Weekend long read

1) At the JCPA Dr Shimon Shapira explains ‘How Hizbullah Is Dealing with the Coronavirus’.

“The coronavirus in Lebanon has put Hizbullah in a complex and sensitive position. Immediately after the first infected individuals were identified, Hizbullah was accused of conveying the disease to the country from Iran. Air traffic from Tehran to Beirut had continued without letup as Lebanese students and their families fled the universities in Iran, particularly the madrasas of Qom where thousands of Lebanese students learn, and returned to Lebanon without being checked or put in quarantine, thereby spreading the disease from Iran to Lebanon.

These accusations sparked fear as well as intense anger at Hizbullah, which claimed that the virus had broken out in the Jesuit monasteries of Beirut and Bikfaya in Lebanon. Hizbullah thereby sought to place the blame at the heart of the Maronite Christian community.”

2) The ITIC reports on the steps taken by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to contain the Coronavirus pandemic.

“On March 31, 2020, the number of Palestinian COVID-19 cases rose to 117, 107 in Judea and Samaria and 10 in the Gaza Strip. The cases most recently detected in the PA were a Palestinian worker who returned from Israel and seven Palestinians in the village of Qatanna, northwest of Jerusalem. The village and the Bethlehem area are focal points for the spread of the disease: there are 39 COVID-19 cases in Qatanna and 46 in the Bethlehem area. So far 18 Palestinians have recovered and one has died.”

“The ministry of health in the Gaza Strip announced another case of COVID-19 among the people quarantined in the Gaza Strip. This brings the number of COVID-19 patients in the Gaza Strip to 10, all in stable condition. According to the ministry’s statement, the newly identified patient arrived from the Rafah crossing. He entered quarantine immediately upon arrival and did not come in contact with anyone. According to the spokesman for the health ministry in the Gaza Strip, there are 1,769 people in 25 quarantine centers, including 1,006 patients with background illnesses.”

3) Khaled Abu Toameh reports that ‘Despite Coronavirus, Jihad Against Israel Continues’ at the Gatestone Institute.

“While many international media outlets and human rights organizations, including the United Nations, are warning of a “catastrophe” in the Gaza Strip after the discovery of nine coronavirus cases there, Hamas and PIJ – the two dominant groups that have been ruling the Gaza Strip since 2007 – seem to care less about the safety and health of their people.

For these groups, the “struggle” against Israel is manifestly more important than the fight against the immediate threat of a pandemic.

On March 27, a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip toward the Israeli city of Sderot. The rocket, which fell in an open area, did not cause any casualties or property damage. This was the first rocket attack on Israel since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.”

4) Fathom Magazine carries an article by Oren Kessler about the Peel Commission.

“In this fascinating dive into the archives Oren Kessler reveals the dramatic exchanges that shaped Lord Peel’s 1936 proposal to partition Mandate Palestine. Kessler examines testimony given to the Royal Commission, to which Peel lent his name, from Chaim Weizmann, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Grand Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini, George Antonius, Winston Churchill and others. He assesses why the commission decided that only a ‘clean cut’ into two states for these two peoples, Jews and Arabs, had any chance of forestalling a descent into near-permanent conflict. The following is an excerpt from Kessler’s forthcoming book Fire Before Dawn: The First Palestinian Revolt and the Struggle for the Holy Land.”

 

BBC continues to snooze on Hizballah activity

On March 2nd – the day of Israel’s general election – an incident which the BBC did not find newsworthy took place in the Golan Heights.

Tel Fares from Ramtaniya

“The Israel Defense Forces bombed a Syrian vehicle that the military said was used in an attempted sniper attack on Israeli troops near the Golan border Monday.

The skirmish took place in the Quneitra region in the demilitarized buffer zone between the countries, the latest in a series of recent cross-border clashes in the area. However, this was the first of these to be acknowledged by Israel.

“A short time ago an IDF force identified an attempt at a sniping attack in the northern Golan Heights,” the military said in a statement. “The force attacked the vehicle involved in the attempted attack.””

Two weeks on, the IDF has published the results of the investigation into that incident.

“The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday accused the Hezbollah terror group and the Syrian army of being behind an attempted sniping attack against Israeli soldiers in the Golan Heights earlier this month, which was thwarted by an Israeli strike on the suspects’ car.

The military said that in the months preceding the incident Israeli troops saw Hezbollah fighters and Syrian soldiers preparing for an attack, filming the border area with smartphones and professional cameras and measuring wind speed from different locations in the supposedly demilitarized buffer zone between the two countries — in what the IDF said appeared to be efforts to identify a target and improve snipers’ accuracy.

The military said that on March 2 fighters were seen preparing to carry out the attack from a car.

“When there was an operational opportunity, the car being used by the cell was attacked by an IDF helicopter,” the military said.” [emphasis added]

The demilitarized zone is of course intended to be exactly that: Syrian soldiers and Hizballah militia are not supposed to be present in that area. UN forces – UNDOF – are tasked with ensuring that the terms of the 1974 cease fire agreement, under which the demilitarized zone was established, are upheld. In light of the civil war in Syria UNDOF largely abandoned that mission in September 2014 but supposedly returned to oversee the DMZ in October 2018.  

Since then the BBC has failed to produce any serious reporting on the topic of Hizballah’s activities in the Syrian Golan and UNDOF’s failure to guarantee the demilitarized zone. It is hence unsurprising to see that the corporation chose to ignore this latest thwarted attack.

Related Articles:

BBC ignores revelation of Hizballah’s Golan network

BBC News framing of Iranian activity in Syria continues

BBC journalist scoffs at a topic the corporation fails to cover

 

Weekend long read

1) At the INSS Carmit Valensi, Neta Nave and Ofek Mushkat discuss ‘The Fight for Idlib’.

“Idlib province in northwest Syria remains the last significant stronghold of the rebellion against the Assad regime. The campaign that was revived recently in this area is marked by traits of the civil war now entering its tenth year: cruel and indiscriminate regime fighting backed by Russia and Iranian-run Shiite militias; a humanitarian crisis, manifested inter alia in displacement and potential refugees; a Russian effort, so far fruitless, to mediate between the sides; a danger of the situation deteriorating – militarily and diplomatically – given the multiple actors in the field. However, the campaign in the Idlib area reflects two significant changes in the balance of power between the sides: first, unusual military confrontations between Turkey and Assad regime forces, which so far have led to the downing of two Syrian military helicopters and fatalities on both sides. The second is linked to Iran’s decision to send its proxies into the fight after previously abstaining from involvement in this war theater. These developments are shaking up the already fragile balance of power among the various involved actors.”

2) Also at the INSS, Dr Raz Zimmt analyses ‘Parliamentary Elections in Iran: The Predicted Conservative Victory’.

“Official though not yet final results of the parliamentary elections held in Iran on February 21, 2020 show a landslide victory by the conservative right (200 out of 290 seats, versus under 20 seats won by reformist candidates). This victory was expected in view of the sweeping disqualification by the authorities of most of the reformist candidates. The low voter turnout (slightly over 40 percent) reflects the ongoing erosion of public trust in the political system. Over time this erosion could undermine the legitimacy of the regime, which to a large extent depends on its ability to maintain at least the appearance of popular representation in state institutions. The return of absolute control of the Majlis to the conservatives could create even more difficulties for President Hassan Rouhani in his last year of office, and is a possible preliminary sign regarding the next presidential elections, expected to be held in the summer of 2021.”

3) The Henry Jackson Society has published a report by Dr Simon Waldman titled ‘UNRWA’s Future Reconsidered’.

“UNRWA, the UN aid body established to support Palestinians, has been dogged by repeated allegations of mismanagement which led to the USA withdrawing all funding in 2018.  Following further allegations of misconduct in 2019; Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands froze funding to the body.  In contrast, the UK increased its annual contribution by over $25 million between 2017 and 2018.

Despite the UK’s continued support for UNRWA, allegations that educational materials provided by the body include extremism have dogged the organisation.  UNRWA blames the disturbing material within its schools on the local authorities whose educational ministries determine curricula within their respective jurisdictions. While UNRWA claims to routinely review its materials, the report argues that the problem is longstanding and measures to end the problem have been subsequently reversed.”

4) The ITIC reports on the Hizballah linked Lebanese organisation ‘Green Without Borders’.

“Green Without Borders is a Lebanese environmental organization dealing mostly with forestation. It operates in areas populated mainly by Hezbollah-controlled Shi’ites in south Lebanon and the Beqa’a Valley. An examination conducted by the ITIC revealed that the organization collaborates with Hezbollah’s civilian institutions, especially the Jihad al-Bina (the “construction foundation”) and the Hezbollah Association for Municipal Activity. Green Without Borders participates in Hezbollah’s campaign to glorify its shaheeds and turn them into role models for Lebanese youth. To that end Green Without Borders plants trees, some of them near the Israeli border, named for Hezbollah shaheeds, in collaboration with Hezbollah institutions and operatives. Green Without Borders’ chairman, Hajj Zuhair Nahle, a Shi’ite from Nabatieh in south Lebanon, is affiliated with Hezbollah. In his Facebook profile he refers to his loyalty to Iranian leader Ali Khamenei.”

Related Articles:

Another UN SC resolution violation goes unreported by the BBC

BBC continues to ignore Hizballah violations in south Lebanon

Weekend long read

1) David May and Varsha Koduvayur discuss ‘Trump’s peace plan and the Gulf Arab States’ reaction’ at the Hill.

“Many Arab countries initially welcomed the Trump administration’s release of its long-awaited plan in late January. Ambassadors from Oman, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates were present at the launch event. Those that weren’t — including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Morocco — nevertheless expressed support for the administration’s efforts and praised some of the plan’s positive elements. It appeared that Israel and the Arab states were ready to move from discreet affairs to international affairs.

However, any hope of a full-fledged embrace of the plan by Gulf leaders was dashed when, just days later, the Arab League issued a sound and unanimous rejection of the entire plan, underscoring how Israeli ties to the Persian Gulf continue their delicate dance of two steps forward, one step back. Denouncing the plan as a “so-called ‘deal,’” the Arab League dubbed it a “setback” to the peace efforts undertaken in the past 30 years. The Palestinians initiated this public meeting of the Arab League, knowing they could shame the Arab states into denying their intrigue with Israel.”

2) At the INSS Orna Mizrahi analyses the situation in Lebanon.

“Despite the January 21, 2020 formation of a government of technocrats in Lebanon, presumably in response to demonstrators’ demands, protests have persisted throughout the country. In addition, there is marked popular dissatisfaction with the composition of the government and a lack of confidence in its ability to advance reforms necessary to alleviate the country’s dire situation. Nor is it clear that how long this government can survive. Since the October 17, 2019 launch of the protest, demonstrators have demanded the formation of a government composed of professionals who are not members of the corrupt, ruling political elite, in the hope they might properly address Lebanon’s deep-set problems. However, the demands met with only a partial response; although most of the 20 members of the government – including Prime Minister Hassan Diab – are academics without formal political affiliation, they are perceived as a “Hezbollah government,” because the list was effectively decided, behind the scenes, by Hezbollah and the parties in the March 8 camp. The Sunni party of former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, along with other parties from the rival March 14 alliance, did not support the new Prime Minister and opted not to join the government. Thus while only two ministers are officially Hezbollah members, the rest represent the organization’s partners. As such, the new government in fact reflects Hezbollah’s strengthened influence over the political system in Lebanon and challenges Western countries, chief among them the United States, and the Gulf States with a dilemma regarding their economic aid to Lebanon, which is crucial for the struggling state.”

3) At the JISS Jonathan Spyer asks ‘Do Syria-Turkey clashes presage a wider confrontation in the Middle East?’.

“This week saw the first direct clashes between Turkish government and Syrian regime forces since the commencement of the Syrian civil war in mid-2011. According to a statement issued by the Turkish defense ministry, seven Turkish soldiers and one civilian were killed on Monday, February 3, in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, when their position was shelled by advancing regime forces.

Turkish forces responded to the fire, claiming to have killed 76 regime soldiers. The Assad regime itself denies that its forces suffered any fatalities. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is opposition-associated but regarded by many news outlets as generally reliable, reported that at least 13 regime soldiers were killed by Turkish fire. […]

So does this event presage a wider confrontation between Assad and Erdogan? And what are the implications for Russian attempts to maintain a diplomatic process intended to finally bring the war in Syria to a close? Will the Turkish-Russian rapprochement which has formed a notable presence in regional diplomacy over the last year suffer serious damage as a result of ‘the week’s events?”

4) The ITIC reports on ‘Iranian support for Palestinian terrorism’.

“In late January 2020, the Al-Ansar Charity Association, affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), distributed Iranian financial support to families of shaheeds killed from the beginning of the Second Intifada (2000) until Operation Protective Edge (2014). The funds were delivered to the association by the Iranian Martyrs Foundation, which is used by the Iranians as a channel for funneling funds intended for social institutions supporting the terrorist organizations. The amount distributed in the Gaza Strip among the families of shaheeds was not specified. However, in the ITIC’s assessment, similarly to 2018, the total amount was close to $2 million, paid to about 4,800 families (each family received the sum of $300-600).”

BBC News reporting on new Lebanese government avoids relevant facts

January 22nd saw the appearance of a filmed report titled “Lebanon protesters angry over new government” on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page. The video’s synopsis reads:

“Protesters in Lebanon have returned to the streets, saying the new government formed on Tuesday does not meet their demands.

They had been calling for an overhaul of the political system, the formation of an independent, non-sectarian cabinet, and an end to government corruption.

The new cabinet was announced after months of deadlock. PM Hassan Diab said it would be a “rescue team” that would work to meet protesters’ demands.

But the demonstrators say the ministers were selected by the entrenched political elite that they blame for Lebanon’s problems.”

Produced by Rana Taha of BBC Monitoring, the video itself tells BBC audiences that:

“After months of deadlock, Lebanon finally has a new government but it has not eased demonstrators’ anger. Protesters took to the streets after the new cabinet was announced. This led to confrontations with security forces. The protesters had wanted a government of technocrats to overhaul the political system. They say the new ministers are still backed by the old political forces.”

Rather than explaining that opaque last sentence, the video goes on with a weighty section focusing on a different topic.

“The new cabinet includes the Arab world’s first ever female defence minister. Zeina Akar is one of six women appointed to the cabinet.”

After showcasing assorted Tweets relating to that appointment, the video closes:

“The country has been without a government since October when PM Saad Hariri was forced out amid mass protests. He was replaced by Hassan Diab who says the new ministers are technocrats. Some are happy the government is in place. But others are questioning the ministers’ expertise.”

As we see, BBC Monitoring carefully avoided any mention of specific political factions in that superficial report, meaning that viewers were left none the wiser about how Lebanon’s new government came into being.

As Jonathan Spyer explains:

“The new government is the product of escalating popular protests under way since October 15. The protests are in response to Lebanon’s dire economic state. Demonstrators were demanding the formation of a government of ‘technocrats’ qualified to address the urgent issues facing the country and untainted by contact with Lebanon’s enormously corrupt political parties.

The new government appears to be an attempt to create the superficial appearance of such an administration. Its 20 ministers were presented by Prime Minister designate Hassan Diab as ‘specialists’, non-partisan and without loyalties to this or that political bloc.

Few Lebanese are likely to be convinced by this claim.  The ‘specialists’ in question are individuals whose names were put forward by the political parties. The composition of the new government emerged in a process of wrangling and horse trading between these parties.

But crucially, parties and movements broadly associated with the west and with Saudi Arabia stayed out of the negotiations. Individuals linked to prominent pro-western and anti-Iranian political trends such as the former Prime Minister’s Mustaqbal (Future) Movement and the Christian Lebanese Forces are not to be found among the new ministers.  The Progressive Socialist Party of Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt is also not represented.

The government that has emerged from this process comprises individuals linked to movements which are part of only one of the existing power structures – the one associated with Hizballah and Iran.

The new administration is being described by Lebanese commentators as a government of ‘one color,’ Lebanon’s first of this kind.  The color is that of Hizballah and Iran’s banners.

Hizballah itself controls only two ministries in the new government.  But the Christian Free Patriotic Movement led by Gebran Bassil, and the Shia Amal movement, both closely associated with Hizballah, control much of the rest. Smaller parties also associated with this bloc make up the remainder.”

So is the BBC really not aware of the background to the new Lebanese government? A written report also published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on January 22nd shows that is not the case.

“Saad Hariri resigned as prime minister in October in response to mass protests over corruption and mismanagement.

The Hezbollah movement and its allies chose university professor Hassan Diab to replace him last month, but they could not agree the cabinet’s make-up. […]

Mr Diab’s candidacy was backed by the biggest Shia Muslim factions, Hezbollah and Amal, and President Michel Aoun’s Christian Free Patriotic Movement.

Mr Hariri’s Sunni-led Future Movement, the Christian Lebanese Forces party and the Progressive Socialist Party of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt decided not to participate in the new government.

After more than a month of negotiations over portfolios, Mr Diab announced on Tuesday night a cabinet of 20 ministers who he insisted had no political loyalties. […]

“The cabinet is composed primarily of advisers and appointees representing the main political oligarchs and parties allied with Hezbollah,” wrote Paul Salem, president of the Middle East Institute.”

As we see the BBC understands perfectly well that the new government in Lebanon is, as its quoted analyst wrote, “politically aligned with the pro-Hezbollah and pro-Syrian axis in Lebanon”. One must therefore ask why it wastes public resources by having BBC Monitoring produce a video which completely ignores that elephant in the room and why the written report which does acknowledge Hizballah’s influence over the new government fails to make any mention of the obviously relevant fact that it is an internationally designated terrorist organisation. 

UK government anti-terrorism sanction disregarded by BBC News

On January 17th the UK government’s economic and financial ministry announced that its Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation had designated the entire organisation of Hizballah under the Terrorist Asset Freezing Act of 2010.

That announcement was reported by the Reuters news agency and the story was picked up by other agencies and numerous media outlets worldwide. 

Curiously, we have been unable to find any coverage of that Treasury announcement on the BBC News website’s ‘UK’ or ‘Middle East’ pages or under relevant tags such as UK government, HM Treasury, UK Finance or Hezbollah.

Related Articles:

BBC ignores Twitter’s terror groups suspensions

Hizballah London explosives story not newsworthy for the BBC

Usual mantras in BBC News report on Hizballah designation

 

Weekend long read

1) At the INSS Tomer Fadlon, Sason Hadad and Elisheva Simon discuss ‘Lebanon’s Political-Economic Crisis’.

“The two deep problems weighing on Lebanon’s economy are inter-linked. The first is endemic corruption: the organization Transparency International ranks Lebanon 138 among 175 countries assessed. Corruption in Lebanon is manifested especially in nepotism and budget-inflation to line the pockets of those close to power. Thus, for example, in July 2017 public sector salaries rose by dozens of percentage points, while private sector salaries did not enjoy any increase. The only way to fund the higher salaries and inflated budgets is through taxes on the population, which have ballooned in recent years and burdened the private sector.

The second problem is political instability, which is linked to Lebanon’s community structure and greatly limits the Lebanese government’s freedom of action and ability to implement reforms. The instability makes it hard for the government to meet the public’s basic demands, including sanitation services and electricity supply. As a result, there is a burgeoning market in private generators, though even this phenomenon is arguably linked to corruption: politicians are aligned with the generator suppliers, and thus, in fact, profit from government inaction.”

2) At the JCPA Yoni Ben Menachem takes a look at ‘New Tensions between Egypt and Hamas’.

“In recent days, signs of new tensions between Egypt with Hamas in the Gaza Strip have intensified in light of the recent assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by the United States.

This new rift was created following a surprise move by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who decided to take a senior Hamas delegation to Tehran to attend Qasem Soleimani’s funeral. He met and comforted the Iranian leadership and Soleimani’s family.

Qasem Soleimani’s assassination caught Ismail Haniyeh during his visit to Qatar. Haniyeh left the Gaza Strip two weeks ago with special permission from Egyptian authorities. The Egyptian authorities had prevented him from going abroad for the past three years in an attempt to prevent Iranian and Turkish influence that would endanger Egypt’s efforts to calm the Gaza Strip and move towards national reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

Egyptian authorities had put conditions on Ismail Haniyeh before his trip, and he pledged to comply. They included a ban on travel to Iran or Lebanon and meetings with Iranian and senior Hizbullah officials.”

3) The ITIC presents an overview of Palestinian terrorism in 2019.

“Two main trends in attacks characterized Palestinian organized and popular terrorism in 2019: in Judea and Samaria, the annual decline in the scope of popular terrorism and its lethality continued; in the Gaza Strip there was a significant rise in the scope and intensity of terrorism and violence, especially rocket fire. In 2019 1,403 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel, an almost unprecedented number (with the exception of Operation Protective Edge, 2014).

The reduction in the scope of terrorism and the level of its lethality during the past year again illustrated Hamas’ failure to export terrorism to Judea and Samaria, while at the same time prompting a lull arrangement with Israel through Egyptian mediation. The main reason for Hamas’ failure was the great effectiveness of the counterterrorism activities of the Israeli security forces (with the contribution of the counterterrorism activities of the PA security services). In November 2019 Nadav Argaman, head of the Israel Security Agency, said that in 2019 the Agency had prevented more than 450 significant terrorist attacks, among them showcase attacks which were liable to have had many victims. Thus it can be determined that the relative quiet in Judea and Samaria in 2019 was to a great extent misleading, while beneath the surface attempts to carry out terrorist attacks continued.”

4) The ITIC also provides a profile of the Iraqi militia headed by Qais Ghazali who was featured in a BBC World Service radio programme three days after his designation by the United States.

“On December 6, 2019, the US Department of State announced the imposition of sanctions on Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the militia of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”), and on two other senior militia operatives. According to the American statement, members of the militia headed by Qais al-Khazali opened fire at Iraqi demonstrators which resulted in the killing of civilians. Furthermore, it was stated that Qais al-Khazali was handled by the Iranian Qods Force and authorized the use of deadly weapons against demonstrators in order to sow terror among Iraqi civilians.

Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”) is an Iraqi Shiite militia handled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qods Force. It is one of the three most important Shiite militias which are prioritized by the Qods Force in terms of military and financial support. […] In recent years, these militias were handled by Iran in various missions promoting Iranian interests, including support of the Syrian regime, fighting against ISIS, and the suppression of protesters against the Iraqi regime. The US has imposed sanctions on all three militias.”

 

BBC WS radio gives uncritical amplification to Iranian ally’s Israel comments

On January 9th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Inquiry’ aired an edition titled “Why was Qasem Soleimani killed?” which was presented as follows in the synopsis:

“President Trump’s decision to assassinate Qasem Soleimani came as a shock to America’s foes and allies alike. He was Iran’s top general and has been described as one of the country’s most powerful figures, second only to the Supreme Leader Ayotollah [sic] Ali Khamenei. He was, effectively, head of Iran’s foreign policy. He’s been credited as being instrumental in the fight against ISIS but has also been accused of arming and supporting terror groups. But why did Donald Trump order his death?”

Presented by Tanya Beckett and produced by John Murphy, that programme – which the webpage states will be “available for over a year” – includes a section (from 11:51) featuring a “witness” described to BBC audiences as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Beckett: “Our third witness, like our American military leaders, also encountered Qasem Soleimani in Iraq but he was on the same side in a militia working to bolster the position of Iraq’s Shia population. […] Qais Ghazali sees himself as a resistance fighter but to the Americans he was a terrorist. He was the leader of one of the most hard-line Shia groups in Iraq…”

Later on listeners hear that Ghazali (also spelt Khazali) “was part of a group that was attacking coalition soldiers” and that “in 2007 he was captured in a raid by British forces in southern Iraq”. Beckett goes on (from 14:19):

Beckett: “Qais Ghazali was released from prison in early 2010 in exchange for the British hostage Peter Moore, a computer consultant who’d been captured by Shia militiamen…”

As documented at ‘The Long War Journal’:

“In exchange for Qayis and his men, the U.S. government secured the release of a British hostage, Peter Moore, and the bodies of three of the four men who were kidnapped with him in the spring of 2007. Moore’s compatriots had been murdered by Khazali’s men; three of the bodies that were returned were riddled with bullet holes; the fourth was never recovered.”

Beckett goes on to tell BBC audiences that:

Beckett: “…Shia groups like Ghazali’s had been instrumental in increasing Iranian influence over the Middle East and making the reality of Soleimani’s master plan to build a continuous link or a Shia crescent stretching from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, to Hizballah in Lebanon. This put the Iranians and Soleimani into direct conflict with America’s allies in the region such as Israel. Qais Ghazali himself travelled to the Israeli border, declaring his support for the Lebanese people and the Palestinian cause against what he calls the unjust Israeli occupation that is hostile to Islam. So, should Israel fear his group and Iran?”

Listeners then hear a voice-over translation of a statement from Ghazali:

Ghazali: “If Israel doesn’t want to cause harm and expand its ambitions over the countries in the region, then it shouldn’t be afraid. But if what it really wants to be is an occupying force, expanding its reach over the Arab countries, then it should be afraid.”

The programme then moves on to another topic with listeners hearing no challenge to that propaganda from Ghazali and left unaware of the fact that when he and his Hizballah colleagues refer to “the unjust Israeli occupation” they are in fact referring to the very existence of Israel.

When Ghazali made that trip to southern Lebanon in late 2017 he was filmed describing himself as standing “on the border between southern Lebanon and occupied Palestine”.

As the veteran analyst Jonathan Spyer noted at the time:

“…a recording emerged of an Iraqi Shi’a militia leader called Qais al-Khazali visiting the Lebanon-Israel border area. The short video shows him in the company of two other uniformed men. They are in the village of Kafr Kila, which is adjacent to Metulla.

At a certain point in the recording, Khazali addresses the camera. ‘“I’m at the Fatima Gate in Kafr Kila, at the border that divides south Lebanon from occupied Palestine,” he tells his listeners. “I’m here with my brothers from Hezbollah, the Islamic resistance. We announce our full readiness to stand as one with the Lebanese people, with the Palestinian cause, in the face of the unjust Israeli occupation, [an occupation] that is anti-Islam, anti-Arab, and anti-humanity, in the decisive Arab Muslim cause. And, inshallah, all goodness and blessings to the mujahideen all over the world. And blessings and goodness to the Islamic resistance, which is ready to heed the call of Islam to pave the way to the State of Allah’s Justice, the State of the Possessor of Time [the Mehdi], peace and prayers be upon him.” […]

Khazali’s appearance at the border is the latest and most graphic demonstration that Israel can no longer consider its long standoff with Hezbollah as a closed conflict system between a state and a small, albeit well-armed militia. Iran has now breached the boundaries of this system.”

Obviously the BBC’s editorial decision to provide amplification to the unchallenged and unexplained “occupation” propaganda of the leader of an Iran-backed Iraqi Shia militia group not only contributes absolutely nothing to answering the BBC’s question “should Israel fear his group and Iran?” but actually hinders audience understanding of a complex topic the BBC generally prefers to avoid.

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the INSS Assaf Orion analyses the ‘Report of the UN Secretary-General on Resolution 1701, November 2019’.

“The UN Security Council recently published its periodic report on Resolution 1701 (2006). Against the backdrop of severe security incidents and political challenges in Lebanon, and alongside traditional formulations, there are some salient new elements in this report: extensive and relatively detailed attention to the restriction on freedom of movement and access of UNIFIL forces in South Lebanon; exposure of the active role played by the Lebanese government and military in violating 1701 and impeding the implementation of the UN force’s mandate; Lebanon’s neglect of its obligation as a host country to protect UNIFIL soldiers from harassment and harm; and some features of the campaign conducted by Hezbollah to paralyze and blind UNIFIL: the operational role of the ”environmental organization” Green Without Borders in the service of Hezbollah, and the sweeping use by all elements in Lebanon of “private property” as grounds for blocking illicit military sites to UNIFIL.”

2) The ITIC takes a look at ‘Initial Palestinian reactions to the killing of Qassem Soleimani’.

“So far the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah have not issued an official reaction. Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), on the other hand, and the heads of their military terrorist wings, which receive military and financial support from Iran, were quick to express sorrow at Soleimani’s death. The mourning notices issued by Hamas and the PIJ stressed the aid and support Qassem Soleimani gave the Palestinian “resistance” in general and their military wings in the Gaza Strip in particular. […]

Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, led a Hamas delegation to Tehran to participate in the funeral. Members of the delegation included Haniyeh’s deputy Saleh al- ‘Arouri, Izzat al-Rishq and Musa Abu Marzouq. While in Iran the delegation can be expected to meet with the Iranian leadership. A PIJ delegation headed by organization leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah and his deputy Ikram al-Ajouri also arrived in Tehran to participate in the funeral.”

3) At the JCPA Shimon Shapira and Michael Segall document Soleimani’s record.

“Qasem Soleimani knew how to connect all the dots of Iran’s military, terrorist, and political strategies to make connections. He trained, armed, and provided funds to terror organizations and groups in the Middle East. He provided Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) with rockets, anti-tank missiles, and sniper rifles, and formed the groups into what is known as the “Resistance Front.” He accomplished this by taking advantage of the unstable circumstances of the Arab Spring, the Second Gulf War, and the war against ISIS.

Soleimani, who had forged solid bonds with Hizbullah’s Hassan Nasrallah and Imad Mughniyeh, gradually transformed Lebanese Hizbullah into a role model Iran sought to implement – using the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards and Hizbullah instructors – in various areas of conflict where Iran had an interest to further its religious (Shia revival), military, and political goals.”

4) The IDI provides a backgrounder concerning the ICC investigation against Israel.

“In her submission to the ICC, the Chief Prosecutor writes that on the basis of her preliminary investigation she believes that Israelis and Palestinians committed the following crimes:

Israelis: The transfer of civilian populations to occupied territory after 2014 (the activity to expand Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem); deliberate or disproportional attacks on civilians and on civilian and medical targets during Operation Protective Edge. In addition, it is possible that sufficient information may be collected in the future pointing to the use of disproportionate force to disperse demonstrations along the Gaza border fence, beginning in 2018, to the point where that constitutes an international crime.

Palestinians: Deliberate attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza against Israeli civilians, the use of human shields, depriving protected persons of the rights of fair and regular trial and willful killing and torture or inhuman treatment and/or outrages upon personal dignity.”

BBC News airbrushes Beirut clashes report

Early on December 15th the BBC News website published a report titled “Lebanon crisis: Dozens hurt as police and protesters clash in Beirut” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

Here is how the BBC described what happened in Lebanon the previous day:

“Clashes between riot police and anti-government protesters in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, have left dozens of people wounded, witnesses say.

The violence began as demonstrators, who had been attacked during a sit-in by masked counter-protesters, tried to move into a square near parliament.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, while protesters threw stones. At least 20 officers were also wounded.” [emphasis added]

Here is how AP reported the same story (along with the Guardian):

“The trouble started Saturday when dozens of men, some wearing masks, threw stones and firecrackers at security forces on one edge of the protest camp in central Beirut. They were supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah and Amal groups, angered by some of the criticism of their leaders by anti-government protesters.

It was the second time this week the groups tried to attack the protest camp.”

Deutsche Welle reported that:

“The clashes were sparked Saturday afternoon when an anti-government protest camp in central Beirut was raided by a group of Hezbollah and Amal supporters opposed to the anti-government protest movement.

Security forces intervened, firing teargas to disperse the men who attacked the camp with stones and firecrackers. […]

Shiite Amal and Hezbollah are partners in Lebanon’s cross-sectarian government, and supporters of Hezbollah and Amal have attacked anti-government protest camps in several cities in recent weeks, angered by demonstrators’ criticism of their leaders.” 

The Times of Israel’s report states:

“The violence Saturday started when young men from a neighborhood known as a stronghold for supporters of the Shiite Amal and Hezbollah groups attacked the epicenter of anti-government protests, chanting “Shiite, Shiite.”

It was the second time this week that pro-Hezbollah and Amal supporters tried to attack the protest camp, angered by demonstrators’ criticism of their leaders.”

So while other media outlets were perfectly capable of informing their readers to which factions those “masked counter-protesters” belonged and what part they played in instigating the violence in Beirut, the BBC carefully avoided any mention of the words Hizballah and Amal – thereby concealing an important part of the story from its audiences and from its permanent public record.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio framing of anti-Iran protests

BBC’s ME editor ‘joins the dots’ but dodges issues

Radio 4 listeners fed breakfast-time Hizballah propaganda