Weekend long read

1) At the Tablet, Matti Friedman discusses media cooperation with repressive regimes.

“Western news organizations that maintain a presence in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, for example, make compromises in return for access and almost never tell readers what those compromises are. The result, in many cases, is something worse than no coverage—it’s something that looks like coverage, but is actually misinformation, giving people the illusion that they know what’s going on instead of telling them outright that they’re getting information shaped by regimes trying to mislead them. […]

The most relevant example from my own experience as an AP correspondent in Jerusalem between 2006 and 2011 is Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, and where the AP has a sub-bureau. Running that sub-bureau requires both passive and active cooperation with Hamas. To give one example of many, during the Israel-Hamas war that erupted at the end of 2008, our local Palestinian reporter in Gaza informed the news desk in Jerusalem that Hamas fighters were dressed as civilians and were being counted as civilians in the death toll—a crucial detail. A few hours later, he called again and asked me to strike the detail from the story, which I did personally; someone had clearly spoken to him, and the implication was that he was at risk. […]

From that moment on, more or less, AP’s coverage from Gaza became a quiet collaboration with Hamas. Certain rules were made clear to the local staffers in Gaza, and those of us outside Gaza were warned not to put our Gazan staff at risk. Our coverage shifted accordingly, though we never informed our readers. Hamas military actions were left vague or ignored, while the effects of Israeli actions were reported at length, giving the impression of wanton Israeli aggression, just as Hamas wanted.”

2) Yaakov Lappin has a useful backgrounder on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad with a link to further information.

“In Gaza, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is a quarter of the size of Hamas, but that has not stopped it from running its own rocket production centers, digging tunnels, training and arming its operatives.

Iranian assistance enables PIJ to be Gaza’s second biggest terrorist army. Ideologically, it is significantly closer to Tehran than Hamas. And unlike Hamas, PIJ faces none of the dilemas of sovereignty and governance over Gaza’s two million people.”

3) With Hizballah flags set to fly once again on London’s streets this coming Sunday, the FDD’s Tony Badran has a timely analysis of that terror organisation’s standing on its home turf.

“Unfortunately, the goals of strengthening the Lebanese state and disarming Hezbollah are at odds with each other. Hezbollah has completed its takeover of the Lebanese state, including and especially its political institutions and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), along with other security agencies. Strengthening the Lebanese state today means strengthening Hezbollah.

Hezbollah’s control over Lebanon ensures that counting on the “Lebanese state” to disarm Hezbollah is a non-starter. The function of the Lebanese government is to defend Hezbollah, and to align its policies with the preferences of the group and of its patrons in Tehran.”

4) At the Tower, Seth Frantzman also takes a look at Hizballah and Lebanon – seventeen years after Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon.

“May 24 marked 17 years since Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon. The border is quiet now, but every day brings news of ill winds blowing from the north. In early May a man infiltrated Israel from Lebanon and wandered into the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona before being apprehended—an incident that rocked the Israeli defense establishment. Reports indicate that new fencing costing 100 million NIS will be put up along the border, similar to the “smart fences” on the borders with Jordan, Egypt, and Gaza.

As Israel upgrades the fence, the terrorist group Hezbollah is ensconced in Beirut with more power and legitimacy than ever. On May 11 the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah played the pragmatic moderate as he sought to allay Christian Maronite concerns over new elections. The Lebanese parliament’s term expires on June 20 and Christians fear their power is being eroded. Nasrallah isn’t worried, because for all intents and purposes his dream of being the main political and military power in Lebanon has come true. […]

The problem in Lebanon is that both the Christian and Sunni opposition are neutered. They gave up their weapons after the civil war and allowed Hezbollah to keep theirs. The likelihood that Jihadist and Salafi networks will put down roots in Lebanon grows in response to the power of Hezbollah. Whatever fantasies Israel once had for an alliance with Lebanese Christians and the idea that Lebanon, a formerly peaceful country seen as the “Paris” or “Switzerland” of the Levant, could be a good neighbor, is gone forever. Hezbollah will only grow. It is a key Iranian asset, one that is indispensable in the Syrian civil war. Nasrallah has taken to commenting on crises in Yemen and elsewhere, looking beyond Lebanon in hopes of playing a regional role.”

 

 

Omission and inaccuracy in BBC’s ‘Wonder Woman’ Lebanon ban report

On the evening of May 31st an article titled “Wonder Woman banned by Lebanon over Israeli lead Gal Gadot” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East and Entertainment & Arts pages.

The report opens:

“Lebanon has banned superhero blockbuster Wonder Woman from cinemas, because the title character is played by an Israeli actress.

Gal Gadot was formerly in the Israeli army. Military service is compulsory in the country.

The Lebanese interior ministry banned the film hours before its release, on a recommendation from the General Security directorate, reports say. […]

A formal request to ban Wonder Woman was first made by the Ministry of Economy and Trade, which oversees a long-standing policy of boycotting Israeli exports, which it considers “enemy attempts to infiltrate our markets”.”

Why Gal Gadot’s military service over a decade ago is relevant to the story is only clear if one is aware of background that the BBC chose to omit. Like many other media outletsthe Guardian explains that:

“Though Wonder Woman had passed the country’s normal screening procedures, the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel-Lebanon put pressure on the government to block the film, describing it as “the Israeli Soldier film”.”

The BBC, however, did not inform its audiences of the part played by that Lebanese BDS group in lobbying against the film. The group – founded, among others, by a Hizballah sympathiser named Samah Idriss – last year received financial sponsorship for a BDS event from Hizballah linked media organs.

Misspelling the name of the lead actress, the BBC’s article tells readers that:

However, as also noted by the Guardian, the same BDS group had also campaigned – unsuccessfully – against the screening of that film in Lebanon. Coincidentally or not, the Ministry of Economy and Trade is currently headed by a minster from a party – FPM – that is part of the March 8 Alliance that includes Hizballah. 

The BBC’s report closes as follows:

In addition to the fact that the BBC does not bother to explain that the 2006 war was started by Hizballah when it carried out a cross-border raid and fired missiles at Israeli towns, it also does not clarify that the “ceasefire” that ended the war is in fact UNSC resolution 1701. The parts of that resolution relating to the disarming of militias, the ban on presence of militias in southern Lebanon and the ban on supplies of arms to such militias have definitely not “largely been observed”.

The BBC’s claim that there have been “occasional border clashes between the two countries” – which includes a link to a problematic BBC report from 2015 – is inaccurate. In fact those incidents have not been “between the two countries” at all, but rather were sparked by attacks perpetrated by Hizballah and other terror groups.  

The claim that “Israel has targeted Hizballah with strikes in Syria” does not clarify to readers that those alleged strikes have targeted weapons supplies to Hizballah that breach the terms of UNSC resolution 1701. Unfortunately for BBC audiences trying to understand the issue, that omission has become a regular feature of BBC reporting.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

BBC’s Connolly misleads on Lebanese boycott law

Tepid BBC report on Lebanese Olympic team’s bigoted agitprop

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Trump trip report flunks on Iran

As was noted here in an earlier post, the lead story in the May 22nd afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ concerned the US president’s visit to Israel.

In addition to repeated promotion of the ‘apartheid’ calumny, in the first of two items relating to that story listeners had heard BBC Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman telling them that the Israeli government ‘says’ that Iran arms Hizballah.

Razia Iqbal: “You mentioned Iran and there was some criticism of Iran when the president was in Saudi Arabia and he has underlined that criticism again today in Israel hasn’t he?”

Tom Bateman: That’s right and, you know, I don’t think that’s going to be the last of it and of course it’s a message that resonates with Israel because Israel’s government is extremely concerned about Iran. They believe that…ah…because of its action, that they say it’s arming Hizballah just north of Israel here in Syria [sic], that that brings an even greater threat – in fact its greatest threat in the form of Hizballah just over its border in Lebanon.” [emphasis added]

As was noted in our previous post:

“One would of course expect a BBC correspondent based in Jerusalem – new or not – to be capable of informing BBC audiences that Iranian financial and military support for Hizballah (in violation of UNSC resolution 1701) is not just something that the Israeli government ‘says’ but a fact about which Hizballah has been open and at least one Iranian official has admitted.”

Later on in the same programme’s second item on that story (from 45:05 here) presenter Razia Iqbal returned to the topic of Iran in a conversation with the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet.

Listeners learned nothing from that conversation about the Iranian regime’s policy of supporting and enabling terror groups in the region and the real reasons why some Middle East countries have long viewed the Iranian regime as a threat to regional stability were not conveyed to BBC audiences. What they did hear, however, is a portrayal of the subject that would doubtless have gone down very well in Tehran. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Razia Iqbal: “Let’s return to our top story now; the second leg of President Trump’s visit to the Middle East. Today he is in Israel and the Palestinian territories. We’re joined now from Jerusalem by Newshour’s Lyse Doucet. Ah…Lyse: you were in Saudi Arabia following President Trump there and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke directly about the fact that the president flew from Riyad to Tel Aviv and though there were no diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. I wonder if there is a sense here that the Gulf states are making common cause with Israel in the context of their mutual fear of Iran?”

Doucet: “Yes, it’s very interesting isn’t it? This little diplomatic milestone: President Trump flying for the first time on this first direct flight. In fact Prime Minister Netanyahu said he looks forward to the day when an Israeli prime minister can fly from Tel Aviv to Riyad. And I think it’s a story that doesn’t get enough attention; that there have been behind the scene, very discreet meetings between Israelis and Saudis. Very senior Saudis have come to Israel before because they do want to make common cause.”

Of course one of the media outlets not giving “enough attention” to that story is the BBC itself. Doucet continued:

“You’ve mentioned one of the biggest reasons to do so and that is their shared animosity towards Iran. That was one of the main issues in the centrepiece speech that President Trump delivered to a gathering of some 40 Arab and…leaders from the Arab and Islamic world. Not just the fight against extremism but a fight against Iran and he’s brought that message here. He spoke of…he said I’ve come from the Arab world with the common understanding that is shared by you that Iran is the main threat. So things are definitely shifting.”

Of course “things” actually ‘shifted’ quite some time ago – as Gulf state reactions to the 2015 P5+1 deal with Iran concerning its nuclear programme indicated – but neither Iqbal nor Doucet (who has written about that topic in the past) bothered to remind listeners of that.

Iqbal: “It’s interesting to hear you say they’re shifting because of course Iran on the ground in Iraq and in…in…certainly in Iraq is doing quite a lot to fight against the Islamic State group. So one wonders about these tectonic shifts, if you like, and how they’ll manifest itself [sic] given that President Trump is really keen to make inroads with eliminating Islamic State.”

Doucet: “Yes, and welcome, President Trump, to the Middle East. At some point we may hear him say – as he said about the Affordable Care Act in the United States; Obamacare, – I didn’t realise that it was so complicated. As you know, take Syria that you just mentioned [sic] – he wants to push back Iran; that is the Saudis’ main goal. But interestingly, President Trump did not mention Russia in his speech in Riyad. And arguably Russia and Iran are working together, first to bolster President Assad but also to fight against so-called Islamic State and at the same time to push back some of the forces which have been trained and financed by the United States.

And what the Iranians would say is that they are in Syria because they’ve been asked to be there. They’re in Iraq because they’ve been asked to be there and they see no reason why they should leave. I think there’s growing concern about what will come next at a time when Iranians have shown that in the re-election of Hassan Rouhani, they want an engagement with the wider world. The message from Riyad – and it will be the message as well from Jerusalem – is that their enemies want to isolate them in the world.”

Iqbal: “Just, Lyse, very briefly; his next trip is to the Palestinian territories?”

Doucet: “Yes. The Palestinians have been surprised. They thought that President Trump would be only focusing on Israeli interests and Israeli views but his ear has been bent by King Abdallah of Jordan, by the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and this is why we’re not going to see the announcement of a move of the American embassy to Jerusalem. He is trying to be a friend of Israel and a friend of the Palestinians.”

Doucet offers no factual evidence for that extraordinary claim.

For years BBC journalists – and not least Lyse Doucet and Razia Iqbal in person – have been playing down the Iranian regime’s regional aggression and patronage of terrorism and the corporation has also repeatedly propagated the myth of ‘moderates’ within the Iranian regime.

If BBC audiences are to understand why Israel may have common interests relating to Iran with some of its neighbours in the Middle East, then clearly they need to be provided with a factually accurate and comprehensive portrayal of the Iranian regime’s policies, positions and activities rather than whitewashed, vacuous and unhelpful commentary of the type broadcast to millions worldwide in this item.  

Related Articles:

No wonder BBC WS presenter Razia Iqbal got Iranian threat to Israel wrong

BBC ECU upholds complaint concerning Iranian threats to Israel

BBC’s summary of Khamenei speech censors pledge to support terror

BBC WS Newshour promotes ‘apartheid’ smear in Trump visit coverage

 

BBC WS Newshour promotes ‘apartheid’ smear in Trump visit coverage

The lead story in the May 22nd afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ was the visit of the US president to Israel which, at the time of broadcast, had commenced just a few hours earlier.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the item (from 01:07 here) as follows: [all emphasis in italics in the original, all emphasis in bold added]

“We begin though with President Trump’s continuing visit in the Middle East. He’s now in Israel having flown direct from Saudi Arabia; in itself a first as there are no diplomatic relations between those two countries. And he arrives having cast himself as the world’s greatest deal-maker, nodding towards what would be the world’s biggest deal: peace between the Israeli and the Palestinians…Israelis and Palestinians. More than two decades of failed peace talks show how difficult a deal between the two sides has been and despite Mr Trump’s deal-making claims, there is deeply held scepticism over what progress can be made. We’ll be assessing what scope there is for movement in what’s been a stand-off for some time.

Speaking shortly after arriving in Tel Aviv, President Trump said he had found new reasons for hope during his recent travels. [recording of Trump speaking]. And the prime minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement. [recording of Netanyahu speaking]”.

Iqbal then introduced the person that ‘Newshour’ bizarrely deemed appropriate to provide the opening comment on this lead story – BBC frequent flyer Mustafa Barghouti.

Iqbal: “Well in contrast to the public rhetoric, underlining the mammoth task ahead of anyone attempting to tackle the possibility of peace in the Middle East [sic], a Palestinian official, Mustafa Barghouti, speaking to the BBC reminded President Trump that achieving peace would not be an easy process and would require significant concessions from Israel.”

Barghouti: “There is a military occupation of the Palestinian territories since 50 years and without ending the occupation there will be no peace. We want him to remember that this occupation has become a system of apartheid much worse than what prevailed in South Africa at one point in time. And we want him to remember that there is a need for the Palestinian freedom; a need for Palestinians to have their own independent and sovereign state. Without a Palestinian state there will be no peace.”

There is nothing to indicate that Barghouti was speaking live with Iqbal. Rather, this apparently pre-recorded statement with its promotion of the politically motivated ‘apartheid’ calumny  – which the BBC knows full well to be a falsehood used as a propaganda device to delegitimise Israel – was selected by the programme’s editors for inclusion in the item. Not only did Iqbal fail to clarify to listeners that Barghouti’s smear is baseless, she subsequently repeated it, as we shall see later on.

Iqbal continued:

“Palestinian official Mustafa Barghouti. Let’s speak now to our correspondent Tom Bateman who joins us live from Jerusalem. So, ah, Tom – the…eh…arrival of President Trump and his wife – there was quite a lot of warmth and friendliness at the airport. How’s the visit gone so far?”

After Bateman had described the security arrangements in the Old City of Jerusalem as the US president visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall he went on:

Bateman: “And these are really the symbols of this visit. What we have yet to have is the substance and that is on two really key issues, I think. Firstly, following on from his visit to Saudi, as you heard there from the president himself, he wants to create a regional coalition which will include Israel. And this is really his attempt to reset US foreign policy after that of President Obama about whom he was so critical because he believes, as he said, that he thinks there is a common threat here to the Gulf states, to the majority Sunni countries and to Israel and that is in the form of Iran.”

Following Bateman’s outlining of his second ‘key issue’ – “peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians” – Iqbal picked up on his previous reference to Iran.

Iqbal: “You mentioned Iran and there was some criticism of Iran when the president was in Saudi Arabia and he has underlined that criticism again today in Israel hasn’t he?”

Bateman: “That’s right and, you know, I don’t think that’s going to be the last of it and of course it’s a message that resonates with Israel because Israel’s government is extremely concerned about Iran. They believe that…ah…because of its action, that they say it’s arming Hizballah just north of Israel here in Syria [sic], that that brings an even greater threat – in fact its greatest threat in the form of Hizballah just over its border in Lebanon.”

One would of course expect a BBC correspondent based in Jerusalem – new or not – to be capable of informing BBC audiences that Iranian financial and military support for Hizballah (in violation of UNSC resolution 1701) is not just something that the Israeli government ‘says’ but a fact about which Hizballah has been open and at least one Iranian official has admitted.

The Iranian angle to this story reappeared again in a later item in the same programme which will be discussed in a subsequent post.

Following her conversation with Bateman, Razia Iqbal introduced her next guest – former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. During that conversation Iqbal recycled Barghouti’s ‘apartheid’ calumny (10:52):

Iqbal: “I mean there are huge, huge challenges on both sides and there has been of course a stalemate and no real peace process for…for many years now. What do you think he [Trump] will make of the line he is almost certainly going to get from the Palestinians which we heard a sense of from Mustafa Barghouti: that there is this military occupation, that it’s really become a system of apartheid and it’s much worse than what prevailed in South Africa. How do think that will be…that will go down with President Trump?”

Shapiro: “I don’t think he will accept that narrative as a complete and accurate narrative of the situation. […] I don’t think he will accept that narrative – nor do I think he should.”

Iqbal: “Well if you don’t think he should accept that narrative, what’s your assessment then of both President Trump and his son-in-law and special envoy Jared Kushner and their attempts to really try and bring about something that has been so elusive?”

The editorial decision to promote Barghouti’s patently false and baseless ‘apartheid’ calumny in this item is further underscored by Iqbal’s repetition of the smear. This is not a case of a presenter inadequately responding to an inaccurate statement made by a guest during a live interview. This is the BBC World Service intentionally providing amplification for a falsehood used as part of a political campaign to delegitimise Israel and it clearly does not meet the BBC’s supposed standards of ‘impartial’ journalism.

Related Articles:

Nasrallah speech necessitates update of BBC’s Hizballah profile

An Iranian story the BBC chose not to translate

Resources:

How to complain to the BBC

Weekend long read

1) Ahead of the upcoming presidential election in Iran, Potkin Azarmehr provides a useful guide to the electoral system in that country.

“Iran’s next presidential elections are scheduled to be held on 19th May. Iranians are given a choice of six candidates to choose from for the next president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The question I am often asked these days is ‘who will be the next president of Iran? Will Rouhani have a second term or will it be one of the other five candidates?’

Islamic Republic of Iran is a unique system of governance with no precedence in history prior to 1979. It is the first time the Shia clerics experience running the government and there is currently no other similar form of governing a country anywhere else in the world.

It is therefore important to understand how this unique system of governance works and not to assume this is a presidential elections similar to what takes place elsewhere.”

2) Jonathan Spyer reports on his extraordinary visit to Syria.

“I should explain first of all how I came to be in Damascus.   I have been writing about Syria now for over a decade.  I have visited the country numerous times since the outbreak of its civil war in mid-2011.  My visits, though, were always to the areas controlled by the Sunni Arab rebels or the Kurdish separatist forces.  This was a notable gap in my coverage.  I wanted to remedy it.

The Assad regime makes it hard for journalists to acquire visas.  The authorities are keen consumers of media, and keep track of the names of reporters who have spent time among their enemies.  The number of journalists who have managed to report from both the government and rebel sides is very small.  I  had tried on a number of occasions to acquire a visa, but made little progress.

Finally, a colleague suggested the idea of joining a delegation of foreign supporters of the regime.  With the war going its way since late 2015, the Syrian government has begun to cautiously open up to visitors. But like other authoritarian regimes, it prefers to welcome these in groups, and under careful supervision.

I made contact with the organizers of one of these delegations. The process was surprisingly straightforward.”

3) At the Tablet, Tony Badran takes a look at the current state of Lebanese politics.

“A high-level delegation of Lebanese politicians and bankers reportedly will visit Washington later this month to try and convince Congress to soften impending sanctions legislation designed to squeeze the Iranian proxy, Hezbollah. Already, there have been visitors from Lebanon in recent weeks for this purpose, and there’s been speculation in Lebanese media that prime minister Saad Hariri, who has expressed his hope to “change” the legislation, might himself come to town to make the case for going easy on Lebanon.

Generally speaking, the function of Hariri and what is known as “the Lebanese government” in the power configuration in Lebanon is confined to this sort of activity, which could be summarized as running interference for and mopping up after Hezbollah, the real authority in the country. It is principally for this reason, among others, that Hariri’s erstwhile patrons in Saudi Arabia effectively have washed their hands of Lebanon, and pulled a grant they had pledged to the Lebanese Armed Forces. Why waste money on an Iranian satrapy?

Hariri is stuck. In order to return as prime minister, he had to sign on to Hezbollah’s terms. This has meant endorsing Hezbollah’s ally, Michel Aoun, for president, in order to form a new government. And the new government was stacked with Hezbollah allies in key ministries.”

4) Writing at Ynet, Ben Dror Yemini gives his view of the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike and its initiator.

“We want peace. We fight for peace. But in the meantime we must remember that we are in a state of war. Not one war, but two wars. One is taking place on the battlefield. Hamas drags us there every few years. This war is being waged on a lower key, both through the knifing and stone-throwing terror attacks and through different other measures targeting Israel nonstop.

The second war is a war on the collective consciousness. A war of demonization. A war that seeks to present Israel as a monster. This war has had quite a lot of achievements.

The jailed terrorists, from Fatah and Hamas, have become full partners in both wars. Some of them try to launch and plan terror attacks from prison. Others try to present themselves as martyrs fighting for “an end to the occupation” or for “liberation.” Every other prisoner tries to present himself as a freedom fighter, and every other prisoner is actually Nelson Mandela. It’s true that they murdered civilians and babies and women and elderly people. And it’s true that when they say “an end to the occupation,” they are referring to Tel Aviv as well. And it’s true that their liberation is sort of like the Islamic State is liberating Iraq and Hamas is liberating Gaza. But in the war on the collective consciousness, they are winning.” 

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

On April 27th an article titled “Syria war: ‘Israeli strike’ hits military site near Damascus airport” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. As can be understood from its headline, the report relates to an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria and it is based on claims made by sources linked to the Assad regime.

“An Israeli missile strike has caused a large explosion and fire at a military site near Damascus international airport, Syrian state media report.

A fuel tank and warehouses were damaged, the Sana news agency said. […]

Sana said several missiles had been fired at a military site south-west of the airport, causing explosions that resulted in some material losses.

Pro-government Al-Mayadeen TV cited sources as saying that missiles had been fired by Israeli jets flying inside the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.”

The article also includes an alternative version of the story sourced from groups opposed to the Assad regime.

“But Syrian rebel sources said an arms depot run by Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, which is fighting in Syria as an ally of the government, was hit. […]

Two senior rebel sources based in Damascus told Reuters news agency that the missiles had hit an ammunition depot in a closed military area that was used by Iran-backed militias operating alongside the Syrian army, led by Hezbollah.”

In an insert of analysis by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent readers are told that Israel “has been conducting an intermittent air campaign to prevent sophisticated weapons transfers to the Lebanese Shia militia group Hezbollah” and that it “clearly intends to continue its campaign against Hezbollah weapons shipments”.

However, as is invariably the case in content relating to such stories, the BBC’s article refrains from giving an accurate description of Hizballah as a terror organisation, provides no factual information concerning the Iranian link to those “weapons shipments” and fails to provide audiences with the relevant context concerning UN Security Council resolution 1701’s requirement of “disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon” and its ban on “sales or supply of arms and related material” to Hizballah or any other Lebanese militia.

Instead, the article passes off the following two sentences as background information.

“Israel regards Hezbollah, and its key backer Iran, as its biggest threat. It went to war with Hezbollah in 2006 and the group has grown considerably more powerful since then.”

At the end of the article is an insert titled “Recent suspected Israeli attacks in Syria”. First on the BBC’s list is the following:

Readers are not informed what the “Syrian pro-government National Defence Forces” actually are or that they have ties to Iran. Neither are they told that the sources of the claims concerning that alleged strike are, once again, the official Syrian regime news agency Sana together with the Iranian and Syrian regime linked outlet ‘Al Mayadeen’ and Al Jazeera.

Only last year the BBC uncritically amplified claims regarding an ‘Israeli airstrike’ made by Al Mayadeen which later turned out to be fiction. On numerous occasions in the past, the BBC has also amplified baseless propaganda from the Syrian regime. One might therefore have thought that the corporation would take the precaution of thoroughly checking allegations made by unreliable sources such as Al Mayadeen and Sana before amplifying them to its audiences.

 Had it done so in this case, the BBC would have learned that security sources in Israel dismissed those reports of Israeli involvement in that April 23rd incident.

The news BBC audiences are getting concerning alleged Israeli actions in Syria clearly cannot meet the standards to which the BBC is supposedly committed as long as it continues to be based on unverified claims made by highly partisan sources and fails to include the background information crucial for proper understanding of such stories.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

BBC failure to provide context in Hizballah weapons stories continues

In which BBC News manages to avoid Syrian propaganda for a change

More unquestioned amplification of Syrian regime propaganda from BBC News

BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again

More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

Terrorist murderer of four Samir Kuntar dubbed ‘militant’ by BBC News

 

BBC News yawns over another violation of UNSC resolution 1701

One might have assumed that the blatant violation of a UN Security Council resolution by a terrorist group and a government’s armed forces would have been of interest to a media organisation that has described itself as “the standard-setter for international journalism”.

Hizballah flag viewed from Metulla

However, when Hizballah took journalists on a tour of the border between Israel and Lebanon on April 20th – accompanied by armed terrorists and the Lebanese army – right under the noses of the UNIFIL troops that are supposed to implement UN SC resolution 1701’s ban on armed paramilitary groups, the BBC stayed mum.

Neither did BBC audiences get any coverage of the next day’s ‘damage control’ visit to the same location by the Lebanese prime minister.

“The Lebanese leader criticized the media tour organized by Hezbollah during which armed gunmen from the group appeared in a UN-created border buffer zone meant to be free of Hezbollah presence, calling it “unacceptable in our opinion.” […]

Hariri, on his visit Friday, met with United Nations peacekeepers stationed in the area and renewed Lebanon’s commitment to international resolutions.

“What happened yesterday is something that we, as a government, are not (involved) with and do not accept,” Hariri said. He struck a conciliatory tone, however, saying “there are political differences (with Hezbollah) that we put aside, and this is one of them.”

“I came here to emphasize that our role as a government is to preserve Resolution 1701,” Hariri said.”

Writing at the Tablet, Tony Badran analyses those events and their broader meaning.

“Last Thursday, Hezbollah organized a tour for journalists along the border with Israel, where the Iranian proxy highlighted the various topographical alterations the IDF has done near the border in preparation for a future war. As part of this event, Hezbollah fighters posed for pictures in the area carrying arms, including a man-portable air-defense system—an overt violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701. The resolution, passed in 2006 to conclude the Second Lebanon war, stipulates that the area between the Blue Line and the Litani river should be free of “any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon).” To be sure, Hezbollah has been violating that resolution for a decade, but what makes this latest episode all the more egregious is that the Hezbollah tour was chaperoned by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and in the presence of UNIFIL forces in the area. Afterwards, Hezbollah clarified that its tour was “coordinated” with the LAF and UNIFIL. The latter subsequently issued a statement clarifying that the LAF gave it notice of the event “shortly before the media delegation arrived.” In other words, the LAF and Hezbollah were both in on the joke and UNIFIL, at best, was the butt of it. […]

Following the Hezbollah tour, Hariri paid a visit to UNIFIL headquarters, accompanied by the Hezbollah-allied defense minister and LAF commander, where, for added comedic effect, he reaffirmed his “government’s commitment, with all its components” to UNSCR 1701. That is to say, Hariri was mopping up after Hezbollah—a “component” of the government, which had just violated 1701, in collusion with the LAF. Never mind that. “The government is not interested in, nor does it accept, what happened,” Hariri said. And so, the “government” both violates and is committed to UNSCR 1701. Everyone, really, is committed to the charade.”

As has been noted here on numerous occasions in the past, the BBC not only routinely ignores the topic of Hizballah’s continuous violations of UN SC resolution 1701, but has even whitewashed them.

The adoption of that editorial policy of course means that if and when conflict between Israel and Hizballah does break out again, BBC audiences will be unaware of over a decade of violations of that UN SC resolution that are crucial context to any such conflict.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

BBC reports development in Hizballah story, fails to update original report

Earlier this month we revisited a BBC story from May 2016 in which audiences were initially told that Israel had killed a Hizballah commander.

“…the final version of the article – which is still available on the BBC News website – points BBC audiences towards the assumption that Israel may have been responsible for the killing.”

In that post we noted that an investigation conducted by the Al Arabiya network (unreported by the BBC at the time) suggested that Mustafa Badreddine’s assassination was in fact carried out by Hizballah and its Iranian backers and hence:

“…we would of course now expect to see the BBC revisiting this story, reviewing its steering of audiences towards the default conclusion that Israel was likely to have been involved and checking the accuracy of this particular example of “historical record”.” 

On March 21st the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel: Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine ‘killed by own men’” which opens as follows:

“The Israeli military’s chief of staff has added weight to Arab media reports that Hezbollah was behind the killing of its own commander in Syria in 2016.

Lt Gen Gadi Eisenkot said Israeli intelligence had similarly concluded that Mustafa Amine Badreddine was assassinated by his own men.”

Later on readers were told that:

“Earlier this month, the pan-Arab news network al-Arabiya said its investigation into Badreddine’s death had concluded that the commander was killed on the orders of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

The report said Hassan Nasrallah was put under pressure to remove Badreddine by Maj Gen Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite overseas operations arm and a key adviser to the Syrian military.”

And:

Tweet to 14.3 million followers promoting the BBC’s original article on May 13, 2016

“On Tuesday, Gen Eisenkot said the Arab media reports that Hezbollah had killed Badreddine matched the “intelligence we have”.”

The BBC’s original article – including the repeated suggestion that Israel may have killed Badreddine – is of course still available online. In light of the developments in the story, best practice would of course necessitate its amendment to include the information in this latest BBC report.

To date, such an update has not been added.

Related Articles:

BBC News amplifies unreliable source on Hizballah commander’s death

Revisiting a BBC ‘Israel did it’ story from May 2016

BBC failure to provide context in Hizballah weapons stories continues

On March 17th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel’s Arrow anti-missile system ‘in first hit’“. The article opens with a ‘last-first’ summary of the story:

“Israel has shot down a Syrian missile using its most advanced anti-missile system for the first time, Israeli media say.

A surface-to-air missile (SAM) was intercepted using the Arrow system, designed to stop long-range ballistic missiles, reports say.

The SAMs were fired at Israeli jets which had just raided sites in Syria.”

The article goes on:

“In a rare admission, the Israeli military said its aircraft had attacked several targets in Syria before Syria launched the missiles.”

However, only in the report’s seventh paragraph do BBC audiences find out what those “several targets” actually were.

An insert of analysis from the BBC’s defence correspondent tells readers that:

“It is rare for Israel to admit to air strikes in Syria though there have been reports of at least four similar raids against Hezbollah weapons shipments since the start of December last year. […]

It’s a signal perhaps to all concerned that if weapons supplies to Hezbollah continue, then Israel is ready to escalate its air campaign.”

In the body of the article readers find the following:

“Air strikes, said to have been carried out by Israel, have hit sites in Syria on numerous occasions, reportedly targeting weapons shipments for Lebanon’s Shia militant movement Hezbollah.” [emphasis added]

As is inevitably the case in content relating to such stories, the BBC refrains from giving an accurate description of Hizballah as a terror organisation and no background information concerning the suppliers of these “weapons shipments” is provided. Also as usual, this article fails to provide BBC audiences with the very relevant context concerning UN Security Council resolution 1701’s requirement of “disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon” and its ban on “sales or supply of arms and related material” to Hizballah or any other Lebanese militia.

The same omissions were evident in coverage of the story on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on March 17th (from 30:04 here), with presenter Julian Marshall describing the terror organisation Hizballah as “militants in Lebanon”.

Related Articles:

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

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

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

BBC’s Bowen tells WS listeners Israel bombs Syria ‘regularly’

Revisiting a BBC ‘Israel did it’ story from May 2016

As was documented here back in May 2016:

As was noted here at the time, although that information did not in fact come from Hizballah, subsequent versions of the BBC’s report inaccurately told readers that the terror group had “rolled back” the claim.

Nevertheless, the final version of the article – which is still available on the BBC News website – points BBC audiences towards the assumption that Israel may have been responsible for the killing.

“An initial report by Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV said that Badreddine, 55, died in an Israeli air strike. But a later statement by Hezbollah on al-Manar’s website did not mention Israel.

Israeli media reported that the government refused to comment on whether it was involved in Badreddine’s death.

Israel has been accused by Hezbollah of killing a number of its fighters in Syria since the conflict began.”

And – under the sub-heading “Key questions”:

“Who could have killed Mustafa Badreddine?

Any of the armed groups seeking to overthrow Mr Assad might have sought to kill the man co-ordinating Hezbollah military activities. However, suspicion is likely to fall on Israel, which fought a war against Hezbollah in 2006.

Israel has been accused of killing several of the group’s leaders over the years, although it has never officially confirmed its involvement.

Hezbollah military chief Imad Mughniyeh was killed in a car bombing in Damascus in 2008 that US intelligence officials said last year was a joint operation by the CIA and Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

In January 2015, a suspected Israeli air strike in the Syrian Golan Heights killed six Hezbollah fighters, including Mughniyeh’s son Jihad, and an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general.

And in December, Hezbollah said one of its senior figures, Samir Qantar, was killed when missiles fired by Israeli jets struck a block of flats in Damascus.

Israel has also reportedly conducted air strikes aimed at preventing advanced weapons shipments from Iran from reaching Hezbollah via Syria.”

On March 8th 2017 the Israeli news website Walla reported that an investigation by Al Arabia suggests a different answer to the question “who could have killed Mustafa Badreddine?” than the one promoted by the BBC.  

“According to an investigation by the ‘Al Arabia’ network, the General Secretary of the organisation [Hizballah – Nasrallah], together with the commander of the Iranian Quds Force [Soleimani], planned the assassination of the organisation’s senior figure [Badreddine], who died in a ‘mysterious explosion’ at Damascus airport. Hizballah blamed the Syrian opposition – which in turn blamed Hizballah.”

Whether or not that allegation is true is unclear but Al Arabia’s report is certainly no less reliable that the one from Al Mayadeen claiming that Badreddine had been killed by an Israeli airstrike which the BBC elected to amplify without independently confirming the claim.

As we know, the BBC relates to its online content as “historical record”:

“Our online news is far more accessible today than the newspaper archives of libraries. But in principle there is no difference between them: both are historical records. Fundamentally it is in the public interest to retain them intact.”

Given that, we would of course now expect to see the BBC revisiting this story, reviewing its steering of audiences towards the default conclusion that Israel was likely to have been involved and checking the accuracy of this particular example of “historical record”.