As documented here previously, two BBC reports on Operation Northern Shield that appeared on December 4th both failed to provide audiences with the background information concerning UN Security Council resolution 1701 which would enhance their understanding of the story of the Hizballah constructed cross-border attack tunnels.
So what happened the following day when a BBC presenter did actually manage to utter the words “UN Security Council” and “1701”?
Shah: “Expose and thwart: that’s what Israel’s calling its operation to block tunnels dug into its territory by the Hizballah movement in Lebanon. It said it was neutralising the terror tunnels before they became operational and a threat to civilian communities. Speaking at a press conference, the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the tunnels posed a grave threat.”
Following that whitewashed description of an internationally designated terror group, listeners heard a recording of Netanyahu speaking at that press conference the previous evening, including his description of the tunnels as “a gross violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701”.
Shah immediately told listeners that:
Shah: “UN Security Council 1701, by the way, called for a full cessation of hostilities in the month-long war between Israel and Hizballah back in 2006.”
That information of course would have done nothing to help listeners understand why Netanyahu referred to that UNSC resolution in his comments. But, like her colleagues, Ritula Shah obviously had no intention of telling her listeners that UNSC resolution 1701 also includes the following:
“Emphasises the importance of the extension of the control of the government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) and resolution 1680 (2006), and of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, for it to exercise its full sovereignty, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the government of Lebanon;”
Shah’s listeners were also not told that the 2006 resolution calls for the area between the Lebanese-Israeli border and the Litani river to be “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL”, that it calls for all “armed groups in Lebanon” to be disarmed, that it forbids the presence of “foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its Government” and “sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government”.
Neither did they hear any explanation of the fact that the task of implementing that resolution was given to UNIFIL and that it is now obvious that years of cross-border tunnel construction had taken place literally under that UN organisation’s nose.
Instead of supplying BBC Radio 4 audiences with that crucial information, Shah preferred to promote a theme advanced by her World Service colleagues the previous day.
Shah: “But the Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni has accused the prime minister of blowing the incident out of proportion. Mr Netanyahu’s critics argue that he’s using the discovery of the tunnels to bolster his image at a time when his governing coalition is faltering and he faces mounting legal problems. Anshel Pfeffer has written a biography of Benjamin Netanyahu and is also a correspondent for the Ha’aretz newspaper in Israel. He joins me now. […] Is this in a sense being exploited by Benjamin Netanyahu?”
Unsurprisingly given that, as the programme’s producers probably knew, he had published a column promoting that very claim earlier the same day – Pfeffer replied that it “feels that way” and claimed that the exposure of the tunnels on Israel’s northern border is “not a new operation”. As he claimed that the “timing and especially the media fanfare which has accompanied this” were aimed at “boosting the standing of the new defence minister” (but without telling listeners that the operation had actually been approved by the cabinet before Netanyahu became defence minister), Shah interrupted:
Shah: “So why? Why would he choose to do this now?”
Pfeffer replied that critics claim that Netanyahu is “using this to deflect attention from his own legal troubles” and that “it’s certainly a useful diversion for Netanyahu”.
Shah: “So he faces legal issues, his coalition is fragile, but what about his popularity? Isn’t he someone that Israelis trust in a sense with their security?”
Pfeffer responded by referencing opinion polls.
Shah: “So he’s involved in a couple of separate criminal investigations but could you argue that Tzipi Livni – the opposition leader – in a sense is being just as politically opportunist in pointing up these issues?”
Pfeffer described that as a “fair argument”, pointing out that the opposition is “not popular with the public” and “so when Netanyahu uses this opportunity to present himself as the commander-in-chief, their frustration naturally only grows.”
So what did the BBC’s domestic radio audiences learn from this item about the cross-border attack tunnels dug by a terrorist organisation into the territory of a neighbouring country and the twelve year-old UN Security Council resolution that should have prevented that violation of Israel’s sovereignty from taking place? Absolutely nothing.