Weekend long read

1) MEMRI provides a translation of an article appearing on a pro-Hizballah website.

“A February 9, 2018 article on the pro-Hizbullah Lebanese website Dahiya claims that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad recently rejected an Israeli demand, relayed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, to remove some 70,000 Iranian long-range missiles that Hizbullah has deployed throughout Syria and are aimed at Israel. The article claimed further that Syria and Hizbullah will wage a “joint missile campaign” against Israel, and that Iranian experts are ready to launch missiles at Israel from every part of Lebanon and Syria. According to the article, Assad has instructed his army to help Hizbullah construct and camouflage missile silos across the country; moreover, intense activity is underway to bring more Iranian missiles to Syria via Iraq, so that within a year Hizbullah will have 500,000 missiles in Syria, in addition to the ones it has already deployed in Lebanon.”

2) Writing at the JNS, Yaakov Lappin discusses Hizballah’s influence on the Lebanese military.

“For the United States, the LAF is a regional partner in the war against the Islamic State. It has received both U.S. funding and arms sales for that purpose.

According to Israeli military assessments, however, the LAF is increasingly coming under the sway of the Iranian-backed terror organization Hezbollah, which dominates Lebanon politically and militarily. […]

A recent visit to the Lebanese-Israeli border by a high-ranking Iranian official, Ebrahim Raisi, who is close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, offers an accurate illustration of who is in control of Lebanon. Raisi was given a tour by armed Hezbollah members, vowing during his visit that “soon, we will witness the liberation of Jerusalem.””

3) At the Asia Times, former UNHCR official Alexander Casella addresses the debate surrounding UNRWA.

“The creation of UNRWA 70 years ago corresponded to a real humanitarian need. However, inbuilt in the fulfillment of that need were two political considerations, the so-called “right of return” and the fact that Palestinian refugee status would be handed down from generation to generation. Both these notions were predicated on what was at the time the core of Arab policy as regards Palestine, namely the obliteration of the State of Israel.

Not only did this not happen but with the recognition of Israel by Jordan and Egypt and the de facto rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, what started off as a political expedient is today a major handicap, and the Palestinian refugee issue is one that both the Arab states and Israel could well do without.

While addressing it is a major political issue that continues to bedevil the Middle East, UNRWA, which started off as a solution, is now part of the problem. And, perversely, while it continues to discharge its assistance mandate, doing so has created among many of its wards as well as among several Arab governments a dependency, not to say a premium for inaction, of which Gaza is a prime example.”

4) Jonathan Spyer discusses the recent Russian sponsored Syrian peace conference.

“The Russians first of all failed even to bring the main protagonists of the war around the table.

The main, UN-recognised Syrian opposition formation, the Syrian Negotiation Commission, did not attend.  One senior member of the commission described the conference as a ‘meeting between the regime and the regime.’  An opposition website produced a picture of a beaming Syrian President Bashar Assad shaking hands with himself as a representation of the Sochi gathering. […]

The United States, France and Britain also did not attend the gathering, seeing it as a Russian attempt to circumvent the UN-sponsored process in order to bring about an outcome more favorable to the Assad regime.

Representatives of the Kurdish Federation of Northern Syria, which controls Syria east of the Euphrates, were not at the conference. The Syrian Kurdish leadership has sought to maintain working relations with Moscow, despite the Kurdish cooperation with the US in Syria.  But Moscow’s acquiescence to the current Turkish assault on the Kurdish Afrin canton in north west Syria has led to widespread anger among the Kurds.  Kurds belonging to rival factions also did not attend.”

 

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BBC WS ‘Weekend’ airs a confused report on Iranian drone story

Iran’s provision of weapons to Hizballah – sometimes via Syria – and Israeli efforts to prevent such transfers was common knowledge long before the civil war in Syria began in the spring of 2011.

In November 2009, for example, Israel intercepted the Francop which was carrying some 500 tons of weapons and ammunition.  

“According to the shipping documents, the cargo was originally loaded in Bandar Abbas, Iran, brought by another ship to the Egyptian port of Damietta, and then transloaded to the Francop, with an ultimate destination of Latakia, Syria. This destination was confirmed by Syria’s foreign minister, although he denied that the shipment included arms. […]

Following the preliminary search, the Israelis escorted the Francop to the port of Ashdod, where a complete search revealed the full extent of the arms shipment. Labels on the shipping containers and shipping documents, as well as markings on ammunition crates and the ammunition itself, established a clear link to various Iranian government organizations, including the Iranian state shipping line and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

In January 2010 – well over a year before the conflict in Syria broke out:

“…American intelligence services reported the transfer of 26 M-6002 missiles of Syrian manufacture to Hizbullah in Lebanon. These missiles, with a range of over 250 km., are intended to reinforce Hizbullah’s ability to strike at the Israeli home front if and when hostilities erupt. […]

Israeli and Western intelligence services have long been aware of Syrian and Iranian involvement in Hizbullah’s arms buildup. Damascus Airport has been identified as the transit point for airlifts of Iranian arms that were subsequently transferred to Hizbullah via the open Syrian-Lebanese border, under the supervision of the Syrian security services.”

Iran’s transfers of weapons to Hizballah – which of course breach more than one UN Security Council resolution, although the BBC regularly fails to inform audiences of that fact – did not cease after war broke out in Syria in March 2011. The BBC, however, has long depicted alleged Israeli efforts to thwart those transfers as being connected to the war in Syria and another example of that misleading portrayal was seen on February 10th in the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Weekend‘.

Listeners heard presenter Julian Worricker introduce the item (from 01:17 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Worricker: “We’ll also go live to Jerusalem fairly shortly in this half-hour in the light of the news that Israel is saying that one of its fighter jets has crashed after attacking Iranian targets in Syria, the pilots parachuting to safety in Israel.”

Worricker then turned to one of his studio guests – journalist Mary Dejevsky – citing her recent visit to Israel. Dejevsky described “the mood” in Israel as:

Dejevsky: “…a great feeling of security and success in terms of foreign policy that Israel had managed to stay aloof, mostly, from the war in Syria. But at the same time there was a kind of looming apprehension about the ever closer encroachment – as it was felt in Israel – of Iran and Iranian influence towards the Israeli border…”

She added:

Dejevsky: “…Israel has tried very hard to keep its intervention such as it has been – airstrikes on select convoys that they regard as coming from Iran and supplying Hizballah in Lebanon – that they’ve tried to keep those interventions as absolutely discreet as possible. And suddenly everything in a way has been blown open.”

Obviously the events that followed the incursion of an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace on the morning of February 10th – an incident which was notably absent from Worricker’s introduction – are not directly connected to previous alleged strikes by Israel against supplies of weapons to Hizballah.  Julian Worricker, however, went on to suggest to listeners that efforts to prevent Hizballah getting weapons are in fact connected to the war in Syria.

Worricker: “I was going to pick you up on your remark of “aloof, mostly”, just stressing the mostly because clearly strikes by Israel in Syria are not uncommon per se. You alluded to the particular targets they would always say that they are aiming for when they do it but clearly when a fighter plane comes down – even in Israeli territory – that clearly ups the ante.”

Later on in the same programme (from 11:49), Worricker spoke to the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem. After listeners had at last heard an accurate portrayal of the sequence of events that began with the infiltration of an Iranian UAV into Israeli airspace from Bateman, Worricker asked:

Worricker: “A word about Israeli action in Syria of this nature: how common has it been in recent times?”

Obviously airstrikes in response to a serious breach of Israel’s sovereignty by an Iranian UAV have not been “common” but Bateman’s response did not clarify that to listeners.

Bateman: “It is not uncommon and what Israel says is that it has two red lines for its engagement in Syria. They are cross-border fire that comes from Syria into the Golan Heights and what they describe as weapons transfers from Iranian forces to Hizballah – Lebanese militant fighters who are fighting inside Syria. They are the two triggers, if you like, that Israel says causes it to act inside Syrian territory – usually airstrikes – and they’re not uncommon. Israel rarely comments on them officially although a senior military figure said last year that the number was around a hundred of these attacks that have taken place over the last few years. So these things do happen. I think what is uncommon here of course is the event that this appears to have ended with: this Israeli jet coming down.”

Since 2013 the BBC has been telling its audiences – inaccurately – that Israel is “involved” in the conflict in Syria. As has been noted here in the past:

“In spite of the BBC’s suggestion to the contrary, Israel is not “involved in the conflict” in Syria. That conflict is a civil war between Assad loyalists (and their foreign allies) and anti-Assad rebels (and theirs) and Israel does not support one side or the other. Any actions which may have been taken by Israel are exclusively linked to the protection of its citizens.”

The BBC has also repeatedly downplayed the threats posed to Israel by the presence of Iran and Hizballah in Syria as well as their repeated aggressive rhetoric.

It perhaps therefore comes as no surprise to see that the BBC’s own journalists are unable to provide audiences with a lucid and informative account that distinguishes between the factors that lie behind the recent events in Israel and Syria and the separate topics of Iran’s supply of weapons to Hizballah in Lebanon and the civil war in Syria.

Related Articles:

BBC WS Newshour coverage of Iran drone story – part two

BBC WS Newshour coverage of Iran drone story –part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part two

BBC WS Newshour coverage of Iran drone story – part two

As documented in part one of this post, the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on February 10th presented listeners with a lavish dose of Syrian and Iranian propaganda relating to the story that began when an Iranian UAV infiltrated Israeli airspace earlier on the same day, with presenter Julian Marshall steering listeners towards the view that the story should be seen in terms of ‘narratives’.

The evening edition of the same programme – again presented by Marshall – also led with the same story. The programme’s web page is titled “Israel Defends Attack on Iranian Targets” and the synopsis once again fails to mention the trigger for the day’s events.

“An Israeli army spokesman says airstrikes against targets in Syria were vital to protect national security.”

Opening the programme, Marshall told listeners:

Marshall: “Israeli war planes carry out a series of strikes in Syria during a day of cross-border tension – that is our top story today.”

Marshall’s introduction to the item (from 00:83) once again failed to clarify to audiences that previous Israeli strikes on military targets in Syria have nothing to do with the Syrian civil war and cast doubts on the veracity of official Israeli statements on the incident. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “But we begin with that wave of attacks on Syria by Israeli war planes. It’s certainly not the first time that Israel has launched air raids on Syria in the course of the current conflict but the latest are being described as the most significant attacks of their kind since the 1982 Lebanon war by a senior Israeli Air Force general. It all began with the incursion into Israeli territory of what Israel says was an Iranian drone. Israel dispatched planes in response to attack the drone launch site in Syria and one of the planes was hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile and crashed in northern Israel. And then came the big raid: Israeli war planes attacking a dozen targets in Syria including air defence systems and sites linked to Iran. The prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his country will not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria.”

After listeners had heard a recording of part of the Israeli prime minister’s statement, Marshall went on:

Marshall: “And I asked the spokesman for the Israeli Defence Force, Jonathan Conricus, to tell me more about the targets in Syria.”

Conricus: “This was indeed a large-scale attack – probably the largest that we’ve made over the last thirty or so years. We specifically targeted 12 different targets. Eight of them were Syrian military targets located in the surroundings of Damascus and related to the air defence array – the same ones that fired missiles towards Israeli aircraft. And the four additional targets are perhaps the most special ones because they were Iranian targets inside Syria. All of them part of the effort that Iran has been undertaking for quite some time and that we have been warning against over a long period of time. The four targets belonged to the Iranian military or the Revolutionary Guard – training facility, support facilities and the likes. That was really I think the most important part of the attack that we did was that for the first time we have actually attacked Iranian targets on Syrian soil.”

Marshall: “And attacking Iranian targets on Syrian soil was very much in retaliation for the overflight of what you say was an Iranian drone onto Israeli territory.”

After Lt-Col Conricus explained that the sequence of events began with the penetration of the Iranian UAV into Israeli airspace and that Israel “know[s] for sure that this specific UAV was dispatched by Iranian military and it was handled by Iranian military while it was violating Israeli airspace”, Marshall came up with a claim for which he provided no evidence whatsoever.

Marshall: “With all due respect sir, this was a surveillance drone – was it not? – rather than an armed drone. Did it really pose any threat to the Israeli state?”

Conricus: “We’ll be able to elaborate on that in the coming days. As of now I’m not at liberty to say exactly what that drone was doing but I can assure you that it was not a peaceful mission monitoring the weather or following migrating birds. This was a military UAV that had a specific military mission to penetrate into Israel and to perform a military task.”

After Lt-Col Conricus had spoken about the interception of the drone and the subsequent attack on its command module in Syria, Marshall resurrected an old BBC favourite: the ‘disproportionate’ allegation.

Marshall: “I mean some might think it a somewhat disproportionate response to the flying of a drone over your territory that you mounted such a massive raid on Syrian territory.”

After his interviewee replied, Marshall went on:

Marshall: “But I mean Israel has known for a long time – as have other nations – about an Iranian military presence in Syria. Why choose now to attack? I mean was it simply that drone coming into your airspace? Is that what the trigger was?”

After the IDF Spokesman replied – explaining that Israel had responded “to an act of aggression against us…by striking only military targets in a proportionate manner” – Marshall closed that interview (part of which was later promoted separately on social media) before going on to amplify more propaganda from the Iranian regime and its proxy:

Marshall: “Well Iran has accused Israel of lying about the drone – which it said had not entered Israeli territory – while Hizballah has said the downing of an Israeli plane by Syrian missiles marks the start of a new strategic era.”

Listeners then once again heard the entire interview with the Syrian regime TV journalist Alaa Ebrahim that was aired in the earlier edition of ‘Newshour’ – including the unchallenged repetition of Syrian regime messaging and the claim that there was no such thing as an Iranian UAV at all and so “the Israeli attacks were unprovoked”.  

Once again we see that BBC World Service audiences hoping to get clear, accurate information that would help them understand this story were instead sold short by a ‘report’ that presented the unchallenged propaganda of the Syrian and Iranian regimes on an equal footing with factual information from an Israeli official which Marshall found fit to repeatedly question.

Related Articles:

BBC WS Newshour coverage of Iran drone story –part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part two

 

 

 

BBC WS Newshour coverage of Iran drone story –part one

Earlier we saw (here and here) how BBC News website reporting on a story that began with the infiltration of an Iranian UAV into Israeli airspace on February 10th focused audience attentions on a subsequent effect rather than on the cause. We also saw how the BBC News website unquestioningly gave amplification to disinformation put out by Iran and Syria while implying to audiences that there is room for doubt regarding the veracity of official Israeli accounts of the events. So did BBC radio do any better?

The BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ devoted considerable airtime to that story on February 10th. The webpage of the afternoon edition of the programme presented the subject under the title “Israeli Airstrikes Hit Targets In Syria” without any mention of what began the sequence of events: the Iranian drone that infiltrated Israel.

“Israel has carried out large-scale airstrikes against targets in Syria. The Israeli Defence Force says it attacked air defence systems and sites linked to Iran. Earlier an Israeli fighter jet was brought down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire after a strike on what the Israelis say was an Iranian drone-launch site.”

Presenter Julian Marshall opened the programme with a similarly slanted view of the story:

Marshall: “In a moment: Israel attacks a dozen targets inside Syria. One of its planes is shot down.”

Marshall introduced the item itself (from 01:44) with a description that failed to adequately clarify that previous Israeli airstrikes against targets in Syria have been specifically aimed at preventing the transfer of weapons to Hizballah in Lebanon and are not connected to the civil war in Syria. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “Israel has carried out dozens of airstrikes on the Syrian armed forces and their allies since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011. But the latest are potentially the most serious: large-scale attacks against a dozen targets in Syria including, says Israel, air defence systems and sites linked to Iran. Earlier an Israeli jet crashed in Israeli territory as it encountered massive Syrian anti-aircraft fire. It had been attacking what the Israelis say was a site from which an Iranian drone aircraft was launched. The drone was shot down after it penetrated Israeli airspace. People in northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights reported hearing sirens and explosions.”

Listeners next heard very brief ‘man in the street’ interviews with two anonymous speakers before Marshall went on to unquestioningly parrot Syrian and Iranian propaganda.

Marshall: “Well Syrian state media has acknowledged the Israeli air raids and says more than one plane has been hit. Iran’s foreign ministry has rejected the Israeli claim of an Iranian drone while the deputy head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said that Iran had no military presence in Syria and were only there as advisors. And this is how state controlled TV reported the downing of that Israeli plane.”

Audiences then heard a translated recording from Iranian TV.

“The end of the Zionist regime’s era of hit and run in Syria. For the second time in less than a week, the Zionist regime sent its fighter jets to Syria in the early hours of this morning. But this time, despite the expectations of Israeli officials, Syria’s air defence shot down an Israeli fighter jet.”

Marshall: “And as for Syrian government ally Russia, it’s called on all sides to exercise restraint and avoid escalation.”

Listeners next got an additional copious dose of Syrian regime messaging from a journalist who has in the past promoted the Assad regime’s denials of use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians on the Russian government’s RT channel and who was described by Iran’s Press TV as ‘our correspondent’ in a report amplifying previous false Syrian regime claims regarding Israeli planes.

Marshall: “A short while ago I spoke to Alaa Ebrahim; a journalist in Damascus who works for Syrian state TV and international media. What have the Syrian authorities been saying?”

Ebrahim: “Well officially the Syrian government issued a statement this morning from the command of the Syrian army in which they said that Israeli fighter jet tried to attack Syrian army bases in central Syria and that Syrian aerial defences intercepted that airplane and managed to actually damage it without saying whether the plane went down or not. Well the Syria…what the Syrian government is saying right now is that they actually did not provoke the Israeli airstrike. The airstrike was initiated by Israel – it wasn’t a retaliatory act by Israel. On the other hand the Syrian government is saying that they were reacting to Israeli aggression against them. Later on the state news agency SANA said in its reports that aerial defences from the Syrian army intercepted several missiles fired from Lebanese air space from Israeli fighter jets targeting several bases belonging to the Syrian army both south and west of the Syrian capital Damascus and later on we got the statement that came out from what the Syrian government calls the operation room of the Syrian government allies in Syria which is usually a reference to Iranian advisors and Hizballah fighters fighting alongside the Syrian government and in that statement they said that there was not an Iranian operated drone flying over Israeli airspace and that all the drones belonging to the allies – which is a term used to refer to Iranian and Hizballah fighters – were accounted for, operating in the deserts of central Syria looking over positions belonging to terrorist groups such as ISIL and other groups. So these are the official statements we have been getting since dawn today about the latest developments and I think we can recap once again and say that the Syrian government is saying that they did not initiate anything – they were just reacting to an Israeli airstrike against them.”

Marshall: So the Syrians are…are denying that they were in any way involved with the flying of that drone over Israeli territory?”

Ebrahim: “No, I don’t think the Syrians are denying that they were involved with the flying of the Iranian drone. What the Syrians and their allies – Iran, Hizballah – are saying [is] that they have never flown a drone into Israeli airspace and as a result they say that the Israeli attack was unprovoked.”

Refraining from challenging any aspect of that long repetition of Syrian regime propaganda, Marshall then changed the subject and went on to ask what Damascus residents had heard on the morning of February 10th and whether “any kind of retaliation” is to be expected. After concluding that interview, Marshall introduced both his next guest and the redundant theme of ‘narratives’.

Marshall: “And we’ve approached the Israeli Defence Force for an interview but no-one is available. Anshel Pfeffer is an Israeli journalist with Ha’aretz newspaper and the author of a forthcoming book ‘The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu’. He joins us from Jerusalem. And Mr Pfeffer, the Israelis have a very different narrative of the events of the past 24-36 hours and for them the original provocation was the flying of this drone over their territory.”

Pfeffer: “Yes, that’s the Israeli version of events: that round about 4:30 am local time an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace, was intercepted and shot down by an Israeli attack helicopter and that was what sparked off the chain of events of the last few hours.”

Marshall: You say an Iranian drone: why the certainty?”

Pfeffer: “Well that’s…like you said that’s the version of the Israeli government. They claim to have been tracking the drone, to have known its source at a launch site near Palmyra in northern Syria. According to the Israeli military they have the fragments of the drone and it’s an Iranian model. I’m assuming that at some stage they’ll present those pieces and we’ll be able to see whether it was indeed an Iranian drone. But it’s not new that there are Iranian…there is a significant Iranian military presence in Syria – has been since almost the start of the Syrian war in 2011 – and that this presence also has drone capabilities. So it’s not…the Israeli version of events is rather believable in this case.”

The conversation continued with discussion of the war in Syria and Russia’s role in the region.

By this time listeners could be forgiven for being confused. Was there an Iranian drone or wasn’t there? Is there an Iranian military presence in Syria or not? Rather than providing audiences with clear, concise and factually accurate information that would (as the BBC’s public purposes require) help them understand this story, the corporation once again opted to promote a ‘he said-she said’ account of events that actively hinders audience understanding.

When the BBC World Service launched a new foreign language service last year the then director of the division’s said that “[f]or more than 80 years the BBC World Service has brought trusted news to people across the globe” and the BBC’s Director General said:

“The BBC World Service is one of the UK’s most important cultural exports. In a world of anxieties about ‘fake news’, where media freedom is being curtailed rather than expanded, the role of an independent, impartial news provider is more important than ever.”

As we see, a considerable portion of this item was devoted to unquestioned amplification of unsupported claims and disinformation from two regimes that curtail media freedom – and much worse. But rather than providing listeners in those countries and others with the accurate and impartial information which would be the antidote to such propaganda, the BBC World Service simply facilitated a wider audience for Iranian and Syrian disinformation and added insult to injury by justifying it as ‘narrative’.

And as we will see in part two of this post, that practice continued in a later edition of ‘Newshour’.

Related Articles:

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part two

 

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part two

As we saw in part one of this post the BBC News website’s written report on the infiltration of Israel’s air-space by an Iranian UAV and the events that followed amplified Iranian and Syrian disinformation on the story while also implying to audiences that there is room for doubt regarding the veracity of official Israeli accounts of the various incidents.

“The Israeli military says a “combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel”.

It tweeted footage which it says shows the drone flying into Israeli territory before being hit.” [emphasis added]

“Meanwhile Iran and the Tehran-backed Hezbollah movement in Lebanon – which are allied with the Syrian government – dismissed reports that an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace as a “lie”.”

“Syrian state media quoted a military source as saying that the country’s air defences had opened fire in response to Israeli “aggression” against a military base on Saturday, hitting “more than one plane”.”

On the same day – February 10th – the BBC News website also posted a filmed report on the same topic titled “Israeli jet downed during Syrian attack: What happened?“. The film’s synopsis makes no mention of the UAV infiltration that was the cause of the subsequent strike on the mobile command vehicle that launched and guided the Iranian drone at the T4 airbase near Tadmor in central Syria.

“An Israeli F-16 fighter jet has crashed amid Syrian anti-aircraft fire after an offensive against Iranian targets in Syria, the Israeli military says.

The two pilots parachuted to safety before the crash in northern Israel.

It is believed to be the first time Israel has lost a jet in conflict since 2006.”

Viewers of the report were told that: [emphasis added]

“This is the wreckage of an Israeli jet that crashed following Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

What happened?

Israel’s military, the IDF, released this footage from one of their helicopters. They say it shows an Iranian drone flying over Israeli territory.

The IDF destroyed the drone. The helicopter returned to its base. Then, says the IDF Spokesperson, Israel flew jets into Syria to strike ‘Iranian and Syrian targets’. The Syrian army launched anti-aircraft missiles in retaliation. Two pilots ejected from their jet. It crashed in northern Israel. The pilots were flown to hospital. One is in a serious condition.

Syrian media quoted a military source saying they had hit ‘more than one plane’ in response to ‘Israeli aggression’.

Iran denied it had sent a drone into Israel and defended the Syrians’ right to self-defence.”

As we see, once again the BBC opted to present a ‘he said-she said’ view of the story which – contrary to the claim made in both the headline and the body of this report – in fact does nothing to help its audiences understand “what happened?”.

The same editorial policy was evident in a follow-up article published on the BBC News website on February 11th under the headline “Israel warns Iran after launching major raids in Syria“.

“Israel launched raids against Iranian targets after saying it had intercepted an Iranian drone crossing the Syria-Israel border.

Iran denies the allegation.”

Israel’s military says one of its combat helicopters downed an Iranian drone infiltrating Israel on Saturday. It tweeted footage of the incident. […]

In response, Israel said it attacked Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria, during which an F-16 jet was fired upon, Israel says, causing it to crash. […]

Syria’s state media say air defences opened fire in response to an Israeli attack on a military base, hitting more than one plane.”

While there is no evidence to support either that Syrian claim of having hit “more than one plane” or Iran’s assertion that it did not launch the drone , the BBC continues to amplify those claims regardless.

Meanwhile, as details of Saturday’s events were still emerging, a BBC News producer found the time to translate and amplify disinformation from another source too.

Related Articles:

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

 

 

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

As readers are probably aware, an Iranian UAV infiltrated Israeli air-space early on the morning of February 10th, triggering a series of events that were initially reported on the BBC News website under the headline “Israeli jet downed by Syrian fire – army” – even though the investigation into the circumstances under which the crew had to evacuate their plane is still ongoing.

The BBC subsequently changed that headline to “Syria war: Israeli fighter jet crashes under Syria fire, military says” – once again erroneously suggesting that the events were linked to the civil war in Syria. In the sixth version of the report, the BBC added a qualification:

“It was not clear whether the F-16 jet was hit by anti-aircraft fire or went down for other reasons.”

The final version of the report was re-titled “Syria shoots down Israeli warplane as conflict escalates“.

In other words, the headlines of all thirteen versions of this report confused cause and effect by informing BBC audiences that the story was about an Israeli plane crashing rather than the infiltration of Israeli air-space by an Iranian drone.

In the final version of the BBC’s report the first reference to the first and second occurrences in that sequence of events – the UAV infiltration into Israel and its interception by an Israeli air force helicopter – came only in its third paragraph.

“The plane was hit during air strikes in response to an Iranian drone launch into Israeli territory, Israel says.

The drone was shot down.”

Later on readers were told that:

“The Israeli military says a “combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel”.

It tweeted footage which it says shows the drone flying into Israeli territory before being hit.” [emphasis added]

However, the BBC – which, notably, recently took it upon itself to launch “a new scheme to help young people identify real news and filter out fake or false information” – had no qualms about amplifying Iranian disinformation.

“Meanwhile Iran and the Tehran-backed Hezbollah movement in Lebanon – which are allied with the Syrian government – dismissed reports that an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace as a “lie”.”

The third event to take place on the morning of February 10th was an IAF strike on the mobile command vehicle that launched and guided the Iranian UAV at the T4 airbase near Tadmor in central Syria. The BBC reported that event as follows:

The drone was shot down. Israel later launched further strikes in Syria. […]

In a further response, the IDF “targeted Iranian targets in Syria”, according to the military. The mission deep inside Syrian territory was successfully completed, it said.”

In other words, BBC audiences were not informed that the drone was launched from a Syrian airbase used by Iran’s Quds Force.

Syrian air defence systems attacked the planes carrying out that strike, leading to event number four – the evacuation of the plane that crashed near Harduf in the Galilee region and the sounding of air-raid sirens in communities in the Golan Heights. In other words, the headlines and initial paragraphs used in various versions of this BBC report all relate to the fourth event in the sequence rather than the first.

“An Israeli F-16 fighter jet has crashed after being hit by Syrian air defences during an offensive in Syria, the Israeli military says.

The two pilots parachuted to safety before the crash in northern Israel. It is believed to be the first time Israel has lost a jet in the Syrian conflict.[…]

After coming under Syrian anti-aircraft fire, the F-16’s two crew members ejected and were later taken to hospital. One of them was “severely injured as a result of an emergency evacuation”, the IDF said. […]

Alert sirens sounded in areas of northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights because of Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

Residents reported hearing a number of explosions and heavy aerial activity in the area near Israel’s borders with Jordan and Syria.”

The BBC also chose (not for the first time) to amplify Syrian propaganda:

“Syrian state media quoted a military source as saying that the country’s air defences had opened fire in response to Israeli “aggression” against a military base on Saturday, hitting “more than one plane”.”

The fifth event in the chain was a number of strikes by the IAF on additional Syrian and Iranian military sites in Syria. Syrian anti-aircraft fire again triggered sirens in northern Israel. The BBC reported that event as follows:

“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) say they hit aerial defence batteries and Iranian military sites in the latest strikes. […]

Israel launched its second wave of strikes in Syria. Eight of the Syrian targets belonged to the fourth Syrian division near Damascus, IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said.

All the Israeli aircraft from this sortie returned safely.”

final version

Towards the end of the report – under the subheading “What is the Iranian presence in Syria?” – readers were provided with background information which failed to enhance their understanding of Iran’s use of Syrian territory as a launch pad for attacks against Israel (with Syrian cooperation) in recent years while conflating the role played by Iran and Hizballah in the Syrian civil war with their pre-existing hostility towards Israel.

“Iran is Israel’s arch-enemy, and Iranian troops have been fighting rebel groups since 2011.

Tehran has sent military advisers, volunteer militias and, reportedly, hundreds of fighters from its Quds Force, the overseas arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

It is also believed to have supplied thousands of tonnes of weaponry and munitions to help President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, which is fighting on Syria’s side.

Tehran has faced accusations that it is seeking to establish not just an arc of influence but a logistical land supply line from Iran through to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

While subsequent analysis from Jonathan Marcus was more lucid, it conformed to the usual BBC policy of failing to clarify that Iran’s transfer of weapons to Hizballah in Lebanon breaches UN Security Council resolution 1701.

As we see the BBC’s reporting on this story focused primarily on the loss of an Israeli jet rather than on what caused that event – also the story’s main issue – the attempt by Iran to infiltrate Israel. Not only did the BBC choose to amplify Iranian and Syrian disinformation on the story but it also implied to audiences that there is room for doubt regarding the veracity of official Israeli accounts. 

That approach was also seen in additional BBC reporting – as we shall see in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

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BBC reports on designation of a terror group it previously ignored

On January 31st the BBC News website published a report titled “Ismail Haniya: US designates Hamas leader as terrorist“.

“The United States has designated the political leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas as a terrorist and imposed sanctions on him.

The state department said Ismail Haniya had “close links with Hamas’ military wing” and been a “proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians”.”

That presentation failed to inform BBC audiences that the US announcement concerning the man described last year by the BBC as “a pragmatist” also included the following:

“Haniyeh has close links with Hamas’ military wing and has been a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians. He has reportedly been involved in terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens.” [emphasis added]

The report went on:

“Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip, is already designated a terrorist group by the US, Israel, the EU and UK.

It denounced as “worthless” the blacklisting of Mr Haniya.

A statement from the group said the decision would “not dissuade us from continuing to hold fast to the option of resisting and expelling the [Israeli] occupation”.”

BBC audiences were not informed that the term “resisting” is a euphemism for terrorism against Israelis or that as far as Hamas is concerned “the occupation” means Israel in its entirety.

Neither were they told that additional reactions from Hamas officials described the US announcement as “a violation of international laws” and “a reflection of the domination by a gang of Zionists of the American decision” and the BBC’s article was not updated to reflect the fact that the PLO also later condemned the designation.

The article continued:

“The state department also designated three militant groups as terrorist entities:

  • Harakat al-Sabireen, an Iranian-backed group that operates primarily in the Gaza and the West Bank and is led by Hisham Salem, the former leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It is accused of planning and executing attacks, including firing rockets from Gaza into Israel
  • Liwa al-Thawra, a group active in Egypt’s Qalyubia and Menoufia provinces that has said it was behind the assassination of an Egyptian army commander in Cairo in 2016 and the bombing of a police training centre in Tanta in 2017
  • HASM, another Egyptian group that has claimed it assassinated an officer from Egypt’s National Security Agency and carried out an attack on Myanmar’s embassy in Cairo”

BBC audiences reading this report would no doubt have been surprised to learn of the existence of the first organisation on that list given that – as noted here over two years ago – the corporation has failed to produce any reporting whatsoever on Harakat al-Sabireen.

Readers were also not told that the other two groups on the list are suspected of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Hence when they read at the end of the report that the US Secretary of State said that “[t]hese designations target key terrorist groups and leaders – including two sponsored and directed by Iran” [emphasis added], BBC audiences would not understand that, in addition to Harakat al-Sabireen, he was referring to Hamas.

As regular readers know, the BBC has long refrained from producing any meaningful reporting on the topic of Iranian funding of Hamas terror.  

Related Articles:

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The news the BBC has to omit in order to keep up its narrative

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Filling in the blanks in BBC reports on Hamas, Qatar and Iran

BBC News website plays along with the ‘softer’ Hamas spin

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the Forward, Petra Marquardt-Bigman takes a look at the roots of the BDS campaign.

“Recall that the BDS movement emerged in the wake of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa, in early September 2001. Unfortunately, the conference was hijacked by non-governmental organizations which sought to revive the notorious UN resolution equating Zionism with racism, a clearly anti-Semitic resolution seeing as the vast majority of Jews identify as Zionists and would thus be defined as racists. These NGOs issued a call for “a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state,” including “the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel.””

2) Former MK Einat Wilf discusses “Anti-Feminism and Anti-Zionism” at the Tablet.

“Feminism and Zionism are cut from the same cloth. Both movements emerged from the same intellectual and political origins, they both exhibited similar growth trajectories, becoming two of the most successful revolutions to sweep and survive through the 20th century, both continue to face ferocious backlash, and both remain vibrant and necessary in the 21st century.

Feminism and Zionism are daughters of the enlightenment. They were born of that intellectual revolution against the inevitability of the human condition as one subject to a hierarchical, divinely ordained order, underpinned by a religious system and elaborate theology. Feminism and Zionism are rebellions against that order. They are both part of the modern overthrowing of a pre-modern order in which each living creature, born into a station and role in the superstructure of society, remains in that role, carries it out dutifully and does not challenge it. Feminism and Zionism are infused with resistance against the pre-Enlightenment idea that how you are born should determine how you die.”

3) Potkin Azarmehr writes about “Iran Analysts and Their False Narratives“.

“In 2009, millions of Iranians spilled out onto the streets and protested against the rigged results of the presidential elections. The protests were brutally repressed, and the regime’s savagery was captured by the camera-phones of thousands of citizen journalists. These images were then disseminated across social media by a young tech-savvy population, who showed the world the true nature of the Islamic Republic.

As expected, many so-called experts and academics, who had their information and material fed to them by regime lobbyists, were taken aback, and provided a reading of events that was grossly inadequate. Somehow, they had to come up with a narrative that still supported their notion of “this is a popular and relatively democratic regime” fighting against the unjust imperialist West – a narrative that would validate their own lack of support for the protesters.”

4) Palestinian Media Watch has produced a report documenting Palestinian Authority and Fatah reactions to recent US administration announcements.  

“Jerusalem is only ours, only ours. They [the Americans] know it. It is a strange thing that a state that is only a little older than 200 years takes a stand toward a city that is 5,000 years old. Where was America when Jerusalem was built, that it should decide whose capital it is? And where was Israel when Jerusalem was built? Jerusalem was here before America and before Israel and before Europe and before this entire world. We were in Jerusalem more than 5,000 years ago, and we have not left it… America, which – as they say – was born yesterday, wants to decide the fate of a city whose age is greater than history.” [Official PA TV, Dec. 22, 2017]

 

BBC reports on fictional counter-terrorism but not the real thing

On January 1st Israel’s security services announced the arrests of members of a Hamas cell that was directed from the Gaza Strip.

“Israeli security forces broke up an alleged Hamas terrorist cell planning to carry out attacks in the West Bank, arresting five of its members in November, the Shin Bet security service revealed Monday.

The cell was led by Alaa Salim, a resident of the Palestinian West Bank town of Jaba, north of Jerusalem, but it received its directions from Abdallah Arar, a known Hamas terrorist living in the Gaza Strip, the Shin Bet said.

Arar, who was convicted for his involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Israeli man Sasson Nuriel in 2005, was released to the Gaza Strip from an Israeli prison six year[s] later as part of a contentious prisoner exchange to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was being held hostage by Hamas. […]

When he and the other four alleged members of the cell were arrested, Salim had already received directions from Arar to carry out attacks, along with thousands of shekels in order to purchase an M-16 assault rifle, according to the Shin Bet.”

Two days later, on January 3rd, the security services announced that members of another cell had been arrested.

“The Shin Bet security service on Wednesday revealed it had uncovered an Iranian military intelligence operation in the West Bank that it said was planning to carry out terror attacks and collect intelligence for the Islamic Republic. […]

The leader of the cell was a 29-year-old computer science student named Muhammad Maharma from Hebron, but he received his directions from an Iranian operative in South Africa, the Shin Bet said.

The other two alleged members were Nour Maharma and Dia’a Sarahneh, both 22 and both also from Hebron.

According to the security service, in 2015, Muhammad Maharma was enlisted to work for Tehran by his cousin, Backer Maharma, who moved to South Africa from Hebron and allegedly started working for Iranian intelligence.

“Backer even introduced Muhammad, on a number of occasions, to Iranian officials, some of whom visited [South Africa] from Tehran in order to meet him,” the Shin Bet said.

According to the security service, its investigation found that Iran was using South Africa as a “significant front for finding, enlisting and deploying agents to Israel and the West Bank.””

While the BBC did not produce any coverage of either of those stories, it did publish an article in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on January 6th relating to a television drama series about Israeli counter-terrorism units.

However, the only mention of the word ‘terrorist’ in Jane Corbin’s article “Fauda: The drama lifting the lid on Israeli snatch squads” comes in a direct quote.

“Lior and Avi deliberately set out to portray the brutal conflict in a new way, depicting common characteristics between both sides.

“[In Fauda] they are all-rounded characters – even if he’s an evil terrorist he’s got to love his wife and you have to show it and he has kids and you have to show it,” says Lior, “and also the good guys are doing bad things sometimes,” he adds, alluding to his compatriots.”

Throughout the rest of her article Jane Corbin employs the standard (and long-standing) BBC euphemism ‘militants’ – even when interviewing actual terrorists who, she claims, “carry out attacks on Israelis”.

“I am on the set of Fauda, the Israeli television thriller that portrays the murky world of Israeli undercover army units and Palestinian militants during the Second Intifada (Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation).”

“We wanted to show how they [militants and their families] live, their experiences, the price they’re paying for their actions,” says Lior. “For the Israeli audience we open a window for them to see how people live over there.”

“This strong Arab woman is an unusual lead character in a television drama in this region. The character faced a moral crisis when militants in her own family used her to surgically implant a bomb inside a wounded Israeli undercover soldier.”

“After our own game of cat and mouse to find Palestinian militants willing to talk, we met two heavily armed masked men in a house in Shuafat refugee camp, on the outskirts of occupied East Jerusalem. They carry out attacks on Israelis and try to outwit the undercover units hunting them down.”

As we see, the BBC has expanded its selectively applied guidance on ‘language when reporting terrorism’ to apply even to reporting on fictional Palestinian characters in a TV drama show. Can it get any more ridiculous?

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BBC’s Iran protests backgrounders fail to ameliorate years of omission

As several commentators have noted, the recent protests in Iran have included criticism of the regime’s foreign policy priorities.

At the Spectator Douglas Murray wrote:

“…most early reports indicate that protesters began by highlighting the country’s living standards. Specifically, they complained about the government’s use of its recent economic bonus (from the lifting of sanctions) not to help the Iranian people, but to pursue wider regional ambitions. Iranian forces are currently fighting in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This from a power whose defenders still claim is not expansionist. […]

The nationwide demonstrations, which have not been led by any single demographic, class, or group, have included cries of ‘Leave Gaza, leave Lebanon, my life (only) for Iran’. Chants of ‘Death to Hezbollah’ (Iran’s terrorist proxy currently fighting in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria) have also been heard from Mashhad to Kermanshah.”

At Foreign Policy magazine, Dennis Ross noted that:

“Placards criticizing corruption are rampant, and some demonstrators have even chanted death to the dictator, referring to Khamenei. Protesters have also railed against the costs of Iran’s foreign adventures: One of the earliest chants was, “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran.” […]

The protestors are asking why their money is spent in Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza […] On Hezbollah alone, Iran is estimated to provide more than $800 million a year — and their costs in sustaining the Assad regime come to several billion dollars.”

One of the BBC’s early reports – published on December 29th; the day after the protests commenced – also noted those chants.

“There is also anger at Iran’s interventions abroad. In Mashhad, some chanted “not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran”, a reference to what protesters say is the administration’s focus on foreign rather than domestic issues.

Other demonstrators chanted “leave Syria, think about us” in videos posted online. Iran is a key provider of military support to the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.”

However, when the BBC later began producing backgrounders on the protests in Iran, that issue was downplayed.

In a filmed backgrounder published on January 2nd under the title “Iran protests: Why people are taking to the streets”, Rana Rahimpour of BBC Persian told audiences that:

“The protests started out of opposition to President Hassan Rouhani and his economic policies. People were angry with high inflation, unemployment and corruption. But it quickly became bigger than that, and protesters started calling for the downfall of Iran’s most powerful man: Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. They also called for an end to Iran’s involvement in countries like Syria and Lebanon.”

BBC audiences were not however informed what that “involvement” entails or how much it costs the Iranian people.

In a written backgrounder also produced by Rana Rahimpour and published on the BBC News website on the same day under the headline “Iran protests pose an unpredictable challenge for authorities“, readers found the same statement.

“Within a day, the unrest had spread to some 25 towns and cities, and slogans went beyond the economic, including calls, for instance, for an end to Iran’s involvement in Lebanon and Syria.”

An article titled “Iran protests: US brands Tehran’s accusations ‘nonsense’” that also appeared on the BBC News website on January 2nd included analysis by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen in which readers were told that:

“When the protests started last Thursday, they were about the current economic crisis but as they spread, pent-up frustrations spilled out and politics became a big part of them.

President Rouhani has been widely criticised. He has disappointed voters who hoped he would do more to turn round an economy that has been damaged by years of sanctions, corruption and mismanagement.

Iran’s role in conflicts across the Middle East has also been criticised as it is an expensive foreign policy at a time when people in Iran are getting poorer.”

Another backgrounder – published on the BBC News website on January 4th under the headline “Six charts that explain the Iran protests” made no mention whatsoever of the vast sums of money shoring up the Iranian regime’s protégés and proxies around the Middle East.

Two and a half years ago senior BBC journalists covering the P5+1 deal with Iran assured BBC audiences that the vast sums of money freed up by sanctions relief under the terms of the JCPOA would be used by the Iranian regime to improve the country’s economy.

“President Rouhani was elected because people hoped that he would end Iran’s isolation and thus improve the economy. So the windfall that they will be getting eventually, which is made up of frozen revenues – oil revenues especially –around the world, ah…there are people who argue that look; that will go to try to deal with loads and loads of domestic economic problems and they’ll have trouble at home if they don’t do that. If people – the argument goes on – are celebrating in Iran about the agreement, it’s not because they’ll have more money to make trouble elsewhere in the region; it’s because things might get better at home.”  Jeremy Bowen, PM, BBC Radio 4, July 14th 2015

“In exchange it [Iran] will get a lot. It will get a release of the punishing sanctions. We heard from Hassan Rouhani saying as Iran always says that the sanctions did not succeed but he conceded that they did have an impact on the everyday lives of Iranians. There’s an estimate that some $100 billion will, over time, once Iran carries out its implementation of this agreement, will be released into the Iranian economy.”  Lyse Doucet, Newshour, BBC World Service radio, July 14th 2015.

Since then, the BBC has continued the existing practice of serially avoiding any serious reporting on the issue of Iran’s financing of terror groups and militias across the Middle East.

Given that long-standing policy of omission, it is obvious that BBC audiences are not sufficiently informed on the issue to be able to understand the full significance of those euphemistic references to “Iran’s involvement in countries like Lebanon and Syria”, its “role in conflicts across the Middle East” and its “expensive foreign policy” found in content supposedly meant to explain why Iranians have taken to the streets in protest.

Related Articles:

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BBC euphemisms hobble audience understanding of Iranian terror financing