Daily Mail (sort of) corrects. Britain’s national mapping service (clearly) deceives.

Cross posted from UK Media Watch

The Daily Mail’s coverage of Israel is, by and large, not compromised by the egregious bias found in UK media outlets such as the Guardian and Independent, and editors there are generally amenable to corrections when we point out errors. Nonetheless, their “correction” to a complaint we filed over a map they distributed (to close to a million news consumers) in their Sunday print edition, which falsely listed Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital, is disappointing.

Here’s the section of the map in question, which we originally posted about last week.

Now, here’s the ‘correction’ the Daily Mail published in today’s print edition in response to a complaint filed by UK Media Watch (and countless other followers of our blog):

First, it’s important to note that the UK government map cited by Britain’s national mapping agency, Ordnance Survey, which was sent to us by Daily Mail editors in response to our complaint, does NOT, as they claim, list Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital.

Here’s the map they cite:

As you can see, there’s no capital listed. (Capitals, per the legend, are marked with a black square.)

Moreover, Ordnance Mapping’s claim that they are just following the government’s position on Israel’s capital is not accurate. Though the UK government does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (a reflection of diplomatic sensitivities regarding the future status of the holy city), it also is not Downing Street’s position that Tel Aviv holds this status – a fact that the quote from the Foreign Office in the Daily Mail correction makes clear.

However, the main point – one that we’ve made continuously at this blog when getting corrections from UK outlets suggesting that Tel Aviv was Israel’s capital – is that, regardless of the question over diplomatic recognition, Jerusalem has been Israel’s official capital since 1949. It is the seat of government, and the city where the Knesset, Supreme Court, Prime Minster’s office and most government ministries are located.

As the Press Complaints Commission (the regulatory body for British printed newspapers and magazines that preceded IPSO) ruled back in 2012 in response to a complaint made about the Guardian: ‘Stating that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital represents a breach in the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code of Practice’.

Whilst we’re reasonably confident that Daily Mail editors will remember this, the fact that the country’s official mapping agency got it wrong, and then mischaracterised the government’s position on the matter when facing criticism, is extremely troubling.

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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.

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BBC’s Yolande Knell recycles her Jerusalem pride report – with a little help

A week after her audio report about the Jerusalem pride march had been broadcast on BBC World Service radio and BBC Radio 4, Yolande Knell recycled the same material in an item aired in the June 13th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’.

“As Pride events take place all over the world this month to recognise LGBT communities and to highlight ongoing campaigns for equal rights, Yolande Knell reports on Pride in Israel.”

With listeners once again not informed that the only country in her Middle East patch where Knell could produce such a report is Israel, presenter Kate Adie introduced the item (from 05:54 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Adie: “It’s the month of campaign and celebration for LGBT – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender – communities. Equal rights are by no means recognised universally and in Israel tomorrow tens of thousands are expected at the Tel Aviv pride parade. Last week the country appointed its first openly gay cabinet minister but a staged mass wedding for gay couples and trouble at the pride march in Jerusalem highlight unresolved tensions according to Yolande Knell.”

Exactly how Knell defines “trouble” would emerge later on in the report. She began however with an event which took place in the Sarona complex in Tel Aviv on June 4th. Interestingly, Knell’s account included messaging and motifs seen in an AP report about that event.

Knell: “Beaming, Nikita stomps on a glass wrapped in foil to cries of muzl [sic] tov – congratulations. But this isn’t a traditional Jewish wedding: it’s a symbolic one. Nikita and his long-time partner Roy are in a row of 23 gay couples hugging and kissing. All walked down the aisle and took vows at an open-air mass ceremony in Tel Aviv.”

Although the Sarona complex is an open-air venue with no “aisle” to walk down, that phrase was also found in AP’s report.

AP: “Tuesday’s event involved an unofficial wedding ceremony for 23 gay couples, who walked down the aisle, took vows and danced at a banquet, cheered by friends, family and supporters.”

Knell went on:

Knell: “But while same-sex marriages are increasingly recognised around the world, here in Israel they’re still not legal. The state doesn’t permit any civil marriages – only religious ones – and there’s no religious gay marriage option. ‘We participated so everyone would see us and know we exist’ Nikita says. ‘We love each other, we want to be married and have a normal life’.”

As was the case in her earlier report, Knell did not bother to inform listeners that while civil marriage is not available in Israel (rather than not “legal”) for either heterosexual or homosexual couples, ceremonies performed abroad are recognised by the state.

The AP report states:

AP: “The annual pride parade, set for June 14, draws flocks of foreign visitors to Israel, which flaunts itself as one of the world’s most gay-friendly tourist destinations.”

Yolande Knell told Radio 4 listeners that:

Knell: “Tel Aviv’s gay-friendly reputation – which it recently flaunted while hosting the Eurovision Song Contest – draws many same-sex Israeli couples to live here as well as lots of foreign visitors. Every year its pride parade along the beach has a carnival atmosphere. Young and old, gay and straight join the huge party, many dressed in flamboyant outfits or skimpy swimming costumes.”

The AP report goes on:

AP: “Yet political rights for Israel’s gay community lag behind increasingly widespread cultural acceptance.”

Yolande Knell went on:

Knell: “But in Israel rights for the gay community fall behind rising cultural acceptance in society.”

AP readers were told that:

AP: “Jewish ultra-Orthodox parties, which wield significant influence in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government and have a monopoly over matters of religion and state, have rejected legislation that condones homosexuality, which they see as defying Jewish law.”

Yolande Knell’s listeners were told that:

Knell: “In the Right-wing coalition governments of the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jewish ultra-orthodox parties have had an influential role. They reject any proposed legislation which they see as condoning homosexuality, saying it defies Jewish law.”

Describing Jerusalem as Israel’s “seat of government” rather than its capital – in accordance with BBC editorial policy – Knell went on:

Knell: “That makes the pride march in Jerusalem – the holy city and Israel’s seat of government – feel more like a protest, although there’s still fancy dress. ‘I can do whatever I want in Tel Aviv and that’s great’ says Shlomit who’s with her gay friend, wearing a unicorn hat. ‘But if I’m not marching in Jerusalem, doing leg-work to demand the rights some people still don’t have, then I don’t have the right to call myself an ally’.

As was the case in her earlier report, Knell made no effort to inform Radio 4 listeners what rights LGBTQ people do have in Israel such as the fact that same sex couples who married abroad enjoy all the same rights as heterosexual married couples, including benefits and survivor rights.

Listeners then learned that Kate Adie’s previous reference to ‘trouble’ in fact means a protest which received an advance permit.

Knell: “Near the start of the parade there’s a reminder of the strong opposition faced by Israel’s gay activists. A small group’s demonstrating against what it calls LGBT terrorism. Its leader Bentzi Gopstein belongs to a far-Right political party which struck a controversial deal with Mr Netanyahu ahead of the last election to shore up conservative votes. ‘This isn’t pride; it’s an abomination’ he shouts over a loudspeaker. ‘It’s not pride if someone can’t contain their lust. Keep Jerusalem holy’.”

In fact, prior to the April election Gopstein’s party ‘Otzma Yehudit’ joined the Jewish Home and National Union parties to form the Union of Right-Wing Parties. 

Knell: “With hundreds of police officers lining their route, the marchers pass the spot where a girl of 15 was fatally stabbed by an ultra-orthodox Jewish man during the parade four years ago. Many like Ronni stop to lay a red rose. ‘It’s very sad. It really shows what happens when you allow hatred to flourish’ she says. This crowd brings together secular and religious activists, all calling for greater tolerance even as they reveal conflicting currents in Israeli society. I meet liberal orthodox rabbis and their followers upset at how Jerusalem’s chief rabbi wrote to the mayor asking him to stop rainbow flags being displayed in the city. ‘Judaism’s a pluralistic religion’ says Ze’ev who wears a kippa or skullcap. ‘We’re here for the alternative’.”

Apparently for Knell, religious and secular people automatically ‘conflict’ rather than being simply diverse and co-existing “currents in Israeli society”. Once again she resurrected the story about the city’s chief rabbi’s letter without clarifying that the Jerusalem municipality rejected his request.

Next we discover that – in contrast to the impression given in her previous report – Knell did see the protests against MK Amir Ohana which took place at the Jerusalem march. She did not however bother to inform listeners which organisation was behind those protests and the pre-prepared placards – or of its political leanings.

Knell: “Then, there’s a decidedly mixed reaction to the appearance of Amir Ohana, the newly appointed openly gay justice minister who’s a loyalist of the prime minister. While some shake his hand, others yell ‘shame’ and ‘go home hypocrite’, accusing him of doing little for the LGBT community.”

As in her previous report, Knell amplified inadequately attributed politically motivated allegations of ‘pinkwashing’.

Knell: “There are also strong differences of opinion among gay Palestinians. Social and legal prohibitions on homosexuality mean they don’t have their own pride events so some with access to the Israeli parades embrace them, like an East Jerusalemite drag queen in a tight black dress and bright red lipstick. Others, like Zizou, choose to boycott. ‘Pride week just helps Israel pinkwash its image’ he complains, accusing the country of presenting itself as progressive, liberal and LGBT friendly to distract from its conflict with the Palestinians.”

Before closing her report Knell managed to get a reference to the ‘peace process’ into an item ostensibly about pride marches in Israel while giving an imaginative portrayal of the country’s current “political climate”.

Knell: “This year pride in Israel takes place in a febrile political climate. After a recent bitterly fought election, Mr Netanyahu looked set to form a new government but failed to do so. Now the country must vote again. The campaign’s unlikely to see much talk of peace with the Palestinians but issues of religion and state will be hotly contested once more. Many of those flying rainbow flags this month will be hoping for political changes but they won’t have to look far for proof of how tough those will be.”

And so, for the second time in a week, Knell’s message to BBC audiences in the UK was that the advancement of LGBTQ rights in Israel is held back by “Jewish ultra-orthodox parties” – with no mention of how Arab parties in the Knesset relate to that issue. Yet again Knell failed to inform Radio 4 listeners what LGBTQ rights in Israel do include, while the issue of “social and legal prohibitions on homosexuality” in Palestinian society and the wider region is obviously of no real interest to the BBC’s Middle East correspondent.   

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Omission in BBC reporting on Israel and the EU

Using the Eurovision Song Contest as a hook (and tag) another BBC reporter apparently in Tel Aviv for that event – diplomatic correspondent James Landale – published an article titled “Why Israel eyes the EU with distrust” on the BBC News website on May 20th.

Landale also produced an audio version of that report which was aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on May 18th (from 01:48:35 here) and the central messaging of both reports is the same.

“…Israel’s love of Eurovision the competition has also illustrated its more ambiguous attitude to Europe the continent.

If you speak to Israelis, some will tell you how Europe is their biggest trading partner, how they love going on holiday there and of their many ancestral family connections.

Yet many also say they see Europe as a source of anti-Semitism, a place where the Holocaust is becoming less prominent in the minds of a new generation of young people.

And many also see Europe as a source of what they see as unfair criticism for their government’s policies towards Gaza and the West Bank, coupled with a failure to understand Israel’s existential security threat. […]

Many see it as an organisation that has taken sides in their conflict with the Palestinians, others condemn it for providing aid that sometimes ends up in the hands of groups like Hamas, which the EU regards as a terrorist organisation. […]

This sentiment is fanned by Israel’s recently re-elected prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who before Christmas described the EU as “hostile and hypocritical”.”

Among Israelis, readers were told, “[t]here is little attempt…to understand a European political culture that favours liberal democracy and emphasises human and civil rights”.

Landale also informed BBC audiences that:

“European diplomats take some of this criticism with a pinch of salt and say the EU is a “useful whipping boy” for Israel at a time when it is so close to the Trump administration.”

However Landale made no attempt to delve further into how the generalised opinions he presented may have come about. Had he done so, he could have told BBC audiences about an issue that the corporation has long avoided: the fact that the EU has for years carried out illegal construction at sites in Area C.

Under the terms of the Oslo Accords, Area C is of course under Israeli control and that includes planning permission. The status of the area is, according to that EU backed agreement, subject to final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Nevertheless, a European Commission report from September 2014 openly stated that “the European Union and Palestinian Authority are actively promoting planning and construction in Area C, which, if successful, will pave the way for development and expansion of the Palestinian Authority’s control over Area C.”

Another example of such EU activity has come to light in Gush Etzion.

““Over the course of the past two years, activists from the Arab town of Al Khader, backed by P.A. and European Union funding, occupied the ruins of two ancient shomerot  (watchman’s huts) – primitive stone structures used by passing shepherds or farmers as shelter from the elements—that dot the landscape in the Jerusalem and Sataf areas. They renovated these abandoned structures and turned them into homes – and from that point, in very short order, totally new structures have been added in the surrounding area.”

The signs posted on the refurbished buildings, proudly bearing the European Union emblem, explain that the site is an ancient village – Shoshkhalah – despite the fact that aerial photos paint a completely different picture. In the past two years, more than 15 homes have been built in this “village,” each connected to solar power infrastructure and water tanks paid for by the Europeans.

Analysis of aerial photos from 1967, as well as historic maps dating back to 1880, prove that there was never any settlement of any kind at the site.”

Interestingly, while BBC audiences can by now probably recite the corporation’s mantra on Israeli ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ by heart, the repeated appearance of Palestinian/EU constructed outposts under the guise of ‘humanitarian assistance’ is not considered newsworthy – even by a senior BBC correspondent purporting to cast light on Israeli attitudes towards Europe.

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

Over the past couple of days we have discussed two items aired on BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1 XTRA on May 13th and May 14th – ostensibly as part of ‘Newsbeat’ coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.  

BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ gives younger audiences a ‘history lesson’

BBC Radio 1 ‘Newsbeat’ Gaza special – part one

BBC Radio 1 ‘Newsbeat’ Gaza special – part two

On May 15th another item produced by that department of BBC News was aired on the same two radio stations.

“…our build up to Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest continues… our reporter Steve Holden chats to Ben from Israel.”

Once again Steve Holden produced a report (from 03:50 here) which for the most part had little to do with the song contest itself. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Holden: “Hello from the busy beach front here in Tel Aviv. We are here for Eurovision. It’s the most-watched live music event in the world. It was the first semi-final last night and then the grand final takes place on Saturday.

Now Tel Aviv is a city that is full of skyscrapers. It’s modern, flashy. It’s liberal too – very stylish as well – the complete opposite of where ‘Newsbeat’ was yesterday: the Palestinian territory of Gaza. That is the strip of land just 90 minutes away from here: an incredibly poor place home to 2 million people.”

Listeners then heard from one of the people interviewed in the May 14th ‘Gaza special’.

“If someone give me the chance to go outside, I will not [come] back to Gaza. It’s not a normal life. It’s not human.”

Holden: “As we’ve been hearing this week, the relationship between the Israeli government and Palestinians in Gaza is a tense one – often violent – with each side directing anger at the other.”

The military grade rockets (rather than “anger”) launched by Palestinian terror factions in the Gaza Strip are of course not aimed at “the Israeli government” but at Israeli civilians. The strikes conducted by Israel are not “anger” either but a response to serious terror attacks perpetrated by terrorist organisations.

Holden: “And it’s that tension that has caused some people to question Eurovision taking place here in Israel.”

No: it is the desire to ostracise, defame and delegitimise Israel that is really behind those calls for boycott.

Holden: “So this is someone that you would definitely not associate with the Eurovision Song Contest.”

Listeners then heard from a BDS supporting member of a pop group featured in an article by “Newsbeat” which was published on the BBC News website on the same day.

Oddie: “I mean this is the most controversial Eurovision Song Contest that, you know, ever happened.”

Holden then went on to promote an event organised by the anti-Israel, Hamas supporting Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Holden: “It’s Joff from Wolf Alice. His band are playing a DJ set this weekend at an event in the UK called ‘Not the Eurovision’. He supports a Palestinian-led movement called BDS which calls on artists to avoid performing in Israel. BDS disagrees with Israeli policies towards Palestinians and the way they’re treated. It’s something we’ve talked about on ‘Newsbeat’ earlier this week.”

Oddie: “The boycott movement is directed at the Israeli government – not the naffness of the Eurovision Song Contest: we’re all too happy for that.”

As was noted here when – on May 17th – BBC News similarly claimed that the BDS campaign calls solely for a ‘cultural’ boycott of Israel:

“The BDS campaign does not call for a cultural boycott of Israel alone: it also promotes consumer and trade boycotts, sporting boycotts and academic boycotts. In addition it campaigns for ‘divestment’: the withdrawal of investments in Israel by banks, pension funds, and other large investors or from companies operating in Israel. The campaign also calls for sanctions: punitive actions by governments and international organisations, including trade penalties or bans, arms embargoes, and cutting off diplomatic relations.”

Holden’s claim that the BDS campaign is “Palestinian-led” is also inaccurate.

Holden: “Previously Lana Del Rey and Lorde have both cancelled performances in Israel after pressure from campaigners. However, Israeli authorities say BDS is anti-Jewish.”

No: Israel says that the BDS campaign is antisemtitic (as do the German parliament, the British Foreign Secretary and the French president) because it singles out the world’s only Jewish state and because its insistence on the so-called ‘right of return’ for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees would lead to the elimination of that state and thereby deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination.  

Holden: “The people who put on Eurovision say the contest is not and should not be political. But some of this year’s entries are aware of the controversy.”

Listeners then heard parts of an interview Holden conducted days before with the Icelandic entrants.

“We feel conflicted of course. Our stance is a contradictory one. But obviously we feel that a contest like Eurovision which is founded in the spirit of peace and unity, we find it absurd to host it in a country that’s marred by conflict and disunity.”

Holden: “Hatari have agreed to stick to the rules though which say you can’t make any political statement during your performance.”

Apparently by way of ‘balance’ listeners then heard comments from the Greek entrant and from an Israeli singer.

Readers may recall that the day before this item went on air, ‘Newsbeat’ had purported to provide audiences with a ‘backgrounder’ on the (unsuccessful) calls to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.

It is all too obvious that the two ‘Newsbeat’ reporters sent to Israel to cover the 2019 Eurovision (and their production teams) exploited a significant amount of their coverage of that popular event for the context-free amplification of calls to boycott it and for promotion of politically motivated narratives concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict.

That would be bad enough in any case but the fact that their content is specifically aimed at 16 to 24 year-olds in the UK and parts of it were presented as ‘history’ makes their inaccurate, partial and overtly political ‘journalism’ even more egregious.

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Context-free amplification of Eurovision boycott calls persists at BBC News

As has been documented here previously, since the end of January 2019 BBC coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest has included repeated amplification of the BDS campaign’s call to boycott the event being held this week in Tel Aviv.

BBC News Eurovision BDS report follows the usual template

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

BBC News website ignores counter call to boycott it repeatedly promoted

More Eurovision boycott promotion on BBC Radio 5 live

Newsbeat continues the BBC’s Eurovision framing

That editorial policy of unquestioningly and simplistically amplifying the boycott campaign without the provision of context and factual background information and with no explanation of the BDS campaign’s aims was also evident in two additional recent reports. Interestingly though, the BBC finally got round to mentioning a counter call which it initially ignored.

Madonna Eurovision performance in doubt” by Mark Savage, BBC News website, 14 May 2019

“But there have been calls for performers and broadcasters to boycott the competition over Israel’s human rights record.

In January, British figures including Dame Vivienne Westwood, Peter Gabriel, Roger Waters, Mike Leigh, Maxine Peake and the band Wolf Alice signed a letter calling on the BBC to cancel coverage of the 2019 song contest.

The signatories criticised Israel over its occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. “Eurovision may be light entertainment, but it is not exempt from human rights considerations – and we cannot ignore Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian human rights,” they wrote.

Others denounced the proposed boycott, saying that Eurovision’s “spirit of togetherness” was “under attack”.

Public figures including Stephen Fry, Sharon Osbourne, Marina Abramovic and pop mogul Scooter Braun signed a counter-statement, claiming “the cultural boycott movement [was] an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition”.”

Eurovision Song Contest 2019: Why Wolf Alice are boycotting” Newsbeat, BBC News website, 15 May 2019

“The group’s guitarist Joff Oddie describes Eurovision as “a wonderful idea, if a bit naff at times”.

But rather than being a secret fan, Joff is one of several artists who’ve been calling on people to stay away from this year’s event in Israel.

He supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which wants a complete cultural boycott of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.

“This is the most controversial Eurovision Song Contest that’s ever happened,” says Joff.

He’s DJing at an anti-Eurovision gig in London this weekend, which is due to take place while the grand final is being broadcast.

“The boycott is like any grassroots movement. Instead of feeling disempowered, we can feel empowered.”

The Israeli government says BDS opposes Israel’s very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism. […]

In recent months, many high profiles names have come out to either support or oppose a boycott of Israel.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s record of reporting on the anti-Israel – and anti-peace – BDS campaign is abysmal. For years the corporation has reported related stories without adequately clarifying to its audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state – even while providing the campaign and some of its supporters with free PR

And so once again in these two articles we see BBC journalists recycling trite campaign slogans such as “Israel’s human rights record”, “occupation”, “violation of Palestinian human rights” and “treatment of Palestinians” without providing (in clear breach of the corporation’s public purposes) any of the background information essential for audience understanding of the issue.

However, on May 14th the BBC News website purported to ‘explain’ the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to its audiences, as we shall see in a future post.  

 

 

Newsbeat continues the BBC’s Eurovision framing

As was noted here recently:

“…those following Eurovision Song Contest news on the BBC News website over the past three months could hardly have avoided those repeated promotions of the demand for boycott of the event by BDS campaign supporting ‘stars’.

However, when on April 30th a letter denouncing that proposed boycott was published by more than 100 people from the entertainment industry, no coverage was to be found on the BBC News website’s ‘Entertainment and Arts’ page or under the ‘Eurovision Song Contest’ tag.”

On May 12th an article by Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney of ‘Newsbeat’ appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page and on the website’s ‘Newsbeat’ and ‘Entertainment & Arts’ pages under the title “Eurovision Tel Aviv 2019: Why the song contest is bigger than ever”.

Linking to the same article produced by BBC Music reporter Mark Savage on January 30th that has already been recycled on the BBC News website at least four times, Holden and Rosney told readers that:

“Eurovision rules say acts need to be strictly non-political during their performances, but Tel Aviv is proving a controversial host because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Some stars have called for the contest to be moved from Israel, while others want countries and contestants to pull out completely.

Hatari, who say they entered the competition because they want to shed light on political aspects of Israel, admit their stance “is a contradictory one”.

“A contest like Eurovision was founded in the spirit of peace and unity,” singer Matthias Haraldsson tells Newsbeat.

“We find it absurd to host it in a country marred by conflict and disunity. Allowing that narrative to go on unchallenged would be a shame.”

The band insist they’ll stick to the strict Eurovision rules by not making any political statement during their performance.”

Yet again audiences found the BBC framing this story using trite clichés, context-free quotes and amplification of the call to boycott Israel without any explanation of the political background to that campaign. And yet again opinions dissenting from that BBC framing were not given equal weight.

The following day, May 13th, the BBC News website’s ‘Newsbeat’ page posted a video of Holden interviewing the Icelandic Eurovision contestants titled “Hatari: The Icelandic band bringing BDSM to Eurovision” which included more simplistic political messaging.

“Speaking to Newsbeat before leaving for Tel Aviv, Hatari said the competition was founded in the spirit of “peace and unity”, and that they’re “conflicted” about performing in Israel due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The majority of that video (1:10 minutes out of 1:57) was given over to politicisation of the subject matter.

00:27 Holden: “How do you guys feel about participating in Israel because obviously you’ve got your own thoughts on it?”

Band member: “We feel conflicted of course. Our stance is a contradictory one. But obviously we feel that a contest like Eurovision which is founded in the spirit of peace and unity, we find it absurd to host it in a country that’s marred by conflict and disunity.”

BBC: “Eurovision bosses insist that the contest should never be political.”

Holden: “In terms of the performance lots has been said about whether you will or will not protest on stage.”

Band member: “We can’t be political on stage so we will do our performance as planned, as it has been rehearsed. But we will try to use this agenda-setting influence that comes – that comes with anything that catches the public eye really – to put the discussion where it belongs and we want to support all kinds of groups that fight for the Palestinian human rights.”

Holden: “Do you see the Eurovision as a joke?”

Band member: “No. We see it as a dead-serious medium to reach the masses and a political arena.”

Once again it is clear that the BBC is a lot less interested in the music and the contest itself than it is in promoting specific political messaging about the host country.

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More Eurovision boycott promotion on BBC Radio 5 live

The May 12th edition of the BBC Radio 5 live show hosted by Peter Allen and Caroline Barker included an item (from 01:52:58 here) relating to the Eurovision Song Contest being held in Tel Aviv this week.

Barker introduced “Dr Peter Webb who’s professor of contemporary music at the University of West of England” and they discussed the chances of the UK entry to the competition with Peter Webb concluding:

Webb: “I think we will do pretty awkwardly in a, you know, pretty, you know, sort of controversial Eurovision this year.” [emphasis added]

Shortly afterwards Caroline Barker demonstrated that the framing of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in trite, one-dimensional political terms along with context-free amplification of the related BDS campaign is not confined to the BBC News website. [emphasis added]

01:55:39 Barker: “There’s also an extra political dimension this year because of course it’s being hosted in Israel and some calls for a boycott – although we understand Madonna is performing?”

Webb: “Yeah, I mean I think that, you know, there’s a lot of controversy because…ehm…as it’s the Eurovision Song Contest and it’s being used by…ehm…the Israeli government in, you know, its foreign affairs department have set up a very strong…eh…kind of, you know, make Israel seem, you know, a very, you know, a very…a good place to go and they’re using Eurovision advertising around Eurovision to put that message across, ignoring the kind of political situation in the Gaza [sic], the Palestinian situation and, you know, musicians are – I think rightlysuggesting it should be boycotted. Ahm…but at the same time, you know, the difference between boycotting an event like this and musicians actually going to play to people in Israel…ah…because obviously the Israeli population is just as diverse and divided as any country and there’s a lot of different political opinion within the country about the Palestinian question. So…ehm…you know, Radiohead, Nick Cave have gone to play there and they, you know, that is a slightly different issue to this I think.”

Barker: “I guess so. In Eurovision circles it’s, yeah, different rules at times.”

For years we have documented on these pages how the BBC has serially failed to provide an accurate and impartial portrayal of the aims and agenda of the BDS campaign – even as it has frequently provided that campaign and some of its supporters with free PR. Moreover, in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers the provision of such crucial background information “not our role“.

So while there is nothing novel about the BBC providing context-free amplification for BDS campaigns while actively refraining from informing audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state, that editorial policy is now being seen again across the board in coverage of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

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BBC News website ignores counter call to boycott it repeatedly promoted

As was noted here at the time, on January 30th the BBC News website published an article by BBC music reporter Mark Savage titled “Stars urge BBC to ask for Eurovision to be moved out of Israel”.

“The article relates to a letter published – as usual – by the Guardian newspaper the previous day and most of Savage’s report is composed of unqualified quotes from that letter (together with a link to the original) and statements made by the BBC in response.”

The following day – January 31st – BBC Northern Ireland’s BBC Radio Ulster aired a long phone-in item titled “Is the BBC right to take part in Eurovision being held in Tel Aviv, or should the corporation stay away?”.

Savage’s January 30th article was re-promoted with links billed “Stars call for Eurovision to be moved” in three other reports he wrote concerning the Eurovision Song Contest that appeared on the BBC News website during February – see here, here and here

In March the BBC News website published a report by Anna Margret Bjornsson about the Icelandic entry to the competition which also included a link to Savage’s January 30th article as well as an entire section sub-headed “Targeting Israel”.

“They claim their entry in the competition is a political statement against Israel’s government, even though the song has no reference to Israel. The contest is being held in Tel Aviv because Israel’s Netta Barzilai won it last year. […]

They are bitterly critical of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians and say it is absurd to allow the country to take part in the contest. […]

Some Icelanders believe Iceland’s public broadcaster should have boycotted the event.”

On April 9th the BBC News website published another report by Mark Savage concerning the participation of Madonna in the main Eurovision event. Readers were told that:

“The singer has a long association with Israel, and launched her MDNA tour in Tel Aviv in 2012.

But an appearance at Eurovision could prove controversial, as other musicians – including Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters – are calling for the contest to be boycotted on human rights grounds.”

In other words, those following Eurovision Song Contest news on the BBC News website over the past three months could hardly have avoided those repeated promotions of the demand for boycott of the event by BDS campaign supporting ‘stars’.

However, when on April 30th a letter denouncing that proposed boycott was published by more than 100 people from the entertainment industry, no coverage was to be found on the BBC News website’s ‘Entertainment and Arts’ page or under the ‘Eurovision Song Contest’ tag.

May 1 2019

May 1 2019

So much for BBC impartiality.  

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BBC News reports rocket attack on TA fifteen hours later

When the BBC News website finally got round to informing its readers of the rocket fire on Tel Aviv that occurred on the evening of March 14th it did so – over 15 hours after the event – using the frequently seenlast-first reporting’ formulation: “Israel strikes militant sites in Gaza after rockets fired at Tel Aviv”.

“Israel has carried out dozens of air strikes on Palestinian militant sites in Gaza in retaliation for the firing of two rockets towards Tel Aviv.”

In its opening paragraphs the report told readers that:

“Hamas, which dominates Gaza, insisted it was not behind the rocket fire.

Israeli media are citing an Israeli defence official as saying that the rockets may have been launched “by mistake” while maintenance work was being carried out.”

Even though it later repeated Hamas’ denials, the BBC did not bother to clarify to readers that for such a ‘mistake’ to have happened, Hamas would have had to set up and load a missile launcher which was deliberately aimed at Israel’s biggest metropolitan area.

The article – which included two images from the Gaza Strip and one embedded IDF Tweet with a video of sirens sounding in Tel Aviv – later informed readers that:

“The organising committee of a months-long Palestinian protest campaign also announced that Friday’s weekly demonstrations along Gaza’s border with Israel had been called off “in keeping with the public interest”.”

BBC audiences were not told that among the members of that “organising committee” are terror groups including Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Neither did the BBC bother to clarify to readers that this demonstration of Hamas’ ability to turn off the ‘Great Return March’ tap at will and according to its own interests illustrates just how far off the mark the BBC’s year-long portrayal of the rioting as spontaneous public ‘protests’ has been.

Notably, the BBC’s report did not include any information concerning the related topic of some other protests which have been taking place in the Gaza Strip over the past few days.

“Palestinians in the Gaza Strip took to the streets on Friday for the second successive day to protest against Hamas and the dire economic condition in the Strip, with some reports saying the terror group used live fire to put down the demonstrations. […]

The center of the demonstrations was in Deir el-Balah, where Hebrew media reports said protesters burned tires and blocked one of the central Gaza city’s main roads.

Similar protests were also taking place in Khan Younis in the south of the Strip. […]

Quoting the demonstrators, the Ynet news site said they were beaten by security forces loyal to Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules Gaza. The Hamas members also reportedly used live fire to disperse the protests.”

Those familiar with the BBC’s serial under-reporting of Palestinian affairs will not be surprised by the fact that those demonstrations against Hamas have to date received no coverage.

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