BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ revisits its Eurovision bias

As readers no doubt recall, BBC reporting on the Eurovision Song Contest held in Tel Aviv in May was highly politicised and included months of amplification of the anti-Israel BDS campaign’s calls to relocate/boycott the event.

Some of the most blatantly politicised content was produced by ‘Newsbeat’ – which creates content specifically aimed at 16 to 24 year-olds – with that BBC department’s journalists apparently rather enamoured of the politics behind the Icelandic entry to the competition.

Newsbeat continues the BBC’s Eurovision framing

BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ amplifies the BDS campaign yet again

Anyone who had assumed that episode of overtly politicised ‘journalism’ was behind us may have been surprised to find a report tagged ‘Eurovision Song Contest’ on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on July 14th – two months after the competition had taken place.

Once again produced by ‘Newsbeat’, the report is titled “Meet Bashar Murad: The Palestinian singer blurring gender lines”. Readers are told that:

“Whether he’s performing in a wedding dress or singing about LGBT issues, Palestinian musician Bashar Murad is used to taking risks.

As an Arab living in Jerusalem, he says he’s constantly challenging many of the conservative elements of his society.”

The article goes on to provide an example of such a “challenge”.

“As an example, he mentions his song Everyone’s Getting Married, which riffs on his society’s traditional view of marriage. […]

“There were some negative comments here and there,” he says. “But people tend to make these assumptions because not a lot of people have tried to take the risks I have.””

As Liel Leibovitz noted at the Tablet last month:

“Murad is a resident of East Jerusalem […] As such, he is free from the rampant persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Palestinian society, a subject he has yet to take on ardently. He was educated in an American school in Jerusalem, attended Bridgewater College in Virginia, and had his work sponsored by the United Nations’ Men and Women for Gender Equality program.”

The ’Newsbeat’ report fails to provide readers with any substantial information on the issue of the challenges faced by LGBTQ Palestinians living under Hamas or Palestinian Authority rule but instead goes on to dig up the Eurovision.

“Recently, Israel received a lot of international attention when it hosted the Eurovision Song Contest.

Organisers will always say the contest is strictly non-political, which Bashar finds “a little ridiculous”.

“It was already political because it was taking place in Tel Aviv.”

There had been calls to boycott the event by critics of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.”

Once again ‘Newsbeat’ avoids explaining what “Israel’s policies” are and policies such as the supply of electricity and provision of medical treatment to Palestinians of course do not get a mention. The article continues with a quote from Murad which, given the BBC’s own generous politicised reporting on the Eurovision Song Contest, is obviously inaccurate.

“”The whole Eurovision contest in Tel Aviv went on without any mention of what is happening to Palestinians.”

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank say they’re suffering because of Israeli actions and restrictions. Israel says it is only acting to protect itself from Palestinian violence.”

The report goes on to note Murad’s collaboration with the Icelandic entry.

“Shortly after the contest finished, Bashar released a duet with Icelandic entrants Hatari, who gained attention for unfurling ‘Palestine’ scarves during the results show.

“I was proud of the guys,” he says. “They were the only contestants who actually made a statement.”

To many people, the use of the name ‘Palestine’ is contentious because some see it as not just pro-Palestinian, but as an anti-Israel expression too.”

The writer of this report refrains from informing readers that there is no such country as ‘Palestine’ because the leaders of the Palestinian people have turned down numerous opportunities to create one.

As we see ‘Newsbeat’ continues its overtly political ‘journavism’ with yet another report promoting the bizarre idea that a host country’s conflicts and disputes should be part of Eurovision Song Contest coverage. We can of course be fairly confident that any ‘Newsbeat’ reporters covering the Eurovision Song Contest in the Netherlands next year will not be visiting Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan or showcasing singers from several small islands in the Caribbean Sea.

Notably, the BBC News website found this item worthy of promotion on its ‘Middle East’ page in a week in which it has totally ignored arson and rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, the death of a woman injured in a rocket attack in May, a vehicular attack in Jerusalem and Palestinian glorification of terrorism.

Related Articles:

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BBC Radio Ulster audiences hear that ‘Israel should be wiped off the map’

On January 30th the BBC News website published an article that included the BBC’s response to calls from supporters of the anti-Israel BDS campaign to boycott the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.

Notwithstanding the BBC’s statement on the issue, the following day – January 31st – BBC Northern Ireland’s BBC Radio Ulster decided to air a long phone-in item on its ‘Talkback’ programme hosted by William Crawley. Titled “Is the BBC right to take part in Eurovison being held in Tel Aviv, or should the corporation stay away?”, the item included contributions from journalist/activist Eamonn McCann and historian Ruth Dudley Edwards as well as seven callers.

On the hook of the Eurovision Song Contest, listeners heard thirty-eight minutes of mostly unchallenged falsehoods and delegitimisation – often outstanding for their ignorance even by the ‘standards’ of BBC Radio Ulster. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Having informed listeners in his introduction that “Jerusalem is a disputed capital” and after noting the BBC’s statement on the call to boycott May’s event in Tel Aviv, Crawley invited listeners to phone in.

“What do you think? You’re a licence fee payer. Do you think the BBC is right to continue with its role in the Eurovision contest this year or should it boycott the Tel Aviv Eurovision?”

Crawley then asked his guest Eamonn McCann – introduced as a “journalist and former ‘People Before Profit’ MLA [member of the legislative assembly]” and a supporter of “the boycott movement” – to “lay out the case for the boycott first”.

McCann began by promoting a popular but inaccurate myth according to which the BDS campaign was initiated by Palestinians.

McCann: “well the boycott movement – BDS boycott, divestment and sanctions – that was set up in 2005 yes and that was the year after and it was a response to the publication of an opinion of the International Court of Justice about the legality of the apartheid wall – or separation wall as the Israelis call it – and the associated settlement figures. Now the BDS movement arose, endorsed by more than 60 civil society organisations that are from…of Palestinians and a…the actual…its manifesto said that they wanted a boycott of Israel – quote – until it meets its obligations under international law and that was spelled out by the BDS movement at the beginning as ending its occupation and colonisation of Arab lands, recognising the fundamental rights of Arab Palestinian citizens to full equality and respecting protection and promoting the rights of Palestinians to return to their homes. Now that’s the aim of it. It is an entirely peaceful sort of movement. Indeed it was formed because previously we had a sustained violence and nothing else – nothing else. The BDS movement couldn’t stop the violence of the resistance of Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza, but it said here is a non-violent way of engaging international support and trying at last to pressure the Israelis into abandoning what is an apartheid system. That’s what’s happening here: apartheid in the 21st century. And just as we had a boycott of apartheid South Africa, we should now certainly not be presenting Israel as a sort of normal state where light entertainment and progressive thought flourishes. That is to deny – implicitly to deny – the reality under which the Palestinian people live. Therefore boycott it.”

Making no effort to challenge McCann’s repeated ‘apartheid’ smear, to point out that the ICJ opinion has no legal standing or to clarify that ‘Arab lands’ also means Israel and ‘right of return’ means the end of the Jewish state, Crawley went on to quote the BBC’s statement once again before introducing Ruth Dudley Edwards whom he promptly interrupted with the following dubious claim:

Crawley: “This is obviously organised by the European Broadcasting Union and there were some in Israel – not least the prime minister – Prime Minister Netanyahu – who wanted the event to be held in Jerusalem, Ruth. But the European Broadcasting Union determined that it should be held in Tel Aviv. That’s a break with normal tradition. They normally go with a country’s capital and the prime minister said the country’s capital is Jerusalem so isn’t the European Broadcasting Union there making a political decision?”

Even if he does not remember that the 2004 Eurovision was held in Istanbul rather than Turkey’s capital, the 2011 event in Dusseldorf rather than the German capital, the 2013 Eurovision on Malmo rather than Sweden’s capital, the 1972 event in Edinburgh and the 1974 event in Brighton rather than in London, one would at least have thought that Crawley would recall that in 1993 the Eurovision was held in a small Irish town called Millstreet rather than in Dublin.

When Dudley Edwards went on to note that the “BDS movement is being used to help demonise Israel, delegitimise it”, Crawley jumped in:

Crawley: “Why are you bringing up antisemitism?”

After explaining that some of those behind the BDS campaign are driven by antisemitism and that the so-called ‘right of return’ means “the rights of 8 million people who hate Israel to come and live in Israel” because of the hereditary aspect of Palestinian ‘refugee’ status, Dudley Edwards clarified that “the objective is to destroy Israel”.

Crawly quickly brought in McCann at that point, who three times tarred Dudley Edward’s statements as “nonsense”.

McCann: “I mean are we all driven by antisemites? Is there a secret conspiracy here? Is the United Methodist Church in the United States, is the Norwegian Trade Union Federation, is Amnesty International, is Human Rights Watch? […] Incidentally, many of my best friends are anti-Zionist Jews. Many of my best friends are Jews.”

McCann went on to invoke Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Ronnie Kasrils and Joe Slovo.

McCann: “If they say…if Nelson Mandela says that looks like apartheid then I think that he knows a wee bit more about apartheid than either Ruth or myself and I’m gonna take his word for it.”

McCann proceeded to interrupt Ruth Dudley Edwards as she tried to describe the terrorism faced by Israelis and then went on:

McCann: “They’re not dealing with rockets every day of the week. In fact the number of rockets being fired from Gaza or anywhere else is very small – tiny, infinitesimal – compared to the firepower being directed by Israel against the Palestinian people. That is why in terms of deaths […] We can watch on our televisions and actually see heavily armed members of the Israeli Defence Forces shooting – aiming and shooting down – and shooting in the back young Palestinians. Some of them might be carrying stones – it’s all they have – and sling shots like David had to use against Goliath. That’s what you see now.”

Crawley made no effort to inform listeners that the “infinitesimal” number of rockets and mortars launched from Gaza at Israeli civilians in 2018 was one thousand or that “stones” are obviously by no means “all they have” seeing as hundreds of attacks with IEDs, grenades and firearms have been carried out in the past year alone. Neither did Crawley react when Mc Cann went on to claim that “there’s slaughter going on there” before once again invoking the political NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

During the phone-in part of the item listeners heard from seven callers – all male – three of whom were against boycotting the Eurovision and four in favour. Many of the lies and distortions promoted by those callers went unchallenged.

Caller 2: “Israel used white phosphorus on civilians – children, men, women. Journalists – kills journalists on a regular basis. It destroys olive trees. Takes land off people, you know, it murders people, children. How can anyone in their right kind of mind accept anything that Israel does? Israel should be wiped off the map and the land should be given back to the Palestinians. […] They should be…their power should be taken off them and it should be returned to the Palestinian people and they should all live in peace together in one area. […] The power and the government and the structure should be returned back to the Palestinians.”

Crawley made no effort to clarify to listeners that “the Palestinians” never had an independent state with “power and the government and the structure”. Neither did he bother to inform his audience – and his caller – that denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination is considered antisemitism according to the IHRA definition that is used by the British government.

Listeners also heard from McCann on the topic of Israel’s existence.

McCann: “I don’t accept its right to exist as it’s presently constituted. Israel is a settler state.”

They also heard him opine on the rights of the LGBT community in Israel.

Crawley: “Would you also accept that LGBT rights are more protected in Israel than any other country in that region?”

McCann: “Yes [….] but let’s get this clear…the fact that a great number of LGBT in Israel are anti-Palestinian. We mustn’t allow the fact that…if you’re LGBT you’re entitled to your freedom, you’re entitled to your liberation and your equality. You are not entitled just because you’re LGBT or anything else, you are not entitled to support and to endorse and to implement an apartheid regime against the Palestinian people. Nothing gives you that right.”

Caller 4 also promoted the lie that “Israel is an apartheid state” with no challenge from Crawley, as did caller 5.

Caller 5: “Israel is an apartheid state – much more even than South Africa. […] What happened in Israel shouldn’t be happening. All those people were moved off their land over the last 60 – 70 years. 100 years ago there was Jewish people living in what is now Israel, living then in peace and it’s only when they became, I suppose, a force that they then started moving in on Palestinian villages. […] Israel should be ostracised worldwide…as long as Israel is doing what they’re doing – slaughtering the people.”

While the level of most of the ‘discussion’ heard in this programme is frankly jaw-dropping, it is acutely obvious that its presenter – despite the BBC’s public purpose obligation to educate and inform – was perfectly content to let historical and current affairs related inaccuracies go unchallenged along with the repeated falsehoods – and in particular the ‘apartheid’ smear – that were clearly intended to delegitimise Israel and curry support for the BDS campaign.

And so, not for the first time ,we see that unfettered defamation, demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel – along with promotion of the antisemitic denial of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination – gets a free pass on BBC Northern Ireland radio stations.

Related Articles:

BBC News Eurovision BDS report follows the usual template

BBC Radio Ulster promotes ‘Zionism is racism’ and the ‘apartheid’ smear

Move over Galloway: BBC Radio Ulster airs pro-Assad & anti-Israel propaganda

Resources:

BBC Radio Ulster contact details

‘Talkback’ contact details

 

 

 

A ‘dark Israel’ genre BBC News website story jumps the gun

As has been recorded here in the past, the BBC has something of a penchant for the ‘dark Israel’ genre and regularly promotes stories which – often with insufficient attention to accuracy – paint a caricature of a country parting ways with democracy that is rife with racismsexismxenophobiahomophobia, government censorship and suchlike.  

On September 13th a domestic Israeli story which is of little or no interest to foreign readers – but, crucially, belongs to that genre – appeared on the BBC News website under the headline “Ultra-Orthodox Israeli MP quits amid gay wedding criticism“.

Readers were told that Shas party MK Yigal Guetta had resigned from his post.

“An ultra-Orthodox Jewish member of Israel’s parliament has resigned after prominent rabbis criticised him for attending his gay nephew’s wedding. […]

Mr Guetta did not issue a statement after giving up his seat in the Knesset.”

However the story is not quite as cut and dried as BBC audiences were led to believe – as the Times of Israel reported.

“On Wednesday, Guetta wrote to party boss and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri that he would resign and give up his Knesset seat. […]

While Guetta sent a resignation letter to Deri, he did not send one to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who must receive a formal resignation announcement from an MK in order for it to become official.

By law, Shas can kick Guetta — the party’s secretary-general — out of the party, but it cannot kick him out of the Knesset.

Once a Knesset member is elected, only a large majority of fellow lawmakers, backed by an Ethics Committee decision and a very serious breach of the law on his or her part, can force him or her from parliament.”

In fact, MK Guetta was only due to meet with the Deputy Knesset Speaker on the day after the BBC published its report.

The New York Times added:

“Mr. Guetta is now in negotiations with the Shas Party’s council of sages who are said to be less upset about his attendance at the wedding than his disclosure of that information in the radio interview.

A compromise appears to be emerging in which Mr. Guetta would apologize for giving the interview, though not for attending the wedding, and would retain his place in the party and his seat in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

To formally resign he would have to write to the Knesset chairman, a step he has not taken yet.”

Israel is of course far from the only country in which some religious figures take a conservative attitude towards gay marriage but in its apparent rush to publish yet another story promoting the ‘benighted’, ‘backward’ Israel theme, the BBC failed to check the accuracy of its claim that Mr Guetta had already ‘given up his seat’.

A BBC journalist does his job

Although comparatively rare, it is always a pleasure to be able to note that a BBC journalist has reported accurately and impartially on a topic connected to Israel.Longman art

In among a long and interesting – but bleak – article titled “Gay community hit hard by Middle East turmoil” published in the Features & Analysis section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 29th, James Longman wrote:

“One refuge in the region for some is Israel, one of the most progressive countries in the world for LGBT rights.

Same-sex relationships are protected by law, and the only annual gay pride march in the Middle East takes place in Tel Aviv – regarded as an international gay capital.

Since 1993 – well before the US and other Western countries – openly gay people have been allowed to serve in the military. Palestinians from conservative homes have also fled to Israel to avoid persecution.”

Would that such accurate and agenda-free reporting by a BBC journalist were not worthy of note.

BBC self-censors on gay rights in Middle East

On June 7th 2013 Tel Aviv’s annual Gay Pride Week – now in its fifteenth year – culminated in a festival attended by over 100,000 participants who were addressed by the city’s mayor and representatives from five political parties among others. 

Picture: Jerusalem Post, Ziv Shemesh

The BBC ignored the event completely, with no reporting on the Middle East page of its website or in the ‘In Pictures’ features for that day or that week

One brief reference to the event was, however, to be found at the bottom of a strangely headlined article concerning the arrest of suspects in the investigation into the shooting at the Bar Noar (not “Bar Noah” as stated in the BBC article) LGBT youth club in 2009 which – contrary to the headline’s implication – appears at this stage not to have been motivated by anti-gay sentiment on the part of the perpetrators.  

HP BAr Noar arrests

Bar Noar article

“The arrests came on the eve of the annual pride parade in Tel Aviv, which has one of the largest gay communities in the Middle East.”

The writer of this article does not attempt to explain to its readers exactly how he or she reached the conclusion that a city of 410,000 people – or 3.2 million if one includes the entire Tel Aviv metropolitan area – has “one of the largest gay communities” in comparison with cities such as Tehran (12.2 million), Cairo (9.2 million) or Riyadh (4.7 million). But it is actually highly unlikely that the BBC writer would be able to accurately quantify the LGBT communities in any of those – or other – cities in the Middle East for the simple reason that in the vast majority of them, same-sex relationships are illegal and any gay communities are forced to remain under the radar.

Zebra crossings painted in rainbow colors

Tel Aviv municipality repainted some zebra crossings in rainbow colours. Photo: Ministry of Tourism

Of course the BBC writer should have stated that Tel Aviv is the only city in the Middle East to hold a Gay Pride event at all, that Israel is the only country in the Middle East which affords legal protection and rights to its LGBT population and the only country in the region in which openly gay people serve in the military. 

Using the BBC’s own definition of the Middle East (according to the twenty countries given profiles on its website’s Middle East page), we see that homosexuality is still punishable by death in six Middle Eastern countries and by fine and/or imprisonment in ten additional ones. In Egypt, Lebanon and the PA controlled territories the situation is ambiguous, with homosexuality not specifically outlawed, but often punished under different laws relating, for example, to “morality”. In Iraq and Jordan homosexuality is not illegal, but the state does not defend gay rights and vigilante killings occur. In Israel homosexuality was decriminalized in 1988 – although the law had not been enforced since 1963. 

ME homosexuality

Rather than hiding behind the euphemism of “one of the largest gay communities in the Middle East” the BBC should be accurately informing its audiences about the real situation facing LGBT communities in that region. However, the pernicious combination of self-imposed political correctness – together with an institutional lack of impartiality regarding Israel – instead results in the BBC continuing to self-censor on the one hand, whilst insidiously using the tragic case of a criminal shooting in a gay youth club to once again foster the theme of Israel as an intolerant society on the other.