Weekend long read

1) At the Tablet, Matti Friedman discusses media cooperation with repressive regimes.

“Western news organizations that maintain a presence in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, for example, make compromises in return for access and almost never tell readers what those compromises are. The result, in many cases, is something worse than no coverage—it’s something that looks like coverage, but is actually misinformation, giving people the illusion that they know what’s going on instead of telling them outright that they’re getting information shaped by regimes trying to mislead them. […]

The most relevant example from my own experience as an AP correspondent in Jerusalem between 2006 and 2011 is Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, and where the AP has a sub-bureau. Running that sub-bureau requires both passive and active cooperation with Hamas. To give one example of many, during the Israel-Hamas war that erupted at the end of 2008, our local Palestinian reporter in Gaza informed the news desk in Jerusalem that Hamas fighters were dressed as civilians and were being counted as civilians in the death toll—a crucial detail. A few hours later, he called again and asked me to strike the detail from the story, which I did personally; someone had clearly spoken to him, and the implication was that he was at risk. […]

From that moment on, more or less, AP’s coverage from Gaza became a quiet collaboration with Hamas. Certain rules were made clear to the local staffers in Gaza, and those of us outside Gaza were warned not to put our Gazan staff at risk. Our coverage shifted accordingly, though we never informed our readers. Hamas military actions were left vague or ignored, while the effects of Israeli actions were reported at length, giving the impression of wanton Israeli aggression, just as Hamas wanted.”

2) Yaakov Lappin has a useful backgrounder on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad with a link to further information.

“In Gaza, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is a quarter of the size of Hamas, but that has not stopped it from running its own rocket production centers, digging tunnels, training and arming its operatives.

Iranian assistance enables PIJ to be Gaza’s second biggest terrorist army. Ideologically, it is significantly closer to Tehran than Hamas. And unlike Hamas, PIJ faces none of the dilemas of sovereignty and governance over Gaza’s two million people.”

3) With Hizballah flags set to fly once again on London’s streets this coming Sunday, the FDD’s Tony Badran has a timely analysis of that terror organisation’s standing on its home turf.

“Unfortunately, the goals of strengthening the Lebanese state and disarming Hezbollah are at odds with each other. Hezbollah has completed its takeover of the Lebanese state, including and especially its political institutions and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), along with other security agencies. Strengthening the Lebanese state today means strengthening Hezbollah.

Hezbollah’s control over Lebanon ensures that counting on the “Lebanese state” to disarm Hezbollah is a non-starter. The function of the Lebanese government is to defend Hezbollah, and to align its policies with the preferences of the group and of its patrons in Tehran.”

4) At the Tower, Seth Frantzman also takes a look at Hizballah and Lebanon – seventeen years after Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon.

“May 24 marked 17 years since Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon. The border is quiet now, but every day brings news of ill winds blowing from the north. In early May a man infiltrated Israel from Lebanon and wandered into the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona before being apprehended—an incident that rocked the Israeli defense establishment. Reports indicate that new fencing costing 100 million NIS will be put up along the border, similar to the “smart fences” on the borders with Jordan, Egypt, and Gaza.

As Israel upgrades the fence, the terrorist group Hezbollah is ensconced in Beirut with more power and legitimacy than ever. On May 11 the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah played the pragmatic moderate as he sought to allay Christian Maronite concerns over new elections. The Lebanese parliament’s term expires on June 20 and Christians fear their power is being eroded. Nasrallah isn’t worried, because for all intents and purposes his dream of being the main political and military power in Lebanon has come true. […]

The problem in Lebanon is that both the Christian and Sunni opposition are neutered. They gave up their weapons after the civil war and allowed Hezbollah to keep theirs. The likelihood that Jihadist and Salafi networks will put down roots in Lebanon grows in response to the power of Hezbollah. Whatever fantasies Israel once had for an alliance with Lebanese Christians and the idea that Lebanon, a formerly peaceful country seen as the “Paris” or “Switzerland” of the Levant, could be a good neighbor, is gone forever. Hezbollah will only grow. It is a key Iranian asset, one that is indispensable in the Syrian civil war. Nasrallah has taken to commenting on crises in Yemen and elsewhere, looking beyond Lebanon in hopes of playing a regional role.”

 

 

Advertisements

BBC News ignores Al Quds Day – in English

As the P5+ 1 talks with Iran in Vienna dragged on past yet another scheduled deadline, the BBC News website’s report on the subject included the habitual promotion of the notion of a benign Iranian nuclear programme.

“The so-called P5+1 – US, UK, Russia, France, China and Germany – said talks would go on until at least Monday.

The powers suspect Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, which Iran denies.

Iran says its nuclear programme is for purely peaceful purposes.”

Notably, however, neither that July 10th article nor any other English language BBC report informed audiences about the annual day of Iranian state sponsored hate known as Al Quds Day which this year fell on that same date – even as negotiations continued.

The BBC News website’s UK and regional pages were also devoid of reporting on the British version of that event which took place near BBC premises. Apparently the flying of a terrorist organisation’s flag, calls for the eradication of a member state of the United Nations and the negation of Jews’ right to self-determination on London’s streets is not news these days.

BBC Persian’s audiences were, however, provided with an album of photographs from the events in Iran (attended by the president the BBC persists in portraying as ‘moderate’) and those visiting the BBC Arabic website found an article about Al Quds Day in Yemen.BBC Persian Quds Day 

Reporting on the Al Quds Day event in Tehran, the WSJ’s Sohrab Ahmari wrote:

“Regime leaders joined in the festivities. The government’s representatives included the reputedly moderate President Hasan Rouhani, not-so-moderate former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, his brother Sadeq, the head of the judiciary, and Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, commander of the Iranian army’s ground forces.

Mr. Rouhani said in a Persian-language statement on his website: “With unity, resistance, jihad and sacrifice, the Muslims, including the Palestinian people, will reach their lofty goals.” He didn’t specify those goals, but the “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” banners held up by marchers around him, seen in photographs published by regime media outlets, drove home the point. Mr. Rouhani went on to blame “the Zionist regime and the Global Arrogance”—a favorite regime nickname for Washington—for “bankrolling the strife” roiling the Muslim world.

Tehran’s Kayhan newspaper also weighed in. Iran’s 1979 revolution, the newspaper wrote in an English-language editorial, “busted the myth of the holocaust which the Zionists and their godfathers allege happened in Europe during World War 2.” The editorial predicted that the U.S., “which currently terrorizes humanity as the sole superpower, will one fine day cease to be visible on the map of the world.”

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appoints Kayhan’s editor in chief, and the newspaper is widely seen as the leader’s main mouthpiece. The leader’s top military aide, Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, echoed the paper. According to an English-language Fars News report, Gen. Safavi told Quds Day attendees: “Muslims unity and continuation of armed jihad (struggle) and the Islamic resistance of the Palestinian nation constitute the only strategy for saving and liberating the Holy Quds.””

One might think that sort of context would be helpful to BBC audiences trying to understand the ins and outs of the potential outcomes to the tortuous P5+1 negotiations with Iran. The BBC obviously doesn’t.

Related Articles:

BBC tones down Iranian rhetoric and extremism

More BBC whitewashing of ‘Al Quds Day’

More BBC whitewashing of ‘Al Quds Day’

On August 1st 2013, the BBC News website published a ‘guide’ to Iran’s ‘Al Quds day’ events – held this year on the following day, August 2nd – on its Middle East page. The piece was written by Siavash Ardalan of the BBC Persian service. 

Al Quds Day article

In the article’s first paragraph we yet again see a euphemistic description of the event:

Its overarching theme is support for the Palestinians and fierce denunciation of Israel, and is as much an expression of policy as ritual.”

In fact, both in Iran and elsewhere, the overriding characteristic of this ‘happening’ is calls for Israel’s destruction and displays of support for terrorist organisations dedicated to that cause – especially Hizballah. That – by any conventional definition – is rather more than “fierce denunciation”. 

The original declaration which initiated Al Quds day included these words: 

“Israel, the enemy of mankind, the enemy of humanity, which is creating disturbances every day and is attacking our brothers…, must realise that its masters are no longer accepted in the world and must retreat. They must give up their ambitious designs, their hands must be severed from all the Islamic countries and their agents in these countries must step down.

Quds Day is the day for announcing such things, for announcing such things to the satans who want to push the Islamic nations aside and bring the superpowers into the arena.

Quds Day is the day to dash their hopes and warn them that those days are gone.”

Ardalan informs readers that:

“Jerusalem Day rallies are a must for Iranian politicians. Any politician who hopes to establish their credentials has to be seen and hope to be heard delivering a tirade against Israel. It confirms their loyalties and reiterates their identification with what has become an unshakable tenet of Iran’s foreign policy.

Al Quds Day, London, 21st August 2011

The official stance is that Israel is, as a matter of moral principle, illegitimate. However, it does not follow from this that Iran is under the obligation to take direct and pre-emptive action to destroy Israel. This will happen in due course, the rhetoric goes.

Iranians are well-practised in how to express this idea in short soundbites that are broadcast non-stop during the day of the rallies on state radio and TV. Iranian politicians have particularly become skilled at this. The sentences express a moral outrage over Israel’s existence as well as its actions but fall short of requiring that Iran does anything too harsh about this “moral violation”.” [emphasis added]

Of course some might be of the opinion that Iran’s long-standing supply of funds and weapons to its proxies in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon rather contradicts the eccentric, passive picture which Ardalan is trying to paint. He goes on:

“President Ahmadinejad, however, tried introducing a new element to the traditional narrative: Holocaust denial. His attempts failed and the Supreme Leader, who shares Mr Ahmadinejad’s denial but keeps it low-profile, along with Mr Ahmadinejad’s political rivals, did not allow for this deviation.” [emphasis added]

Ardalan’s claim that Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial was kept in check on Al Quds day itself  is purely cosmetic nit-picking considering that Iran held an International Holocaust Cartoon competition in 2006 and a Holocaust denial conference the same year, with subsequent similar events and a website of Holocaust cartoons launched in 2010.

Ardalan goes on: [emphasis added]

Al Quds Day Rally, London, August 21st 2011

“The idea behind Jerusalem Day rallies was to gather all fasting Muslims every year on the last Friday of Ramadan to show their opposition to the existence of Israel. However, Jerusalem Day did not develop beyond an Iranian experience.

Iranian leaders may have initially been motivated by the desire to further an anti-Israeli drive. However, the need to consolidate and project Iran’s leadership and influence in the Islamic world as well as intimidating opposition forces inside remained as an incentive to keep the tradition alive.

Jerusalem Day did not achieve the former. As it turned out, whatever leadership and influence Iran wields in the Islamic world has little to do with the rallies on Jerusalem Day. Apart from these annual rallies in some Western and Asian capitals, usually organised and financed by Iran, the ritual never took root among Muslims at large.”

Whilst it may indeed be the case that the attraction of Al Quds day is limited, Ardalan’s rather transparent attempt to play down the spread of the event to other countries and the involvement of non-Shiia and non-Muslim groups is all too obvious.

In this year’s Al Quds day event in Berlin some 900 people took part.

“Police officials told The Jerusalem Post that roughly 900 Islamists marched along the Kurfürstendamm shopping strip, calling for the abolition of the Jewish state.

Supporters of Hezbollah and Iran blanketed the area with Hezbollah flags and chants declaring “Zionists are fascists.” […]

Despite the EU’s decision in late July to outlaw Hezbollah’s military wing, yellow Hezbollah flags featuring the AK-47 rifle were waved at the march. […]

According to German intelligence reports from 2012, there are 250 active Hezbollah members in Berlin and 950 across the Federal Republic.”

BBC audiences would not have found any mention of that event in the ‘Europe’ section of the BBC News website. Neither would they find any BBC coverage of the march – complete with racist placards – held in London on August 2nd, despite the fact that it commenced outside the BBC building in Portland Place. 

London, August 2nd, 2013

That rally was as usual organized by the Iranian regime-linked ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission’ – a registered charity whose chair, Massoud Shadjareh, has been quoted and promoted by the BBC on numerous occasions over the years. The event was also supported by  various non-Shiia bodies and non-Muslim organisations such as the ‘Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign’, ‘Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods’ – one of the founders of which, Tony Greenstein, has appeared on BBC programmes – and the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ – members of which are also to be found not infrequently as guests of the BBC.

In contrast to the curious little local custom – odd, but harmless – which this BBC article tries to make Al Quds day out to be, it is in fact a well-organised, well-funded vehicle for promoting racist hatred and glorifying terrorism.  BBC audiences are entitled to expect to read the truth about it rather than Ardalan’s insipid, almost anthropological, whitewash.