BBC responds on use of inappropriate flag picture – and posts another

h/t S

Readers no doubt recall that the BBC’s coverage of the football match between Israel and Wales last weekend included the gratuitous use of an image showing a flag belonging to neither of the countries participating in the game.BBC Wales vs Israel flag

A member of the public who complained about the use of that photograph received a response from BBC Complaints which includes the following:

“During our coverage of the Wales v Israel match on the sport website on Sunday, a picture of a man holding a Palestinian flag was used by mistake. The image appeared for a very short period of time before we removed it.” [emphasis added]

So is the BBC telling us that its staff managed to confuse a red, green, black and white flag with a blue and white one or was it that they did not notice that the flag pictured was missing a rather large mythical creature in the middle?

Luckily, the BBC managed to avoid repetition of that “mistake” when, just days later, it devoted a filmed report, a written report and a report in Arabic to the topic of the UNGA vote to allow the flags of holders of non-member observer status to be flown alongside those of its member states at its headquarters. In that case the BBC managed to illustrate the written article appearing on its website’s Middle East page with the correct flag. 

UN flags written

Over at the BBC Arabic website, however, their version of the story was illustrated as follows: 

UN flags Arabic report

Yes – apparently the only image of a Palestinian flag which BBC Arabic staff could find was a Reuters picture depicting armed Israeli soldiers. Perhaps that is a “mistake” too. 

 

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BBC fails to tell audiences what was really behind Cardiff football match demo

Notable aspects of BBC promotion of its coverage of the September 6th football match between Israel and Wales included the gratuitous use of an image showing a flag belonging to neither of the countries participating in the game and no less ‘creative’ use of an apostrophe.

BBC Wales vs Israel flag

BBC Wales vs Israel 5live

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Wales page also found a short article headlined “Pro and anti-Israel demonstrations ahead of Euro game” but in the body of the article the demonstrators previously accurately described as ‘anti-Israel’ became “protestors backing Palestine”.Wales game art

“Protestors backing Palestine and supporters of Israel have held counter demonstrations ahead of Wales’ crunch Euro 2016 qualifier in Cardiff.

Up to 2,000 people joined a march for Palestine from City Hall towards Cardiff City Stadium, where Wales kicks off against Israel at 17:00 BST.”

Whilst other media outlets quoted smaller numbers of participants (WalesOnline had 75% of the BBC’s figure, the Guardian used the term “hundreds” and Ha’aretz “a few hundred”), the outstanding feature of this report is its evasive representation of the organisers of the demonstration and their motives.

“Organisers claim sport is being used as a public relations tool by Israel. […]

The pro-Palestine protest was organised by Fair Play for Palestine, with calls for Israel to be stripped of its membership of football’s governing body, Fifa.”

Readers are not told that the Palestinian delegation to the FIFA congress held at the end of May dropped its motion to have Israel suspended from the organization or that FIFA’s executive committee ruled that the Congress “cannot interfere into political territories”.BBC Wales vs Israel demo poster 

Neither are they told that the organisations behind the ‘Fair Play for Palestine’ campaign (and the demonstration in Cardiff) are the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Stop the War Coalition, Friends of Al Aqsa (headed by Ismail Patel) and a straw-man front called ‘Red Card Israeli Racism’ which includes some of the above actors and which aligns itself with the BDS campaign.

“Our campaign activists are mostly British or Irish members of organisations that strive to support the Palestinian people: PSC (Palestinian Solidarity Campaign), FOA (Friends of Al-Aqsa), JBIG (Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods), BIN (Boycott Israel Network) and BNC (Boycott National Committee, Palestine). We see our work as part of the wider BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) activity that was formally established by Palestinians in 2005. We are part of a group of several European nations active in this area.” [emphasis added]

Without that essential information, BBC audiences were of course deprived of the opportunity to understand that this story is actually not about football at all but concerns yet another of the quotidian attempts to delegitimize Israel by the usual small groups of extremist political actors – as captured on camera by one photographer present.

BBC Wales vs Israel Demotix pic

However, seeing as the BBC does not think its job includes informing audiences of the BDS campaign’s full agenda, the omission of that vital background information is entirely in keeping with the corporation’s existing editorial approach to this issue.   

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BBC frames anti-Israel delegitimisation campaign as a sports story

BBC Radio Wales promotes and endorses anti-Israel activist with a penchant for Nazi analogy

BBC Radio Wales promotes and endorses anti-Israel activist with a penchant for Nazi analogy

The ‘Stop the War Coalition’ is just about the last organisation one would approach for rational, impartial, factual and informative comment on anything connected to the Middle East. As has been noted here before, the StWC:

“… collaborates with 9/11 ‘troofers’ and antisemites such as Lowkey. It supports the annual Al Quds Day anti-Israel hate-fest organized in London by the Khomenist-regime’s UK supporters at the IHRC. It dabbles in anti-Americanism and antisemitism of its own and has rallied in support of the Assad regime in Syria and the Iranian dictatorship.” 

Nevertheless, that was precisely the group from which BBC Radio Wales solicited comment in an item concerning Cardiff council’s cancellation of a photography exhibition showing coexistence in Israel through football less than a day after it opened which was broadcast on September 4th on its ‘Good Evening Wales’ programme.BBC Radio Wales Cardiff exhib

As readers are no doubt aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality demand that the “viewpoint” of interviewees be clarified to audiences.

“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.”

However, no adequate clarification was in evidence when presenter Gareth Lewis introduced the first section of this two-part item (available from 36:36 here for a limited period of time).

Lewis: “The Israeli embassy has called Cardiff Council ‘outrageous’ for ending early an exhibition about multi-faith football between Jews and Palestinians just days before the Wales-Israel European qualifying match. Cardiff Council said it received a complaint about the exhibition and was made aware of the potential for a large demonstration outside the city’s main library where the exhibition was being held. It also said it didn’t want to be seen as displaying political bias. Well, Adam Johannes joins us. He’s from the Stop the War Coalition. Good to have you with us.”

That brief introduction of course did nothing to inform listeners of the “particular viewpoint” lying behind the inaccurate information they heard from Johannes during the next four and a half minutes, which included the following:

Palestinian 'footballer' Ayman Alkurd killed in 2009 (photo: Elder of Ziyon)

Palestinian ‘footballer’ Ayman Alkurd – killed in 2009 (photo: Elder of Ziyon)

Johannes: “Erm, well, I think the exhibition should have never really been staged in the first place. It was sponsored by the Israeli embassy. It was essentially, I think, a PR stunt to gloss over the reality of football in the Middle East which is a very serious situation. For instance – if I can give you an example – over the last decade or so four players in the Palestinian national team have lost their lives at the hands of the Israeli military. Other players have been detained without trial sometimes for months or years. Players are regularly prevented from attending matches. The Palestinian national team for instance…Israel is playing in Wales but at the same time Israel’s preventing Palestinian players going from Gaza to the West Bank to play an important match against the UAE. So when you have a country which prevents other, you know, other FIFA members from playing football, then really I think we have to say that Israel – until it allows Palestinians to play football – should be expelled from UEFA and FIFA.”BBC radio Wales Cardiff cogat tweets

Gareth Lewis made no effort to provide listeners with the much-needed context deliberately omitted by Johannes. He failed to tell them that it is the known connections of some Palestinian footballers to terrorist organisations which have brought about their detention. He neglected to inform BBC audiences that at least three of those four players who “lost their lives at the hands of the Israeli military” were active members of terrorist organisations (two Hamas and one PIJ) who took part in fighting against Israel during Operation Cast Lead. And he omitted any mention of the fact that it is precisely issues such as those above which make security checks for Palestinian footballers exiting the Gaza Strip necessary and that the topic of movement is often more complex than meets the eye.

Lewis also failed to correct the misleading impression created by Johannes’ risible claim that “Palestinians want to keep politics out of sport” by informing listeners of Jibril Rajoub’s record of coopting sport precisely for political purposes. He neglected to inform audiences of the all-important context behind the following statement from Johannes:

“….the Palestine stadium in Gaza has been bombed twice by the Israeli military – the main football stadium, you know, for Palestinians….”

 And Lewis obviously had no concerns about providing Johannes with a BBC platform for the promotion of additional crude delegitimisation:

“…remember the days of apartheid South Africa. People used to hold up these small examples of coexistence […] to gloss over the fundamental reality of institutionalized racism, of apartheid.”

Later on in the programme (from 1:35:55 here) a further five minutes were devoted to the same topic and the interviewee this time was the Israeli embassy in London’s spokesman, Yiftach Curiel. Introduced by presenter Peter Johnson, the segment began with an edited rerun of some of Johannes’ propaganda, again without adequate clarification concerning the views of man and his organisation.

Johnson: “Well earlier on this programme we spoke to Adam Johannes from the Stop the War Coalition who was supporting the withdrawal of the exhibition. He said it glossed over the reality of the situation in the Middle East.”

Johannes: “Erm, well, I think the exhibition should have never really been staged in the first place. It was sponsored by the Israeli embassy. It was essentially, I think, a PR stunt to gloss over the reality of football in the Middle East which is a very serious situation. For instance – if I can give you an example – over the last decade or so four players in the Palestinian national team have lost their lives at the hands of the Israeli military. Other players have been detained without trial sometimes for months or years. Players are regularly prevented from attending matches. So when you have a country which prevents other, you know, other FIFA members from playing football, then really I think we have to say that Israel – until it allows Palestinians to play football – should be expelled from UEFA and FIFA.”

Johnson: “Adam Johannes of the Stop the War Coalition speaking on this programme a little earlier.”BBC Radio Wales Cardiff Johannes FB PSC

In addition to failing once again to provide the much-needed missing background and context to Johannes’ claims broadcast to listeners twice within the space of an hour, during his conversation with Curiel, Johnson even told audiences that they were legitimate.

Johnson: “OK, the point that Adam Johannes made is a valid one – that it isn’t actually easy for Palestinians to play football in the Middle East and that Israel has actually impeded the travel of Palestinian footballers. I mean that much is true.” [emphasis added]

Ironically in an item laden with anti-Israel propaganda, Johnson later added:

“There will be those, Yiftach, who merely see this [exhibition] as an opportunity for Israeli propaganda in Wales….”

So what should BBC Radio Wales have told its listeners about Adam Johannes before it provided him with an unhindered platform for partisan political messaging which even got BBC endorsement from Peter Johnson?

Here, in his own words, is Johannes’ bio from a site called ‘Radical Wales’:

BBC Radio Wales Johannes bio

Audiences should also obviously have been told that Johannes has been involved in football-related anti-Israel campaigning for some time and is one of those involved in organizing the opportunistic agitprop ahead of the Israel-Wales match in Cardiff. Listeners would also have been better able to put Johannes’ contribution to this programme into its correct context had BBC Radio Wales bothered to tell them that he is fond of using Nazi analogies during his anti-Israel campaigning, as the following example from 2012 shows.

Not only did BBC Radio Wales clearly breach its own editorial guidelines by failing to provide listeners with any of the very relevant background on Adam Johannes or the ‘Stop the War Coalition’, but it also materially misled audiences on the topic of Palestinian football by failing to provide the facts and context missing from its interviewee’s politically motivated diatribe.  

Related Articles:

Beyond the BBC narrative: Cardiff, coexistence and Israel

BBC yet again conceals terror connections of Palestinian ‘footballers’

Resources:

BBC Radio Wales – contact details

BBC Complaints