The BBC returns to an old obsession

The BBC continues to focus on the exception to the rule in Israeli football.

Long-time readers may recall that back in early 2013 the BBC exhibited something of an obsession with one Israeli football club.

The BBC, football racism and Israel

Obsession: four BBC ‘Beitar’ articles in under a week

As was noted here at the time:

“Yes – there is a serious problem with a group of racist fans of one football club out of dozens – most of which (as even acknowledged in the BBC article on the subject) have players from many different religious and ethnic backgrounds – in a country which includes players from minority ethnic and religious groups on its national teams

Deplorable as the racism among some fans at Beitar Jerusalem is, its existence makes Israel no different and no worse than most countries on the planet which have also failed to eliminate racism from football. It certainly does not justify the over-generalised headline “Football racism fears in Israel” or the placing of two separate reports on two home pages of the BBC News website for a relatively prolonged period of time. 

Unless, that is, this incident is being exploited to try to advance a specific narrative about an entire country.” 

In 2016 the BBC’s Middle East editor promoted an irrelevant comparison – and false equivalence – between incitement and glorification of terrorism sanctioned and organised by the Palestinian Authority and its main party Fatah with the behaviour of a specific group of Israeli football hooligans.  

“Hate-filled Palestinian rhetoric against Israel is not hard to find. It cuts the other way too.

Fans of one of Jerusalem’s professional football clubs, which has roots in a right-wing Zionist youth movement, are notorious for chanting “Death to Arabs” during games.”

On December 20th the BBC returned to the topic of the Beitar Jerusalem football club in a flurry of reports by BBC Sport’s Alex Capstick.

A written report headlined “Beitar Jerusalem: How do you change ‘the most racist’ club in Israel?” was published on the BBC Sport website and on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

A filmed report titled “How Beitar Jerusalem’s football club owner took on racism and won” was also posted on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page and in its ‘Crossing Divides’ section. That film promotes the following bizarre claim:

“In Israel pulling people together in a common cause is difficult.”

The BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item on the same story (from 14:05 here) with presenter Tim Franks telling listeners that:

“One of the more unpleasant football matches I’ve ever attend was fifteen years ago in Jerusalem where the top club, Beitar, had a truly terrible reputation for a hardcore of racist fans and so they proved to be, screaming ‘death to Arabs’, waving blood-curdling banners – you get the ugly picture. But when the high-tech business mogul Moshe Hogeg became the new owner, he decided to take the numbskulls on and his at-time confrontational style seems to be working.”

The filmed report tells viewers that Beitar Jerusalem is “the only one [team] in the top division never to have selected as Arab player”. However none of Capstick’s reports inform BBC audiences just how prevalent Muslim players actually are in Israeli football teams – including the national squad which is currently captained by Circassian footballer Bibras Natkho.

Obviously the BBC continues to find it more ‘newsworthy’ to promote the exception to the rule by continuing to focus audience attentions on one particular Israeli football club.

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