Superficial BBC reporting on incidents in Syria and Lebanon

On the morning of August 25th the BBC News website published a report originally headlined “Israel says it struck Iranian ‘killer drones’ in Syria to prevent attacks” on its Middle East page. The headline was later amended to read “Israel says it struck Iranian ‘killer drone’ sites in Syria”.

The article in fact relates to two separate incidents, the first of which took place over twelve hours before the publication of the BBC’s report. The BBC described that incident as follows:

“Israel has struck Iranian military sites in Syria to prevent what it said was a pending drone strike by Iran.

Israel’s military rarely acknowledges operations in Syria, but it claimed on Saturday its strikes had prevented an attack on Israel “using killer drones”. […]

An Israeli military spokesman said the strikes on Saturday targeted Iran’s Quds force in Aqraba, south-east of the capital, Damascus.”

A part of that story which the BBC chose not to tell – even though the information was readily available – is as follows:

“The Israeli military said its strike late Saturday targeted operatives from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force as well as Shiite militias who had been planning on sending “kamikaze” attack drones into Israel armed with explosives. […]

[IDF Spokesman] Conricus said Israel had monitored the plot for several months and on Thursday prevented Iran from making an “advanced attempt” to execute the same plan. Then, Iran tried again late Saturday to carry out the same attack, he said. […]

“This was a significant plan with significant capabilities that had been planned for a few months,” Conricus said. “It was not something done on a low level, but rather top down from the Quds Force.”

He said the Iranian attack was believed to be “very imminent.””

Neither did the BBC bother to inform its audiences that, as reported by Ha’aretz:

“A commentator close to the Revolutionary Guards wrote [on Thursday August 22nd] in the Iranian newspaper Kayhan that Israeli actions in Iraq and Syria would be met with surprises, such as launches of UAVs at sensitive security targets, ports and nuclear sites in Israel. The plan that was foiled, according to the IDF, was identical to the action threatened beforehand by the commentator.”

The BBC did choose to amplify Syrian claims:

“A Syrian military source quoted by the official Sana news agency said that Syrian anti-aircraft defences “detected enemy targets from Golan heading towards the area around Damascus”.

“The aggression was immediately confronted and so far the majority of the enemy Israeli missiles have been destroyed before reaching their targets,” the source said.”

BBC audiences were not informed that – despite those claims – at least three Hizballah operatives were reportedly killed.  

By way of ‘context’ BBC audiences were told that:

“Israel is believed to have carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria since civil war broke out there in 2011, to try to prevent Iran gaining a foothold.”

While Israel has indeed carried out strikes in order to prevent both advanced weaponry reaching the Hizballah terror organisation and Iran’s entrenchment in Syria, that context is not relevant to this particular story, which is about the prevention of an imminent attack by Iranian forces on Israel. That fact of course explains why in this case Israel did release statements concerning the incident.

The second story in this report relates to an incident which took place a few hours later in Lebanon and which was portrayed by the BBC in the first two versions of the article as follows:

“Separately, reports said two Israeli surveillance drones had come down in a stronghold of the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah in the Lebanese capital Beirut.

Hezbollah officials said an unmanned drone fell on the roof of a media centre belonging to the group, and was followed by a second unmanned drone that exploded in mid-air and crashed nearby.

Residents told the Associated Press they heard a large explosion that shook the area, after hearing the sound of an aircraft. Israel’s military declined to comment on the reports.”

Some two and a half hours after the report’s initial publication, the sub-heading “Blatant attack” was added along with comments from the Lebanese prime minister.

“Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri called Israel’s alleged surveillance drones a “blatant attack on Lebanon’s sovereignty”.

“This new aggression… forms a threat to regional stability and an attempt to push the situation towards more tension,” he said in a statement.”

The BBC does not appear to have carried out any independent verification of the claims put out to news agencies by Hizballah – including the allegation that the drones were Israeli – before publishing its own report.

And so BBC audiences got superficial and incomplete reporting on two separate incidents based in no small part on second-hand claims made by ‘reliable’ sources such as the Hizballah terrorist organisation and the Assad regime.

 

 

 

BBC News ‘contextualises’ terror attack with ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’

Roughly four hours after a terror attack took place near Dolev on August 23rd the BBC News website published a written report headlined “Israeli teenage girl killed in West Bank bomb attack” and a filmed report titled “West Bank bomb blast kills 17-year-old Israeli girl”.

The synopsis to the filmed report states: [all emphasis added]

“An Israeli teenage girl has been killed and her father and brother injured in a suspected Palestinian militant attack at a natural spring near a settlement in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli military says an improvised explosive device was used.”

All four versions of the written report similarly opened by telling readers that:

“A 17-year-old Israeli girl has been killed in a bomb attack near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military says.”

A Tweet promoting the article used the same terminology:

“Israeli teenage girl killed in bomb attack near Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank

All four versions of the report also closed with the BBC’s standard but partial mantra on ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ despite the fact that it has nothing to do with the story being reported.

“More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

In line with BBC editorial policy, the only mentions of the word terrorist came in direct quotes.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a “harsh terrorist attack”. […]

“The security arms are in pursuit after the abhorrent terrorists. We will apprehend them. The long arm of Israel reaches all those who seek our lives and will settle accounts with them.””

And:

“The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, tweeted that he was “heartbroken and outraged by the brutal terrorist attack”.”

All four versions of the written report included qualified references to a previous terror attack which the BBC failed to report at the time.

“Last Friday, two Israelis were injured near the settlement of Elazar in what police said was a car-ramming attack. The alleged assailant, a Palestinian man, was shot dead at the scene.”

Readers also saw a belated update concerning an earlier attack.

“Earlier this month, an off-duty Israeli soldier was stabbed to death near the settlement of Migdal Oz. Israeli security forces subsequently arrested two Palestinian men in connection with the attack.”

BBC audiences were told that:

“In a speech in the Gaza Strip, the leader of the militant Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas praised the attack but did not say that it was behind it.”

They were not however informed that Haniyeh called the murder of a seventeen-year-old girl “a heroic attack” or that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad similarly described the attack on three Israeli civilians with an IED as “resistance”. 

Notably, the first two versions of the written report stated that the victim of this latest attack had been:

“…hiking with her brother and father near the Ein Bubin spring outside Dolev when an improvised explosive device was detonated.”

In the third version the names of Rina Shnerb’s brother and father were added:  

“…hiking with her brother Dvir and her father Eitan near a spring outside Dolev when an explosive device was detonated.”

That information corresponds with statements put out by officials investigating the incident.

“The army said an improvised explosive device was used in the attack. Police sappers determined that the bomb had been planted earlier at the spring and was triggered remotely when the family approached it.”

However in the fourth and final version of the written report – the one that will remain as “permanent public record” on the BBC News website – the BBC amended its description from the active (“was detonated”) to the passive:

“Rina Shnerb had been hiking with her brother Dvir and her father Eitan near a natural spring outside Dolev when an improvised explosive device blew up.” 

The BBC’s refusal to describe such incidents as terrorism in its own words, along with its description of Palestinian terrorist organisations as “militants” and its editorial policy of promoting irrelevant and politically partial messaging concerning ‘international law’, as ever mars the accuracy and impartiality of its coverage of violent attacks against Israelis.   

Related Articles:

BBC ignores another terror attack on Israelis – in English

BBC News ignores arrests connected to terror attack it didn’t report

BBC reporting on Gush Etzion terror attack

BBC News website fails to update report on Gush Etzion terror attack

BBC News continues to ignore Palestinian terrorism

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC analyses last weekend’s attempted infiltration from the Gaza Strip, which the BBC chose to ignore.

“On August 17, 2019, IDF observation posts identified five suspects approaching the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. At least one of them was armed. IDF forces were rushed to the site. An IDF tank and helicopter shot at the suspects before they could cross the security fence (IDF spokesman, August 17, 2019). The attempted penetration came two days after four rockets were launched at Israel in two separate incidents (August 16 and 17, 2019). The Palestinian ministry of health reported that IDF forces had killed three Palestinians and critically wounded another. The five belonged variously to Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Fatah. Some of them had participated in the return marches and were Night Harassment Unit operatives in the northern Gaza Strip. Senior figures in Hamas and the other terrorist organizations publicly praised the operatives who were killed and blamed Israel for their deaths. Senior Hamas figure Isma’il Haniyeh paid visits, well covered by the media, to the families of the dead operatives.”

2) Writing at the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Spyer takes a look at recent moves by the UAE.

“In Yemen on July 8, the Emiratis announced the drawing down of their forces from the country. Abu Dhabi’s soldiers have played the key military role on the ground against the Houthis since 2015.

Having departed the Saudi-led coalition against the Iran-backed Ansar Allah or Houthi insurgency, the Emiratis subsequently threw their weight behind their local allies in Yemen. […]

The UAE has notably refrained from directly accusing Tehran of carrying out the attacks on four tankers in UAE territorial waters which took place in May. This despite there being no other serious candidate for responsibility. And in late July, a UAE delegation travelled to Tehran and, with exquisite irony, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Iranians to “enhance maritime border security cooperation.” “

3) At the FDD Aykan Erdemir discusses recent events in Turkey.

“The Turkish government on Monday removed from office three mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) less than six months into their five-year terms. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who suffered an embarrassing defeat in last March’s local elections, continues to disregard the will of Turkey’s electorate by appointing trustees to replace opposition mayors.

Erdogan first introduced the practice of removing elected mayors from office in September 2016, taking advantage of the state of emergency declared shortly after Turkey’s abortive coup. Together with his ultranationalist allies, the Turkish leader first targeted pro-Kurdish officials, replacing 90 of the 102 HDP mayors with trustees. Shortly after the March 2019 elections, which provided many HDP mayors with a renewed mandate to assume office, Turkey’s High Election Board overturned the election of seven HDP mayors, handing their offices to losing candidates from Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).”

4) At the Times of Israel Abraham Rabinovich recalls “How an Australian sheepshearer’s al-Aqsa arson nearly torched Middle East peace”.

“One of the first stories I was assigned as a young journalist in Israel in 1969 was the trial of an Australian sheepshearer who set fire to the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, an act that threatened to unhinge the Middle East. It remains for me the most vivid story I covered during my 25 years with The Jerusalem Post, a period that included several wars.

August 23 marks the 50th anniversary of the event. The Muslim world assumed that Israel was responsible for the arson and Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal ordered his armed forces to prepare for a holy war. The Arab League met in emergency session, and from distant India came reports of rioting in Muslim areas, with many casualties.”

 

 

 

 

BBC News again ignores Jordanian misinformation

Last month we noted that a delegation from the Jordanian parliament had held various meetings in London – including with British parliamentarians – while on a visit organised by a group headed by a Hamas-linked professional activist.

Jordanian media outlets reported at the time that:

“MP Yahya Saud, who leads a parliamentary delegation to London, on Tuesday said that Jordan is paying the price of defending the Palestinian cause and safeguarding the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.”

And:

“The meeting figured high on the Hashemite custodianship over Muslim and Christian shrines in occupied Jerusalem.” 

We remarked at the time that:

“Had the BBC reported this story it could have performed a useful public service by informing MPs and the public alike that, although Jordan has been trying for some time to promote the notion that it holds custodianship of Christian sites in Jerusalem, as recently documented by our colleagues at CAMERA Arabic that is not the case.”

Earlier this week the Jordanian parliament adopted recommendations proposed by a committee headed by the same controversial MP.

“Jordanian lawmakers on Monday urged their government to kick Israel’s ambassador out of the kingdom and “review” the 1994 peace treaty with the Jewish state.

The MPs’ call came during an “emergency” meeting of the country’s House of Representatives in Amman on Monday to discuss the “recent violations, including the storming by the Israeli occupation forces and settlers, of the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque/Noble Sanctuary,” the state-funded Al-Mamlaka TV reported. […]

At the meeting, MP Yahya Al-Saud put forward 17 recommendations drawn up by the parliamentary Palestine Committee, which he chairs. The text of the recommendations referred to Israel as “the Zionist entity” and warned against “allowing Jewish settlers to carry out Talmudic prayer” at the Temple Mount.

The recommendations included “expelling the ambassador of the Zionist entity in Amman”; the recall of Jordan’s ambassador to Israel; a “review” of the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries; an affirmation that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is 144 dunams in size — that is, that it constitutes the entirety of the Temple Mount area and not just the mosque building, and therefore that no non-Muslims are permitted anywhere on the mount; backing continued custodianship of the holy site by Jordan’s Hashemite monarchy; and rejecting an alleged plot by Israel to divide the Temple Mount into Muslim-only and Jewish-only sections and prayer times.”

The text of the recommendations adopted by the Jordanian parliament also includes a clause:

“…Stressing the importance of the sustainability of the Hashemite custodianship on Christian and Islamic holy places in Jerusalem. This is a historic right that has been guaranteed by international covenants.”

However, the BBC – which in recent years has promoted itself as battlingfake news‘ – has once again chosen to ignore a story about Jordanian propagation of false claims concerning one of the world’s most sensitive locations.

Related Articles:

A story about Labour and antisemitism that the BBC chose to ignore

Sky, AFP, Reuters (in Arabic) declare Jordan guardian of Jerusalem’s Christian holy sites (UK Media Watch)

Sky News Arabia falsely claims Jordan has custody over Jerusalem’s Christian shrines (UK Media Watch)

 

BBC News promotes Iran loyalist’s unproven claims

On the evening of August 21st an article headlined “Iraq paramilitary force blames US and Israel for mystery blasts” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page. Its opening lines told BBC audiences that:

“A powerful Iran-backed paramilitary force in Iraq has said it holds the US responsible for a series of blasts at its bases in recent weeks.

The deputy head of the Popular Mobilisation, which is dominated by Shia militias, alleged that US forces had brought four Israeli drones into the country to target its positions.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis said the force would use “all means at its disposal” to prevent and deter future attacks.”

The BBC did not subsequently provide any evidence to support the allegation that it chose to amplify but it did take make sure to inform readers that:

“Last year, Israel’s then defence minister suggested that it might attack suspected Iranian military assets in Iraq, as it has done repeatedly in Syria since the start of the country’s civil war.

When asked by reporters on Monday about the explosions in Iraq, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Iran has no immunity, anywhere.”

“We will act – and currently are acting – against them, wherever it is necessary.””

BBC audiences had to read down to the article’s closing paragraphs in order to find any information which might help them judge the reliability – and possible motives – of the source of the unevidenced claim it elected to amplify.

“The Popular Mobilisation’s fighters played a key role in the war against IS.

With the help of Iranian military advisers, weapons and funding, they prevented IS militants reaching Baghdad in 2014 and later helped Iraqi security forces regain control of the country.

The US, which also supported Iraqi security forces against IS, has said several of the Shia militias in the Popular Mobilisation are directly controlled by Iran. It has accused the militias of targeting US diplomatic facilities in Iraq and warned that they may have been given Iranian ballistic missiles.”

As Jonathan Spyer noted in July when the Iraqi prime minister announced that the Shia militias of the Popular Mobilisation Units were to be integrated into the Iraqi security forces: [emphasis added]

“The Shia militias are the main instrument of Iranian policy on Iraqi soil.  Not all groups involved in the 150,000 strong PMU are Iran-linked, but the largest and most consequential groupings are. These include the Badr organization, led by Hadi al-Ameri, Ktaeb Hizballah, headed by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Asaib ahl-al Haq, and Hizballah al-Nujaba.

All the above mentioned groupings are franchises of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). All were established by and are controlled by Iran, answering directly to the IRGC’s Qods Force and its leader, General Qassem Soleimani.”

The BBC failed to inform readers that, in addition to being “the deputy head of the Popular Mobilisation”, its quoted source is – as documented by the FDD – also a senior commander in Ktaeb Hizballah.

“Kataib Hezbollah is a relatively small Iraqi Shiite militia that serves as a vehicle through which the IRGC-Quds Force projects power in Iraq. […] its chief, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, is currently Iraq’s deputy national security adviser as well as an operational leader of the PMF. Born in Basra in 1953, Muhandis has worked for decades with the IRGC, including his participation in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait that killed six and injured 90 others.

Muhandis is the de-facto deputy of Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani in Iraq; the Iranian general has called Muhandis a “living martyr.” Kataib Hezbollah was among the earliest Iraqi groups to dispatch fighters to Syria, where it helped organize groups including Liwa Abu-Fadl al-Abbas, a militia composed of Iraqi Shiites. In 2015, a Kataib Hezbollah official told the Washington Post that Kataib Hezbollah had sent 1,000 fighters to Aleppo in response to a direct request by Soleimani. Along with other Iranian-backed militias, Kataib Hezbollah has begun to fill the power vacuum created by the fall of the Islamic State caliphate.”

The BBC closed its article with references to Muhandis (who was indeed designated by the US a decade ago) and his militia but failed to inform readers of the connection between them.

“The US has designated one of the militias in the Popular Mobilisation, Kataiib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades), as a terrorist organisation.

It has also listed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis as a “specially designated global terrorist”. It alleges that he advises Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and that he has been involved in the bombings of Western embassies and attempted assassinations in the region.”

In other words, the BBC chose to unquestioningly amplify unproven allegations concerning explosions at arms depots in Iraq made by one of Iran’s senior operatives in that country.  

 

 

Reviewing available BBC content about the Hebron Massacre

This coming weekend will mark ninety years since the Hebron Massacre in which sixty-seven Jews were killed and sixty wounded. That and subsequent violent events brought hundreds of years of Jewish life in Hebron to an end for nearly four decades.

Ten years ago the BBC published a report titled “Long shadow of 1929 Hebron massacre” which is still available online.

The background to the violence is presented as follows: 

“Hajj Yussef says problems with the Jewish community started in the mid-1920s, when more Jews began to arrive from abroad. They did not speak Arabic and they dressed differently. They were coming in their hundreds.”

The article closes with a quote from its main interviewee:

“Hajj Yussef believes today’s settlers have no right to live in Hebron at all.

“I have no problem living with the Jews, like we lived many years ago,” he says. “But today’s settlers are not Palestinian Jews, they came here from abroad. And I have a problem if the Jews live in my country as occupiers and settlers.””

In 2014 BBC Radio 4 aired a history programme (also still available online) which included an account of “an outbreak of rioting between the Muslim and Jewish population” which completely erased one key piece of context: the role played by the British-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al Husseini in inciting the violence.

BBC Radio 4 history programme misleads on Hebron massacre

Another BBC report relating to the Hebron Massacre which is still available to audiences is a 2018 edition of the BBC World Service radio religious programme ‘Heart and Soul’.

BBC WS radio programme on Hebron omits vital background

“…listeners heard an account of the 1929 Hebron Massacre which whitewashed the fact that “violence broke out” because of incitement by Arab leaders against Jews…”

While all three of those items available to any member of the BBC’s audience trying to find information on the topic stress that some Hebron residents did help their Jewish neighbours escape the 1929 massacre, notably less attention is paid to the still relevant issue of the incitement that was behind that and other mob violence. 

Limited BBC coverage of latest Hizballah designation

The August 20th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item (from 14:05 here) introduced by presenter James Menendez as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Menendez: “…the government of Paraguay has announced it’s designating the Lebanese Shia Islamist organisation Hizballah as an international terrorist organisation. Its much bigger neighbour Argentina did so last month and there’s speculation that Brazil may be about to do the same, bringing all of them into line with the US, the UK and others.”

Along with the US and the UK, among the “others” which designate Hizballah in its entirety are Canada, Israel, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Netherlands, Bahrain, Japan, the UAE and Kosovo. The organisation is partly designated by Australia, New Zealand, France and the EU.

Menendez continued with a euphemistic description of the terror group’s dependency on Iran:

Menendez: “You may be wondering what Hizballah, with its close ties to Iran and violent opposition to Israel, is doing in South America and why some governments are taking action now. Well pressure from the Trump administration certainly seems to be a factor. Emanuele Ottolenghi has researched and has been in dialogue with White House officials on Hizballah’s influence in Latin America. He’s a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies – a neo-conservative think tank in Washington DC – that’s been advocating a much more hawkish approach to Iran and its proxies.”

Compare the adherence to BBC editorial guidelines stipulating that when introducing interviewees “[a]ppropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context” in that presentation to the one given late last month on the same BBC World Service radio programme:

“Nadav Weiman is a former member of the Israeli Defence Forces. Indeed he was with the special forces sniper team that operated in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He’s now with the advocacy group ‘Breaking the Silence’.”

Ottolenghi began by providing background to the story:

Ottolenghi: “Hizballah has had a growing presence in Latin America for the past four decades and this presence is concentrated in a number of places, including especially the Tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay: a region that is notorious for illicit finance, money laundering, contraband, smuggling and trafficking of all sorts of goods. Hizballah has been pairing up in Latin America for a number of years with organised crime to provide illicit finance and logistical support to those nefarious activities. It plays an important role in the financing of Hizballah’s budget and in the process it has become a partner in crime for cartels and criminal syndicates across South America.”

Menendez is apparently unfamiliar with the topic of terror financing.

Menendez: “So the criminal activities…eh…illegal financing but not military activities per se.”

Ottolenghi: “Not necessarily, although Hizballah is behind two terror attacks in Latin America – one in 1992 and one in 1994, both in Buenos Aires – and a Hizballah operative was caught and arrested while preparing a terror attack in Peru in 2014.”

The case in Peru to which Ottolenghi referred is this one. The earlier cases are of course the attacks on the Israeli embassy and the AMIA centre.  

Menendez: “And have governments in the region been, what, unable or unwilling to try and tackle this?”

Ottolenghi: “Governments in the region have been largely unwilling to recognise this presence as affiliated with Hizballah. They do know that members of the Shia Lebanese community are involved in illicit finance activities. They just do not wish to link this to terrorism and there is a variety of reasons for this, many of which are tied to domestic politics but also to some extent in the past have been connected to ideological stances of governments.”

Menendez: “So is that what’s changed then? That governments…that some governments – take Brazil for example; it’s shifted to the right. And is it also pressure from Washington – pressure from the United States to take action?”

Ottolenghi: “Both things are true. I think the shift to the right across the region has changed the discourse about the issue and certainly US pressure and increased attention to the problem. But also I think governments in the region are increasingly aware that they can no longer tolerate the presence of the pervasive and nefarious nature of organised crime in their own midst.”

Menendez then brought up the myth of separate ‘wings’ to the terror organisation.

Menendez: “The European Union still makes the distinction between Hizballah’s political and military wings and the military wing is a proscribed organisation but not the political wing. Could that have been part of it as well? That people didn’t necessarily group all of Hizballah into the same basket and see it as a terrorist organisation?”

Ottolenghi: “In some countries that’s definitely the case but as it goes in the European Union as well, the department of Hizballah that is largely involved in running overseas financial operations including illicit activities such as drug trafficking is part of the external security organisation of Hizballah which is, properly speaking, the military wing – so-called – of Hizballah. So actually…”

Menendez [interrupts] “Right, so it’s not…it’s not being used to fund political and social activities back in Lebanon then?”

Ottolenghi: “Well I mean the money goes largely to the same pot and so it’s hard to distinguish whether it goes to military or to other activities. And the social and charitable activities certainly are used also to prop up support and ensure loyalty to the goals of the movement.”

Menendez closed the item there. While listeners to BBC World Service radio heard a reasonable report on a story to which the BBC has only relatively recently begun to re-devote attention, no coverage of Paraguay’s decision to designate Hizballah has to date been seen on the BBC News website – the corporation’s “permanent public record”.

Those looking for further information on the terror group’s activities in Latin America in the BBC’s online profile of Hizballah will find nothing: that profile has not been updated for almost three and a half years and it provides no information on the more recent designations of the organisation, including that of the UK.  

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC reporting on Argentina’s designation of Hizballah

Revisiting BBC reporting on Hizballah

 

BBC repeats uncritical promotion of ‘Gaza’ film

h/t AB

Earlier this month we documented the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme’s one-sided presentation of the Gaza Strip in an item concerning a new film about that location.

Gaza propaganda on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’

The August 19th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ devoted over nine of its fifty-three minutes of airtime to a similar exercise.

“And a new documentary shows everyday life for those living in Gaza.”

Presenter Rebecca Kesby introduced the item (from 43:38 here) using some bizarre linkage that included an unsupported assertion. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Kesby: “Now, the Palestinian territories have been in the news over the past few days, partly because Israel denied permission for two US Congresswomen to visit them following pressure from President Trump. Israel did then allow Democrat Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib permission to make a humanitarian visit to her grandmother who lives in the occupied West Bank but she rejected that offer. She said she couldn’t comply with the oppressive conditions being imposed. Whatever your view on the political situation in the Holy Land, there is little debate that life for Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip is very tough. It’s only 25 miles long and seven miles wide but home to two million people, many of whom live in desperate poverty. A new documentary film has just been released called ‘Gaza; and it depicts ordinary life in the territory. [clip from film] And that’s the sound of children playing in the sea off the Gaza coast, the beaches of Gaza being some of the only open spaces available in a densely populated city. It’s the beginning of the film and earlier I spoke to the production manager Fadi Hussam Hannona in our Gaza bureau and first to the co-director of the film, Andrew McConnell.”

McConnell began by repeatedly promoting the claim that the film shows audiences aspects “that they don’t expect to see in Gaza”, and:

McConnell: “…it’s only later on that we bring in sort of the familiar imagery; that of protests and conflict.”

Turning to her second interviewee, Kesby commented on one part of the film.

Kesby: “…the young lad to begin with, he says he’s from an enormous family – I think he’s one of 14 children – and he says he quite enjoys sleeping down by the sea because there’s more room down there. It gives you a sense of just how densely populated and, I suppose, pressurised that area is.”

Hannona: “Listen Gaza has been used to an image of violence and destruction on the news. Yes, there is a conflict in Gaza but people here just want to live a normal life like you, like everyone. So we tried through our film ‘Gaza’ to show the other side of Gaza: the side where the normal people are suffering every day. And the Gaza Strip cannot be understood by only looking at the political and focusing on the conflict – no. It can be understood by living with the people. So we did that. Through our film, through our character, the audience will have a chance to spend hour and half with the normal people from Gaza and see how they live and think and worry. So we just want to be like everyone else. This is our message.”

Kesby of course refrained from reminding listeners that those “normal people” voted Hamas into power in four out of five Gaza constituencies in the 2006 election and that “everyone else” does not elect a terror organisation that dedicates itself to the destruction of a neighbouring country. Instead she went on to bring up another character from the film.

Kesby: “…ehm, there’s a young girl in the film who plays the cello.”

Hannona: “Yeah Karma she’s a young girl and I found this character, you know, we need to show the people on the world we have children. They need the right to live a normal life and Karma one of them. But Karma also she have problems. She can’t keep living under this situation, you know, every month, every two months, we have some problems in Gaza. We hear bombing, we are under siege, we can’t…we can’t leave Gaza, you know. You need to wait one year if you decide to leave to study or to attend a festival outside of Gaza. So they need their rights.”

Kesby made no effort to clarify to audiences that the Gaza Strip is not “under siege” or to provide the context of the terrorism perpetrated by numerous armed factions in the Gaza Strip. In fact the word ‘Hamas’ was not uttered even once by any of the three participants in the item.

Kesby: “Hmm…have you ever left Gaza?”

Hannona: “No, actually I…actually it was a chance for me last…in the beginning of this year to attend the world premiere of ‘Gaza’ documentary at Sundance Film Festival and we did everythingeverything – just one day before the day I was supposed to leave they closed the border between Gaza and Rafah.”

Kesby: “Wow.”

Hannona: “And I didn’t…I lost the chance.”

Kesby: “What a pity.”

Seeing as Hannona told that same story in his Radio 4 interview eleven days earlier, Kesby should have been able to inform listeners that “they” are the Egyptians, who closed their border crossing with the Gaza Strip in February due to Hamas’ take-over of the Rafah Crossing after Palestinian Authority staff had been withdrawn.

Kesby then asked McConnell how he and Hannona met and his answer included the following:

McConnell: “…we also returned back last year – 2018 – and the border protests had started and which has now become sort of a huge part of everyday life in Gaza and these continue to this day, over a year later. Many people have been killed. And we…so we managed to film a lot of that, especially on the 14th of May when the embassy was moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and that was one of the bloodiest days since the war in 2014 when over 60 people died.”

Kesby made no effort to clarify to audiences that those so-called “protests” are in fact weekly episodes of premeditated violent rioting organised by terror groups and that fifty-three of the sixty-two people killed that day were claimed by terrorist organisations. Instead she continued her innocuous questioning.

Kesby: “And was it quite challenging to strike the right balance between reflecting ordinary live people, you know, getting married, going about their normal lives, trying to educate their children, trying to enjoy themselves and this constant pressure and…and, you know, elements of violence and threat that people live under?”

Towards the end of the item listeners heard three times – twice from Hannona himself and once from Kesby – that he has not seen the film “because there’s no cinema in Gaza”. Seeing as that talking point also arose in the earlier ‘Today’ interview, Kesby should have been able to inform listeners that the reason there is no longer a cinema in Gaza is because it is ruled by an extremist Islamist terror organisation.

And so for the second time BBC audiences heard uncritical, unchallenging and uninformative promotion of this film in an item which only served to hinder their understanding of a complex topic.

PA’s ban on LGBTQ group gets two minutes of BBC airtime

Some four hours after BBC Watch noted the absence of any BBC reporting on a story concerning a Palestinian Authority ban on the activities of a LGBTQ group a two-minute item appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ (from 13:57 here) on August 19th.

Newsreader: “Gay rights activists in the West Bank have been threatened online after the Palestinian police announced a ban on their campaigns and meetings and called for help to arrest them. The prohibition of the main local LGBTQ group was announced despite the Palestinian Authority having signed up to various international human rights treaties. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

Knell: “In a statement posted on Facebook, a police spokesman described the actions of the LGBTQ group al Qaws – or rainbow – as a blow to the ideals and values of Palestinian society and against the monotheistic religions. Same sex relations aren’t against the law in the West Bank but homosexuality remains largely taboo, as it is across the Arab world. Those involved with the group have been threatened with arrest, accused of sedition after a recent event in the West Bank. In response to the statement announcing the ban – which has now been deleted from Facebook – members of the Palestinian public posted angry messages. ‘Arrest them and burn them all’ read one. Mohammed Abu Ramilla [phonetic] from al Qaws criticised the police for creating an atmosphere of persecution and intimidation.”

Knell did not clarify where her interviewee is located: a factor obviously relevant to his participation in this item.

Abu Ramilla: “That was so shocking to us. For the police to release such a statement that incites people to follow or to report anyone that knows anything about the organisation, which translates to people reporting anyone they know who might be LGBT or Queer in their lives…well. And we think that’s very dangerous, obviously.”

Knell: “Other activists suggest the Palestinian Authority could be in breach of UN treaties on human rights which it signed to try to strengthen its hand in the conflict with Israel. When contacted by the BBC, the Authority’s police refused to comment. The EU funded mission which trains Palestinian police said it was continuing to give advice – including on LGBT rights – and that it was trying to clarify the circumstances of the statement.”  

The same item was aired six hours later on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ (from 20:13 here).

In short, listeners to one domestic BBC radio station heard a two-minute item in two news bulletins, neither of which will be available to the public a month from now.  

Related Articles:

Disparity in BBC LGBTQ Middle East reporting

 

BBC WS radio listeners get Ashrawi’s unchallenged propaganda

The lead item in the August 15th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was described thus:

“Israel is blocking two US Democratic lawmakers, who are prominent critics of the Israeli government, from visiting.”

Presenter Julian Marshall introduced the item (from 00:10 here) as follows:

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

Marshall: “And we begin today with that decision by Israel – supported by President Trump – to bar entry to two US Democratic Congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who had been planning to visit the Palestinian territories. But Israel has said they won’t be allowed in because of their support for the international movement that urges a boycott of Israel, known as BDS. In 2017 Israel passed a law banning entry to foreigners who support a boycott. Newshour has repeatedly asked the Israeli government for an interview. They’ve instead given us a statement. ‘Congressmen Tlaib and Omar’, the statement says, ‘are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress. Only a few days ago we received their itinerary for their visit in Israel which revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy’. Well in a moment we’ll be speaking to an Israeli journalist but first let’s get the reaction of Hanan Ashrawi, who would have been hosting the two Congresswomen in the Palestinian territories.”

Listeners were not informed that Ashrawi is a member of the PLO executive committee as well as the founder of ‘Miftah’ – the controversial NGO that organised and part sponsored the proposed trip. Neither were BBC audiences told that the person “who would have been hosting the two Congresswomen” was herself denied a visa to the United States earlier this year.

Ashrawi: “I think this is absolutely preposterous and unacceptable. I mean they are denying entry to representatives of another country; I mean their ally, the US. These are Congresswomen who are coming to Palestine, not to Israel. They are coming to reach out to the Palestinian people, to see how things are on the ground and the reality of the occupation. And now Israel gives itself the right to bar them from coming to Palestine, to ban them from entering and the same time to impose a blackout on Palestinian realities in order for them not to find out the truth. This is not acceptable and I believe that this is as affront to the American people and to the representatives themselves. But unfortunately Donald Trump, the president, [laughs] was inciting against them and he was telling the Israelis not to allow them in.”

In fact the Congresswomen’s itinerary included a day two tour of “Al-Aqsa mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall and other historic sites” in the Israeli capital Jerusalem. Marshall made no effort to clarify to listeners that, as the BBC itself states, “[t]here is no independent state of Palestine today” despite Ashrawi’s repeated references to that non-existent entity.

Likewise making no effort to inform audiences of the fact that the BDS campaign promotes the so-called ‘right of return’ for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees (which would lead to the elimination of the Jewish state and thereby deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination) Marshall went on:  

Marshall: “But Israel would argue that it has a 2017 law that bars foreigners from entering the country who support a boycott of Israel and they [Ashrawi laughs] would argue that that is what these two Congresswomen have been doing.”

Israel of course does not have to “argue” that Omar and Tlaib support the BDS campaign: they have made that quite clear themselves.

Listeners next heard a series of plainly ridiculous claims from Ashrawi concerning Israel and the 2017 amendment to the ‘Entry to Israel law’ which enables Israel to deny entry to people who advocate for a campaign that the BBC serially refuses to accurately portray to its audiences.

Ashrawi: “Well the thing is, Israel cannot tolerate dissent or differences of opinion. There are many people who…who adopt this. There are many people who think that Israel should be held accountable. This is something that is universally acceptable so Israel cannot legislate in order to violate international law and human rights. And Israel now thinks that not only is it above the law and it can do whatever it wants with the occupation, it wants to enjoy full impunity and it wants to punish those who want to hold Israel accountable and act in accordance with their conscience.”

Making no effort to challenge Ashrawi’s propaganda, Marshall continued:

Marshall: “Is this another reason for the Palestinians not to engage with the Trump administration?”

Listeners then heard similarly unchallenged misrepresentation of ‘international law’ from the literature graduate Ashrawi.

Ashrawi: [laughs] “I can’t think we need another reason. I think that the Trump administration has taken illegal, unilateral measures on the issues of Jerusalem, on the issues of refugees, on the issues of funding the Palestinians, on the issue of punishing the most vulnerable segments of our population and of course while refusing the two-state solution, the ’67 borders, by refusing to acknowledge the fact of the occupation itself. So they have effectively violated every aspect of international law pertaining to the Palestinian question. So in a sense I mean there’s nothing left to do other than incite against their own nationals, against the representatives of the American people. An American president is telling a foreign country not to admit members of his own Congress [laughs]. I mean this lacks any sense of logic or political responsibility or respect for his own people even. Certainly we said the moment that they decide to treat us as equals and to respect international law, then of course we are willing to talk to them. But since they are violating the law and violating our rights, there is no reason to engage.”

Failing to clarify to listeners that the US administration has not ‘refused’ the two-state solution and that there is no such thing as “’67 borders”, Marshall closed that completely unchallenged propaganda rant.

Marshall: “That was senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi.”

Despite the BBC being obliged to provide its funding public with “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them” its coverage of this story (see ‘related articles’ below) has been characterised by a complete failure to supply audiences with relevant information concerning the political NGO that organised the trip and the BDS campaign which the two Congresswomen support.

Although, given her record, it was patently obvious that BBC World Service radio listeners were not going to hear any objective or informative comment from Hanan Ashrawi, ‘Newshour’ producers nevertheless sought out her ‘contribution’ and Julian Marshall’s failure to question any of her numerous outlandish claims and statements ensured that the BBC once again failed to meet its public purpose.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC reporting of Tlaib and Omar story

BBC Radio 4’s uncritical amplification of Ilhan Omar’s falsehood