In which the BBC ignores prejudice in Israeli football

Readers will surely not have forgotten the bout of BBC binge-reporting a couple of months ago on the subject of a group of racist fans of the Beitar Jerusalem football club. At the time, no fewer than four reports on the same subject appeared on the BBC News website in less than a week.

On March 23rd the Kfar Kama Sports Club youth football team – renowned for its mixed squads of players from Jewish, Arab and Circassian backgrounds and its promotion of tolerance through sport – travelled to an away match in the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the north Golan Heights. The game, however, did not take place

“Dozens of residents of the Majdal Shams village, located in the Golan near the Syrian border, stormed a local soccer field Saturday, demanding that the Youth Division game played on the field – between the Kfar Kama team and the local team – be immediately discontinued.

The reason, the rioters insisted, was that the soccer field belongs to Syrian territory, on which Israeli league teams are not allowed to play.” […]

” “We did not expect such a traumatic incident to happen to the kids,” said Kfar Kama coach Nir Adin, adding that the Majdal Shams team usually hosts games in the Arab town of Nahf in the Galilee and that Saturday was the first time his team played in Majdal Shams.

According to Adin, “After the riot started we didn’t want things to turn violent so we hurried to take the kids down to the locker room. Dozens of people stormed the field and drove us away.”

The Majdal Shams team was also taken by surprise.

Coach Nadib Ayoub said: “This is a disaster for us – especially for the kids. This was supposed to be a historic game for us, hosting a game for the first time. Nothing could prepare us for this scenario. This was very unfortunate.” “

A week later, the troublemakers were back.

Revealingly, this instance of prejudice in football did not warrant four articles – or indeed any articles at all – from the BBC’s correspondents in Jerusalem.  

Of course one does not expect the BBC to provide comprehensive coverage of all sporting events in Israel: for that we have the local media. But if – as it did in the case of Beitar Jerusalem – the BBC is going to cynically employ the actions of football fans as a hook upon which to hang obsessive coverage deliberately designed to create the impression in the minds of its audiences that Israel is a country riddled with racism, then it must acknowledge that it cannot selectively limit that coverage to the actions of Israeli Jews alone without having its impartiality called into doubt. 

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