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. 

 

BBC’s ‘In Pictures’ compromises accuracy with sloppy caption

The ‘In Pictures’ section of the BBC News website included the image below in the latest edition of its ‘Week in pictures‘ feature. The photograph is captioned:

“Sahar, girlfriend of Israeli soldier Dor Nini mourns during his funeral in a cemetery at Shtulim village near Ashdod. He was one of two Israeli soldiers and a Spanish UN peacekeeper killed as Hezbollah militants traded fire with Israeli forces on the Lebanese border.”

Har Dov In Pictures

St. Sgt. Dor Nini and Maj. Yochai Kalangel were killed by Hizballah terrorists who deliberately targeted the vehicle in which they were travelling (and additional ones), on a road also used by civilians, with Kornet guided anti-tank missiles from around 4 to 5 kilometers inside Lebanese territory. They could not and did not ‘trade fire’ with their attackers.

The BBC’s use of the phrase “traded fire” to describe that incident promotes a notion of equivalence which hampers audience understanding of the cause and sequence of events by blurring the fact that a terrorist organization carried out a premeditated cross-border attack which then prompted  a military response from Israel during which a member of UNIFIL was accidentally killed.

The same misleading expression was also used in a written BBC report but at least there it was followed by the clarification “[a]fter Israeli forces were hit by missile fire, they responded by firing shells into southern Lebanon”. The constraints of space affecting photo captions obviously mean that the use of precise language is critical if BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy are to be met. 

BBC’s Orla Guerin ignores the elephant in southern Lebanon

On January 29th the BBC’s Cairo correspondent Orla Guerin was to be found in southern Lebanon making a filmed report for BBC television news which was also posted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the interestingly punctuated title “Hezbollah ‘attack site’ near Shebaa Farms identified“. The same superfluous punctuation also appeared on the website’s Middle East homepage and in tweets promoting the report.

Har Dov Guerin on HP

Har Dov Guerin tweet

Guerin tells BBC audiences:

“Well we’re told that the attack happened in the gap between those trees. The Israeli troops were in vehicles. They were on a local roadway when they came under fire from Hizballah and that of course has sparked fears of a wider confrontation. The fence down here along the roadway marks the disputed border in this area.”

Guerin’s description of the border as “disputed” of course reflects the Hizballah/Lebanese narrative and she makes no effort to inform viewers of the very relevant fact that the UN determined a decade and a half ago that the area does not belong to Lebanon.Har Dov Guerin filmed

“On 15 May 2000, the United Nations received a map, dated 1966, from the Government of Lebanon which reflected the Government’s position that these farmlands were located in Lebanon. However, the United Nations is in possession of 10 other maps issued after 1966 by various Lebanese government institutions, including the Ministry of Defence and the army, all of which place the farmlands inside the Syrian Arab Republic. The United Nations has also examined six maps issued by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, including three maps since 1966, which place the farmlands inside the Syrian Arab Republic. […] It is worth noting that, notwithstanding the conflicting evidence to which I have alluded, and whatever the present understanding between Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic, these farmlands lie in an area occupied by Israel since 1967 and are therefore subject to Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) calling for an Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory. (A total of 81 maps were available to the United Nations from various sources dating from before and after 1966; 25 of these were issued by the Governments of Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic.)”

Guerin continues:

“It’s been relatively quiet here since 2006 when Israel and Hizballah went to war.”

Of course that war began because Hizballah initiated it with a cross-border raid accompanied by missile fire on Israeli civilian communities. Guerin’s portrayal, however, promotes a false notion of equivalence and her description of the area as “relatively quiet” is no less misleading.

In addition to periodic missile fire at the town of Kiryat Shmona and its environs (see examples here, here, here and here), there have also been shooting attacks (see one example here) and placement of explosive devices on the border fence (see examples here, here and here).

Guerin goes on to say:

“The big concern now is whether either side has the appetite for a repeat of that. In the past few hours since we’ve been here it’s been quiet. We’ve been hearing United Nations choppers. We’ve also heard some Israeli drones. But this is a farming area and we have seen some people going back to work in the fields. There was Israeli shelling here yesterday. Some of that affected the outskirts of the villages here – these border villages – and the schools remain closed. But officials have told us that about 50 or 60 families fled. Now some of those have returned.”

Seeing as the BBC did not bother to send a reporter into the field in northern Israel to find out how Hizballah’s attack affected the local residents there, it is interesting to see Guerin’s focus on the topic of villagers in southern Lebanon. But what is really remarkable is the fact that despite the Kornet anti-tank missiles used in the attack having been fired from a location four or five kilometers inside Lebanese territory, Guerin makes no attempt to report on that aspect of the story.

Hizballah’s use of villages in southern Lebanon as weapons stores (in violation of UN SC Resolution 1701) is no secret. One of those villages – al Khiam – is not far from the location in which Orla Guerin filmed her report. And yet, Guerin refrained from using the opportunity provided by a rare BBC visit to southern Lebanon to inform audiences of the context of Hizballah’s use of civilian villages to store weapons and as sites from which to launch attacks against Israel which is essential for their full understanding of this story and its wider background. 

 

How the BBC framed the story of Hizballah’s latest attack

There is nothing novel about the BBC suggesting to its audiences that major decisions about Israel’s security are made according to the electoral considerations of the country’s leadership. In 2012 the corporation’s journalists repeatedly misled audiences by portraying an entire military operation in the Gaza Strip as having been motivated by electioneering.

It therefore came as no great surprise to find that the BBC’s framing of the Hizballah attack on IDF soldiers near Har Dov on January 28th included ‘analysis’ from its Beirut correspondent Jim Muir into which he managed to shoehorn the upcoming Israeli elections.

Later versions of the report titled “Three killed as Israel and Hezbollah clash on Lebanese border” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on January 28th included the insert below.

Har Dov Muir analysis a

An additional article published on January 29th under the headline “Hezbollah ‘sends anti-escalation message’ to Israel” informed readers that:

Har Dov Muir analysis b

In other words, Muir would have BBC audiences believe that the sole consideration taken into account by the Israeli leadership in deciding how to react to this latest terror attack is the potential effect on their chances at the ballot box. Really.

In addition to that so-called ‘analysis’, we see some interesting framing of Hizballah’s own considerations. Whilst Muir correctly cites the terrorist organisation’s involvement in the Syrian civil war as a factor which would deter it from escalating violence further, he refrains from telling BBC audiences about the domestic opposition inside Lebanon to being dragged into another war by the Iranian proxy.

Another interesting aspect of the BBC’s framing of this story is the minimal mention of Iran. In the first article readers were told that:

“Mr Netanyahu said Israel was “prepared to act powerfully on all fronts”, adding, “Security comes before everything else.”

His office accused Iran, Hezbollah’s main backer, of being behind a “criminal terror attack” by the Shia Islamist movement.”

Of course – contrary to the impression given to BBC audiences – the office of the Israeli prime minister is not the only body in the Middle East which recognizes Iran’s role in this latest attack carried out by its Lebanese proxy: so does Hizballah itself.

“Earlier this week, before the Katyusha fire, a Lebanese parliamentarian representing Hezbollah was asked on the TV station Al Manar about Hezbollah’s delay in responding to the January 18 strike. The parliamentarian replied that the organization is still formulating an appropriate response together with Syria and Iran. The response, he explained, must not be too small – like, for instance, planting bombs along the border fence where Israeli soldiers patrol – but that it also must not lead to war with Israel. Hezbollah, he said, must refrain from rash moves.”

Additional framing of the story comes in the form of an insert in both these reports titled “What are the Shebaa Farms?”.

Har Dov Shebaa Farms insert

The Shebaa Farms issue of course has nothing to do with this story directly other than the fact that the location of the January 28th attack on road 999 (part of which also serves civilian traffic going to and from Ghajar) is in close proximity to the area known as Shebaa Farms or Har Dov. Despite the fact that fifteen years ago the UN determined that the area does not belong to Lebanon, Hizballah has indeed used the issue as one of the pretexts for its continued existence. This particular attack, however, was clearly stated by Hizballah itself to be a response to the strike on its operatives and IRGC officers in the Syrian Golan Heights ten days earlier and is not connected to the subject matter of the BBC’s insert.

Framing, of course, is also facilitated by omission and in these two articles the BBC makes no effort to inform audiences of the fact that Hizballah is an internationally proscribed terror organization. Instead, the articles use terms such as “Hezbollah militants”, “fighters” and “Lebanese militant group”. Both articles include a side-bar link to the BBC’s profile of Hizballah which, as readers may recall, was given a sympathetic make-over in December 2013.

Another crucial factor affecting the framing of this story is the omission of any information concerning the various UN resolutions calling for the disarming of Hizballah, with the most recent of those being Resolution 1701. BBC audiences cannot form a proper understanding of this story if they are not informed of the fact that the party which carried out the attack, according to a unanimous UNSC decision, should not be armed and should not be operating south of the Litani River. Unfortunately, this is far from the first time that the BBC has failed to inform – and even misled – its funding public on that issue. 

The BBC and the Houthi logo

Viewers of the BBC World News programme ‘Impact‘ who recently watched a report by Safa al Ahmed (which also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on January 27th under the title “Yemen crisis: BBC gets rare access to Houthi rebels“) may have noticed a certain feature which cropped up repeatedly throughout the filmed footage.

Houthis report pics

Seeing as no attempt was made to explain that logo in Safa Al Ahmed’s report, audiences might perhaps have turned to the BBC News website’s profile of the group titled “Yemen crisis: Who are the Houthis?“. There they would have found that same logo appearing in a picture captioned “Houthi supporters took part in weeks of protests calling for fuel price cuts and a new government”.

Houthi profile art pic

So does that logo have anything to do with fuel prices or demands for political reform in Yemen? Well, no – and its recurrent appearance is not coincidental because that banner is actually the official emblem of the Houthis, as explained by the New York Times:

“It includes the words “Death to America, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews.” Houthis shout it when they march, wear it on arm patches, paint it on buildings and stick it onto their car windows. When pictured, those words are rendered in red, framed by “God is great” and “Victory to Islam” in green, on a white background.

Sometimes the red words are shown dripping blood.”

One might think that, given the BBC’s remit of building understanding of international issues, the corporation would consider that information worth communicating to its audiences, along with more comprehensive information on the Houthis’ alleged links to the Iranian regime (and Hizballah) than appear in its profile.

“Regional Shia power Iran has also been accused of giving financial and military support to the Houthis – something both have denied.”

“Saudi Arabia, the main Sunni power, believes that the rebels are backed militarily, financially and politically by its Shia regional arch-rival, Iran – something both have denied.”

Remarkably, the BBC does not appear to have much interest in conducting in-depth investigative reporting on that topic

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 flawed Second Lebanon war narrative crops up again

On December 20th the BBC News website published an article titled “UN asks Israel to pay Lebanon $850m over oil spill“.Leb oil spill art

The report relates to the decidedly Kafkaesque story of the UNGA passing a non-binding resolution demanding that Israel pay compensation to Lebanon for damage caused to a power plant during the 2006 Second Lebanon war, which was of course initiated (under the noses of UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon) by the very terrorist organization which the UN Security Council had demanded be disbanded and disarmed two years earlier in Resolution 1559.

At the end of that article we see an interesting example of how an inaccurate narrative becomes a permanent fixture in BBC reporting and then goes on to become flawed “historical record” in its archive material.

Readers are told that:

“The 2006 conflict began when the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah launched a raid into Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers.

Israel launched massive air and sea attacks on targets all over Lebanon, then invaded the south of the country.

More than 1,000 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and about 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, died.”

Of course Eldad Regev and Udi Goldwasser were not only kidnapped, but also killed. Significantly, the BBC makes no mention of the fact that Hizballah’s cross-border raid was accompanied by missile fire on Israeli communities before going on to describe the Israeli response and neither does it clarify that well over four thousand missiles were launched at civilian targets in Israel during the 34-day conflict. No mention is of course made of the fact that Hizballah is an Iranian-backed terrorist organisation.

Not for the first time we see the BBC claiming that the Lebanese casualties in that war were “mostly” civilians without providing any factual and independently verified evidence to support that claim. As has been noted here before:

“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.”

And thus, in a mere fifty-two words, the BBC has once again misled its audiences by omission and promoted an inaccurate narrative which – unless corrected – will become part of the permanent public record on its website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vital information missing in BBC reports on alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria

On the afternoon of December 7th the BBC News website published an article now titled “Israeli jets ‘strike near Damascus’ – Syrian army“. Changes made to the various versions of the report can be seen here and its initial version read as follows:

bombing Syria

In addition, a filmed report by Beirut correspondent Jim Muir was broadcast on BBC television news and appeared on the website under the title “Israeli jets ‘strike near Damascus’ – Syrian state TV“.

With Israel having declined to comment on the claims made by Syrian media and officials, both reports follow the format of previous ones on similar events, relying upon unconfirmed hearsay and conjecture. Notably, even after BBC News found itself under severe criticism nineteen months ago for uncritical repetition of the Assad regime’s propaganda (see here, here and here), the written article states:

“”This afternoon, the Israeli enemy targeted two safe areas in Damascus province, namely the Dimas area and the Damascus International Airport,” the military statement said.

It described the air strikes as “direct aggression” carried out to help the Syrian government’s opponents.” [emphasis added]

No effort is made to inform audiences of the redundancy of that Syrian regime propaganda.

But both these reports are in fact far more notable for what they do not include than for what they do. Neither of them informs audiences of Hizballah’s designation as a terrorist organization, with the written article stating:

“The Israeli air force has conducted several air strikes on Syria since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011.

They appear to have been mainly aimed at preventing weapons transfers to Syria’s allies in Lebanon, the militant Hezbollah movement, the BBC’s Jim Muir reports from Beirut.”

In the filmed version Muir stated:Muir filmed

“…which would be the fourth time that the Israelis have struck inside…erm…Syria since the war there began in 2011 – mainly attacks aimed at hitting or preventing weapons being transferred to Hizballah, according to the evidence that came out later. That’s of course Israel…Syria’s ally here in Lebanon.”

So, from international criminal and terrorist organization, Hizballah has been upgraded by Muir to the status of “Syria’s ally”, meaning of course that BBC audiences are being told a very selective part of the story. Interestingly, the BBC’s profile of Hizballah (faulty as it is) was not included in the ‘more on this story’ links presented at the side of and below the main article.

Neither was any effort made in either of the two reports to inform audiences of the highly relevant fact that, according to UN SC resolution 1701 all militias – including Hizballah – should have been disarmed and the sale or transfer of weapons to non-state actors is prohibited.

That factor, along with Hizballah’s designation as a terrorist organization, is crucial for proper audience understanding of the story as it is presented. The BBC, however, elected not to provide the information to its audiences.

Related Articles:

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BBC’s Bowen plays dumb to weave tangled web

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BBC suggests failure to convene Syria peace conference will be Israel’s fault

BBC transforms its correspondents’ conjecture into fact 

BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast’s massive Middle East mangle

Mishal Husain’s deferential and decidedly uninformative ‘interview’ with Hizballah’s Muhammad Fneish on November 13th was apparently the inspiration for an item on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Breakfast programme on the same day.5 live breakfast

Presenter Rachel Burden’s introduction to the item (available here for a limited period of time from 02:39:40) began as follows:

“Now, the Lebanese militant group Hizballah has told the BBC that the fight against Islamic State has given it a common purpose with Western powers. In an interview with the BBC one of its leaders blamed IS for killing more Muslims than its longtime enemy Israel.”

Of course the implication that until ISIS came along Israel held some sort of record for killing Muslims is grossly inaccurate and misleading, but Burden made no attempt to clarify that fact to listeners – or to inform them of Hizballah’s terrorist designation – before introducing her interviewee; former British Ambassador to Libya, Sir Richard Dalton.

After a conversation about developments in Libya, Burden said:

“It’s interesting, isn’t it, what the Lebanese militant group Hizballah have told the BBC: that the fight against Islamic State has given it a common purpose with Western powers – it’s on the same side of a conflict as American forces for once. Is this just an extreme example of our enemy’s enemy being our friend and if it is, does it herald any possible rapprochement with the group and maybe a way of hope for the Israel-Palestine process – peace process?”

Why the topic of negotiations between Israel and the PLO was introduced into an item supposedly broadcast within the framework of a BBC special feature on Syria is unclear, but given that this was the second time in a matter of minutes that Burden had informed audiences that Hizballah had told the BBC that it now has “a common purpose” with Western powers, let’s take a closer look at the relevant segment of that interview.

Mishal Husein: “And do you therefore see those Western states as your allies then rather than your enemies, given the fact that you have a common fight at the moment?”

Fneish: “Sometimes common interests do cross, but not necessarily for the same goals. These Jihadi groups would not have thrived and expanded if it wasn’t for some policies by Western states like the United States, Britain and France and also the involvement of some regional states. […] For us, if there’s a convergence at the moment, it is the result of those states changing their positions and not because of common political goals.”

Clearly Burden’s interpretation of the Hizballah representative’s words does not accurately reflect what was said. Richard Dalton replied to her question as follows:

“I wouldn’t go as far as that, no. These are local conflicts with local dynamics. One of the reasons for example that Iran has got such a strong link with Hizballah in Lebanon is that it wishes to provide deterrents against attacks on Iran’s own territory. So this is not a simple matter of being able to count on a particular alliance for one purpose and then seeing that alliance extended for another. The fact is that the conflict between Israel and Palestine is currently getting worse, with a negotiated solution further off than ever – largely because of policies adopted in Israel. And the fact is unless Western policy changes towards Israel and towards the Palestine-Israel conflict as a whole, we’re not going to see progress on that issue just because of a temporary coincidence of interest in confronting Islamic State.” [emphasis added]

Rachel Burden made no attempt whatsoever to clarify or challenge Dalton’s pejorative and inaccurate allegations or to point out to listeners that the last round of negotiations failed because the Palestinian Authority chose to form a unity government with a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction whilst knowing full well that act would bring an end to talks.

In other words, listeners to a peak-time breakfast show were misled by inaccurate representation of the words of a senior figure in a terrorist organization not defined as such, with that misrepresentation used as hook for an equally inaccurate representation of the reasons for failure of negotiations between Israel and the PLO – all in an item supposedly forming part of the BBC’s coverage of events in Syria.

So much for the BBC’s claim to “enhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.