Weekend long read

1) At the FDD Svante Cornell and Brenda Shaffer analyse ‘Selective Policies on Occupations, Protracted Conflicts, and Territorial Disputes’.

“Setting policies toward territories involved in protracted conflicts poses an ongoing challenge for governments, companies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Since there are multiple zones of disputed territories and occupation around the globe, setting policy toward one conflict raises the question of whether similar policies will be enacted toward others. Where different policies are implemented, the question arises: On what principle or toward what goal are the differences based?

Recently, for example, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided goods entering the European Union that are produced in Jewish settlements in the West Bank must be clearly designated as such. At the same time, however, neither the ECJ nor the European Union have enacted similar policies on goods from other zones of occupation, such as Nagorno-Karabakh or Abkhazia. The U.S. administration swiftly criticized the ECJ decision as discriminatory since it only applies to Israel. Yet, at the same time, U.S. customs policy on goods imports from other territories is also inconsistent: U.S. Customs and Border Protection has explicit guidelines that goods imported from the West Bank must be labelled as such, while goods that enter the United States from other occupied zones, such as Nagorno-Karabakh, encounter no customs interference.”

2) At the Tablet Liel Leibovitz gives his view of the US administration’s peace proposal.

“There’ll be time enough, in the days and weeks to come, to parse the fineries of President Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century. For now, though, one thing must be said: The plan introduces an element that’s been sorely missing from Washington’s approach to the Middle East for at least two decades—reality.

Talk to any of our best and brightest diplomats, analysts, and pundits, and you may be forgiven for thinking the region was reached not by plane but by wardrobe. Like a sandy Narnia, the land imagined in Foggy Bottom was one governed not by people and interests but by concepts and frameworks, best understood not by hitting the ground but by visiting the Council on Foreign Relations.”

3) The JCPA documents Iranian opposition to the US proposal.

“As expected, President Trump’s peace plan received widespread condemnation from official Iranian spokesmen as well as most media outlets in Iran. […] Iranian media emphatically broadcast the condemnations of the plan by the Palestinian organizations (Hamas and Islamic Jihad) and by the Palestinian Authority Chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, and Hizbullah. The press called for a unified Muslim front against the plan.

Iranian leader Khamenei webpage presented an updated eight-minute video on January 29, 2020, describing all the “traitorous” peace treaties signed between Israel and the Arab states, including the Oslo Accords, Camp David (2000), the Arab Peace Initiative, and the “Deal of the Century.” At the end of the video, the Iranian solution is presented in which the Iranian leader stressed that the “military, political, ethical, and cultural activities must be continued in order to liberate Palestine until those who oppressed the Palestinians will agree to a Palestinian referendum.””

4) The ITIC provides a profile of the new leader of ISIS.

“British daily The Guardian has recently disclosed the identity of ISIS’s new leader who succeeded Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (who died in a targeted killing by the United States on October 27, 2019). According to The Guardian, the new leader’s name is Amir Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Mawli al-Salbi, and his codename is Haji Abdullah or Abdullah alQardash (The Guardian, January 20, 2020). The decision on the appointment of the new leader was taken by the Shura Council, ISIS’s supreme body authorized to take significant decisions of this kind. The change in leadership has so far passed quite smoothly. ISIS still refrains from revealing the name or the codename of the new leader, apparently due to security reasons, mentioning only the codename Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi.”

 

 

 

BBC News avoids the term ‘occupation’ in Cyprus gas report

A report titled “Turkish drone fuels tension over Cyprus gas claims” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on December 16th.

The report begins by informing readers that:

“A Turkish military drone has arrived at a base in Turkish-backed northern Cyprus to help controversial gas exploration projects near the island.

A Turkish military official said the drone would escort its drilling ships. There are two – the Fatih and Yavuz – in the area, despite strong criticism from Cyprus and its EU partners.” [emphasis added]

It goes on:

“Turkey alone recognises the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”

Readers are provided with a similarly worded map:

Later on an attempt is made to provide some historical background:

“The Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities have been separated by a UN buffer zone since 1974, when Turkey invaded the north of the island in response to a military coup in Cyprus backed by Greece.”

Interestingly – but predictably – the words ‘occupation’ and ‘occupied’ do not appear anywhere in this report. As has been the case in past BBC reporting, there is no reference in the report to “illegal settlements” or “international law” despite the fact that it was Turkish state policy to facilitate and encourage the immigration of Turkish nationals to Cyrpus during the latter half of the 1970s.

In contrast to BBC coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, readers do not find any pronouncements allocating disputed territory to one side or the other in the style of the frequently employed terminology “occupied Palestinian land” and “Palestinian territory” and no mention is made of the presence of Turkish troops in northern Cyprus. Moreover, the previous BBC policy of describing northern Cyprus as being ‘controlled’ by Turkey appears to have been abandoned.

Readers are told that:

“The Republic of Cyprus, Greece and Israel are also exploring for gas.

In July [sic] a new “East Mediterranean Gas Forum” (EMGF) was launched by those three countries, plus Egypt, Jordan, Italy and the Palestinian Authority. However, Turkey was excluded.”

The EMGF was actually established in January 2019.

The background to the story includes agreements reached in late November between Turkey and the interim government of Libya which are described as follows:

“Last month, Turkey and the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya signed an agreement on maritime boundaries in the region.

The Memorandum of Understanding aims to protect the rights of both countries against any “illegal” encroachments by other players in the region.

In a separate memorandum, Turkey and the GNA agreed on military co-operation. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government was “ready to provide all kinds of support to Libya”. He met GNA leader Fayez al-Sarraj in Istanbul on Sunday.”

The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus adds:

“Turkey’s deal with the Libyan government in Tripoli extends Ankara’s claimed exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to touch that of Libya. This effectively cuts off Israel, Egypt, Cyprus and the Palestinians from Greece and Italy, threatening planned energy pipeline projects in the region.

Egypt objected. Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador and received support from the EU.”

Writing at the FDD, Aykan Erdemir provides a more helpful explanation:

“Turkey signed an agreement with Libya on November 27 in an attempt to redraw maritime boundaries in the volatile eastern Mediterranean. […] the Turkey-Libya deal will fuel further tensions by threatening Greek, Cypriot, and Egyptian control of their territorial waters. […]

The deal seeks to create a maritime corridor between the two countries, stretching from southwest Turkey to northeast Libya. This corridor would cut through a zone currently claimed by Greece and Cyprus, which are planning a future gas pipeline connecting eastern Mediterranean gas fields to markets in Europe – a project that would help the continent reduce dependency on Russian gas. Ankara’s attempt to dictate new boundaries directly challenges the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Cyprus, Egypt, and Greece. […]

Tensions among Ankara, Athens, and Nicosia were already high due to Turkey’s exploration and drilling for gas within Cypriot territorial waters. Since a 1974 coup attempt led by Greek army officers, Turkey has occupied the northern part of the island, where Turkish Cypriots maintain a self-proclaimed independent state recognized only by Ankara. After the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus discovered natural gas within its EEZ, Turkey has repeatedly attempted to drill in Cypriot territorial waters. The Turkish government claims its drilling is necessary to ensure equal shares for Turkish Cypriots in gas revenues, but its incursions into Cypriot and Greek waters have escalated tensions with Athens and Nicosia, forced the European Union to consider imposing sanctions, and left Ankara with few allies in the region.”

The BBC report’s explanation of what its opening sentence described as “controversial gas exploration projects” is as follows:

“Turkey has long challenged the Republic of Cyprus government’s exclusive drilling rights in the region. Turkey is now stepping up oil and gas exploration of its own.”

And:

“The Republic of Cyprus argues that Turkey has no right to drill for hydrocarbons off its coast.

Turkey says its drilling operations are taking place inside its continental shelf, and therefore comply with international law.”

That ‘he said-she said’ portrayal of the dispute clearly does not provide BBC audiences with the “depth of analysis” required “to build people’s understanding” as required by the corporation’s public purposes.  

Related Articles:

Not all ‘occupied territories’ are equal for the BBC

When the BBC News website reported an enduring conflict without a narrative

BBC double standards on disputed territory in evidence again

 

How BBC management of online content works

The new BBC editorial guidelines include a section titled “Managing Online Content” which states:

“13.3.22 At the time that editorial content is posted online, the editorial managers responsible for its creation should decide on a strategy for its management over time. They should consider how frequently pages need to be updated or how they are to be treated if they are not to be updated.”

That decidedly vague and inconsistent instruction leads to situations such as the following:

On July 17th the BBC News website published a report on its ‘UK’ page headlined “Twelve arrested in Ayia Napa ‘over alleged rape of British woman’” which opened by telling readers that:

“Twelve Israelis have been arrested in Ayia Napa in Cyprus over an alleged rape of a British woman, reports say.”

On July 18th the BBC News website published another report on its ‘UK’ and ‘Middle East’ pages headlined “Ayia Napa: Twelve in court after ‘British woman raped’” in which readers were informed that:

“Twelve Israelis have appeared in court in Cyprus over the alleged rape of a 19-year-old British woman.”

On July 28th the BBC News website published a third report on its ‘UK’ and ‘Middle East’ pages titled “British woman arrested over ‘false rape claim’ in Ayia Napa”.

“A British woman who alleged she was raped in Cyprus has been arrested on suspicion of making a false allegation, according to news agencies.

The 12 Israelis arrested over the alleged attack, which was said to have taken place on 17 July in Ayia Napa, have all been released.”

However, the editorial managers responsible for the creation of those first two articles have not bothered to update them with a link to the third report, meaning that anyone accessing the content published on either July 17th or July 18th – for example via the ‘tourism’ tag which only appears on the second report – would remain unaware of the significant later development in the story.

It is surely obvious that best practice would be for the BBC to uniformly ensure that any developments in stories concerning alleged crimes should be added to earlier reports as a link under the “more on this story” heading at the bottom of the article in order to avoid inaccurate and misleading information becoming part of the “permanent public record”.

BBC newsgathering again relies on Syrian state outlets

On the morning of July 1st the BBC News website published a filmed report titled “Syria war: Video shows ‘Israeli missiles being intercepted’” and a written report headlined “Syria war: Israeli jets ‘hit Iranian targets in Homs and Damascus’”.

As specified in its synopsis, the commentary-free video is made up entirely of “footage released by Syria’s state-run Sana news agency” and viewers were told that it “appears to show missiles being intercepted in mid-air”. [emphasis added]

Likewise, 37.3% of the written report’s 209 words was given over to allegations made by two Syrian state-run news agencies – with nothing to suggest any independent verification by the BBC – including the following unconfirmed claim:

“In Sahnaya, south of Damascus, four civilians – including a toddler – were killed as a result of Israeli “aggression”, Syrian state-run broadcaster al-Ikhbariya said.” [emphasis added]

Although a further 35.4% of the report repeated claims made by the UK-based organisation ‘the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’, the BBC did not include the following:

“The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group, said it was not immediately clear if the six civilians, among them an infant, were killed by the attacks themselves, which were attributed to Israel, by Syria’s anti-aircraft fire, or by some other secondary explosion.”

The BBC’s own contribution to the report came in just 57 words which did not include a description of Hizballah as a terrorist organisation, despite it being defined as such in the UK. [emphasis added]

“Israel’s military has not commented. It periodically attacks what it says are threats to Israeli security in Syria.

These include what it has identified as advanced weaponry destined for the Islamist Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Iranian bases in Syria.

Israel says it will not allow its arch-enemy Iran to entrench itself in Syria, Iran’s key ally.”

BBC audiences were not informed of an apparently related incident in northern Cyprus.

“Meanwhile, Turkish-held Cyprus said a Syrian anti-aircraft missile that was fired at Israeli jets landed north of Nicosia. No casualties were reported.

“The first assessment is that a Russian-made missile, […] which was part of the air defense system that took place last night in the face of an air strike against Syria, completed its range and fell into our country after it missed,” Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Kudret Ozersay said in a social media post.”

Not only have audiences been given very little factual information about the efforts of Iran and its proxies to establish a foothold in Syria in recent years but – as is the case once again in this latest report – the BBC has on repeated occasions even steered them towards the view that Iran’s military build-up in Syria is primarily a claim touted by Israel.

As has frequently been the case in the past, we see that BBC newsgathering for this report consisted mainly of repeating unconfirmed claims from state-run Syrian media. Given that those sources have been shown in the past to repeatedly disseminate false claims, one would expect a serious media outlet to be considerably more cautious about promoting their unverified statements to its funding public in supposedly factual news reports.

Related Articles:

BBC News framing of Iranian forces in Syria

BBC News framing of Iranian activity in Syria continues

BBC inconsistency on Iran’s Syria build-up continues

Slapdash BBC News reporting of events in northern Israel and Syria

Reviewing the sourcing of BBC Radio 4 December 26 news bulletins

BBC double standards on disputed territory in evidence again

An article published on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ page on February 13th under the title “Debt misery hits students as dream turns sour in northern Cyprus” provides another example of a double standard in BBC reporting which has been documented here in the past.

Readers saw the location at the centre of the article described as follows:

“…Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, a self-declared republic recognised only by Turkey.” 

“Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the north, in response to a military coup backed by nationalists ruling Greece at the time.

Since declaring independence in 1983, the north has been under international embargo, so it is propped up by Turkey and its currency, the lira.”

“…northern Cyprus is not recognised internationally…”

Readers were also provided with a map:

As has been the case in past BBC reporting on Cyprus (see ‘related articles’ below), the words ‘occupied’ and ‘occupation’ did not appear at all in the report: readers were merely told that northern Cyprus is “Turkish-controlled”. As usual there was no reference in the report to “illegal settlements” or “international law” despite the fact that it was Turkish state policy to facilitate and encourage the immigration of Turkish nationals to the island during the latter half of the 1970s.

In contrast to BBC coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, readers did not find any pronouncements allocating disputed territory to one side or the other in the style of the frequently seen terminology “occupied Palestinian land” and “Palestinian territory” and no mention was made of the presence of Turkish troops in northern Cyprus.

As we have seen in the past, the BBC is able to report on the enduring territorial dispute in Cyprus in a manner which refrains from promoting a particular political narrative. Unfortunately for the corporation’s audiences the same editorial standards are not evident in BBC reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Related Articles:

Not all ‘occupied territories’ are equal for the BBC

When the BBC News website reported an enduring conflict without a narrative

Weekend long read

1) The Kohelet Forum has published the second part of a report on “The Scope of European and Multinational Business in the Occupied Territories”.

“There are numerous territories around the world currently under belligerent occupation, where the occupying power has allowed or facilitated the movement of settlers into the occupied territory.
In all these cases, this is done over the vigorous objection of the occupied party and is at odds with its sovereignty or self-determination.
Among the most salient examples are Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara and Turkey’s of northern Cyprus. Both of these have seen massive government-backed settlement enterprises that dwarf anything in the West Bank. The majority of the population in these territories now consists of settlers, fundamentally undermining the possibility of self-determination or a political solution. There are also settlers in Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and the Occupied Ukrainian Territories. In all these cases, foreign companies actively support the various settlement enterprises. These activities include extracting natural resources from the territories, providing infrastructure support to the occupying power, and in general, making the settlement enterprises more economically viable.”

2) The ITIC reports on a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rally held in the PA controlled town of al Bireh.

“On November 10, 2018, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) held a rally to mark the anniversary of the founding of the organization and the death of its founder, Fathi Shqaqi. The rally was held in a large hall in al-Bireh where a recorded speech by Ziyad al-Nakhalah, the newly elected PIJ leader, was played. Al-Nakhalah stressed the importance of the armed struggle against Israel and called on the residents of the West Bank “to lead the armed resistance against Israel as they did in the [second] intifada in 2000” [during which the PIJ was one of the most prominent organizations in carrying out suicide bombing attacks].

Al-Bireh is next to Ramallah (and about 15 kilometers, or about nine miles, from Jerusalem). It is an important administrative center for the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Judea and Samaria, and some of the PA’s offices are located there. It can be assumed that al-Nakhalah’s speech could not have been given in al-Bireh without the authorization, or at least the prior knowledge, of the PA’s security services.”

3) MEMRI takes a look at reports concerning claims of efforts to change Syrian demography.

“Throughout the Syria war, websites opposed to the Assad regime have repeatedly claimed that this regime and its ally Iran were using the war to change Syria’s demography by expelling Sunni populations, deemed a potential threat to the regime, and bringing in Shi’ites, who are more likely to support it. According to these reports, the Assad regime and Iran use a variety of methods – including threats, siege and starving – to compel Sunnis to emigrate and then seize their property and replace them with elements loyal to the regime, including non-Syrians. President Assad outlined this policy in a July 2015 speech, saying, “The homeland does not belong to those who live there, nor to those who hold a passport or are citizens. The homeland belongs to those who protect and guard it.” In the recent months, several websites reported that the regime was naturalizing thousands and even millions of Shi’ites, members of Iranian and Iran-backed militias that are fighting alongside the Syrian army.”

4) On Universal Children’s Day PMW reviewed Palestinian Authority messaging to children.

“Today, November 20th, is known as Universal Children’s Day because it is the day the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) and the Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989). 

The PA joined the UN’s Convention of the Rights of the Child in 2014. […]

The PA and Fatah leadership is abusing Palestinian children by presenting terrorists as heroes, “Martyrs” as role models, and glorifying the murder of Jews and Israelis. Sports tournaments, names of schools, school books, cultural events, and even music videos glorify terrorist murderers and urge Palestinian youth to aspire to kill and be killed.” 

When the BBC News website reported an enduring conflict without a narrative

In addition to covering the conference on the topic of the Arab-Israeli conflict held in Paris earlier this month, the BBC News website also reported on talks, held in Geneva, relating to another long-standing conflict.cyprus-art

Hope for a fresh settlement in Cyprus James Landale, January 8th 2017

Cyprus peace talks begin on future of divided island January 9th 2017

Cyprus peace talks ‘resolve many issues’ January 11th 2017

Cyprus peace talks: Can Cypriots heal their divided island? Selin Girit, January 12th 2017

Cyprus peace deal close, says UN chief after Geneva talks January 12th 2017

With one exception, all the reports concerning the Cyprus talks included an impartial and nuanced explanation of the main issues underlying the dispute:

cyprus-arts-sticking-points

In contrast to BBC coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, audiences reading the coverage of the Cyprus talks did not find any pronouncements allocating disputed territory to one side or the other in the style of the frequently seen terminology “occupied Palestinian land” and “Palestinian territory”.

Regarding the 30,000 or so Turkish troops in northern Cyprus, audiences were told that “Greek Cypriots see them as an occupying force” but not that (with the obvious exception of Turkey) the rest of the world views them in the same way and considers that occupation illegal.

None of the reports concerning Cyprus informs readers of the fact that it was Turkish state policy to facilitate and encourage the immigration of Turkish nationals to the northern part of island during the latter half of the 1970s and – in contrast to BBC reporting on Israel and the Palestinians – the words ‘settlers’, ‘settlements’ and ‘international law’ do not appear in any of the reports.

Obviously the BBC is able to report on the enduring conflict in Cyprus in a manner which refrains from promoting a particular politically-motivated narrative and provides audiences with an impartial view of the issue – just as BBC editorial guidelines demand. Unfortunately for BBC audiences seeking to understand the Arab-Israeli conflict, the same standards are not evident.

Related Articles:

Not all ‘occupied territories’ are equal for the BBC

 

BBC remains silent on Hizballah terrorism in Europe

Earlier this week the Times of Israel reported the following news:No news

“The foreign minister of Cyprus confirmed Monday that bomb-making equipment discovered last month with a Lebanese-Canadian suspect was linked to the Hezbollah terrorist group and was intended for attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets on the island.

Cypriot forces arrested the 26-year-old suspect last month when a stash of ammonium nitrate, a common bomb-making component, was discovered in the basement of the place where he was staying in the southeastern city of Larnaca, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides told reporters.”

As has been noted here previously, the BBC has shown no interest whatsoever in informing its audiences of this latest case of Hizballah terrorist operations in Europe. So much for building “a global understanding of international issues“.

Related Articles:

BBC News again ignores Hizballah operations in Cyprus

Still no BBC reporting on developing Cyprus explosives story

Still no BBC reporting on developing Cyprus explosives story

As we noted here last week, the BBC refrained from reporting on the arrest in late May in Cyprus of a 26 year-old Canadian-Lebanese man with suspected Hizballah links.No news

“The Phileleftheros newspaper said the 26-year-old man, who was remanded in custody Thursday, belonged to the Lebanese organization’s military wing and had personal links to Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

The daily said the man, who has not been named, arrived in Cyprus last week for what he described as a holiday.

He was arrested on Wednesday following a period of surveillance and more than 400 boxes of ammonium nitrate – a fertilizer that when mixed with other substances can be used to make explosives – was discovered at his home in Larnaca.”

Even more recently, the Cypriot police announced the arrest of a second man in connection with the same case.

“A second Lebanese man has been arrested in connection with the seizure of five tonnes of possible bomb-making material ammonium nitrate, police said Saturday.

The 62-year-old from Lebanon, said to have Cypriot identity documents, was detained in the capital Nicosia.

According to the official Cyprus News Agency, police believe he imported the nitrate in ice packs as part of first aid kits.”

Apparently, the amount of ammonium nitrate found was larger than first thought.

“The man was arrested in possession of what authorities said at the time was two tons of ammonium nitrate — a fertilizer that when mixed with other substances can be used to make explosives.

Police said closer inspection showed the man’s home to contain more than five tonnes of the material.”

The Jerusalem Post adds:

“Under Cyprus anti-terrorism laws, anything that can be used potentially as an explosive, with probable cause, is an offense.”

Remarkably, there has to date been no BBC coverage of this story on the BBC News website’s Europe or Middle East pages.

 

 

BBC News again ignores Hizballah operations in Cyprus

Last week the authorities in Cyprus announced the arrest of a dual nationality Canadian-Lebanese ‘tourist’.No news

“The Phileleftheros newspaper said the 26-year-old man, who was remanded in custody Thursday, belonged to the Lebanese organization’s military wing and had personal links to Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

The daily said the man, who has not been named, arrived in Cyprus last week for what he described as a holiday.

He was arrested on Wednesday following a period of surveillance and more than 400 boxes of ammonium nitrate – a fertilizer that when mixed with other substances can be used to make explosives – was discovered at his home in Larnaca.”

According to local media, the police suspect that Israeli tourists in Cyprus were among the likely targets and the Jerusalem Post reports that:

“Security sources in Israel say they believe the apartment in which the suspect was captured was an explosive materials storeroom that belonged to Hezbollah and was supposed to constitute an outlet for carrying out a large-scale series of terrorist attacks across Europe against Jewish, Israeli and Western targets.”

Readers may recall that just over two years ago it took the BBC over a month to get round to reporting on a similar case in which a Hizballah operative was arrested and tried in Cyprus. Currently this latest story has received no coverage on the BBC News website’s Middle East or Europe pages.