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Jerusalem boxing and the BBC

We are used to the treatment Palestinians receive in the media.

We usually only hear about Palestinians when they are causing trouble for the Israelis and are having to be punished using disproportionate measures as a result. Or we hear that the ‘peace process’ has broken down and a Palestinian “spokesperson” (we are indeed lucky if we are told the name of this ethereal person) might manage to have their brief statement read out by a benevolent newscaster whilst Israeli propagandist-at-large, Mark Rhegev gets a few minutes to put his case directly to the viewer.

Recently, though, the BBC published an article about a boxing club in Jerusalem which reveals the multiple fallacies the media propagates about Israel, whilst apparently trying to dispel them.

The article lauds the existence of the Jerusalem boxing club as a a vehicle to promote tolerance between the different communities in Israel. A single line reveals both the truth and the lie of the story:

Ethiopian, Russian and Orthodox Jews all come here, as do Palestinians from East Jerusalem.

Israel is known as a ‘Jewish’ state. It can apparently overcome the dichotomy of being both a ‘Jewish’ as well as a ‘democratic’ state. And yet, the best example of this, after decades of Israel enforcing the ‘Law of Return' for Jews around the world to emigrate to Israel, is a boxing club which - gasp! - sees Ethiopian, Russian, and Orthodox Jews all train in the same place!

It is well known that whilst on the face of it, the Jews of Israel share a religion, there is a deep segregation even between Jews of different ethnic backgrounds within Israel. The BBC article never alludes to this directly, but why point out that Jews of different backgrounds train at the Gym? Why is that even newsworthy? It is almost the same as saying that English, Scottish and Welsh people train at a club in London. It would be total non-news. But apparently not in Israel where, it seems, is Jewish, though some are more Jewish than others.

The BBC article tells us of Christina Stadnik, a 17-year-old Jewish girl who, having moved to Israel from the Ukraine, “is one of the club’s star members, having twice won championships in Israel.”

For her, the club is more than just a place to train.

"Ever since I arrived in Israel, I have spent most of my time with other Russian-Jewish people," she says.

"I never thought I’d talk to other Israeli people or Arabs as I hated them when I came here. But then I met people in this boxing club, and all of them, no matter whether they are Russian or Arab, are nice."

The basic story of Christina Stadnik is not uncommon. Russian Jews have a long history of being treated as second class citizens in Israel which continues to this day.

But the real shame in this story is that, whilst it purports to highlight that “Palestinians from East Jerusalem” go to the club, in fact, only one can be found to support this claim, and he apparently didn’t want to be photographed. No matter, there are lots of other people to be photographed for the article, though none of them, apparently, are Palestinian.

We hear the story of Gershon Luxembourg - who runs the club along with his brother, and who’s son, Ariel also features in the article - who took up boxing in whilst in Uzbekistan to defend himself against attacks “because we were Jews”.

Clearly, Luxembourg was the victim of heinous discrimination. One wonders if Luxembourg would accept a similar statement from a person defending themselves against an attack “because we were Palestinians”?

So, we see that whilst the BBC intends this article to be about overcoming prejudice and promoting tolerance, it’s vary nature shows how deeply prejudice and intolerance is engrained into Israeli society. The token Palestinian gets a few lines in order to lend some sort of legitimacy to the whole enterprise, whilst the Jewish subjects of the article clearly dominate the narrative.

Perhaps the most telling evidence that this boxing club promotes very little understanding amongst the Israelis and Palestinians is that the club goes out of it’s way to support the Orthodox Jewish boxers:

…running a club for such a diverse group of boxers can be challenging.

The fact that most boxing tournaments take place on a Saturday poses a problem for those Orthodox boxers who observe the Sabbath, when Jews are required to rest and refrain from any work.

Yet the trainers have found a way around this.

"The Orthodox boxers arrive at the tournament [location] on the Friday," explains Ariel, the son of the one of the instructors, as driving is prohibited.

"Since the Orthodox boxers can’t even take the tournament gloves from the hotel to the boxing ring [as carrying objects on the Sabbath is not allowed], we bring the gloves to them…

"All they need to do is get into the boxing ring, put the gloves on, box, and take them off. That’s it."

Why would one not expect one Jew to support another? Especially within the context of a sporting club. Sporting success is often built around sacrifice and teamwork, and the example of the Orthodox boxers being supported by others is a great example of this.

We are curious though, what does the club sacrifice to support the Palestinians (who are not necessarily Muslims) within it’s midst? Does it demonstrate teamwork when it’s Palestinian members are stopped for hours at checkpoints? Or have their homes demolished? Or human rights abused on a daily basis?

Even the boxers say that beyond the Jerusalem boxing club, they don’t spend time with people from different ethnic or religious backgrounds.

"Most of us live in closed communities [so] this is a great place to get some perspective," says Ariel.

Is ‘closed communities’ a new code phrase for illegal settlement?

The BBC, whilst trying to demonstrate some dim sliver of hope for the different communities in Israel ‘tolerating’ each other, have spectacularly succeeded in highlighting just how segregated the communities are.

Whilst we wish the Jerusalem boxing club well, we don’t think it could rightfully be used to demonstrate that Israelis and Palestinians are somehow coming to terms with each other.

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photo Gaza News Teams Win RTS Judge’s Award
Channel 4 News' Jon Snow pays a fitting tribute:

… Historically, Israel has been open about its wars with the Palestinians… Gaza represented a new tactic of secrecy. It failed. Its failure was down to today’s media. — read more at Snowblog…

Royal Television Society Judge’s Award 2009:
The award this year goes to a group of people who risked their lives to ensure that the world could witness a war that would otherwise have unfolded largely in secret.When Israel launched its assault on Gaza just over a year ago it went to extraordinary lengths to keep the world’s media out. The Israeli military sealed off Gaza from journalists and camera teams to prevent them seeing and reporting what was going on.Most of the media found itself stranded on a hill top several miles away and, effectively, shut out of the story entirely. Inside Gaza, however, individuals and small groups of local journalists and cameramen took extraordinary risks to send pictures and eye-witness reports to the outside world showing the daily toll of death and destruction.Some were freelancers, some locally hired producers or stringers working for Reuters and APTN or other broadcasters. Whatever their status they made an irreplaceable contribution to the work of the television agencies and the rest of the world’s media.

Gaza News Teams Win RTS Judge’s Award

Channel 4 News' Jon Snow pays a fitting tribute:

… Historically, Israel has been open about its wars with the Palestinians… Gaza represented a new tactic of secrecy. It failed. Its failure was down to today’s media.read more at Snowblog…

Royal Television Society Judge’s Award 2009:

RTSThe award this year goes to a group of people who risked their lives to ensure that the world could witness a war that would otherwise have unfolded largely in secret.

When Israel launched its assault on Gaza just over a year ago it went to extraordinary lengths to keep the world’s media out. The Israeli military sealed off Gaza from journalists and camera teams to prevent them seeing and reporting what was going on.

Most of the media found itself stranded on a hill top several miles away and, effectively, shut out of the story entirely. Inside Gaza, however, individuals and small groups of local journalists and cameramen took extraordinary risks to send pictures and eye-witness reports to the outside world showing the daily toll of death and destruction.

Some were freelancers, some locally hired producers or stringers working for Reuters and APTN or other broadcasters. Whatever their status they made an irreplaceable contribution to the work of the television agencies and the rest of the world’s media.

4 years ago

February 26, 2010
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video

Gaza Fixer 2

Raed Atharmneh has been the right-hand man for journalists covering Gaza for many years, providing essential knowledge, contacts and logistical backup for a number of reporters. In 2006 he became part of the news story himself, when 18 members of his family were killed by an Israeli bomb. In Gaza Fixer 2, filmmakers George Azar and Mariam Shahin return to see how Raed and his family are surviving in the aftermath of the 2008/9 Gaza war.

4 years ago

December 28, 2009
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video

The media storm over the UN’s Goldstone Report

from AJE’s ‘The Listening Post

UPDATE — Goldstone’s daughter: My father’s participation softened UN Gaza report

4 years ago

October 20, 2009
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photo Casualty maps for Dec 27, 2007 — Jan 18, 2009
NEWS ROUNDUP
Shifting sandsAl-Ahram, Feb 19 — The ways in which the Israeli war on Gaza has redefined the contours of the Islamist scene Oscar nominee Waltz with Bashir is nothing but charadeHaaretz, Feb 19 — .. the film is infuriating, disturbing, outrageous and deceptive. It deserves an Oscar for the illustrations and animation - but a badge of shame for its message.Netanyahu: Livni refused my offer for unityHaaretz, Feb 27 — Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu failed to persuade his centrist rival, Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni, to join him in a broad coalition.CPJ: Dear Defense Minister Barak,Dec 29 — Committee to Protect Journalists demands an explanation for the IDF bombing of Al-Aqsa TV in Gaza CityUri Dromi: “When you have a Palestinian kid facing an Israeli tank, how do you explain that the tank is actually David and the kid is Goliath?”The Times, Dec 31 — Israel uses the ‘perfect time’ to fight the PR war. This is probably the clearest answer to the CPJ letter above. Dromi again: "Israel’s use of force was justified"
The Palestinian Perspective:What the World Looks Like from the West Bank and GazaGoogle Tech Talks, Feb 18 — US journalist for the Palestine Monitor presents her view of living in the Palestinian territories.

Casualty maps for Dec 27, 2007 — Jan 18, 2009

NEWS ROUNDUP

Shifting sands
Al-Ahram, Feb 19 — The ways in which the Israeli war on Gaza has redefined the contours of the Islamist scene

Oscar nominee Waltz with Bashir is nothing but charade
Haaretz, Feb 19 — .. the film is infuriating, disturbing, outrageous and deceptive. It deserves an Oscar for the illustrations and animation - but a badge of shame for its message.

Netanyahu: Livni refused my offer for unity
Haaretz, Feb 27 — Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu failed to persuade his centrist rival, Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni, to join him in a broad coalition.

CPJ: Dear Defense Minister Barak,
Dec 29 — Committee to Protect Journalists demands an explanation for the IDF bombing of Al-Aqsa TV in Gaza City

Uri Dromi: “When you have a Palestinian kid facing an Israeli tank, how do you explain that the tank is actually David and the kid is Goliath?”
The Times, Dec 31 — Israel uses the ‘perfect time’ to fight the PR war. This is probably the clearest answer to the CPJ letter above. Dromi again: "Israel’s use of force was justified"

The Palestinian Perspective:
What the World Looks Like from the West Bank and Gaza

Google Tech Talks, Feb 18 — US journalist for the Palestine Monitor presents her view of living in the Palestinian territories.

5 years ago

March 1, 2009
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photo The BBC debacle continues, from the Sunday Newspapers:
The Observer
Editorial - Why the BBC is wrong over the Gaza appealThat the population of Gaza is experiencing a humanitarian crisis is a matter of fact, not political hypothesis.This cowardly decision betrays the values the corporation stands forHow is the BBC’s impartiality to be prejudiced by asking others to raise money for the victims of an act of war by a recognised state, an ally of Britain, using the most lethal armaments it can against a defenceless population?At the heart of BBC row, the homeless of GazaPeter Beaumont returns to Jabal Rayas to talk to the children whose desperate struggle to survive in bombed-out Gaza has led a leading charity to mount an emergency appeal - which BBC executives are refusing to screen.Archbishop joins criticism of BBC refusal to screen Gaza appeal
 The Independent
Editorial - Leading article: Weakness in the face of sufferingIt is easy to criticise the BBC, but that does not mean that it is always wrong to do so. The corporation’s refusal to broadcast the [DEC] appeal for aid to Gaza was a mistake.BBC left isolated as rival channels back aid appeal Ministers step into row over corporation’s refusal to show charities’ plea for donations to Gaza

The BBC debacle continues, from the Sunday Newspapers:

The Observer

Editorial - Why the BBC is wrong over the Gaza appeal
That the population of Gaza is experiencing a humanitarian crisis is a matter of fact, not political hypothesis.

This cowardly decision betrays the values the corporation stands for
How is the BBC’s impartiality to be prejudiced by asking others to raise money for the victims of an act of war by a recognised state, an ally of Britain, using the most lethal armaments it can against a defenceless population?

At the heart of BBC row, the homeless of Gaza
Peter Beaumont returns to Jabal Rayas to talk to the children whose desperate struggle to survive in bombed-out Gaza has led a leading charity to mount an emergency appeal - which BBC executives are refusing to screen.

Archbishop joins criticism of BBC refusal to screen Gaza appeal

The Independent

Editorial - Leading article: Weakness in the face of suffering
It is easy to criticise the BBC, but that does not mean that it is always wrong to do so. The corporation’s refusal to broadcast the [DEC] appeal for aid to Gaza was a mistake.

BBC left isolated as rival channels back aid appeal
Ministers step into row over corporation’s refusal to show charities’ plea for donations to Gaza

5 years ago

January 25, 2009
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link Broadcasters are wrong to boycott the Gaza appeal

A short Guardian Editorial in response to the BBC’s refusal to air an appeal for the Disasters Emergency Committee,

"to avoid any risk of compromising public confidence in the BBC’s impartiality in the context of an ongoing news story."

The BBC has tried to defend their decision. Part of the 1963 agreement giving free airtime to DEC appeals on television also says that if all broadcasters do not agree to carry the appeal none of them can.

Recent DEC appeals have raised £530m for Tsunami aid, £10m for the Congo, £18m for Burma. The DEC had hoped to raise £10m for Gaza — this will be considerably less without the TV appeal.

Of course, as white phosphorous and DIME took their toll, the BBC had no concerns about context, impartiality or public confidence when they used Gaza producer Rushdi Abu Alouf to file reports during the Israeli media blockade. Rushdi and his colleagues are, in the BBC’s own words,

"a model of impeccable journalism, in terrible personal circumstances. Most of us go home when the story is over. Gaza is their home."

Perhaps, in the BBC’s mind, refusing the DEC’s appeal will prolong the Gazan’s "terrible personal circumstances" thus ensuring their continued "impeccable journalism" — after all, there is no escape when "Gaza is their home."

DEC appealWho knows?
Ask them: lodge a complaint with the BBC — then:

Donate to the DEC
0370 60 60 900 or www.dec.org.uk

UPDATE #1 — 24 January 2009
ITV, Channel 4, Five and Al-Jazeera English have decided to air the DEC appeal on Monday. Five said this “transcends politics”. A protest outside the BBC drew thousands, including Tony Benn who spoke earlier on Radio 4:

During the protest George Galloway rightly mentioned how the people of Gaza helped secure the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston in 2007. In the Gazan’s time of need can the BBC not repay even that favour? Watch a report by Alan Johnston on his captors, Hamas, includes an interview with Rushdi.

UPDATE #2 — 24 January 2009
Channel 4 piece, shows the protest with Tony Benn and George Galloway:

Further interviews with the International Development Secretary and BBC COO.

UPDATE #3 — BBC Director General responds:

after very careful reflection and consultation inside and outside the BBC, we decided that in this case we should not broadcast the appeal.

The comments to that statement (~400 in 5hrs) are worth reading and contributing too.

5 years ago

January 23, 2009
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video

UNSEEN GAZA — Was truth the first casualty in Gaza?
In Channel 4’s Dispatches documentary Jon Snow travels to Israel and explores the effect of restricted media access into Gaza and the varied reporting across the media.

Watch or download here.

(UK readers can also watch on Channel4.com - Windows only)

Related articles
Gaza: War, from a distance
When Jon Snow went to report on the conflict in Gaza, he was barred from entering the conflict zone, along with other Western journalists. It’s wrong, he says
.

Take care over caution
Faced with frustrating and highly charged conditions, the BBC’s attempts to offer balanced reporting of the Gaza conflict have weakened it, says John Kampfner.

5 years ago

January 23, 2009
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video

Channel 4 News’ Jonathan Miller investigates the illegal use of white phosphorous, flechette and DIME weapons in Gaza. In the follow-up interview, Israeli spokesman Mark Regev struggled to maintain his composure defending the illegal use of these weapons in civilian areas.

UPDATE — On Regev, one friend describes him:

.. he is “not a bureaucrat, rather a finely tuned and dedicated PR professional” who can “easily take down anyone who tries to spin him or the State of Israel”. And he can spit out “effective and potent sound-bites without sleep”.

Regev might end up being the face of this conflict, much like one of his forebears…

Opinion
The self-defence defence
Accusations of war crimes by foreign critics simply bounce off Israel’s bullet-proof sense of moral imperative in its military action.

UPDATE — More4 News follows the path of DIME bombs flown from the US to Israel via Lakenheath USAF base in the UK:

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link The violence network.

A compelling description of Al Jazeera. "It’s biased, gruesome, and totally compelling. How Al-Jazeera makes one American think differently about war."

"Al-Jazeera’s brand of news - you could call it “blood journalism” - takes war for what it is: a brutal loss of human life. The images they show put you in visceral contact with the violence of war in a way statistics never could." — via DailyMeh

5 years ago

January 20, 2009
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