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.


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