Weekend long read

1) Khaled Abu Toameh takes a look at Lebanese reactions to a proposed new law concerning the management of Palestinian refugee camps.

“Like most Arab countries, Lebanon has long treated Palestinians as second-class citizens. It has been depriving them of basic rights, including citizenship, employment, heath care, education, social services and property ownership. The vast majority of the 450,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon do not have Lebanese citizenship.

In 2001, the Lebanese Parliament passed a law prohibiting Palestinians from owning property, and Lebanese law also restricts their ability to work in as many as 20 professions. Lebanon continues to ignore calls by various human rights groups to the Lebanese authorities to end discrimination against Palestinians.”

2) At the INSS, Eldad Shavit and Sima Shine examine ‘The Dispute Between the United States and Iran – Scenarios and Implications’.

“The dispute between the United States and Iran is taking place on two levels: The American administration is adhering to its policy of placing “maximum pressure” on the Iranian regime, while Iran is adopting a new policy in place of the “tolerance” that it had demonstrated thus far, in order to show the United States, and especially the other countries that signed the Nuclear Agreement—particularly the European partners—the costs they are liable to pay for continuing the sanctions. At the same time, in an attempt to prevent a deterioration, given the tensions that have developed recently in the Gulf, efforts are being made to find channels of dialogue between the two countries. At present, assuming that Iran is not interested in “upsetting the apple cart,” one of following three main scenarios could develop: a continuation of the gradual and cautious erosion (over time) of the Iranian commitments according to the agreement (JCPOA); Iran’s quick withdrawal from its commitments, including from fulfilling the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, and significantly reducing cooperation with the agency; or the beginning of new negotiations with the Trump administration.”

3) Mosaic Magazine has a podcast interview with Yaakov Katz about his new book.

“On September 6, 2007, shortly after midnight, Israeli planes advanced on Deir ez-Zour in the desert of eastern Syria. Israel often flew into Syrian air space as a warning to President Bashar al-Assad, but this time there was no warning and no explanation. The planes were on a covert mission with one goal: to destroy a nuclear reactor being built, with the aid of North Korea, under a tight veil of secrecy. The pilots succeeded brilliantly, and Israel stopped Syria from becoming a nuclear-armed state: a nightmare in the Middle East.

That’s the story Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Yaakov Katz tells in his latest book Shadow Strike: Inside Israel’s Secret Mission to Eliminate Syrian Nuclear Power.”

4) MEMRI reports on the situation in Sudan.

“The honeymoon is over in Khartoum. There was a short period of ambiguity and hope between April 11, 2019 when Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir was removed from power by his own generals and June 3, 2019 when security forces brutally killed over a hundred peaceful demonstrators and subsequently called for snap elections in seven months.

During that short seven-week period, there was a chance, and even some real indications, that a very Sudanese solution – fragile, confused, but hopeful – would have been found along the lines of previous transitions from military dictatorship to civilian rule. Hopes that 2019 would be something of a repeat of 1964 and 1985 have, at least for now, been dashed although it should not be forgotten that both previous transitions to democracy were brief and led back to dictatorship after a few years. Sudan is closer to the edge and it seems that a much more violent future could be in the cards if another misstep is made.”

 

 

Advertisements

BBC still fence-sitting on Iranian support for Houthis

An article headlined “Yemen war: Houthi missile attack on Saudi airport ‘injures 26’” was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 12th.

In that report readers found the following: [emphasis added]

“Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that escalated in March 2015, when the rebels seized control of much of the west of the country and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee abroad.

Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states began an air campaign aimed at restoring Mr Hadi’s government.”

That second paragraph originally appeared in a backgrounder titled “Yemen crisis: Why is there a war?” (which is now dated 21 March 2019 but was first published in October 2016) and a link to that backgrounder appears immediately afterwards.

The current version of that backgrounder goes on to tell BBC audiences that:

“The coalition said it wanted to halt the smuggling of weapons to the rebels by Iran – an accusation Tehran denied….”

And:

“The conflict is also seen as part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.

Gulf Arab states – backers of President Hadi – have accused Iran of bolstering the Houthis financially and militarily, though Iran has denied this.”

No effort is made either in that backgrounder or the current article to provide readers with information which would help them to decide whether there is any substance to those Iranian denials.

For example the BBC could have told readers that two months before it last updated its backgrounder, a UN Security Council report noted that:

“The Panel has identified a small number of companies, both within and outside Yemen, that operated as front companies under false documentation to conceal a donation of fuel for the benefit of a listed individual. The revenue from the sale of that fuel was used to finance the Houthi war effort. The Panel found that the fuel was loaded from ports in the Islamic Republic of Iran under false documentation to avoid detection by inspections of the United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism.”

As reported by AP, in another UN report from the previous year

“…the experts said Iran violated a U.N. arms embargo by directly or indirectly providing missiles and drones to the Houthis.”

So much for the BBC’s obligation to “offer a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers […] so that all audiences can engage fully with major […] global issues…” 

Related Articles:

BBC News still unsure about Iranian involvement in Yemen

Limited BBC journalistic curiosity on Iranian involvement in Yemen

The BBC and the Houthi logo

BBC News portrays Iranian involvement in Yemen as ‘overplayed’

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Weekend long read

1) Ahead of Al Quds Day, the Henry Jackson Society has published a report on the ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission’ by Emma Fox.

“The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) is a London-based advocacy group established in 1997, inspired by the worldview of Ayatollah Khomeini and the revolutionary, theocratic societal aims he established in the Islamic Republic of Iran. IHRC has gained prominence in recent years for its pro-Hezbollah Al Quds Day parades, its controversial ‘Islamophobia Awards’ and the anti-Semitic rhetoric espoused by the group’s senior figures. However, less attention has been given to IHRC’s wider extremist links and terrorist sympathies. There is also a lack of understanding as to how extremist groups can exploit the charitable sector; obtain public funds; acquire status via academic associates; attain international recognition; and influence governments.”

2) At the ITIC, Dr Raz Zimmt reports on this year’s Al Quds Day theme.

“The “International Quds [Jerusalem] Day,” is held each year since 1979 on the last Friday in the month of Ramadan, following a ruling of the leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ruhollah Khomeini. The event is intended to express the support for the Palestinian cause by Iran and the Muslim world and the “liberation of Palestine,” as well as to besmirch Israel, call of its eradication and defy the United States, the West and their Arab regional allies. […]

Iran, which is facing increasing pressured from the United States, wishes to turn “International Quds Day”, set to take place this Friday, May 31, 2019, to a show of opposition to the peace plan of President Trump, known as the “deal of the century.” On the eve of Quds Day, Ramazan Sharif, the Spokesman of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), declared that the slogan used for Quds Day rallies this year will be “the defeat of the Deal of the Century and stabilization of the Palestinian Question.” He lambasted the “deal of the century” and warned that its purpose is to eliminate Palestine.”

3) The ITIC also documents the “Strong Palestinian Authority rejection of the upcoming American economic workshop in Bahrain”.

“The United States and Bahrain recently announced an economic workshop in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, on June 25 and 26, 2019. The “Peace to Prosperity” meeting will constitute the overture of the American program for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, known as the “deal of the century.” Expected attendees are treasury ministers and businessmen from the Middle East and around the globe. The objective of the workshop is to encourage potential investment in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip that would lead to Palestinian and regional prosperity, which could be made possible by a peace agreement. Later, the Americans are planning to release the political aspects of the “deal of the century,” which will concern the unresolved core issues between Israel and the Palestinians.

Senior Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah figures rushed to announce their unreserved rejection of the economic workshop in Bahrain, despite the severe economic difficulties facing the PA.”

4) Robert Bernstein – the founder of one of the BBC’s most quoted and promoted NGOs, Human Rights Watchpassed away this week at the age of 96. In 2010 he gave a speech on Human Rights in the Middle East.

“During my twenty years at Human Rights Watch, I had spent little time on Israel. It was an open society. It had 80 human rights organizations like B’Tselem, ACRI, Adalah, and Sikkuy. It had more newspaper reporters in Jerusalem than any city in the world except New York and London. Hence, I tried to get the organization to work on getting some of the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly free speech, into closed societies – among them, the 22 Arab states surrounding Israel. The faults of democratic countries were much less of a priority not because there were no faults, obviously, but because they had so many indigenous human rights groups and other organizations openly criticizing them. […]

A Human Rights Watch Board member told The New Republic that they go after Israel because it is like “low-hanging fruit.” By that, I think he means that they have a lot of information fed to them by Israel’s own human rights organizations and the press, that they have easy access to Israel to hold their press conferences, and that the press is eager to accept their reports. The organization, most would agree, was founded to go after what I guess you would call “high-hanging fruit” – that is, closed societies, where it is hard to get in. Nations that will not allow you to hold press conferences in their country. Nations where there are no other human rights organizations to give you the information.”

BBC News website showcases Paul Danahar’s Middle East narrative

An AFP report from May 14th about the WhatsApp security flaw story states: [emphasis added]

“”This attack has all the hallmarks of a private company that works with a number of governments around the world” according to initial investigations, it [WhatsApp] added, but did not name the firm.”

AFP’s article goes on:

“The spyware appears to be related to the Pegasus software developed by Israeli-based NSO group, which is normally sold to law enforcement and intelligence services, according to Washington-based analyst Joseph Hall.

The spyware “could have gotten into someone’s hands” outside legitimate channels for nefarious purposes, Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told AFP.

It’s unclear who is doing this.””

Former BBC Jerusalem bureau chief Paul Danahar however has no such doubts and on May 14th he published an article on the BBC News website’s ‘US & Canada’ and ‘Middle East’ pages titled “Why the WhatsApp spies may have eyes on Iran”.

Readers got some early signposting in the form of the main photograph used to illustrate the article. The image – which has no connection whatsoever to the story itself – was captioned “Young Israeli soldiers take a selfie”.

Danahar opened his article as follows: [all emphasis added]

“Time to join some dots.

The WhatsApp hack, “sabotaged” oil tankers, the push in the US to proscribe the Muslim Brotherhood and “plans” to deploy American troops to the Gulf are all strands of the same story. At its heart is the struggle between Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran.”

Danahar then spent the next seven paragraphs establishing linkage between the Israeli army and tech companies while promoting an unsupported claim regarding the function of intelligence units.

“The Israeli army takes in every youngster, assesses their greatest strength and parks them where they can do the most national good.

The computer nerds who would otherwise be locked in their mum’s basement are forced out into the light and into doing their national service in cyber-warfare.

When they leave the army, they take the skills and the connections they made into the industrial sector and they form companies like the NSO Group.”

That section also promotes a link to another report on the WhatsApp story written on the same day by the BBC’s North America technology reporter, Dave Lee. In that report Lee linked to an article he wrote in 2016 in which he made some dubious claims concerning NSO and the IDF’s 8200 unit which remain in situ.

Danahar next managed to bring Palestinians into the story:

“The NSO Group makes hacking tools to sell to governments to fight crime and terrorism.

But – and it is a big but – they’ll only get an export licence from the Israeli government if it deems that the sale does not harm the national interest.

In the past that meant no sales to Iran and nothing to Arab Gulf states either.

That’s because in the past the Gulf states stood with the Palestinians against Israel.”

Ignoring the fact that the Gulf Cooperation Council states ditched the Arab League boycott of Israel in 1996, Danahar went on to claim that:

“In the post-Arab Spring period, the Gulf states (apart from Qatar) have all but abandoned the Palestinian cause and moved to side with Israel against Iran.

This slow shift was accelerated by the election of Donald Trump and the appointment of so many anti-Iran hawks to his administration, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.”

The Gulf states’ recognition of threats posed by Iran was of course amply evident long before Donald Trump ran for president. Providing no concrete supporting evidence, Danahar then promoted “speculation”.

“There’s much speculation that the Israeli government would, to build relations with their new friends in the Gulf, have allowed the NSO Group to sell their software to Gulf states.

What suggests that? Well it’s perhaps not a coincidence that among those reportedly targeted by the WhatsApp hacking software were lawyers investigating human rights abuses in Gulf states, a Saudi dissident and a Qatari citizen.”

Failing to inform readers of Iran’s financing and support of terror groups such as Hizballah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas and ignoring the regular Iranian threats against Israel, Danahar continued:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made his reason for being (and his only political legacy) his effort to contain Iran, which he projects as Israel’s only existential threat.”

Danahar – now the BBC’s Americas Bureaux Editor in Washington then went on to promote his notion of how US foreign policy is made.

“The Saudi rulers see two existential threats. One from without: Iran. And one from within: the Muslim Brotherhood. The Saudis are scared of Iran because of its military might.

They are scared of the Muslim Brotherhood because they offer political Islam as an alternative to the dynastic rule of the royal family.

The Trump administration is made up of people who hate the Iranian regime and everything it stands for.

So, this new “Axis of Egos” is all doing each other favours to position themselves collectively to fully unite against Iran.

Lots of trades are taking place.

Some involve arms sales, some involve the price of oil and gas, some involve political trades like the one that some in the White House are doing for the Saudis by trying to designate the Brotherhood as a terrorist group.”

A photo caption tells readers that: “The Trump administration decided to pursue sanctions against the Muslim Brotherhood following an April meeting with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi”.

As was noted here when the BBC previously promoted that claim in late April, “the idea of designating the Brotherhood” predates both the Trump administration and that meeting.

Danahar next invoked the Iraq war spectre while a photo caption once again used scare quotes around the word “sabotaged” to suggest to readers that damage done to four ships off the coast of the UAE on May 12th may not have been deliberate.

“In a replay of what happened before the invasion of Iraq, it appears that any strand of intelligence that can be spun into a reason to ratchet up the pressure on Iran is being used.

This atmosphere is all very familiar to those of us who were around to witness the build-up towards the war in Iraq.”

Danahar closed his polemic by trying to persuade audiences that if the US did go to war with Iran, it would ultimately be because of Israel. 

“The present occupant in the White House has far fewer ideological bones in his body, perhaps none. […]

He’s unlikely to sign up to another war in the Middle East, certainly not this side of the 2020 election, unless he is seriously provoked.

That would require being able to pin some very bad action on Tehran. The best way to do that is to gather intelligence.

And the best way to gather intelligence is for all your allies to be spying on as many people in the region as you can.

One of the best ways to do that is to hack into the Trojan horse we all voluntarily carry with us, our smartphones.”

As we saw in November 2012 when Paul Danahar – then head of the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau – signed off and personally promoted inaccurate reports concerning the death of a child in the Gaza Strip, he apparently does not find it necessary to have verified evidence before promoting a version of events which fits in with his chosen political narrative.

And as we see in this item, Danahar’s chosen narrative includes an Iranian regime which is so passive and innocuous that it would have to have “some very bad action” pinned on it by underhand actors.

Notably, that is being presented to BBC audiences as “news that you can trust”.  

Related Articles:

Odd claim from BBC Technology appears – and disappears – on Wikipedia

Superficial BBC News reporting on Muslim Brotherhood

 

Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer analyses the background to “Generals Vs. Islamists in Libya”.

“While the fight may appear to be simply a tussle for resources and power between an ambitious military man and a government of shaky legitimacy, the chaotic Libyan battle is in fact a proxy war pitting clients of two key power axes in the Middle East against one another. For this reason, its outcome is of interest to Western powers – and to Israel.

To understand this, it is necessary to observe who is supporting whom in Libya. Haftar and his LNA have benefited since 2014 from the support of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. […]

On the other side, Turkey and Qatar (and the now-deposed Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir) are strongly supportive of the Islamist and Muslim Brotherhood associated elements that share power with the government in Tripoli.” 

2) At the JCPA Pinhas Inbari takes a look at the new PA prime minister’s economic policy.

“The Palestinian Authority returned hundreds of millions of shekels that the Israeli government deposited into its accounts in recent months, it was revealed on April 29, 2019. Israel traditionally collects tax revenues for the PA on Palestinian purchases, but when Israel began deducting monthly the sum of 41.8 million shekalim, equivalent to the amount the PA pays in terrorists’ salaries and grants, the Palestinians declared they would refuse to accept any of their monthly payment. Israel’s unilateral deposit into the PA accounts was a response to the growing concern of a financial collapse of the Palestinian government.

In parallel to the rejection of the funds, the Palestinian Authority declared it would not cover medical costs for Palestinian medical patients sent to Israeli hospitals.”

3) At the ITIC Dr Raz Zimmt has a profile of “Hossein Salami The New Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps”.

“On April 21, 2019, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, appointed Hossein Salami to the position of the new Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC); Salami is the eighth commander of the force. Salami, who served as the Deputy Commander of the IRGC over the past decade, replaced Mohammad-Ali Jafari, who served at the IRGC Commander since September 2007. […]

Over the past decade, Salami has emerged as one of the IRGC’s prominent commanders, mainly due to his hardline statements reflecting adherence to the principles of the Islamic Revolution and the strategic goals of the Islamic Republic on issues related to internal and foreign policies. He gained attention for his extreme rhetoric and defiant statements targeting the United States and Israel, and consistent rejection of any possibility for compromise or concessions on the part of Iran in light of Western demands and growing pressure on Tehran.”

4) Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has produced a new video about “the connection between Judaism and Israel”.

 

BBC WS ‘Business Matters’ sails close to antisemitic trope

The lead story in the April 10th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Business Matters’ (which ostensibly provides listeners with “global business news”) was, for reasons unknown, the previous day’s general election in Israel.

Listeners first heard (from 1:07 here) some of the more sensible commentary concerning the election aired on BBC stations in recent weeks from the Jerusalem Post’s Knesset correspondent Lahav Harkov.

Referring to Netanyahu, at 5:32 presenter Roger Hearing asked her “why do they keep voting for him?” and – noting the absence of good foreign press reporting on the topic – Harkov responded by citing the fact that the Israeli economy is doing well, that unemployment is down and that international relations are thriving.

Hearing next briefly and superficially discussed aspects of Israel’s economy with one of his two guests before turning to the other – previously introduced as Ralph Silva of the Silva Network but with listeners having been given no indication of what makes a “Broadcasting Analyst Focused on Banking, Technology and Media” qualified to comment on the topic of Israel or the Middle East.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

[7:21] Hearing: “And…err…Ralph: I suppose the thing also, Israel’s slightly got pushed to the back of the news agenda with everything else that’s been happening in the world and even in the Middle East itself but it is still a very…a place that matters a great deal more that its size would indicate in political terms and of course Mr Netanyahu’s quite closely aligned to Donald Trump.”

Silva: “Well he is and I think that there are some concerns there, especially considering the election campaign. We’ve heard quite a bit about developments in the West Bank and pushing that process forward and making it more stable and more secure and with the US government such as it is, it’s basically in support of that so I think that while we haven’t seen a huge amount of developments in relation to the West Bank in the past couple of administrations, now the situation’s a bit different where they do have support especially from the US now. So I am a little bit concerned because there’s been a lot of rhetoric about the West Bank and about how aggressive they’re going to be in the West Bank and of course an aggressive move there could cause some problems. But I think it’s going to be a space to watch and I think we’re going to see a lot of developments in the next elec…in the next 4 to 5 years.”

With that commentary being as clear as mud, listeners would likely have taken away little more than the notion that some party – apparently either Israel or the US – is going to be “aggressive…in the West Bank”.

Hearing: “And of course there’s also Iran. Within the last few days they’ve advanced moves against Iran, making the Revolutionary Guard there an illegal organisation as far as – a terrorist organisation – as far as the US is concerned. And a lot of people see the moves towards Iran including the sanctions that have been put on – the economic sanctions – as being to some extent dictated by Israel or at least influenced by Israel.”

Silva: “Well certainly and if you listen to the press in the United States that’s exactly what is being said. It’s being said that Trump’s administration is supporting them and I think that there’s this new bravado going on because they feel that – the Israelis right now feel like they got a lot of backing right now and clearly they do. Ahm…and there’s been a lot of aggression and what we have to see is sort of a calming down and so I think after this election – during the election we saw that – but as soon as this election is decided I think we’re going to see a calming down of that. At least history has shown us that there is the calming down right after an election so that’s good news.”

Once again it is difficult to imagine how the BBC can claim that such commentary from a guest whose credentials concerning the Middle East were not clarified can possibly be said to contribute to audience understanding of the topic.

What listeners did hear however was the BBC sailing very close to an antisemitic trope by advancing the unsourced and facile notion that American policy on Iran is “dictated by Israel” rather than based on the US’s own considerations.

That, apparently, is the dismal level of ‘analysis’ that the BBC is capable of providing to its worldwide audiences.

Weekend long read

1) Alan Mendoza of the HJS explains why “Israel has voted for a dose of reality when it comes to the peace process”.

“Israeli settlements are often cited as the cause of the peace roadblock, but these are a legacy issue from the 1967 Six Day War. They have not been the foundering point in any of the many failed peace deals that have fallen by the wayside. The principle of land swaps and abandonment of more isolated settlements as part of any agreement has been well established.

Rather, it is the 1948 issues of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem – which stem from the refusal of the Palestinians at a core level to accept the very existence of the Jewish state – that are responsible for the failure to progress peace.

Israeli voters have realised this, which is why this election was not fought on peace process grounds. Western observers have not.”

2) The ITIC reports on “The 6th Palestinian BDS Campaign Conference” in which BBC ‘frequent flyer’ Mustafa Barghouti participated.

“The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) held its sixth conference in al-Bireh (Ramallah) on March 16, 2019. Present were Palestinian BDS campaign activists; representatives from the PLO, Fatah and the National Initiative Movement (a leftist Palestinian organization headed by Mustafa Barghouti), and other representatives. Workshops were held at the conference dealing with various aspects of the BDS campaign. Workshop participants presented their recommendations to the conference plenary session. The conference organizers hoped for 1,000 participants but apparently fewer people attended. In addition, it is not clear if BDS representatives came from abroad. The conference was covered by the Arab and local Palestinian media, but apparently was not widely covered by the Western media.”

3) At the FDD’s ‘Long War Journal’ Thomas Joscelyn explains the background to the US State Department’s designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organisation.

“The US government has previously sanctioned and designated the IRGC, IRGC officials and proxies, as well as the IRGC – Qods Force (IRGC – QF), using other executive branch measures. More than 900 “Iran-related individuals, entities, aircraft, and vessels” had already been sanctioned under the Trump administration for “human right abuses, censorship, ballistic missile program, malign cyber activities, support to terrorism, or associations with the Government of Iran,” according to State.

But the new designation technically goes beyond those past actions, as the entire IRGC will now be considered a FTO. It is the first time that part of a foreign government has been targeted with such a designation.”

4) The Fathom Journal has published a report titled “Institutionally Antisemitic Contemporary Left Antisemitism and the Crisis in the British Labour Party”.

“This major Fathom report finds the Labour Party is now ‘institutionally antisemitic’ as the term is defined in the Macpherson Report: ‘the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin.’ Citing over 130 examples of antisemitism or antisemitism denial in the party, our editor Professor Alan Johnson shows how Labour has failed to: understand contemporary antisemitism, prevent the party becoming host to three different forms of antisemitism, develop ‘appropriate and professional’ processes to deal with antisemitism and safeguard members, or eradicate the party’s culture of antisemitism denial and victim-blaming.

The report also places the party’s crisis in four larger contexts, which make the crisis much harder to resolve than has been assumed: the history of left antisemitism and the current fashion for dressing up that antisemitism as ‘anti-Zionism’; the increasing sway of a crude ‘two camps’ world-view; the sharp increase in far-Left influence over the party; and the political record of indulging antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism on the part of the leader, Jeremy Corbyn and some of his key advisors and supporters.”

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ messaging reflects that of anti-Israel group

The April 1st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included a report by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent Barbara Plett Usher which was introduced by presenter Julian Marshall (from 45:11 here) as follows:

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life in hotly contested elections next week, trying to win another term in office despite facing possible indictments on corruption charges. His election campaign has made much of his ability to deliver dividends from Israel’s relationship with America and has highlighted his friendship with President Trump but for some time his Right-wing policies have been chipping away at America’s strong bi-partisan support for the Israeli government and that fracture is becoming ever more public. Barbara Plett Usher takes a closer look.”

Listeners heard no justification for the use of the buzz words “Right-wing policies” and no explanation of what those policies supposedly involve. They were given no evidence to support the claim that American support is for “the Israeli government” rather than Israel as a whole. Neither was any evidence provided supporting the claim that such support has been diminished solely and exclusively because of the Israeli prime minister’s policies. Plett Usher’s report opened with a recording of the Israeli prime minister speaking.

Recording Netanyahu: “Thank you President Trump. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your friendship.”

Plett Usher: “Benjamin Netanyahu has always believed he’s best at reading the wind when it comes to Americans and he felt that wind at his back on a trip to Washington last week.”

Recording Trump: “Under my administration the unbreakable alliance between the United States and Israel has never been stronger.”

Barbara Plett Usher went on to repeat the buzz words heard in the introduction but while this time listeners learned that those policies supposedly relate to “the Palestinians and Iran”, they were not told what those policies are or in what way they are “Right-wing”.

Plett Usher: “President Trump has embraced him and his Right-wing policies on the Palestinians and Iran.”

As Jonathan Spyer recently pointed out, there is in fact “an almost complete consensus between a broad mass of the Israeli (Jewish) public” on the issue of Iranian threats against Israel and “a decline in the level of polarisation within the Jewish voting public over the last two decades” concerning “the security challenge of Hamas-controlled Gaza, and of the unresolved conflict with the Palestinian Arab national movement”.

“Regarding Iran, former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White list, which forms the main challenger to the ruling Likud party in the 2019 campaign, has made clear that there are no disagreements between himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the question of Iran and the threat it poses.

The consensus, however, goes beyond the rightist Likud and centrist Blue and White party. Labor and Meretz, representing the centre-Left and left-wing spots on the political map, are similarly supportive of the government’s stance on Iran.”

Quite how Plett Usher justifies her claim of “Right-wing policies on Iran” is therefore unclear.

On the subject of the conflict with the Palestinians, Spyer notes that:

“…this debate has lost much of its passion. On the Left, the belief that a partner for historic compromise had been found in the PLO lost many adherents after the collapse of the peace process and the commencement of Palestinian insurgency in late 2000. On the Right, the fervent and ideological commitment to avoidance of any land concessions west of the Jordan River also faded.

This has been reflected in the 2019 campaign. The main contenders – Likud and Blue and White, are clearly competing for the centre ground. “

Once again the justification for Plett Usher’s use of the slogan “Right-wing policies” is unclear.

She continued with a segment including unidentified interviewees at the recent AIPAC conference –using another label for which she did not bother to provide evidence.

Plett Usher: “But outside the White House the wind is shifting. [music] Not here. Support was rock solid at this conference of the powerful pro-Israel lobby the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee – or AIPAC. It has promoted Israel’s relationship with the US for decades in both political parties. But a few young, newly elected Democrats have been challenging that orthodoxy, triggering a controversy over charges of antisemitism and the level of bi-partisan support.”

Man 1: “The three vocal Democratic representatives are just vocal. They’re loud mouths. And I feel their uproar – people like uproar, they like a tumult, OK – and I think it’ll die down.”

Man 2: “I think that there’s enough love and support in the United States for Israel and an understanding of the importance of the alliance that it really will not affect the relationship.”

Referring to a small demonstration against AIPAC in March, Plett Usher went on to introduce a representative of a political group which, interestingly, she did not find it necessary to locate on the political spectrum.

[shouting: ‘Free Palestine, Free Gaza’]

Plett Usher: “Only a handful of demonstrators showed up but in fact opposition to Mr Netanyahu’s policies has been building for some time, especially when it comes to treatment of the Palestinians and especially in the younger generation. [shouting] That includes many American Jews who say Israel has lurched so far to the Right they no longer share its values. Ethan Miller belongs to a protest group called ‘If Not Now’.”

Miller: “You know, we’re a rising movement – a rising grassroots movement – of American Jews but I think we’re starting to see changes in Congress as well. We’re starting to see members of Congress both in the house and in the Senate actually start to speak up for Palestinian human rights in a way that we haven’t seen for a long time.”

The group ‘If Not Now’ claims to be “working to transform the American Jewish community’s support for occupation into a call for freedom and dignity for all”. Apparently Plett Usher would have her listeners believe that “the occupation” – which of course began as the result of a defensive war during the term of a Left-wing government when the current Israeli prime minister was still four months short of his eighteenth birthday – is one of “Mr Netanyahu’s policies”.

Plett Usher: “It’s a trend that’s never been so pronounced or contentious.”

Recording: “Breaking news coming out of the House of Representatives where a resolution has just passed condemning antisemitism and other forms of bigotry.”

Plett Usher then presented a highly selective version of a story from February, failing to clarify that the congresswoman did in fact use an antisemitic trope.  

Plett Usher: “A Muslim congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, was accused of using antisemitic language. That broke open divisions within the party in a public and messy way. Still, there was an upside says Jeremy Ben Ami. He heads a liberal pro-Israel lobby called J Street that is challenging AIPAC and he organised a conference call on the controversy.”

Recording Ben Ami: “The space that we need to have is the space to discuss the occupation. I think that we are in a place now where those conversations can actually start to be had.”

Plett Usher did not bother to inform listeners that J Street – which some would dispute is “pro-Israel” – was founded in 2007 when the prime minister of Israel was Kadima’s Ehud Olmert or that, in contrast to AIPAC which does not donate to candidates or campaigns, J Street donated some $4 million to exclusively Democratic candidates in 2018. She went on:

Plett Usher: “Or maybe not.”

Recording Trump: “But they are totally anti-Israel. Frankly I think they’re anti-Jewish.”

Plett Usher: “President Trump has seized the moment to go after the Democrats, even though he’s been accused of enabling antisemitism. Republicans are claiming to be better defenders of Israel and Democratic lawmaker Tom Malinowski says there’s now less space for conversation about Israel within the party – not more.”

Malinowski: “I am absolutely convinced it is possible to have a debate about our foreign policy towards Israel or any other country but when people start using blatantly antisemitic tropes in that debate, it actually makes it harder. It actually tends to shut down serious debate about foreign policy because everybody becomes defensive and angry rather that thoughtful about the choices that are before us.”

Plett Usher finished by building up what she apparently knows to be an imaginary story about a ‘boycott’ of the recent AIPAC conference.

Plett Usher: “The young and outspoken lawmakers have received an outsized amount of coverage but it is not just about them. Democrats who’ve announced they’re running for president include a mix of liberals and ethnic minorities who have also been more critical of Israeli policy.”

Recording Pence: “And as I stand before you, eight Democrat candidates for president are actually boycotting this very conference.”

Plett Usher: “The vice-president Mike Pence brought up the 2020 election at the AIPAC conference.”

Recording Pence: “It is wrong to boycott Israel and it is wrong to boycott AIPAC.”

Plett Usher: “In fact only one candidate – Bernie Sanders – explicitly said he was not attending because of policy differences. But it does look as if Israel will be an issue in America’s presidential campaign long after the Israeli prime minister has finished his.”

Plett Usher’s framing of this story is abundantly clear: ‘liberal’ Americans are, according to her, abandoning Israel solely because of its prime minister’s “Right-wing policies”. Unsurprisingly she ignored the relevant issue of the Democratic party’s leftward shift over the years in order to uncritically and unquestioningly promote a narrative advanced by the anti-Israel group showcased in her report.

“My generation sees the occupation and what’s happening in Israel-Palestine as a crisis the same way we do climate change,” said Simone Zimmerman, 28, a co-founder of a progressive group, IfNotNow, that opposes what it calls Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. Ms. Zimmerman scorned what she called “the Trump-Netanyahu” alliance and said “too many in the American Jewish establishment and the Democratic establishment have let them off the hook.”

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming” intended to “build people’s understanding of…the wider world”. 

Related Articles:

BBC News framing of Iranian activity in Syria continues

BBC R4 presenter floats ranking racism

 

 

 

BBC News framing of Iranian activity in Syria continues

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

BBC ignores revelation of Hizballah’s Golan network

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

Iranian military activity in southern Syria under-reported by BBC

BBC inconsistency on Iran’s Syria build-up continues

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

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

BBC Radio 4 manages to report on Iran without the usual distractions