BBC Monitoring digs up the dirt with cleaners non-story

In the financial year 2013-14, BBC Monitoring ceased to enjoy funding from sources such as the UK government’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence and since then it has been funded by the licence fee payer. Members of the British public therefore clearly have an interest in knowing how that department uses their money.

Stating that “our unique capabilities are highly valued”, BBC Monitoring claims to “deliver the news you need, when you need it” to subscribers and to provide “deep local insight” and “hard to reach information that is often undetected”. The department also provides material for BBC programmes and content for the BBC News website.

One example of such content appeared in the website’s ‘News From Elsewhere’ section on February 8th under the headline “Anger as Israel company ‘prices staff by ethnicity’” and with an illustrative photograph which obviously has no connection to the article’s subject matter but indicates that BBC Monitoring’s “deep local insight” does not include the knowledge that Israelis do not have brass letter boxes.BBC monitoring cleaner story

The “hard to reach information” which forms the basis of that article was sourced from two English language Israeli media organisations and no particularly “unique capabilities” are required to access their sites online. Additional links to a Hebrew language news website and the Facebook account of the Israeli journalist/blogger Tal Schneider who first promoted the story are provided.

The article relates to a flyer ‘collected’ by an acquaintance of Schneider which advertises cleaning services. In spite of BBC Monitoring’s use of the word “company” in its headline and its opening paragraph, as Ha’aretz pointed out: “the leaflet indicated no company name but only gave the phone number for someone called Irena”.

BBC audiences are told that:

“A flyer for a cleaning company in Tel Aviv has sparked anger and soul-searching after pricing its staff on the basis of their ethnicity, it seems.

Israeli journalist and political blogger Tal Schneider posted a photograph of the leaflet to her Facebook account with the statement “Blatant racism permeates Israel, pricing workers by race”…”

As distasteful as it may be, one flyer from an unknown source obviously does not support the hyperbolic sweeping allegation that “blatant racism permeates Israel”. Nevertheless, BBC Monitoring used licence fee funding to compile and promote this non-story – which actually provides more “deep local insight” into the BBC practice of swooping on any opportunity to promote a story of this genre than anything else. 

BBC Monitoring’s news: repetition of an anonymous BTL comment

h/t DM

On June 18th BBC Monitoring brought readers of the News From Elsewhere section of the BBC News website the horrific news that some Lebanese football fans are being forced to watch the World Cup on an Israeli TV station.BBC Monitoring Lebanon world cup art

“Football supporters in Lebanon have apparently been tuning in to Israeli television for their World Cup fix, rather than pay cable fees.

Qatari cable television provider Sama was granted exclusive rights to broadcast the games in the Middle East, but many households have been unable to pay the fees demanded by the sole agent in Lebanon. Instead, the Al-Nahar newspaper reports, “Israeli commentators’ voices in Hebrew can be heard everywhere in south Lebanon; in people’s houses, balconies and courtyards because the country has failed to allocate money to enable them to watch the games,”.”

That, apparently, has now changed but notably the writer of this report chose to end it with the following paragraph.

“The decision to air the matches free-to-air can’t end soon enough for one viewer, who complained to Al-Nahar that the Israeli commentators were biased against “the Muslims of Bosnia” during their match against Argentina.”

Did BBC Monitoring even bother to fact check that anonymous accusation from a person writing in the below the line comments to an internet article before electing to highlight and amplify it on the pages of the BBC News website as “news”?  

How does the BBC define ‘pro-Palestinian’?

On January 21st a report titled “Chile bans Palestino football club ‘anti-Israel’ shirt” appeared on both the ‘Latin America & Caribbean’ and ‘Middle East’ pages of the BBC News website.

Chile football shirt 1

The report opens:

“The Chilean football federation has banned a top division team from using a new shirt that has the number one shaped as the map of Palestine before the creation of Israel.

Jewish organisations complained that the design implied that all the land was Palestinian. […]

Palestino unveiled the new shirts in December, keeping the club’s traditional colours, matching those of the Palestine flag – red, green and black.

However, it replaced the number one by a map of Palestine before the UN voted on the partition of the region in 1947.”1920 JNH

Of course what that map actually does show is the area of the Mandate for Palestine defined by the League of Nations as the Jewish National Home in 1922 after Trans-Jordan and the Golan Heights were excluded from the originally designated area. It does not show any political entity or country named Palestine as readers of this article unfamiliar with the history may mistakenly understand from the BBC’s inaccurate choice of phrasing.

Equally misleading to readers is the irrelevant reference to the 1947  UN vote on partition which is phrased to imply that the vote had some kind of significance regarding the division of the area – which of course it did not, as the implementation of the plan was dependent upon agreement from the parties concerned and the Arab nations rejected it outright.

The same story about these football shirts was the subject of another article produced by BBC Monitoring in its ‘News from Elsewhere’ section on the BBC News website on January 20th. In that report – titled “Chile: ‘Anti-Israeli’ football kit row” – a much clearer and more accurate explanation was provided to readers as to why the map depicted on those shirts is problematic.

“The number “1” on the Santiago-based Palestino FC shirts is shaped to look like Israel and the Palestinian Territories – as a single entity – and the design has caused consternation among Chile’s Jewish community. 

1922 Sept JNH

They say the shape of the numeral implies that Israel belongs to Palestinians [..]”

BBC Monitoring also notes:

“But Palestino FC remains defiant. “For us, free Palestine will always be historical Palestine, nothing less,” the club says in a statement on its Facebook page. Chile’s Palestinian Federation has spoken out in support of the decision, too, saying the map has existed as a symbol in Chile since 1920.” [emphasis added]

That, of course, is highly doubtful seeing as the map in that form only came into being in September 1922.

Promotion of the first article by the BBC News (World) Twitter account included an interesting choice of wording.

BBC News World tweet football shirt

“Pro-Palestinian shirt”? Does the BBC really hold the opinion that wiping Israel off the map – literally or figuratively – is “pro-Palestinian”?

This is the second time in the past week alone that we have seen bizarre use of the term “pro-Palestinian” by BBC employees. On January 17th the BBC News website published two reports which used that term in their headlines: “Israel berates ‘pro-Palestinian EU’” and “Israel PM’s anger at ‘pro-Palestinian EU“.

In fact, those reports related to comments made by Israel’s prime minister regarding the fact that the EU overlooks the subject of incitement propagated by official Palestinian Authority sources and, as we commented at the time: 

“Those are of course two very different things: ignoring incitement and often racist demonisation is not ‘pro-Palestinian’ any more than pointing it out is ‘anti-Palestinian’.”

Unfortunately, the term “pro-Palestinian” has become a devalued buzz-word in many circles. Sadly, in many cases it does not represent support for the Palestinian people to enjoy freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom from discrimination and persecution based on gender or sexual orientation or freedom from the tyranny of armed militias. Instead, it has become a cliché used to describe – and whitewash – precisely such things as the unforgivable brainwashing of children with the glorification of terrorism and violence and the rejection of a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict which would see two nations living side by side.

Clearly the BBC needs to have a good think about what the term “pro-Palestinian” actually means and to undertake a serious review of its use of that phrase.


BBC Monitoring puffs wind in the sails of professional anti-Israel campaigners

Readers who also visit the ‘Snapshots’ blog run by our colleagues at CAMERA will no doubt be aware of the recent story – as first reported by the Times of Israel on November 13th – concerning the publisher ‘Scholastic Inc.’ which inadvertently produced a map from which Israel was omitted in one of its children’s books. scholastic map.jpg

The company quickly rectified the situation, as reported by CAMERA:

“The publisher today expressed regret for the omission and announced that it is “immediately stopping shipment on this title, revising the map, and going back to reprint.” “

Five days later, on November 18th, the story was picked up by BBC Monitoring and placed in its “News from Elsewhere” section on the BBC News website. 

News from elsewhere Scholastic

Interestingly, part of the BBC Monitoring article focuses on reactions to the amended map provided by the publisher.

“However, the new map has opened a further can of worms for Scholastic, with readers engaged in a heated argument on whether the map should also include the Palestinian territories.”

Visitors who click on the link to Scholastic’s blog provided in the BBC article will soon realise that many of the writers of the comments there are not mere “readers” as they are described by BBC Monitoring, but veteran – and in some cases, professional – anti-Israel campaigners. 

First off the mark is Greta Berlin of the flotilla-organising, Hamas-supporting ‘Free Gaza Movement’ – perhaps more memorable for her promotion of antisemitic material on the internet.

comments scholastic 1

Berlin’s ‘Free Gaza Movement’ colleague Mary Hughes-Thompson (who goes by the name ‘Mariapalestina‘ on Twitter) appears to be next.

comment scholastic 4

comment scholastic 5

Also popping in to visit was International Solidarity Movement activist Paul Larudee, who was among the organisers of the failed 2012 ‘Global March to Jerusalem’.

comments scholastic 2

There is also a comment apparently from Khaled Mouammar – former head of the controversy-plagued Canadian Arab Federation.

comment scholastic 6

Hanna Kawas is chair of the Canada Palestine Association.

comments scholastic 3

Readers will probably recognize additional names such as Jane Jewell, Kay von Riesen or Samir Twair in what is clearly a collection of comments resulting from a coordinated campaign.

tweet mary hughes free gaza

How curious it is that BBC Monitoring picked up this story at all, and all the more that it only did so after five days. How odd too that it specifically directs readers to a collection of comments made by anti-Israel campaigners. The question of course is whether or not the anonymous writer of the BBC Monitoring article actively sought to amplify the coordinated campaign of ‘Free Gaza’ et al, or whether he or she simply did not bother to do the research in order to find out what kind of voices the BBC would be promoting.

Related articles:

BBC interviewee’s support for Greta Berlin’s antisemitic videos