Revisiting BBC reporting on Hizballah

Back in December 2018 listeners to BBC World Service radio heard Razia Iqbal suggest that Israel’s presentation of the purpose of multiple tunnels quarried through solid limestone under an international border by a terror group dedicated to Israel’s destruction might be made up.

Metulla

Iqbal: “Well given that a war with Israel would not be in the interests of Hizballah, one wonders about the…err…the accuracy or the factual accuracy of those tunnels being potentially used for the way in which Israel is alleging that Hizballah might use them.”

The following month we noted that Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah had clarified the purpose of “those tunnels” during a media interview.

“He confirmed Israeli leaders’ accusations that “Part of our plan for the next war is to enter the Galilee, a part of our plan we are capable of, God willing. The important thing is that we have this capability and we have had it for years.””

However no effort was subsequently made by the BBC to inform audiences of that acknowledgement of the existence and purpose of the Hizballah cross-border tunnels and thereby relieve them of the erroneous impression promoted by Iqbal.

During Hizballah’s annual commemoration of the Second Lebanon War on July 12th, Nasrallah once again stated that the terrorist organisation has plans to invade Israeli sovereign territory, as reported by Seth Frantzman at the Jerusalem Post.

“Nasrallah said there were scenarios or plans that are ready to be implemented that would foresee the invasion of the Galilee by Hezbollah. This threat is not surprising since the terrorist organization has been aiming for years to use the next conflict to grab and hold some territory. It built tunnels under the border of northern Israel that were discovered as part of Israel’s Operation Northern Shield from December 4, 2018, through January 13, 2019.”

Hizballah flag viewed from Metulla

Nasrallah’s latest speech also included boasts about the terror group’s capabilities:

“Nasrallah admits that it had “limited” attack abilities in 2006. Now it claims to have drones and new advanced technologies to use on land, sea and air. Much of this comes from Iran, including precision guidance for missiles and other technology. Hezbollah says its missiles are more accurate. This indicates that Hezbollah’s boasts about being able to reach all of Israel and estimates of it having 150,000 rockets may be reasonable. It clearly wants us to think so.”

BBC audiences are of course serially deprived of information concerning UN Security Council resolution 1701 of 2006 which states that there should be “no authority other than that of the Government of Lebanon” and that previous accords pertaining to “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” should be implemented. 

The BBC’s online profile of Hizballah has not been updated for well over three years, meaning that audiences find no information there concerning the cross-border tunnels which were destroyed earlier this year or the UK government’s decision to designate it as a terrorist organisation in its entirety.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio host questions “factual accuracy” of purpose of Hizballah tunnels

Hizballah leader dispels BBC WS presenter’s ‘wondering’

An overview of BBC reporting on Operation Northern Shield

Whitewashing Hizballah on BBC Radio 4

Hizballah London explosives story not newsworthy for the BBC

Usual mantras in BBC News report on Hizballah designation

 

 

 

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Weekend long read

1) At the JNS Yaakov Lapin takes a look at a story ignored by the BBC this week.

“Since the end of the 2014 conflict, enough cement has entered Gaza to build 16 Burj Khalifa skyscrapers in Dubai—the tallest building in the world. That cement has largely gone underground, feeding Hamas’s war machine.

Gaza’s soft sandstone made it possible for diggers to make rapid progress during the peak days of the tunnel project. The tunnels contained rails, electricity, ventilation, communications lines and oxygen tanks—tanks that were originally sent to Gaza for hospital use.

The tunnels are a symbol of Hamas’s priorities: The military build-up always takes precedent over investing funds in Gaza’s civilian population.”

2) Some background to another recent story which the BBC chose not to cover is provided by the FDD’s Tony Badran.

“The Treasury Department designated Hezbollah security chief Wafiq Safa on Tuesday, along with two Hezbollah members of parliament. Safa’s activities epitomize Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanese state institutions, illustrating that the supposed distinction between the two is fictional.

Treasury’s announcement of the sanctions identified Wafa as “the head of Hezbollah’s security apparatus” and “part of Hizballah Secretary General Nasrallah’s inner circle.” It went on to say that Wafa is “responsible for Hizballah’s coordination with the international community and with Lebanese security agencies.” While true, this description greatly understates his influence.

Safa, who reportedly played a role in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, is now the central figure in Lebanese politics and security. As head of Hezbollah’s Liaison and Coordination Unit, Safa is Nasrallah’s troubleshooter. He manages Hezbollah’s relationship with Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.”

3) The JCPA provides context to a story reported on BBC World Service radio last week – “The Truth about Jerusalem’s City of David – The Lies about Silwan”.

“Over the years, hundreds of Silwan residents took part in the archaeological digs of the Antiquities Authority funded by the NGO “Elad” (its name is an acronym for “To the City of David”). More than once the digging was done below the houses of these same Arab workers. They would have kept working there until this very day had they not been threatened with violence by emissaries of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in eastern Jerusalem. These threats forced them to leave their work.

Political opponents of the archaeological excavations in the City of David, which have been conducted for almost 50 years, try every few years to impede the work of the Antiquities Authority, often resorting to legal proceedings. Once or twice they have even gotten as far as the Supreme Court, whose justices are known to be particularly sensitive to claims of the infringement of human rights. The petitioners claimed that the excavations endangered the residents of Silwan, and the Supreme Court looked into their allegations and rejected them.”

4) Israel’s public broadcaster Kann recently aired a documentary series about the work of the police force in Jerusalem. All the episodes of ‘Jerusalem District’ are now available on Youtube with English subtitles.

“Jerusalem District: A nine-episode series that provides a rare glimpse into the activities of the intelligence, detective and Border Police officers in the Jerusalem district and exposes the unrecognized sides of the work of the Jerusalem policemen who are fighting crime and do their best to maintain order in the volatile city.”

 

 

No BBC coverage of US designation of Hizballah MPs

The imposition of terror-related sanctions by the US Treasury on sitting members of parliament in another country is a story one would expect major media outlets to cover and indeed the New York Times, the Washington Post and the AP and Reuters news agencies, among many others, have done just that.

The BBC, however, has to date chosen to ignore the July 9th announcement concerning the designation of three members of Hizballah.

“Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated key Hizballah political and security figures leveraging their privileged positions to facilitate Hizballah’s malign agenda and do Iran’s bidding.  Specifically, OFAC designated Hizballah Members of Parliament Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Ra’d, and Hizballah security official Wafiq Safa, for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.  These individuals were designated under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.”

AFP noted that:

“It was the first time the U.S. Treasury had placed Hezbollah lawmakers on its blacklist, which forbid U.S. individuals and businesses with a U.S. branch – including leading international banks – from doing business with those sanctioned.

“It is time we believe for other nations around the world to recognize that there is no distinction between Hezbollah’s political and military wing,” a senior administration official who insisted on anonymity told journalists.”

Reuters reported that:

“Lebanon’s dollar-denominated sovereign bonds fell and the cost of insuring exposure to its debt rose on Wednesday after the sanctions move. […]

Lebanon is saddled with one of the heaviest public debt burdens in the world.”

Meanwhile, the most recent entry on the BBC News website’s ‘Lebanon’ page dates from June 24th.

Related Articles:

Hizballah London explosives story not newsworthy for the BBC

Usual mantras in BBC News report on Hizballah designation

Whitewashing Hizballah on BBC Radio 4

BBC News gives anodyne portrayal of new Lebanese government

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at “Hizballah’s Deep State: the creeping annexation of Lebanese State Institutions and political life”.

“In the political arena, Hizballah dominates a bloc which in turn controls both executive and legislature. Thus, it dominates both the decision making process and the process of implementing decisions. In the military arena, Hizballah posesses an armed force stronger than and of equal size to the official state military. It also clearly has a presence within and influence within the official armed forces. In the field of internal security, an ally of Hizballah commands the most powerful internal security body, and fellow travellers of the organization or appeasers of it command all the others. In economics Hizballah controls an economic empire of its own and can intimidate or implicate any bodies seeking to act against it.

The result is that it is impossible today in key areas of Lebanese life to determine exactly where the official state begins and Hizballah’s shadow state ends. The latter has penetrated and taken up residence in the former.”

2) At the Long War Journal, David Andrew Weinberg has documented how “Gulf governments sponsored anti-Semitic hate preachers during Ramadan 2019”.

“Ramadan is a holy month in the Sunni-ruled Gulf monarchies.  In addition to daylong fasting, one other aspect of the festival in this region is that governments sponsor a range of religious programming in order to burnish their religious credentials, particularly at state-run mosques and on state-owned television stations.

However, many Gulf governments fail to provide adequate oversight when sponsoring Ramadan programming, arranging events that feature religious leaders who have a longstanding record of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.  Even if such preachers are more measured in their remarks at these particular government-sponsored events, their state hosts still run the risk of legitimating proponents of bigotry.”

3) Miriam Elman explains why “BDS ‘Anti-Normalization’ Is a Mockery of Progressive Values” at the Algemeiner.

“Anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) promoters have long tried to stake out the moral high ground — depicting themselves as the champions of the oppressed, and positioning their movement as being on the right side of history.

But the reality is that BDS rarely acknowledges, or works to prevent, harm to Palestinians that is meted out by their own governments and societal extremists.

What’s even worse is that BDS leaders often egg on and incite these depredations with an anti-normalization campaign characterized by coercion and strong-arm tactics against peace activists and co-existence groups — along with just about any Palestinian who dares to cross the BDS picket line to cooperate with or even just talk to Israelis.”

4) Mark Dubowitz and Saeed Ghasseminejad of the FDD take a look at new US sanctions on Iran.

“President Trump issued a new executive order last week that mandated sanctions on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader’s Office, and several categories of related entities and individuals. The president’s order points toward the imposition of sanctions on key components of Khamenei’s massive business empire that have so far escaped sanctions.

Khamenei controls at least $200 billion of assets through three foundations: the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO), the Mostazafan Foundation, and the Razavi Economic Organization, the business arm of Astan Quds Razavi. These tax-exempt organizations have amassed wealth via corrupt practices such as the confiscation of dissidents’ properties. Their proceeds fund repression inside Iran and terrorism abroad.”

BBC newsgathering again relies on Syrian state outlets

On the morning of July 1st the BBC News website published a filmed report titled “Syria war: Video shows ‘Israeli missiles being intercepted’” and a written report headlined “Syria war: Israeli jets ‘hit Iranian targets in Homs and Damascus’”.

As specified in its synopsis, the commentary-free video is made up entirely of “footage released by Syria’s state-run Sana news agency” and viewers were told that it “appears to show missiles being intercepted in mid-air”. [emphasis added]

Likewise, 37.3% of the written report’s 209 words was given over to allegations made by two Syrian state-run news agencies – with nothing to suggest any independent verification by the BBC – including the following unconfirmed claim:

“In Sahnaya, south of Damascus, four civilians – including a toddler – were killed as a result of Israeli “aggression”, Syrian state-run broadcaster al-Ikhbariya said.” [emphasis added]

Although a further 35.4% of the report repeated claims made by the UK-based organisation ‘the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’, the BBC did not include the following:

“The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group, said it was not immediately clear if the six civilians, among them an infant, were killed by the attacks themselves, which were attributed to Israel, by Syria’s anti-aircraft fire, or by some other secondary explosion.”

The BBC’s own contribution to the report came in just 57 words which did not include a description of Hizballah as a terrorist organisation, despite it being defined as such in the UK. [emphasis added]

“Israel’s military has not commented. It periodically attacks what it says are threats to Israeli security in Syria.

These include what it has identified as advanced weaponry destined for the Islamist Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Iranian bases in Syria.

Israel says it will not allow its arch-enemy Iran to entrench itself in Syria, Iran’s key ally.”

BBC audiences were not informed of an apparently related incident in northern Cyprus.

“Meanwhile, Turkish-held Cyprus said a Syrian anti-aircraft missile that was fired at Israeli jets landed north of Nicosia. No casualties were reported.

“The first assessment is that a Russian-made missile, […] which was part of the air defense system that took place last night in the face of an air strike against Syria, completed its range and fell into our country after it missed,” Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Kudret Ozersay said in a social media post.”

Not only have audiences been given very little factual information about the efforts of Iran and its proxies to establish a foothold in Syria in recent years but – as is the case once again in this latest report – the BBC has on repeated occasions even steered them towards the view that Iran’s military build-up in Syria is primarily a claim touted by Israel.

As has frequently been the case in the past, we see that BBC newsgathering for this report consisted mainly of repeating unconfirmed claims from state-run Syrian media. Given that those sources have been shown in the past to repeatedly disseminate false claims, one would expect a serious media outlet to be considerably more cautious about promoting their unverified statements to its funding public in supposedly factual news reports.

Related Articles:

BBC News framing of Iranian forces in Syria

BBC News framing of Iranian activity in Syria continues

BBC inconsistency on Iran’s Syria build-up continues

Slapdash BBC News reporting of events in northern Israel and Syria

Reviewing the sourcing of BBC Radio 4 December 26 news bulletins

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC provides a backgrounder on a story the BBC failed to report last month.

“The Israeli security forces recently revealed the identities of the terrorists who carried out shooting attacks targeting Israeli buses in the Ramallah area. The perpetrators were two Palestinians who held senior positions in the Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees (officially subordinate to the PLO but in practice a PA institution). One of the terrorists was Zakaria Muhammad Abd al-Rahman Zubeidi, a senior Fatah al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades operative and an iconic figure of the second intifada. He was included in the “wanted Palestinian terrorists amnesty agreement” (2007) but nevertheless returned to terrorist activity. The other was Tarek Barghouth, a lawyer from east Jerusalem, a member of the Israeli Bar Association who has represented terrorist operatives in Israeli courts. At the same time he is also employed by the PA Detainees Commission, where he apparently became acquainted with Zakaria Zubeidi. Both Fatah and the Detainees Commission issued condemnations of Israel for detaining the two.”

2) The FDD has published a monograph on “The Iranian Land Corridor to the Mediterranean”.

“Iran and its proxy forces are establishing an unbroken corridor – dubbed a “land bridge” by Western analysts – from Tehran to the Mediterranean. The land bridge has the potential to accelerate sharply the shipment of weapons to southern Lebanon and the Golan front in Syria.

The greater the strength of Iran and Hezbollah along Israel’s northern border, the greater the risk of escalation, leading to a regional war that directly threatens U.S. allies and U.S. interests across the Middle East.”

3) The ‘Point of No Return’ blog reports on a debate held this week in the UK parliament.

“For the first time, the issue of Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa was debated in the UK Parliament. The hour-long debate in Westminster Hall, secured by MP Theresa Villiers, obtained unanimous approval by all parliamentarians present for Jewish refugees from the MENA to be ‘considered’ by the House. […]

However,  in reply to questions from MPs Zac Goldsmith and Matthew Offord,  junior minister for the Middle East Dr Andrew Murrison refused to commit the UK government to following the lead of the US Congress and the Canadian Parliament: both had passed a resolution calling for explicit recognition  for Jewish refugees.”

4) At the JCPA, Amb Alan Baker discusses the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to attend next week’s economic workshop in Bahrain.

“The wide range of Palestinian commitments throughout the peace process documentation points to a clear obligation on the part of the Palestinian leadership to advance, encourage, support, and participate in all projects and initiatives aimed at furthering economic cooperation, for the sake of the stability and prosperity of the Palestinian public.

By boycotting the Manama Peace to Prosperity meeting and by conducting a concerted political campaign to misrepresent and undermine it, the Palestinian leadership is irresponsibly undermining its basic responsibilities to seek to improve the welfare and prosperity of its people through good governance.”

 

Hizballah London explosives story not newsworthy for the BBC

Three days have passed since the Telegraph published its investigation into Hizballah activity in London four years ago.

“Terrorists linked to Iran were caught stockpiling tonnes of explosive materials on the outskirts of London in a secret British bomb factory, The Telegraph can reveal.

Radicals linked to Hizbollah, the Lebanese militant group, stashed thousands of disposable ice packs containing ammonium nitrate – a common ingredient in homemade bombs.

The plot was uncovered by MI5 and the Metropolitan Police in the autumn of 2015, just months after the UK signed up to the Iran nuclear deal.”

The Times of Israel adds:

“Acting on a tip from a foreign intelligence agency, MI5 and the Metropolitan Police raided four properties in North West London, discovering thousands of disposable ice packs containing ammonium nitrate, the Telegraph said.

A man in his forties was arrested on suspicion of plotting terrorism, but was eventually released without charges. […]

Sources told the Telegraph that the UK plot was at a very early stage and no targets had been selected. It said UK intelligence used to opportunity to try and establish what Hezbollah was up to and so did not disrupt it immediately.”

The Telegraph’s report has raised additional issues in the UK:

“The story has led to questions as to why details of the raid were kept secret, why Members of Parliament were not informed and why the incident was never mentioned during extensive debates about whether all of Hezbollah should be banned as a terrorist organisation.”

Not least for those reasons, one would of course have thought that the UK’s national broadcaster would have reported this story. However three days on, the most recent entry under the ‘Hezbollah’ tag on the BBC News website is dated February 27th.

No coverage of the story has been seen on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page or on its ‘London’ page.

Notably, this would not be the first time that the BBC has ignored such a Hizballah related story.

Related Articles:

BBC remains silent on Hizballah terrorism in Europe

Man described by BBC as ‘a businessman’ gets terror designation

BBC still describing Hizballah as “militants” after Bulgarian announcement

Whitewashing Hizballah on BBC Radio 4

Usual mantras in BBC News report on Hizballah designation

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Writing at Tablet Magazine, Tony Badran explains why “Hezbollah Isn’t Broke. So Why Is Everyone Claiming Otherwise?”.

“Terrorist groups like Hezbollah are withering on the vine as Iran sanctions take effect,” Sen. Tom Cotton tweeted last week, voicing what has now become a consensus in Washington. […]

But this conventional wisdom is wrong. Hezbollah is nowhere close to being broke.

Such a result would indeed be remarkable, if true, considering that many of the administration’s new sanctions meant to hurt Hezbollah’s patron, Iran, have only been in effect for a few months, and not all have been fully applied. Without question, the maximum pressure campaign is the right policy. And there is no doubt that the administration’s economic squeeze is inflicting serious pain on Tehran, though more pressure can and should be applied. But none of this means that Hezbollah is “withering” or close to it. That assessment has been concocted by U.S. officials who latched onto isolated comments by Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, and other flimsy evidence, which they are using to reach rash and unfounded conclusions about the organization’s financial state.”

2) At the JCPA Pinchas Inbari takes a look at “The Fate of Palestinian Refugees in Syria and Lebanon”.

“As soon as the bitter fate of the Yarmouk camp became known there was a secret European initiative to transfer the refugees from the camp to the abandoned site of Aqbat Jaber in Palestinian-controlled Jericho. Mahmoud Abbas rejected the initiative, however, insisting that the right of return does not apply to territories in the Palestinian Authority but to Israel. In private conversations, senior Palestinian officials said that the Palestinian Authority does not want the refugees from Yarmouk within its boundaries because they support Hamas. […]

Ramallah’s apathy was the outcome of the PLO’s position as representative of the refugees. Ad hoc groups were formed to handle the Palestinian disaster, without any connection to the PLO, and some of them were even hostile to it, such as the “Action Group for the Palestinians of Syria.” […]

Hamas saw the vacuum in leadership and gave its support to the Palestinian refugee organizations in Europe. Hamas is currently involved in building a new PLO, and providing patronage for the refugees abandoned by Ramallah may be an important foundation stone in this process.”

3) The ITIC documents last week’s al Quds day events around the world.

“Every year, Global Jerusalem Day events are held in Iran, the Arab states and the West. This year, in Iran hundreds of thousands of people participated in the events, which were also attended by senior figures in the Iranian regime. In the Arab world prominent events were held in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and Yemen. In South East Asia events were held in India and Pakistan, and in the West in Germany, Britain, Austria and Canada. Inspired by Iran, Global Jerusalem Day events had as their theme rejection of the “deal of the century,” calling for practical measures to be taken to ensure its failure. Also prominent were threats against the United States, Israel, and American allies in the Arab-Muslim world (especially Saudi Arabia).”

4) At the INSS, Oded Eran and Shimon Stein discuss “Israel and the New European Parliament”.

“While the results of the recent European Parliament elections indicate a weakening of parties that for years have directed the course of the European Union, they also show relatively high support for a strong organization that wields power and influence. That suggests that no significant change should be expected in EU policy, including in matters of foreign affairs and security. In the Israeli context – and specifically regarding the Iranian nuclear issue and the anticipated Trump administration plan on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – this means that the roots of the disputes between Israel and the EU will remain. Even if the EU is not expected to reduce its ties with Israel, given the respective political situations prevailing in the European Union and Israel, no deepening or expansion of ties should be expected.”

 

Another BBC antisemitism backgrounder promotes Livingstone Formulation

On the day that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced that it had launched a formal investigation into the UK Labour party in order to determine whether it has “unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish” the BBC News website published a backgrounder titled “A guide to Labour Party anti-Semitism claims” on its ‘UK Politics’ page.

“The internal Labour row over anti-Semitism has dragged on for nearly three years. Here’s a guide to what’s been going on.”

The opening section of that May 28th article, headed “What is anti-Semitism?”, quotes the Oxford English Dictionary rather than the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism adopted by the UK government, the Scottish and Welsh governments, 120 municipalities in the UK and the country’s three main political parties, among others.

“Anti-Semitism is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “hostility and prejudice directed against Jewish people”. […]

Modern-day anti-Semitism can take many forms, including, but not limited to, conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the global financial system and the media, to attacks on synagogues, verbal abuse or hate speech and abusive memes on social media.”

The first mention of the IHRA working definition comes (together with a link) in section eight of the article – headed “Definition Row” – thirty-six paragraphs later.

In section two of the article – “Why is Labour rowing about it?” – readers find euphemistic, and hence unhelpful, descriptions of two terrorist organisations.

“Jeremy Corbyn has a more internationalist outlook than recent Labour leaders – he comes from a left-wing tradition of campaigning against Western imperialism and aggression.

He is a longstanding member of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and has been accused by opponents of being too close to Hamas, a militant Islamist group, and Hezbollah, a Lebanese paramilitary group.”

Readers are told that:

“Some of Mr Corbyn’s supporters, however, say the problem has been exaggerated and is being used as a stick to beat the Labour leader by people who don’t like him or his brand of socialism.”

They are not told that such claims are baseless and the article goes on to imply that the issue of antisemitism is somehow linked to “the rights of Palestinians”.

“And some of those who joined the party to vote for Mr Corbyn as leader in 2015 share his passionate belief in the rights of Palestinians to their own state and are vocal critics of Israel.”

Section three of the article is headed “Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism”.

“Debates about claims of anti-Semitism in Labour often involve Israel and another term, anti-Zionism.”

The BBC fails to give a proper definition of Zionism and refrained from clarifying that negation of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination is antisemitism.

“Zionism refers to the movement to create a Jewish state in the Middle East, roughly corresponding to the historical land of Israel, and thus support for the modern state of Israel.”

Readers then saw the latest example of BBC promotion of the Livingstone Formulation.

“Some say “Zionist” can be used as a coded attack on Jewish people, while others say the Israeli government and its supporters are deliberately confusing anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism to avoid criticism.”

Immediately after that paragraph readers are provided with a link billed “Read more about the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism” which leads to a highly problematic and uncredited BBC backgrounder produced in late April 2016. As was noted here when that backgrounder was first published:

“…the article focuses on promoting the inaccurate and misleading notion that anti-Zionism is the same thing as expressing criticism of the policies and actions of the Israeli government. […] To make matters even worse, the article amplifies the ‘Zionism is racism’ canard and the ‘apartheid’ fabrication…”

That backgrounder also gives heavy promotion to the Livingstone Formulation, the purpose of which was described by the person who named it, David Hirsch, as follows:

“the use of the Livingstone Formulation is intended to make sure that the raising of the issue of anti-Semitism, when related to ‘criticism of Israel,’ remains or becomes a commonsense indicator of ‘Zionist’ bad faith and a faux pas in polite antiracist company.”

Lesley Klaff describes it as:

“…the practice of responding to claims of contemporary antisemitism by alleging that those making the claim are only doing so to prevent Israel from being criticised; in other words, they are ‘playing the antisemitism card.’” 

The BBC has been promoting that device for over three years – for example:

Mainstreaming the Livingstone Formulation on BBC Radio 4

BBC promotes the Livingstone formulation – again

More promotion of the Livingstone Formulation from BBC News

BBC News ‘explanation’ of antisemitism promotes the Livingstone Formulation

Reviewing BBC Radio 4 coverage of Corbyn wreath laying story – part two

BBC R4 report on antisemitism in the US uses the Livingstone Formulation

Over the years we have documented here the BBC’s pretty gloomy record on preventing, identifying – and correcting – antisemitic discourse in its own content. One reason for that is that the BBC itself does not work according to an accepted definition of antisemitism. But despite its dismal record and the plethora of evidence illustrating that the BBC does not have the authority or the expertise – let alone the remit – to define antisemitism, it continues to produce unattributed backgrounders purporting to inform its audiences on that issue.

The recurring unquestioning amplification of the Livingstone Formulation – a device used exclusively by anti-Israel activists – in those backgrounders and in other BBC content obviously raises serious concerns about the BBC’s ability – and willingness – to inform audiences on this issue accurately and impartially.

Related Articles:

BBC News tries – and fails – to explain antisemitism and anti-Zionism

BBC article on antisemitism report recycles problematic backgrounder

 

 

 

 

BBC News framing of Iranian activity in Syria continues

As documented here at the time, earlier this month the BBC chose to ignore the release of information concerning Hizballah operations in the Syrian Golan Heights.

BBC ignores revelation of Hizballah’s Golan network

Not only have BBC audiences been given very little factual information about the efforts of Iran and its proxies to establish a foothold in south-west Syria in recent years but the BBC has on repeated occasions even steered them towards the view that Iran’s military build-up in Syria is primarily a claim touted by Israel.

That framing was again promoted by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent Barabara Plett Usher in several recent reports concerning US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

In an article titled “Trump: Time to recognise Golan Heights as Israeli territory” that appeared on the BBC News website on March 21st, readers saw superfluous scare quotes attached to the phrase military entrenchment.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who has warned about the “military entrenchment” of his country’s arch-enemy Iran in Syria and has ordered air strikes in an attempt to thwart it…”

Subsequent analysis from Plett Usher suggested to readers that the subject of the Iranian build-up of force in Syria is not only open to debate but a tactic used by Israel to advance its interests. [emphasis in bold added]

“Israel has gained traction in the White House and parts of Congress by arguing that Iran is using Syria as a base from which to target Israel, with the Golan Heights as the front line.”

The same ‘analysis’ from Plett Usher appeared in a report published on March 22nd under the title “Golan Heights: Syria condemns Donald Trump’s remarks”.

“Israel has gained traction in the White House and parts of Congress by arguing that Iran is using Syria as a base from which to target Israel, with the Golan Heights as the front line.”

In an article titled “Trumplomacy on Golan Heights: What it all means” which first appeared on March 22nd and was then posted in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on March 25th as well as promoted in a report titled “Golan Heights: Trump signs order recognising occupied area as Israeli” published on the same day, Plett Usher wrote:

 “…Mr Trump said he made the decision for strategic and security reasons, by which he means Iran.

His administration is convinced Iran is using Syria as a base to target Israel, and the Golan Heights are the front line.”

In the March 22nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ (from 12:17 here) listeners heard Plett Usher claim that:

“Mr Netanyahu had stepped up lobbying for such a move since Mr Trump took office. He’s gained traction by arguing that Iran is using Syria as a base from which to target Israel and the Golan Heights is the front line.”

The week before she produced those reports Barbara Plett Usher had been at a press briefing given by the US Secretary of State and had asked a question concerning the Golan Heights.

“MR PALLADINO: Let’s go to BBC, Barbara.

QUESTION: […] And then secondly, if I could on Golan, the human rights ambassador said on Wednesday that removing the word “occupation” or “occupied” from the Golan and the West Bank was not a policy change, but we know that Israel is afraid of Iran and Hizballah threatening Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan, so in your view, does that strengthen the Israeli case for annexing the occupied bit?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So I don’t have anything to add about the change in language that we used. It was characterized properly. There is a real risk. The proxies that are in the region, in southern Syria and in the vicinity of the Golan Heights, are presenting risk to the Israelis, and we’ve made clear the Israelis have a right to defend themselves.”

Not only did Plett Usher herself sound significantly less sceptical about “Iran and Hizballah threatening Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan” in that question but she got a very clear answer from the US Secretary of State.

Nevertheless, in her reports to BBC audiences Plett Usher’s framing includes promotion of the notion that there is room for doubt with regard to the actions and intentions of Iran and its proxies in Syria.

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