A cryptic BBC portrayal of ME reactions to US election result

November 9th saw the appearance of an article titled “US election 2016: Middle East awaits Trump policy decisions” on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.us-elections-reactions

“Many Middle Eastern leaders have congratulated Donald Trump on his unexpected victory in the US presidential election.

But some will be waiting to see whether he changes long-standing US policies on major issues and crises in the region.

BBC correspondents have been gauging the reaction.”

Readers found contributions from BBC journalists in Mosul, Tehran, the Gulf, Cairo and Jerusalem. Thomas Fessy presented an accurate account of Israeli reactions, although he could also have included the Mayor of Jerusalem’s reminder to Mr Trump of his stated intention to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Donald Trump, describing him as “a true friend of the State of Israel”. Mr Netanyahu said he was looking forward “to working with him to advance security, stability and peace in our region”.

The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, was one of the first Israeli officials to send his congratulations. Mr Trump’s campaign said his administration would recognise the holy city as the “undivided capital of the State of Israel”. That would antagonise Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. […]

Israelis from the hard-right meanwhile hope that Mr Trump will not speak against the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett put it quite bluntly: “The era of a Palestinian state is over.””

Fessy’s portrayal of the reactions of the Palestinian Authority president and Hamas are similarly accurate.

In contrast, the contributing BBC journalist in Cairo – Angy Ghannam of BBC Monitoring – focused his attentions on the regional media rather than on the reaction in Egypt.

“The general sentiment among regional media is that for Arabs it makes no difference whoever is in the White House.

While coverage of the election result by the main pan-Arab TV channels has been relatively balanced, the stance adopted by domestic stations has tended to reflect local priorities.

Arabic news websites have described the result as a “miracle”, a “political earthquake”, and “contrary to all expectations”.

Across social media, the overwhelming sentiment has been one of cynicism and pessimism regarding Mr Trump’s comments about Arabs and Muslims.

The majority of Arab users agree that what they regard as the US’s negative policies will remain unchanged.

But some see a perverse silver lining, saying that at least Mr Trump was “clear about his enmity”, while Mrs Clinton was “a hidden enemy”.”

Those trying to decipher that confusingly cryptic account may find an article by the Times of Israel’s Middle East analyst helpful.

“In Egypt, the leadership, including President Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, had trouble hiding its satisfaction with Hillary Clinton’s defeat.

According to Egyptian media, Sissi was the first world leader to call and congratulate Trump. He wished Trump well and expressed the hope that his term would lead to a flourishing of American-Egyptian ties.

What Sissi did not say out loud, but was expressed for him by one of his confidants in the Egyptian parliament, Mustafa Bakri, was that the Trump victory is seen as “a knockout blow for the Muslim Brotherhood.”

This satisfaction was echoed in other Arab countries — including the Gulf States, and even Saudi Arabia — where they have not forgotten or forgiven Clinton and US President Barack Obama for their support for the Arab Spring.

Arab leaders have never been able to understand the stance adopted by Clinton, when she was secretary of state, that supported 2012’s democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. […]

In the so-called pro-Muslim Brotherhood countries Qatar and Turkey, indeed, reaction was muted, with both adopting a wait-and-see attitude to Trump’s future Middle East policy.”

Now why didn’t the BBC report that?

 

 

BBC reports on Lebanese presidential election omit relevant information

October 31st saw the appearance of two BBC News website reports concerning the long-awaited election of a president in Lebanon.aoun-art-1

A report currently going under the headline “Lebanon: Michel Aoun elected president, ending two-year stalemate” underwent a series of amendments throughout the day but all versions of the article informed readers that:

“Mr Aoun was backed by the powerful Shia Islamist group, Hezbollah.

His candidacy was blocked by the rival, Sunni-dominated Future Movement until a deal was struck earlier this month.”

An additional report by Carine Torbey titled “Lebanon: Will new president end political crisis?” portrays the story of the 30 month-long failure to elect a president as follows:

“For almost two-and-a-half years, Lebanon – politically split along sectarian fault lines – has been without a president.aoun-art-2

Michel Aoun, Christian leader and founder of the Free Patriotic Movement, and for a long time one of the main contenders, has since 2006 been an ally of the Iranian-backed Shia party, Hezbollah – formerly a bitter political opponent of Mr Aoun.

That alliance was sufficient to make him persona non grata for the main Sunni political group in the country, the Future Movement, led by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and with strong links to Saudi Arabia.

A standoff, which became known as the “presidential vacuum”, ensued, effectively paralysing the country since May 2014.

On Monday, Mr Aoun was finally elected to the presidency with, remarkably, the support of the Future Movement.”

BBC audiences would therefore be likely to go away with the impression that the Future Movement is responsible for the fact that Lebanon was without a president for nearly two and a half years.

Just days before, listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ and BBC World Service radio’s ‘The Essential’ had heard a BBC journalist visiting Lebanon – James Longman – suggest that the inability to elect a president was linked to corruption.

“The contempt for this country’s politicians is palpable. Unable to elect a president for over two years, they’re widely considered to be corrupt businessmen sharing the spoils of government contracts which rarely benefit the population.”

Back in August 2015, Carine Torbey portrayed the same issue as follows:

“The 27th parliamentary session to elect a president in August was as ill-fated as the previous 26.

Lebanon is caught in deep political divisions mirroring the regional fault lines. The MPs who are deeply allied to one player or another in the region, have been unable to decide on a president, a mainly ceremonial role, reserved for a Christian in a sectarian power-sharing system.”

And readers may recall that in June of this year, BBC Monitoring produced a backgrounder on the topic of the failed attempts to elect a president which similarly refrained from informing BBC audiences of the fact that the parliamentary sessions aimed at dong so were repeatedly boycotted by Hizballah and its allies – as Yalibnan reported in April:

“Since Sulaiman ended his presidential term in May 2014, Hezbollah and most of its March 8 allies boycotted 38 parliamentary sessions that were allocated for electing a president

Without a two-thirds quorum, parliament sessions led to bickering, as Iran-backed Hezbollah insisted that it would only participate if it received solid guarantees that its candidate, Aoun, would be elected.”

In September Yalibnan reported that: 

“Hezbollah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem (usually referred to as No. 2) admitted on Sunday that it his party is behind the obstruction of Lebanon presidential election when [he] called on The Future Movement to “end its hesitation” and agree to back Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun’s presidential bid claiming that Hezbollah’s MPs would immediately end their boycott of the electoral sessions in order to vote for Aoun. […]

The Lebanese parliament failed again September 8th and for the 44th time in a row to elect a president to replace Michel Suleiman whose term ended on May 25, 2014.

As in the past sessions the parliament was unable to reach a quorum because the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group and its ally MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc MPs boycotted the session, because they could not reportedly guarantee Aoun’s election as a president.”

The BBC’s failure to report on those two and a half years of Hizballah arm-twisting does not only leave its audience lacking relevant background concerning the process of the election of the Lebanese president but also affects their ability to comprehend the context to Aoun’s stances and policies – some of which were already revealed in his first address as president.

“For the untrained ear, President Michel Aoun’s inaugural speech sounded like a mishmash of old chewed slogans about Lebanese “national unity”, harmony and patriotism. But between the lines, Aoun loaded his speech with code words that gave away the nation’s policy under his tenure.

First, according to Aoun, Lebanon will stay diplomatically neutral, thus giving Iran the advantage over Saudi Arabia. Second, Lebanon will sponsor “resistance” to “liberate” Israeli-occupied Lebanese territory. Third, Lebanon will “fight terrorism preemptively” inside Syria, and — in coordination with Assad — will deport Syrian refugees. […]

Right after giving Iran what it wanted, President Aoun delivered what Hezbollah wanted. “In the conflict with Israel, we will not spare any effort or resistance to liberate what remains of occupied Lebanese land,” Aoun said, thus trashing UNSC Resolution 1701, which calls for diplomatic resolution for disputed border territory between Lebanon and Israel.”

Since Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon over 16 years ago, the myth of “occupied Lebanese land” in the Mount Dov area has of course been used by Hizballah as an excuse for defying UN resolutions demanding its disarmament – despite the fact that the claim has been rejected by the UN.  

“In 2005, then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan rejected the Lebanese government’s claim that Shebaa Farms was Lebanese territory in a report (.pdf) to the Security Council:

‘The continually asserted position of the Government of Lebanon that the Blue Line is not valid in the Shab’a farms area is not compatible with Security Council resolutions. The Council has recognized the Blue Line as valid for purposes of confirming Israel’s withdrawal pursuant to resolution 425 (1978). The Government of Lebanon should heed the Council’s repeated calls for the parties to respect the Blue Line in its entirety.'”

Obviously the BBC has not made sufficient effort to provide its audience with the full range of information required to meet its remit of enabling understanding of this particular issue.

Related Articles:

Dumbing down ME politics with BBC Monitoring

Hizballah official admits what BBC Monitoring didn’t tell

 

BBC WS presenters fail to challenge politically motivated narrative

As noted here previously, among its coverage of the death of former Israeli president Shimon Peres announced just hours earlier on September 28th, the 08:06 edition of BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ broadcast an interview with anti-Israel activist Ben White. In that interview listeners heard repeated context free and inaccurate promotion of a particular theme.

“And in 1996, notoriously, he was prime minister during a particularly brutal Israeli operation in Lebanon that included the massacre at Qana.” […]

“Remember of course that, you know, the Qana massacre for example, you know, more than a hundred civilians killed in Lebanon…” […]

“That military venture by Peres – and remember; this is ’96: this is sort of 3 years after his apparent sort of conversion to the cause of peace – that campaign was widely seen by people as a pre-election move. OK: so killing Lebanese civilians is a pre-election gesture even if it didn’t…even if it didn’t work.” 

The edition of that same programme broadcast one hour earlier – presented by Bola Mosuro and Julian Keane – included similarly context free promotion of the same subject. After tributes to Peres from past and present US presidents were read out, Keane told listeners:newsday-28-9-0706

“Just worth noting; there are also of course some contrasting views. Sultan al Husseini [phonetic] who is a commentator who’s quite present on Twitter – a commentator from the United Arab Emirates – who was…well he made a reference to the killing…the al Qasa [sic] killing of…when the Israelis shelled a UN compound in southern Lebanon, saying Shimon Peres was an example of how the world can forget someone’s crimes if they only live long enough.”

The programme also included an interview introduced by Mosuro as follows:

“Well let’s go now to Daoud Kuttab who’s a Palestinian columnist for Al Monitor and joins us now from Jordan. Good morning to you, Daoud. We’ve been hearing this morning how Shimon Peres was seen by many Israelis as a peacemaker. How will he be remembered by those in Palest…by Palestinians: how will he be remembered?”

Among Kuttab’s comments listeners heard the following:

“But he [Peres] also made a terrible mistake right after Rabin was killed which is that he attacked Lebanon fiercely and there was one attack right before the elections in which hundred Lebanese and Palestinians were killed in an attack on a village at a UN outpost and that actually cost him the elections and brought to us Binyamin Netanyahu who’s been terrible about peace.”

Of course the real cause of Peres’ loss in that election was the post-Oslo surge in Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis.

In neither of these ‘Newsday’ programmes did BBC presenters bother to provide listeners with the crucial context concerning Operation Grapes of Wrath in general or the Qana incident in particular. The escalation of Hizballah missile attacks against civilian communities in northern Israel that triggered the operation was completely erased from audience view. The fact that Hizballah forces had fired missiles and mortars from the vicinity of the UN compound in Qana (with no intervention by UNIFIL) on several occasions in the hours before the tragic accident goes completely unmentioned.monitoring-peres-art

‘Newsday’ listeners were however not the only ones left with inaccurate impressions concerning the Qana incident. For example, the writer of an article by BBC Monitoring titled “Mixed reaction to Peres’ legacy in world media” (which was published on the BBC News website on September 28th and promoted as a link in several other reports) found it appropriate to give context free amplification to propaganda from a semi-official Iranian regime news agency.

“Fars news agency says: “Shimon Peres is dead; Butcher of Qana dies following two weeks in coma” in a reference to the 1996 shelling of Qana in southern Lebanon that killed over 100.”

There is of course nothing surprising about the fact that elements such as the Iranian regime or anti-Israel campaigners of various stripes would try to exploit an Israeli statesman’s death for the promotion of an inaccurate, politically motivated narrative about an historic event. The problem is that the BBC – supposedly the “standard-setter for international journalism” committed to editorial values of accuracy and impartiality – provides an unchallenged platform for such exploitation.

Related Articles:

Coverage of Shimon Peres’ death promotes the BBC’s political narrative

BBC radio marks Peres’ death with Palestinian propaganda – part one

BBC radio marks Peres’ death with Palestinian propaganda – part two

BBC WS breaches impartiality guidelines with Ben White interview on Peres

Hizballah official admits what BBC Monitoring didn’t tell

Back at the beginning of June BBC Monitoring produced a video which purported to assist audiences in finding an answer to the question “Why can’t Lebanon elect a president?“. As was noted here at the time, the video did not provide the information necessary for audience understanding of that issue.BBC Monitoring president Lebanon

“In other words, this item refrained from informing BBC audiences that the reason Lebanon can’t elect a president according to its democratic process is because a religiously motivated proscribed terrorist organisation that is sponsored (and not just “supported”) by Iran is preventing it from doing so.”

Yalibnan reports that a Hizballah official has now confirmed that his outfit is holding the country to ransom.

“Hezbollah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem (usually referred to as No. 2) admitted on Sunday that it his party is behind the obstruction of Lebanon presidential election when [he] called on The Future Movement to “end its hesitation” and agree to back Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun’s presidential bid claiming that that Hezbollah’s MPs would immediately end their boycott of the electoral sessions in order to vote for Aoun. […]

The Lebanese parliament failed again September 8th and for the 44th time in a row to elect a president to replace Michel Suleiman whose term ended on May 25, 2014.

As in the past sessions the parliament was unable to reach a quorum because the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group and its ally MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc MPs boycotted the session, because they could not reportedly guarantee Aoun’s election as a president.”

The BBC however continues to refrain from meeting its obligation to “[b]uild a global understanding” of this particular international issue.

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘More or Less’ and Radio 1’s ‘Newsbeat’ were commended in the recent BBC Trust review of the impartiality of the corporation’s reporting of statistics in its news and current affairs output. Those two programmes recently came together with BBC Monitoring to produce a multi-platform feature on the subject of deaths resulting from terrorism in Western Europe.Newsbeat terror

Terror deaths in Western Europe at highest level since 2004” Newsbeat

“The start of 2016 saw the highest number of terrorism deaths in Western Europe since 2004, BBC research has revealed.

The first seven months of the year saw 143 deaths, which is also the second worst start to the year since 1980.”

Counting Terror Deaths” ‘More or Less’, BBC Radio 4

“Is 2016 an unusually deadly year for terrorism?

In a joint investigation with BBC Newsbeat and BBC Monitoring, we’ve analysed nearly 25,000 news articles to assess whether 2016 so far has been a unusually [sic] deadly year for terrorism. It certainly feels like it. But what do the numbers say? We estimate that, between January and July this year, 892 people died in terrorist attacks in Europe – making it the most deadly first seven months of a year since 1994. But the vast majority of those deaths have been in Turkey. The number for Western Europe is 143, which is lower than many years in the 1970s.”More or Less R4 terror

Counting Terror Deaths” ‘More or Less’, BBC World Service Radio

“With high profile attacks in Brussels, Nice and Munich, you might think that 2016 has been a particularly bad year for terrorism in Europe. But what happens when you put the numbers in historical context and compare them with figures for the rest of the world?”

The research underlying all those reports used a “working definition” of terrorism described as follows in the radio programmes:

“Terrorist attacks are acts of violence by non-state actors to achieve a political, social, economic or religious goal through fear, coercion or intimidation.”

Since the surge in terror attacks against Israelis began last September, the BBC has provided its audiences with a variety of explanations for the violence. The preferred explanation proffered by the corporation’s Middle East editor has been ‘the occupation’.

“Many Palestinians have told me they believe the reason for the attacks is that another generation is realising its future prospects will be crippled by the indignities and injustice of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.”

“Violence does not come out of the blue. It has a context. Once again, the problem is the unresolved conflict between Palestinians and Jews. It is at the heart of all the violence that shakes this city.

A big part of the conflict is the military occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, that has lasted for nearly 50 years. It is impossible to ignore the effects of an occupation that is always coercive and can be brutal.

In successive Palestinian generations, it has created hopelessness and hatred. In some cases, that bursts out into murderous anger.”

“Palestinians say they don’t need to be told when to be angry after almost fifty years of an occupation that is always coercive and often brutal.”

Another ‘explanation’ repeatedly offered to audiences goes along the following lines:More or Less WS terror

“The recent rise in violence is blamed by Palestinians on the continued occupation by Israel of the West Bank and the failure of the Middle East peace process.”

In addition to those political factors, the BBC has frequently cited a religious factor as context to the surge in violence.

“The current escalation was partly triggered by Palestinian fury over restricted access to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. The site is holy to Muslims and Jews, who call it Temple Mount.”

“In the last few weeks what we’ve had is this big flare-up in tensions over the Al Aqsa Mosque compound; about access to this important religious site.”

“But the key to all of this, we think, is this ancient dispute about rights of worship at the Al Aqsa Mosque – which is called Temple Mount by Jews of course.”

“Tensions have been particularly high in recent weeks over the long-running issue of access to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem.”

But despite having cited political, social and religious factors as explanations for the Palestinian violence against Israelis in recent months, as has been documented here on countless occasions the BBC nevertheless universally refrained from describing those attacks as terrorism or their perpetrators as terrorists. 

With the corporation now having finally found a working definition of terrorism with which it is apparently comfortable, its long-standing editorial policy of eschewing accurate terminology when covering Palestinian attacks on Israelis clearly becomes even more egregious.  

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

On August 12th 2006 the BBC News website reported that:

“The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a new resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Resolution 1701 calls for “a full cessation of hostilities”, and UN and Lebanese troops to replace Israeli forces in southern Lebanon.”

BBC audiences were also provided with the text of that UNSC resolution which of course includes the following:1701 text art

“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;”

The resolution calls for:

  • “security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;
  • full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State;
  • no foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its Government;
  • no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government;”

The same resolution expanded the mandate and capabilities of the UNIFIL force in southern Lebanon and charged it, inter alia, with aiding the Lebanese government to prevent Hizballah’s rearmament.

While that UNSC resolution brought an end to the 2006 war, it has obviously failed to achieve its long-term goal of avoiding the next round of conflict by preventing Hizballah’s rearmament and entrenchment in southern Lebanon.

The BBC’s public purpose remit commits it to keeping its funding public “in touch with what is going on in the world” and to building “a global understanding of international issues” and so it would be reasonable to assume that audiences have been kept up to date on the issues pertaining to implementation of Resolution 1701 throughout the decade since it was adopted – but is that the case?

The ‘timeline’ in the BBC’s online profile of Lebanon (last updated in August 2016) makes no mention at all of the existence of UNSC Resolution 1701.

“2006 July-August – Israel attacks after Hezbollah kidnaps two Israeli soldiers. Civilian casualties are high and the damage to civilian infrastructure wide-ranging in 34-day war. UN peacekeeping force deploys along the southern border, followed by Lebanese army troops for first time in decades.”

The profile itself includes a generalised reference to the disarming of militias without specifically recalling Resolution 1701 and without clarifying the current status of that ‘demand’. 

“The UN has demanded the dismantling of all armed groups in Lebanon, including Palestinian militias and the military wing of Hezbollah, which controls much of southern Lebanon.”

The BBC’s current profile of Hizballah (last updated in March 2016) tells audiences that:

“After Israel withdrew in 2000, Hezbollah resisted pressure to disarm and continued to strengthen its military wing, the Islamic Resistance. In some ways, its capabilities now exceed those of the Lebanese army, its considerable firepower used against Israel in the 2006 war.”

And:

“Hezbollah survived the [2006] war and emerged emboldened. Although it is has since upgraded and expanded its arsenal and recruited scores of new fighters, there has been no major flare-up along the border area, which is now patrolled by UN peacekeepers and the Lebanese army.”

No mention is made of Resolution 1701 and the obligation to disarm the terrorist organisation, prevent its rearmament and remove it from southern Lebanon in either of those profiles currently appearing on the BBC News website.

Immediately after the 2006 war, the BBC was able to tell its audiences that:

“UN Security Council resolutions call for armed militia groups like Hezbollah to disarm.” 

Nearly a year after the adoption of Resolution 1701, the BBC sent Martin Asser to southern Lebanon to ‘examine UNIFIL’s performance’. The caption to the main photograph illustrating his article informed audiences that “Unifil troops are meant to prevent Hezbollah bearing arms”.1701 Asser art

“After the July 2006 war, the [UNIFIL] force received new orders and thousands of reinforcements under the ceasefire resolution 1701, which also stipulated the deployment of the Lebanese army in the area.

Previously the area had become the fiefdom of Hezbollah, the Shia Islamist and militant movement whose cross-border raid on 12 July – snatching two Israeli soldiers – was the catalyst for the 34-day conflict.

The post-conflict objective was for Unifil to help the Lebanese government extend its sovereignty to the southern frontier, so Hezbollah’s armed wing would no longer be free to menace nearby Israeli towns or troops patrolling the border.”

Asser added:

“Hezbollah fighters are masters of concealment and guerrilla warfare – their weapons were never on show before the war, so they are unlikely to be caught red-handed by Unifil or Lebanese troops now.”

An old profile of Hizballah from 2010 states:

“Despite two UN resolutions (1559 passed in 2004, and 1701, which halted the war) calling for disarming of militias in Lebanon, Hezbollah’s military arm remains intact.”

In 2013 BBC audiences were told by the corporation’s man in Beirut, Jim Muir, that “Hezbollah has scrupulously observed the ceasefire that ended hostilities in 2006”. In 2015 Orla Guerin reported from south Lebanon but failed to use the opportunity provided by a rare BBC visit to that area to inform audiences of Hizballah’s use of civilian villages to store weapons and as sites from which to launch attacks against Israel.

The BBC has also consistently avoided or downplayed the topic of Iranian breaches of UNSC Resolution 1701 in the form of its transfer of arms to Hizballah. In 2013 BBC audiences heard Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen playing dumb (and some Hizballah spin) on the issue of Syrian transfers of weapons to the terrorist organisation. 

Already in 2007 – just over a year after the war and the resolution which brought it to an end – the UN admitted that Hizballah had “rebuilt and even increased its military capacity” and since then its weapons stocks have vastly increased and diversified. The BBC is of course aware of that fact – as indicated in an article by BBC Monitoring’s Lamia Estatie published on July 11th 2016 under the headline “Hezbollah: Five ways group has changed since 2006 Israel war“.1701 Estatie art

“Its weapons arsenal grew from from [sic] 33,000 rockets and missiles before the 2006 war to an estimated 150,000. Similarly, it swelled from a few thousand members in 2006 to an estimated 20,000-plus.

After 2011, Hezbollah’s military support for the Iran-backed Syrian government – its weapons supply line – gave its fighters considerable combat experience and exposure to Russian military planning.”

No mention of UNSC Resolution 1701 appears in that report either.

It is apparent that as the decade since the UNSC’s adoption of 1701 progressed, BBC audiences saw less coverage of the topic of the existence of the resolution itself and the fact that its terms have been serially violated. Given the obligations to its funding public laid out in the public purposes remit, it is difficult to see how the BBC can justify that pattern of reporting.

Related Articles:

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part one

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part two

 

Dumbing down ME politics with BBC Monitoring

On June 1st the BBC News website’s Middle East page published a video by BBC Monitoring which purported to assist audiences in finding an answer to the question “Why can’t Lebanon elect a president?“.BBC Monitoring president Lebanon

The synopsis reads:

“On Thursday, for the 40th time in two years, the Lebanese parliament will attempt to fill the vacant position of the country’s president.

BBC Monitoring looks at why Lebanon has struggled to elect a leader.”

Sadly for BBC audiences, the video did not do what it said on the tin. Viewers were told that:

“Lebanon hasn’t had a president for the last two years. On Thursday parliament will try and elect one. It’s their 40th attempt. The president can’t be anyone. They need to be a Maronite Christian. To balance this the PM has to be a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament must be a Shia Muslim. The last president blames Hezbollah for the stalemate. Hezbollah leads one of the main blocs in parliament. The group backs Syria’s President Assad and is supported by Iran. The other main bloc is pro-western and backed by Saudi Arabia. But two-thirds of MPs need to come together to elect a president. With this much disagreement, that’s a big ask.”

The Lebanese parliament again failed to elect a president the day after that video was published.   

“The Lebanese parliament failed again — on its 40th try — to choose a new president after only 39 members showed up for the electoral session Thursday, which was boycotted by parliament speaker Nabih Berri and most MPs from Hezbollah’s political bloc. The country has been without a president since May 2014.”

That ‘March 8 bloc’ boycott is nothing new, as Yalibnan reported in April:

“Since Sulaiman ended his presidential term in May 2014, Hezbollah and most of its March 8 allies boycotted 38 parliamentary  sessions that were allocated for electing a president

Without a two-thirds quorum, parliament sessions led to bickering, as Iran-backed Hezbollah insisted that it would only participate if it received solid guarantees that its candidate, Aoun, would be elected.”

In other words, this item refrained from informing BBC audiences that the reason Lebanon can’t elect a president according to its democratic process is because a religiously motivated proscribed terrorist organisation that is sponsored (and not just “supported”) by Iran is preventing it from doing so.

“Former prime minister Fouad Saniora told journalists after the failed Thursday session that he thought it was the pro-Iranian Hezbollah group that was preventing an election from taking place.

According to Saniora, Hezbollah says it is supporting General Michel Aoun for president but is, in fact, using the election as a bargaining chip with respect to sanctions on the group and the debate over its role in the region.”

Possible broader incentives for Hizballah’s stance have also been discussed by analysts – for example here and here.

In August 2014 the Middle East Institute published an article on the topic of the failure to elect a president in Lebanon which opened as follows:

“The presidential vacuum in Lebanon since May 24, when president Michel Sleiman’s term ended without the Lebanese parliament having elected a successor, is likely to continue until an electable candidate is found who respects Hezbollah’s military autonomy and does not challenge its Syria policy.

Parliamentarians in Hezbollah’s “Loyalty to the Resistance bloc” have played an instrumental role in delaying the election process by boycotting all nine presidential election sessions, contributing to the lack of quorum needed to select a president.  An anti-Hezbollah president cannot be elected because the March 8 bloc (of which Hezbollah is a part) can prevent parliament from achieving the required quorum.”

That article was written by Lamia Estatie who now works for BBC Monitoring and who is credited as having produced this video.

Estatie obviously knows full well why Lebanon can’t elect a president. Why then did BBC Monitoring elect to waste audiences’ time with a dumbed-down report which skirts around the real point rather than meeting the corporation’s obligation to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”?

 

Inaccuracies in BBC backgrounder on Sinai terrorists

An article by Kevin Connolly published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 20th under the title “EgyptAir crash fuels fears and theories” tells readers that:

“Egypt sees itself as a regional power in the front line of a war against global jihadism and its strong-man President, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, portrays himself as the hammer of political Islamism at home.

Privately many Egyptians appear to worry that might make their country an obvious target for jihadists – the fear being that a long-bubbling Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula might escalate elsewhere in Egypt.”

The link provided leads to a backgrounder produced by BBC Monitoring titled “Sinai Province: Egypt’s most dangerous group” which tells readers that:Sinai province

“Sinai Province started by attacking Israel with rockets, but after the removal of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 it focused on Egypt’s security services, killing dozens of soldiers.

It has been involved in suicide bombings, drive-by shootings, assassinations and beheadings.”

Sinai Province (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) emerged in 2011 after the ousting of the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.  Its activities began with attacks on the oil pipelines running between Israel and Egypt and on July 30th of that year it attacked a police station in El Arish, killing six people. On August 14th 2011 the Egyptian army launched ‘Operation Eagle’ to tackle the insurgency and four days later a combined terror attack took place along the Israeli-Egyptian border resulting in the deaths of eight Israelis.

On August 5th 2012 – just over a month after Mohammed Morsi became president of Egypt – an Egyptian army post near Rafah was attacked and more than 15 Egyptian security personnel were killed. The terrorists proceeded to the Kerem Shalom crossing in stolen vehicles and briefly breached the border. Two days later the Egyptian army launched ‘Operation Sinai’. On September 21st Ansar Bayt al Maqdis launched a terror attack on the Israeli-Egyptian border in which an Israeli soldier was killed.

In other words, the BBC’s claim that “Sinai Province started by attacking Israel with rockets” is not accurate: serious cross-border attacks also took place. The claim that attacks on Egypt’s security services began “after the removal of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013” is also clearly inaccurate.

The backgrounder gives typically scant information on the topic of collaboration between Sinai Province and Hamas.

“The border with Israel and the Gaza Strip has been a scene of tension over the past few years. The Egyptian authorities have created a buffer zone, demolishing houses and digging a trench to prevent smuggling between Egypt and Gaza – which they say is a source of weapons for the militants.”

Were that BBC backgrounder more accurate, perhaps Kevin Connolly would have been in a position to tell his readers that Egypt has been tackling the issue of Sinai-based terrorists since before its current president came to power, that attacks “elsewhere in Egypt” have already taken place and that Egypt was a “target for jihadists” even when it had a president in the “political Islamism” camp.  

BBC Monitoring uses Sykes-Picot anniversary to promote conspiracy theory

The 100th anniversary of the Sykes-Picot Agreement this week produced a rash of journalistic commentary, much of which succumbed to the fashion of lazily blaming that agreement for the Middle East’s contemporary ills.

That trend was not however confined to Western commentators and BBC Monitoring produced a report titled “Sykes-Picot marked with bitterness and regret by Arab media” which appeared on the BBC News website on May 16th.

Not for the first time, readers found BBC Monitoring using its platform for the amplification of baseless conspiracy theory.

BBC monitoring Sykes Picot

One of course presumes that before deciding that the above comment was worthy of translation and amplification to audiences worldwide, BBC Monitoring exercised due diligence and took the time to check out that Twitter feed. If so, then it would have realised that the so-called ‘Pencil192’ has something of a pathological obsession with ‘Zionists’.

pencil tweet 5 promoted

Pencil tweet 1

pencil tweet 2

pencil tweet 3

pencil tweet 4

Whilst that may not be much of a surprise coming from a social media user who appears to be a Baathist history buff and Saddam Hussein fan, what should raise eyebrows is the fact that BBC Monitoring apparently believes that the amplification of unchallenged conspiracy theories from an obscure social media account in some way contributes to meeting the corporation’s remit to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”.

BBC Monitoring digs up the dirt with cleaners non-story

In the financial year 2013-14, BBC Monitoring ceased to enjoy funding from sources such as the UK government’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence and since then it has been funded by the licence fee payer. Members of the British public therefore clearly have an interest in knowing how that department uses their money.

Stating that “our unique capabilities are highly valued”, BBC Monitoring claims to “deliver the news you need, when you need it” to subscribers and to provide “deep local insight” and “hard to reach information that is often undetected”. The department also provides material for BBC programmes and content for the BBC News website.

One example of such content appeared in the website’s ‘News From Elsewhere’ section on February 8th under the headline “Anger as Israel company ‘prices staff by ethnicity’” and with an illustrative photograph which obviously has no connection to the article’s subject matter but indicates that BBC Monitoring’s “deep local insight” does not include the knowledge that Israelis do not have brass letter boxes.BBC monitoring cleaner story

The “hard to reach information” which forms the basis of that article was sourced from two English language Israeli media organisations and no particularly “unique capabilities” are required to access their sites online. Additional links to a Hebrew language news website and the Facebook account of the Israeli journalist/blogger Tal Schneider who first promoted the story are provided.

The article relates to a flyer ‘collected’ by an acquaintance of Schneider which advertises cleaning services. In spite of BBC Monitoring’s use of the word “company” in its headline and its opening paragraph, as Ha’aretz pointed out: “the leaflet indicated no company name but only gave the phone number for someone called Irena”.

BBC audiences are told that:

“A flyer for a cleaning company in Tel Aviv has sparked anger and soul-searching after pricing its staff on the basis of their ethnicity, it seems.

Israeli journalist and political blogger Tal Schneider posted a photograph of the leaflet to her Facebook account with the statement “Blatant racism permeates Israel, pricing workers by race”…”

As distasteful as it may be, one flyer from an unknown source obviously does not support the hyperbolic sweeping allegation that “blatant racism permeates Israel”. Nevertheless, BBC Monitoring used licence fee funding to compile and promote this non-story – which actually provides more “deep local insight” into the BBC practice of swooping on any opportunity to promote a story of this genre than anything else.