Weekend long read

1) At the Gatestone Institute Khaled Abu Toameh discusses “The Hamas Plan to Take the West Bank“.

“It is clear by now that Hamas is behind some of the recent terror attacks against Israelis in the West Bank. These attacks serve the interests of Hamas and its friends and sponsors, especially the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization – and Iran.

Hamas and its allies have a plan, and they are not even keeping it a secret – to export their “armed struggle” against Israel beyond the Gaza Strip and ultimately to take control of the West Bank. […]

This stance by Hamas points at two important factors; first, that Hamas and its allies are openly working and encouraging the eruption of a new anti-Israel uprising in the West Bank; and, second, that Hamas and its friends have been emboldened by the recent failure of the UN General Assembly to adopt a US-sponsored resolution condemning Hamas and other Palestinian groups for firing rockets at Israel and inciting violence.”

2) The JCPA’s Yoni Ben Menachem takes a look at recent counter-terrorism operations.

“In a joint operation with Israel’s counter-terrorism unit, the Israel Security Agency (ISA) achieved a major coup on December 12, 2018, when it managed to eliminate terrorist Ashraf Naalwa, who was in hiding at the Askar refugee camp near Nablus.

According to security sources, the terrorist was armed with a Carlo submachine gun, and he planned to carry out another terror attack. He was killed at the time of his arrest. Palestinian security elements on the scene arrested another three brothers from the Bushkar family, who sheltered him in their home. […]

Hamas took him under its wing and called upon the residents of the West Bank to help him hide. Hamas claimed that he was “a symbol of the resistance” who managed to defy the Israelis, and posted pictures of him and made appeals on social media networks to emulate his actions.”

3) At the INSS Yoram Schweitzer and Ofek Riemer analyse Operation Northern Shield.

“On December 4, 2018, the IDF launched Operation Northern Shield to destroy Hezbollah’s cross-border tunnels between Israel and Lebanon. Israel announced with much fanfare the existence of the tunnels and the operation to destroy them, following intelligence surveillance of a number of years. The operation is underway via a well thought-out plan that combines intelligence exposure, engineering-based targeted action, and cognitive and diplomatic activity, all of which demonstrate clearly to Lebanon in general and Hezbollah in particular the aims and scope of the operation. The goal is both to minimize the risk of misunderstanding Israeli measures and to mobilize international support for the operation. The decision regarding the timing of the operation was based on operational, technological, and intelligence considerations relating to when the tunnels stood to become operationally viable, as well as Israeli domestic political considerations.”

4) Writing at the Tablet, Tony Badran takes a wider look at the backdrop to that operation.

“Strategically, though, the tunnels are the lesser part of the threat that is being posed to Israel by Iran and its proxies. The more pressing element is Hezbollah’s missile capability. Specifically, with Iranian assistance, Hezbollah has embarked on what Israeli officials refer to as the “missile precision project”—an effort to upgrade its large arsenal of rockets with guidance systems, increasing their accuracy, and thereby changing the severity of the threat they pose.

Iran and Hezbollah have been developing and deploying their guided missile project both in Lebanon and Syria, where, over the past seven years, the Iranians and Hezbollah have increased their military deployment and entrenchment. Iranian-led and Hezbollah forces and infrastructure are now positioned throughout Syria, in key strategic areas including along the Lebanese-Syrian and Iraqi-Syrian borders, as well as in southern Syria, near the border with Israel. It is clear that the combined threat of Iran’s positioning on Israel’s northern borders with Lebanon and Syria—as well as Gaza—is a strategic one. Just look at a map.”

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Superficial BBC News report on UN General Assembly votes

On December 7th a report about events at the previous day’s session at the UN General Assembly was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Vote condemning Hamas for firing rockets into Israel fails at UN“.

As noted here previously, had it been passed that US drafted resolution would have marked the UNGA’s first ever condemnation of missile attacks against Israeli civilians by Hamas and other Gaza Strip based terror groups.

The words ‘civilians’ and ‘civilian’ appear five times in the text of that draft resolution – twice in relation to the effects of Hamas’ policies on the population of the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, the BBC’s portrayal of the draft resolution made no mention of the civilians who are the targets of the rockets fired “into Israel”.

“A US-sponsored resolution condemning militant group Hamas for firing rockets into Israel has failed to pass at the UN General Assembly.”

An equally whitewashed portrayal of the launching of military grade projectiles at civilian populations was found later on in the report.

“Last month saw a flare-up of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. Hundreds of rockets were fired into Israel, with Israeli aircraft hitting scores of militant targets in response.” [emphasis added]

Readers were told that:

“The resolution won a majority of 87 to 57, with 33 abstentions, but did not reach the required two-thirds backing.”

And:

“A vote to require a two-thirds majority was narrowly backed by 75 to 72, with 26 abstentions.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said the resolution had been hijacked by this procedural decision.”

BBC audiences were not however informed that the request for a vote to apply the two‑thirds majority rule – described by one experienced commentator as “a rarely used rule of procedure” – came from “Kuwait, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group”.

While readers were told nothing of the intense campaign which Hamas had conducted before the vote or of the involvement of the PLO and Palestinian Authority in trying to defeat the draft resolution, they were informed of post-vote comments from a Hamas spokesman and an Iranian representative. The PA president’s reaction, however, went unreported by the BBC.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also welcomed the result, despite being engaged in a bitter intra-Palestinian rivalry with Hamas over control of Gaza. “The presidency thanked all the states that voted against the American draft resolution, affirming that it will not allow for the condemnation of the Palestinian national struggle,” a statement from the PA’s Wafa mouthpiece read.”

Refraining from clarifying to readers that any electoral mandate secured by Hamas in elections nearly 13 years ago is no longer valid, the BBC’s report amplifies a view of a terror organisation responsible for the murders of hundreds of civilians as “legitimate”.

“Hamas, or its military wing, is designated as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US, EU, and UK, as well as other powers.

Its supporters see it as a legitimate resistance movement which came to power through elections, last held in 2006.”

The violent coup which brought the Gaza Strip under the control of Hamas is completely whitewashed from the BBC’s account: “…Hamas, the militant group that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007…” 

Clearly this BBC report fails to provide readers with the full background essential for complete understanding of why and how this proposed UNGA resolution condemning terrorism against a civilian population was scuppered. 

Related Articles:

BBC silent on upcoming UNGA vote

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the JCPA Dr Shimon Shapira discusses “Hizbullah’s Operational Plan to Invade the Galilee through Underground Tunnels“.

“One of the main lessons Hizbullah learned from the Second Lebanon War in 2006 was the necessity of changing the aims of its next war with Israel. The new goals included building up its defensive capabilities and developing methods of attack that would allow Hizbullah to fight the war within Israeli territory. Hizbullah’s military commander, Imad Mughniyeh, led this process of integrating these lessons. He asserted that during the next war, Hizbullah would invade the northern Israeli Galilee region and conquer it. Hizbullah set its sights on regions which have topographical superiority in comparison to Israel’s inferior topographical positions near the border.”

2) The ITIC sums up the first day and a half of ‘Operation Northern Shield’, including Lebanese reactions.

“According to the IDF spokesman, since 2014 a joint military intelligence-Northern Command team has been dealing with the intelligence, technological and operational aspects of the issue of the tunnels. Large IDF forces are participating in the operation to remove the threat of Hezbollah tunnels on the norther border, which are a gross violation of Israeli sovereignty and UN resolutions, especially UN Security Council Resolution 1701. The IDF has reinforced its forces in the north and is on high alert. The IDF spokesman in Arabic warned Hezbollah and the Lebanese army not to approach the attack tunnels being dealt with by the IDF.”

3) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at the situation in south-west Syria.

“Evidence is also emerging of the presence of Hizballah personnel and other pro-Iranian Shia militiamen in Syrian Arab Army uniforms among the regime forces returning to the border area with the Golan Heights. This is despite the nominal Russian commitment to keep such elements at least 85 kilometers from the border.  This Iranian activity close to the border goes hand in hand with Teheran’s activity further afield, including the transfer of Shias from southern Iraq to deserted Sunni neighborhoods.”

4) The CST has published its report on Antisemitic Discourse in Britain in 2017.

“Antisemitism played an unusually prominent role in British public life in 2017, both in the expression of antisemitic attitudes and in the discussion of antisemitism as an important part of national politics and media debate.

Explicit hostility to Jews is still rarely expressed in public life without condemnation, but the expression and transmission of antisemitic attitudes about “Zionists” or Israel, including conspiracy theories and the abuse of Holocaust memory, are more common, and on occasion were even defended as a legitimate part of mainstream politics during 2017. Alternatively, the issue of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is sometimes inserted into unrelated discussions about antisemitism or other Jewish-related issues.”

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BBC silent on upcoming UNGA vote

This coming Thursday – December 6th – the UN General Assembly is set to vote on a US drafted resolution which, if passed, would mark the body’s first ever condemnation of missile attacks against Israeli civilians by Hamas and other Gaza Strip based terror groups.

“The UN General Assembly will vote Thursday on a US-drafted resolution that would condemn the Palestinian Hamas terror movement, a measure championed by US Ambassador Nikki Haley.

The United States won crucial backing from the European Union for the draft resolution that condemns the firing by Hamas of rockets into Israel and demands an end to the violence.”

Predictably, Hamas is not pleased with that draft resolution.

“Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh sent an open letter to United Nations General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa and to its member states late Wednesday, slamming a US-led push to condemn the Islamist terror group’s rocket fire at Israeli cities and calling it an effort to “delegitimize Palestinian resistance.” […]

“We in the Islamic Resistance Movement — Hamas are following up with great anger and condemnation the ongoing and miserable efforts by the United States of America, not only by adopting the Israeli narrative of the conflict, but also by providing all the necessary material and moral support for the Israeli occupation to continue its aggression against our people and deprive them of their basic rights of freedom, independence and self-determination, guaranteed by all international conventions and laws,” Haniyeh wrote in the letter.

Hamas, which is recognized by the US and the EU as a terror organization and which openly seeks Israel’s destruction, described the Israeli “occupation” in the letter as spanning “more than seven decades,” meaning since 1948.”

As the JCPA reports, the Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority has joined Hamas’ efforts to prevent the resolution from passing.

“Riyad Mansour, the PLO’s permanent observer to the United Nations, is working very hard to torpedo the U.S. draft resolution, claiming that it “is intended to cause harm to the entire Palestinian people.”

At the end of November 2018, Hussein al-Sheikh, a member of the Fatah Central Council, called upon UN member states to reject the U.S. draft resolution condemning Hamas, and he expressed his opposition to the wording of the resolution.

Abbas Zaki, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, has also been working against the draft resolution. On December 2, 2018, he stated that the U.S. draft resolution is a “racist draft” and the Palestinians would fight it in every way possible because it harms their struggle. […]

The Fatah movement, or the Palestinian Authority, is concerned that a precedent will be created if the UN General Assembly condemns the terror acts against Israel that Fatah refers to as “legitimate resistance” to the occupation. […]

A senior Fatah official stated that the unity displayed by Fatah and Hamas on this issue reflect the fact that Fatah reserves for itself the option of returning in the future to the “armed struggle” against Israel if there is no significant breakthrough in the deadlocked diplomatic process, and it will ally itself to Hamas through “resistance” (meaning terror).”

In addition to asking Arab League nations for their support, Hamas also turned to its Iranian patrons.

“Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke Monday with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh about the United States’ efforts to submit a resolution condemning the terror organization at the UN.

Zarif added that Iran would do everything in its power to prevent the resolution from going up to a vote.”

The last BBC report tagged ‘United Nations’ appeared on November 22nd. The corporation’s audiences are therefore unaware of the fact that the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and the PLO – headed by the supposedly ‘moderate’ Mahmoud Abbas – are actively trying to thwart condemnation of acts of terror against Israeli civilians at the United Nations.

Revisiting a BBC report on Israeli ‘accusation’ concerning Iran

Back in June the BBC News website reported that Israel had ‘blamed’ Iran for supporting the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting along the Gaza Strip-Israel border which was then in its third month.

“Israel has accused Iran of fuelling recent violence on the Gaza border that has seen more than 100 Palestinians killed amid protests against Israel. […]

In the leaflets dropped on Gaza Israel’s military repeated its warning to Palestinians to not go near the heavily-fortified border fence.

“For your own benefit, it is better that you not participate in the violent riots at the fence, not attempt to breach it, and not permit Hamas to turn you into a tool to advance its narrow agenda,” the message said.

“Behind this agenda is Shia Iran, which has made it its mission to inflame tensions in the region for the sake of its religious and sectarian interests.”

Iran is a major supporter of Hamas, which it backs financially and militarily. The two sides fell out after Hamas refused to support Iran’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in the civil war in Syria, but they have since reconciled.”

As was noted here at the time BBC audiences were not provided with any substantial background concerning Iran’s backing of terror groups in the Gaza Strip in order to enhance their understanding of the Israeli statement.

“As noted here in the past, the BBC has been remarkably coy about providing its funding public with information on Iran’s terror financing activities and audiences have seen little if any serious coverage of the topic of Iran’s renewed support for Hamas and its incentive payments to Palestinian terrorists. It is therefore hardly surprising that it has elected to portray Iran’s links to the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop as Israeli ‘allegations’.”

A conference was held in Tehran in late November.

“On November 24, the 32nd Islamic Unity Conference was held in Tehran with representatives of about 100 countries in attendance. The Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, declared during the conference’s opening speech that Israel is a “cancerous tumor” that was established in the region following World War II to serve the interests of the West. He asserted that even if Israel’s existence is removed, Muslims must preserve their unity. […]

The Head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, thanked Iran in a speech, broadcast via videoconference from the Gaza Strip, for standing by the Palestinians on the matter of Palestine and Jerusalem. He declared that Israel is the common enemy of the Muslim nation, and called to continue the struggle against it. He added that Gaza’s military and political victory over Israel would have great consequences for the Palestinians’ triumph in the conflict. Haniyeh stressed that Hamas will cooperate with any actor that helps it achieve the movement’s goals.”

In contrast to many other media outlets the BBC did not report on those offensive remarks from the Iranian president whom it has repeatedly promoted as a ‘moderate’, or on the widespread condemnation they received.

The ITIC also noted that:

“Hossein Sheikholeslam, an Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Secretary General of the Islamic Unity Conference held in Tehran, confirmed to the Hamas media outlet al-Risala (November 27) that the Conference decided to adopt the families of those killed in the fence protests. He added that this decision has been forwarded to the relevant authorities for implementation, which will occur shortly.”

The Times of Israel reported Hamas’ reaction to that statement.

“The Gaza-ruling Hamas on Tuesday thanked Iran for its financial “adoption” of the families of Palestinians killed and wounded during clashes it has been encouraging along the border with Israeli troops.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said his group “values” and “highly appreciates” Iran’s support, the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya broadcaster reported.

Barhoum’s statement comes after an adviser to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the Hamas-linked Al-Risalah that the decision to “adopt” the families was taken during the Islamic Unity Conference being held in Tehran.”

In addition the ITIC reported that:

“The organizers of the protests along the Gaza fence confirmed that Iran is financing the medical care of those injured in the protests and the compensation for the families of those killed there. Hussein Mansour, a member of the organizing committee of the protests, stated that is an important act by Iran as part of the support for the Palestinian people and the resistance. He called on the Arab world to act in the same vein and support the Palestinian people.”

Unsurprisingly, the BBC’s obligation to provide “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues” has not ensured that its funding public has received this highly relevant background to the events it has been describing as “protests” for over eight months.

Related Articles:

BBC News portrays Iranian links to Gaza riots as ‘allegation’

BBC News coverage of Iranian election touts ‘moderate’ Rouhani yet again

 

Weekend long read

1) The Kohelet Forum has published the second part of a report on “The Scope of European and Multinational Business in the Occupied Territories”.

“There are numerous territories around the world currently under belligerent occupation, where the occupying power has allowed or facilitated the movement of settlers into the occupied territory.
In all these cases, this is done over the vigorous objection of the occupied party and is at odds with its sovereignty or self-determination.
Among the most salient examples are Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara and Turkey’s of northern Cyprus. Both of these have seen massive government-backed settlement enterprises that dwarf anything in the West Bank. The majority of the population in these territories now consists of settlers, fundamentally undermining the possibility of self-determination or a political solution. There are also settlers in Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and the Occupied Ukrainian Territories. In all these cases, foreign companies actively support the various settlement enterprises. These activities include extracting natural resources from the territories, providing infrastructure support to the occupying power, and in general, making the settlement enterprises more economically viable.”

2) The ITIC reports on a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rally held in the PA controlled town of al Bireh.

“On November 10, 2018, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) held a rally to mark the anniversary of the founding of the organization and the death of its founder, Fathi Shqaqi. The rally was held in a large hall in al-Bireh where a recorded speech by Ziyad al-Nakhalah, the newly elected PIJ leader, was played. Al-Nakhalah stressed the importance of the armed struggle against Israel and called on the residents of the West Bank “to lead the armed resistance against Israel as they did in the [second] intifada in 2000” [during which the PIJ was one of the most prominent organizations in carrying out suicide bombing attacks].

Al-Bireh is next to Ramallah (and about 15 kilometers, or about nine miles, from Jerusalem). It is an important administrative center for the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Judea and Samaria, and some of the PA’s offices are located there. It can be assumed that al-Nakhalah’s speech could not have been given in al-Bireh without the authorization, or at least the prior knowledge, of the PA’s security services.”

3) MEMRI takes a look at reports concerning claims of efforts to change Syrian demography.

“Throughout the Syria war, websites opposed to the Assad regime have repeatedly claimed that this regime and its ally Iran were using the war to change Syria’s demography by expelling Sunni populations, deemed a potential threat to the regime, and bringing in Shi’ites, who are more likely to support it. According to these reports, the Assad regime and Iran use a variety of methods – including threats, siege and starving – to compel Sunnis to emigrate and then seize their property and replace them with elements loyal to the regime, including non-Syrians. President Assad outlined this policy in a July 2015 speech, saying, “The homeland does not belong to those who live there, nor to those who hold a passport or are citizens. The homeland belongs to those who protect and guard it.” In the recent months, several websites reported that the regime was naturalizing thousands and even millions of Shi’ites, members of Iranian and Iran-backed militias that are fighting alongside the Syrian army.”

4) On Universal Children’s Day PMW reviewed Palestinian Authority messaging to children.

“Today, November 20th, is known as Universal Children’s Day because it is the day the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) and the Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989). 

The PA joined the UN’s Convention of the Rights of the Child in 2014. […]

The PA and Fatah leadership is abusing Palestinian children by presenting terrorists as heroes, “Martyrs” as role models, and glorifying the murder of Jews and Israelis. Sports tournaments, names of schools, school books, cultural events, and even music videos glorify terrorist murderers and urge Palestinian youth to aspire to kill and be killed.” 

Weekend long read

1) At the Times of Israel David Horovitz tells the story of “The path of a piece of shrapnel: A minor story that made no headlines“.

“Late on Monday evening, at the height of the latest round of indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel by Hamas and other Islamist terror groups in neighboring Gaza, one rocket got through Israel’s remarkable Iron Dome missile defense system and landed directly on a house in the southern working-class town of Netivot. […]

It brought down the ceiling in one of the bedrooms, it smashed a large hole in an outside wall, it devastated the living room, it destroyed furniture, it injured the family dog, whose blood was still on the floor when the TV crew entered.

The story played prominently on Israeli TV news late Monday […], though it made little international impact, unsurprisingly, since mercifully nobody was killed.”

2) At the Jerusalem Post, Khaled Abu Toameh takes a look at the background to Hamas’ current preference for a ceasefire.

“For now, Hamas prefers to continue reaping the fruits of its “achievements” rather than engage in another major military confrontation with Israel.

These “achievements” include the delivery of the $15 million Qatari grant to the Strip last week. Hamas has been celebrating the Qatari move – which was approved by Israel – as a major win. It also sees the Qatari cash as a direct result of its weekly protests along the border with Israel, which began last March. Hamas leaders feel they have more to lose from a war with Israel, especially in the wake of ongoing efforts to ease the many restrictions in Gaza. […]

The monetary delivery was due to an agreement between Qatar and Israel to reach a long-term truce in the Strip and prevent another war. It was the first instalment of $90 million that the emirate has pledged to send in the next six months. Hamas does not want to risk losing the remainder of these funds.”

3) The Washington Institute provides a video and a transcript of a discussion with Ambassador Nathan Sales on the subject of Iranian terror sponsorship.

“Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Period. It has held that dubious distinction for many years now and shows no sign of relinquishing the title.

To the contrary, the regime in Tehran continues to provide hundreds of millions of dollars every year to terrorists across the world. It does this, despite ongoing economic turmoil that’s impoverishing many of its people. The beneficiaries of this misbegotten largesse range from Hezbollah in Lebanon, to Hamas in Gaza, to violent rejectionist groups in the West Bank, to the Houthis in Yemen, to hostile militias in Iraq and Syria.

Let me give you some numbers. This may sound hard to believe, but Iran provides Hezbollah alone some $700 million a year. It gives another $100 million to various Palestinian terrorist groups. When you throw in the money provided to other terrorists, the total comes close to one billion dollars.”

4) The ITIC has documented “Legitimization of Terrorism by Fatah and the Palestinian Authority: Glorification of the Murder of the Israeli Athletes at the Munich Olympic Games“.

“On September 5, 2018, the anniversary of the terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics was marked, in which 11 Israelis were murdered. The Fatah Movement, which carried out the terrorist attack, mentioned the anniversary of the event in posts posted on its official Facebook pages. These posts glorified the attack (“a high-quality military operation”) and praised its perpetrators. The terrorists who carried out the murder are referred to in the post of the Fatah Movement in Nablus as “the heroes of the Munich operation;” and in the post of the Fatah Movement in Bethlehem they are referred to as “heroes of the Fatah Movement, sons of Yasser [Arafat].” The portrayal of the terrorist attack in Munich is also expressed favorably in a Palestinian Authority history textbook, in which the murder is described as an act carried out by Fedayeen (who sacrifice their lives by carrying out a military operation) with the aim of “attacking Israeli interests abroad”.”

How did the BBC’s Yolande Knell frame Israeli visits to Gulf states?

Two very similar reports from BBC Jerusalem correspondent Yolande Knell have recently appeared on different platforms.

A written report titled “Israel-Arab ties warm up after long deep freeze” was published in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 6th with a synopsis telling BBC audiences that:

“An Israeli charm offensive is making once unlikely friends in the Arab world, worrying Palestinians.”

On the same day listeners to two editions of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ heard an audio report from Knell – from 08:37 here and from 14:07 here. In both cases it was introduced (by presenters Razia Iqbal and Rebecca Kesby) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original]

“Israel leaders often describe their country as being in a tough neighbourhood but recently there have been some extraordinary signs of friendliness with Arab states. Israel’s prime minister was in Oman, two of his ministers then went to the United Arab Emirates and today another is back in Muscat. And that’s despite the fact that Oman and the UAE – like most Arab countries – have no official diplomatic relations with Israel. The Palestinians are worried about what these new alliances – bound up in common fears about Iran’s regional ambitions and backed by the White House – will mean for their nationalist cause. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell reports.”

Knell’s framing of this story – which places the Palestinian reaction to events unrelated directly to them at the focus of her reports – is obviously noteworthy. Under the sub-heading “Palestinians wary” readers of the written report were told that:

“However, Palestinians are alarmed by the new alliances, developing as President Trump promises to present his “Deal of the Century” plan to end their conflict with Israel.

They fear his administration is looking to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others to pressure them into accepting a peace agreement that does not meet their long-standing demands.

“This kind of attempt to normalise Israel within the region, without Israel normalising its relationship with Palestine and remaining as an occupying power, is counterproductive and dangerous,” says Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) official.

She suggests the latest developments threaten the legitimacy of the Arab Peace Initiative – which the 22 members of the Arab League signed up to in 2002.

It offers Israel normal diplomatic relations with Arab states only in exchange for its full withdrawal from Arab lands it captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East War.”

Knell made no effort to explain to her readers why an initiative launched over 16 years ago has to this day made no progress or why they should take Hanan Ashrawi’s word that it is at all relevant.

Ashrawi was also featured in Knell’s audio report, but with no mention of her PLO position.

Knell: “Here in the occupied West Bank Palestinian leaders are alarmed by this regional shift taking place as President Trump promises to present his ‘deal of the century’ to end their conflict with Israel. They cut off ties with the US last year, saying it wasn’t an honest peace broker and they fear the White House is looking to its powerful Arab allies, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to pressure them into a peace agreement that falls well short of their long-standing demands. Hanan Ashrawi is a senior Palestinian official.”

Ashrawi: “I think this is part of an overall strategy by the Americans to try to get normalisation with the Arab world before Israel withdraws from the occupied territories: what we call the outside-in approach.”

Knell did not bother to inform listeners that under the terms of the Oslo Accords – signed by the body which Ashrawi represents – the issue of borders is supposed to be resolved in final status negotiations between the two parties.

Another aspect of Knell’s framing of this story is her promotion of a theory allegedly advanced by unidentified “analysts” which was portrayed in the written report as follows:

“Analysts suggest the pivotal role ascribed to Saudi Arabia in reviving the peace process has been thrown into doubt by the shocking murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

However, in another remarkable move, comments by Mr Netanyahu on Friday seemed to show tacit support for the powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who has been accused of having a role in Khashoggi’s death – something the kingdom has denied.

He said Mr Khashoggi’s killing was “horrendous” but should not be allowed to lead to upheaval in Saudi Arabia “because the larger problem is Iran.””

In the audio report listeners heard the following self-contradicting statements from Knell:

Knell: “But there’s been a set-back to the warming of Saudi and Israeli ties: the international outcry over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country’s consulate in Turkey. The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman – known as MBS – has had his reputation badly damaged by the scandal, although he denies involvement. Remarkably, one international leader giving him tacit support is Mr Netanyahu.” [emphasis added]

Recording Netanyahu: “What happened in the Istanbul consulate was horrendous and it should be duly dealt with. Yet at the same time I say that it’s very important for the stability of the world – of the region and of the world – that Saudi Arabia remain stable.”

Listeners were not informed that – despite Knell’s claim of “international outcry” – just one day before her report was aired, seventy-five country delegates to the UN Human Right Council had heaped praise on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

Another interesting aspect of Knell’s reporting is its downplaying of what some analysts see as the prime motivation behind improved relations between Israel and Gulf states. Readers of the written report found a tepid portrayal of Iranian regional actions and policies which, notably, whitewashed its financial support for Hamas from the picture.

“The main reason is a shared concern over Iran. Israel, like many Gulf Arab countries, worries about Iran’s ambitions and sees it as a destabilising force in the Middle East.

Tehran has been directly involved in conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and supports rebels fighting in Yemen and militant groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

In the audio report listeners were told that: [emphasis added]

Knell: “Meetings between Israeli and Gulf Arab officials have long taken place in secret but now they’re happening openly, despite a lack of progress on peace with the Palestinians. The main reason is the shared concern about Iran…”

Knell ended both her reports with more clear messaging to BBC audiences that a story concerning diplomatic relations between Israel and Gulf states is actually about Palestinians.

Written:

“All these signs of a regional shift are popular with ordinary Israelis and even Mr Netanyahu’s political rivals have praised his advances in the Gulf.

However, the Arab public – for whom the Palestinian issue remains very emotional – will be far harder to win over without a peace agreement.

So for now, Arab states are unlikely to fully embrace Israel. Instead we should expect more previously unthinkable invitations, gestures of recognition and warm handshakes.”

Audio:

“Such signs of new relations are very popular with ordinary Israelis although the Arab public – still very sensitive to the Palestinian issue – will be much harder to win over without a peace agreement.”

While BBC audiences obviously got a generous dose of PLO (and Hamas) messaging in both Knell’s reports, the question of how that contributes to their understanding of this story is clearly debatable.

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Weekend long read

1) At the JNS Yaakov Lappin takes a look at a story which long since dropped off the BBC’s radar – Egypt’s campaign against the ISIS branch in Sinai.

“With security threats to Israel from Iran and Hezbollah along the northern borders, and Hamas and other terror elements in the Gaza Strip to the south often receiving the lion’s share of public attention, the activities of the Islamic State-affiliated terror group state in the large Sinai Peninsula are often overlooked.

However, efforts by Egypt, along with quiet reported Israeli support, to crack down on the group appear to be making significant progress. Although a large-scale counter-terrorism operation has not eliminated the threat, it has greatly reduced it, a senior Israeli defense analyst told JNS.”

2) The ITIC provides a “Profile of Ziyad al-Nakhalah, the New Palestinian Islamic Jihad Leader“.

“On September 28, 2018, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) spokesman Da’ud Shehab announced the election of Ziyad al-Nakhalah as secretary general. Al-Nakhalah, the organization’s third leader, replaced Ramadan Abdallah Shalah, who has been in a coma for the past six months (following a series of strokes). The PIJ is Iran’s preferred proxy in the internal Palestinian arena. Ziyad al-Nakhalah, who has strong connections with Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force, plays a central role in foster and promoting the PIJ’s collaboration with Iran. Therefore it can be expected that under al-Nakhalah’s leadership the PIJ will continue to promote Iran’s interests in the Gaza Strip and in the internal Palestinian arena in general; and in return the PIJ will profit from generous Iranian financial and military support, which will help it preserve its status as the second most important terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip (after Hamas).”

3) At the INSS Gilead Sher and Mor Ben-Kalifa discuss the “Challenge to the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty“.

“One year prior to the automatic renewal of the annex to the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, King Abdullah announced that Jordan would not renew the special regime governing the areas of Naharayim and Zofar for another twenty-five years. Jordan, he said, will impose its sovereignty fully over these areas. The dire socio-economic and demographic situation in Jordan, coupled with the intensifying grass-roots protests throughout the Hashemite kingdom and the political deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, has heightened public pressure on King Abdullah to cancel the peace treaty, whether in part or in its entirety. Over the years, Israeli-Jordanian relations have weathered ups and downs, but the parties succeeded in overcoming even the most extreme crises. The profound common interests that Jordan and Israel have shared for decades may help in overcoming the current challenge – provided that the crisis is handled promptly through covert dialogue, far from the spotlight.”

4) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at “The Return of ISIS“.

“So IS as an organization has survived the successful US-led destruction of the quasi-state it created in 2014.  It has a leadership structure, money, fighters, weaponry and it is currently constructing a network of support in Sunni Arab areas of Iraq and Syria. These areas take in territory under the nominal control of the government of Iraq, the US-aligned Syrian Democratic Forces and the Assad regime.  Small scale attacks have already begun in some areas. The return of the Islamic State in the dimensions it reached in the summer of 2014 does not look likely or imminent.  But the prospects of an IS-led ongoing Sunni insurgency, with roots deep in the Sunni Arab outlying areas of Syria, Iraq and the border between them is an increasingly likely prospect.  The Caliphate may be in ruins.  But Islamic State is back.”

Weekend long read

1) At the FDD, the Institute for Science and International Security documents “New Information about the Parchin Site“.

“A great deal of on-the-ground information about Iran’s Parchin site has publicly emerged.  This site was involved prior to 2004 in high explosive testing related to the development of nuclear weapons.  The new information, mainly in the form of Iranian documents and photos, is from an archive seized by Israel in Tehran, a fact that was publicly revealed on April 30, 2018 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  He reported that this archive shows that in 2003 Iran was operating a nuclear weapons program, codenamed AMAD Plan, which aimed to build five nuclear weapons and prepare an underground nuclear test site, if a political decision was made to test. The Parchin site was a key part of that nuclear weapons research and development effort.”

2) Dr Shiraz Maher has published an essay titled “The primacy of praxis: clerical authority in the Syrian conflict”.

“A close look at the competing claims, actors, and movements for authority within the Syrian civil war reveals three distinct periods of political and religious influence: that of Syrian scholars, who were the first to inject religious language into the revolution; that of Salafi scholars predominantly from the Gulf; and lastly, that of jihadi organizations like ISIS and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, who were active on the ground.

This paper focuses on which figures relied on action—rather than theoretical abstraction—to establish legitimacy and authority on the ground in Syria. Tracing the conflict from the first clerical attempts to coordinate the Syrian opposition to the conflict’s regionalization, and, later, internationalization, this paper demonstrates that the words of actors on the ground are more likely than those of far-off figures—however popular—to resound effectively.”

3) At the JCPA, Yoni Ben Menachem takes a look at the background to a story first reported by the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh.

“On October 13, 2018, Sheikh Akhram a-Sabri, preacher of the al-Aqsa Mosque, issued a fatwa (ruling in Islamic law) stating that anyone who sells property in the Old City of Jerusalem to Jews no longer belongs to the Islamic religion.

“We will not accept his repentance, and he will not be buried in a Muslim cemetery,” Sabri declared. […]

On October 20, 2018, the Jerusalem police and the Israel Security Agency (ISA) apprehended Adnan Gheith, the PA’s Jerusalem governor, and Jihad al-Faqih, director of the PA’s intelligence office in east Jerusalem, both of whom are supporters of Gen. Majid Faraj. They were arrested on suspicion of abducting a Beit Hanina resident (whose name is known to the author), a known realtor dealing in land and property, whom they suspected of selling a property in the area of Herod’s Gate in the Old City.

The realtor is an Israeli citizen who also holds a U.S. passport.”

4) Also at the JCPA, Nadav Shragai discusses a Jordanian request.

“Jordan has asked Israel to allow it to build a fifth minaret on the Temple Mount, on the eastern wall of the Mount, facing the Mount of Olives. The Jordanian request is not new, and as far as it is known, at least at this stage, Israel does not intend to allow it. This issue has again been put on the public agenda, along with other matters relating to the ties between Jordan and Israel on the Temple Mount, in light of Jordan’s decision not to renew the lease agreement for land in Naharayim and the Arava, which Israeli farmers have been working for the past 25 years.”