UKMW prompts important addendum to Indy article on IDF ‘whooping’ video

Cross posted from UK Media Watch

On April 10th, The Independent republished a New York Times article by Isabel Kershner (“Israeli forces caught in video shooting Palestinian man then whooping”) that was published on April 9th.

The report cited grainy video footage from several months ago “appearing to show Israeli troops shooting a Palestinian man across the border fence at a time when he posed no obvious threat…and then rejoicing”.  The NYT then highlighted the fact that “another soldier who appears to be videoing the scene whoops with excitement”, footage the NYT claims bolsters criticism that the IDF uses “disproportionate force” against Gaza “protesters”.

However, the report doesn’t include the official IDF statement about the video which was available more than an hour before the Indy republished the NYT piece.  The IDF statement, as reported by multiple Israeli news outlets, significantly changes the story, as it provides Israel’s account of the circumstances – and context – by which the Palestinian man was shot.  This includes prior warnings given by the soldier for the man to halt, the fact that he was shot in the leg and not killed, and that he had led a violent protest at the border which included the use of Molotov cocktails.

These facts are important because the article claims that the Palestinian man who was shot appeared to “pose no threat”.

Also of relevance is the fact that, per the IDF statement, the man heard celebrating would now be subjected to a disciplinary hearing for his inappropriate behavior.

Following communication with editors at The Independent over the course of a couple of weeks, the following addendum was added containing this relevant information.

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Guardian op-ed challenges the ‘rigid’ Yom Ha’atzmaut ‘orthdoxy’ that Israel should exist

Cross posted from UK Media Watch

Last week, Israel – and its supporters around the world – marked 70 years of its existence, as the country celebrated Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day. In Israel, it is a day when political differences and arguments are put to one side, as the country joins together to celebrate its achievements, and its very existence. But the Guardian naturally wasn’t going to change course, and published a typically Guardian opinion piece to mark the day.

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Michael Segalov’s opinion piece complains that Yom Haatzmaut does “not leave room for nuance”, and “only creates space for a certain type of Jew,” before reminding us that “Judaism has a long and proud history of dissent and disagreement”. He argues that Jews should follow the idea of seeing “Israel Independence Day as an opportunity for debate.”

Often UK Media Watch focuses on bias and inaccurate reporting.  But, in this case, it falls to us to dismember an incredibly weak opinion article, which surely would not have been published were it not to flatter the opinions of the editors.

The argument that Yom Haatzmaut doesn’t leave room for nuance is simply wrong. One can be right-wing or left-wing, secular or religious, Jewish or non-Jewish, pro-Netanyahu or anti, and basically subscribe to any political ideology under the sun, and celebrate Yom Haatzmaut. This isn’t just theoretical – this is the reality in Israel! Celebrating Yom Haatzmaut simply means you celebrate the existence of a Jewish state of Israel in some form. This is as basic a requirement as possible, and does not in any way preclude what form that state should take.

As often with anti-Israel articles, one sees the warped and convoluted logic when applying this “Israel-speak” to another country. Almost all countries in the world celebrate an Independence Day. The statement that “celebrating Bastille Day leaves no room for nuance, and implies there is only one way to be French,” is just a non starter. Yet such nonsense is seen enlightened when said about Israel.

Segalov’s argument is also profoundly underdeveloped, or frankly non-existent. He quotes, disapprovingly, the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, who said that Zionism is inseparable from Judaism, and counters that we should not make Zionism a part of the Jewish faith. But Judaism is not Mr Segalov’s plaything, and he does not actually present a counter argument himself. His response to the Chief Rabbi is a) that opinion only creates room for one type of Jew, and b) Judaism has a tradition of dissent.

His essential response to “Zionism is inseparable from Judaism” is a) I don’t like that, and b) Judaism allows for multiple lines of argument, even though I haven’t actually provided one.  This is not so much an opinion piece, more an I-don’t-like-their-opinion piece.

And finally, he should call a spade a spade. What is the content of the “debate” Mr Segalov is calling for? If one is calling for a debate on Independence Day, isn’t that a polite way of calling to debate the very existence of the country? One cannot “debate” in the abstract, one must debate something – an argument, a concept, a preposition. Mr Segalov stops short of saying what his proposition is, but leaves little to the imagination. In his mind, the correct way to mark Israel’s independence is to challenge its continued independence.

Here is the final irony of the article. Segalov calls for diversity, room for multiple voices. If only the Guardian had that ability to create space for another voice – for just one day a year, to put aside its qualms, and to join in recognising the tremendous achievements of Israel. Alas, until then, it seems the Guardian’s monotony of gloom and doom about Israel will continue.

Aron White has a BSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of London (Lead College: LSE), and is a graduate of the Jewish Statesmanship Center in Jerusalem. His writings have been published at the Jerusalem Post, JNS, The Daily Caller and the Algemeiner.

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BBC’s preferred terminology hinders audience understanding

The April 17th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outlook‘ included an item by Jerusalem bureau correspondent Yolande Knell (from 37:30 here) about a dog shelter in Beit Sahour which has been the topic of reports by other media outlets in the past.

Beit Sahour is located in Area A and has been under the complete control of the Palestinian Authority since 1995. However that relevant fact was not mentioned at all throughout the item, which was introduced by presenter Jo Fidgen using the term ‘occupied West Bank’.

Fidgen: “On nearly every street in the occupied West Bank you see stray dogs wandering about or scrapping or lounging in the sun. From time to time they’re hit by cars or abused by humans. And then what? There are vets in the West Bank but many of the surgeries are poorly equipped and anyway they’re more geared up for treating farm animals than pets. But one Palestinian woman has made it her mission to look after them. Our reported Yolande Knell went to the West Bank dog shelter to meet her.”

The BBC Academy’s style guide recognises that the geo-political divisions in the region are “complicated”:

“…the phrase ‘Palestinian Territories’ refers to the areas that fall under the administration of the Palestinian Authority […]. These are complicated to work out because of the division of the West Bank into three areas…” 

One would therefore have thought that following Fidgen’s use of the unhelpful broad brush term ‘occupied West Bank’, listeners would be given a more precise description of the location of the story they were hearing – but that was not the case.

Knell: “We’re on a patch of wasteland at the edge of Beit Sahour, just outside Bethlehem.”

Knell: “Just give us an idea of the problem here in the Palestinian areas…”

That meant that when listeners later heard the answer to a question posed by Knell to her interviewee, they had no idea that the “government” to which she referred is the Palestinian Authority.

Knell: “What needs to be done here to change attitudes towards animal welfare?”

Babish: “It needs time, it needs also the government to support this.”

The same BBC Academy style guide recognises the political implications of the term ‘occupied West Bank’:

“It is, however, also advisable not to overuse the phrase within a single report in case it is seen as expressing support for one side’s view.” 

Nevertheless, the fact that the BBC chooses to use that particular terminology – together with the fact that it more often than not fails to adequately clarify to audiences that the vast majority of the Palestinian population in what it terms the ‘occupied West Bank’ lives under the rule of the Palestinian Authority – does not contribute to audience understanding of stories such as this.

Another aspect of this report may also have confused listeners.

Babish: “Basically I go to Israeli clinics and hospitals because they have the medical labs, they have x-rays, they have efficient doctors. Here we lack all of these so that’s why I take the dogs over there.”

Knell: “Every week Diana goes to Israel to try and find homes for her dogs.”

BBC audiences have of course been told for years that Palestinians suffer from “major constrictions on freedom of movement“, that “freedom of movement is also restricted by hundreds of checkpoints, roadblocks and other obstacles“, that “Israeli troops have also […] severely restricted the movement of Palestinian civilians” and of “the challenges of mobility in the West Bank“.

Now however they suddenly hear about a Palestinian woman who not only goes to Israel “every week” but also takes sick and injured dogs with her for treatment. Obviously BBC audience understanding would benefit from less simplistic portrayals of that topic too.

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BBC again mainstreams ‘one-state’ without an explanation

In late March the BBC announced a ‘global season’ called ‘Crossing Divides’ commencing on April 23rd.

“In the week of 23 April, BBC News is presenting a global season looking at the ways in which people connect across the fractures that divide societies – fractures between people who believe in different politics, religion or of different races, classes or ages.” 

And:

“From 23 April the BBC uncovers more than 40 stories of how people across the globe are working together to find solutions in a polarised world.

The week-long season on radio, TV and online features encounters between people who have different political beliefs, faiths or are of different races, classes and generations.”

Five days prior to that stated launch date, on the day that Israelis were celebrating 70 years of independence, the BBC News website posted a filmed report by Richard Kenny for a BBC programme called ‘World Hacks’ which is described as “An innovative new weekly programme looking at how we can solve the world’s problems”.

Titled “The peace talks with a difference“, the film is described as being about “How one man is getting ordinary Palestinians and Israelis to talk peace with each other”.

“There’s a new set of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. But no politicians. Just ordinary citizens. […] The Israel Palestinian conflict shows no sign of ending and the two governments aren’t talking to each other. So one Israeli academic has taken the initiative.”

BBC audiences are not told that the organisation showcased in this report – ‘Minds of Peace’ – was set up over seven years ago and that even when “the two governments” were engaged in negotiations in January 2014, its activities were strongly opposed by some Palestinian factions.

“Israeli peace activists who arrived in Ramallah recently were forced to leave the city under Palestinian Authority [PA] police protection.

The activists were escorted out of Ramallah in police vans after Palestinian protesters attacked the hotel where a “peace conference” between Israelis and Palestinians was taking place.

The event in Ramallah was organized by Minds of Peace, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is “Grassroots Peace Making and Public Diplomacy: A novel approach to the peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

Although the event in Ramallah was supposed to last for two days, during which Israelis and Palestinians would talk about peace and coexistence, as soon as the conference began at City Inn Hotel in Ramallah, scores of Palestinian activists arrived at the scene, chanting slogans against the presence of Israelis in Ramallah. […]

The protest finally forced the organizers of the conference to call it off, with the Israelis quickly leaving Ramallah out of concern for their safety.

“The situation outside is very tense and we have to stop here,” Ibrahim Enbawai, one of the Palestinian participants in the conference declared after a brief chat with the police commander. “There are hundreds of people outside and the police have asked that we stop the event.”

The following day, January 9, the Israeli and Palestinian activists tried to meet at the Ambassador Hotel in Jerusalem. But here, too, they were confronted by dozens of Palestinian “anti-normalization” activists who forced the Israelis and Palestinians to leave the hotel in a humiliating manner.”

Viewers did however see context-free and inaccurate statements made by participants in the filmed meeting (which, incidentally, took place on March 9th and was advertised with promotion of the BBC’s coverage) highlighted in the BBC’s report.

“Before that we lived together in peace. But the occupation is a big reason for this thing.”

“The environment in the checkpoints is inciting a lot of violence.”

The BBC’s film mainstreamed the notion that the one-state ‘solution’ is one legitimate option for resolution of the conflict:

“They try to cover all issues such as should there be a one-state or a two-state solution.”

Apparently the BBC is comfortable with the idea that “working together to find solutions in a polarised world” can include mainstreaming the one-state ‘solution’ – but without bothering to inform audiences (once again) that such a ‘solution’ in fact means eradication of the Jewish state and elimination of the Jewish right to self-determination.

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BBC R4, WS mark Israeli independence with ‘nakba’ and ‘one-state’

h/t AS, RS

The April 19th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ – presented by Sarah Montague – included an item (from 33:34 here) that used Israel’s 70th Independence Day celebrations as a hook on which to hang the promotion of a political narrative and a campaign.

Montague began by inaccurately claiming that the day of the broadcast was the day upon which Israel was founded according to the Hebrew calendar. In fact, the date of Israel’s Declaration of Independence is the 5th of Iyar, which this year fell on Friday, April 20th.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Montague: “In the Hebrew calendar it was 70 years ago today that Israel was first founded. To mark the establishment of the Jewish state there will be 70 hours of celebrations in the country. Going by the Western calendar, the date of independence was May the 14th in 1948 and as in every year since then, Palestinians will mark that same event, which they call ‘al Nakba’ – the day of catastrophe – as a time of mourning and anger. Our correspondent Caroline Wyatt’s been looking back to 1948 and talking to a Palestinian writer and an Israeli Rabbi who both live in the UK about what the creation of Israel means to them today.”

Caroline Wyatt found it appropriate to open her item began with an archive newsreel recording in which the founders of the Jewish state were portrayed as “lawless” and “thugs”. She apparently failed to recognise the irony of a newsreel that described the same British authorities which had actively prevented Jews in both the pre and post-war eras from reaching safety in Mandate Palestine as the representatives of “law and order”.

Archive recording: “Against a background which daily gains resemblance to war-scarred Europe, Palestine is now gripped with almost unrestricted racial warfare. With British influence waning and United Nations actions still delayed, the lawless elements of Jew and Arab populations take over from the servants of a policy of law and order.”

Wyatt: “This was the drama of Palestine as Pathé News headlined its war report in January 1948. It was the year after the newly formed United Nations accepted the idea of partitioning Palestine. One zone for the Jews, to be known as Israel, and the other zone for the Arabs who formed the majority of the population there at the time. It was a plan accepted by the Jewish Agency for Palestine but rejected by Arab leaders, so the fighting continued.”

Archive recording: “In the back streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Jaffa the thugs of both sides build up the armoured cars for war against each other. In between them – victims of the struggle – stand the great majorities of civil people on both sides.”

Wyatt: “The last of the British soldiers that had been there under the British mandate that administered Palestine for a quarter of a century withdrew from the region on May the 14th 1948 – the day before the mandate was due to expire.”

Listeners then heard an archive recording of Ben Gurion preparing to read out the declaration of independence – an event which Wyatt inaccurately claimed took place “at midnight” when in fact it took place at 4 p.m. so as not to run into Shabbat.

Wyatt: “At midnight that same day David Ben Gurion, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared the State of Israel. For many Jews it was the culmination of over two thousand years of hope – and the beginning of 70 years of struggle of the Palestinian people. Professor Eugene Rogan is the director of St Antony’s College Middle East Centre at Oxford University.”

BBC audiences are of course familiar with the style of commentary on the Middle East advanced by Eugene Rogan but nevertheless his promotion of the falsehood that there had been an entity called the “State of Palestine” before May 14th 1948 is remarkable.

Rogan: “The founding of Israel meant very different things to the different stakeholders in the Middle East. For partisans of the Zionist movement it was the realisation of a generation’s old aspiration: to establish a statehood for the Jewish people. Coming in the aftermath of the Holocaust, it seemed to vindicate the greatest of hopes at a time when the Jewish people had suffered their worst of catastrophes. But of course for the Palestinian Arab people, the creation of the State of Israel came at the expense of their homeland: the State of Palestine as it had been ruled under British mandate since 1920. And so for them, rather than this being a moment of joy or triumph, it was a moment of their catastrophe and they’ve called it that ever since. They refer to it as the Nakba – the Arabic word for catastrophe.”

Listeners next heard from another academic who has also been a BBC contributor in the past and whose resume includes having been an advisor to Yasser Arafat – although that was not clarified.

Khalidi: “I’m Ahmad Samih Khalidi. I come from an ancient Jerusalemite Arab family. I was born and lived in exile. I am a writer and commentator. Currently I’m associated with St Anthony’s College at Oxford. I am myself a product of the Nakba. I was born in 1948 and my whole life of course has been determined by this experience, as has that of all my contemporaries, my family and everyone, really, who I relate to on a daily basis.”

Wyatt: “Ahmad Khalidi has spent much of his adult life involved in trying to help find a peaceful resolution for this one land claimed by two peoples.”

Khalidi: “This was an entity that had taken over my homeland, dispossessed my people, so there was an ongoing struggle and Israel was seen as an aggressive state that had dispossessed the people of Palestine and was bent on expanding its presence in the region. Later as I grew up it became more apparent to me that this was something that I personally had to do something about.”

After an ostensibly ‘neutral’ academic and a Palestinian voice, Wyatt introduced her ‘balance’ – an American-born, UK resident interviewee who has a “complex” relationship with Israel.

Wyatt: “So what about those for whom Israel has been a refuge? In north London I go to a deli – Falafel Feast – to meet an Orthodox Rabbi, Natan Levy, who’s known in the UK for fasting over Ramadan – an attempt to bring about greater understanding between Muslims and Jews. He says his relationship with Israel has long been a complex one.”

Levy: “When I was growing up in America we had family members that had the trauma – not just the history – but the trauma of the Holocaust was really real. My mum had a bag packed for us; each of the children had a bag packed at the front door. Just in case something should go horribly wrong we could grab our bags and our passports and run to Israel, the Holy Land, that was always seen – even before I’d ever been there – as the place of safety. We all have Israeli passports and my oldest daughter was born there.”

Wyatt: “Yet Natan Levy’s attitude towards Israel has changed over time.”

Levy: “So for my yeshiva – the place where I learned to be a Rabbi – was actually in the West Bank. There I guess you would say I was a settler with the ideologies that went along with being a settler. This land is all ours, promised in the Torah – in the Old Testament – and slowly I came to realise; we were on top of the hill and at the bottom of the hill was a Palestinian farm that had also been there for generation upon generation. And bit by bit it seemed like everyone was in a sort of prison. Everyone was kept separate. The fences were too big and eventually we began a bit of conversation with the people at the bottom and their story, like ours, was filled with longing and hope and deep trauma. And the more I spoke to them, the harder it was to justify being on top of the hill and having a fence between us.”

Levy studied at a yeshiva in Gush Etzion – an area in which Jews had purchased land and built communities years before the arrival of the British-backed invading Jordanian army in 1948. Radio 4 listeners were of course not informed of those narrative-spoiling facts and similarly Wyatt did not bother to clarify the role of Palestinian terror in her portrayal of ‘growing fences’.  

Wyatt: “Over the years the fences in Israel have grown, while hopes of a deeper dialogue on peace have withered. Ahmed Khalidi describes himself now as deeply pessimistic about the prospects.”

Khalidi: “The outlines of a two-state solution have slipped away. I think this one-state reality has now taken over. It’s becoming more deeply entrenched. I’m not suggesting that there is some kind of ideal solution out there that will emerge from this one-state reality. In fact one of my concerns is that the one-state reality may end up as a one-state nightmare. But if we don’t have partition and we can’t have a genuine one-state reality in which the two sides can live together, then we’re going to have a state of perpetual conflict.”

The item ended with that unchallenged and unquestioned promotion from ‘one-stater’ Ahmad Khalidi and no clarification was provided to BBC audiences to explain that what the Oxford academic is in fact touting is the demise of the Jewish state.

And not only did BBC Radio 4 find it appropriate to provide a stage for promotion of the campaign to end to Jewish self-determination on the very day that it was being celebrated, but the same item was also broadcast to BBC World Service listeners (from 45:05 here) in the afternoon edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day.

 

After three months BBC corrects inaccurate claim

Back in January the BBC News website published an article about one of the communities of Jews who immigrated to Israel from India in which readers were told that:

“…the biggest crisis faced by the community was in 1962 when the chief rabbinate prohibited Bene Israelis from marrying Jews from other communities.”

As noted here at the time, that portrayal is inaccurate and BBC Watch wrote to the BBC News website but did not receive a reply.

Mr Stephen Franklin made a complaint to the BBC on that issue which was initially rejected. Mr Franklin filed a second complaint and – two months later – received the following response:

“Thank you for getting in touch again about our feature article entitled: Israel’s Indian Jews and their lives in the ‘promised land’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-42731363) and we’re sorry that the initial response from our central complaints team did not address your specific concerns.

To hopefully do so now, you are quite correct and we’ve since amended this sentence to now read:

But the biggest crisis faced by the community was in 1962, when a rabbinic council decreed that Bene Israelis would have to have their maternal ancestry investigated if they wanted to marry Jews from other communities.

We’ve also added a correction note at the bottom of the article which outlines this change.

We hope you’ll find this satisfactory and thank you once again for getting in touch.”

The footnote added to the article reads:

The continuing absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website of course means that anyone who read this article in the three months since its publication will be unlikely to know that it included inaccurate information.

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BBC News inaccurately reports an Israeli story from the sixties

Weekend long read

1) At the Fathom Journal Einat Wilf and Shany Mor are “Celebrating the Argument“.

“Having spent more than 50 years fiercely debating the Zionist project, it was logical, if not very natural, to extend the debate to those groups who became citizens of the State of Israel, regardless of their views. The State of Israel became a fierce debate over what it means to be the Jewish state, with the debate conducted now not only among Zionist Jews but expanded to include the views of anti-Zionist Arabs and anti-Zionist Haredi Jews. The elected parliament of the State of Israel became a place where those who argued against the very existence of the State of Israel, or at the very least made it clear that they could very well do without it, were represented: something which does not exist in any other parliament in the world.”

2) Michael Totten discusses “The Case for Bombing Assad“.

“The Assad regime won’t disappear or suddenly turn into a model of good government by a couple of punishing strikes, nor will the number of Syrian dead in the future be reduced even by one. Those are not the objectives. The objective is (or at least should be) making the use of a weapon of mass destruction more costly than not using it, to demonstrate not just to Assad but also to every other would-be war criminal that the norm established in 1993 on behalf of every human being will not go down without a fight.”

3) Colonel (res) Grisha Yakubovich takes a look at the background to the ‘Great Return March’.

“The recent clashes on the Gaza border, organized by Hamas as part of the ‘March of the Return’ initiative, are merely a component in Hamas’s bigger effort to become the main Palestinian ruling entity. The incidents on the Gaza border should not be confused with the ‘main event.’

Hamas is using the march, and the ‘popular resistance’ model, as well as the violence these generate, to try and mobilize the worldwide 7.5-million strong Palestinian nation, stretched out across Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and worldwide.”

4) The ITIC has published “Initial Analysis of the Identities of Gazans Killed During the “Great Return March” on March 30 and April 6, 2018“.

“During and after the events of “great return march” that began on March 20, 2018, between 32 and 34 Palestinians were killed (as of April 11, 2018). Most of them have been identified as terrorist operatives affiliated with Hamas and the other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. Most of them were killed while rioting against IDF forces. Some were killed while carrying out terrorist attacks, attempting to cross the border security fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, or in IDF attacks following terrorist activities carried out during the “great return march”.”

BBC Radio 4 manages to report on Iran without the usual distractions

As we have recorded here in the past, the BBC has often failed to give its audiences a clear and accurate portrayal of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria and Iranian financing and supply of weapons to the Lebanese terror group Hizballah.

The BBC, Iran and faux objectivity

Iranian military activity in southern Syria under-reported by BBC

BBC audiences have been repeatedly encouraged to view Israeli actions against the supply of Iranian arms to Hizballah as ‘involvement’ in the Syrian civil war.

BBC says what it said was happening in 2013 may be happening now

BBC News again claims Israeli involvement in Syria’s war

BBC Syria war backgrounder recycles inaccurate claim

Moreover, the BBC rarely reports on Iran’s serial threats against Israel.

BBC ECU upholds complaint concerning Iranian threats to Israel

BBC News promotes Iranian missile ‘deterrent’ propaganda

It was therefore refreshing to see BBC Radio 4 taking a step in the right direction – albeit only for domestic audiences – in the April 15th edition of ‘The World This Weekend’.

A significant proportion of that programme was devoted to the previous day’s strikes on targets in Syria by the US, the UK and France. After domestic aspects of the story had been discussed, presenter Jonny Dymond introduced (from 09:50 here) another Syria related topic.

Dymond: “106 years ago today the captain of the Royal Merchant Ship Titanic breathed a sigh of relief. Thanks to some sharp steering, the ship had apparently avoided the iceberg poking out of the freezing seas. Those allowing themselves to exhale after the airstrikes on Syria by the West early on Saturday morning might bear the fate of the Titanic in mind. There was much more to the iceberg than met the eye. Saturday’s attacks were not the only strikes from beyond Syria’s borders this week.”

Listeners heard a recording of a related news bulletin before Dymond continued:

Dymond: “On Monday war planes widely believed to be from Israel sent missiles into a Syrian airbase known as T4 situated between the city of Homs and the ruins of Palmyra. More than a dozen people were killed, most of them believed to be Iranians.”

It would of course have been helpful to listeners had they been informed that seven of the Iranians killed were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. Dymond went on:

Dymond: “It was not the first time T4 had been struck. Back in February Israeli war planes hit the base, amongst other targets, in retaliation for the incursion of a drone into Israeli airspace and the subsequent downing of an Israeli jet.”

Two days before this programme was aired Israel had announced that the Iranian UAV was armed with explosives but listeners were not given that information.  Dymond then continued with what is for the BBC an unusually lucid portrayal of Iranian activities in Syria.

Dymond: “Iran now reaches deep into every nook and cranny of Syria. Its military advisors direct operations on the ground. It sponsors Hizballah, the Lebanese militia that has thousands of fighters in Syrian territory. It pays and arms the thousands of Shia faithful that have come from around the world to fight for Bashar al Assad. It has established a web of military positions and bases up and down the west of the country. Its cash has sustained Syria’s war economy. Salman Shaikh runs a political consultancy firm that mediates on conflicts in the Middle East.”

Shaikh: “It’s been very, very determined. It had understood from the start that Syria was a state – even a failed state – which needed to belong in its column rather than in the Western alliance and it’s done everything it can since this war started – this civil war, this conflict started – to make sure of that. It was the one that first rescued Assad’s forces in 2012 by sending in military advisors and since then it’s probably 50,000 or so Iranian backed Shia militias coming from around the world who are now part of the conflict in Syria. But on top of that, they have been trying to exact a price – economic – from the regime, social and of course on the military. This is a full full-court press from the Iranians to establish themselves.”

Dymond: “To its regional rivals Iran is an imperial threat. The talk is of a crescent of influence stretching from Iran itself, west through Iraq – now led by Iran-friendly Shia Muslim politicians – into Syria and on into Lebanon where Iranian sponsored Hizballah is in government. For the Sunni Muslim powers such as Saudi Arabia such influence is deeply troubling. But Israel, which borders both Syria and Lebanon, perceives the expansion in Iranian might as a threat to its very existence.”

Unfortunately, as noted above, BBC audiences have long been denied the background information which would help them understand why Israel’s perceptions are such but at least listeners to this programme did get to hear an accurate portrayal of Israel’s view of Iran related issues in Syria.

Dymond: “Jerusalem-based political analyst Jonathan Spyer.”

Spyer: “Israel’s key concerns throughout the conflict have been, I think, twofold. Firstly that the conflict should not allow the transfer of sophisticated…certain sophisticated weapon systems from Iran via Syria to Hizballah in Lebanon. And then secondly Israel’s concern has been to prevent the Iranians and their allies from reaching the border with the Golan Heights. Israel’s becoming increasingly concerned about the build-up of Iranian infrastructure in southern Syria and that’s, I think, the context in which you see the recent raid on the T4 airbase near Palmyra.”

No BBC programme is of course complete without a tick of the impartiality box – however irrelevant.

Dymond: “Iran is traditionally presented as the aggressor in the region; an expansionist power that is dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel. But as Azadeh Moaveni – former Middle East correspondent for Time Magazine and co-author of ‘Iran Awakening’ – says, Iran sees itself very differently.”

Moaveni: “I think they do see themselves in marked contrast to how they’re perceived, you know, in the West and certainly by the Arab Gulf states as on the back foot. They see these policies that they pursued in Yemen, in Syria, as what they call forward defence. You know this is their perception of it – they’re conventionally militarily very weak. They are shut out of the global financial system. They kind of hobbled along but they do not see themselves in a position of any kind of potential normalcy. And I think that feeling of solitude, as was mentioned in a recent report, kind of drives its security view.”

Dymond was not however distracted:

Dymond: “Forward defence may be how it seems to Iran but Israel’s alarm grows week by week and month by month as it sees Iran establishing military bases in Syria, transferring drone technology there and building a supply route through to Hizballah in Lebanon. Salman Shaikh.”

Shaikh: “It now takes us to a very dangerous situation because the Israelis will not allow that to happen. They may be too late – and I think within Israeli circles there is that fear – but that only just means that we’re actually at a heightened sense of tension.”

Dymond: “And within Israel, where once there was division between the military and political establishment over the need to face down Iran, now – says Jonathan Spyer – there is unity.”

Spyer: “Unlike in the period six, seven years ago when the issue of a possible raid on Iranian nuclear facilities was coming up, now the sense is that the conception whereby Iranian entrenchment in Syria represents a grave and urgent danger to Israel is as much emerging from the security echelon as from the political echelon. So given that, the near unanimity of the system makes it quite likely that that will be acted upon. It’s a very serious professional red line being expressed and it’s not simply political rhetoric.”

Dymond: “Bashar al Assad has consolidated his position mightily over the past year. Both rebel groups and so-called Islamic State have been driven back with the help of Russian air power and Iranian sponsored boots on the ground. You might think stability would follow but as US policy twists and turns in the breeze of President Trump’s Twitter feed, US allies are thinking of how they might have to act on their own. Israel will not stand idly by as its enemy moves ever closer to its borders.”

Next time the BBC tells its audiences that Iran has “been accused” of building up its military presence in Syria or “been accused” of supplying weaponry to Hizballah, this programme will serve as a useful reminder that in fact the BBC is well aware of Iran’s activities and that the corporation’s habit of qualifying that information with faux ‘objectivity’ is nothing but a barrier to the understanding of its funding public.

 

Yom HaZikaron

יום הזיכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ולנפגעי פעולות האיבה

This evening the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism begins. 

Nestled between cypress trees and banana groves alongside a dusty track just north of Kibbutz Sha’ar HaGolan in the Jordan Valley lies a memorial to four members of the Border Police.

On the night of October 8th 1966, windows in Kibbutz Sha’ar HaGolan shattered due to loud explosions from the direction of El Hama valley – then part of a demilitarised zone according to the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Syria.

Flames were seen about a kilometer and a half from the kibbutz and members of a Border Police unit immediately set out to investigate. Having checked one water pumping station they continued to a tool store in the orchard about 300 meters north-east of the kibbutz. The Border Policemen discovered that a terror cell had blown up and completely destroyed the tool store and a trailer laden with grapefruit crates. As they drove along the track through the orchards towards a second pumping station, their jeep ran over a powerful mine and all four Border Policemen were killed. Two additional soldiers in a vehicle driving behind them were injured.

As later noted in a US State Department telegram and in a statement made by PM Levi Eshkol to the Knesset, the attack was carried out by infiltrators from Syria.

Nissim Cohen, aged 19, from Jaffa, born in Bulgaria.

Yosef Amar, aged 20, from Or Akiva, born in Morocco.

Avraham Levi, aged 21, from Hadera, born in Yemen.

Ya’akov Gigi, aged 18, from Netanya, born in Morocco.

May their memories be blessed.