BBC displays its campaigning colours in SodaStream story coverage

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of January 31st found no fewer than three different reports on the same subject.

SodaStream on ME pge 31 1

In addition to the written article dated January 30th appearing in the news section, they could view a filmed report in the ‘Watch/Listen’ section. That report by Nick Bryant – titled “Scarlett Johansson quits Oxfam after SodaStream row” – also appeared in the website’s ‘Entertainment & Arts’ section and on BBC television news programmes.

Oxfam filmed

Like the written article, this filmed report makes no attempt to explain to viewers that what lies behind Oxfam’s quoted statement is its alignment with the BDS movement. Once again, viewers are not informed of Oxfam’s history of politically motivated anti-Israel campaigning and are given no insight into the real aims of the BDS campaign. 

The third report on that page – by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly – is located in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section and is titled “Israeli fizzy drinks at centre of settlement boycott row“. It also appeared on the website’s ‘US & Canada’ page. 

Here is Connolly’s explanation of the BDS campaign against SodaStream and in general:

“But suddenly SodaStream – and Ms Johansson – find themselves caught up in the bitter politics of the Middle East, and in particular the calls for a boycott of Israeli businesses that trade on the lands that Israel captured in the war of 1967.

The fizzy drinks machine-maker has a factory in the industrial zone of Maale Adumim – a Jewish settlement built on occupied land to the east of Jerusalem.

Under most interpretations of international law – although not Israel’s – building homes and businesses on such territory is illegal.

Many campaign groups want a ban on goods produced under those circumstances – or at least clear labelling so that consumers in other countries know they are buying things made or grown on Israeli settlements and not in Israel itself.”

That specious portrayal again completely neglects to inform audiences that the end game of the BDS movement (led by its guru Oxfam Connolly artorganization PACBI) is not the dubious labelling of soda making machines or tomatoes based on the postcode and ethnicity of their producers, but the denial of national rights and self-determination to the Jewish people by means of delegitimisation of Israel. Connolly’s description conceals the fact that the BDS movement rejects the existence of Israel as the Jewish state, opposes ‘normalisation’ of relations between Israelis and Palestinians and demands the ‘right of return’ to Israel for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees.

Neither does Connolly make any attempt to inform readers of Oxfam’s record of anti-Israel campaigning or to clarify the charity’s relationships with components of the BDS campaign.

“So far, so familiar, except that Ms Johansson was a brand ambassador for the charity Oxfam (which regards the settlements as illegal and opposes any trade from them) as well as for SodaStream (which has a factory in a settlement). Something had to give.”

Connolly then moves on to promotion of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and an audio clip of a version of the interview with Ameena Saleem of the PSC which was included in his radio report on this story broadcast on the Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme on January 31st is inserted into the written piece. In contrast to the Radio 4 report, Saleem is at least identified as a PSC member in this article, but her defamatory ‘apartheid’ slurs again go unchallenged.

Oxfam Connolly Saleem clip

Another PSC employee – former ‘Mavi Marmara’ passenger Sarah Colborne – is also interviewed:

“As things stand, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign is arguing that the actress has undermined the image she built up as a representative for Oxfam.

The campaign’s director, Sarah Colborne, said: “Scarlett Johansson’s decision to represent SodaStream clearly violated Oxfam’s policy of supporting human rights and justice.

“By choosing to represent a company that operates in an illegal settlement on stolen Palestinian land, she has already suffered major reputational damage. And by prioritising SodaStream over Oxfam, she has decided to profit from occupation, rather than challenge global poverty.” “

Once again in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, Connolly makes no attempt to clarify to audiences what the PSC’s agenda actually is and no explanations are given regarding its connections to Hamas and other terrorist organisations proscribed by the British government.

Towards the end of the article Connolly argues that:

“The boycott movement is important.

Supporters of the Palestinians have hit on a tactic that might encourage ordinary consumers to start differentiating products from the factories and farms of Israel on the one hand and Israeli settlements on the other.”

If that is indeed the case (and it is of course very debatable), then that is all the more important for the BBC to present its audiences with accurate representation of the BDS movement, including clarification of the fact that these supposed “supporters of the Palestinians” actually have a much broader anti-Israel agenda, in order for the corporation to comply with its public purpose remit of building “a global understanding of international issues”.

However, the BBC’s promotion and amplification of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign did not end there. That same clip of Amena Saleem was also featured in another report which appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘US & Canada’ page on January 31st.

Oxfam Saleem clip us canada

Throughout all of its ample coverage of the Scarlett Johansson/ Oxfam story, the BBC has painstakingly focused audience attention on the micro and diligently avoided informing them of the macro: the bigger picture of a supposedly humanitarian charity involved in political campaigning and the context of its affiliated BDS movement’s campaign of delegitimisation to advance the real agenda of the dissolution of a sovereign state.

The BBC’s repeated covert and overt amplification of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s agenda without due regard for editorial guidelines on impartiality contributes to the mainstreaming of an extremist organization with ties to terror groups.

As its coverage of this story shows, the BBC has abandoned its role as a provider of news and information regarding the anti-Israel BDS movement and emphatically tied its colours to the campaigning mast.

Related Articles:

BBC News recycles second-hand SodaStream slur, fails to explain BDS

BBC’s ‘Today’ programme ‘should know better’ than to engage in covert promotion of the PSC’s agenda

BDS: A Smokescreen for Delegitimizing Israel (CAMERA)

BDS, Academic/Cultural Boycott of Israel, and Omar Barghouti (CAMERA)

 

BBC’s ‘Today’ programme ‘should know better’ than to engage in covert promotion of the PSC’s agenda

h/t J

On Friday January 31st the BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an item (here from 02:42:55) by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly titled “Scarlett Johansson ‘should know better’“. 

Today Connolly

At 0:50 into Connolly’s item, listeners hear the sound of shouting and chanting:

“One, two, three, four, occupation no more. Five, six, seven, eight, Israel is a terror state.”

Connolly then comes in saying:

“Now SodaStream, and Scarlett, find themselves caught up in the bitter politics of the Middle East and in particular the calls for a boycott of Israeli businesses that trade on the lands that Israel captured in the war of 1967.”

The same shouting and chanting continues in the background throughout the whole time that Connolly is speaking – clearly the result of two separate recordings being intentionally spliced together. He continues:

“Israel disputes that its activities in the West Bank, like the operations of the SodaStream factory there, are a breach of international law but these protesters gathered at the Israeli embassy in London are in no doubt. Among them was Amena Saleem who says you should know that buying a SodaStream props up the occupation and that Scarlett Johansson should know better.”

Amena Saleem: “She’s advertising SodaStream and she’s promoting it so she’s promoting the occupation, she’s promoting apartheid in the West Bank. By supporting SodaStream which supports the occupation you are supporting the occupation as well and Scarlett Johansson unfortunately is supporting the Israeli occupation and Israeli apartheid.”

Does Connolly bother to inform the millions of listeners to the ‘Today’ programme that Saleem’s defamatory claims of “Israeli apartheid” are inaccurate? No he does not. Does he bother to tell them that Amena Saleem is a professional activist with the Hamas-supporting Palestine Solidarity Campaign who writes for outlets such as Electronic Intifada and the UK-based Hamas mouthpiece MEMO? No he does not. Does he even bother to make it clear who organized that noisy demonstration outside the Israeli embassy which the BBC’s sound engineers took such pains to splice into his item? No he does not. 

Readers will no doubt remember that not too long ago, the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit reaffirmed the corporation’s commitment to “clearly summarising the standpoint of any interviewee where it is relevant and not immediately clear from their position or the title of their organization”. Interestingly, that statement came about as the result of a complaint from none other than the murkily funded Palestine Solidarity Campaign itself. But in this case Connolly and the editors of the ‘Today’ programme have made no effort whatsoever to identify Amena Saleem as a representative of that organization or to explain the politically motivated ideology and aims which lie behind it and the BDS campaign it supports. 

Clearly this broadcast is in breach of the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality which – as reaffirmed by the ECU – state:

“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.”

That breach of impartiality makes the BBC (not for the first time) a party in the promotion and amplification of the PSC’s campaigning and in the sanitisation of an extremist fringe group which supports a terrorist organization proscribed by the British government.

The ‘Today’ programme’s contact details are here

PSC in Gaza 

Related Articles:

Zaher Birawi profile

Mohammad Kozber profile

Muhammed Sawalha  profile

Sarah Colborne PSC  profile

Palestine Solidarity Campaign  profile

What is the PSC?

PSC invites Terror Activist to House of Commons

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Hamas

BBC justifies anti-Israel campaign slogans as “a form of expression”

Who has the ear of ‘senior BBC executives’?

 

BBC News recycles second-hand SodaStream slur, fails to explain BDS

January 30th saw the appearance of an article titled “Scarlett Johansson quits Oxfam role over SodaStream row” on the BBC News website’s US & Canada and Middle East pages. 

SodaStream art

The article opens:

“Actress Scarlett Johansson has quit as an ambassador for Oxfam amid a row over her support for an Israeli company that operates in the occupied West Bank.

A spokesman for the actress said she had a “fundamental difference of opinion” with the humanitarian group.

She will remain a brand ambassador for SodaStream, which has a factory in the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim.”

Actually, the SodaStream factory is located to the east of Ma’ale Adumim in the Mishor Adumim Industrial Park and in an area which, under any reasonable scenario of a peace agreement between Israel and the PLO, will remain under Israeli control. Notably, the BBC – as usual – does not bother to inform audiences of that aspect of the story. 

Mishor Adumim

The report continues:

“Oxfam opposes trade from settlements, considered illegal under international law – something Israel disputes.

About 500,000 Jews currently live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

As usual, no attempt is made to clarify to readers that contrasting legal opinions also exist outside Israel and the BBC presents selected views as indisputable fact. 

At no point in this report is any attempt made to inform readers of the context of Oxfam’s record of politically motivated campaigning against Israel. Likewise, at no point is any attempt made to explain to audiences that Oxfam’s stance is the result of its alignment with the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and that the aim of that movement is the dismantling of Israel as the Jewish state through a campaign of delegitimisation.

“With pressure imposed by the international community through a BDS campaign a la anti-Apartheid campaign which brought Apartheid South Africa to an end, we believe that Israel itself can be transformed into a secular democratic state after the return of 6 million Palestinian refugees who were ethnically cleansed in 1948, a state for ALL of its citizens…therefore, we think that one of the major tools of the struggle towards a secular democratic state is BDS.” Haider Eid, 2009

“So BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state…I view the BDS movement as a long-term project with radically transformative potential… the success of the BDS movement is tied directly to our success in humanizing Palestinians and discrediting Zionism as a legitimate way of regarding the world.” Ahmed Moor, 2010

“BDS represents three words that will help bring about the defeat of Zionist Israel and victory for Palestine.” Ronnie Kasrils, 2009

The BBC’s report quotes from a statement issued by Oxfam:

“Oxfam believes that businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.”

Despite the obviously downright bizarre nature of that statement, the BBC makes no attempt to clarify to readers that the 500 or so Palestinians working at SodaStream enjoy the same rates of pay, benefits and rights as their Israeli colleagues or that unemployment in the PA controlled areas stood at 19.1% in the third quarter of 2013 according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and that employees of SodaStream  earn several times the average wage of 88 shekels a day in PA controlled areas.

Towards the end of the report, the BBC once again stoops to quoting second-hand unverified hearsay from an unnamed source.

“However, away from the factory, Reuters quoted one unnamed Palestinian employee as saying “there’s a lot of racism” at work.

“Most of the managers are Israeli, and West Bank employees feel they can’t ask for pay rises or more benefits because they can be fired and easily replaced,” he added.”

In the film below, however, are some named SodaStream employees talking about their experiences and here readers can watch an interview with the factory’s manager and hear a conversation with production manager Mohamed Barhum conducted by our colleague Adam Levick of CiF Watch last year.

It takes about half an hour even in bad traffic to drive from Jerusalem to Mishor Adumim. Surely someone from the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau could have popped down there to do some proper reporting instead of BBC News resorting once again to recycling unverified quotes from second-hand sources.

Had that been done, BBC journalists would have discovered that SodaStream is far from the only firm employing Palestinians at that industrial park and that some of the businesses operating in the Mishor Adumim complex are Arab-owned. They could then have approached Oxfam for a statement on whether those companies too are deemed worthy of boycott simply because of their physical location.

Such a statement might well have contributed to BBC audiences’ understanding of the real roots of Oxfam’s campaign and the true nature of the BDS movement. Unfortunately for BBC audiences however, it seems that once again the corporation is more interested in the amplification of a specific unquestioned narrative than in providing them with a range of information which will allow them to form their own views on the subject.

This report joins many others in raising the very obvious question of why the BBC’s funding public should be obliged to pay to read second-hand recycled quotes from sources they could have accessed for free themselves. It also raises an additional issue: sources such as Reuters (quoted in this article), AP and AFP (frequently quoted in other reports) are of course not bound by the same editorial standards as the BBC. That fact prompts the question of whether any sort of mechanism exists to ensure that information sourced by the BBC from other media outlets is checked for accuracy and impartiality before it is recycled to BBC audiences.