are familiar because it gets next to no coverage from Britain’s leading news provider.

Were the BBC to portray Israel’s multi-cultural society as it really is rather than ignoring anything which does not fit in with its chosen narrative, perhaps those Cardiff councillors would have been better equipped to deal with politically motivated complaints from people apparently unable to stomach the sight of Jews and Arabs playing football together.

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