BBC amends misleading Argentina match report after complaint

Readers may recall that on June 6th the BBC News website published an article concerning the cancellation of a friendly football match between Israel and Argentina. The cancellation was inaccurately framed as being related to “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza” while assorted threats against the Argentinian team were downplayed or ignored.

Before

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning that report and – almost a month later – has now received the following reply.

“Thank you for getting in touch about our article reporting that Argentina cancelled a football World Cup warm-up match with Israel (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-44378669) and please accept our apologies for the delay in our response.

Our article does mention the threats but after investigating further we have amended the headline and added a paragraph to reflect the further background to the campaign.

We have also added a correction note at the bottom of the article which outlines these changes.

We hope you’ll find this satisfactory and thank you once again for getting in touch.”

The claim that “our article does mention the threats” does not reflect the fact that the “mention” was added eleven hours after the report’s initial publication and that it is composed of a quote from the Israel Football Association relating solely to statements made by the PA’s Jibril Rajoub. The threats against the team at their training site in Barcelona were not reported.

After

Nevertheless, the article’s headline has now been changed from “Argentina cancels Israel World Cup friendly after Gaza violence” to “Argentina scraps Israel World Cup friendly after campaign“.

The added paragraphs read:

“The international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which campaigns for a complete boycott of Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians, had called on Argentina not to play against Israel, even before the venue moved from Haifa to Jerusalem.

The campaign escalated after Israel switched the venue to Jerusalem, which Israel regards as its capital and whose eastern part the Palestinians seek as the capital of a future Palestinian state.”

The footnote informs BBC audiences that:

However, the continuing absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website of course means that anyone who read this article during the four weeks since its initial publication will be unlikely to know that it promoted a misleading view of the story.

 

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BBC News and BBC Sport ignore FIFA’s Jibril Rajoub disciplinary

As was documented here earlier this month, the BBC News website’s framing of the reason for the cancellation of a football friendly between Israel and Argentina was glaringly apparent in the article’s headline – “Argentina cancels Israel World Cup friendly after Gaza violence” – and in its tagging – “Gaza border clashes” – as well as its opening lines.

“Argentina has cancelled a World Cup warm-up match with Israel, apparently under political pressure over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.”

Using the same tag the BBC News website also promoted a report by ‘BBC Minute’ that framed the story in the same way.

“Argentina has cancelled a World Cup friendly against Israel that was scheduled to take place in Jerusalem. It’s apparently under political pressure over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.”

Listeners to that edition of “the dynamic 60-second news bursts aimed at younger audiences around the world” were told by the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell that:

“…if the Argentinians played their game here in Jerusalem then they would be ignoring Israel’s occupation of the eastern part of the city and also those deadly protests that have been taking place along the Israel-Gaza border.”

Beyond that context-free presentation, in common with the BBC News website article the BBC Minute report failed to make any mention whatsoever of the threats received by the Argentinian team members – even though the BBC was obviously aware of that part of the story.

As numerous media outlets (for example here and here) reported a week after that story broke, FIFA has since announced the opening of related disciplinary proceedings against the head of the Palestinian football association.

“FIFA said Thursday it has started disciplinary proceedings against the Palestinian Football Association’s chief, after he called for protest against Lionel Messi and his plan to play with Argentina in Jerusalem.

“The FIFA disciplinary committee has opened disciplinary proceedings against the president of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub,” a spokesman for the world body said in a statement to AFP.

Its decision, he wrote, “came as a result of his statements, widely reported in the media, with respect to the international friendly match that was scheduled to take place on 9 June 2018 between Israel and Argentina.””

Interestingly, neither the BBC News website nor the BBC Sport website has to date seen fit to inform audiences of that development in a story it previously reported on multiple platforms.

Related Articles:

How BBC News framed the Argentina-Israel football match story

BBC WS reports what the BBC website didn’t on the Argentina football story

 

 

BBC WS reports what the BBC website didn’t on the Argentina football story

As we saw yesterday, a BBC News website report concerning the Argentinian Football Association’s cancellation of a friendly match with Israel framed the background to the decision as being about “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza” and/or the fact that “Palestinians […] were angered by a decision to relocate the game” to Jerusalem.

Although the article was later amended to include the full quote from Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain rather than the truncated version used in earlier editions, the BBC News website still avoided telling its audiences about the threats received by Argentinian players and their families which were – according to the head of the Argentinian Football Association and the Argentinian foreign minister – the real reason for the game’s cancellation.

In contrast, listeners to the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on June 6th heard a more accurate version of the story (from 45:05 here) than the one presented by the BBC News website.

Presenter Tim Franks asked his interviewee – an Israeli journalist “with the Argentinian team at their training camp in Barcelona” – why the match was cancelled.

Franks: “The Argentinian team itself; ehm…why did they decide in the end – or why did their football association decide in the end – that they couldn’t go ahead with this friendly game?”

Emmanuel Elbaz-Phelps replied that “the official explanation was that the association – the football association of Argentina – doesn’t want to take any risk for the players” and also noted that:

Elbaz-Phelps: “But we also heard that the decision came yesterday afternoon [Tuesday, June 5th]  after the players were having a training session in the morning and there were some protesters and they heard them, they saw them and then they read everything going on in the news about the demonstrations also happening in Argentina and the players had this meeting; they had this talk and they decided they won’t go ahead with the game. Some actually told us that Messi was the person who first made the decision and – as the captain – so everybody was behind him. Another version says that he’s the captain but it was a group decision.”

Franks: “Because Lionel Messi himself was singled out by the head of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub, saying if Lionel Messi plays in Jerusalem, we will make sure that he is boycotted, he is targeted around the world.”

Elbaz-Phelps: “Yeah and even more there are reports that threats were made to Messi’s family and to the families of the players.”

Elbaz-Phelps reported having been told that “there were threats on the social media, they got letters and that the players were actually scared about the situation”.

Obviously there are BBC journalists who know that the reason for the cancellation of the match has nothing to do with “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza”. The question that therefore arises is why the BBC News website’s report – which, unlike the Newshour report will remain permanently available to the public – has not been amended accordingly.  

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How BBC News framed the Argentina-Israel football match story

How BBC News framed the Argentina-Israel football match story

h/t Akiva S

In the early hours of June 6th the BBC News website published an article concerning the cancellation of a friendly football match between Israel and Argentina that was due to have been played on June 9th.

The BBC’s chosen framing of the background to the cancellation was apparent in the article’s headline – “Argentina cancels Israel World Cup friendly after Gaza violence” – and in its tagging – “Gaza border clashes” – as well as its opening lines.

“Argentina has cancelled a World Cup warm-up match with Israel, apparently under political pressure over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.”

Readers of the article’s first three versions were told that: [emphasis added]

“News of the cancellation was met with cheers in Gaza, where at least 120 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during recent protests.”

And:

“The campaign group Avaaz, which had called for the game to be cancelled, praised what it called a “brave ethical decision”.

“This proves Argentina understands there is nothing friendly about playing in Jerusalem, when just miles away Israeli snipers are shooting unarmed protesters,” said Alice Jay, campaign director at Avaaz.”

Only in the fourth version of the report, which appeared some six hours after its initial publication – was an ‘Israel said’ nod to supposed BBC editorial standards on impartiality added:

“Israel said its snipers had only opened fire in self-defence or on people trying to infiltrate its territory under cover of the protests orchestrated by the Hamas militant group, which runs Gaza.”

No effort was made to inform readers in the BBC’s own words that more than 80% of the people portrayed by the BBC simply as “Palestinians” and inaccurately described as all being “unarmed protesters” by the representative of the political NGO that the BBC chose to quote and promote have in fact been shown to be linked to terror organisations.

The BBC refrained from reminding readers that both Avaaz and another party it chose to quote in this report were among those behind a campaign (unsuccessful, but amplified by the BBC at the time) against Israeli membership of the international governing body of football – FIFA.  

“In Ramallah in the West Bank, the Palestinian football association issued a statement thanking Argentina striker Lionel Messi and his colleagues for the cancellation.

“Values, morals and sport have secured a victory today and a red card was raised at Israel through the cancellation of the game,” said chairman Jibril Rajoub, quoted by Reuters news agency.

Mr Rajoub, who had before the reported cancellation called for Palestinians to burn replica shirts and pictures of Messi, announced that he would hold a press conference on Wednesday.”

Rajoub’s widely publicised provocations (which also included the use of a Nazi analogy and denial of Jewish history) were not the only aggression experienced by the Argentinian footballers

“Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie did not confirm the game had been axed, but told reporters in Washington on the sidelines of the Organization of American States meeting that he believed players had been reluctant to travel to Israel for the game. […]

Faurie said players had received threats over playing the game and were uncomfortable with it going ahead.

He also cited jerseys stained with red paint resembling blood which had been displayed at a protest outside the team’s practice facility in Barcelona Tuesday as a cause for concern.” [emphasis added]

Argentine Football Association vice president Hugo Moyano was reported as saying that:

“…threats to the team as they trained in Barcelona were affecting the players’ families. On Tuesday, a group of Catalan pro-Palestinian protesters called out the names of the players and asked them not to participate in the “cover-up” of a social conflict. Photos on social media showed an Argentina shirt stained in “blood.”” [emphasis added]

Numerous media outlets quoted one player’s reaction to the cancellation:

“Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain expressed relief at the decision, telling ESPN: “In the end, they’ve done right thing, and this is behind us. Health and common sense come first. We felt that it wasn’t right to go.””

In the BBC’s report, however, a truncated version of that quote was presented as supporting the BBC’s framing of the reason for the cancellation rather than relating to the threats against players that the BBC did not fully report.

The BBC’s report tells readers that the venue for the game is located in “West Jerusalem”.

“The match, which was to be Argentina’s final game before the start of their World Cup campaign in Russia later this month, was set to be played at a stadium in West Jerusalem.”

The fact that the Argentinian national team played (and lost) a friendly match against Israel in the same Teddy stadium twenty years ago was not mentioned. The article went on:

“The status of Jerusalem is highly sensitive. Israel regards Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital. Palestinians see the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future Palestinian state, and were angered by a decision to relocate the game there from Haifa.”

As was the case in BBC reporting on the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, readers were not provided with any explanation as to why a ninety-minute football match at a location in Jerusalem to which the BBC repeatedly tells its audiences the PA does not lay claim should ‘anger’ Palestinians.

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BBC amplified anti-Israel campaign rejected by FIFA

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

Resources:

How to complain to the BBC

BBC World Service contact details

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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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

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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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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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