BBC’s Bowen tells WS listeners Israel bombs Syria ‘regularly’

The lead story in the January 13th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was introduced by presenter Paul Henley (from 01:00 here) as follows:newshour-13-1-17-syria

“First; not for the first time, Syria has accused Israel of military aggression, blaming it for a series of explosions at a military airport on the outskirts of Damascus. The Syrian government said it had been a flagrant attack and that there would be repercussions. Their stance was possibly born of a new-found sense of confidence that things in Syria are going the way of the Assad government. Russian involvement in the war has been hugely important and the possibility of a more Moscow-friendly White House come the end of this month will be greeted with delight in Damascus. I’ve been talking to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen who’s on route from the Syrian capital to Aleppo; was he surprised by these accusations of an Israeli military strike in Damascus?”

The idea that the Syrian regime’s response to this incident is any different to the statements it has put out previously on similar occasions is of course not supported by reality. The term ‘flagrant’ was used by Assad spokespeople back in 2013 and the Syrian regime has threatened retaliation against Israel in the past.

Listeners then heard Jeremy Bowen make the following claim:

“No; the Israelis have bombed various parts of Syria before. It’s something they do relatively regularly. “

Israel does not usually officially confirm its involvement the airstrikes it is alleged to have carried out in Syria since 2013 and so Bowen’s “relatively regularly” assertion is based on conjecture and the claims of the Syrian regime. His broad-brush claim that Israel has “bombed various parts of Syria before” is inaccurate and misleading in that it does not clarify that the alleged strikes have been specifically and exclusively connected to weapons supplies to Hizballah or terrorism against Israel and Bowen’s choice of words is likely to lead the uninformed listener to the inaccurate belief that Israel is involved in the war in Syria.

Bowen continued:

“And the question is what they were after hitting that base. Now, it may well be that there was a target there belonging to Hizballah –  the Lebanese group which of course is a mortal enemy of the Israelis – and perhaps that’s what they were after but, you know, it’s a lot of speculation. One of the things that’s very important to Hizballah is their supply of weapons; not just for their activities in Syria but for their operations in Lebanon as well and perhaps the Israelis had some knowledge that something was going on in that department.”

The conversation between Bowen and Henley then moved on to a different topic, with no mention made of the fact that Hizballah is a terrorist organisation, no information provided regarding the identity of its providers of arms and no reminder of the fact that the supply of weapons to Hizballah is specifically forbidden under UNSC resolution 1701. As readers may recall, those exact same pieces of information were likewise absent from the BBC News website’s report on the same event.

The BBC defined Jeremy Bowen’s job description as follows in 2006:

“Jeremy Bowen’s new role is, effectively, to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent. His remit is not just to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting, but also to find stories away from the main agenda.”

Here we see that rather than making this story more “comprehensible for the audience”, his omission of key information does the exact opposite and his inaccurate and context-free assertion that Israel has “bombed various parts of Syria….relatively regularly” in fact prevents listeners from comprehending the story correctly.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bowen plays dumb to weave tangled web

BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again

More unquestioned amplification of Syrian regime propaganda from BBC News

In which BBC News manages to avoid Syrian propaganda for a change

BBC does Iranian ‘moderates and reformists’ framing yet again

The BBC News website published numerous reports concerning the death of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on January 8th and a common feature in all that content was the promotion of the notion that Rafsanjani was a ‘moderate’ and a ‘reformer’.

Iran’s ex-President Rafsanjani dies at 82:

“In recent years, our correspondent says, he has been a central figure in the reform movement that has been trying to have a moderating influence on Iran and Ayatollah Khamenei.”

Obituary: Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

“Seen as “pragmatic conservative”, Rafsanjani was a leading member of the Iran’s religious establishment who gained popularity in later life among the country’s moderates. […]

He went on to be openly critical of Mr Ahmadinejad and became a key supporter of his reform-minded successor, Hassan Rouhani.”

Ex-President Rafsanjani a ‘most influential figure’ in Iran:

“…in recent years he has been instrumental in pushing a line of moderation in Iran, influencing…a moderating influence in Iran. And in recent years again he became gradually a top figure in the Iranian reform movement. So his death is going to leave a big hole in the reform movement and that moderating influence that they were trying to push.”

Iran former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani dies aged 82

“…but his political allegiances later shifted towards reformists…”

Iran loses force for continuity with Rafsanjani’s death:rafsanjani 

“At the same time his death has left a big hole in the confidence of the moderates and the reformist movement in Iran. […]

Although he began politically as an Islamic hardliner, Rafsanjani had increasingly moved to the centre of Iranian politics in the last two decades, and in recent years, he became a champion of the reformists and a strong moderating influence, gaining huge popularity.”

Iran Rafsanjani death: Huge crowds at ex-president’s funeral:

“But over the decades, the wily politician who held almost every major position in government became known for his pragmatic approach to Iran’s theocracy.

He pushed for a greater rapprochement with the West and more social and economic freedoms.

His credentials gave him the courage and the clout to speak out. The reformists he backed, including the current President Hassan Rouhani, have now lost a key ally in their incessant struggle for power against the hardliners.”

Iran Rafsanjani funeral underscores political divisions:

“Some were chanting opposition slogans, and others carried placards emphasising Mr Rafsanjani’s links to the moderate and reformist camps. […]

“The circle became too closed for the centre,” said another, using a quotation from Persian poetry to underline the growing distance in recent years between Mr Rafsanjani and Iran’s hardline political establishment.”

BBC audiences are of course no strangers to similar framing of the current Iranian president as a ‘moderate’ and a ‘reformer’ even though Rouhani’s record does nothing to support the employment of such portrayals. As the Jerusalem Post’s Seth Frantzman noted:

“Then former Iranian president Akbar Hashem Rafsanjani died on Sunday at age 82. Western media once again sold us a story of how this was a “big blow to moderates and reformists,” as CNBC reported. Rafsanjani was the “most influential supporter” of reforms among the Islamic establishment. Now the non-existent “reformers” have another excuse why there are no reforms. […]

Reading news about Iran it almost seems every western news agency and major media outlet receives talking points from some unseen super-news media word database. “When writing about Iran there are two political parties, the reformers or moderates and the hard-liners, use these key words when describing everything. […]

The reality in Iran is that the choice is not between reformers and hard-liners, but the extreme religious right and the extreme nationalist religious right. There are no liberal leaders in Iran.  There are only militarists, theocrats, nationalists, extremists, the extreme right, the populist right, the fundamentalists, the fundamentalist right, the Inquisition leaders, and floggers and executioners. […]

Every time journalists parrot this “moderates” story they feed a false regime-supported narrative.”

At the Wall Street Journal Sohrab Ahmari writes:

“Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was the original Mr. Moderation. Western observers saw the former Iranian president as a sort of Deng Xiaoping in clerical robes: a founder of the Islamic Republic who was destined to transform the country into a normal state. Rafsanjani, they thought, was too corrupt to be an ideologue.

Yet Rafsanjani, who died Sunday at 82, consistently defied such hopes. His life and legacy remind us that fanaticism and venality aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s a lesson in the persistence of Western fantasies about the Iranian regime. […]

Khomeini’s death in 1989 occasioned Rafsanjani’s worst political misstep. Thinking he could puppeteer events behind the scenes, Rafsanjani successfully promoted his archrival, Ali Khamenei, as the next supreme leader. But Mr. Khamenei, far more assertive than Rafsanjani had imagined, soon consolidated power.

The regime’s Western apologists framed that rivalry as a genuine ideological conflict between the “hard-line” Mr. Khamenei and the “pragmatic,” “moderate” Rafsanjani (along with others, such as current President Hassan Rouhani). President Obama’s nuclear deal was premised on the same fantasy: Rafsanjani had accumulated vast, ill-gotten wealth—here’s someone with whom we can do business.

Yet Rafsanjani never failed to follow the “Line of the Imam,” not least in foreign affairs. […]

Still the illusions die hard. Minutes after Rafsanjani’s death was announced, the New York Times’s Tehran correspondent tweeted that it “is a major blow to moderates and reformists in Iran.””

While the BBC is clearly not alone in having bought into the notion of ‘moderates’ and ‘reformists’ within the Iranian political establishment, one would of course expect that a media organisation obliged to provide its funding public with accurate and impartial information which will build their “understanding of international issues” could do considerably better.

Related Articles:

Why does the BBC continue to describe Rouhani as a ‘moderate’?

BBC framing of Iran’s president once again shown to be redundant

 

 

 

attack

BBC reports on death of Rafsanjani ignore his involvement in global terror

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iranian president from 1989 to 1997, and mentor to current President Hassan Rouhani, died of a heart attack on Sunday at 82.

In multiple BBC reports on his death, Rafsanjani was characterised as one of the most “influential figures since the 1979 revolution” and a “pragmatic conservative” who became “a key supporter of reformists”.

However, in our review of BBC’s coverage of the former president’s death, there was one glaring omission: his key role in Iran’s use of global terror as a tool of foreign policy.

A recent report at The Tower details Rafsanjani’s record of terror:

A Central Intelligence Agency assessment from 1990 found that Rafsanjani had targeted “enemies of the regime” during the previous year, and predicted that “Rafsanjani and other Iranian leaders will continue selectively using terrorism as a foreign policy tool to intimidate regime opponents, punish enemies of Islam, and influence Western political decisions.”

In 1992, four Iranian dissidents were killed in a Berlin restaurant. A German court found in 1997 that both Rafsanjani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Kamenei “not only allow terrorist attacks abroad…they themselves set in action such attacks.” Iranian foreign policy, the court concluded, involved identifying opponents abroad and having them “liquidated.”

That same year, the Israeli embassy in Argentina was bombed, as was the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires two years later, with both attacks widely believed to have been done by the Iran-sponsored terror group Hezbollah. Argentine investigators concluded that the AMIA bombing had been approved at a meeting attended by Khamenei and Rafsanjani.

Also during Rafsanjani’s tenure, the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia, which housed American troops, was bombed by Saudi and Lebanese members of Hezbollah in a plot that was planned by Iranian agents. 19 U.S. Air Force personnel were killed in the blast, as were a number of Saudis and nationals of other countries. The bombers who were captured said that they were trained by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and had received $250,000 and logistical support from an IRGC general. Then-FBI Director Louis Freeh testified before Congress that “the attack was planned, funded and sponsored by senior leadership in the government of the Republic of Iran, that the IRGC principally had the responsibility of putting that plan into operation.”

Of course, BBC readers were also not informed that Rafsanjani, on multiple occasions, explicitly called for Israel’s destruction.

For more information on the attack on the AMIA Jewish community center (and the subsequent cover-up) see here.

 

 

BBC News recycles Iranian terrorism blur

On December 30th a report titled “Israel warns of New Year terror threat in India” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.terror-threat-india-art

After telling the story described in the headline, the report went on to inform readers that:

“In 2012, the wife of Israeli diplomat stationed in India was critically wounded in a car bomb attack along with her driver and two others.

The incident sparked diplomatic tensions when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of being behind it – a charge strongly denied by Tehran.”

Well over three years ago, in August 2013, another BBC report included a similar statement concerning that same attack in New Delhi in February 2012:

“The blasts came a day after two bomb attacks targeted Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia.

Israel has accused Iran of orchestrating the attacks, a charge which Iran denies.”

As was pointed out here at the time:Interpol

“The BBC neglects to inform its readers that the police investigation into the attack in New Delhi – in which the wife of an Israeli diplomat, her driver and two bystanders were injured – resulted in India’s police concluding that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were behind the attack or that US counter-terrorism officials have reached the same conclusion as their Israeli counterparts.  

The BBC also omits any information regarding the related Red Notice put out by Interpol in March 2012.

Hence, BBC audiences are herded towards forming the mistaken impression that the two claims – accusation and denial – are of equal weight, whilst the fact that evidence gathered by other bodies supports the Israeli assessment is concealed from them.”

Three years on, those observations obviously also apply to this latest BBC report. 

Weekend long read

1) As has been noted here before, the BBC is still unsure about Iranian involvement in the conflict in Yemen. The Washington Post recently published an article titled “How Iranian weapons are ending up in Yemen“.Weekend Read

“Weapon shipments intercepted in the Arabian sea by Australian, French and U.S. warships this year contained large quantities of Russian and Iranian weapons, some of which had markings similar to munitions recovered from Houthi fighters in Yemen, according to a new report released by an independent research group Wednesday.

In October, U.S. officials claimed to have captured five shipments of Iranian weapons bound for Yemen. The report, published by Conflict Armament Research, or CAR, draws on markings found on rifles, rocket launchers, anti-tank guided missiles and munitions, providing some of the more concrete evidence to date of Iran’s logistical support to Houthis fighting in Yemen’s nearly two-year-old civil war.”

2) Professor Eugene Kontorovich has compiled “A Global Study of Settlements in Occupied Territories“.

“This Article provides the first comprehensive, global examination of state and international practice bearing on Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which provides that an “Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” This provision is a staple of legal and diplomatic international discussions of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and serves as the basis for criticism of Israeli settlement policy. 

Despite its frequent invocation in the Israeli context, scholars have never examined – or even considered – how the norm has been interpreted and applied in any other occupation context in the post-WWII era. For example, the International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC) influential Study on Customary International Humanitarian Law lists 107 instances of national practice and UN practice applying or interpreting the prohibition, and all but two relate to Israel. Many questions exist about the scope and application of Art. 49(6)’s prohibition on “transfer,” but they have generally been answered on purely theoretically.”

3) MEMRI gives a comprehensive overview of the Abbas-Dahlan power struggle.

“A recent focus in the Palestinian press has been the power struggle between Palestinian Authority (PA) President and Fatah chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas and former Fatah Central Committee member Muhammad Dahlan, who was expelled from the movement in 2011 and is currently attempting to influence the Palestinian agenda and to empower his supporters in the face of ‘Abbas’s steps to exclude him from the Palestinian political scene.

Dahlan has been demonstrating his strength in a number of ways: in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip through conferences and protests organized by his supporters there, and also through efforts to strengthen ties between Egypt and the Gaza Strip; and in the Palestinian diaspora with conferences organized by his supporters in Lebanese refugee camps and in Europe. At the same time, ‘Abbas is trying with all his might to completely exclude Dahlan and his supporters from Fatah, and to end the ongoing internal conflict in the movement with an institutional resolution to be approved at the Seventh Fatah Conference, which is set for November 29, 2016.

The escalation in the power struggle between ‘Abbas and Dahlan is linked to the debate on the future of the Palestinian leadership, particularly the question of who ‘Abbas’s successor will be. This latter issue goes beyond the Palestinian discourse, in light of efforts by the Arab Quartet (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE), and especially by Egypt, to influence the composition of the Palestinian leadership by including Dahlan in it and by grooming him to succeed ‘Abbas as Fatah chairman and Palestinian president. On October 6, 2016, the debate over ‘Abbas’s successor became more urgent after the 82-year-old ‘Abbas was rushed to the hospital for a cardiac catheterization.”

 

 

Poll highlights consequences of BBC omission and under-reporting

BICOM recently published the results of an opinion poll carried out in the UK concerning, among other things, attitudes towards Israel and the BDS campaign. While the results on those topics have grabbed headlines, another section of the poll is no less interesting.

BICOM reports that the poll results indicate that:

“ISIS is seen as the greatest threat to both Britain and Israel. 75 per cent think the terror group is a threat to the UK, while 60 per cent think it is a threat to Israel. Hamas is considered a threat to Britain by 15 per cent of respondents, and Hezbollah by 14 per cent of respondents. This numbers more than doubles to 35 per cent and 32 per cent respectively when respondents are asked if Hamas and Hezbollah are considered to be a threat to Israel.”

The organisation links the findings to media coverage.

bicom-poll

A study published by OFCOM in December 2015 shows that:

“The top two news sources, in terms of reach among UK adults, are both TV channels. BBC One is by far the most-used (at 48%), followed by ITV/ ITV Wales/ UTV/ STV News, with just over a quarter (27%) of people saying they use it as a source of news. BBC One has had a five percentage point decrease in reach since 2014 (53%). The BBC website or app remains the third most-used news source: just under a quarter (23%) of people say they use it. The BBC News Channel comes next (at 14%), followed by the Sky News channel (12%) which decreased by five percentage points since 2014. Facebook is now the joint-fifth highest news source in terms of reach, used by 12% of UK adults, an increase of five percentage points since 2014. The most-used radio stations are BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 2 (both 8%), while the most-used newspapers are The Sun and the Daily Mail (both 6%).”

Hence, according to the results of BICOM’s poll, what the BBC does not report about Hamas, Hizballah and Iran is as relevant in shaping public opinion in the UK as the stories it does cover.  

In the past year – during which, according to the poll, perception of Hamas as a threat to Israel has fallen by 4% – BBC Watch has documented the lack of/inadequacy of BBC coverage on a variety of issues including:

Hamas’ efforts to increase its terror infrastructure in PA controlled areas and inside Israel – see for example “Jerusalem explosives lab not newsworthy for the BBC“, “Hebron news which does not fit into the BBC narrative“, “Hamas terror cash shoes not news for the BBC“.

Missile fire from the Gaza Strip – see for example “Gaza missile attack on Israeli town again ignored by BBC News“.

Hamas’ cross-border tunnels – see for example “BBC News continues to sideline the Hamas tunnels story“, “Tepid BBC reporting on discovery of Hamas cross-border tunnel“, “BBC Gaza bureau’s Abu Alouf hides the Hamas tunnel elephant“.

Hamas’ attempts to smuggle weapons and terror-related materials into the Gaza Strip by sea – see for example “BBC News ignores yet another case of Hamas maritime smuggling” – and by land – see for example “BBC policy of ignoring Gaza smuggling continues“.

Hamas’ co-operation with ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula – see for example “Years of BBC amplifications of Hamas denials unravel“. 

Hamas’ indoctrination of children – see for example “BBC silent on British link to incitement of Palestinian children“, “BBC ignores annual terrorist indoctrination of Gaza youth yet again“.

The failure to categorise attacks by Hamas (and others) against Israelis as terrorism – see for example “What word is missing from BBC report on sentencing of Hamas terrorists?“, “The missing word in the BBC’s report on the capture of a Hamas terror cell“.

In that time we have also documented inadequate BBC coverage of Iran’s financing of terrorism – see for example “BBC euphemisms hobble audience understanding of Iranian terror financing“, “BBC News ignores another Iranian funded terror group“, “BBC silent on renewed Iranian funding for PIJ“.

Hizballah efforts to set up terrorist infrastructure in Israel have also been ignored by the BBC – see for example “The news the BBC has to omit in order to keep up its narrative“, “BBC continues to ignore Hizballah terror activity in Israel“.

As is often noted here, the BBC is committed to providing its funding public with news coverage which will enhance their “awareness and understanding of international issues”. Omission of coverage and the under-reporting of certain topics not only compromises that remit but, as BICOM’s poll highlights, hinders the ability of the British public to reach informed opinions.

 

BBC reports on Lebanese presidential election omit relevant information

October 31st saw the appearance of two BBC News website reports concerning the long-awaited election of a president in Lebanon.aoun-art-1

A report currently going under the headline “Lebanon: Michel Aoun elected president, ending two-year stalemate” underwent a series of amendments throughout the day but all versions of the article informed readers that:

“Mr Aoun was backed by the powerful Shia Islamist group, Hezbollah.

His candidacy was blocked by the rival, Sunni-dominated Future Movement until a deal was struck earlier this month.”

An additional report by Carine Torbey titled “Lebanon: Will new president end political crisis?” portrays the story of the 30 month-long failure to elect a president as follows:

“For almost two-and-a-half years, Lebanon – politically split along sectarian fault lines – has been without a president.aoun-art-2

Michel Aoun, Christian leader and founder of the Free Patriotic Movement, and for a long time one of the main contenders, has since 2006 been an ally of the Iranian-backed Shia party, Hezbollah – formerly a bitter political opponent of Mr Aoun.

That alliance was sufficient to make him persona non grata for the main Sunni political group in the country, the Future Movement, led by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and with strong links to Saudi Arabia.

A standoff, which became known as the “presidential vacuum”, ensued, effectively paralysing the country since May 2014.

On Monday, Mr Aoun was finally elected to the presidency with, remarkably, the support of the Future Movement.”

BBC audiences would therefore be likely to go away with the impression that the Future Movement is responsible for the fact that Lebanon was without a president for nearly two and a half years.

Just days before, listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ and BBC World Service radio’s ‘The Essential’ had heard a BBC journalist visiting Lebanon – James Longman – suggest that the inability to elect a president was linked to corruption.

“The contempt for this country’s politicians is palpable. Unable to elect a president for over two years, they’re widely considered to be corrupt businessmen sharing the spoils of government contracts which rarely benefit the population.”

Back in August 2015, Carine Torbey portrayed the same issue as follows:

“The 27th parliamentary session to elect a president in August was as ill-fated as the previous 26.

Lebanon is caught in deep political divisions mirroring the regional fault lines. The MPs who are deeply allied to one player or another in the region, have been unable to decide on a president, a mainly ceremonial role, reserved for a Christian in a sectarian power-sharing system.”

And readers may recall that in June of this year, BBC Monitoring produced a backgrounder on the topic of the failed attempts to elect a president which similarly refrained from informing BBC audiences of the fact that the parliamentary sessions aimed at dong so were repeatedly boycotted by Hizballah and its allies – as Yalibnan reported in April:

“Since Sulaiman ended his presidential term in May 2014, Hezbollah and most of its March 8 allies boycotted 38 parliamentary sessions that were allocated for electing a president

Without a two-thirds quorum, parliament sessions led to bickering, as Iran-backed Hezbollah insisted that it would only participate if it received solid guarantees that its candidate, Aoun, would be elected.”

In September Yalibnan reported that: 

“Hezbollah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem (usually referred to as No. 2) admitted on Sunday that it his party is behind the obstruction of Lebanon presidential election when [he] called on The Future Movement to “end its hesitation” and agree to back Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun’s presidential bid claiming that Hezbollah’s MPs would immediately end their boycott of the electoral sessions in order to vote for Aoun. […]

The Lebanese parliament failed again September 8th and for the 44th time in a row to elect a president to replace Michel Suleiman whose term ended on May 25, 2014.

As in the past sessions the parliament was unable to reach a quorum because the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group and its ally MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc MPs boycotted the session, because they could not reportedly guarantee Aoun’s election as a president.”

The BBC’s failure to report on those two and a half years of Hizballah arm-twisting does not only leave its audience lacking relevant background concerning the process of the election of the Lebanese president but also affects their ability to comprehend the context to Aoun’s stances and policies – some of which were already revealed in his first address as president.

“For the untrained ear, President Michel Aoun’s inaugural speech sounded like a mishmash of old chewed slogans about Lebanese “national unity”, harmony and patriotism. But between the lines, Aoun loaded his speech with code words that gave away the nation’s policy under his tenure.

First, according to Aoun, Lebanon will stay diplomatically neutral, thus giving Iran the advantage over Saudi Arabia. Second, Lebanon will sponsor “resistance” to “liberate” Israeli-occupied Lebanese territory. Third, Lebanon will “fight terrorism preemptively” inside Syria, and — in coordination with Assad — will deport Syrian refugees. […]

Right after giving Iran what it wanted, President Aoun delivered what Hezbollah wanted. “In the conflict with Israel, we will not spare any effort or resistance to liberate what remains of occupied Lebanese land,” Aoun said, thus trashing UNSC Resolution 1701, which calls for diplomatic resolution for disputed border territory between Lebanon and Israel.”

Since Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon over 16 years ago, the myth of “occupied Lebanese land” in the Mount Dov area has of course been used by Hizballah as an excuse for defying UN resolutions demanding its disarmament – despite the fact that the claim has been rejected by the UN.  

“In 2005, then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan rejected the Lebanese government’s claim that Shebaa Farms was Lebanese territory in a report (.pdf) to the Security Council:

‘The continually asserted position of the Government of Lebanon that the Blue Line is not valid in the Shab’a farms area is not compatible with Security Council resolutions. The Council has recognized the Blue Line as valid for purposes of confirming Israel’s withdrawal pursuant to resolution 425 (1978). The Government of Lebanon should heed the Council’s repeated calls for the parties to respect the Blue Line in its entirety.'”

Obviously the BBC has not made sufficient effort to provide its audience with the full range of information required to meet its remit of enabling understanding of this particular issue.

Related Articles:

Dumbing down ME politics with BBC Monitoring

Hizballah official admits what BBC Monitoring didn’t tell

 

BBC News still unsure about Iranian involvement in Yemen

In recent weeks the BBC has produced two backgrounders concerning the ongoing war in Yemen.

An article headlined “Yemen crisis: Who is fighting whom?” was promoted in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 14th and a week later – on October 21st – a filmed item titled “Yemen crisis: ‘The forgotten war’” also appeared on the same page, as well as on BBC television.yemen-mai-norman

Both those items include statements relating to Iranian involvement in the conflict in Yemen. In the filmed report Mai Norman tells viewers:

“But just like Syria and Iraq, regional power struggles are also at play and in the Middle East that almost always means Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Saudis back Hadi and they accuse Iran – a Shia country – of supporting the Houthis.” [emphasis added]

Readers of the written article are told that:

“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.” […]

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

Gulf Arab states have accused Iran of backing the Houthis financially and militarily, though Iran has denied this, and they are themselves backers of President Hadi.” [emphasis added]yemen-backgrounder

This is not the first time that audiences have seen the BBC’s apparent inability to inform its audiences whether or not the Houthis in Yemen are backed by Iran expressed in such vague and unhelpful language. A similar portrayal was found in a backgrounder titled “Yemen crisis: Who are the Houthis?” that was originally published in September 2014 and which was later replaced with an earlier version of this latest written backgrounder. In April 2015 BBC audiences saw further ambiguous portrayal in two articles and the following month they were told that the role of Iran in Yemen is ‘over-emphasised’.

Both before and since the March 2015 escalation of the conflict in Yemen, numerous reports concerning Iranian support for the Houthis have emerged (see ‘related articles’ below). Reuters recently reported a rise in the supply of weapons from Iran.

“Iran has stepped up weapons transfers to the Houthis, the militia fighting the Saudi-backed government in Yemen, U.S., Western and Iranian officials tell Reuters, a development that threatens to prolong and intensify the 19-month-old war. […]

“We are aware of a recent increased frequency of weapons shipments supplied by Iran, which are reaching the Houthis via the Omani border,” a Western diplomat familiar with the conflict told Reuters.

Three U.S. officials confirmed that assertion.

One of those officials, who is familiar with Yemen, said that in the past few months there had been a noticeable increase in weapons-smuggling activity.

“What they’re bringing in via Oman are anti-ship missiles, explosives…, money and personnel,” the official said.

Another regional security source said the transfers included surface-to-surface short-range missiles and small arms.

A senior Iranian diplomat confirmed there had been a “sharp surge in Iran’s help to the Houthis in Yemen” since May, referring to weapons, training and money.”

A US State Department spokesman addressed the same issue on October 20th:

“I mean, we’re aware that Iran provides lethal support to the Houthis. We have regularly and routinely called on regional actors to de-escalate the tensions in Yemen and the region, including abiding by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, as well as the ceasefire, which both the – all parties have said they would support.

We’ve also repeatedly raised our concerns that Iran is providing lethal aid to the Houthis in Yemen, including at the UN, when dhows smuggling Iranian weapons to the Houthis were interdicted at sea.”

Remarkably, after over eighteen months of reporting on the conflict in Yemen, the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” is still unable to meet its remit of building “global understanding” of this particular “international issue” by producing a backgrounder which tells its audiences whether or not Iran is involved in that war.

Related Articles:

Limited BBC journalistic curiosity on Iranian involvement in Yemen

BBC News portrays Iranian involvement in Yemen as ‘overplayed’

Weekend long read

1) Last month the BBC News website published a rare article about an incident related to internal affairs within the Palestinian Authority and its dominant party Fatah but no follow-up reporting on that topic has since appeared. MEMRI has produced a report on the background to that incident and its subsequent repercussions.Weekend Read

“Halawa’s killing marked the culmination of a series of violent clashes during the last few months between PA security forces and local armed forces, some of which belong to Fatah.These clashes stemmed from the refusal of influential families in the city to accept the PA’s authority. Some of these families, including the Halawa family, belong to factions within Fatah that do not support Fatah Chairman and PA President Mahmoud ‘Abbas.

Ahmad Halawa’s killing enraged many of the city’s residents, who regarded it as a grave and unjustified attack on a member of a prominent local family. The news of his death sparked further clashes that included gunfights between locals who support the Halawa family, some of them Fatah members, and PA security forces;  numerous arrests, and a general strike announced by the Nablus chamber of commerce. The killing also sent shockwaves through the Fatah movement in Nablus: the movement harshly condemned the activity of the PA security forces and declared a period of mourning in the city; moreover, many Fatah members quit the movement as a gesture of solidarity with the Halawa family and in protest of the PA security forces’ activity.”

2) Last week the UNSC extended the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Lebanon for an additional year. David Daoud of the FDD takes a look at “UNIFIL’s Unfulfilled Mandate“.

“…the Council commends the “positive role” UNIFIL has played in creating a “new strategic environment in south Lebanon” in the decade since the Israel-Hezbollah war of 2006. The resolution comes shortly after the force’s new commander commended it turning south Lebanon into an “an oasis of peace.” The truth is rather different: Israel and Hezbollah have had their own reasons for deferring war, ones that have little to do with UNIFIL.”

3) BICOM has been looking ahead at likely scenarios for the Palestinian Authority.

“Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is 81 years old, has publicly stated his intention not to compete again in elections and has appointed no successor. Given the state of the Palestinian system as well as increasing frustration with the PA and the moribund peace process with Israel, a chaotic battle for succession – one that is already underway – is the most likely scenario for the post-Abbas era.”

Links to that two-part study can be found here.

4) Over at the Tower, Annika Hernroth-Rothstein brings a fascinating and touching account of her visit to Iran and its Jewish community.

“Life behind the mechitza offers some much-wanted and rarely-found protection from the eyes and ears of the regime. It is there the women and I speak beyond a whisper, and before the Lecha Dodi prayer, I feel a hand on my arm, grasping desperately for my attention.

“Pray for us, will you, please?”

Her words are sad and real and stark, and they break the wall put up by her masters. I nod but fail to answer; I see a glimpse of her life but fail to fully understand; and I know there is nothing I can do but say a prayer and tell her story.”

Read the whole article here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

On August 12th 2006 the BBC News website reported that:

“The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a new resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Resolution 1701 calls for “a full cessation of hostilities”, and UN and Lebanese troops to replace Israeli forces in southern Lebanon.”

BBC audiences were also provided with the text of that UNSC resolution which of course includes the following:1701 text art

“Emphasises the importance of the extension of the control of the government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) and resolution 1680 (2006), and of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, for it to exercise its full sovereignty, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the government of Lebanon;”

The resolution calls for:

  • “security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;
  • full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State;
  • no foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its Government;
  • no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government;”

The same resolution expanded the mandate and capabilities of the UNIFIL force in southern Lebanon and charged it, inter alia, with aiding the Lebanese government to prevent Hizballah’s rearmament.

While that UNSC resolution brought an end to the 2006 war, it has obviously failed to achieve its long-term goal of avoiding the next round of conflict by preventing Hizballah’s rearmament and entrenchment in southern Lebanon.

The BBC’s public purpose remit commits it to keeping its funding public “in touch with what is going on in the world” and to building “a global understanding of international issues” and so it would be reasonable to assume that audiences have been kept up to date on the issues pertaining to implementation of Resolution 1701 throughout the decade since it was adopted – but is that the case?

The ‘timeline’ in the BBC’s online profile of Lebanon (last updated in August 2016) makes no mention at all of the existence of UNSC Resolution 1701.

“2006 July-August – Israel attacks after Hezbollah kidnaps two Israeli soldiers. Civilian casualties are high and the damage to civilian infrastructure wide-ranging in 34-day war. UN peacekeeping force deploys along the southern border, followed by Lebanese army troops for first time in decades.”

The profile itself includes a generalised reference to the disarming of militias without specifically recalling Resolution 1701 and without clarifying the current status of that ‘demand’. 

“The UN has demanded the dismantling of all armed groups in Lebanon, including Palestinian militias and the military wing of Hezbollah, which controls much of southern Lebanon.”

The BBC’s current profile of Hizballah (last updated in March 2016) tells audiences that:

“After Israel withdrew in 2000, Hezbollah resisted pressure to disarm and continued to strengthen its military wing, the Islamic Resistance. In some ways, its capabilities now exceed those of the Lebanese army, its considerable firepower used against Israel in the 2006 war.”

And:

“Hezbollah survived the [2006] war and emerged emboldened. Although it is has since upgraded and expanded its arsenal and recruited scores of new fighters, there has been no major flare-up along the border area, which is now patrolled by UN peacekeepers and the Lebanese army.”

No mention is made of Resolution 1701 and the obligation to disarm the terrorist organisation, prevent its rearmament and remove it from southern Lebanon in either of those profiles currently appearing on the BBC News website.

Immediately after the 2006 war, the BBC was able to tell its audiences that:

“UN Security Council resolutions call for armed militia groups like Hezbollah to disarm.” 

Nearly a year after the adoption of Resolution 1701, the BBC sent Martin Asser to southern Lebanon to ‘examine UNIFIL’s performance’. The caption to the main photograph illustrating his article informed audiences that “Unifil troops are meant to prevent Hezbollah bearing arms”.1701 Asser art

“After the July 2006 war, the [UNIFIL] force received new orders and thousands of reinforcements under the ceasefire resolution 1701, which also stipulated the deployment of the Lebanese army in the area.

Previously the area had become the fiefdom of Hezbollah, the Shia Islamist and militant movement whose cross-border raid on 12 July – snatching two Israeli soldiers – was the catalyst for the 34-day conflict.

The post-conflict objective was for Unifil to help the Lebanese government extend its sovereignty to the southern frontier, so Hezbollah’s armed wing would no longer be free to menace nearby Israeli towns or troops patrolling the border.”

Asser added:

“Hezbollah fighters are masters of concealment and guerrilla warfare – their weapons were never on show before the war, so they are unlikely to be caught red-handed by Unifil or Lebanese troops now.”

An old profile of Hizballah from 2010 states:

“Despite two UN resolutions (1559 passed in 2004, and 1701, which halted the war) calling for disarming of militias in Lebanon, Hezbollah’s military arm remains intact.”

In 2013 BBC audiences were told by the corporation’s man in Beirut, Jim Muir, that “Hezbollah has scrupulously observed the ceasefire that ended hostilities in 2006”. In 2015 Orla Guerin reported from south Lebanon but failed to use the opportunity provided by a rare BBC visit to that area to inform audiences of Hizballah’s use of civilian villages to store weapons and as sites from which to launch attacks against Israel.

The BBC has also consistently avoided or downplayed the topic of Iranian breaches of UNSC Resolution 1701 in the form of its transfer of arms to Hizballah. In 2013 BBC audiences heard Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen playing dumb (and some Hizballah spin) on the issue of Syrian transfers of weapons to the terrorist organisation. 

Already in 2007 – just over a year after the war and the resolution which brought it to an end – the UN admitted that Hizballah had “rebuilt and even increased its military capacity” and since then its weapons stocks have vastly increased and diversified. The BBC is of course aware of that fact – as indicated in an article by BBC Monitoring’s Lamia Estatie published on July 11th 2016 under the headline “Hezbollah: Five ways group has changed since 2006 Israel war“.1701 Estatie art

“Its weapons arsenal grew from from [sic] 33,000 rockets and missiles before the 2006 war to an estimated 150,000. Similarly, it swelled from a few thousand members in 2006 to an estimated 20,000-plus.

After 2011, Hezbollah’s military support for the Iran-backed Syrian government – its weapons supply line – gave its fighters considerable combat experience and exposure to Russian military planning.”

No mention of UNSC Resolution 1701 appears in that report either.

It is apparent that as the decade since the UNSC’s adoption of 1701 progressed, BBC audiences saw less coverage of the topic of the existence of the resolution itself and the fact that its terms have been serially violated. Given the obligations to its funding public laid out in the public purposes remit, it is difficult to see how the BBC can justify that pattern of reporting.

Related Articles:

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part one

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part two