Attacks on Israel’s northern border not news for the BBC

On October 7th an explosive device was detonated in the Har Dov area of the Golan Heights, wounding two Israeli soldiers. Shortly afterwards a second device was detonated with no injuries caused. Israel responded with artillery fire.SONY DSC

“An initial army investigation into the attacks found the explosives were planted in advance and were waiting for the troops. Following the attacks, IDF troops were searching the area for additional explosives. […]

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the incident violated a UN Security Council resolution that was adopted to end the 2006 Second Lebanon War. He said the UN force in Lebanon, which has been in place for decades, has launched an investigation and contacted both sides to urge restraint.”

Later in the day the terrorist organisation Hizballah claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Hezbollah operatives “detonated an explosive device on the Shebaa hills against a motorized Israeli patrol causing a number of injuries among the occupation’s soldiers,” the group said in a statement.

A Hizballah official added:

“”This is a message.. Even though we are busy in Syria and on the eastern front in Lebanon our eyes remain open and our resistance is ready to confront the Israeli enemy,” Sheikh Naim Qassem told Lebanese OTV television late on Tuesday.”

The incidents followed an earlier one on October 5th in which two infiltrators were identified in the same region border region.

BBC staff in the region were aware of the incidents.

Shuval tweets Har Dov

However, cross-border attacks carried out and claimed by an Iranian-backed terrorist organization were apparently not deemed newsworthy enough for coverage on the BBC News website.

Omission and inaccuracy on ME terror misleads BBC audiences

May 29th saw the appearance of a filmed report on the BBC News website’s main, Magazine and Middle East pages under the title of “The CIA spy who could have brought peace to Middle East” [sic]. The report is devoted entirely to author Kai Bird talking about his new book concerning the decade-long relationship between the CIA’s Robert Ames and Fatah’s Ali Hassan Salameh.Magazine Ames book

Leaving aside both the perhaps fanciful notion promoted in the BBC’s synopsis that the relationship “helped lay the groundwork for the negotiations which culminated in the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993″ and the fact that the Oslo Accords did not bring peace, it is notable that both in the synopsis and in the filmed report itself, Ali Hassan Salameh is described as “Yasser Arafat’s intelligence chief”, “Arafat’s chief body-guard” and “Arafat’s virtual intelligence chief”.

No mention is made whatsoever of the fact that Salameh was a senior figure in Fatah’s Black September terrorist group and one of the architects of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre. Black September – established in 1970 – was of course responsible for numerous additional terror attacks during the years between 1969 and 1979 throughout which Ames and Salameh, according to Bird, were in contact – including the deaths of two American diplomats in Khartoum in March 1973.

An equally bizarre inaccuracy in this report comes when Bird, speaking of the bombing of the US embassy in Beirut in April 1983 in which Robert Ames was killed says:

“Oddly enough, there was no retribution for the security lapses. The US government really didn’t know who had done this. Hizballah didn’t exist then.”

Although the Hizballah manifesto was published in 1985, the organization was founded – under Iranian tutelage – in 1982 and so did in fact “exist then”. Moreover, responsibility for the US embassy bombing was, as shown in news reports at the time, claimed by a group calling itself the Islamic Jihad Organisation – one of Hizballah’s early monikers.

The omission of any mention of Salameh’s terrorist activities and the inaccuracy regarding Hizballah’s founding in this report both materially mislead BBC audiences.   

Context-free Twitter messaging from BBC’s Jeremy Bowen

The following Tweets (among others) were sent by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen to his eighty-two and a half thousand followers on May 23rd.

May 23 tweets Bowen 1

May 23 tweets Bowen 2

May 23 tweets Bowen 3

This is not the first time that Bowen has proffered his particular version of the tragic incident which took place on May 23rd 2000 on Twitter – he did so last year too – and it is also not the first time that he has failed to provide his Twitter followers with a full account of what happened that day.

Looking into south Lebanon from the Menara area

Looking into south Lebanon from the Menara area

“Early in the morning of Tuesday May 23rd 2000 – the day before the completion of the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon – a tank crew stationed on the border fence near Kibbutz Menara received an intelligence alert concerning the likelihood of terrorists firing anti-tank missiles at IDF tanks and armoured vehicles. Later in the day, the crew spotted a Lebanese vehicle transporting men in civilian clothing and suspected that these were Hizballah terrorists carrying equipment for firing an anti-tank missile. The tank crew was given permission to fire at the suspected terrorists. 

Later it emerged that the men were actually a BBC film crew headed by Jeremy Bowen and that driver Abed Takkoush had been killed. The IDF investigated the incident and issued an apology. Understandably, that tragic incident appears to be still very much at the forefront of Bowen’s mind, although he does not appear to accept that it was possible to mistake three men travelling in a war zone in a car with Lebanese plates, and carrying camera equipment, for Hizballah terrorists dressed – as was very often the case – in civilian clothing.”

It is of course worth remembering that those Tweets were sent by the person who is ultimately the gatekeeper of all “accurate and impartial” BBC reporting from the Middle East.

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Another Hizballah plot against Israeli tourists gets the BBC silent treatment

Earlier this month the authorities in Thailand arrested two suspected Hizballah terrorists.Thailand

“Investigations into two suspected foreign terrorists are progressing swiftly as one of the men admitted to a planned attack on Israeli tourists in Khao San Road during Songkran, according to an investigator. […]

They were arrested on suspicion of links to militant Islamist group, Hezbollah.”

Via Ha’aretz we learn that:

“The men arrived in Bangkok on April 13, and police suspect they were planning to direct an attack on Israeli travelers during Passover.

The two suspects are Daoud Farhat, a Lebanese national who also holds French citizenship, and Youssef Ayad, a Lebanese man who is a citizen of the Philipines. […]

The two are suspected of belonging to a larger terror cell, thought to be comprised of at least nine Hezbollah members. […]

A senior officer in the Thailand police told the Bangkok Post that Ayad admitted he was planning attacks against Israelis while under investigation. Various materials that could be used to fabricate bombs were found in his Bangkok residence, the officer said, adding that further searches would be carried out in other residences thought to be used by members of the cell.”

As readers will of course be aware, this is far from the first time that Hizballah has carried out or planned attacks against Israeli tourists abroad.

The BBC’s reporting on a previous incident in Cyprus began as non-existent and proceeded to tardy. Its reporting of the 2012 bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria, in which six people were killed and dozens injured has been hallmarked by the use of the euphemistic term “militants” to describe an internationally active, Iranian backed terror group. BBC coverage has promoted the myth of a separate “armed wing” to the organization.  Hizballah’s designation as a terrorist organization has frequently been inaccurately represented and downplayed by the BBC, including in a report concerning a previous incident in Thailand

In this case, the BBC has chosen to ignore the story altogether. 

BBC omission of Saudi Arabia’s designation of Hizballah corrected after reader complaint

On March 7th the BBC News website published an article titled “Saudi Arabia declares Muslim Brotherhood ‘terrorist group’” on its Middle East page. The article opens: SA terrorist banning story

“Saudi Arabia has formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation.

An interior ministry statement also classified two jihadist groups fighting with the Syrian rebels – the Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – as terrorist groups.”

A reader noticed that despite the fact that the Saudi branch of Hizballah was included on the same list of terror designations at the same time, no reference to that fact was included in the BBC’s report and he contacted the corporation to point out that omission.

The reply received six days later included the following:

“We have updated the story to include reference to Hezbollah and published a note at the end of the article explaining this.”

The article’s eighth paragraph (out of fifteen) now reads:

“The interior ministry also said the Saudi branch of the Shia militant movement Hezbollah was now banned.”

The footnote added to the report reads:

Footnote S Arabia terrorist banning story

Despite that correction, the description of Hizballah as a “Shia movement” – or at most a “Shia militant movement” – continues the BBC tradition of inadequately informing audiences with regard to the organisation’s terror designation in numerous countries and its terrorist and criminal activities at home and abroad. 

Why doesn’t the BBC present an accurate picture of Hizballah?

On February 26th an article titled “Hezbollah vows to respond to ‘Israeli air strike’” appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. Hizb art

Let’s take a look at how the BBC chooses to present the international terrorist and criminal organization Hizballah to its audiences.

The article begins with the standard euphemistic portrayal of a terrorist organization designated by numerous countries as a “militant movement”.

“Hezbollah has said it will respond to an alleged air strike by Israel warplanes on one of its bases on the Lebanese border with Syria on Monday.

The militant Shia Islamist movement described the attack as a “blatant assault on Lebanon, and its sovereignty and territory”, al-Manar TV reported.” [emphasis added]

Al Manar is of course a Hizballah run channel, but the article fails to make that point clear. The BBC also once again misleads audiences by promoting the myth that the terror organization has a separate “military wing”, even though Hizballah itself denies that such a separation exists.

“Hezbollah’s statement said the air strike caused material damage, but denied that it targeted any artillery or rocket positions or caused any casualties. Local reports had said four members of its military wing, the Islamic Resistance, were killed.” [emphasis added]

The BBC also fails to inform audiences of the redundancy of the propaganda moniker “resistance” and its political meanings.

“The attack confirms the nature of the Zionist hostility and requires frank and clear position from all,” Hezbollah added. “The Resistance will choose the time and place and the proper way to respond to it.” [emphasis added]

Once again, no mention is made of the fact that Hizballah is supplied, funded and supported by Iran or of the particularly relevant fact that under the terms of UN Security Council resolution 1701 (like its predecessors, 1559, 1608 and the Taif Accords), militias and terrorist organisations in Lebanon should have long since been disarmed and the sale or supply of weapons to such groups stopped.

The article concludes:

“Israel and Hezbollah fought a war in 2006, during which Israeli warplanes bombed Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon and in Beirut, while Hezbollah fired about 4,000 rockets at Israel.

More than 1,125 Lebanese, most of them civilians, died during the 34-day conflict, as well as 119 Israeli soldiers and 45 civilians.”

Readers are not informed that the 2006 war began as a result of a cross-border raid carried out by Hizballah in Israeli territory or that missile attacks by Hizballah preceded Israeli air-strikes. Notably, Hizballah’s missile attacks are described as having been directed “at Israel” rather than at Israeli civilians in towns, cities and villages across northern Israel. The BBC claims that the war’s Lebanese casualties were mostly civilians but does not inform audiences that Lebanese figures do not differentiate between civilians and combatants, that Lebanese officials reported even before the conflict was over that some 500 of the dead were Hizballah fighters, that UN officials gave similar figures and that Israeli estimates stand at around 600 – more than half (and therefore “most”) of the total Lebanese casualty figures.

At the bottom of the article a link is provided to the BBC’s profile of Hizballah dating from December 4th 2013. As has been noted here previously, that profile replaced another one dating from July 2013 and the newer version heavily airbrushes 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. No mention is made whatsoever of Hizballah’s criminal activities around the globe. 

There is, of course, nothing new in this article’s tepid representation of Hizballah. Regular readers will be only too aware that the policy of downplaying Hizballah’s terrorist designation, its close connections with Iran, its terrorist and criminal activities and its role in the Syrian civil war are par for the course.

Whatever the reasons behind that policy, it cannot be seen as an appropriate for an organization obliged under the terms of its constitutional basis to provide its audiences with ” a global understanding of international issues”.

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BBC transforms its correspondents’ conjecture into fact

On February 24th a short report titled “Israeli warplanes ‘strike eastern Lebanon’” appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. Nabi Sheet

The report relates to allegations that the Israeli air-force attacked targets in the Bekaa Valley on that evening. As is intimated by the BBC’s use of cautious punctuation in its headline and as is stated in the body of the article, those reports – which originated from a Lebanese source – remain unconfirmed. 

“Israeli jets have carried out air strikes in eastern Lebanon near the border with Syria, Lebanon’s state news agency says.

Israel’s military has not commented although an Israeli security source quoted by Reuters said there had been “air force activity in the north”.

Lebanon’s national news agency said the air raids took place near the village of Nabi Sheet in the Bekaa Valley.”

Hizballah’s television station ‘Al Manar’ initially denied the reports (with the terrorist organisation only changing its stance two days later), but that information is not communicated to readers of the BBC article.

In the second half of the report the BBC ignores international designations of Hizballah as a terrorist organisation and downplays its paramilitary activities in the Bekaa Valley with coy euphemism.

“The Lebanese militant Hezbollah group has a strong presence in the valley.”

According to the ‘Daily Star’:

“…the Janta area is known to house a Hezbollah post, where recruitment and training of fighters are carried out. Janta is also a well-known route for arms smuggling between Lebanon and Syria…”

The BBC report concludes by citing unidentified “correspondents” and “security sources”:

“Correspondents say Lebanon’s eastern border is frequently used by smugglers and Israeli planes have targeted the area several times in the past two years.

Security sources say the targets may have been trucks of weapons from Syria destined for Hezbollah.”

Whilst it is certainly the case that various BBC correspondents have claimed in the past that Israel has targeted consignments of weapons en route from Syria to Hizballah in Lebanon, those correspondents actually have no verified factual evidence for their claims, not least because Israel has never officially confirmed the various allegations. Hence, this report’s transformation of conjecture based on hearsay and assumption into a categorical – rather than qualified – statement which is then communicated to BBC audiences as though it were fact, clearly breaches BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy.

As has been the case with similar past articles, this short report focuses upon alleged Israeli activities, making no attempt to provide audiences with the necessary background information to enable them to place the reports of those actions in the correct context. Mention of the UN SC resolutions banning the arming of militias in Lebanon is omitted, as is any reference to Hizballah’s status as a heavily armed terrorist organisation supplied and supported by Iran. Clearly those important omissions are not conducive to the fulfilment of the BBC’s stated remit as an organisation which builds “a global understanding of international issues”. 

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BBC coverage of STL amplifies Hizballah propaganda

There are currently two articles on the subject of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which opened proceedings last week, on the Middle East page of the BBC News website.

In the ‘Features & Analysis’ section appears an article by the BBC’s Beirut correspondent Jim Muir titled “Lebanon polarised as Hariri tribunal opens” which also includes a filmed report by Muir broadcast on BBC television news programmes. That filmed report is also included in an article titled “Rafik Hariri murder trial begins at The Hague” which appears in the news section of the website’s Middle East page.

STL arts both

In all three of those items, Hizballah propaganda is uncritically promoted in among the rest of the information provided.

In the filmed report Muir states:

“But, the militant Shiite movement [Hizballah] has dismissed the trial as part of a conspiracy by Israel to discredit its enemies.”

In the article appearing in the news section it is stated:

“Hariri and 21 others were killed by a massive car bomb in Beirut in 2005.

The killings polarised Lebanon and led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops. Hezbollah denies any involvement.

It instead says the assassination was part of an Israeli and US conspiracy.”

And:

“But Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrullah says it was Israel that tracked Hariri’s movements by satellite, penetrating the phone system to falsify records and masterminding the assassination to discredit and undermine its enemies.”

In the ‘Features & Analysis’ article it is stated:

“But, with five men linked to the militant Shia movement Hezbollah indicted by the tribunal, many in the other half of the spectrum see the trial as a highly politicised affair aimed at undermining Israel’s opponents.”

And:

“The Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, set out his movement’s narrative on the affair in August 2010.

Introducing video footage he said was intercepted from Israeli spy drones, he argued that Israel was behind the killing, tracking Rafik Hariri’s movements, and penetrating and manipulating Lebanese phone network records on which the bulk of the prosecution case is apparently based.

“The aim was to denigrate and demoralise the leaders and militants of the Resistance, and worse, to stir sectarian strife and even civil war between Sunnis and Shia in Lebanon,” he insisted.”

Both the above articles include links to an item titled “Q&A: Hariri Tribunal” in which it is stated:

“Hezbollah has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack and said the assassination was part of an Israeli and US conspiracy.”

And:

“Hezbollah, for its part, has dismissed the tribunal as an “Israeli instrument”, and produced what it regards as evidence that Israel was involved in the bombing.”

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon was of course established by the UN Security Council.

This of course is by no means the first time that the baseless propaganda of the Iranian funded and controlled international terrorist and criminal organization Hizballah has been unquestioningly repeated and promoted by the BBC. As we have noted here in the past:

“The BBC clearly has a problem knowing how to relate to the streams of all too predictable propaganda regularly produced by regimes and terrorist organisations in the Middle East. Its current practice of uncritical repetition and amplification of baseless rumour, conspiracy theories and propaganda is clearly incompatible with its obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues” and its self-declared aspiration to “remain the standard-setter for international journalism”.

The BBC’s remit is to help audiences look beyond the propaganda and rhetoric they can just as easily view on websites and television stations run by Hizballah or the Iranian and Syrian regimes rather than giving it inappropriate credence through uncritical repetition and amplification on its own website and television news.”

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Faux equivalence, ‘last-first’ reporting in BBC report on rocket attack from Lebanon

At around 7 a.m. on December 29th, residents of Kiryat Shmona preparing for school and work suddenly had their morning punctuated by loud explosions. Some five missiles had been fired from nearby Lebanon, with one landing site having been found in open ground just west of the town and two missiles apparently having fallen short in Lebanese territory. SONY DSC

The IDF responded to the attack with artillery fire directed at its source near Marj Ayoun and lodged a complaint with UNIFIL. 

So how did the BBC News website report that incident? Visitors to the Middle East home page saw the headline “Israel-Lebanon border fire exchanged” which of course gives readers no indication of which of the two parties mentioned triggered the incident or from where. The sub-heading read:

“Israel says it fired artillery shells into southern Lebanon after two rockets landed in Israel, amid heightened cross-border tensions.”

In other words, more ‘last-first’ reporting instead of a clear presentation to audiences of what happened first.

K8 rockets

The link leads to an article with the similarly ambiguous, equivalence-promoting headline “Fire exchanged on Israel-Lebanon border“.

K8 rockets art

The caption to the unrelated photograph chosen to open and illustrate the article’s earlier version stated:

“The border has witnessed sporadic violence since the war of 2006″

Borders of course do not ‘witness’ anything – people do.

Another version of that statement appears in the body of the article:

“There has been sporadic cross-border violence since 2006, when Israel and the Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah fought a month-long war.”

That same misleading information was also promoted in another BBC report just a couple of weeks ago. As we noted then:

“Contrary to the impression created by the BBC, cross-border violence also occurred before 2006, with the most well-known example being the kidnapping and killing of Adi Avitan, Benny Avraham and Omar Sueid in October 2000.”

The report opens with more ‘last-first’ reporting:

“Israel has shelled Lebanon after two rockets landed in northern Israel, its military says.”

It goes on to produce even more of the same:

“Border tensions increased two weeks ago when Israel shot two Lebanese troops after an Israeli soldier was killed.”

Whether this convoluted fashion of writing stems from a simple inability to portray events in an easily comprehensible, straightforward manner or whether it is the product of some mistaken notion of clever ‘style’, BBC writers are clearly in need of help, so here is a suggestion of how that information could – and should – have been presented.

“Two rockets fired from Lebanon landed in northern Israel. The Israeli military stated that it had fired shells into Lebanon in response.”

“Two weeks ago an Israeli soldier was killed near the Lebanese border, increasing tensions in the area. Whilst investigating the incident, Israeli forces later shot two Lebanese troops.”

There; that wasn’t too difficult, was it? 

Without informing readers of the basis for its speculations, the article goes on to claim:

“But Hezbollah, which has been pre-occupied by the conflict in Syria, does not appear to have been involved in the death of the Israeli soldier on 16 December.”

The report ends by erroneously stating:

“UN troops were deployed along the border following the 34-day war in 2006 which killed more than 1,125 Lebanese, most of them civilians, as well as 119 Israeli soldiers and 45 Israeli civilians.”

In fact, UN troops have been deployed in southern Lebanon since 1978 and successive UN Security Council resolutions (1559, 1680, 1701) have included clauses stating that militias operating in the area – primarily Hizballah – must be disarmed. UNIFIL has of course a long history of failing to carry out the part of its mission which should have prevented the massive flow of arms to terrorist groups in southern Lebanon and it hence incubated the conditions for the 2006 Second Lebanon War which was sparked by a cross-border attack by Hizballah combined with missile fire on civilian communities.

As is well known, since then UNIFIL has yet again failed to curb the flow of arms into the region and so Hizballah now has even greater stocks of weapons than it had in 2006. Those same UN SC resolutions state that only the Lebanese Armed Forces should be present along the border with Israel, but of course that has not been properly implemented either and the current crumbling state of the LAF makes implementation increasingly unlikely, meaning that Hizballah – which exercises significant control over the whole of southern Lebanon – has free rein to either make use of its beefed-up arsenal itself, or to allow the activities of other assorted actors.

SONY DSC

Hizballah flag viewed from Metulla

But apparently the BBC does not consider such background information relevant to its audiences’ understanding of the issue and instead prefers to promote false ‘they’re all as bad as each other’ equivalence.

Beyond the glaring and worryingly repetitious failures to meet editorial guidelines on accuracy evident in this article, it prompts another cause for concern. At no point in the report is it made clear to readers that Hizballah is an international criminal and terrorist organization financed and controlled by Iran which has created a ‘state within a state’ in Lebanon. Neither is it made clear that missile fire directed at Israeli civilian communities, be it carried out by Hizballah (which denied involvement in this latest attack) or by other groups present in the area, is an act of terrorism. Rather, the very transparent attempt to promote the notion of equivalence between missile fire by a terrorist organization and retaliatory fire by the defence forces of a sovereign country with an obligation to defend its citizens is all too apparent in this report. 

One cannot but think back to the 2012 report commissioned by the BBC Trust on the subject of the BBC’s coverage of the ‘Arab Spring’ in which Edward Mortimer wrote (page 12):

“Equally,” the Guidelines go on to say, impartiality “does not require absolute neutrality on every issue or detachment from fundamental democratic principles.” This language originated as part of a Government amendment to the Broadcasting Act 1990, after concerns had been raised in Parliament that new detailed impartiality requirements might oblige broadcasters to balance any criticism of murderous regimes such as that of Pol Pot in Cambodia. […]

But how should this permission to stray from “absolute neutrality” be interpreted by BBC journalists? Not, surely, as authorising or encouraging them to espouse uncritically the perspective of the insurgents…”

Or, one might add, that of internationally recognised terrorists or any twopenny Al Qaeda-wannabe group which happens to have laid its hands on a few Grad missiles.

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BBC News website profile of Hizballah gets airbrushed

On December 20th yet another article promoting and amplifying Hizballah propaganda appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. 

Nasrallah Lakkis speech

Titled “Hezbollah’s Nasrallah warns Israel over commander death“, the report focuses on the repetition of unsubstantiated claims made by Hassan Nasrallah in a speech made on December 20th at a memorial for Hassan Lakkis who was killed in Beirut at the beginning of December. Revealingly, the BBC’s version of Nasrallah’s speech makes no mention of its extensive additional subject matter

“The head of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, has warned that his movement will “punish” Israel for the killing of a senior commander.”

” “All evidence indicates that Israel is behind the assassination,” Mr Nasrallah said in a televised tribute.”

” “The killers will be punished sooner or later,” Mr Nasrallah said.

“Those who killed our brothers will not know safety anywhere in the world.” “

Efforts to tick the impartiality box consist of the standard “Israel says” formula much employed by the BBC, including a statement from the MFA spokesman recycled from an earlier BBC report.

“Israel, which fought a 34-day war with Hezbollah in 2006, denied the accusation.”

“Hezbollah said Israel had tried to kill Lakkis several times previously – a claim Israel has repeatedly rejected.

“These automatic accusations are an innate reflex with Hezbollah,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said at the time.

“They don’t need evidence, they don’t need facts. They just blame anything on Israel.” “

However, the BBC makes no effort to inform audiences of the lack of any factual basis for Nasrallah’s claims and also fails to make it clear that knee-jerk accusations against Israel are part and parcel of the Hizballah repertoire in any and every situation. Thus, by placing Nasrallah’s statements on a level of equivalence to those made by Israeli representatives, the BBC is actively misleading audiences.

The report closes with a shockingly tame description of Hizballah.

“Hezbollah – or the Party of God – is a powerful political and military organisation in Lebanon made up mainly of Shia Muslims.

It emerged with financial backing from Iran in the early 1980s and began a struggle to drive Israeli troops from Lebanon.”

No mention is made of the fact that Israeli forces have not been present in Lebanon for over thirteen years and no information regarding Hizballah’s extensive designation as a terrorist organization appears. 

Readers are offered a link under the heading “related stories” both at the side and the bottom of the article under the title “Who are Lebanon’s Hezbollah?” That link leads to an article titled “Profile: Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement” dating from December 4th 2013. 

4 12 profile Hizb

That December 4th profile appears at the same URL as a previous one produced by the BBC on July 22nd 2013 titled “Who are Hezbollah?” which is hence now unavailable on the website.  Interestingly, the new replacement article presents Hizballah in a much softer light than the previous one.

The July 22nd article stated:

“Hezbollah has been blacklisted by the United States, the UK and several other Western states and, in July 2013, the EU also designated the organisation’s military wing as a terrorist organisation.

Bulgaria, an EU member state, says there is compelling evidence that Hezbollah was responsible for a bomb attack against Israeli tourists in Bulgaria in 2012 in which six people died. The group denies any involvement.

In March 2013, a court in Cyprus jailed a Hezbollah member for three years for plotting to attack Israeli targets on the island.”

Whilst it does correct the previous mistake of ignoring Hizballah’s terror designation in Gulf States, the new version merely says:

“Hezbollah has been accused of carrying out a string of bombings and plots against Jewish and Israeli targets and is designated a terrorist organisation by Western states, Israel and Gulf Arab countries.”

The July 22nd article stated:

“It has several seats in parliament and had ministers in a national unity government formed in late 2009. However, in January 2011, Hezbollah and its allies brought about that government’s collapse by resigning.

This was in protest against the UN tribunal investigating former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s murder. The tribunal was about to issue indictments against members of Hezbollah.”

The new version vanishes away the UN tribunal’s findings, vaguely stating:

“In 2011, the group and its allies forced the collapse of the unity government led by Saad Hariri, a Saudi-backed Sunni, with Hezbollah warning that it would not stand by as four of its members were accused of involvement in the 2005 assassination of Mr Hariri’s father Rafik.”

With regard to Hizballah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war the July 22nd article stated:

“Its intervention in the conflict in neighbouring Syria on the side of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has also been highly controversial, condemned within Lebanon and also internationally.”

“Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, Hezbollah has consistently pledged its backing for President Bashar al-Assad and members of its military wing have crossed the border to fight against rebels. It has also provided training and logistical support to Syrian forces.

Fighters from the militant group were instrumental in a strategic victory by Syrian government forces in Qusair, close to the border with Lebanon, in early June 2013.”

The new article severely downplays the terror organisation’s role in that conflict:

“Hezbollah has sent fighters across the border to support President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Shia-led Iran, while the group’s Sunni rivals have supported the Sunni-led rebellion.”

Whilst that July 22nd 2013 profile has been erased from the BBC News website, the older – and highly inaccurate – version which preceded it (dating from 2010) is still available and can be found in the “Lebanon profile” link also promoted to readers of this latest BBC report.  

link to old Hizb profile in Leb profile

“Last December we pointed out here that the BBC’s profile of Hizballah has not been updated since July 2010 and therefore includes no information about that terror organisation’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, the murder of Rafik Hariri, its terror attacks and activities in Europe or its involvement in drug trafficking, among other things.”

No doubt BBC licence fee payers (probably along with quite a few Lebanese and Syrian citizens) would be very interested to learn what lies behind the editorial decision to carry out this latest make-over of the BBC News website’s profile of Hizballah and what editorial justification the BBC considers supports the incessant amplification of that terrorist organisation’s propaganda.  

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