Why BBC accuracy matters for its funding British public

Not for the first time, the annual Al Quds Day march held in London earlier this month did not receive any coverage on the BBC News website. As the Jewish Chronicle reported, the event included the inevitable Iranian sponsored defamation and demonisation of Israel, calls for the eradication of that UN member state and glorification of terrorism.Al Quds day London

“Signs accusing Israel of genocide were handed out at the start of the protest, with a banner at the front of the rally reading: “Dismantling of Zionist State = End Of Bloodshed.” One man carried a homemade placard which said: “Israel is a cancer. We are the cure.””

Although the BBC did not apparently find the hate-fest going on under its own nose newsworthy, there was something novel about this year’s event.

“Approximately 500 pro-Israel activists mounted a counter-demonstration, chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and “Terrorist scum: off our streets” when the Al-Quds Day marchers collected outside the United States embassy in Grosvenor Square. […]

Joseph Cohen, who runs the Israel Advocacy Movement grassroots group, said the day had been “incredible.

“Last year my wife and I were the only people opposing the rally, when there were people marching with Hizbollah flags calling for the genocide of Israel.

It’s amazing today to see hundreds of people coming out to oppose Hizbollah terrorism. Every year they march unopposed. Not this year.””

Since then, a debate has begun on the topic of the display of the flag of a terrorist organisation proscribed by the UK on London’s streets with Dr Matthew Offord MP raising the issue in Parliament.

The Mayor of London also spoke on the topic when it was raised at the London Assembly but, as the Jewish News reports, the issue is not straightforward.  

“The confusion appears to centre on the fact the armed wing of Hezbollah is listed as a terrorist group while the political wing is not, yet the two elements share the same flag. The home office has said “the context and manner in which the flag is displayed must demonstrate that it is specifically in support of the proscribed elements of the group”.”

Obviously some of that confusion could have been avoided had the UK’s national broadcaster adhered to its remit of building an “understanding of international issues” rather than spending years cultivating that same myth of separate ‘wings’ of Hizballah, whitewashing the fact that it is a terrorist organisation by means of euphemisms such as “Lebanese Shia group”, misrepresenting its terror designation by numerous countries and misleading BBC audiences with regard to its activities.

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part three

As was noted in part two of this post, some of the themes found in BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War a decade ago were also evident eight years later in the corporation’s reporting of a different summer war: the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas and other assorted terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.SONY DSC

One of those themes was the presentation of civilian/combatant casualty ratios based on information which was not independently verified by the BBC and as regular readers know, that was a serious issue in the corporation’s reporting of the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas – and remains so.

“Now on this day last year another war erupted in Gaza. It lasted 51 days and turned into the longest, most costly conflict of the three wars in the past six years. More than 2,100 people were killed in Gaza and 72 were killed on the Israeli side including 66 soldiers. And a very high price paid by civilians – and most of all children – became a defining issue in this confrontation.” (Rebecca Kesby, ‘BBC World Update: Daily Commute’, BBC World Service, 8/7/2015) [emphasis added]

An internet search for information from the BBC concerning casualty figures during the Second Lebanon War produces remarkably uniform results. The BBC’s profile of Hizballah (like additional articles relating to the terrorist group) states that:

“More than 1,125 Lebanese, most of them civilians, died during the 34-day conflict, as well as 119 Israeli soldiers and 45 civilians.”

An article from 2010 informs audiences that:

“More than 1,000 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and about 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, died in the conflict. […] More than 1,000 Lebanese, many civilians, died in the war as well as 116 Israeli soldiers and 43 civilians. In Lebanon, bridges, roads and thousands of homes were destroyed in the Israeli bombardment.”

An article from 2009 tells readers that:

“What it [Hizballah] got was a 34-day onslaught from the Israeli military, costing more than 1,000 lives, mostly Lebanese civilians.

About 160 Israelis were killed, mostly soldiers, in fighting and rocket fire from Hezbollah.” 

Another report from the same year states:

“On the Lebanese side more than 1,000 people died, mostly civilians. About 160 Israelis – most of them soldiers – died in the fighting and rocket fire.”

An article from 2007 states:

“About 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed in the conflict.”

Another report from 2007 tells readers that:

“Most of the 159 Israelis killed were soldiers. More than 1,000 Lebanese, most of them civilians, also died in the 34-day war.”

In a report from November 2006, audiences were told that:

“The war killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 157 Israelis, mostly soldiers.” 

As can be seen, the BBC’s portrayal of the subject of Lebanese casualties is glaringly and consistently devoid of any mention of Hizballah combatants – despite the fact that at the end of August 2006, the corporation did acknowledge that some of the dead were combatants from that group and others.

2 Leb War Aug Hizb casualties

Like Hamas in 2014, the Lebanese authorities did not differentiate between civilians and combatants during the 2006 war but nevertheless, Lebanese officials reported even before the conflict was over that some 500 of the dead were Hizballah personnel and UN officials gave similar figures while Israeli estimates stand at around 600 (with 450 identified by name: see page 55 here).

As we see above, the media organisation supposedly committed to rigorous standards of accuracy has however continued over the years to portray Lebanese casualties during the 2006 war as “mostly civilians” despite there being no evidence of its having been able to independently verify that claim.

The same is true of the BBC’s portrayal of casualties during the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas which is presented along the following lines:

“The war left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, the majority civilians, according to the UN.”

In both these conflicts and in others, the BBC adopted and promoted the narrative that non-Israeli casualties were ‘mostly civilians’ despite the lack of independent verification. Moreover, the BBC makes no effort to provide its audiences with information which would enable them to compare civilian/combatant casualty ratios in conflicts in which Israel is involved with those seen in other conflicts.  

The result is of course clear: BBC audiences have over the last decade at least been repeatedly steered towards the erroneous view that wars in which Israel is involved result in exceptionally high numbers of civilian deaths on the other side.   

Related Articles:

BBC continues to avoid independent verification of Gaza casualty ratios

BBC promotion of the inaccurate notion of exceptional civilian casualties in Gaza

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part one

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part two

 

 

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part two

A review of the content produced by the BBC a decade ago at the time of the Second Lebanon War shows that many of the themes found in that coverage resurfaced eight years later in the corporation’s reporting of a different summer war: the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas and other assorted terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.

SONY DSC

One theme found very early on in the BBC’s coverage of the 2014 war was the promotion of the unsubstantiated notion that Israel was committing ‘war crimes’ in the Gaza Strip, based on unverified claims from political NGOs – some of which were already engaged in lawfare against Israel.

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part two

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part three

After the fighting had ended, the BBC continued to amplify the agenda of NGOs including Human Rights Watch (“More BBC promotion and amplification of lawfare NGO“) and in particular Amnesty International:

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Amnesty International’s Gaza report

More BBC wind in the sails of NGO’s lawfare campaign

BBC amplification of Amnesty’s lawfare agenda again compromises impartiality

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ amplifies Israel delegitimising lawfare campaign

The green shoots of that editorial policy were apparent – albeit on a smaller scale – eight years earlier when – just eight days into the Second Lebanon War – the BBC News website ran an article headlined “UN warning on Mid-East war crimes” which was based on statements made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the time. An additional article published on the same day told BBC audiences that:

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, warns that those involved in the spiral of violence between Israel and Lebanon could face war crimes charges if they are found to have deliberately attacked civilians”

On August 23rd 2006 the BBC News website promoted a report by Amnesty International under the headline “Israel accused of war crimes“.

“Amnesty International has accused Israel of committing war crimes by deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure in Lebanon. […]

The document details what it describes as “massive destruction by Israeli forces of whole civilian neighbourhoods and villages”, together with attacks on bridges “in areas of no apparent strategic importance”, on its list of supporting evidence. […]

“Many of the violations identified in our report are war crimes, including indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks,” said Ms Gilmore.”

In September 2007 the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel accused over Lebanon war” which amplified a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“A human rights group has accused Israel of carrying out indiscriminate air strikes that killed hundreds of civilians during the 2006 Lebanon war.

Human Rights Watch said Israel showed “reckless indifference” to the fate of civilians and queried its argument that Hezbollah used them as human shields.”

Despite the existence of publicly available evidence discrediting the claims made by AI and HRW (see for example here and here) the above BBC reports (and others) remain available online  – without any clarifying footnote – as ‘historical record’.SONY DSC

Another theme seen in BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War was promotion of the notion of ‘disproportionate’ (and by implication, illegal) actions by Israel – already from day two of the conflict.

“A Lebanese cabinet minister said the Israeli response was disproportionate, and called for a ceasefire. […] France and Russia condemned Israel’s “disproportionate use of force”.” (July 13, 2006)

“The European Union is greatly concerned about the disproportionate use of force by Israel in Lebanon in response to attacks by Hezbollah on Israel.” (July 13, 2006)

“President Jacques Chirac of France called Israel’s acts “disproportionate” while Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an end to fighting. […]But he said Israel’s response was “completely disproportionate”, adding: “One can ask oneself whether there isn’t a sort of desire to destroy Lebanon.”” (July 14, 2006)

“Amnesty’s report said Israeli attacks into Lebanon were “indiscriminate and disproportionate”. (November 21, 2006)

Seeing as the BBC did not make any effort at the time (or since) to inform its audiences (and its own staff) of what the principle of proportionality in warfare actually means, it is not surprising to see that the ‘disproportionality’ theme regularly resurfaces in BBC reporting.

In June 2015, for example, viewers of BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ saw Evan Davis promote the false notion that proportionality means equality in death and suffering. During the summer 2014 conflict BBC audiences heard and read generous amplification of equally uninformed comment from assorted British politicians and in November 2012 listeners to the BBC World Service heard Julian Marshall tell an Israeli spokesperson:

“I think one of the observations made by critics of Israel is that you always respond disproportionately and – ah – in a way the figures tell the story. Since this offensive of yours began, 39 Palestinians have been killed, three Israelis. There’s a disproportionate use of force going on here.”

In the next instalment of this post we will take a look at additional common themes found in the BBC’s 2006 reporting from Lebanon and its subsequent coverage from the Gaza Strip.

Related Articles:

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part one

 

Weekend long read

1) Our CAMERA colleague Sean Durns has recently produced two backgrounders which readers may find useful:

Hezbollah Backgrounder: 2016

Palestinian Islamic Jihad Backgrounder: 2016Weekend Read

2) As readers are probably aware, it is not unusual to find the BBC promoting the notion that the Gaza Strip is still under Israeli occupation, despite nearly eleven years having passed since the disengagement. Gilead Sher and Dr Dana Wolf explain why that is not the case.

Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations outlines legal requirements for occupation, which include the physical existence of hostile troops in an area, so that the legitimate government is incapable of exercising effective powers of government. Conversely, military withdrawal is a prerequisite for clearly demarcating the end of occupation. As such, never since the enactment of the Hague Regulations has an occupation been recognized without a foreign army present.” 

3) At The Tablet, David Collier asks “Do NGOs that work in and around Israel use their volunteers for propaganda?”.

“There are hundreds of websites dedicated to providing information on volunteering opportunities worldwide and almost all of these sites contain a section on Palestine. One of the main concerns, wherever the NGO is based, is always safety. The African Volunteer Network, in a section on Somalia, as well as the group Hand in Hand for Syria both explicitly state they cannot send nonmedical volunteers into their specific areas because of the dangers. So how can there be so many aid agencies advertising for volunteers in Palestine? How can there be NGOs claiming Israel is conducting “genocide,” and is engaged in “war crimes” at the same time as organizations advertise for volunteers to help plant olive trees, teach English and work in refugee camps?”

4) BBC coverage of the recent anniversary of the Iran deal focused on highlighting negotiators’ recollections but the corporation refrained from providing its audiences with any substantial analysis of the topic.

“My favourite was the Persian chicken with crushed pistachios,” recalls Wendy Sherman. “Those times of breaking bread together are always useful in building the relationships you need when you are the middle of such tough negotiations.”

The Henry Jackson Society and the Friends of Israel Initiative have published a paper titled The Iran Deal a Year On: Assessing Iranian Ambitions.

“Key findings include:

  • Iran has breached the JCPA and associated agreements, with no penalty and in some cases active collusion by Western supporters of the deal.
  • Serious concerns exist over IAEA finding and reporting in relation to the implementation of the deal and the military dimension of Iran’s nuclear programme.
  • Iranian forces, in particular the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), are still involved in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen as an integral part of the Iranian government’s destabilising agenda.
  • Iran remains the principal sponsor of terrorism in the world – as acknowledged by the U.S. Department of State.
  • Iran continues to develop its ballistic missile programme.
  • The grave violations of human rights and freedom within Iran have not ceased and the hopes for a moderation of the regime have remained unmet.”

The full report can be found here

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

As noted in part one of this post the BBC’s correspondent in Beirut, Rami Ruhayem, produced both audio and written reports on the tenth anniversary of the Second Lebanon War on July 12th.

The written report – which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page – is titled “Ten years on, is Hezbollah prepared for another war with Israel?” and it opened with the use of euphemistic terminology to describe that internationally designated terror organisation and further promotion of the questionable ‘mutual deterrence’ theme found in Ruhayem’s radio report. [emphasis added]Ruhayem written 12 7

“In a region transformed by the wars in Syria and Iraq, the stand-off between Israel and Hezbollah, the Shia jihadist group it last confronted in full-scale warfare in 2006, appears to be one thing that has not changed.

Ten years is the longest period without major fighting between them – a sign, perhaps, that the mutual deterrence established after 2006 is here to stay.”

It went on to amplify unfounded rumour disseminated by a pro-Hizballah Lebanese newspaper.

“But earlier this year, rumour spread in Lebanon that Israel was preparing to attack and finish off Hezbollah, sparking media speculation that the summer of 2016 will see an even bloodier re-run of the war of 2006.”

That was followed by a partial description of the events which sparked the Second Lebanon War in which the missile attacks on Israeli civilian communities that took place together with the infiltration into Israeli sovereign territory were erased.

“Back then, Hezbollah killed eight Israeli soldiers and abducted two in a cross-border raid, and demanded an exchange of prisoners with Israel.”

Ruhayem again presented a picture of Lebanese casualties during that war which – although better than his audio report – failed to provide audiences with accurate information.

“According to official figures, 1,191 people were killed in Lebanon, the majority of them civilians. In Israel, 121 soldiers and 44 civilians were killed.”

As noted previously, Lebanese figures do not differentiate between civilians and combatants but Lebanese officials reported even before the conflict was over that some 500 of the dead were Hizballah combatants and UN officials gave similar figures. Israeli estimates stand at around 600 – more than half of the total Lebanese casualty figures.

Having told readers that “Israel lost and Hezbollah won”, Ruhayem went on to describe the effects of the war in Lebanon but provided no comparative information about the number of people displaced or infrastructure and homes damaged on the other side of the border.

“Up to a million people were displaced, and around 15,000 homes and 900 factories were destroyed, along with roads, bridges, the runway at Beirut International Airport, and other infrastructure.”

As in his audio report, he then went on to describe the ‘Dahiya doctrine’ but without clarifying that the Dahiya neighbourhood of Beirut is Hizballah’s command and control centre.

“Israel laid out a strategy of deterrence, first made public by Maj Gen Gadi Eizenkot in 2008 when he was head of the Israeli army’s Northern Command.

He said that what happened in Dahiya, the southern suburb of Beirut in which neighbourhoods were flattened by Israeli airstrikes in 2006, would “happen in every village from which shots were fired in the direction of Israel”.

Gen Eizenkot, now Israeli chief of staff, articulated what came to be known as the Dahiya Doctrine.

“We will wield disproportionate power,” he said, “and cause immense damage and destruction. This isn’t a suggestion. It’s a plan that has already been authorised.

“Harming the population is the only means of restraining Nasrallah.””

But the most remarkable feature of this article is its problematic presentation of Hizballah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war – once again without any mention being made of Iran’s role in that development.

“From early on in the war, Hezbollah sent its fighters across the border to support President Bashar al-Assad. […]

Their rationale for involvement in support of President Assad has evolved, but a dominant theme is that Syria has been the backbone of the resistance against Israel, and that the attacks on the regime are aimed at undermining Hezbollah by depriving them of an ally that has provided much needed logistical support.

According to their narrative, the war in Syria was a continuation of the 2006 war by other means, with the Americans, Israelis and Saudis trying to finish off the “axis of resistance”, by destroying the glue that holds it together – the Assad regime.”

Ruhayem did not present any challenge to that very transparent Hizballah propaganda or even bother to remind readers that the Syrian civil war began as a popular uprising against the repressive Assad regime and that Israel is not involved in the war in Syria.

In contrast to his audio report, Ruhayem did note Hizballah’s augmented missile arsenal but failed to tell readers where it came from or that it is a clear breach of UN SC resolution 1701.

“There seems to be agreement that Hezbollah has amassed a much larger missile arsenal. Various estimates from both sides suggest they have more than 100,000 missiles, and Hassan Nasrallah insists Israeli missile defence systems are incapable of effectively neutralising them in a new confrontation.”

He yet again whitewashed Hizballah’s origins while promoting a scenario unsupported by any evidence.

“”We are talking about a defensive war, in which we are the ones who are on the receiving end of aggression,” Hassan Nasrallah said.

This reflects Hezbollah’s new posture and priorities. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, they kept up a persistent guerrilla campaign against the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon, and it was through attrition over almost two decades that they forced them out in 2000.

Some in Israel believe it is better for them to wait and watch than wage war now.

Deputy Chief of Staff and head of the Northern Command Maj Gen Yair Golan said Israel should be in no rush to wage pre-emptive war against Hezbollah.”

It is of course highly unlikely that Israel would do any such thing unless Hizballah took steps which left it no alternative. But if conflict between Israel and Hizballah did break out again, BBC audiences would obviously be seriously lacking the background information crucial to their understanding of that event because reports like these two from Rami Ruhayem fail to provide them with information concerning relevant issues such as the failure of UN SC resolution 1701 to achieve its aims, the rearming of Hizballah and its use of communities in southern Lebanon as human shields and Iran’s patronage of the terror organization which the BBC refuses even to describe in accurate terminology.

One might have perhaps thought that a media organisation that describes itself as “the standard-setter for international journalism” would at some point in the last decade have got round to conducting a serious investigation into why the UN Security Council resolution which ended the 2006 conflict has failed to prevent the conditions being put in place for a third devastating war in Lebanon.

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BBC amplifies Hizballah propaganda yet again

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

The July 12th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item (from 14:08 here) about the tenth anniversary of the Second Lebanon War which was introduced by presenter Razia Iqbal as follows:Ruhayem Newshour 12 7

“Let’s head to the Middle East now. In a region devastated by wars in Syria and Iraq which have changed things utterly, the enmity between Israel and Hizballah appears to be the one thing that hasn’t shifted. Ten years ago today the two sides fought a 33 day war that cost thousands of lives. The BBC’s Rami Ruhayem reports now from Lebanon, asking what’s changed in the decade since the conflict.”

One answer to the question of what has changed in the last ten years is that Hizballah now possesses an Iranian supplied missile arsenal which is far bigger than the one it had in July 2006 and which threatens many more Israeli civilians. Another answer is that the UN Security Council resolution of August 2006 (1701) which was supposed to prevent (under UNIFIL supervision) Hizballah’s rearmament, its positioning of missiles in southern Lebanon, the resulting use of the population of that region as human shields and to bring an end to Hizballah’s presence south of the Litani river, has shown itself to have resoundingly failed.

” – security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;

– full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State;

– no foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its Government; – no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government;”

Despite the fact that Rami Ruhayem began his report with an interview with a UNIFIL spokesman, he did not inform BBC audiences of any of the above issues.

“Spanish troops patrol Lebanon’s southern border. They are part of a multinational force that’s been around for decades. It was expanded after the 2006 war.”

Listeners even heard the UNIFIL spokesman make the following claim without any challenge or qualification from Ruhayem:

“The presence of over ten thousand troops coming from 40 different countries; it’s very important for the stability of the south of Lebanon…”

Ruhayem went on to give a partial description of the events which brought about the Second Lebanon war, erasing the Hizballah missile fire on Israeli civilian communities which was carried out at the same time as its infiltration into Israeli sovereign territory.

“But this UN force is not what’s prevented a new war from breaking out. In 2006 after Hizballah killed eight Israeli soldiers and abducted two in a cross-border raid, Israel launched an all-out war on Lebanon and tried – but failed – to destroy Hizballah’s missile arsenal.”

He continued with an inaccurate description of Lebanese casualties.

“Forty-four civilians and 121 soldiers were killed, leaving Israel’s leadership in disarray. Lebanon paid a much heavier price. More than a thousand civilians were killed, about a million displaced, in addition to the lingering misery of cluster bombs dropped by Israel that are still claiming victims.”

The inaccurate claim that the war’s 1,191 Lebanese casualties were all civilians clearly misleads audiences. Lebanese figures do not differentiate between civilians and combatants but Lebanese officials reported even before the conflict was over that some 500 of the dead were Hizballah combatants and UN officials gave similar figures. Israeli estimates stand at around 600 – more than half of the total Lebanese casualty figures. The BBC itself reported in July 2006 that Hizballah had admitted some casualties among its forces.

Ruhayem then went on:

“Ten years on, Dahiya – the southern suburb of Beirut of which large parts were destroyed by Israel – is a busy, bustling part of town. It was swiftly rebuilt with Iranian aid after the war. Its name became part of Israel’s strategy of deterrence: a strategy inspired by Israel’s destruction of Dahiya. It was called the Dahiya doctrine. The doctrine was articulated by Gadi Eizenkot – currently Chief of Staff of the Israeli army. In a now famous quote he said what happened here in Dahiya would happen in every village from which shots were fired in the direction of Israel. ‘We will wield disproportionate power against them and cause immense damage and destruction’.”

Ruhayem however failed to inform his listeners that Dahiya is more than just a “suburb of Beirut”.

“Dahiya is a neighborhood in Beirut which can only be accessed by card-carrying Hizbullah members. During the 2006 war, the IDF bombed large apartment buildings in the neighborhood since they were also used as Hizbullah command-and-control centers, and were built over Hizbullah bunkers.”

He also refrained from providing the rest of that Eizenkot quote:

“What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on,” Eizenkot said in an interview in October 2008. “We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.” [emphasis added]

A theory (presented as fact) of ‘mutual deterrence’ was pushed by Ruhayem in this report.

“Thus, mutual deterrence set in. Hizballah and Israel were badly hurt each in their own way and deterred from starting another war.”

However, he made no effort to inform audiences of the very relevant differences between a country obliged to defend its citizens from attacks by an internationally designated terrorist organization (and predictably, that terminology does not appear anywhere in this report) based in a neighbouring country and the religiously motivated ideology which drives both Hizballah and its Iranian sponsors.

Those Iranian sponsors were also conspicuously absent from Ruhayem’s description of Hizballah’s entry into the war in Syria – which he presented as just having ‘broken out’ without any mention of Bashar Assad’s brutal attempts to suppress civil protest against his regime.

“But war broke out in Syria and Hizballah sent its fighters to support the Syrian regime.”

Ruhayem also promoted the popular – but inaccurate – BBC theme according to which Hizballah’s origins are to be found in the First Lebanon War.

“The history between Israel and Hizballah dates back further than 2006. A museum set up by Hizballah in southern Lebanon showcases remnants of Israel’s occupation. […] It’s meant to document the part of Hizballah’s war against the Israeli occupation; a war which slowly but surely exhausted the Israelis and drove them out of the south.

Ruhayem closed his report:

“Now Hizballah is pouring fighters into a seemingly endless war in Syria. They now run the risk of attrition in the east and, in the event of war with Israel, onslaught from the south at the same time.”

According to some analysts, that – rather than ‘mutual deterrence’ – is precisely the reason why Hizballah is unlikely to initiate another round of conflict with Israel at this stage. As Avi Issacharoff notes:

“The most important issue in Hezbollah’s decision-making, it is clear, is the situation in Syria and the war against Islamic State. As long as its people are fighting and dying in battle in Syria, it is hard to imagine Nasrallah being dragged once again into another stupid escapade against Israel. He has the ability to bombard every point in Israel with the abundant store of rockets and missiles in his possession. But even he realizes that in the new reality that has been foisted upon him, opening a new front with Israel could lead to his military defeat not only against the Israeli army but also against the radical Sunnis in Syria.”

Like most BBC reports concerning Hizballah, this one too refrained from adequately informing audiences about crucial topics such as the failure of UN SC resolution 1701 to achieve its aims, the Iranian rearming of Hizballah and its placement of missiles in civilian communities in southern Lebanon. And like most BBC reports, this one too fails to clarify to BBC audiences that Hizballah is a terrorist organization which is entirely at the beck and call of Iran.

If the aim of this report was to meet the BBC’s remit of building an “understanding of international issues”, then it has obviously fallen short of the mark. Rami Ruhayem also produced a complimentary written report on the same topic and we shall take a look at that in an upcoming post.

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BBC News ignores another Iranian funded terror group

Iran’s financing of terror is not a topic to which the BBC has devoted much serious reporting, despite the ample available evidence available. It is therefore not surprising to see that the following story has to date been ignored by the corporation’s Jerusalem bureau.Iran Hizballah

“Israel announced Monday it had outlawed a Palestinian group it said acted as a front for Iran-directed terror activities targeting Israelis and the regime of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman signed the order outlawing Al-Hirak Al-Shababi (“The Youth Movement”) at the recommendation of the Shin Bet internal security agency, a ministry statement read.

The decision followed “significant information indicating that the group is directed by Hezbollah and Iran to carry out attacks against Israelis, and ignite a wave of violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem at Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” it read. […]

Members of Al-Hirak Al-Shababi were engaged in firebombing and bombing attacks on Israeli targets in the West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as stirring unrest on the volatile Temple Mount compound in the city, the ministry said.”

This of course is not the first time in recent months that Iranian efforts to destabilise the region have been ignored by the media organisation committed to enhancing its funding public’s “awareness and understanding of international issues”.  

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Visiting BBC journalist provides some refreshing reporting

A BBC correspondent usually based in Mexico City is currently visiting Israel and on July 12th produced two reports – one written and one filmed – relating to the tenth anniversary of the Second Lebanon War.

In her filmed report titled “On patrol with the Israel Defense Forces on Lebanon border” Katy Watson gave viewers a rare view of Hizballah’s use of the residents of southern Lebanon as human shields.Watson filmed

“The soldiers tell me they can see weapons being stored in areas where civilians live.”

That important and usually overlooked information was also available to readers of her written report titled “Israel ‘readier’ for new Hezbollah war“.

“In these stakeouts, troops keep an eye on Hezbollah operatives around the clock. From what they see, the weapons Hezbollah has are being stored in civilian areas.

“Every mission that I’ve been on personally has been observing Hezbollah operations in a heavily populated area,” says one of the soldiers, Gabriel. “In a house with a family living in it or in a house next door or behind it.”

Israel has long said that it will target places where the weapons are stashed. It warns if war breaks out, Lebanese casualties would be high.”

Both reports also include information about Hizballah’s rehabilitation of its missile arsenal since the 2006 war.Watson written

“Hezbollah was damaged, but rebuilt over the past decade with the help of Iran and Syria. Israel says the group’s firepower is now much greater than before the war.

“Now they have more than 120,000 rockets and missiles,” says General Yaakov Amidror, a former national security advisor, now with the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv.

“It’s a huge number that you don’t find in any country in Europe for example. When you see all these efforts, you ask yourself one question – what for?””

While more could have been done to provide audiences with information concerning Iran’s provision of funding and weapons to Hizballah and neither report addresses the fact that Hizballah’s weapons stockpiles are a violation of UNSC resolution 1701 that ended the 2006 war and a clear indication of the impotence of the UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon, these two reports by Katy Watson are nevertheless a refreshing change in the landscape of BBC Israel-related reporting.

It is not every day that we come across a BBC journalist who is content with telling a story rather than telling audiences what to think about a story. 

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part one

It was a predictably sunny and warm July morning and I was hanging laundry out to dry on the terrace of my home in northern Israel when, ten years ago today, the sound of unusually intense aircraft activity overhead prompted me to go inside and turn on the radio. Confused reports of missile fire from Lebanon and a cross-border raid in which two Israeli reservists had been kidnapped and several others killed signalled the start of the ensuing thirty-four day conflict – known in Israel as the Second Lebanon War

2nd Lebanon War memorial - Har Adir

2nd Lebanon War memorial – Har Adir

Many of us of course recall exactly how that war began, continued and ended but would a member of the public unfamiliar with the details (perhaps a British student too young to remember) searching online today for information on that topic from the trusted BBC get a realistic, impartial and accurate picture of events?  Over the next few weeks we will be taking an occasional retrospective look at the BBC’s coverage of that war and the information which remains online as “permanent public record“.

The fact that the BBC’s management of online content does not include tagging means that the results of searches are erratic: it is not possible for a member of the public to conveniently find all the relevant content produced by the BBC in one place and in chronological order.

In this post we will look at how BBC content still available online portrays the events which began the conflict: Hizballah’s infiltration into Israeli sovereign territory, its kidnapping of two Israeli reservists and the killing of eight other soldiers in that cross-border raid and the simultaneous missile attacks on Israeli civilian communities by Hizballah.  

One of the first results appearing in a search of the BBC News website is an article from 2008 titled “2006: Lebanon war” which describes those events as follows:

“After eight Israeli soldiers had been killed and two captured by the Lebanese group Hezbollah, Israel and Hezbollah engaged in a 33-day war in which Hezbollah fired a hail of rockets into Israel and the Israelis bombed Lebanese towns, villages and infrastructure but made little headway in ground operations.”

In other words, audiences are not told that Hizballah initiated the conflict by carrying out a cross-border raid into Israeli territory or that it concurrently fired missiles at Israeli civilian communities before any Israeli response took place.

That initial missile fire at Israeli civilian communities is also absent from the portrayal of the beginning of the war found in the BBC’s profile of Hizballah.

“In 2006, Hezbollah militants launched a cross-border attack in which eight Israeli soldiers were killed and two others kidnapped, triggering a massive Israeli response.”

A 2013 profile of Lebanon which is still available online and the 2015 version which supposedly replaced it both similarly ignore that missile fire and fail to inform audiences that Hizballah terrorists infiltrated Israeli territory or that eight soldiers were killed in the initial raid:

“When the Hezbollah militia seized two Israeli soldiers in a raid in July 2006, Israel responded with a 34-day military offensive and a blockade that wrecked post-civil-war stability.”

The timeline accompanying that 2015 profile gives readers no idea of where the Israeli soldiers were when they were kidnapped:

“2006 July-August – Israel attacks after Hezbollah kidnaps two Israeli soldiers. Civilian casualties are high and the damage to civilian infrastructure wide-ranging in 34-day war.”

A backgrounder titled “The Lebanese crisis explained” from 2007 erases both the cross-border raid and the accompanying missile fire from audience view:

“The capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah provoked a month-long Israeli onslaught.”

One might perhaps assume that during July and August 2006, reporting would have been more accurate considering the proximity to the event. Articles from the first day – July 12th 2006 – did indeed give a reasonable account of events, although they failed to describe Hizballah as a terrorist organisation.

“Lebanese guerrillas have captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid, triggering the first Israeli land incursion into the country since 2000. […] On Wednesday morning, Hezbollah launched dozens of Katyusha rockets and mortar bombs at the Israeli town of Shlomi and at Israeli outposts in the Shebaa Farms area.” (July 12, 2006)

Three Israeli troops were killed in Hezbollah’s cross-border raid and four more died in the subsequent offensive. […] On Wednesday morning, Hezbollah launched dozens of Katyusha rockets and mortar bombs at the Israeli town of Shlomi and at Israeli outposts in the Shebaa Farms area.” (July 12, 2006)

“Hezbollah fighters based in southern Lebanon launch Katyusha rockets across the border with Israel, targeting the town of Shlomi and outposts in the Shebaa Farms area.

In a cross-border raid, guerrillas seize two Israeli soldiers before retreating back into Lebanon, insisting on a prisoner exchange and warning against confrontation. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert describes the capture of the soldiers as “an act of war”.” (“Day-by-day: Lebanon crisis – week one”, July 19, 2006)

However, it was not long before reports appeared which failed to provide readers with the exact details of the event which sparked the war and the fact that Hizballah terrorists had crossed an international border whilst attacking civilian communities with missile fire was not consistently communicated to BBC audiences.   

“Israel is imposing an air and sea blockade on Lebanon as part of a major offensive after two soldiers were seized by the militant group Hezbollah. […] Eight soldiers were killed and two were injured, in addition to the two captured in a Hezbollah ambush.” (July 13, 2006)

“Israel launched its assault and blockade after Hezbollah fighters captured two of its soldiers last Wednesday.” (July 18, 2006)

“Israel launched attacks on Lebanon after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid eight days ago.” (July 20, 2006)

“The nine days of fighting – triggered by the capture of two Israeli soldiers by the militant Hezbollah group in a cross-border raid – have left 29 Israelis dead, including 15 civilians killed by rockets fired by Hezbollah into Israel.” (July 20, 2006)

“More than 380 Lebanese and 42 Israelis have died in nearly two weeks of conflict in Lebanon, which began after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on 12 July.” (July 26, 2006)

“At least 423 Lebanese and 51 Israelis have died in the violence since Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on 12 July.” (July 27, 2006)

“A total of 51 Israelis, including at least 18 civilians, have been killed in the conflict, sparked by Hezbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid earlier in July.” (July 30, 2006)

“Humanitarian groups say Israeli military action is hampering efforts to help many of the hundreds of thousands who have fled the fighting – sparked by the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah on 12 July.” (August 7, 2006)

An August 10 2006 report from the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent inaccurately leads readers to believe that Hizballah’s missile fire began after the cross-border raid.

“The IDF’s initial response to the seizure of its two soldiers and the killing of their comrades inside Israeli territory by a Hezbollah unit and the ensuing rocket fire was to launch a punishing air campaign.”

Content produced after the conflict ended is often even less accurate.

A report from southern Lebanon from 2007 ignores the initial missile fire and the killing of eight Israeli soldiers during the initial raid.

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

A 2008 article about a music festival in Lebanon provides readers with no information as to how the war started:

“But in 2006, the festival was cancelled as war broke out between Israeli and the Shia Muslim movement Hezbollah.”

A report from 2009 erases the initial missile fire on Israeli civilian communities:

“The 2006 war was triggered by a Hezbollah raid into Israel, in which the group seized two soldiers and killed others.”

An article from 2014 gives no information concerning the events which sparked the conflict.

“Israel and Hezbollah fought a war in 2006, during which Israeli warplanes bombed Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon and in Beirut, while Hezbollah fired about 4,000 rockets at Israel.”

Obviously members of the public conducting a search for BBC content in order to understand why the Second Lebanon War began would receive differing impressions depending upon the reports which happened to come up in their search. The BBC’s “permanent public record” is inconsistent, frequently inaccurate and unreliable as a source of factual information.

The least that can be done is for the profiles of Lebanon and Hizballah, which are still in use and to which links are often provided in contemporary reports, to be amended to provide an accurate, impartial and comprehensive view of the actions of Hizballah which brought about the Second Lebanon War.

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Nasrallah speech necessitates update of BBC’s Hizballah profile

As we noted here a few months ago, the BBC is decidedly coy on the subject of Iranian terror financing in general and its material support for Hizballah in particular.

“The BBC News website’s coverage of the Iranian president’s visit to Europe late last month included two reports – “Rouhani in Europe: Italy covers nudes for Iran president“, January 26th and “Rouhani arrives in Paris as Iran drums up business with France“, January 27th – in which audiences were told that:

“Iran has been accused of funding militant groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Obviously that choice of minimalist phrasing does not clarify to readers who has accused Iran of funding “militant groups” (the BBC standard euphemism for terrorist organisations) or whether or not there is any basis to those accusations. It also obfuscates the fact that at least one Iranian official has acknowledged that Iran provides support to Hizballah.”

Neither the BBC profile of Iran nor its profile of Hizballah provides audiences with any in-depth information on that topic.  Moreover, in June 2013 the BBC specifically told its audiences that:

“A recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) on the impact of international sanctions on Iran found no indication that the sanctions had affected Iran’s regional role.

And the report’s principal author says there is no evidence of any financial support provided to Hezbollah. “There isn’t a single line in the budget that confirms any aid or financial support to Hezbollah”, Ali Vaez contends.” [emphasis added]

Hassan Nasrallah evidently disagrees with that ICG analyst.Iran Hizballah

“Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Friday said his group would not be affected by fresh US sanctions because it receives its money directly from Iran, not via Lebanese banks.[…]

“We are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he added. […]

“As long as Iran has money, we have money… Just as we receive the rockets that we use to threaten Israel, we are receiving our money. No law will prevent us from receiving it,” Nasrallah said.”

If the BBC is to fulfil its remit of enhancing audiences’ understanding of international issues, then obviously its profile of Hizballah needs to be updated following Nasrallah’s confirmation of Iran’s long-known funding of that terror organisation and the implications of his admittance of receiving weapons from Iran in violation of UN SC resolution 1701.

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