A third feature promotes the BBC’s chosen Six Day War narrative

On June 9th an article by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams was published in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Six Day War: Six ways the conflict still matters“.

Like other items included in the BBC’s coverage of the 50th anniversary of that war, the main – but inaccurate – message behind Adams’ article is that the modern-day conflict has its roots in that week in June 1967.

Adams lays out six ways in which, according to him, that war “left its mark”.

His first section is titled “Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza”. Obviously that heading misleads readers by implying that the Gaza Strip is still under ‘occupation’ even though Israel withdrew entirely from the territory nearly 12 years ago.

Adopting Palestinian terminology that absolves the invading Arab countries of any responsibility for the outcome of their failed attempt to destroy the nascent Jewish state in 1948, Adams tells readers that:

“For them [the Palestinians], this [the Six Day War] was a grim sequel to the “Nakba” (Catastrophe) of 19 years earlier, when Israel gained its independence and more than 700,000 Palestinians became refugees in the fighting which surrounded it.”

In the second section of the article – headed “Jewish settlements” – Adams tells readers that:

“For a small number of Israelis, this was an opportunity not to miss. In 1968, a group of Jewish settlers, posing as tourists, checked into a hotel in Hebron, in the West Bank. They refused to leave until the government agreed to let them settle – temporarily – nearby.”

He of course refrains from making any mention of the ancient Jewish community – and property – in Hebron that fell victim to Arab rioting in 1929 or of the Jewish communities in locations such as Gush Etzion, Kfar Darom and Neve Ya’akov that existed before the 1948 war and to which Israelis returned after nineteen years of Jordanian and Egyptian occupation in 1967. Those omissions are made even more glaring by Adams’ use of partisan language incompatible with the BBC’s supposed standards of impartial reporting:

“It was the start of a process which led, over time, to the colonisation of large parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. By 2015, 386,000 settlers occupied 131 West Bank settlements. Until Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, 8,000 settlers lived there too.” [emphasis added]

Adopting the usual BBC policy of refraining from informing audiences of any alternative legal views of ‘international law’, Adams goes on:

“In the eyes of the international community, Jewish settlements are illegal. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring its citizens into occupied territory. Israel disputes its applicability and every government since 1967 has allowed settler numbers to rise. Settlers are well-represented by nationalist political parties which regard the West Bank as part of their Jewish birthright.”

Obviously any mention of the fact that both the Gaza Strip and Judea & Samaria were part of the territory allocated by the League for the establishment of a Jewish homeland would detract from Adams’ inaccurate portrayal of Israelis living in Judea & Samaria as a monochrome group of people motivated solely by religion. He closes that section by tapping into a well-worn – but inaccurate – BBC theme: the erroneous notion that ‘settlements’ are the prime factor preventing resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“The settlement issue has long dogged efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Some argue that the settlement enterprise is now so extensive and entrenched that it renders a viable two-state solution all-but impossible.”

Adams’ third section is titled “Fate of Jerusalem” in which he makes no mention of the significance of Jerusalem in Jewish religion, tradition and culture. Failing to inform readers that Jerusalem has had a majority Jewish population since the mid-nineteenth century and omitting any mention of the expulsion of Jews from the Old City and additional Jerusalem neighbourhoods in 1948, he comes up with the dubious claim that:

“The demographic balance has been dramatically altered by the arrival of more than 200,000 Jewish residents.”

The fourth section of Adams’ article is titled “Peace with Egypt/Jordan” and in it readers find a rare reference to the Khartoum Resolutions – albeit with implication of Israeli blame.

“The Israeli cabinet held long, anguished discussions after the war about what to do with the territories now under its control. No formal peace offer was ever made and, at a summit in Khartoum in September 1967, humiliated Arab leaders declared there would be “no peace, no recognition and no negotiation with Israel.””

Adams tells readers that following the peace agreement with Israel, “Arab leaders […] turned their backs” on Sadat. In fact, they expelled Egypt from the OIC and the Arab League and all but three Arab League countries suspended diplomatic relations with Cairo.

Section five of the article is headed “Peace process” and there readers are steered towards the view that the issues to be resolved in that process originate from the Six Day War.

“This remains the central unresolved legacy of 1967. Israelis and Palestinians have sat down countless times but have never managed to reach a final deal.”

The all-important refusal of various parties to accept the existence of the Jewish state that was already in evidence half a century before the Six Day War is not of course listed among Adams’ “stumbling blocks”.

“The stumbling blocks have simply proved insurmountable. Israeli settlements have gradually eaten away at the territory in question. Acts of Palestinian violence, including suicide bombs aimed at cafes and busses [sic], have convinced many Israelis they have no partner.”

Adams’ final section is titled “Golan Heights” and his portrayal of the events of 1967 excludes any mention the relevant topic of years of Syrian attacks on Israeli communities below the Golan.

“Syria, believing that Egypt was in the process of defeating Israel in the south, launched its own attack. It was a costly mistake. Israel counter-attacked.”

Adams also misleads with regard to the armistice lines prior to the Six Day War.

“Peace efforts have been fitful. In 2000, hopes were raised when Syria’s ailing president, Hafez al-Assad (father of the current leader) agreed to meet US President Bill Clinton in Geneva. But the talks went nowhere, foundering on Syria’s demands to return to its pre-1967 position on the north-east shore of the Sea of Galilee.”

In fact, the talks failed because Assad senior demanded access to the Sea of Galilee that Syria had never previously had as well as ‘shared sovereignty’ over the lake.

Like the other recent Six Day War features by Tom Bateman and Jeremy Bowen, this article by Paul Adams is essentially an exercise in advancing a transparent political narrative according to which the modern-day conflict is exclusively rooted in the outcome of those six days in June 1967 – especially the ‘occupation’ and ‘settlements’. And like those other two articles, Adams’ advancement of that narrative does not serve the purpose of enhancing audience understanding of either the root causes of that war, the ones that preceded and followed it or the continued lack of progress in resolving the century-long conflict.

Related Articles:

Jeremy Bowen promotes political narrative in BBC’s Six Day War centrepiece

BBC’s filmed Six Day War backgrounder falls short

BBC’s Bateman erases history and context from his account of the Six Day War

BBC News website amends its ‘settlements’ backgrounder

BBC News redesigns Jerusalem’s Old City 

 

 

 

 

BBC News website amends claim of Israeli strike in Syria

Earlier this month we noted that an article titled “Syria war: ‘Israeli strike’ hits military site near Damascus airport” that appeared on the BBC News website on April 27th included an insert titled “Recent suspected Israeli attacks in Syria”.

That insert began by listing an alleged incident in the Syrian Golan from April 23rd – even though the sources of the claim are repeatedly unreliable and in spite of the fact that security sources in Israel had already dismissed reports of Israeli involvement.

BBC Watch wrote to the BBC News website drawing attention to those facts and requesting a correction.

Although no reply was received, an amendment – albeit less than satisfactory – was made to the article on May 2nd.

Before:

After:

However, no footnote has been added to advise BBC audiences of the change.

Related Articles:

BBC News website promotes an ‘Israeli attack’ that wasn’t

Yom HaZikaron

יום הזיכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ולנפגעי פעולות האיבה

This evening the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism begins and Israel remembers and honours 23,544 casualties of war and terrorism.

In memory of Eli Cohen who visited here at the Syrian command centre building in Quneitra during his service in Syria between the years 1962 – 1965.

“Eliahu ben Shaoul Cohen, worked as a Mossad agent in Damascus, Syria under the alias of Kamal Amin Ta’abet from 1962 until his exposure and execution on May 18, 1965. Cohen was able to supply considerable details on Syrian political and military matters because of his strong interpersonal skills and abilities to build close ties with business, military, and Ba’ath Party leaders, and Syrian President Amin el Hafiz. He was hanged in Martyr’s Square with the television cameras rolling for the entire world to see.” [source

Eli Cohen’s place of burial is unknown.

May their memories be blessed.  

Weekend long read

1) At the Times of Israel Dan Efrony – former Military Advocate General of the IDF – writes about “The law of armed conflict: legality vs. legitimacy“.

“Since the 1980s, all of Israel’s armed conflicts have been fought against non-state actors, prominent among them, the terror organizations Hamas and Hezbollah.

These non-state enemies systematically and deliberately violate international humanitarian law, and specifically its basic principles which reflect customary international law that binds any state or non-state actor engaged in an armed conflict.

At the same time, they view the commitment of democracies like Israel to the rule of law as a weakness, which they can exploit to boost their gains in each front of the conflict, and within each level of activity, both tactical and strategic.”

2) Writing at ‘Fathom’, former MK Einat Wilf discusses what’s holding up a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“For most Israelis, the repeated Palestinian failures to say ‘yes’ to clear and distinct opportunities to end the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and to build a peaceful state for themselves in territories evacuated by Israel, reinforced the view that more than the Arab Palestinians wanted a state for themselves, they wanted to deny a state to the Jewish people. Seventy years after the British Foreign Secretary told Parliament on the eve of partition that ‘for the Jews, the essential point of principle is the creation of a sovereign Jewish state’, while ‘for the Arabs, the essential point of principle is to resist to the last the establishment of Jewish sovereignty in any part of the land’, it seems the Arab Palestinians still see no reason to compromise with a project they view as ‘unjust’ and temporary. After all, if the crusader state lasted 88 years (including Jerusalem), then in 2017 – when Israel will mark 69 years – all the Arab Palestinians have to do is wait a mere 19 more years until the second crusader state will disappear.”

3) BICOM has produced a backgrounder to the Six Day War which can be accessed here.

4) At ‘The Long War Journal’ Amir Toumaj profiles the group behind the recently formed ‘Golan Liberation Brigade’.

“The Iranian-controlled Iraqi militia Harakat al Nujaba this week announced the formation of its “Golan Liberation Brigade.” While it is not uncommon for entities to name themselves after areas they aim to “liberate,” the militia’s spokesman has said that the unit could assist the Syrian regime in taking the Golan Heights, a region in the Levant that has been controlled by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.

If true, the unit would likely participate in a future offensive to capture territory from Syrian opposition in the part of the Golan Heights still controlled by Syria, before moving on to the much taller order of dislodging the Israelis across the border. This week’s announcement reflects Tehran’s priorities in southern Syria since finally taking the fiercely contested city of Aleppo late last year: crush Syrian opposition, and pose military threat to Israel from the Golan Heights.” 

BBC reports from Golan Heights omit basic context

The February 2nd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included a report from the Golan Heights by the BBC’s diplomatic and defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus.

Marcus’ report (from 37:49 here) provided listeners with a good picture of the current situation along the border between Israel and Syria and the potential implications.

“The changes in Syria have brought Iran closer to Israel’s borders than ever. […]

It does create at least in theory the possibility of Iranian-Hizballah cooperation not only along the border between Israel and Lebanon but along the border between Israel and Syria as well. Israel has never faced that kind of situation on the northern border.”

However, audiences also heard a much less helpful portrayal of the events which brought about Israeli control over the Golan Heights in Marcus’ opening to the report.

“This is Israel’s front line with Syria. The Syrian army was evicted from the Golan Heights when Israeli forces captured it in 1967. Israeli law was extended here in 1981, effectively annexing this crucial strategic high ground.”marcus-golan-written

On February 8th a written report on the same topic appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Is a new Middle East war on Israel’s horizon?“. While as interesting and informative as the audio report, the article similarly presents a context-free portrayal of the Six Day War.

“This is Israel’s front line with Syria. The Syrian army was evicted from the Golan Heights when Israeli forces captured it in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israeli law was extended there in 1981 – effectively annexing this crucial strategic high ground. It is now a heavily fortified area.”

As regular readers will be aware, it is extremely rare for BBC audiences to be provided with the background information necessary for their understanding of the events which preceded Israel’s capture of the Golan Heights and additional areas in 1967. All too often we see that the BBC begins its accounts of history in June 1967 without providing the necessary context.

With the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War approaching – and with it, one can assume, augmented BBC coverage of the topic – it is obviously all the more important for audiences to be provided with accurate, impartial and comprehensive information concerning the background to that war.

Related Articles:

Twenty-nine hours later – BBC News reports Golan cross-border attack

Twenty-nine hours later – BBC News reports Golan cross-border attack

At around 8:30 a.m. on the morning of November 27th an incident took place along the border in the south Golan Heights.

“Soldiers from the Golani Brigade’s reconnaissance unit had crossed the security fence with Syria to conduct an “ambush operation,” while remaining inside Israeli territory, when they came under attack from small arms fire, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said.

They returned fire, but soon came under attack from mortar shells.

In response, the Israel Air Force targeted a truck “that had some sort of machine gun on top of it” and killed the four terrorists who were riding in it. […]

According to the IDF, the four men were members of the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, formerly known as the Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist group in Syria that is connected with the Islamic State. […]

The incident was the first major confrontation between Israeli forces and Islamic State affiliated terrorists in the Golan, though Israel has clashed with other fighters on the Syrian side of the border several times.”

The incident received coverage on the BBC Arabic website on the same day. Bizarrely, the article was tagged “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” even though it obviously has nothing to do with that subject matter.

During the night between November 27th and 28th, a building used by the ISIS linked terrorist group was struck by the Israeli air force.

“The IDF said Monday that the target in the overnight airstrike was an “abandoned UN building that has been used by the Islamic State as an operations center along the border in the southern Syrian Golan Heights,” adding that “the compound was the base for yesterday’s attack against IDF forces.”

“This is an additional response to yesterday’s attack, and it is aimed at preventing the terrorists from returning to the installation which poses a significant threat,” the IDF said.”

In the early afternoon of November 28th the BBC News website published a report concerning that strike and the previous day’s incident – which had hitherto gone unreported in English.golan-incident-report

Headlined “Israeli aircraft target IS position in Syrian Golan Heights“, the article opens with an account of the last of the story’s events.

“The Israeli Air Force has bombed a building used by Islamic State (IS) militants in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights, Israel’s military says.

The air raid targeted an abandoned UN peacekeeping facility used as a base for an attack on Sunday against Israeli soldiers on Israeli-occupied territory.

The four militants behind that attack were killed in an earlier strike.”

Readers are not provided with any explanation as to why the UN building was “abandoned” and are not reminded that the so-called ‘demilitarised zone’ has long since ceased to meet that definition, with UNDOF forces having largely retreated from the area. Moreover, towards the end of this report readers find the standard – but now irrelevant – BBC mantra concerning the Golan Heights.

“Israel seized the region in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War, and thwarted a Syrian attempt to retake it in 1973.

Both countries signed an armistice in 1974, after which a UN peacekeeping force was put in place to monitor the demilitarised zone.”

Only in the sixth paragraph do readers find out about the attack that sparked events.

“In Sunday’s incident, Israeli soldiers came under machine-gun and mortar fire, according to the Israeli military.

The air force bombed a vehicle carrying the assailants, whom the military said were members of the IS-linked Khaled Ibn al-Walid Brigade, a Syrian group formerly called the Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade.” [emphasis added]

Not only did the IDF ‘say’ that the four terrorists were members of the ISIS linked group: the BBC refrains from informing its audiences that ISIS later published their photographs.

Readers are not provided with any further information concerning Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Waleed or its recent internal conflicts. Neither are they reminded that one of the groups making up that organisation – the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade – kidnapped UN forces in 2013. Readers are not given any information concerning the size of the area controlled by the ISIS affiliated group adjacent to Israel’s border and the Syrian civilians living in that region have not been the topic of any BBC coverage.

BBC’s news from southern Syria front: for Arabic speakers only

With the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen on the ground in northern Syria, audience attentions have been focused on that region where, according to the corporation’s reports, the ceasefire which came into effect on the evening of September 12th is “largely holding“. However, another front is currently rather less quiet.

Throughout the past week or so, multiple incidents of mortar fire from Syria into the Israeli Golan have taken place – attributed to spill-over from the heavy fighting between opposition groups and regime forces and their supporters near the border which continued under the terms of the ceasefire agreement.

On September 13th, after Israel responded to one of the incidents of cross-border mortar fire, the Syrian regime claimed to have shot down two Israeli aircraft. That claim was swiftly refuted by the IDF.

“The statement from the Syrian army said one aircraft was downed over the skies of the Syrian town of Quneitra, near the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, and the other, a drone, was shot down closer to Damascus.

“Our air defenses blocked the attack and shot down the military aircraft in (the southern province of) Quneitra and a drone west of Sa’sa” in the province of Damascus, said the statement carried by state news agency SANA.

The alleged achievement was highlighted widely in Syrian state media.

The IDF in a statement confirmed it had been shot at, but said aircraft used to target Syrian positions overnight were safe.bbc-arabic-plane-golan

“Two surface-to-air missiles were launched from Syria after the mission overnight to target Syrian artillery positions,” an IDF statement said. “At no point was the safety of IDF aircraft compromised.””

Once again, the degree of reliability of information put out by the Syrian regime – which the BBC has in the past unquestioningly amplified and promoted – is glaringly apparent.

The Syrian regime’s claim was the subject of a report – “Syria says it shot down an Israeli airliner and Israel denies” – which appeared on the BBC Arabic website on September 13th. The BBC’s English-speaking audiences, however, have not been informed of that incident or the recent tension-raising uptick in cross-border mortar fire from Syria into Israel.

Weekend long read

1) With the British government having this week announced that it will not fund ‘World Vision International’ until its investigation into alleged diversion of funds to Hamas is complete, readers may find a background article on the organisation by CAMERA’s Dexter Van Zile useful. “Five Things You Need to Know About World Vision” is available here.Weekend Read

2) An interesting post about the Israeli perspective of the civil war in Syria is found at the IDF blog.

“In 2011, the population of the Syrian Golan numbered 1.2 million. The Syrian side of the border was fully functional with its farms, UN bases, towns and forests. […]

As of 2016, the population of the Syrian Golan is a mere 750,000 – 63% of its pre-war residents. 50,000 Syrians from the Golan alone have been killed, and the rest have fled inland or to other countries. Those who remain live in dire circumstances. Because of the fighting, they have little access to medical care, public works, food, and other basic necessities.”

3) Following on from this week’s rare BBC coverage of an internal Palestinian story, Khaled Abu Toameh provides some related background and context.

“Palestinians refer to Nablus as the “Mountain of Fire” — a reference to the countless armed attacks carried out against Israelis by residents of the city since 1967. Current events in Nablus, however, have shown how easily fire burns the arsonist. The Palestinian Authority is now paying the price for harboring, funding and inciting gang members and militiamen who until recently were hailed by many Palestinians as “heroes” and “resistance fighters.” Unsurprisingly, most of these “outlaws” and “criminals” (as the PA describes them) are affiliated in one way or another with Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction.

Nablus, the so-called Mountain of Fire, is now threatening to turn into a volcano that is set to erupt in the face of Abbas and his PA government.”

Read the whole article at the Gatestone Institute.

4) Matthew Levitt has written a very interesting essay titled “Hezbollah’s Pivot Toward the Gulf”.

“Hezbollah’s status in the wider Sunni Arab world has dropped precipitously since its height a decade ago after the 2006 Lebanon War. In the wake of that conflict, Hezbollah rode a wave of popular support across the region. A decade later, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has labeled Hezbollah a terrorist group and the Gulf States have cracked down on Hezbollah supporters and financiers within their borders. The Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have issued statements condemning Hezbollah as well, leading to a war of words between the group and Gulf officials. In January 2016, the Saudi government released a report on Iranian-sponsored terrorism that focused heavily on Hezbollah, spanning the group’s militant activities from the 1980s to the present.

But increasingly tense relations—and the larger regional context of a proxy war between Iran, Hezbollah’s patron and sponsor, and the Gulf States led by Saudi Arabia—may now be moving this schism from words to actions, threatening more overt violence between Hezbollah and its Shi`a allies and the Gulf States and their Sunni partners.”

Read the whole essay here.

 

Golan Heights residents bust the BBC (and UN) obsolete narrative

In March of this year a BBC News website report failed to tell audiences the whole story behind a UN Human Rights Council anti-Israel resolution.

“Knell does not however inform BBC audiences that the resolution was initiated by the Palestinians and promoted by various Arab and Muslim countries. Despite her use of the term “Palestinian lands” and the fact that the report opens by telling readers that “Israel has criticised the UN Human Rights Council for voting to establish a database of firms doing business in settlements in the occupied West Bank”, Knell does not tell readers that the resolution also includes the Golan Heights.

Readers are not told that at the same session – which took place during the week in which five years of civil war in Syria were marked – the UNHRC also passed a resolution calling on Israel to relinquish the Golan Heights to Syria along with condemnation of alleged ‘human rights abuses’ against the Druze population of the Golan.”

Majdal Shams

Majdal Shams

The Mayor of the Golan Heights town of Majdal Shams recently gave an interview in which he addressed one of the persistent and perennially predictable UN resolutions concerning the Golan Heights and its Druze population.

“A leader of the Druze population of the Golan Heights disputed the assertion of a United Nations committee that accused Israel of imposing economic and social hardships on his community.

Dulan abu-Saleh, the mayor of Majdal Shams, the largest Druze town in the Golan, told Makor Rishon that the UN Economic and Social Council’s recent statement on the area was “a total joke,” the daily reported Friday. […]

“I don’t understand what they’re talking about, it’s laughable,” abu-Saleh said. Druze in the Golan “don’t serve in the IDF and so far are only receiv[e] from the state.” Referencing the war in Syria, he said: “Why don’t they condemn the horrors in Syria, where dozens of children are killed daily? Golan residents have a good life.”

He also said: “Although we weren’t included in some major cabinet decisions on budgets, when we build and make up plans we never felt discrimination. On the contrary, we always found an attentive ear.”

Prior to the eruption in 2011 of a civil war in Syria, only 1,700 of the Golan’s Druze claimed Israeli citizenship offered to them. Hundreds have applied since then.”

In addition:

“Karim Batkhish, a resident of the town of Masa’ada, is quoted as saying: “The war in Syria is irrelevant to us. Some may say they support [Syrian President Bashar] Assad but it’s a lie to show Syria we’re with them. They’re lying, no one wants to see Syria here.””

Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, BBC reporters have periodically produced reports from the Golan Heights, all of which have presented an outdated and monochrome portrait of the Golan Druze which fails to inform audiences of the changes that events of recent years have brought about.

In 2013 it was Bethany Bell who reported that:

“Traditionally the Druze have had close religious and political ties to the family of the Syrian leader Bashar al Assad. The secretive Druze religion, like Mr Assad’s Alawite sect, draws on branches of Shia Islam and strong Syrian nationalism has tended to mean loyalty to the Assads.”

In 2015 Kevin Connolly told BBC audiences:

“Most of the Druze of the Israeli-occupied Golan continue to regard themselves as Syrians. They follow the television news from Damascus and await the reunification of a country from which they were cut off by the wars of 1967 and 1973.”

In 2016 BBC audiences were told by Diana Darke that:

“Interrupted by periodic explosions from the direction of Damascus, Abu Amin and I exchange poignant memories of the Syrian capital where he studied for four years. ‘Although the Israelis pressure us, we will never give up our Syrian nationality’ he assures me. ‘This war will end one day and our families will be joined again’. […]

Abu Amin’s generation still treasures memories of Damascus but the Golan’s younger Druze – deprived of such cherished dreams – have found their own uniquely non-political vision of their future. Key to the Druze faith is reincarnation of souls – male to male, female to female – always into a newborn child. They simply believe they will be reincarnated in their next lives into the right part of Syria.”

There is a very interesting story to be told about the ways in which the Syrian civil war has affected residents of the four Druze villages on the Golan Heights and their relationship with Israel. It is a story, however, which the BBC continues to overlook, preferring instead to adhere to its long outdated narrative. 

BBC News website recycles previous Golan Heights inaccuracies

Hot on the heels of his audio report from the Golan Heights which was broadcast on June 15th on BBC Radio 4, Andrew Hosken produced a written article on the same subject for the BBC News website’s Middle East page’s ‘Features’ section on June 20th – “Syrian conflict: The view from Golan Heights” –  which suffers from many of the same factual inaccuracies.Hosken Golan written

Hosken’s report opens with a description of his visit to a chocolate factory. Seeing as that factory is located in Kibbutz Ein Zivan, it is reasonable to assume that he would have noticed the nearby border fence and, just beyond that, the town of Quneitra.

When the Six Day War ended with the ceasefire of June 10th 1967, Quneitra was left under Israeli control and remained so until the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Under the terms of the 1974 agreement between Israel and Syria, Israel evacuated territory it had captured during the Yom Kippur war as well as some 60 square kilometers in the Quneitra area, captured in 1967. Following the 1974 agreement, ITN reported that “Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad personally hoisted the Syrian flag over the ruined town of Kuneitra [Quneitra] on Wednesday (June 26) to mark the end of seven years of Israeli occupation”.

Nevertheless, readers of this report by Hosken were again told that the Israeli Golan is 54.5 square miles larger than is actually the case and that the border is “the 1967 ceasefire line” rather than the 1974 line.

“Territory encompassing most of the Golan Heights, approximately 500 square miles, was captured by Israel in the last stages of the so-called Six Day War of 1967.

Israel effectively annexed the land in December 1981 when it officially extended Israeli law and government to the Golan.

The “border” between Israeli-occupied land and Syria is now the 1967 ceasefire line that is enforced by the United Nations.”

The mandate of the UNDOF forces in the area is to “maintain” and “supervise” – rather than ‘enforce’ – the 1974 agreement.

The article portrays Hizballah as “Islamist militants” rather than an international terror organization.

“Assad has been heavily supported by Iran and, in particular, the Islamist militants funded and backed by Tehran, Hezbollah. Hezbollah has vowed to destroy the state of Israel.”

In common with the audio report, the population of the Golan Heights is inaccurately portrayed as being over a third smaller than is the case and the location of the Druze residents of the Golan is described in confusing terms.

“Of the 30,000 or so people in Israel-occupied Golan, fewer than half – about 14,000 – are Jews. The rest are mainly Druze Arabs, who straddle the 1967 ceasefire line.”

Visiting Moshav Yonatan, Hosken tells readers that:

“The village lies in south-eastern Golan just four miles from the ceasefire line. On the other side, so-called Islamic State is believed to be fighting Assad’s Hezbollah-backed forces.”

In fact, Yonatan is located in the central Golan and the ISIS affiliated groups (which have of late been fighting other rebel groups more than Assad and his allies) are positioned further to the south.

Despite the existence of documentation, Hosken once again tells BBC audiences that:

“…Israel believes a small number of Syrian Druze are being used in sporadic attacks against Israelis in the Golan Heights by Hezbollah” [emphasis added]

As noted here previously, the topic of Hizballah and Iranian activity on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights has been under-reported by the BBC in the past and so it is good to see a journalist finally giving some air-time and column space to that issue. It is however a pity that such long overdue reporting is marred by very basic factual inaccuracies.

Related Articles:

BBC World Service reduces Golan Heights population by a third

More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

Patchy BBC reporting on Hizballah attacks in northern Israel

Airbrushing Hizballah: BBC News report on Nasrallah speech