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.
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.”
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:
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.”
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.”
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’:
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.
BBC Radio Wales – contact details