BBC WS ‘Weekend’ airs a confused report on Iranian drone story

Iran’s provision of weapons to Hizballah – sometimes via Syria – and Israeli efforts to prevent such transfers was common knowledge long before the civil war in Syria began in the spring of 2011.

In November 2009, for example, Israel intercepted the Francop which was carrying some 500 tons of weapons and ammunition.  

“According to the shipping documents, the cargo was originally loaded in Bandar Abbas, Iran, brought by another ship to the Egyptian port of Damietta, and then transloaded to the Francop, with an ultimate destination of Latakia, Syria. This destination was confirmed by Syria’s foreign minister, although he denied that the shipment included arms. […]

Following the preliminary search, the Israelis escorted the Francop to the port of Ashdod, where a complete search revealed the full extent of the arms shipment. Labels on the shipping containers and shipping documents, as well as markings on ammunition crates and the ammunition itself, established a clear link to various Iranian government organizations, including the Iranian state shipping line and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

In January 2010 – well over a year before the conflict in Syria broke out:

“…American intelligence services reported the transfer of 26 M-6002 missiles of Syrian manufacture to Hizbullah in Lebanon. These missiles, with a range of over 250 km., are intended to reinforce Hizbullah’s ability to strike at the Israeli home front if and when hostilities erupt. […]

Israeli and Western intelligence services have long been aware of Syrian and Iranian involvement in Hizbullah’s arms buildup. Damascus Airport has been identified as the transit point for airlifts of Iranian arms that were subsequently transferred to Hizbullah via the open Syrian-Lebanese border, under the supervision of the Syrian security services.”

Iran’s transfers of weapons to Hizballah – which of course breach more than one UN Security Council resolution, although the BBC regularly fails to inform audiences of that fact – did not cease after war broke out in Syria in March 2011. The BBC, however, has long depicted alleged Israeli efforts to thwart those transfers as being connected to the war in Syria and another example of that misleading portrayal was seen on February 10th in the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Weekend‘.

Listeners heard presenter Julian Worricker introduce the item (from 01:17 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Worricker: “We’ll also go live to Jerusalem fairly shortly in this half-hour in the light of the news that Israel is saying that one of its fighter jets has crashed after attacking Iranian targets in Syria, the pilots parachuting to safety in Israel.”

Worricker then turned to one of his studio guests – journalist Mary Dejevsky – citing her recent visit to Israel. Dejevsky described “the mood” in Israel as:

Dejevsky: “…a great feeling of security and success in terms of foreign policy that Israel had managed to stay aloof, mostly, from the war in Syria. But at the same time there was a kind of looming apprehension about the ever closer encroachment – as it was felt in Israel – of Iran and Iranian influence towards the Israeli border…”

She added:

Dejevsky: “…Israel has tried very hard to keep its intervention such as it has been – airstrikes on select convoys that they regard as coming from Iran and supplying Hizballah in Lebanon – that they’ve tried to keep those interventions as absolutely discreet as possible. And suddenly everything in a way has been blown open.”

Obviously the events that followed the incursion of an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace on the morning of February 10th – an incident which was notably absent from Worricker’s introduction – are not directly connected to previous alleged strikes by Israel against supplies of weapons to Hizballah.  Julian Worricker, however, went on to suggest to listeners that efforts to prevent Hizballah getting weapons are in fact connected to the war in Syria.

Worricker: “I was going to pick you up on your remark of “aloof, mostly”, just stressing the mostly because clearly strikes by Israel in Syria are not uncommon per se. You alluded to the particular targets they would always say that they are aiming for when they do it but clearly when a fighter plane comes down – even in Israeli territory – that clearly ups the ante.”

Later on in the same programme (from 11:49), Worricker spoke to the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem. After listeners had at last heard an accurate portrayal of the sequence of events that began with the infiltration of an Iranian UAV into Israeli airspace from Bateman, Worricker asked:

Worricker: “A word about Israeli action in Syria of this nature: how common has it been in recent times?”

Obviously airstrikes in response to a serious breach of Israel’s sovereignty by an Iranian UAV have not been “common” but Bateman’s response did not clarify that to listeners.

Bateman: “It is not uncommon and what Israel says is that it has two red lines for its engagement in Syria. They are cross-border fire that comes from Syria into the Golan Heights and what they describe as weapons transfers from Iranian forces to Hizballah – Lebanese militant fighters who are fighting inside Syria. They are the two triggers, if you like, that Israel says causes it to act inside Syrian territory – usually airstrikes – and they’re not uncommon. Israel rarely comments on them officially although a senior military figure said last year that the number was around a hundred of these attacks that have taken place over the last few years. So these things do happen. I think what is uncommon here of course is the event that this appears to have ended with: this Israeli jet coming down.”

Since 2013 the BBC has been telling its audiences – inaccurately – that Israel is “involved” in the conflict in Syria. As has been noted here in the past:

“In spite of the BBC’s suggestion to the contrary, Israel is not “involved in the conflict” in Syria. That conflict is a civil war between Assad loyalists (and their foreign allies) and anti-Assad rebels (and theirs) and Israel does not support one side or the other. Any actions which may have been taken by Israel are exclusively linked to the protection of its citizens.”

The BBC has also repeatedly downplayed the threats posed to Israel by the presence of Iran and Hizballah in Syria as well as their repeated aggressive rhetoric.

It perhaps therefore comes as no surprise to see that the BBC’s own journalists are unable to provide audiences with a lucid and informative account that distinguishes between the factors that lie behind the recent events in Israel and Syria and the separate topics of Iran’s supply of weapons to Hizballah in Lebanon and the civil war in Syria.

Related Articles:

BBC WS Newshour coverage of Iran drone story – part two

BBC WS Newshour coverage of Iran drone story –part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part two


BBC WS Newshour coverage of Iran drone story – part two

As documented in part one of this post, the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on February 10th presented listeners with a lavish dose of Syrian and Iranian propaganda relating to the story that began when an Iranian UAV infiltrated Israeli airspace earlier on the same day, with presenter Julian Marshall steering listeners towards the view that the story should be seen in terms of ‘narratives’.

The evening edition of the same programme – again presented by Marshall – also led with the same story. The programme’s web page is titled “Israel Defends Attack on Iranian Targets” and the synopsis once again fails to mention the trigger for the day’s events.

“An Israeli army spokesman says airstrikes against targets in Syria were vital to protect national security.”

Opening the programme, Marshall told listeners:

Marshall: “Israeli war planes carry out a series of strikes in Syria during a day of cross-border tension – that is our top story today.”

Marshall’s introduction to the item (from 00:83) once again failed to clarify to audiences that previous Israeli strikes on military targets in Syria have nothing to do with the Syrian civil war and cast doubts on the veracity of official Israeli statements on the incident. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “But we begin with that wave of attacks on Syria by Israeli war planes. It’s certainly not the first time that Israel has launched air raids on Syria in the course of the current conflict but the latest are being described as the most significant attacks of their kind since the 1982 Lebanon war by a senior Israeli Air Force general. It all began with the incursion into Israeli territory of what Israel says was an Iranian drone. Israel dispatched planes in response to attack the drone launch site in Syria and one of the planes was hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile and crashed in northern Israel. And then came the big raid: Israeli war planes attacking a dozen targets in Syria including air defence systems and sites linked to Iran. The prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his country will not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria.”

After listeners had heard a recording of part of the Israeli prime minister’s statement, Marshall went on:

Marshall: “And I asked the spokesman for the Israeli Defence Force, Jonathan Conricus, to tell me more about the targets in Syria.”

Conricus: “This was indeed a large-scale attack – probably the largest that we’ve made over the last thirty or so years. We specifically targeted 12 different targets. Eight of them were Syrian military targets located in the surroundings of Damascus and related to the air defence array – the same ones that fired missiles towards Israeli aircraft. And the four additional targets are perhaps the most special ones because they were Iranian targets inside Syria. All of them part of the effort that Iran has been undertaking for quite some time and that we have been warning against over a long period of time. The four targets belonged to the Iranian military or the Revolutionary Guard – training facility, support facilities and the likes. That was really I think the most important part of the attack that we did was that for the first time we have actually attacked Iranian targets on Syrian soil.”

Marshall: “And attacking Iranian targets on Syrian soil was very much in retaliation for the overflight of what you say was an Iranian drone onto Israeli territory.”

After Lt-Col Conricus explained that the sequence of events began with the penetration of the Iranian UAV into Israeli airspace and that Israel “know[s] for sure that this specific UAV was dispatched by Iranian military and it was handled by Iranian military while it was violating Israeli airspace”, Marshall came up with a claim for which he provided no evidence whatsoever.

Marshall: “With all due respect sir, this was a surveillance drone – was it not? – rather than an armed drone. Did it really pose any threat to the Israeli state?”

Conricus: “We’ll be able to elaborate on that in the coming days. As of now I’m not at liberty to say exactly what that drone was doing but I can assure you that it was not a peaceful mission monitoring the weather or following migrating birds. This was a military UAV that had a specific military mission to penetrate into Israel and to perform a military task.”

After Lt-Col Conricus had spoken about the interception of the drone and the subsequent attack on its command module in Syria, Marshall resurrected an old BBC favourite: the ‘disproportionate’ allegation.

Marshall: “I mean some might think it a somewhat disproportionate response to the flying of a drone over your territory that you mounted such a massive raid on Syrian territory.”

After his interviewee replied, Marshall went on:

Marshall: “But I mean Israel has known for a long time – as have other nations – about an Iranian military presence in Syria. Why choose now to attack? I mean was it simply that drone coming into your airspace? Is that what the trigger was?”

After the IDF Spokesman replied – explaining that Israel had responded “to an act of aggression against us…by striking only military targets in a proportionate manner” – Marshall closed that interview (part of which was later promoted separately on social media) before going on to amplify more propaganda from the Iranian regime and its proxy:

Marshall: “Well Iran has accused Israel of lying about the drone – which it said had not entered Israeli territory – while Hizballah has said the downing of an Israeli plane by Syrian missiles marks the start of a new strategic era.”

Listeners then once again heard the entire interview with the Syrian regime TV journalist Alaa Ebrahim that was aired in the earlier edition of ‘Newshour’ – including the unchallenged repetition of Syrian regime messaging and the claim that there was no such thing as an Iranian UAV at all and so “the Israeli attacks were unprovoked”.  

Once again we see that BBC World Service audiences hoping to get clear, accurate information that would help them understand this story were instead sold short by a ‘report’ that presented the unchallenged propaganda of the Syrian and Iranian regimes on an equal footing with factual information from an Israeli official which Marshall found fit to repeatedly question.

Related Articles:

BBC WS Newshour coverage of Iran drone story –part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part two




BBC WS Newshour coverage of Iran drone story –part one

Earlier we saw (here and here) how BBC News website reporting on a story that began with the infiltration of an Iranian UAV into Israeli airspace on February 10th focused audience attentions on a subsequent effect rather than on the cause. We also saw how the BBC News website unquestioningly gave amplification to disinformation put out by Iran and Syria while implying to audiences that there is room for doubt regarding the veracity of official Israeli accounts of the events. So did BBC radio do any better?

The BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ devoted considerable airtime to that story on February 10th. The webpage of the afternoon edition of the programme presented the subject under the title “Israeli Airstrikes Hit Targets In Syria” without any mention of what began the sequence of events: the Iranian drone that infiltrated Israel.

“Israel has carried out large-scale airstrikes against targets in Syria. The Israeli Defence Force says it attacked air defence systems and sites linked to Iran. Earlier an Israeli fighter jet was brought down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire after a strike on what the Israelis say was an Iranian drone-launch site.”

Presenter Julian Marshall opened the programme with a similarly slanted view of the story:

Marshall: “In a moment: Israel attacks a dozen targets inside Syria. One of its planes is shot down.”

Marshall introduced the item itself (from 01:44) with a description that failed to adequately clarify that previous Israeli airstrikes against targets in Syria have been specifically aimed at preventing the transfer of weapons to Hizballah in Lebanon and are not connected to the civil war in Syria. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “Israel has carried out dozens of airstrikes on the Syrian armed forces and their allies since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011. But the latest are potentially the most serious: large-scale attacks against a dozen targets in Syria including, says Israel, air defence systems and sites linked to Iran. Earlier an Israeli jet crashed in Israeli territory as it encountered massive Syrian anti-aircraft fire. It had been attacking what the Israelis say was a site from which an Iranian drone aircraft was launched. The drone was shot down after it penetrated Israeli airspace. People in northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights reported hearing sirens and explosions.”

Listeners next heard very brief ‘man in the street’ interviews with two anonymous speakers before Marshall went on to unquestioningly parrot Syrian and Iranian propaganda.

Marshall: “Well Syrian state media has acknowledged the Israeli air raids and says more than one plane has been hit. Iran’s foreign ministry has rejected the Israeli claim of an Iranian drone while the deputy head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said that Iran had no military presence in Syria and were only there as advisors. And this is how state controlled TV reported the downing of that Israeli plane.”

Audiences then heard a translated recording from Iranian TV.

“The end of the Zionist regime’s era of hit and run in Syria. For the second time in less than a week, the Zionist regime sent its fighter jets to Syria in the early hours of this morning. But this time, despite the expectations of Israeli officials, Syria’s air defence shot down an Israeli fighter jet.”

Marshall: “And as for Syrian government ally Russia, it’s called on all sides to exercise restraint and avoid escalation.”

Listeners next got an additional copious dose of Syrian regime messaging from a journalist who has in the past promoted the Assad regime’s denials of use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians on the Russian government’s RT channel and who was described by Iran’s Press TV as ‘our correspondent’ in a report amplifying previous false Syrian regime claims regarding Israeli planes.

Marshall: “A short while ago I spoke to Alaa Ebrahim; a journalist in Damascus who works for Syrian state TV and international media. What have the Syrian authorities been saying?”

Ebrahim: “Well officially the Syrian government issued a statement this morning from the command of the Syrian army in which they said that Israeli fighter jet tried to attack Syrian army bases in central Syria and that Syrian aerial defences intercepted that airplane and managed to actually damage it without saying whether the plane went down or not. Well the Syria…what the Syrian government is saying right now is that they actually did not provoke the Israeli airstrike. The airstrike was initiated by Israel – it wasn’t a retaliatory act by Israel. On the other hand the Syrian government is saying that they were reacting to Israeli aggression against them. Later on the state news agency SANA said in its reports that aerial defences from the Syrian army intercepted several missiles fired from Lebanese air space from Israeli fighter jets targeting several bases belonging to the Syrian army both south and west of the Syrian capital Damascus and later on we got the statement that came out from what the Syrian government calls the operation room of the Syrian government allies in Syria which is usually a reference to Iranian advisors and Hizballah fighters fighting alongside the Syrian government and in that statement they said that there was not an Iranian operated drone flying over Israeli airspace and that all the drones belonging to the allies – which is a term used to refer to Iranian and Hizballah fighters – were accounted for, operating in the deserts of central Syria looking over positions belonging to terrorist groups such as ISIL and other groups. So these are the official statements we have been getting since dawn today about the latest developments and I think we can recap once again and say that the Syrian government is saying that they did not initiate anything – they were just reacting to an Israeli airstrike against them.”

Marshall: So the Syrians are…are denying that they were in any way involved with the flying of that drone over Israeli territory?”

Ebrahim: “No, I don’t think the Syrians are denying that they were involved with the flying of the Iranian drone. What the Syrians and their allies – Iran, Hizballah – are saying [is] that they have never flown a drone into Israeli airspace and as a result they say that the Israeli attack was unprovoked.”

Refraining from challenging any aspect of that long repetition of Syrian regime propaganda, Marshall then changed the subject and went on to ask what Damascus residents had heard on the morning of February 10th and whether “any kind of retaliation” is to be expected. After concluding that interview, Marshall introduced both his next guest and the redundant theme of ‘narratives’.

Marshall: “And we’ve approached the Israeli Defence Force for an interview but no-one is available. Anshel Pfeffer is an Israeli journalist with Ha’aretz newspaper and the author of a forthcoming book ‘The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu’. He joins us from Jerusalem. And Mr Pfeffer, the Israelis have a very different narrative of the events of the past 24-36 hours and for them the original provocation was the flying of this drone over their territory.”

Pfeffer: “Yes, that’s the Israeli version of events: that round about 4:30 am local time an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace, was intercepted and shot down by an Israeli attack helicopter and that was what sparked off the chain of events of the last few hours.”

Marshall: You say an Iranian drone: why the certainty?”

Pfeffer: “Well that’s…like you said that’s the version of the Israeli government. They claim to have been tracking the drone, to have known its source at a launch site near Palmyra in northern Syria. According to the Israeli military they have the fragments of the drone and it’s an Iranian model. I’m assuming that at some stage they’ll present those pieces and we’ll be able to see whether it was indeed an Iranian drone. But it’s not new that there are Iranian…there is a significant Iranian military presence in Syria – has been since almost the start of the Syrian war in 2011 – and that this presence also has drone capabilities. So it’s not…the Israeli version of events is rather believable in this case.”

The conversation continued with discussion of the war in Syria and Russia’s role in the region.

By this time listeners could be forgiven for being confused. Was there an Iranian drone or wasn’t there? Is there an Iranian military presence in Syria or not? Rather than providing audiences with clear, concise and factually accurate information that would (as the BBC’s public purposes require) help them understand this story, the corporation once again opted to promote a ‘he said-she said’ account of events that actively hinders audience understanding.

When the BBC World Service launched a new foreign language service last year the then director of the division’s said that “[f]or more than 80 years the BBC World Service has brought trusted news to people across the globe” and the BBC’s Director General said:

“The BBC World Service is one of the UK’s most important cultural exports. In a world of anxieties about ‘fake news’, where media freedom is being curtailed rather than expanded, the role of an independent, impartial news provider is more important than ever.”

As we see, a considerable portion of this item was devoted to unquestioned amplification of unsupported claims and disinformation from two regimes that curtail media freedom – and much worse. But rather than providing listeners in those countries and others with the accurate and impartial information which would be the antidote to such propaganda, the BBC World Service simply facilitated a wider audience for Iranian and Syrian disinformation and added insult to injury by justifying it as ‘narrative’.

And as we will see in part two of this post, that practice continued in a later edition of ‘Newshour’.

Related Articles:

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part two



BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part two

As we saw in part one of this post the BBC News website’s written report on the infiltration of Israel’s air-space by an Iranian UAV and the events that followed amplified Iranian and Syrian disinformation on the story while also implying to audiences that there is room for doubt regarding the veracity of official Israeli accounts of the various incidents.

“The Israeli military says a “combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel”.

It tweeted footage which it says shows the drone flying into Israeli territory before being hit.” [emphasis added]

“Meanwhile Iran and the Tehran-backed Hezbollah movement in Lebanon – which are allied with the Syrian government – dismissed reports that an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace as a “lie”.”

“Syrian state media quoted a military source as saying that the country’s air defences had opened fire in response to Israeli “aggression” against a military base on Saturday, hitting “more than one plane”.”

On the same day – February 10th – the BBC News website also posted a filmed report on the same topic titled “Israeli jet downed during Syrian attack: What happened?“. The film’s synopsis makes no mention of the UAV infiltration that was the cause of the subsequent strike on the mobile command vehicle that launched and guided the Iranian drone at the T4 airbase near Tadmor in central Syria.

“An Israeli F-16 fighter jet has crashed amid Syrian anti-aircraft fire after an offensive against Iranian targets in Syria, the Israeli military says.

The two pilots parachuted to safety before the crash in northern Israel.

It is believed to be the first time Israel has lost a jet in conflict since 2006.”

Viewers of the report were told that: [emphasis added]

“This is the wreckage of an Israeli jet that crashed following Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

What happened?

Israel’s military, the IDF, released this footage from one of their helicopters. They say it shows an Iranian drone flying over Israeli territory.

The IDF destroyed the drone. The helicopter returned to its base. Then, says the IDF Spokesperson, Israel flew jets into Syria to strike ‘Iranian and Syrian targets’. The Syrian army launched anti-aircraft missiles in retaliation. Two pilots ejected from their jet. It crashed in northern Israel. The pilots were flown to hospital. One is in a serious condition.

Syrian media quoted a military source saying they had hit ‘more than one plane’ in response to ‘Israeli aggression’.

Iran denied it had sent a drone into Israel and defended the Syrians’ right to self-defence.”

As we see, once again the BBC opted to present a ‘he said-she said’ view of the story which – contrary to the claim made in both the headline and the body of this report – in fact does nothing to help its audiences understand “what happened?”.

The same editorial policy was evident in a follow-up article published on the BBC News website on February 11th under the headline “Israel warns Iran after launching major raids in Syria“.

“Israel launched raids against Iranian targets after saying it had intercepted an Iranian drone crossing the Syria-Israel border.

Iran denies the allegation.”

Israel’s military says one of its combat helicopters downed an Iranian drone infiltrating Israel on Saturday. It tweeted footage of the incident. […]

In response, Israel said it attacked Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria, during which an F-16 jet was fired upon, Israel says, causing it to crash. […]

Syria’s state media say air defences opened fire in response to an Israeli attack on a military base, hitting more than one plane.”

While there is no evidence to support either that Syrian claim of having hit “more than one plane” or Iran’s assertion that it did not launch the drone , the BBC continues to amplify those claims regardless.

Meanwhile, as details of Saturday’s events were still emerging, a BBC News producer found the time to translate and amplify disinformation from another source too.

Related Articles:

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one




BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

As readers are probably aware, an Iranian UAV infiltrated Israeli air-space early on the morning of February 10th, triggering a series of events that were initially reported on the BBC News website under the headline “Israeli jet downed by Syrian fire – army” – even though the investigation into the circumstances under which the crew had to evacuate their plane is still ongoing.

The BBC subsequently changed that headline to “Syria war: Israeli fighter jet crashes under Syria fire, military says” – once again erroneously suggesting that the events were linked to the civil war in Syria. In the sixth version of the report, the BBC added a qualification:

“It was not clear whether the F-16 jet was hit by anti-aircraft fire or went down for other reasons.”

The final version of the report was re-titled “Syria shoots down Israeli warplane as conflict escalates“.

In other words, the headlines of all thirteen versions of this report confused cause and effect by informing BBC audiences that the story was about an Israeli plane crashing rather than the infiltration of Israeli air-space by an Iranian drone.

In the final version of the BBC’s report the first reference to the first and second occurrences in that sequence of events – the UAV infiltration into Israel and its interception by an Israeli air force helicopter – came only in its third paragraph.

“The plane was hit during air strikes in response to an Iranian drone launch into Israeli territory, Israel says.

The drone was shot down.”

Later on readers were told that:

“The Israeli military says a “combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel”.

It tweeted footage which it says shows the drone flying into Israeli territory before being hit.” [emphasis added]

However, the BBC – which, notably, recently took it upon itself to launch “a new scheme to help young people identify real news and filter out fake or false information” – had no qualms about amplifying Iranian disinformation.

“Meanwhile Iran and the Tehran-backed Hezbollah movement in Lebanon – which are allied with the Syrian government – dismissed reports that an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace as a “lie”.”

The third event to take place on the morning of February 10th was an IAF strike on the mobile command vehicle that launched and guided the Iranian UAV at the T4 airbase near Tadmor in central Syria. The BBC reported that event as follows:

The drone was shot down. Israel later launched further strikes in Syria. […]

In a further response, the IDF “targeted Iranian targets in Syria”, according to the military. The mission deep inside Syrian territory was successfully completed, it said.”

In other words, BBC audiences were not informed that the drone was launched from a Syrian airbase used by Iran’s Quds Force.

Syrian air defence systems attacked the planes carrying out that strike, leading to event number four – the evacuation of the plane that crashed near Harduf in the Galilee region and the sounding of air-raid sirens in communities in the Golan Heights. In other words, the headlines and initial paragraphs used in various versions of this BBC report all relate to the fourth event in the sequence rather than the first.

“An Israeli F-16 fighter jet has crashed after being hit by Syrian air defences during an offensive in Syria, the Israeli military says.

The two pilots parachuted to safety before the crash in northern Israel. It is believed to be the first time Israel has lost a jet in the Syrian conflict.[…]

After coming under Syrian anti-aircraft fire, the F-16’s two crew members ejected and were later taken to hospital. One of them was “severely injured as a result of an emergency evacuation”, the IDF said. […]

Alert sirens sounded in areas of northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights because of Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

Residents reported hearing a number of explosions and heavy aerial activity in the area near Israel’s borders with Jordan and Syria.”

The BBC also chose (not for the first time) to amplify Syrian propaganda:

“Syrian state media quoted a military source as saying that the country’s air defences had opened fire in response to Israeli “aggression” against a military base on Saturday, hitting “more than one plane”.”

The fifth event in the chain was a number of strikes by the IAF on additional Syrian and Iranian military sites in Syria. Syrian anti-aircraft fire again triggered sirens in northern Israel. The BBC reported that event as follows:

“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) say they hit aerial defence batteries and Iranian military sites in the latest strikes. […]

Israel launched its second wave of strikes in Syria. Eight of the Syrian targets belonged to the fourth Syrian division near Damascus, IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said.

All the Israeli aircraft from this sortie returned safely.”

final version

Towards the end of the report – under the subheading “What is the Iranian presence in Syria?” – readers were provided with background information which failed to enhance their understanding of Iran’s use of Syrian territory as a launch pad for attacks against Israel (with Syrian cooperation) in recent years while conflating the role played by Iran and Hizballah in the Syrian civil war with their pre-existing hostility towards Israel.

“Iran is Israel’s arch-enemy, and Iranian troops have been fighting rebel groups since 2011.

Tehran has sent military advisers, volunteer militias and, reportedly, hundreds of fighters from its Quds Force, the overseas arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

It is also believed to have supplied thousands of tonnes of weaponry and munitions to help President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, which is fighting on Syria’s side.

Tehran has faced accusations that it is seeking to establish not just an arc of influence but a logistical land supply line from Iran through to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

While subsequent analysis from Jonathan Marcus was more lucid, it conformed to the usual BBC policy of failing to clarify that Iran’s transfer of weapons to Hizballah in Lebanon breaches UN Security Council resolution 1701.

As we see the BBC’s reporting on this story focused primarily on the loss of an Israeli jet rather than on what caused that event – also the story’s main issue – the attempt by Iran to infiltrate Israel. Not only did the BBC choose to amplify Iranian and Syrian disinformation on the story but it also implied to audiences that there is room for doubt regarding the veracity of official Israeli accounts. 

That approach was also seen in additional BBC reporting – as we shall see in part two of this post.

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Iranian military activity in southern Syria under-reported by BBC

Superficial BBC News reporting on southern Syria ceasefire



BBC Arabic amplifies Assad’s conspiracy theory in Golan attack report

Just after 5 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, October 21st residents of some of the northern communities in the Golan Heights were woken by the sound of the siren warning of incoming projectiles from Syria. Israel subsequently responded to the incident.

“The Israeli army on Saturday hit three Syrian artillery targets across the border in the northern Golan Heights, hours after five projectiles landed in open ground in Israel as a result of spillover fire from the fighting in Syria.

The IDF vowed it would intensify its responses to future such stray fire. “Even if this is just spillover, this is an exceptional incident and the continuance of such events will be met with a more fierce Israeli response,” a statement by the IDF said.” 

As the day progressed, however, assessment of the incident altered.

“Israel believes five rockets fired across the border from Syria early Saturday morning may have been deliberately launched at Israel, rather than constituting errant spillover from clashes in Syria, military sources said late Saturday. […]

The Israeli army said five projectiles were fired at around 5 am, and that four of them fell relatively deep inside Israeli territory. The rockets set off alarms in several locations. They landed in open ground, and caused no injury or damage. One of them landed close to an Israeli residential area.

Channel 2 news reported that although the IDF officially referred to “spillover” fire in its statements Saturday, there was “a growing sense” in the army that the Syrian fire was deliberate.

There was no fighting going on in Syria at the time of the fire, the TV report said. It added that the area from which the rockets were fired is under the control of the Syrian army. And it noted that the projectiles fell deep inside Israeli territory on the Golan Heights, one after the other, rather than close to the border.”

Meanwhile, as usually happens in such cases, the Syrian regime promoted baseless conspiracy theory.

“Syria…claimed that Israel had “coordinated” with terror groups, inviting them to fire into Israel as a pretext for the IDF response, and it sent letters of complaint to the United Nations.”

While the BBC’s English language services did not consider the story newsworthy, the corporation’s Arabic language website did publish a report headlined “Israel bombs Syrian artillery in the Golan” in which – once again – the Syrian regime’s propaganda was uncritically amplified.

“The Syrian Defense Ministry said the armed opposition had fired missiles at Israeli-controlled areas to provoke them to retaliate against the Syrian army. […]

The bombing of the terrorists, acting under the direction of Israel, is a free zone to provide an excuse for this attack,” the ministry said.”

Earlier this year, when the BBC World Service began expanding its foreign language services following a £289 million boost in funding provided by the British tax-payer, the BBC’s Director General said:

“The BBC World Service is one of the UK’s most important cultural exports. In a world of anxieties about ‘fake news’, where media freedom is being curtailed rather than expanded, the role of an independent, impartial news provider is more important than ever.”

BBC World Service Director Francesca Unsworth added:

“For more than 80 years the BBC World Service has brought trusted news to people across the globe.”

As those two senior BBC executives acknowledge, it is supposed to be the job of the BBC – including BBC Arabic and other foreign language services – to distinguish itself from the countless media outlets in the Middle East that operate according to a particular political or ideological agenda by providing audiences with accurate and impartial reporting which will enable them to understand what is fact and what is fiction.

Uncritical and unchallenged amplification of Syrian regime propaganda that audiences could just as easily find at the Syrian State news agency is clearly not conducive to achieving that goal.

Related Articles:

BBC’s pattern of Gaza reporting migrates north

Why is BBC Arabic amplifying Syrian regime propaganda?

BBC News amplification of unchallenged Assad propaganda persists







BBC News ignores a case of UN anti-Israel bias

Back in March 2016 the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel rejects database of settlement-linked firms” that related to a resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council the previous day and which was discussed here.

“The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem says the database will provide a resource for any organisation wanting to divest from companies involved in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.

It will potentially include a number of Israeli and international firms working in industries from banking to construction and security services, our correspondent adds.”

Recently an Israeli communications company received a letter from the UNHRC which has been making local news.

“The UNHRC recently sent a letter to the CEO of Bezeq, a major Israeli telecoms firm, accusing it of promoting settlement activity in Israel and of providing cellular services to areas that the Council believes are Palestinian territory. […]

The UNHRC threatens to add Bezeq to its database of companies operating in what it claims are Israeli settlements and the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Bezeq owns approximately 40 real estate properties in the West Bank used for telecommunications infrastructure, and operates antennas throughout the West Bank,” the UNHRC wrote in its letter.”

“Bezeq provides landline, cellular, internet, and cable TV services to residents of settlements in the West Bank,” according to the UNHRC, which considers this activity a violation of its accords.”

Apparently some 150 such letters have been sent by the UNHRC.

“The United Nations reportedly sent letters to some 150 Israeli and overseas companies, threatening to add them to its blacklist of firms operating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. […]

An unnamed western diplomat told Haaretz that more than half of the companies that received the warning letter were Israeli, about 30 were from the US and the remainder from countries including Germany, Norway and South Korea. The diplomat added that [UN Human Rights Commissioner] Hussein also sent copies of the letter to foreign ministries of several countries who are home to companies which may be added to the blacklist.”

Despite the fact that numerous international companies do business in additional locations  categorised as occupied territories (e.g. north Cyprus, Western Sahara), the UN Human Rights Council has not passed resolutions mandating the creation of a database of businesses operating in any location other than those it views as being occupied Israel.

In recent days BBC audiences have seen and heard a number of reports concerning the UN (for example here, here and here) in which the phrase anti-Israel bias was placed in scare quotes and that bias was described in qualifying terms such as “perceived”.

The BBC, however, has ignored the story of the letters sent by the UNHRC that demonstrate clear anti-Israel bias at the United Nations. 

Related Articles:

BBC fails to tell the whole story of UNHRC anti-Israel resolution

BBC fails (again) to give audiences the full story in UN HRC article 


Weekend long read

1) In light of events in Jerusalem this past week (that have at the time of writing gone unreported by the BBC), a JCPA briefing on the subject of the incitement constructed around lies concerning Temple Mount provides useful background.

““Al-Aksa is in danger” is a classic libel that was embroidered in the first half of the twentieth century against the Jewish people, the Zionist movement, and, eventually, the State of Israel. The state and its institutions – so, in brief, the libel claims – are scheming and striving to destroy the mosques on the Temple Mount and build in their stead the Third Temple. The longer the libel lives, its delusive variants striking root, the more its blind and misled devotees proliferate. The libel is ramifying, taking hold of the academic, religious, and public discourse of the Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim world as if it were pure truth. Absurdly, it strikes at the Jewish people and the State of Israel precisely in the place where the Jewish state has made the most generous gesture, the greatest concession, ever made by one religion to another – on the Temple Mount, the holiest place of the Jewish people and only the third place in importance for the Muslim religion.”

2) At the Times of Israel, David Horovitz writes about the same story.

“It’s outrageous that in parts of the Muslim world, Israel is being castigated for installing metal detectors designed to boost security at the holiest place in the world for Jews and the third holiest for Muslims. Don’t they want security there?

It’s outrageous that many of those who are castigating Israel for ostensibly “changing the status quo” at the Temple Mount / Al-Aqsa Mosque compound are doing so without so much as mentioning the murderous attack that defiled the holy site and prompted the deployment of the metal detectors: On Friday, three Muslims — Israeli Arab Muslims — emerged from the compound, guns blazing, and shot dead two Border Police officers who were stationed on duty immediately outside. The two victims just so happened to be Druze — an Arabic-speaking monotheistic community incorporating many Islamic teachings. To put it really crudely then, Arabs killed Arabs at a holy place, the Jews are trying to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, and the Arab world is furious with the Jews about it.”

3) At ‘Point of No Return’ we learn of a proposed new museum in Jerusalem.

“An architect of Tunisian origin is behind a project to build a Museum to Jews from Arab Countries.  Jean-Loup Mordehai Msika explains why such a museum, in the heart of Jerusalem, is vital to inform visitors of the ancient roots of the Jewish people in the Middle East. The project, unveiled publicly for the first time on Point of No Return,  has the backing of  the coalition of associations of Jews from Arab countries in Israel and is now with the Jerusalem municipality for approval.” 

4) This week the IDF revealed details of its operations providing humanitarian aid to Syrians battling with the effects of the civil war in their country.

“Over four years ago, an injured Syrian came to the border asking for medical help from the IDF. Back then, there was no policy, just a commander’s on-the-spot decision to provide care to an injured civilian. Since then, the aid has continued on a near daily basis. In June 2016, as part of a decision to expand humanitarian aid efforts, the IDF Northern Command established the headquarters of Operation Good Neighbor.

The goal of Operation Good Neighbor is to provide humanitarian aid to as many people as possible while maintaining Israel’s policy of non-involvement in the conflict. The first activities coordinated by the headquarters took place in August 2016. Since then, there have been more than 110 aid operations of various kinds.”

Additional reporting on that subject can be found here, here and here.


Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2017 – part one

Between April 1st and June 30th 2017, a total of seventy reports with content relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, one of which was carried over from the previous quarter.

Some of the reports were produced by other departments (e.g. BBC Technology) or appeared on other pages of the website (e.g. ‘UK’ or ‘US & Canada’) but were also posted on the Middle East page.

Although the Israeli security services recorded 356 terror attacks during the second quarter of 2017 (see ‘related articles’ below), just three of those attacks received coverage on the BBC News website.

(The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which a report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Israeli killed in West Bank car-ramming attack  (6/4/17 to 10/4/17) discussed here

Jerusalem stabbing: Tributes paid to Hannah Bladon (14/4/17 to 18/4/17) discussed here

Israeli policewoman stabbed to death in Jerusalem (16/6/17 to 20/6/17) discussed here and here 

Two other reports related to Syria:

Syria war: ‘Israeli strike’ hits military site near Damascus airport (27/4/17 to 30/4/17) discussed here and here

Syria war: Israel Patriot missile downs ‘target’ over Golan (27/4/17)

In all, 7.14% of the BBC News website’s reports in Q2 covered stories relating to security/terrorism. The additional topics found in the BBC’s coverage of Israel and the Palestinians during the second quarter of 2017 will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – April 2017

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2017

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2017

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2017 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2017 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q4 2016 – part two (includes links to previous reports) 


Superficial BBC News reporting on southern Syria ceasefire

Anyone getting their news exclusively from the BBC will not be aware of the fact that heavy fighting has been taking place for some weeks in the Daraa district of south-western Syria. The BBC also did not report any of the numerous recent cases of spillover fire into Israel: ‘side effects’ of fighting between regime and opposition forces in the Quneitra area.

BBC audiences might therefore have been rather puzzled to find an article on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 7th titled “Syria crisis: US, Russia and Jordan agree ceasefire deal“.

“The US, Russia and Jordan have agreed to put in place a ceasefire across south-western Syria, which is due to begin on Sunday. […]

This agreement, which Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said would cover the regions of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida, is reported to be the result of several months of undisclosed meetings between Russia and the US on Syria.”

A follow-up report appeared on the Middle East page on July 9th under the headline “Syria ceasefire: US and Russia-backed deal in effect“.

“A ceasefire brokered by the US and Russia has come into force in south-western Syria.

It was announced after Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin met for the first time at G20 talks on Friday. The truce is also backed by Jordan.

It is in force along a line agreed by Syrian government forces and rebels. […]

The ceasefire, which Russia has said covers the regions of Deraa, Quneitra and Sweida, was reported to result from months of undisclosed talks between Russian and US officials.”

Neither of those articles informs readers that – as the Jerusalem Post reported:

“… it was not clear how much the combatants – Syrian government forces and the main rebels in the southwest – were committed to this latest effort.”

While the second report does not clarify at all how that ceasefire is to be enforced, the earlier report includes the following ambiguous statement:

“Mr Lavrov said Russia and the USA would coordinate with Jordan to act “as guarantors of the observance of this [ceasefire] by all groups”.”

The Times of Israel reports that:

“There has been no official comment from Syria’s government on the announcement, and there was no mention of the ceasefire on state television’s noon news bulletin. […]

The truce is to be monitored through satellite and drone images as well as observers on the ground, a senior Jordanian official said Saturday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details with reporters. Syria ally Russia is to deploy military police in the area.”

Although at least one BBC journalist is aware of concerns raised by Israel relating to Russian enforcement of the ceasefire along its border, that issue is not mentioned in either article. Ha’aretz reports:

“…Israel wants the de-escalation zones in southern Syria to keep Iran, Hezbollah and other Shi’ite militias away from the Israeli and Jordanian borders. […]

One of Israel’s main concerns is how the cease-fire would be enforced in areas near the Israeli and Jordanian borders and who would be responsible for enforcing it. A senior Israeli official said Russia has proposed that its army handle the job in southern Syria. But Israel vehemently opposes this idea and has made that clear to the Americans, he said.”

Channel 10’s military analyst Alon Ben David notes:

“One must remember that the Russians in Syria are not separate from the Shia axis. The soldiers fight shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian support forces and even often with Hizballah.”

Ynet’s analyst Ron Ben Yishai points out that:

“The agreement does have a serious disadvantage from an Israeli perspective: It halts the advance of Iranian militias and Hezbollah, but fails to completely remove them from the area, as Israel likely demanded behind the scenes. This means that if and when the ceasefire is violated, the forces supported by Iran and Hezbollah would be able to continue their advance towards the Syrian-Jordanian border and the Syrian-Iraqi border, which will make it possible for them to create a strategic corridor to the Mediterranean Sea. Even worse is the fact that they would be able to advance and establish a stronghold in the Golan Heights.

Another disadvantage of the ceasefire deal is that the Assad army and the Russians, which both have an interest in keeping Assad and his people in power, will be responsible for the agreement’s implementation on the ground. If Assad stays in power in Syria, Iran and Hezbollah will stay there too. […]

The Syrian regime, Hezbollah and Iran have a totally different interest in a ceasefire: Assad and the Iranians have realized that they are incapable of conquering the city of Daraa on the Jordanian border and that the rebels—to ease the pressure on Daraa—are successfully attacking them near new Quneitra in the Golan Heights, where the spillovers that Israel responded [to] originated. The Syrian army is pressed in the Quneitra area. It’s failing to advance in Daraa despite help from Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, and therefore has no other choice but to agree to a ceasefire.

This is also why this ceasefire may not last very long. The moment the Syrian regime and the Iranians reach the conclusion they are strong enough to reoccupy Daraa and the border crossings between Syrian and Iraq, they will do it without any hesitation.”

Obviously there is a much broader story to tell than the one presented in these two superficial BBC News reports that cannot be said to meet the BBC’s mission of providing news “of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.