Running for cover

Jon Donnison wrote a piece about the “first West Bank marathon” for the BBC’s Middle East News part of the corporation’s web site, a sense of which you can get from the following screenshot:


Some key extracts:

The athletes, the race organisers and the Palestinian Olympic Committee have asked the Israeli authorities to reconsider their position but have not received a reply.

“The Israelis should look at this purely as a sporting event. It has nothing to do with politics,” says Samia al-Wazir, the spokeswoman for the Palestinian Olympic Committee.

So, it has nothing to do with politics and the nasty Israelis are to blame.

What, according to Mr D, do the Israelis have to say for themselves?

An Israeli military statement said: “The entrance of the Gaza Strip residents to Israeli territory, and their passage to the West Bank, is possible only in exceptional humanitarian cases, mainly urgent medical cases.”

It added that this was because Gaza was ruled by Hamas which Israel considers a “terror organisation”

It’s a question of security, and whatever the situation is, the run is not a humanitarian cause.

Now all of this is fine and dandy, but his report completely misrepresents the position. A big dollop of credit is due to Hadar Sela at BBC Watch for spotting what was really going on. As is pointed out (here), while Mr Donnison was promoting the non-political, er, party line, the truth was way different. For example, the event is called the Right to Movement Palestine Marathon, and is as political as Fatah is corrupt. In short, it’s a combination of a political event and a public relations stunt. Worse, Mr Donnison could have found this out with some basic research. He obviously failed to do this, and largely regurgitated the material given to him by the race organizers.

BBC Watch’s criticism of Mr Donnison’s lazy journalism are well founded, and if the man had any standards he would be blushing with embarrassment and shame. (“Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets…”)  However, while his behavior is inexcusable, I also want to highlight the woeful response of the IDF spokesman. As I commented on the BBC Watch site:

In fairness to Mr Donnison, he did (apparently) put the story to the Israeli military – presumably the spokesman. If so, while I suspect the spokesman did not know the angle Donnison would promote from the Palestinian side – “It has nothing to do with politics.” – the spokesman should, in my opinion, have been well briefed enough to make all the points made in this blog’s post. It may not excuse the laziness of the BBC man’s approach, but if the IDF are getting any chance to be quoted, they should be doing far better than this. Somebody needs to bring this type of situation to the attention of the right people in the IDF. It is just not good enough.

In other words, with a bit of work, and a sharp soundbite or two wrapped around the basic facts, this story would either have died a death, or not been as anti-Israel as it currently stands.

Unfortunately, unless somebody at the IDF notices what is going on and takes some pre-emptive action, something like this will happen again.