Why is BBC Arabic amplifying Syrian regime propaganda?

Readers may recall that some two and a half years ago the BBC got itself into hot water by promoting Assad regime propaganda on its English language website. Two days after the appearance of an article claiming that “Israeli strikes on Syria ‘co-ordinated with terrorists'” the corporation responded to considerable public outcry by amending the headline.

Apparently though, lessons have not been fully learned from that incident.

As has previously been noted here, on August 21st a report appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page amplified a claim promoted by Syrian state TV according to which five men killed in an Israeli strike following a missile attack on northern Israel were “civilians”.BBC Arabic Sana propaganda

BBC Arabic however went even further. In a report dating from August 20th relating to Israeli airstrikes on regime targets in Syria which took place in response the same day’s missile attack on Israel, readers were provided with unadulterated Syrian state news agency propaganda.

“A statement by the agency SANA that the Israeli attacks aimed at “supporting armed terrorist organizations and raise the morale collapsed,” a reference to armed groups in Syria, which is fighting to overthrow the Syrian regime.”

There is of course nothing new about this particular genre of Syrian regime propaganda and Assad himself recently promoted it in an interview with Hizballah TV.

“In an interview with Hezbollah-affiliated Al Manar television on Monday, Assad said that Syria would not directly strike back at Israel for the attacks, but would hit Israel by fighting with rebels opposing his rule, whom he claimed were the “servants of Israel.”

“The real tools that Israel is using, which are more important than the recent attacks, they are the terrorists in Syria,” Assad said.

“If we want to deal with Israel, we must first deal with its proxies inside Syria,” he added.”

In the Middle East there are already countless media outlets reporting according to a particular political or ideological agenda. It is supposed to be the job of the BBC – including BBC Arabic and other foreign language services – to distinguish itself from regime-run media by providing audiences with accurate and impartial reporting which will enable them to understand what is fact and what is fiction. Uncritical and unchallenged amplification of obviously delusional Syrian regime propaganda is clearly not conducive to achieving that goal.

Another notable point concerning this BBC Arabic report is that the caption to the main photograph illustrating it states that “The Syrian side of the ceasefire line with Israel is currently witness to frequent clashes”. Readers would naturally therefore assume that the image shows the aftermath of one of those clashes on “the Syrian side of the ceasefire line”.

BBC Arabic Sana art photo

However, the exact same image was used in another BBC article produced on the same day and there it was described as showing northern Israel: “Rockets fired into Israel caused brushfires after hitting open areas near Galilee” [sic].

BBC Arabic Sana cf photo

One of those captions is obviously inaccurate and misleading.

Related Articles:

BBC promotes Assad propaganda in Syria reports

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ promotes more Syrian regime propaganda

Michael Totten takes on a BBC headline

No BBC follow up on PIJ cell it promoted as ‘civilians’

As readers no doubt recall, on August 21st the BBC promoted a claim aired on Syrian state TV according to which the people killed in an Israeli strike on members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell which fired four missiles into Israel the previous day were “five civilians”.

On August 23rd Israel’s Channel 10 News reported that the five men were members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Syria and residents of the Al Wafdin refugee camp north-east of Damascus. The report named the men as Mohammed Taysir Shehadeh, Yousuf Fathi al Hatib, Abdo Hishan, Mohammed Hishan and Jiat Abu Aishe, adding:

“On Syrian state television it was claimed that the vehicle targeted by the IDF was a civilian vehicle belonging to residents of the Quneitra district. However a check of the vehicle’s licence plate, number 494882, indicates that it belongs to the Damascus district which is known to host the headquarters of the Islamic Jihad and the headquarters of Iran’s liason with the Syrian intelligence.”

Despite having promoted the PIJ’s denial of involvement in last week’s missile fire on Israeli civilian targets and subsequently having also amplified the claim regarding “civilians” made on Syrian state TV, the BBC has to date shown no sign of having carried out any further investigation into this story in order to present its audiences with accurate information which would improve their understanding of the story.

More than a third of BBC report on ISIS destruction of Christian site is about Israel

h/t: MR

BBC audiences might reasonably expect an article carrying the headline “Islamic State in Syria demolishes ancient Mar Elian monastery” to inform them about the wanton destruction of a 1,500 year-old historic religious building. However, a significant proportion of the report appearing under that title on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 21st actually dealt with another topic altogether; curiously described as “a separate development”.Mar Elian art

The article has undergone numerous changes since its initial appearance which can be viewed here. All four versions, however, devote over a third of their word count to the topic of an Israeli strike on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists responsible for the missile attacks on the Upper Galilee region on August 20th.

The original article devoted 36.8% of its word count to that “separate development”, the second version 48.4%, the third version 47.3% and in the version currently available, 34% of the article is not about the destruction of the Mar Elian monastery.

Under the sub-heading “Golan strikes”, the latest version (which is currently illustrated using the same image twice) informs audiences:

“In a separate development, at least five people have died in an Israeli strike on a Syrian-held section of the Golan Heights.

Israel has carried out a series of raid [sic] in the area, which lies in south-western Syria, after rockets fired from Syria struck its territory on Thursday. The rockets set fire to scrubland but did not cause any casualties.”

The number of missiles launched in that cross-border attack is not specified and the fact that there are numerous rural communities in the area in which they landed is not clarified. No effort is made to explain to audiences the wider significance of a missile attack on Israeli civilian targets launched from a section of territory still under the control of the Iranian-backed Syrian regime which, in theory at least, lies within a demilitarised zone supposedly administered by the UN. The report continues with downplaying of the PIJ’s Iranian backing.

“Israel’s military has accused Palestinian militants from the Islamic Jihad group of firing the rockets, who Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran had given “sponsorship and instruction” to [sic].

While the Israelis said five or six militants were killed, a Syrian army source, quoted on Syrian state TV, said the strike killed five civilians.

One Syrian soldier was earlier reported killed in an Israeli strike on military positions in the Syrian-held section of the Golan Heights.

Israel seized most of the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War.”

In other words, BBC audiences are encouraged to view a statement aired on Syrian regime-controlled media as being equally plausible to the one concerning Friday’s strike put out by official Israeli sources.

Interestingly, the BBC chooses not to communicate to its audiences the information on this topic put out by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which is quoted in relation to the subject matter of the earlier part of the article.

“The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the country’s war, said the five dead were members of pro-government National Defense Forces. It did not elaborate.”

The Lebanese media organization Al Mayadeen – known to be close to another Iranian proxy, Hizballah – reported that “three of the people killed in the strike were Palestinian” and one Syrian.

In addition to being bizarrely placed in an article about another topic altogether, the information provided to BBC audiences on this subject once again fails to adequately enhance their understanding of current developments on the Israel-Syria border. 

 

Superficial and inaccurate BBC reporting on cross-border incident in northern Israel

At around 5:30 pm on the afternoon of August 20th, four missiles fired from Syria hit areas on the lower flanks of the Golan Heights and in the Galilee Panhandle. Several hours later an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page with the typical ‘last-first’ reporting style title “Israel fires missiles into Syria after rocket attack“.

Like all BBC News content, that article’s aim was to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” and to inform by means of the provision of “reliable and unbiased information of relevance, range and depth” whilst adhering to standards of accuracy and impartiality. But were those criteria met?Irua Galil Eliyon

The main photograph used to illustrate the report is captioned:

“Rockets fired into Israel caused brushfires after hitting open areas near Galilee” [emphasis added]

Two of the missiles landed in the Upper Galilee district – not “near” it – and we know that the BBC is aware of that because it later quotes an IDF statement.

“A statement released by the Israeli military said the rockets that hit the upper Galilee region….”

The article opens:

“An Israeli aircraft has fired missiles at a building in Syria’s Golan Heights in response to a rocket strike on an Israeli village, according to reports.”

There were four missile strikes – not one as suggested by that phrasing – and the projectiles landed in more than one location. Later on readers are again told that:

“Earlier rockets landed near a village in northern Israel.”

Obviously the main story here is an unprovoked missile attack on civilian targets across an international border. The wider significance of that incident and the effects of the attack on the people it targeted receive no coverage in this BBC report, which devotes almost three times more wording to the topic of the Israeli response than to the missile attack itself.

The bulk of the 318-word article, however, is devoted to the subject of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s denial of involvement via a spokesman over 250 kms away in the Gaza Strip.

“Israeli officials blamed the rocket strike on the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, which denied the claim.

A statement released by the Israeli military said the rockets that hit the upper Galilee region “were launched from the Syrian Golan Heights… by Islamic Jihad, sponsored by Iran”.

The statement went on to say that Israel “holds the Syrian government responsible for attacks emanating from Syria”.

Islamic Jihad had previously threatened reprisals should one of its activists in Israeli detention, Mohammed Allan, die of a hunger strike, but Mr Allan called off his fast on Wednesday after an Israeli court suspended his detention.

Mr Allan is believed to have suffered brain damage after going 65 days without food.” [emphasis added]

The inclusion of the description of Mohammed Allan as “one of its activists” is particularly notable given that the BBC has previously told audiences in two reports (including the link provided) that his affiliation with the terror organization is only “alleged”. The article continues with amplification of PIJ propaganda and a remarkable insinuation:

“Islamic Jihad’s leaders are based in the Syrian capital. Dawoud Shehab, a spokesman for the group who is based in Gaza, denied it had fired on Israel.

“Israel is trying to divert attention from the defeat that it suffered in the face of the determination of the hero prisoner, Mohammed Allan,” Shehab told Reuters.

Islamic Jihad has publicly acknowledged receiving support from Iran, a connection Israel has sought to highlight as it campaigns against the proposed US deal with Iran.” [emphasis added]

In other words, readers are encouraged to view Israeli army statements on this incident as being influenced or dictated by the Israeli government’s stance on the P5+1 (not “US” as stated here) deal with Iran known as the JCPOA.

It is not clarified to readers that the cross-border attack was launched from one of the few areas along the Syrian border with Israel that are still held by the Assad regime – which is of course heavily dependent upon Iran and its proxies at present – and the obviously relevant context of prior Iranian and Iranian-backed activity along that border is absent from this report.

Towards the end of the article readers find more evidence of the BBC’s geographically challenged reporting, tortured phrasing and predictable whitewashing of an internationally recognized terror organization.

“The stretch of border involved in the exchange has been largely quiet since the 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.”

A “border” was obviously not “involved in the exchange”: borders do not fire missiles at civilians. Neither is it clear to which border the BBC refers – the Israel-Lebanon border as implied by its reference to the 2006 war or the Israel-Syria border across which these latest missiles were actually fired but where there was no fighting during the 2006 war.

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘guerilla’ as follows:

“A member of a small independent group taking part in irregular fighting, typically against larger regular forces.”

Hizballah does not confine its activities to attacks on the Israeli military and it is certainly not independent – as evidenced by its Iranian patronage.

The article closes with the following statement:

“Israel captured the western Golan in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it, a move not recognised internationally.”

The context of why that war began and the obviously relevant history of the pre-1967 Syrian attacks on Israeli villages in the Galilee Panhandle and elsewhere which made it necessary for Israel to take the Golan Heights are not included in that partisan account.

So did readers of this article really get the “reliable and unbiased information of relevance, range and depth” which would enhance their understanding of this incident and its wider implications? Hardly – and as long as the BBC continues to whitewash Iranian backed terrorist organisations and the ideology underpinning them, that will remain the case.

BBC News again amplifies unchallenged Hizballah spin

An article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 6th under the headline “Hezbollah vows to attack al-Nusra rebels ‘inside Syria’” is remarkable on two counts.Nasrallah speech art

Whilst this is by no means the first time that the BBC has presented airbrushed and uncritical accounts of speeches made by Hassan Nasrallah, this report on the Hizballah leader’s May 5th address makes no attempt to provide readers with background and context necessary for informed understanding of the story’s topic.

Readers are told that:

“Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah says his Lebanese Shia group will launch an attack inside Syria on Sunni militants fighting for the al-Nusra Front.

Mr Nasrallah said the mountainous border area of Qalamoun would be the target, but did not specify when.”

The fact that Hizballah has already been involved in the conflict in Syria for considerable time is reflected only in the following sentence.

“Hezbollah, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has sent hundreds of fighters to join the Syrian civil war.”

Significantly, neither in that statement nor anywhere in the rest of the report is any mention made of the highly relevant fact that Hizballah functions as one of Iran’s proxies in Syria – as outlined in this report.

“As the fighting in Syria enters the fifth year, it is evident to all that what is happening is not a local civil rebellion against a tyrannical regime, but a war in which both the Syrian regime and the Syrian opposition are being actively supported by numerous regional and international forces. The most prominent foreign element involved in this war is Iran, which is throwing its entire weight into ensuring the survival of the regime. In addition to providing economic aid, arms, and advice, its support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad includes combat forces – from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), from Hizbullah in Lebanon, and from the Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani Shi’ite militias that are loyal to Iran.”

The BBC report states:

“In a televised address on Tuesday, Mr Nasrallah said cross-border attacks by militants from the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front posed an unacceptable threat to Lebanon’s security and required “radical treatment”.

“The (Lebanese) state is not able to address this issue… so we will proceed with the necessary treatment and assume the responsibility and consequences,” he added.”

The BBC makes no attempt to examine whether or not Nasrallah’s claim that his militia will take action because the Lebanese government’s official armed forces are unable to do so is in fact accurate. Neither does it make any attempt to inform audiences of Lebanese voices with a different view of the situation than the one presented by Nasrallah and uncritically amplified by the BBC. An editorial in the Daily Star, for example, notes that:

“Whatever their political orientation, Lebanese acknowledge the threat posed by jihadis to their country. But Hezbollah’s declaration that the Army is incapable of defeating the jihadis, and its decision to tackle the problem alone, can only lead to awkwardness.

Hezbollah’s policy of secrecy as the battles rage – Nasrallah said the party’s “actions” would speak for themselves – is coupled with avoidance of any kind of consultation with the Lebanese authorities when it comes to hugely important matters such as the scope and ramifications of the fighting in Qalamoun.

As evidenced by Nasrallah’s address, nothing has changed when it comes to Hezbollah’s stance, linked to its all-or-nothing involvement in the Syrian war, despite the repeated warnings by Lebanese parties about the consequences.” [emphasis added]

Naharnet reports:

“Earlier on Tuesday, al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri accused Hizbullah of seeking to “import the Syrian blaze into Lebanon” by waging an assault in Qalamun “under the pretext of the preemptive war against the terrorist groups.””

And as the WSJ’s Sohrab Ahmari reported recently:

“Lebanon is once more hostage to outside actors, mainly Iran and its proxies. “Hezbollah has a kind of veto power on the political life of Lebanon,” says Samir Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces, a Christian militia turned political party, and a pillar of the anti-Hezbollah March 14 Alliance that grew out of the Cedar Revolution. “Not everything that Hezbollah wants will go on, but everything that Hezbollah wants to veto is vetoed.””

Curiously, the self-styled “standard setter for international journalism” did not find it necessary to balance its unchallenged and uncritical amplification of Hassan Nasrallah’s spin by informing its audiences that such voices even exist in Lebanon.

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.

Related Articles:

Iranian military activity in southern Syria under-reported by BBC

Airbrushing Hizballah: BBC News report on Nasrallah speech

BBC ME editor’s analysis of threat to Christians: IS, extreme Islam – and Israel

h/t: MG, SI

The April 14th edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme included an interview (available here for a limited period of time from 01:49:45) with Cardinal Vincent Nichols on the subject of his recent visit to displaced Christian communities in Iraq.Today 14 4

 Immediately after that interview, presenter Mishal Husain brought in Jeremy Bowen (from 01:54:35) for further analysis of the issue of the plight of Christian communities in Iraq as described by Cardinal Nichols and listeners heard an ‘interesting’ interpretation of the cause of Islamist violence against Christians in that country.

MH: “On the line is our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. Jeremy, listening to Cardinal Nichols, it’s a reminder that although we may see the fight against IS and the position in the Middle East at the moment often through sectarian…in sectarian terms and through that sort of prism, this has been traditionally a religiously diverse part of the world.”

JB: “Yes. In Syria and Iraq there was a delicate mosaic – a very interesting mosaic – of different faiths which really has been shattered now. In Iraq, in the last…since 2011…since the war started there…sorry; in Syria I should say…2011…but in Iraq it’s been going on since the invasion by American-led forces in 2003 in that since then, the population of Iraqi Christians has been reduced pretty much by more than half. And there have…it’s been a catastrophe for them which started before the rise of Islamic State, which started as a consequence of the invasion. And if you talk to the Christian communities in other parts of the Middle East as I often do, a lot of them will look to that example of Iraq and say we do not want to be like Iraq and now they’ll also say of course we don’t want to be like what’s been happening in Syria too.” [emphasis added]

Following a question about the possibility of Iraqi Christians from the Nineveh Plains being able to return to their homes, Husain said:

MH: “Perhaps we’ve only just recently woken up to the reality of what’s been happening to minority communities in this part of the world because of all the headlines and the attention that’s been grabbed by Islamic State. From what you’re saying, this is a much longer phenomenon.”

JB: “Well, Christians have been leaving the Middle East for an awfully long time. There are well-established groups of émigré Middle Eastern Christians in all sorts of countries – in South America for example; one region of the world. But…ehm…what has changed; the rise of extreme Islam – which of course has resulted in the killing of many Muslims – has also resulted over the last ten years or so in a lot of Christian communities being dislocated and it’s become particularly acute since the rise of Islamic State. And it’s not just Islamic State either: Christians in Egypt feel very threatened there by different kinds of religious extremism. There is still a large community of Christians in Egypt, also in Lebanon – they’re pretty well established in Lebanon and strong but they again feel pressure. And Palestinian Christians as well feel threatened from not just of course from extreme Islam, but they also feel threatened by what the Israeli government might be doing. So all round the place when you look at it, it’s difficult.” [emphasis added]

Bowen of course provided no fact-based support for his fallacious claim that Palestinian Christian communities are “threatened” by Israel and neither did he inform listeners that the Christian community in Israel is both safe and thriving.

But no less remarkable is the fact that Bowen would clearly have listeners believe that, in terms of threats to Middle East Christian communities, “what the Israeli government might be doing” (whatever that bizarre phrase is supposed to mean) can and should be seen as being on a par with the religiously motivated persecution and slaughter of Christians (and of course other minorities) by Islamist extremists.

And that, dear readers, is from the man whose entire job was created with the stated intention of “providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”. 

 

 

 

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.

Related Articles:

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