Confusing BBC reporting on Golan Heights terror incident

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on April 27th found the following curiously punctuated headline:

Golan incident on HP

Those who clicked on the link to the report itself were greeted with no less ambiguous punctuation, which must have left audiences wondering if the BBC was in doubt about the people killed having really been ‘militants’ or whether it wasn’t sure that they were actually dead. Similar qualifying punctuation – intended to communicate to readers that the BBC distances itself from statements made and/or terminology used – was seen in the body of the report and in the caption to its illustrative photograph.Golan incident report

So what were BBC audiences told about the incident which took place at around 21:30 on April 26th?

“An Israeli air strike has killed four militants armed with a bomb along the Israeli-Syrian frontier in the Golan Heights, the Israeli military has said.

A spokesperson said “terrorists” had been planning an imminent attack on Israeli troops, and that the Israeli air force had “neutralised” the threat.

Military sources said the militants were spotted placing explosives on a fence near Majdal Shams on Sunday.

The militants were not identified, and it is not clear if they were Syrians. […]

In Sunday’s incident, Israeli troops observing the demilitarised zone between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syria noticed four figures reportedly trying to place an explosive device on the fence along the frontier.

An Israeli air force plane was scrambled and fired a missile at the militants, killing them all.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson said on Twitter there was no doubt that they had been “en route to [an] imminent attack on our forces”.”

In addition to the fact that – contrary to the BBC’s claim – the terrorists have apparently been identified by pro-Assad activists and others as Syrians and a Hizballah-linked group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the report crucially fails to clarify to readers that the incident took place in Israeli territory.

“The incident, which occurred at 9:30 p.m. on the northern Golan Heights near Majdal Shams, began when Combat Intelligence Collection units identified four suspects planting the explosives on the eastern side of the border fence, within Israeli territory. […]

“The incident is fairly local, and is under control,” the source said.

He stressed that although the terrorists infiltrated into Israel, they did not cross the 110-km. border fence, which is within Israeli territory.”

With none of the necessary background and context provided, the report states:

“In January, an Iranian Republican Guards general and at least six fighters from the Lebanese Shia Islamist movement Hezbollah were killed in an Israeli air strike in the Syrian Golan Heights.”

Part of this article is devoted to other incidents in the wider region.

“Hours later, missile batteries operated by Hezbollah and the Syrian army in the Qalamoun Mountains, near the border between Syria and Lebanon, were reportedly attacked.

Al-Jazeera attributed the strike to the Israeli military, but Israeli media quoted sources as denying the report.

A source in the Israeli defence establishment told Haaretz that there had been fighting in the area between Syrian government forces and jihadist militants from al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. Israel had no interest in getting involved in the conflict between the two sides, he added.

The IDF spokesperson’s office would neither confirm nor deny the report.

Arab media also reported on Friday night that Israeli jets had attacked Syrian army bases in the Qalamoun Mountains where Hezbollah stored long-range missiles.”

Beyond repeating the unconfirmed claims made in assorted reports from Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, the BBC has no concrete information to provide to its audiences. Notably, no effort is made to clarify to readers that the fighting in the Qalamoun area is a fact rather than just something said by an Israeli “source” and only those who clicked on the link to Ha’aretz (and got past the pay wall) would have come across the following information contradicting the Al Jazeera claims which the BBC chose to amplify.

“Factions in the Syrian opposition said on social media that they have four units stationed in the Qalamoun region, and claimed that they were responsible for the attack on the Syrian missile base. The opposition units fired some 30 Grad rockets at the base, they said.”

Of course many members of the “Arab media” in the region indulge in agenda-based reporting and the Qatari outlet Al Jazeera is a prime example of that phenomenon. Before amplifying unverified claims, the BBC would obviously do well to bear in mind that some of the governments behind various “Arab media” outlets also play a role in supporting assorted factions involved in the Syrian civil war.

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Iranian military activity in southern Syria under-reported by BBC

Airbrushing Hizballah: BBC News report on Nasrallah speech

Yom HaZikaron

This evening the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism begins and Israel remembers and honours 23,320 casualties of war and terrorism.

Thirty five soldiers are commemorated at the memorial at Tel Saki.

SONY DSC

“At the battle of Tel Saki, one of the first of the 1973 Israeli Yom Kippur War, a handful of Israeli paratroopers and armored soldiers stood their ground, fighting off thousands of Syrian troops for three days. […]

Tel Saki is located on the Southern Golan Heights near the Syrian-Israeli border. On that small but strategically positioned hill was located the undersized military reconnaissance post. A small group of IDF soldiers from the 50th Airborne Battalion and the 7th and 188th armor brigades, fought against what we now is known to be an 11,000 infantry soldiers Syrian division, including 900 tanks and countless armored vehicles.”

Parts two and three of this film can be found here and here.

May their memories be blessed.  

Iranian military activity in southern Syria under-reported by BBC

Those who read the BBC Monitoring article about Saudi Arabian concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on March 6th (discussed here) may have noticed the following short passage:Metcalf art

“Iranian forces are reported to have played a large role, alongside Hezbollah and government troops, in a recent offensive against rebels in southern Syria, close to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Iran admitted in January that a general in the Revolutionary Guard had been killed in an Israeli air strike in the area.”

Beyond those few words, the BBC has not reported on Iranian military activities in southern Syria. In its article on the January 18th incident mentioned above, the BBC’s answer to the key question of what a convoy of Hizballah operatives and Iranian Revolutionary Guards were doing near the border with Israel on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights came in the form of a quote from Hizballah TV.

“Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV said they were killed in Quneitra province “during a field reconnaissance mission”.”

However, since then the BBC has shown no interest in keeping its audiences up to date regarding developments in that region.

One aspect of that story is indeed the recently launched offensive by Syrian government troops together with Hizballah and Iranian forces in an attempt to retake areas in southern Syria – including the Syrian side of the border with Israel – which have been under the control of assorted rebel groups for some time. According to some sources, that campaign has so far not gone as smoothly as presumably planned, in part due to unfavourable weather conditions.

The other aspect of the story is the wider issue of Iranian and Hizballah strategy – as Avi Issacharoff wrote in the Times of Israel last month.

“…the very fact that Hezbollah set out on a ground campaign inside Syrian territory is an extraordinary statement. The placement of thousands of the group’s soldiers near the Syrian-Israeli border, with the organization not even trying to conceal its involvement in the battles, signifies much more than just another operation. This is a new strategy. First, on the geopolitical level, Hezbollah is trying to implement the vision only recently introduced by its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, according to whom the Syrian Golan Heights and South Lebanon are a united front. To put it more bluntly, the old order and the old geographical distribution between Syria and Lebanon is now utterly irrelevant as far as the group is concerned.”

Hizballah strategies of course need to be viewed in the context of its patron’s regional designs.

“Hezbollah and Iran remain committed to setting up a base in southern Syria, with the dual goal of beating back the Syrian rebels and expanding the Iranian front of jihad against Israel, from Lebanon to Syria.”

The Lebanese ‘Daily Star’ recently reported:

“Allowing Iran and Hezbollah to gain a stronger foothold in the Golan is one of the goals of the current offensive underway in southern Syria. The offensive is named in honor of the “martyrs of Qunaitra,” a reference to the six Hezbollah fighters, including two field commanders, and Iranian Gen. Mohammad Allahdadi, killed in January in an Israeli drone strike.

Combat operations are being directed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp with much of the attacking force composed of IRGC soldiers, Hezbollah fighters and Shiite auxiliary forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. […]

Abu Ali, a veteran Hezbollah fighter who has served multiple tours in Syria, confirmed IRGC leadership of the southern Syria offensive and that Iranian troops were involved.

“Iran will be so close to the Israelis that it will no longer need long-range missiles to hit them,” Abu Ali said. “The Golan is going to be a new front line.”

He added that tunnel and bunker construction in the Golan has been underway for a year, apparently an attempt to replicate the facilities Hezbollah built in the south before 2006. He added that Allahdadi was conducting an inspection tour of the new facilities when he was killed by the Israeli drones.”

And as is detailed in a report from MEMRI, the opening of a new front in the Golan Heights has even broader implications.

“Iran’s presence on the Israeli border limits Israel’s ability to use military measures against Iran’s nuclear program. This, since Iran is building up its response capabilities in the region, to complement its long-range missiles. In the past, it was Hizbullah Lebanon that deterred Israel, to some extent, from acting militarily against Iran’s nuclear program. Today this deterrence is significantly strengthened by the advent of Hizbullah Syria and the direct presence of Iranian forces in the Golan.”

The BBC’s under-reporting of this issue ofcourse means that its audiences continue to lack the background information necessary for them to understand both current and future regional developments.

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Airbrushing Hizballah: BBC News report on Nasrallah speech

 

 

BBC’s Paul Adams makes correction to audio report

As was pointed out here recently, the audio version of Paul Adams’ report about a Syrian man given medical treatment in Israel included the following statement:

“Well, if you drive about an hour and a half west from Haifa, you come to this place: the wind-swept Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.”

One member of the public who obviously noted the same point took to Twitter to inform Adams of his geographical error.

Adams twitter convo 1

However, Paul Adams did manage to edit the report to cut out the word ‘west’ from the recording and thus correct the error.

Adams twitter convo 2

It is refreshing to see a BBC journalist responding so quickly to a member of the public and making effective efforts to correct an obviously genuine mistake. 

 

Don’t try this at home: BBC driving directions show basic ME geography fail

On February 16th the BBC broadcast and published several reports by Paul Adams on various platforms – all of them telling the story of a Syrian man who received medical treatment in one of Israel’s hospitals.Adams report 1

On the BBC News website’s Middle East page readers found a report titled “Israeli hospital rebuilds injured Syrian man’s face“. On the same page a filmed report – also broadcast on television news programmes – appeared under the headline “Syria war victim given new jaw in Israel” and two additional filmed reports (here and here) were also available. An item on the same topic appeared in the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 17:38 here) and a version of that audio report was also promoted separately on Twitter.

In several of the otherwise largely reasonable reports Adams tells BBC audiences that:

“Syrian patients started arriving in Israel soon after the war began. They’re now a common sight in hospitals like Rambam.”

In fact, whilst the uprising in Syria began in March 2011, it was only almost two years later – at the beginning of 2013 – that the first of the wounded arrived on the Israeli-Syrian border. Since then, thousands of Syrians have been treated in Israel – although the BBC’s coverage of the topic has been sparse (see related articles below) and these are the first reports on the subject since November 2013. That makes it all the more unfortunate that Adams’ extensive reporting did not also inform audiences about other aspects of the story such as the existence of an IDF field hospital in the Golan Heights and the fact that the cost of the treatment for thousands of Syrians there and in civilian hospitals (over 33 million shekels the latter establishments alone as of October 2014) is borne by the Israeli tax-payer.Adams report 2

Adams’ reports all inform audiences that his interviewee was scared when he found himself in Israel and that for all the Syrian patients arriving in Israel “it’s a journey into the unknown”. He does not, however, approach the topic of the Syrian state-sponsored propaganda which was the root cause of their views of Israel before they saw it for themselves.

In the audio report Adams tells listeners:

“Well, if you drive about an hour and a half west from Haifa, you come to this place: the wind-swept Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.”

Of course if you drive about an hour and a half west from Haifa (or even a lot less), you’ll actually end up in the Mediterranean Sea: the Golan Heights are to the east/north-east of Haifa.

Related Articles:

BBC throws mud over repatriation of Syrians

BBC Arabic reports on Syrian patients in Israeli hospitals – but not in Arabic

At last: an accurate and impartial BBC report on Syrian patients in Israel

Northern exposure: what the BBC isn’t reporting about the Israel-Syria border

Airbrushing Hizballah: BBC News report on Nasrallah speech

On January 30th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published a report about a 90 minute video address given on the same day by the leader of Hizballah. Titled “Hezbollah says it does not want war with Israel“, the 270 word article actually devotes a mere three sentences to description of the content of Nasrallah’s speech.Nasrallah speech report

“The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, Hassan Nasrallah, has said it does not want war with Israel but is not afraid to fight.” […]

“Sheikh Nasrallah said his group had the right to respond to “aggression” from Israel “wherever” it wished.” […]

“”We do not want a war but we are not afraid of it and we must distinguish between the two and the Israelis must also understand this very well,” he said.”

Perusal of the account of the address published by the Lebanese English language outlet The Daily Star shows that there was a lot more to the Hizballah leader’s message than the BBC’s ‘Nasrallah the peacenik’ portrayal makes out.

“Hezbollah is ready to respond to Israel at any time and in any place, party chief Hasan Nasrallah underlined in a fiery speech Friday, two days after its troops ambushed an Israeli military convoy, killing two soldiers. […]

“We don’t want war but we don’t fear it,” he declared. “The resistance in Lebanon is not concerned with rules of engagement. It is our legitimate and legal right to fight aggression, wherever and whenever it may occur.”

Addressing the Israeli people, Nasrallah said: “If the Israeli thinks that the resistance fears war, I tell them today in the commemoration of the Qunaitra martyrs and after the Shebaa revenge attack, that we don’t fear war and we are not reluctant to engage in it if it is imposed on us.””

No less significant is the fact that the BBC airbrushed out of its account Nasrallah’s references to the ties between his organization and the Syrian regime and Iran. Just days before the January 18th strike on Hizballah operatives and Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Syrian Golan, Nasrallah had denied in an interview with Al Mayadeen that his forces were active on the Syrian-Israeli border. The presence of Hizballah terrorists and IRGC officers revealed by the strike (as one Lebanese commentator put it; they were not there for a picnic) had already proved Nasrallah’s claim to be a lie – and parts of his January 30th address further confirmed that fact.

“Nasrallah said that the martyrs of the attack reflect a “fusion of Lebanese-Iranian blood on Syrian territory, and reflects the unity of the cause and the unity of the fate of these countries.”

“When blood unites Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iran, then we will move towards an era of victory,” he added.”

The fact that Hizballah and Iran seek to open operations on the Israeli-Syrian border in addition to their existing presence on the Israeli-Lebanese border was not adequately clarified to BBC audiences in this report. That means that the corporation’s funding public remains in the dark with regard to the implications for the region – which were laid out recently by Tony Badran

“…Iran and Hezbollah’s determination to activate the Golan front — the essential takeaway from Nasrallah’s speech — makes a major conflagration all but inevitable. Israel cannot accept a new front with Hezbollah’s preferred rules of engagement in the Golan, which means that its measured response this time is unlikely to be tenable down the road.”

The rest of this BBC report is no less airbrushed. The internationally proscribed terror organization is described merely as “Lebanon’s Hezbollah group” and once again we see portrayal of the second Lebanon war which fails to clarify to audiences that the conflict was initiated by Hizballah by means of a cross-border attack and missile fire on Israeli civilian communities.

“Hezbollah and Israel fought a brief, deadly war in 2006, which ended in stalemate after death, destruction and disruption on both sides of the border.”

Likewise, we see that rather than presenting an accurate and impartial account of Hizballah’s interference in the Syrian civil war at Iranian instruction, the BBC uses the euphemism “become embroiled”.

“The group has since become embroiled in the war in Syria, on the side of President Bashar al-Assad.”

The article closes with the following statement:

“On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran was responsible for the attack on the Israeli troops.”

As long as the BBC continues to present its audiences with such glaringly airbrushed reports on Hizballah and its Iranian patron, BBC audiences will remain unable to place those words in their correct context and incapable of understanding the background to future regional developments to which the countdown has already begun. 

 

Patchy BBC reporting on Hizballah attacks in northern Israel

Just before 1 p.m. on January 27th incoming missiles from Syria triggered air-raid sirens in the northern Golan Heights.  Local residents took cover in their air-raid shelters and over a thousand visitors to the Mount Hermon ski resort had to be quickly evacuated. At least two projectiles were determined to have landed in Israeli territory and the IDF responded with artillery fire directed at the launch site in Syria and later on in the evening with strikes on Syrian army artillery posts. Both Israeli and foreign sources attributed the missile fire to Hizballah acting from Syrian army positions.

Despite at least one of its journalists in the region being aware of the incident, the BBC News website elected not to report those events at the time.

Aft 27 1 MEHP

A day later – Wednesday, January 28th – an additional incident took place when Hizballah conducted a cross-border attack in the Har Dov area, firing anti-tank missiles at Israeli army vehicles. Mortars were also fired at an IDF position on Mount Hermon and reportedly at the village of Ghajar.  Two soldiers were killed and seven wounded. Israel responded with artillery and air strikes.

In the BBC News website’s report on those events – originally headlined “Israeli soldiers wounded in Lebanon border attack” and later retitled “Israel fires into Lebanon after attack on troops”, followed by “Israel fires shells into Lebanon after attack on troops” and then “UN peacekeeper killed after Hezbollah-Israel clash” – the previous day’s events were described in one sentence.

“The incident came just hours after Israel launched an air strike on Syrian army positions near the Golan Heights in retaliation for rockets that were fired into Israel on Monday.”

In fact, the missiles were fired on Tuesday (January 27th) and readers obviously would not understand from this description that Hizballah was responsible for that attack as well, meaning that their ability to put the attack which is the subject matter of the report into its correct context would be impaired.

Also notable was the change in description of the incident on the BBC News website Middle East homepage. Initial reports portrayed events in the order in which they had happened – albeit without mentioning Hizballah.

Har Dov attacks on HP

As the day went on, that description was altered and became less clear as terms such as “border clashes” and “trade fire” were employed, creating a false and misleading sense of equivalence.

Har Dov attacks on HP later

The BBC report at that URL was later replaced with one titled “Three killed as Israel and Hezbollah trade fire” in which the fact that the incident took place near the ‘Shebaa Farms’ area is noted twice in succession.

“The peacekeeper was killed close to the disputed Shebaa Farms area, where an Israeli convoy was earlier hit by anti-tank missiles, killing two soldiers.”

“Wednesday’s cross-border violence erupted when Israeli military vehicles were hit at about 11:35 (09:35 GMT) near Mt Dov, in the Shebaa Farms area, a disputed tract of land where the borders of Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet.”

The fact that this incident and the one preceding it in the northern Golan Heights have nothing to do with the dispute arising from Lebanese claims to the Shebaa Farms area defined by the UN as not belonging to Lebanon is not made clear to readers. The report also states:

“The flare-up along the Israeli-Lebanon frontier recalls the beginning of the month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, which was triggered by a Hezbollah attack on an Israeli military vehicle that led to the kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers.”

Significantly, the BBC refrains from informing readers of the crucially relevant point that according to UN SC resolution 1701 which brought the 2006 conflict to an end, Hizballah should have been disarmed and neither that terrorist organization nor any others should be operating in southern Lebanon.  

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More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

On January 18th the BBC News website published a report titled “‘Israel strike’ kills Hezbollah men in Syria’s Golan Heights” which relates to an incident near Quneitra on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights earlier in the day. The report includes several features worthy of note.Hizb strike main

With regard to the incident itself, the report gives a reasonable representation of the information which was available at the time of publication.

“An Israeli air strike has killed six members of Hezbollah in the Syrian sector of the Golan Heights, the Lebanese militant movement says.

Among those reported dead were the son of a late military leader, a current commander, and at least one Iranian. […]

Those who died include Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of a top military commander killed in 2008, and Mohammed Issa, a Hezbollah field commander, Hezbollah officials said.

One member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards had died, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Iran’s semi-official Tabnak news agency said several Revolutionary Guards had been killed.”

The Iranian news agency Fars has since confirmed the death of IRGC officer Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi and a Lebanese source told AFP that in all twelve people were killed in the strike – six from Hizballah and six Iranians – although other reports have presented different information.

With regard to the key question of what a convoy of Hizballah operatives and Iranian Revolutionary Guards were doing near the border with Israel on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, the BBC quotes the version of events promoted by Hizballah media.

“Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV said they were killed in Quneitra province “during a field reconnaissance mission”.”

It then adds:

“Israel said it would not comment, though unnamed sources confirmed an Israeli helicopter strike.

They claimed those targeted were conducting reconnaissance for a Hezbollah attack.”

However, whilst no attempt is made to provide readers with the relevant context of the cross-border attacks carried out by Hizballah in recent months, the article does inform them that:

“Israel has conducted several air strikes inside Syria since the conflict began, said to be aimed at preventing the transfer of stockpiles of rockets from the Syrian government or Iran to Hezbollah.”

The article notes that:

“The incident comes days after a warning to Israel by the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, that his forces might retaliate against what he called repeated Israeli strikes inside Syria.

He said his forces had been stockpiling weapons for such a confrontation and that these included long range missiles that could hit every part of Israel.”

Those quotes come from an interview given by Nasrallah on January 15th to Al Mayadeen TV in which he explained the ‘logic’ behind the statement highlighted in the BBC’s account, according to which a Lebanese terrorist organization backed by Iran is prepared to attack Israel because of that country’s perceived actions in Syria.

“A key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Nasrallah, who has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to help defend the regime, said that Israeli strikes on Syria “target the whole of the resistance axis”, which includes Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran.

“The repeated bombings that struck several targets in Syria are a major violation, and we consider that any strike against Syria is a strike against the whole of the resistance axis, not just against Syria,” he told the Beirut-based Arab news television.  […]

Nasrallah said in the interview that Hezbollah was ready to fight a new war against Israel in Lebanon and renewed a threat to invade the Galilee region of northern Israel. Hezbollah fighters “must be prepared”, he said.

“When the resistance (Hezbollah) leadership… asks you (fighters)… to enter into Galilee, that means the resistance must be ready to enter into Galilee and to go even beyond the Galilee.””

Like much of the media, the BBC’s report focuses on one of the people reported killed.

“Jihad Mughniyeh is the son of Imad Mugniyeh, who was killed in a bombing in a bombing in Damascus in 2008. Hezbollah blamed Israel for the death, but Israel denied it.

Imad Mughniyeh was widely believed to be behind a wave of Western hostage-taking in Lebanon during the 1980s.”

Mughniyeh’s record of course included a lot more than hostage-taking as the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star pointed out – but the self-styled ‘standard-settling’ BBC did not.

“Believed to be the mastermind of Hezbollah’s combat tactics, Mughniyeh was considered to be involved in the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine and French peacekeeping barracks in Beirut, which killed over 350 people, as well as the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and the kidnapping of Westerners in Lebanon in the 1980s.”

The BBC’s descriptions of Hizballah throughout the report fail to note that it is an internationally designated terrorist organization (or even to mention the word terror) or that its ‘Al Manar’ TV station quoted by the BBC in this report was declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity by the United States Treasury and is also banned in several European countries.  

“An Israeli air strike has killed six members of Hezbollah in the Syrian sector of the Golan Heights, the Lebanese militant movement says.”

“Hezbollah militants have been supporting President Bashar al-Assad in a four-year Syrian conflict that activists say has left more than 200,000 people dead.”

“Israel fought a 34-day war with Hezbollah, a mainly Shia group backed by Iran, in 2006.” [all emphasis added]

The caption to the main photograph used to illustrate the article states:

“Hezbollah has strong support in Lebanon”

At the bottom of the article appears an insert which likewise does nothing to enhance BBC audiences’ understanding of the real nature, record and agenda of Hizballah and of course makes no mention of the fact that according to assorted UN resolutions, it should have been disarmed years ago.

Hizb art insert

The link included at the bottom of that insert leads to the December 2013 version of the BBC’s profile of Hizballah which, as readers may recall, was amended to present a much softer picture of the terrorist organization than the profile it replaced by means of airbrushing Hizballah’s terrorist designation by numerous countries worldwide, its terrorist activities outside Lebanon, its involvement in the murder of Rafik Hariri and its role in the Syrian civil war and with no mention made whatsoever of Hizballah’s criminal activities around the globe. 

Obviously BBC audiences will not be able to understand the significance and implications of terrorists and IRGC officers on Israel’s border as long as the BBC continues to fail to represent Hizballah properly. 

 

BBC’s Connolly presents anti-Israel political activist as ‘community leader’

Kevin Connolly’s recent excursion to the Golan Heights was also reported in the form of a radio report which was broadcast on two separate BBC platforms on November 13th as part of the BBC News ‘Syria Days’ project.

In the morning the item appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme (from 00:45:40 here) and later on a slightly expanded version was broadcast in the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 00:47:00 here).

Both introductions to the item – from Sarah Montague and James Menendez respectively – ran along the following lines:

“Our correspondent Kevin Connolly has been to the Golan Heights where a line of separation divides Syria from Israeli-occupied territory and he’s been to see what the future looks like from there.”

In fact, Connolly’s item provides very little in the way of factual information – not least because at this stage of affairs, nobody can really proffer more than an educated guess about what future regional developments may bring. His report opens with the sounds of a theatre performance in Arabic and Connolly telling listeners:

Majdal Shams

Majdal Shams

“We are in the small, dark theatre in the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The play – a one-man show – deals with the agonies of the past: the story of Palestinian refugees.”

There is of course no link whatsoever between the Golan Heights and “the story of Palestinian refugees” but what Connolly saw was probably part of a recent festival promoted by an organization which has relevance to an interview conducted later in his report.

The report’s first interviewee is Tal Pelter from Ein Zivan, described by Connolly as someone who “makes wine in an Israeli settlement on the Golan and is still making plans for the long-term future here.”

Connolly then goes on to promote the usual trite, homogeneous portrayal of Druze residents of the Golan Heights seen so often in the Western media:

“Most of the Druze of the Israeli-occupied Golan continue to regard themselves as Syrians. They follow the television news from Damascus and await the reunification of a country from which they were cut off by the wars of 1967 and 1973. But they know that the staggering destruction of Syria’s civil war is changing everything in the Middle East. Tayseer Maray – a community leader in Majdal Shams – senses that a historic process is now underway in which countries like Syria and Iraq created at the end of the First World War are disappearing, to be replaced by a single Arab State.”

Connolly’s introduction of his interviewee does not inform audiences that Tayseer Maray is in fact a long-time political activist who heads an organization called ‘Golan for Development’ (organizer of the above theatre festival) which is linked to OPGAI: a forum of anti-Israel campaigning organisations mainly from the Palestinian sector, including Badil and the AIC.

Majdal Shams

Majdal Shams

Listeners hear Maray say:

“This country or this new country that will emerge, it’s clear. I mean now we can see that the border between Syria and Iraq does not exist and also I think that Lebanon sooner or later will be part of what’s going on and Jordan is not in very stable situation. I see that we will have really very big Arab country that will exist in this area.”

Connolly: “Is this the end of the age of the nation-state in the Middle East?”

Maray: “I think that it will be the end of the nation-state in the normal meaning.”

Unfortunately, Connolly did not ask his interviewee what sort of “very big Arab country” he predicts – Sunni or Shia – or whether or not his latest predictions differ in any way from those he was making in 2010 (long before the Syrian civil war began) when he personally told this writer that an Iranian-led caliphate was just around the corner.

Connolly’s third interviewee is Efraim Halevi who raises the possibility of a different scenario than the one proposed by Tayseer Maray: one of the disintegration of Syria and Lebanon into ethnic, religious and political ‘statelets’.

What BBC audiences will have been able to take away from Connolly’s report is unclear, but one thing is certain: they would have been better equipped to judge the context and relevance of Maray’s predictions for the Middle East had they been informed – in line with BBC guidelines on impartiality – of his political activities and associations. 

 

Inaccurate BBC representation of Golan Heights ‘relics’

BBC News’ recent big multi-platform feature on Syria (more on that later) included a filmed report from the Golan Heights by Kevin Connolly which, in addition to being aired on BBC television news, also appeared on the BBC News website on November 13th under the title “Could Syria be a catalyst for change in the Middle East?“.

In the report, Connolly correctly told viewers that:

“The landscape is littered with relics of the fighting in 1967 and in 1973 when Syria tried and failed to win back the land it lost.”

However, the footage used to illustrate that statement by Connolly included the following images, neither of which have anything to do with either the Six Day War or the Yom Kippur War or indeed with the modern states of Israel or Syria.

Connolly Goaln filmed 2

Connolly Golan filmed 3

The first image shows a pillbox constructed by the British in 1941 near Ein Tawfik in the south Golan Heights, close to the 1923 border between British-administered Mandate Palestine and French-administered Mandate Syria. The second image shows a nearby tank barrier also constructed during the Second World War with the intention of preventing French and/or German tanks entering Mandate Palestine via the Golan Heights.

Had the BBC’s cameraman swung a little to the right, he would have seen a statue and a plaque commemorating the fact that Eli Cohen passed through that tank barrier on his way to El Hama in 1962 – five years before the Six Day War.

Photo: Dr Avishai Teicher

Photo: Dr Avishai Teicher

Later on in the report, Connolly told audiences:Connolly Golan filmed

“Land on the Syrian side of the UN-controlled checkpoint [Kuneitra] is in the hands these days not of the Syrian army but of an Islamist rebel group.”

In fact there is more than one rebel group currently holding positions in that area. Connolly also stated that:

“Israel has been fortifying its fences and responding with force whenever shells or missiles hit land under its control.”

In actual fact, whilst Israel has indeed responded with retaliatory fire on occasion, it has by no means done so in all of the dozens of cases of cross-border fire – deliberate or accidental – which have taken place in the past months and so Connolly’s assertion that Israel responds “whenever” such fire takes place is inaccurate.