Weekend long read

1) Palestinian Media Watch examines the Palestinian Authority’s payments to the perpetrators of the Sbarro terror attack which took place 17 years ago this week.

“The suicide bomber was Izz al-Din Al-Masri. His family has received $50,124 as a reward for his suicide bombing.

The terrorist who planned the attack and brought the bomber to Sbarro was Ahlam Tamimi. Tamimi was arrested in September 2001 and received 16 life sentences. In 2011, Tamimi was released as part of the deal to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from his Hamas captors. For her time in prison she has been rewarded by the PA with salary payments of at least $52,681.

The suicide belt was built by Hamas bomb- builder Abdallah Barghouti. Barghouti was arrested in May 2003, and received 67 life sentences – 15 of them for building the bomb used to murder the people in Sbarro. He has received salary payments from the PA of at least $191,526.”

2) At Tablet Magazine, Liel Leibovitz takes a look at the recent experiences of another member of the Tamimi clan.

“Last December, a 17-year-old Palestinian woman named Ahed Tamimi assaulted an IDF soldier and was arrested and sentenced to eight months in prison. She became an inspiration to many critics of Israel, and helped inspire several Democrats to write a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and ask that he take up the cause. “We encourage the State Department to stress the importance of ensuring proper treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli detention,” read the letter, “and address this matter in the Department’s next report on global human rights.”

How, then, are young Palestinians detained by Israel treated? Tamimi herself addressed this issue with an interview on Al-Jazeera celebrating her release.”

3) David Daoud reviews the background to the recent assassination of a Syrian scientist.

“A car bomb killed high-ranking Syrian regime scientist Dr. Aziz Esber on Saturday as he was leaving his home in Masyaf, in the countryside of Syria’s Hama Governorate. The explosion also claimed the life of Esber’s driver. In a statement broadcast on its Telegram channel, the “Abu Amara Special Operations Detachment” – a group affiliated with the Organization for the Liberation of al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front – claimed credit for the attack. The group alleged that, after a “surveillance operation,” it had succeeded “planting explosive device” on Esber’s car, and then detonating it and killing him. […]

A Syrian regime source described Esber as one of the regime’s “most import resources for Syrian military power,” and said he was “capable of developing various kinds of weapons, primarily missiles.” The source claimed that, at the time of his death, Esber had been working on upgrading the Syrian Army’s capabilities to help it achieve “parity with the [Israeli] enemy,” and restoring the capabilities it possessed prior to the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War. This dovetails with information t from Syrian opposition sources claiming that Sector IV was working on a project dubbed “Project 99,” focused on developing SCUD missiles in cooperation with North Korean scientists.” 

4) Matthew Levitt documents the history of Iranian terror and assassinations abroad.

“With the July arrest of an Iranian diplomat in Germany for his role in an alleged plot to bomb a rally of Iranian dissidents in Paris, U.S. officials have warned allies to be vigilant of Iranian terrorist plotting elsewhere. Indeed, there is ample precedent for such concern. For decades, Tehran has been dispatching operatives to Europe to carry out assassinations and other acts of terrorism. […]

Immediately following the founding of the Islamic Republic, the Iranian leadership embarked on an assassination campaign targeting individuals deemed to be working against the regime’s interests. Between 1979 and 1994, the CIA reported that Iran “murdered Iranian defectors and dissidents in West Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Turkey.” Overall, more than 60 individuals were targeted in assassination attempts. In many cases, Hezbollah members functioned as the logistics experts or gunmen in these plots.”

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BBC News ignores brewing Red Sea tensions

Back in late June we highlighted a report by the INSS on the topic of the Red Sea.

“Although the threat posed by pirates in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait has declined in recent years as a result of international action, a new threat to freedom of navigation has emerged there due to the war in Yemen, which assumed a distinctively regional character with the onset of the Saudi campaign against the Houthis in 2015. The Iranian-supported Houthi rebels have mined areas along the coast of Yemen, used explosive boats and anti-ship missiles to attack primarily American and Saudi military maritime vessels, and on at least one occasion (in April 2018) struck a Saudi oil tanker. […]

The Red Sea arena possesses considerable economic importance. The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is 29 kilometers wide and constitutes a maritime chokepoint and strategic link between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean.  A significant volume of the world’s maritime traffic passes through the Strait, including a daily average of some five million barrels of oil. The Suez Canal constitutes an important source of income for Egypt, as does the port of Aqaba for Jordan and the port of Jeddah for Saudi Arabia (its most important port). It is also the route of passage to the port of Eilat.”

On July 25th another attack on Saudi Arabian ships in the Bab el-Mandeb strait took place and Saudi Arabia subsequently temporarily halted oil exports via that route.

“Saudi Arabia said on Thursday it was suspending oil shipments through the Red Sea’s Bab al-Mandeb strait, one of the world’s most important tanker routes, after Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis attacked two ships in the waterway. […]

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the Houthis attacked two Saudi oil tankers in the Red Sea on Wednesday, one of which sustained minimal damage.

“Saudi Arabia is temporarily halting all oil shipments through Bab al-Mandeb strait immediately until the situation becomes clearer and the maritime transit through Bab al-Mandeb is safe,” he said. […]

Saudi crude exports through Bab al-Mandeb are estimated at around 500,000-700,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to analysts and Reuters data. Most Gulf oil exports that transit the Suez Canal and SUMED Pipeline pass through the strait.”

Ha’aretz reported that the incident was “attracting a great deal of attention among intelligence organizations in the region and from the oil industry”.

“The tanker, the Arsan, was flying a Saudi flag and transporting some 2 million barrels of oil to Egypt. It was struck by missiles near the port of Hodeida in Yemen where Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been attacking the Houthis for the past few months. According to the Washington Institute the tankers were hit by a rocket fired from a fast-attack vessel or a ground-to-sea missile fired from Yemen, possibly a C-802, which Iran supplies to the rebels. The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack and the Saudis announced that they were suspending tanker shipments in the Red Sea until the situation was sorted out and marine traffic was safe again.”

Despite an extensive search on the BBC News website – including its Saudi Arabia and Yemen pages and its business section – we have not been able to find any BBC reporting whatsoever on that incident.

The following day – July 26th – the BBC News website published an article headlined “Iran general warns Trump war would ‘destroy all you possess’” in which readers were told that:

“An Iranian special forces commander has warned President Donald Trump if the US attacks Iran it “will destroy all that you possess”.

Major General Qassem Soleimani vowed that if Mr Trump started a war, the Islamic Republic would end it, Iranian news agency Tasnim reported.

It follows Mr Trump’s all-caps-lock tweet warning Iran’s president to “never, ever” threaten the US. […]

Maj Gen Soleimani – who leads the Quds Force of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards – was quoted on Thursday as saying: “As a soldier, it is my duty to respond to your threats. […]

“We are near you, where you can’t even imagine. Come. We are ready.

“If you begin the war, we will end the war. You know that this war will destroy all that you possess.”

The BBC did not inform its readers that Soleimani’s threats included – as reported by the Guardian and others – a specific mention of the Red Sea.

“The senior Iranian military commander Qassem Suleimani has hit back at Donald Trump’s tweeted threats against Tehran in colourful language, likening him to a gambler and a cabaret owner, and saying Iran would be the one to “end” any war between their two countries. […]

“The Red Sea which was secure is no longer secure for the presence of American [military] … The Quds force and I are your match. We don’t go to sleep at night before thinking about you,” added Suleimani, according to the Tasnim news agency. […]

Suleimani’s warning to the US about the Red Sea comes on the same day Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, suspended oil exports through the strategic shipping lane of Bab al-Mandeb due to missile attacks on two oil tankers by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels off the Yemen coast.”

Clearly any Iranian threats concerning the potential disruption of international shipping in the Red Sea are of considerable significance – and not only for countries in the region such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel

Moreover, MEMRI reports that:

“On August 6, 2018, the Iranian news agency Fars published statements by Gen. Naser Sha’bani, a top official of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), in which he noted that the regime of the Islamic Revolution had ordered the pro-Iran Ansar Allah (Houthi) militia in Yemen to attack two Saudi tankers, and that it had carried out those orders. […]

It should be emphasized that the quote about the order to attack the tankers was deleted from the Fars website after the statements were published. MEMRI has in its possession a copy of the original prior to the deletion.”

To date, however, the BBC’s funding public has seen no reporting whatsoever on this story.

 

Weekend long read

1) The Washington Institute for Near East Policy has published a compilation of lectures on “The Decline of the Islamic State”.

“The Islamic State had perpetrated egregious crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing from the time it stormed onto the world stage in 2014, but by 2016 the international anti-IS coalition was taking its toll on the terrorist group. As it lost territory, IS lost not only the ability to make money from natural resources but also its massive taxation (extortion) of the local population. As IS faced battlefield defeat at the hands of coalition forces, undermining the group’s self-declared territorial goal of “remaining and expanding,” attacks abroad took on greater significance as a way to remain relevant and demonstrate that the group could still inflict pain on its adversaries—but now in their home countries. A review of IS-related attacks in 2016 includes multiple attacks in Turkey, the Brussels bombings, and attacks and plots in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tunisia, United States, and Yemen.”

2) At the Times of Israel David Horovitz discusses “Hamas, the murderous neighbor that demands Israel give it the gun“.

“…Hamas has made life as hellish for Israel as it possibly can — firing thousands of rockets indiscriminately into Israel, digging attack tunnels under the border, killing and wounding soldiers at the border fence, carrying out suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism, and most recently flying arson devices — kites and balloons — across the border to burn our lands.

All the while, in its guiding charter and in the speeches and propaganda of its leaders, it’s told anybody who’ll listen that it is bent on destroying Israel, that the Jews have no right to be here — or anywhere else for that matter — and that, sooner or later, it will wipe us out.

It’s also been complaining to anyone who’ll listen about the blockade that Israel (and Egypt) impose on the territory it controls. If we don’t lift that blockade, it threatens, it’ll keep on attacking us.

If we do lift that blockade, it is patently obvious, Hamas will immediately bring in more of the weaponry it needs in order to pursue its declared goal of destroying us.” 

3) The JCPA reports on Hizballah’s ‘air force’.

“Unmanned drones (“RPAV” is the term today – Remotely Piloted Air Vehicle) are being used throughout the Middle East for surveillance, combat, targeting, platforms for bombs and missiles, and as “suicide” drones (in effect, cruise missiles). RPAVs’ endurance and range can reach many hours and hundreds of kilometers. Iranian-made drones are now flying in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Over the last decade, they have attempted to enter Israeli airspace from Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza.”

4) MEMRI takes a look at the record of an Egyptian cleric who visited the UK in July.

“During his visit to the U.K. this month for the first Emerging Peacemakers Forum, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, Sheikh of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s most prestigious institution, met with Queen Elizabeth II as well as with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at Windsor Castle, on July 12, 2018. Al-Tayyeb reportedly stayed at the archbishop’s Lambeth Palace, one of the forum’s venues, during his U.K. visit. […] During his visit, Al-Tayyeb also met with U.K. Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister of State at the Department for International Development the Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP.”

Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer asks “Is southern Syria heading for ‘Lebanonization’? “.

“First of all, it is important to understand the nature and dimensions of the Iranian project in Syria.  Iran’s deep alliance with Assad’s Syria goes back to the first days of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to Hafez Assad’s support or Teheran in the Iran-Iraq War.  Over the last seven years of civil war, however, the nature of the relationship has changed.  Iranian provision of manpower and organization of paramilitary forces has been essential to the regime’s survival.  Teheran has invested upwards of $30 billion in Syria.  The IRGC has established bodies within the formal structures of the Syrian state (the National Defence Forces), recruited young Syrians into locally based IRGC-associated paramilitary groups, (Quwaat al-Ridha, 313 battalion), and of course brought its paramilitary proxies onto Syrian soil, along with IRGC personnel.

This is a major, far-reaching process, resembling in its key particulars parallel projects in Lebanon and Iraq.  The intention is to establish political-military structures which will serve to enable the projection of Iranian power over the long term.  The Iranian expertise in this area is without parallel in the region.  As a result of this approach, Teheran now dominates Lebanon and has the upper hand in Iraq.  Assad’s Syria, which has an openly dictatorial system, is a different political context to these, of course.  But the evidence suggests that the Iranians are digging in to stay.”

2) The ITIC reports on this year’s Hamas summer camps – a topic that has received less than one minute of BBC coverage throughout the past three and a half years.

“On July 14, 2018, the central committee of Hamas’ summer camps in the Gaza Strip held a press conference to announce the opening of its summer camps. The theme this year is “I am returning to my homeland,” inspired by the “return marches.” Aspects of the marches have been integrated into camp activities, including launching balloons, throwing stones, collecting tires and glorifying the shaheeds killed during the “marches.” In addition, as they do every year, campers undergo military training, in ITIC assessment with Hamas instructors (disassembling and reassembling weapons, simulating the abduction of Israelis, rifle practice, etc.) Pictures from the camps indicate that most of the military training is held in the classrooms and schoolyards of schools in the Gaza Strip.”

3) Writing at the Guardian, Dr Dave Rich discusses the UK Labour party’s ‘antisemitism code’.

“This week the Labour party achieved something remarkable, even unique, in the history of British anti-racism. They managed to get 68 rabbis from every religious stream in the country – Orthodox, Liberal, Reform and Masorti – to form a coalition to denounce antisemitism. These are religious leaders who normally agree on very little, some of whom would not even acknowledge each other as rabbis. But on this issue, they came together as one. The problem for Labour is that they did it to condemn the party’s handling of its own antisemitism problem under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.”

4) For years the BBC has uncritically amplified Iranian messaging on the subject of that country’s nuclear programme. A report by David E. Sanger and Ronen Bergman at the New York Times discusses what the BBC described as “political theatre” back in May.

“Last week, at the invitation of the Israeli government, three reporters, including one from The New York Times, were shown key documents from the trove. Many confirmed what inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, in report after report, had suspected: Despite Iranian insistence that its program was for peaceful purposes, the country had worked in the past to systematically assemble everything it needed to produce atomic weapons.

“It’s quite good,” Robert Kelley, a nuclear engineer and former inspector for the agency, said in Vienna, after being shown some of the fruits of the document theft. “The papers show these guys were working on nuclear bombs.””

Weekend long read

1) The CST’s Dr Dave Rich discusses “The arrogance of Labour’s antisemitism definition“.

“…one-by-one Labour has abandoned the basic principles of anti-racism when it comes to dealing with antisemitism and Jews. Instead of allowing its Jewish MPs and its Jewish affiliate to define antisemitism and lead the fight against it, the Labour leadership insists on doing this for itself. Whereas anti-discrimination law focuses on detrimental outcomes, Labour insists on proof of “anti-Semitic intent”. Consultation with external Jewish leadership bodies ranges from perfunctory to non-existent.

As long as Labour continues with this course of action, its problem of antisemitism will keep getting worse – and Jewish disenchantment with the Party will become ever more entrenched.”

2) UN Watch has published a report titled “The United Nations and Antisemitism: 2008-2017 Report Card“.

“Anti-racism is the defining ideology of the United Nations and its human rights mechanisms. Yet all too often, as documented in this report’s comprehensive examination of the actions of key UN officials, agencies and experts over the past decade, it seems that the UN sees racism everywhere, and antisemitism nowhere. […]

UN plenaries like the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, which enact hundreds of resolutions a year, including on subjects related to racial and religious discrimination, failed to address the threat of antisemitism, other than in a few passing words included in general statements. Until 2010, both the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council adopted annual resolutions focused on the “defamation of Islam and Muslims,” mandating special reports, yet there was never one resolution to address anti-Jewish hatred and violence.”

3) The FDD has published a report concerning “The Escalation of Conflict between Israel and Iran in War-Torn Syria“.

“Until recently, Israel’s policy in Syria effectively was “Lebanon plus,” geared toward postponing a third Lebanon war by preventing Hezbollah’s acquisition of what Israeli officials call “game-changing” systems, transferred under the fog of war from Iran via Syria. Such systems in the hands of Hezbollah would prevent the Israeli air force or navy from operating with impunity. They are longer-range, more precise missiles capable not only of reaching anywhere in Israel, but also of threatening strategic facilities and installations. […]

More recently, the Israeli approach has widened. The IDF has targeted weapons systems destined to remain in Syria – to be used by Iran or its proxies, in an attempt to establish a new hostile front on Israel’s borders.”

4) At the ITIC, Dr Raz Zimmt profiles “The Owj Arts and Media Organization“.

“The Arts and Media Owj Organization (literally: “climax”) is a non-governmental organization operating in Iran since the spring of 2011. The organization initiates, leads and promotes activity in the spheres of art and culture inspired by the values of the Islamic Revolution and in accordance with the official ideology of the Iranian regime. The Owj organization is tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the content distributed by it is used to promote radical worldviews reflective of the position of the Iranian regime and the revolutionary current in Iran. The productions of the organization reflect a critical position toward the nuclear policy adopted by President Rouhani, deep hostility toward the United States, Israel and recently Saudi Arabia as well. The anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist activism of the organization includes, among other facets, involvement in Holocaust denial and production of movies and television serials that reflect anti-Zionist and even anti-Semitic views.”

 

BBC News cuts out the infiltration part of Syrian drone infiltration incident

On the afternoon of July 11th a Syrian drone infiltrated Israeli airspace.

“A Patriot missile was fired at a Syrian drone that infiltrated 10 kilometers into Israel on Wednesday afternoon, prompting a rocket-alert siren to go off in several communities in the Golan Heights. The IDF intercepted the drone over the Kinneret [Sea of Galilee]. […]

The IDF said that they tailed the drone for 15 minutes after it entered Israel from Syria. […]

IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said that the drone was spotted before it entered the demilitarized buffer zone between the two countries.

“We spotted an unmanned aerial vehicle at around 3:20pm flying toward the buffer zone and we followed it. It was spotted before it crossed into the demilitarized zone,” he said.

“We carried out a number of activities to prevent friction and defense activities including calling four war planes and two combat helicopters and we prepared Patriot missile batteries. When we realized that there were optimal conditions, we intercepted the drone using one Patriot missile,” he continued.”

Several hours later, Israel responded with strikes on three Syrian military posts.

A BBC News website report titled “Syria war: Government attacks IS enclave in south-west” that was published some two and a half hours after the interception included a description of the incident in twenty-six words, none of which clarified that the drone had infiltrated 10 kms into Israel.

“On Wednesday, the Israeli military said it had launched a Patriot missile at a drone launched from Syria, setting off air defence sirens in Israeli communities.”

Readers were also told that:

“The Syrian army’s advance towards the occupied Golan Heights has also alarmed Israeli officials, who believe it may attempt to deploy soldiers along the frontier in defiance of a 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement that created a buffer zone patrolled by UN peacekeepers.”

The relevant fact that UNDOF forces redeployed to the Israeli side of the buffer zone four years ago and no longer carry out their designated mission with regard to Syrian forces was not clarified.

The article continued:

“Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy, has deployed hundreds of troops to Syria, ostensibly as advisers to the government. Thousands of Shia militiamen armed, trained and financed by Iran have also been battling rebels alongside the Syrian army.

Mr Netanyahu has vowed to stop what he considers Iranian “military entrenchment” in Syria and has ordered a number of air strikes on Iranian facilities.” [emphasis added]

BBC audiences were not informed that, according to pro-Assad sources, Hizballah is “helping to lead a Russian-backed offensive in southern Syria which has left over 250,000 people displaced” or that additional Iranian-handled Shia foreign militias are also taking part in that campaign. Neither were they told that last month Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) deputy commander Hossein Salami said

“Today an international Islamic army has been formed in Syria, and the voices of the Muslims are heard near the Golan… Orders are awaited, so that the custom of God vis-à-vis the eradication of the evil regime [Israel] will land and the life of this regime will be ended for good. The life of the Zionist regime was never in danger as it is now.” [emphasis added]

Apparently though the BBC is still quite happy for its audiences to go away with the impression that Iran’s military build-up in Syria is primarily an Israeli claim.   

Related Articles:

BBC News website map misleads on UNDOF

BBC inconsistency on Iran’s Syria build-up continues

What do BBC audiences know about the background to tensions in northern Israel?

BBC Radio 4’s peace process tango for one – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the first half of an edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Analysis‘ titled ‘The Middle East Conundrum’ provided listeners with a long list of Israeli prime ministers who failed to make peace – while deliberately ignoring the role played by the Palestinian leaders with whom such agreements were supposed to be made.

Having erased post-Oslo Palestinian terrorism and the planning of the second Intifada from audience view entirely and with no reference whatsoever to foreign funding of Hamas terror, presenter Edward Stourton likewise presented three rounds of conflict sparked by Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians as something that simply ‘erupted’.

Stourton: “There have been repeated eruptions of conflict between Israel and Gaza and those who try to mediate in the region have seen trust between the two sides steadily eroded by violence.”

He then introduced his next contributor – Gabrielle Rifkind – as someone who “has been involved in conflict resolution in the Middle East for two decades” but without clarifying (as required by BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality) the “particular viewpoint” of the organisation – formerly part of the Oxford Research Group – with which she is associated and without mentioning that her “Palestinian colleagues” included the PLO’s Husam Zomlot

Rifkind: “Well I think post-Oslo there was a moment of hope and even some of my Palestinian colleagues would say things like they threw olive branches to the Israelis. There was a belief that things could change and the two sides could live together. But since then there’ve been so many wars…ahm…three rounds of war in Gaza, we’ve had the Lebanon war.”

The Hizballah-initiated second Lebanon war of course had nothing to do with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and while conjuring up “olive branches”, Rifkind erased the post-Oslo terrorism in which hundreds of Israelis were murdered just as Stourton had previously done.

Stourton also managed to erase the 2008 peace offer made to the Palestinians by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert from his account before going on:

Stourton: “There was a flutter of hope that the peace process could be revived in the aftermath of Barak Obama’s arrival in the White House. In 2009, with an eye to Israel’s ever important American relationship, Benjamin Netanyahu – newly elected as prime minister for a second time – gave a conditional acceptance to the idea of a two-state solution.”

Stourton is of course referring to the Bar Ilan speech – which listeners then heard described thus:

Pfeffer: “It was very much a pragmatic rhetorical compromise made because he was dealing with the Obama administration which at the time was putting a lot of emphasis on trying to solve the Palestinian issue and therefore he had to make that concession. If you read those speeches then – the entire speeches – in the fine print you’ll find that he made so many conditions for the establishment of a Palestinian state as to render it almost impossible to ever exist.”

With no mention of the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to come to the negotiating table throughout most of the 2009-10 freeze on new construction in Judea & Samaria, Stourton’s portrayal continued:

Stourton: “The last real peace-making push came during Bara Obama’s second term when John Kerry was Secretary of State.”

Martin Indyk then told listeners that “neither Netanyahu nor Abu Mazen [Abbas] believed that the other was actually serious about making peace and neither of these leaders was being pressed by their publics to make peace because their publics didn’t believe in it.”

Listeners were not however told the real reasons for the collapse of that particular round of talks – including the announcement of Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ which is relevant to Stourton’s next statement.  

Stourton: “On the Palestinian side the stalemate has been attended by a collapse of confidence in the two-state solution and political chaos. The divisions between the Hamas hard-liners and Mahmoud Abbas’ once dominant Fatah movement have become more intractable than ever.”

Listeners heard Gabrielle Rifkind tell them that “the level of kind of tensions and rivalry there is very problematic” and that Palestinians have “lost faith in their leadership and so they’re no longer believing in the idea of a two-state solution” and “they talk about one state, a binational state”. She did not bother to inform BBC audiences of the relevant fact that Hamas – which garnered the majority of support from the Palestinian public last time elections were held in 2006 – has never pretended to support the two-state solution.

Stourton then introduced Dr Khalil Shikaki “director of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah” who told listeners that:

Shikaki: “Most Palestinians are highly pessimistic about the chances of creating a Palestinian State alongside the State of Israel. A lot of those who used to support the two-state solution have now shifted to supporting a one-state solution.”

Those interested in a rather less superficial view of Shikaki’s research can find it here.

Stourton: “What do they envisage?”

Shikaki: “Well to be honest we don’t know exactly what they envisage. […] they want a one-state whereby current Israeli Jews and Palestinians would have equal rights. The state itself would have no national or religious identity. [….] some believe in a bi-national state where the two groups would remain, would maintain their national identities…”

Stourton: “So the idea of a state that is both Jewish and democratic, which has been at the heart of the whole project of Israel, that doesn’t really survive either of those scenarios, does it?”

Shikaki: “No absolutely not.”

Stourton then turned to the subject of demography, claiming that “even if you take Gaza out of the equation, the population percentages in what might be described as a greater Israel present a real challenge – not least because the Palestinian population is growing faster.”

Dennis Ross next told listeners that “Israel and the West Bank….60% Jews to 40% Arabs” and went on:

Ross: “…I think that the issue of Israel becoming a bi-national Jewish-Arab state is one that is quite real. Most Israelis are not addressing it now because they’re looking at the region. They see how terrible the wars in the region are where there’s no limits, where civilians are fair game, where hospitals are a natural target and they say why should we take the risk, especially when we don’t see any opportunity. The danger with that is that it maintains this kind of drift towards a new reality which raises basic questions. Will this be one state with two peoples and if so, how are you going to manage that?”

Stourton: “One way of managing a bi-national state would be to relegate Palestinians to second class citizens without full rights which would sit uneasily with Israel’s proud claim to be a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. The alternative would be to accept that the State of Israel will no longer be a Jewish state.”

Listeners heard Yossi Beilin’s comments on that issue, including “in the Holocaust no country in the world was ready to absorb Jews including Palestine because it was under the British mandate. And the most important notion of a sovereign Jewish state is that it will allow Jews to immigrate to it without restrictions”.

Stourton: “On the Israeli side one party in Mr Netanyahu’s coalition government has put forward a radical solution of its own. Naftali Bennett – one of his ministers – has proposed what he calls the Israel stability initiative.”

A recording of Naftali Bennett speaking was heard before Stourton went on:

Stourton: “Under his plan Israel would hand over Gaza to the Egyptians unilaterally, annex most of the West Bank and allow the Palestinian Authority to run what remained with, however, Israel retaining control of security. Mr Bennett is opposed to any kind of Palestinian state.”

Stourton did not bother to clarify to listeners that what he described as “most of the West Bank” is actually Area C and that Bennett’s proposal is to offer “full Israeli citizenship to the 80,000 Palestinians living there”.

Stourton: “Mr Bennett is one of those we wanted to talk to for this programme but his office never responded to our request. On the Palestinian side the Hamas movement also has a radical vision. It has now expressed a willingness to accept the idea of a Palestinian state within those 1967 boundaries but it’s still, in the long term, committed to the liberation of all Palestine which would of course mean the end of Israel.”

After a recording of part of the US president’s announcement concerning the relocation of his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, Stourton continued:

Stourton: “President Trump has taken two steps which reduced the pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu. He moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, thus recognising the city – to which the Palestinians also make a claim – as Israel’s capital. And he pulled out of his predecessor’s nuclear deal with Iran: a step that’s been taken as an endorsement of the Netanyahu view that Palestinians can be relegated to a lower place in the diplomatic running order.”

Listeners were not told who exactly takes that view besides those making the statements they then heard supporting it.

Rifkind: “I think on the Israeli side, certainly among the leadership, it’s quite easy to keep your head in the sand. You can think you’re in quite a strong position. You just need to look at Netanyahu who’s very good friends with Putin and Trump and the relationships have never been better with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States and you can think well maybe we can just manage this conflict.”

Pfeffer: “Even the major Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Egypt seem of have got tired of even paying lip-service to the Palestinian cause. So yeah; he feels that his vision is winning.”

Stourton: “That means the stalemate and the violence associated with it are likely to continue.”

Once again the Iranian part of the story of shifts in the stances of Middle East states was erased from audience view.

With less than three minutes of the programme left, listeners next heard Dennis Ross make the most realistic and relevant comment in the entire discussion.

Ross:  “…I’ll tell you I don’t see – even if we could agree to a two-state outcome – I don’t know how you implement that because right now Hamas is in Gaza and I don’t see anybody moving Hamas out. The Israelis are not going to move them out. Egypt is not going to move them out. The Palestinian Authority is incapable of moving them out. And so even if you could agree to a two-state outcome – which is itself a leap at this point – you couldn’t implement it.”

Stourton: “In Israel that realism has led to a certain resignation and many Israelis now talk about managing the problem.”

Audiences then heard two negative views of that approach:

Beilin: “I hate this idea of managing conflicts”

Pfeffer: “Well you know it’s a dreadful phrase…”

Pfeffer went on to claim that “..there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight; certainly not with the current Israeli and with the current Palestinian leaderships” before Stourton returned to his context-free presentation of the violent rioting and terror attacks along the Gaza border:

Stourton: “So incidents like the shootings in Gaza become just something one has to accept according to that strategy.”

Pfeffer: “Yes, it’s the equivalent of a bad news day really.”

Stourton closed the programme by bringing up the topic of the Trump administration’s “new peace plan”:

Stourton: “Mr Trump is something of a hero in Israel. When America moved its embassy to Jerusalem his picture went up on posters all over the city. Among Palestinians hopes for a new Trump initiative are – to put it mildly – on the low side. According to Dr Shikaki’s data 90% of Palestinians believe no good can come from a Trump administration.”

As Stourton admitted early on, this programme did not even try to give audiences an objective and balanced view of the reasons why the ‘peace process’ has failed to make inroads after so many years and that editorial decision in itself is a topic for discussion. The quaint view that only Israel needs to have “a long-term strategy” because it is “a fully functioning state with military superiority” clearly deliberately ignores the very relevant fact that no such process can succeed without leaders on both sides being committed to its aims.

But even given the programme producers’ bizarre decision to present a one-sided narrative, crucial elements of the story were omitted. The history – which of course includes three full-scale wars initiated by Arab countries attempting – unsuccessfully – to eradicate the Jewish state – is highly relevant to audience understanding of the background to the conflict, as are decades of Palestinian terrorism that peaked when peace seemed to be on the horizon.

The Palestinian Authority’s ongoing incitement to violence, glorification of terrorism and payment of salaries to convicted terrorists is also a crucial part of the picture, as is Iranian funding of Palestinian terrorism. And no less relevant of course are the proposals put forward by Israeli prime minister Olmert and US president Clinton which the Palestinians refused.

While this Radio 4 portrayal presented Palestinians as being in favour of the two-state solution but turning to the one-state option out of disillusion, notably it failed to inform BBC audiences of the crucial context of the Palestinian Authority’s continued rejection of the demand to recognise Israel as the Jewish state – and thus bring an end to any future claims.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4’s peace process tango for one – part one

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC has produced an assessment of “Hamas’ new policy towards Israel“.

“On March 30, 2018, the period of three and half years (since Operation Protective Edge) of relative quiet along the Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip came to an end. That period was characterized mainly by a drastic reduction in the scope of rocket fire attacking Israel, unprecedented since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. […]

In ITIC assessment, Hamas’ policy of restraint was the result of a series of strategic considerations which had influenced the Hamas leadership over a long period of time. […]

In retrospect it appears that during the second half of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 the influence of those considerations on the Hamas leadership lessened: the deterrence Israel achieved in Operation Protective Edge continued to exist, but eroded over time (a process that occurred after other large operations in the Gaza Strip); Hamas’ motivation to gain time to construct a tunnel system penetrating into Israel weakened in the face of Israel’s operational and technological solutions; the difficult economic situation in the Gaza Strip, to which the PA sanctions contributed, created the need to find a direction for the Gazans to channel their rage and frustration. In addition, the attempts to effect an internal Palestinian reconciliation failed and the relations between Hamas and Egypt did not significantly improve. Apparently all of the above led Hamas to the conclusion that its post-Operation Protective Edge policy had exhausted itself and was increasingly less beneficial.”

2) At the INSS Yoel Guzansky and Oded Eran take a look at “The Red Sea: An Old-New Arena of Interest“.

“The Red Sea, and particularly its southern section surrounding the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, has in recent years become the site of competition and struggle among regional actors and superpowers alike. In addition to the states along the coast of the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa, the US, China, Turkey, and Iran – which is involved in the war in Yemen – have a presence there. Sub-state actors, such as the Islamic State organization, al-Shabaab in Somalia, the Houthi rebels, and al-Qaeda in Yemen, are also active in the region. In the meantime, there have been no disruptions to Israeli shipping and flight paths, which connect Israel to the Indian Ocean, the Far East, and Africa.”

3) At the JCPA Pinhas Inbari documents how “Erdogan’s Turkey Intensifies Involvement in Gaza and Jerusalem“.

“Turkey, under the charismatic leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is intervening in many places throughout the Middle East. In each locale, it takes care to unfurl the Turkish flag literally.

However, Turkey’s public involvement in Jerusalem appears to be more public and striking because Jerusalem is more important to Turkey than other places in the region.

Turkey has shown great interest in both Gaza and Jerusalem. It is interested in Gaza because Gaza is ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, Hamas, which Turkey wishes to bring under its wing, and it is interested in Jerusalem to facilitate the “saving of al-Aqsa.””

4) Matthew Brodsky explains why he supports the recent US decision to leave the UN Human Rights Council.

“Of course, it is easy to conclude that the problem with the clown car isn’t the car; it’s the clowns riding in it. Sure enough, the current clowns on the UNHRC don’t bode well for the protection of human rights. They include Qatar, Congo, Venezuela, China, Cuba, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Burundi. If that isn’t mind-bending enough, the UN’s forum for disarmament, which produced the treaty banning chemical weapons, is currently headed by none other than Syria. So it is possible to blame both the clowns and the cars that enable their behavior.”

 

 

BBC News report on Iran protests does not tell all

On June 25th a report titled “Iran economic protests shut Tehran’s Grand Bazaar” was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

“Traders at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar have taken part in a big protest against rising prices and the plummeting value of Iran’s currency, the rial.

Shops were shut and thousands of people took to the streets of the capital.

Riot police later fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators as they marched towards parliament.”

The article went on to explain that:

“Fears about the impact of the US sanctions that will start to be reinstated in August and possibly trigger the collapse of the nuclear deal has led to the rial falling to a record low against the dollar on the unofficial foreign exchange market.”

However, one aspect of those demonstrations in Tehran and additional locations did not receive any BBC coverage. MEMRI reports that:

“Footage posted on social media on June 25 showed protesters in various locations in Tehran marching and shouting slogans like “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon! I will give my life to Iran!” and “Death to the dictator.” In one demonstration, the protesters shouted “Our enemy is here! It is a lie that America is our enemy!””

The Times of Israel adds:

“Monday’s protests in Tehran began at the capital’s sprawling Grand Bazaar, which has long been a center of conservatism in Iranian politics and where the ayatollahs’ 1979 Islamic Revolution first gathered pace. Protesters there forced storekeepers to close down their shops Monday.

Videos posted to social media showed protesters chanting: “Death to Palestine,” “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon” and “Leave Syria and think of us.” Chants of “We don’t want the ayatollahs” and “Death to the dictator” were also heard at some rallies.

The demonstrations indicate widespread anger at the regime for spending billions of dollars on regional proxy wars and supporting terrorist groups, instead of investing it on the struggling economy at home.

In recent years, Iran has provided financial aid to Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Shiite militias in Iraq. Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Tehran has poured a reported $6 billion into propping up president Bashar Assad’s government.”

As regular readers know, the BBC serially avoids meaningful reporting on the topic of Iranian terror financing and so it is hardly surprising that those chants by Iranian protesters did not find their way into the corporation’s report.

 

 

Weekend long read

1) NGO Monitor has published a study of The Latin American BDS Network.

“Anti-Israel campaigns in Latin America, specifically in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico, have grown in recent years. For decades Latin American governments generally had strong ties with Israel, but this shifted during the 2000s when many governments demonstrated solidarity with Palestinians by recognizing a Palestinian state and condemning Israeli actions in Gaza. Still, countries such as Mexico and Argentina have substantial trade with Israel and have called for greater economic cooperation with the State. Furthermore, several of the Latin American countries that unilaterally recognized a Palestinian state chose to abstain in the UN vote on the US decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – demonstrating ties to Israel.

In contrast to the strong economic and diplomatic ties with Israel, many local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are active in promoting BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions), lawfare, and various other delegitimization campaigns against the State of Israel. These campaigns are often accompanied by demonizing and antisemitic rhetoric. These organizations appear to receive no government support and therefore rely on international BDS groups, as well as American, European, Israeli, and Palestinian NGOs for assistance in their campaigns.”

2) At the Fathom Journal Dr Simon Waldman discusses “the urgent need to rethink UNRWA”.

“Bureaucratic, badly managed, constantly overspending, UNRWA is almost always in a state of crisis and in the need of a bail out. And not only does it get one every year, but it receives its yearly lifeline without being obligated to restructure or reform. This is not to say that UNRWA does not do good work. It does plenty. Shelter, healthcare and education benefit millions not only in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but also in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. There’s also emergency relief, sanitation and psychological support for the 1948 Palestinian refugees (and to some extent 1967 refugees), and their descendants.

But here lies the problem. Instead of weaning refugees from dependency as was originally intended, over the course of decades Palestinians became reliant on UNRWA, whose operational definition of a ‘refugee’ includes the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the original refugees. In doing so, instead of encouraging the resettlement and rehabilitation of descendants of the original refugees, UNRWA, with the support of western nations, has perpetuated their misery.”

3) At the New York Times James Loeffler writes about “The Zionist Founders of the Human Rights Movement“.

“Starting in the early 1960s, even before the Six-Day War of 1967, the international human rights community began to parrot the Soviet and Arab propaganda lines about Israeli racism and Zionist fascism. When Jewish leaders raised the subject of anti-Semitism at the United Nations in the 1970s, they were answered with a horrible meme that went viral: “Zionism is Racism.” That same decade, Amnesty International broke with its longstanding policy of not sponsoring prisoners who use or endorse violence and took up the cause of Palestinian Fatah members.

Furthermore, a deeper, insidious logic is also at work for many human-rights organizations. They readily point to the Holocaust as history’s wake-up call that sparked the human rights movement. But they selectively ignore a key fact of that history: it was Zionist activists who gave us so many of the ideals and instruments of modern human rights. They fought for human rights out of their particular experience as Jews — which is the very thing that drove them to embrace Zionism.”

4) At the JCPA, Dr Dore Gold takes a look at relations between Russia and Iran against the Syria backdrop.

“Russia is not cutting its ties with Iran. But it is clearly cutting back Iran’s freedom of action in Syria. The idea that Russia would back Iran’s use of Syria as a platform for operations against Israel or Jordan is not tenable. Still, Russia would remain the primary supplier of Bashar Assad’s army in Syria as well as his strategic partner. Unquestionably, Iran would need to reassess its Middle Eastern strategy after Moscow’s pronouncements calling for it to leave Syria and not continue to be perceived as the force that put at risk all that Russia had achieved as a result of the Syrian civil war.”