Weekend long read

1) It is not rare for BBC audiences to be told that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the central issue behind jihadist violence in the Middle East and beyond. At the JCPA, Dr Dore Gold examines that claim.

“There is one area in which many European diplomats connect the terror against Israel and the activities of the jihadist movements like ISIS. For decades it has been broadly assumed that if Israel would only solve the Palestinian problem, then one of the grievances driving the jihadi movements would be removed and the West would be more secure. This thesis has been proven to be false time and time again.

Looking back at the 1990s, the first major breakthrough between Israel and the Palestinians was reached with the signing of the 1993 Declaration of Principles, also known as the Oslo Accords. In the years that followed, a series of implementation agreements were signed like the 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement, the 1995 Interim Agreement, the 1997 Hebron Agreement, and the 1998 Wye River Memorandum.

But looking in the same parallel period, there was no correlation between Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy and the reduction of the hostility from the jihadist threat. For in those very years, al-Qaeda’s threats on the West seemed to only worsen: in 1993, the first World Trade Center attack took place; in 1995 was the first al-Qaeda attack in Saudi Arabia; followed in 1998 with the attacks against the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; in 2000, the USS Cole was attacked in Yemen; and finally in 2001, the United States was struck in the 9/11 attacks.”

2) At the INSS, Dr Raz Zimmt provides a view of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ post JCPOA involvement in the country’s economy.

“The Revolutionary Guards’ expanded involvement in infrastructure and development projects throughout Iran is highly evident. However, the lifting of the economic sanctions following the implementation of the JCPOA provides an opportunity to reduce Revolutionary Guards involvement in the economy by means of encouraging foreign companies to invest in Iran once again. Indeed, the corps is well aware of the challenges it faces following the nuclear agreement that endanger the organization’s economic interests. However, it feels the need to control the state economy not only to finance its own activities in Iran and beyond, but also to solidify its political status, and hence the group’s increased efforts to entrench its involvement in development and infrastructure projects.”

3) In late February and early March we noted that the BBC had not covered two stories relating to the suspensions of UNRWA employees following allegations of their election to the Hamas political bureau in the Gaza Strip. The ITIC has now produced a report concerning Hamas opposition to proposed changes to the curriculum in UNRWA-run elementary schools.

“Hamas recently attacked UNRWA for its intention to introduce changes in the curriculum of the lower grades of elementary schools in the Gaza Strip operated by the agency. Hamas claimed the proposed changes served Israel and were intended to have a negative effect on the national identity of young Palestinians. In several refugee camps, “popular” protests were held against UNRWA. One was also held near UNRWA headquarters in the Gaza Strip during events marking Land Day (March 30, 2017).

During the protest near UNRWA headquarters calls were heard to reinstate Dr. Suhail al-Hindi, suspended by UNRWA after he was elected to Hamas’ new political bureau in the Gaza Strip. Sabri Sidam, Palestinian minister of education, and the Palestinian ministry of education in Ramallah stated their objection to any change UNRWA might make in its curriculum.”

4) Writing at the New York Times, Benjamin Pogrund explains why the ‘apartheid’ smear so frequently amplified in BBC content is invalid.

“The idea that Israel is an apartheid state is a staple of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which has made the South African comparison practically the lingua franca of anti-Israel activism. It’s a grave charge: If the accusation is valid, Israel deserves the censure, boycotts and isolation that the B.D.S. movement demands. But announcing it loudly and ceaselessly, as the movement does, doesn’t make it true.

Here’s why the apartheid comparison does not stack up.

Apartheid in South Africa maintained privilege for the white minority and doomed people of color to subservience; it determined every aspect of life — the school you attended, the work you did, where you lived, which hospital and ambulance you used, whom you could marry, right down to which park bench you could sit on without facing arrest.

I know this because I lived it.”

BBC reports development in Hizballah story, fails to update original report

Earlier this month we revisited a BBC story from May 2016 in which audiences were initially told that Israel had killed a Hizballah commander.

“…the final version of the article – which is still available on the BBC News website – points BBC audiences towards the assumption that Israel may have been responsible for the killing.”

In that post we noted that an investigation conducted by the Al Arabiya network (unreported by the BBC at the time) suggested that Mustafa Badreddine’s assassination was in fact carried out by Hizballah and its Iranian backers and hence:

“…we would of course now expect to see the BBC revisiting this story, reviewing its steering of audiences towards the default conclusion that Israel was likely to have been involved and checking the accuracy of this particular example of “historical record”.” 

On March 21st the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel: Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine ‘killed by own men’” which opens as follows:

“The Israeli military’s chief of staff has added weight to Arab media reports that Hezbollah was behind the killing of its own commander in Syria in 2016.

Lt Gen Gadi Eisenkot said Israeli intelligence had similarly concluded that Mustafa Amine Badreddine was assassinated by his own men.”

Later on readers were told that:

“Earlier this month, the pan-Arab news network al-Arabiya said its investigation into Badreddine’s death had concluded that the commander was killed on the orders of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

The report said Hassan Nasrallah was put under pressure to remove Badreddine by Maj Gen Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite overseas operations arm and a key adviser to the Syrian military.”

And:

Tweet to 14.3 million followers promoting the BBC’s original article on May 13, 2016

“On Tuesday, Gen Eisenkot said the Arab media reports that Hezbollah had killed Badreddine matched the “intelligence we have”.”

The BBC’s original article – including the repeated suggestion that Israel may have killed Badreddine – is of course still available online. In light of the developments in the story, best practice would of course necessitate its amendment to include the information in this latest BBC report.

To date, such an update has not been added.

Related Articles:

BBC News amplifies unreliable source on Hizballah commander’s death

Revisiting a BBC ‘Israel did it’ story from May 2016

Weekend long read

1) At the Times of Israel Dan Efrony – former Military Advocate General of the IDF – writes about “The law of armed conflict: legality vs. legitimacy“.

“Since the 1980s, all of Israel’s armed conflicts have been fought against non-state actors, prominent among them, the terror organizations Hamas and Hezbollah.

These non-state enemies systematically and deliberately violate international humanitarian law, and specifically its basic principles which reflect customary international law that binds any state or non-state actor engaged in an armed conflict.

At the same time, they view the commitment of democracies like Israel to the rule of law as a weakness, which they can exploit to boost their gains in each front of the conflict, and within each level of activity, both tactical and strategic.”

2) Writing at ‘Fathom’, former MK Einat Wilf discusses what’s holding up a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“For most Israelis, the repeated Palestinian failures to say ‘yes’ to clear and distinct opportunities to end the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and to build a peaceful state for themselves in territories evacuated by Israel, reinforced the view that more than the Arab Palestinians wanted a state for themselves, they wanted to deny a state to the Jewish people. Seventy years after the British Foreign Secretary told Parliament on the eve of partition that ‘for the Jews, the essential point of principle is the creation of a sovereign Jewish state’, while ‘for the Arabs, the essential point of principle is to resist to the last the establishment of Jewish sovereignty in any part of the land’, it seems the Arab Palestinians still see no reason to compromise with a project they view as ‘unjust’ and temporary. After all, if the crusader state lasted 88 years (including Jerusalem), then in 2017 – when Israel will mark 69 years – all the Arab Palestinians have to do is wait a mere 19 more years until the second crusader state will disappear.”

3) BICOM has produced a backgrounder to the Six Day War which can be accessed here.

4) At ‘The Long War Journal’ Amir Toumaj profiles the group behind the recently formed ‘Golan Liberation Brigade’.

“The Iranian-controlled Iraqi militia Harakat al Nujaba this week announced the formation of its “Golan Liberation Brigade.” While it is not uncommon for entities to name themselves after areas they aim to “liberate,” the militia’s spokesman has said that the unit could assist the Syrian regime in taking the Golan Heights, a region in the Levant that has been controlled by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.

If true, the unit would likely participate in a future offensive to capture territory from Syrian opposition in the part of the Golan Heights still controlled by Syria, before moving on to the much taller order of dislodging the Israelis across the border. This week’s announcement reflects Tehran’s priorities in southern Syria since finally taking the fiercely contested city of Aleppo late last year: crush Syrian opposition, and pose military threat to Israel from the Golan Heights.” 

Revisiting a BBC ‘Israel did it’ story from May 2016

As was documented here back in May 2016:

As was noted here at the time, although that information did not in fact come from Hizballah, subsequent versions of the BBC’s report inaccurately told readers that the terror group had “rolled back” the claim.

Nevertheless, the final version of the article – which is still available on the BBC News website – points BBC audiences towards the assumption that Israel may have been responsible for the killing.

“An initial report by Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV said that Badreddine, 55, died in an Israeli air strike. But a later statement by Hezbollah on al-Manar’s website did not mention Israel.

Israeli media reported that the government refused to comment on whether it was involved in Badreddine’s death.

Israel has been accused by Hezbollah of killing a number of its fighters in Syria since the conflict began.”

And – under the sub-heading “Key questions”:

“Who could have killed Mustafa Badreddine?

Any of the armed groups seeking to overthrow Mr Assad might have sought to kill the man co-ordinating Hezbollah military activities. However, suspicion is likely to fall on Israel, which fought a war against Hezbollah in 2006.

Israel has been accused of killing several of the group’s leaders over the years, although it has never officially confirmed its involvement.

Hezbollah military chief Imad Mughniyeh was killed in a car bombing in Damascus in 2008 that US intelligence officials said last year was a joint operation by the CIA and Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

In January 2015, a suspected Israeli air strike in the Syrian Golan Heights killed six Hezbollah fighters, including Mughniyeh’s son Jihad, and an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general.

And in December, Hezbollah said one of its senior figures, Samir Qantar, was killed when missiles fired by Israeli jets struck a block of flats in Damascus.

Israel has also reportedly conducted air strikes aimed at preventing advanced weapons shipments from Iran from reaching Hezbollah via Syria.”

On March 8th 2017 the Israeli news website Walla reported that an investigation by Al Arabia suggests a different answer to the question “who could have killed Mustafa Badreddine?” than the one promoted by the BBC.  

“According to an investigation by the ‘Al Arabia’ network, the General Secretary of the organisation [Hizballah – Nasrallah], together with the commander of the Iranian Quds Force [Soleimani], planned the assassination of the organisation’s senior figure [Badreddine], who died in a ‘mysterious explosion’ at Damascus airport. Hizballah blamed the Syrian opposition – which in turn blamed Hizballah.”

Whether or not that allegation is true is unclear but Al Arabia’s report is certainly no less reliable that the one from Al Mayadeen claiming that Badreddine had been killed by an Israeli airstrike which the BBC elected to amplify without independently confirming the claim.

As we know, the BBC relates to its online content as “historical record”:

“Our online news is far more accessible today than the newspaper archives of libraries. But in principle there is no difference between them: both are historical records. Fundamentally it is in the public interest to retain them intact.”

Given that, we would of course now expect to see the BBC revisiting this story, reviewing its steering of audiences towards the default conclusion that Israel was likely to have been involved and checking the accuracy of this particular example of “historical record”. 

 

‘What’s he doing here?’ – BBC 5 live breakfast on Israeli PM’s London visit

h/t RS

The February 6th edition of the BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast programme included an item (from 02:18:32 here) in which presenter Rachel Burden discussed the Israeli prime minister’s visit to London with Jeremy Bowen.5-live-breakfast-6-2

That conversation was particularly interesting for its lack of focus on issues of interest to the British audiences who hear the show as well as for its politicised messaging and distortions. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Burden: “Theresa May will meet the Israeli prime minister Bendamin…Benjamin Netanyahu in Downing Street later. It’ll be the first time the two leaders have met in person since she took office. Let’s speak to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. Morning.”

Bowen: “Morning.”

Burden: “What’s he doing here?”

Bowen: “Well he’s […] he is doing a round of visits in advance of his big meeting next week with President Trump in Washington and he – Mr Netanyahu – is going to focus very much on Iran. They did a ballistic missile test lately in the last week or so and he’s…as he got on the plane he said they tried to test the boundaries with extraordinary aggression, gall and defiance. So Iran is his big thing. I think Britain is concerned about the number of settlements that he’s authorised in the occupied Palestinian territories and of course post Brexit, I think Mrs May’s going to be concerned about trying to do a few good trade deals with the Israelis.”

Having laid out those three topics, Bowen then chose to completely ignore throughout the rest of the item both the Iranian issue and the potential trade deals which would probably have interested UK domestic audiences, instead focusing on his own “big thing”.

Despite having inaccurately suggested to listeners that Netanyahu had ‘authorised settlements’ in numbers large enough to cause concern to the UK government, we later (unsurprisingly) discover that Bowen knows full well that such a portrayal is in fact inaccurate. We can also assume that he knows full well that all Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria are located in Area C, the final status of which – under the terms of the Oslo Accords – is to be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians and hence his portrayal of the region as “Palestinian territories” is premature. 

Listeners next heard Burden promote the equally inaccurate – and downright bizarre – notion that the Arab-Israeli conflict is “the Middle East conflict”: a theme that was repeated throughout the item.

Burden: “Do we know what her [Theresa May] position is on the Middle East conflict?”

Bowen: “Well, she’s flip-flopped a bit quite frankly. To start with, when President Trump was about to be inaugurated, she did say some things which seemed to be really cow-towing to what she believed his beliefs to be, which was…there was a fairly controversial – from the Israeli point of view – resolution in the UN Security Council which Britain didn’t just vote for; it helped to plan, which was essentially condemning the…ah…expansion of settlements and Britain after that – Mrs May – criticised that resolution and criticised the US Secretary of State for supporting it when Britain itself had voted in support of the motion – the resolution – in the Security Council. In fact the Obama administration at the time said, rather cuttingly, that what Kerry had said – the US Secretary of State at the time – was entirely in line with long-held British policy which Britain – Downing Street – then went on to condemn.”

Contrary to the impression fostered by Bowen, Mrs May’s remarks did not relate to UNSC resolution 2334 but to the speech made by John Kerry the following week.

“[Downing Street] said her criticism was directed at Mr Kerry’s decision to attack the make-up of the Israeli government.

“We do not… believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex,” Mrs May’s spokesman said.

“And we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally. The Government believes that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties, supported by the international community.”

The spokesman added: “The British Government continues to believe that the only way to a lasting peace in the Middle East is through a two-state solution. We continue to believe that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal.”

Bowen continued:

“Now since then they have…Britain has said that it’s against the further expansion of settlements. However, I think that Mr Netanyahu will be well aware that Prime Minister May is quite concerned to stay in Donald Trump’s good books.”

Burden: Well what about Mr Trump? Has he shown any indication he wants to get involved in all this?”

Bowen: “Ah he’s…well his Middle East envoy is going to be his son-in-law, so keep it in the family. Ahm…and he has…well, the feeling was to start with that he might have given Mr Netanyahu essentially a blank cheque to go and do what he wanted whereas in terms of settlement building in the Palestinian territories, and which is something that President Obama very much did not. And so since the inauguration, Mr Netanyahu has authorised the…ah…six thousand new dwellings in the settlements plus the first all-new settlement in about thirty years. So that’s something that even the Trump administration said well, hang on a second, you know, don’t get too carried away here.”

Bowen is apparently referring to the statement put out by the White House press secretary on February 2nd which of course made no mention of getting “carried away” and which it is very clear that Bowen is interpreting according to his own world view. He continues:

“But they’ve certainly been very soft on the Israelis when it comes to that and I think that the right-wing in Israel – of which Mr Netanyahu is just one representative – is very excited about the possibilities that they will have under President Trump. They feel that they can really start changing things permanently in their favour.”

Burden: “Yeah. It’s interesting as well with Theresa May – now I guess under pressure with the prospect of Brexit looming, to demonstrate herself as a global leader – how much of an opportunity she’ll see this to take some kind of position while at the same time that balancing act of her relationship with Donald Trump. Is this a kind of lose-lose situation for the British prime minister in a way?”

Bowen: “You know it is a balancing act and I think that Britain has always taken, you know…has said ‘after you’ to the Americans when it comes to Middle East peacemaking, even though – as a permanent member of the Security Council – we do have a certain degree of influence. Ahm…I think that Mrs May is so tied up with issues of Brexit that I don’t see her trying to do her own solo Middle East peace bid. But, you know, the key…the difficulty of trying to make Middle Eastern peace is that you have to be tough on both sides and Western governments – particularly the Americans, the British – find it very easy to be tough on the Palestinians and they find it very difficult to be tough on the Israelis.”

And with that downright amazing unsubstantiated claim, the conversation ends – with listeners to Radio 5 live Breakfast none the wiser about either the Iranian issue or the nature of any potential trade deals between Britain and Israel.  

 

 

BBC reports from Golan Heights omit basic context

The February 2nd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included a report from the Golan Heights by the BBC’s diplomatic and defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus.

Marcus’ report (from 37:49 here) provided listeners with a good picture of the current situation along the border between Israel and Syria and the potential implications.

“The changes in Syria have brought Iran closer to Israel’s borders than ever. […]

It does create at least in theory the possibility of Iranian-Hizballah cooperation not only along the border between Israel and Lebanon but along the border between Israel and Syria as well. Israel has never faced that kind of situation on the northern border.”

However, audiences also heard a much less helpful portrayal of the events which brought about Israeli control over the Golan Heights in Marcus’ opening to the report.

“This is Israel’s front line with Syria. The Syrian army was evicted from the Golan Heights when Israeli forces captured it in 1967. Israeli law was extended here in 1981, effectively annexing this crucial strategic high ground.”marcus-golan-written

On February 8th a written report on the same topic appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Is a new Middle East war on Israel’s horizon?“. While as interesting and informative as the audio report, the article similarly presents a context-free portrayal of the Six Day War.

“This is Israel’s front line with Syria. The Syrian army was evicted from the Golan Heights when Israeli forces captured it in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israeli law was extended there in 1981 – effectively annexing this crucial strategic high ground. It is now a heavily fortified area.”

As regular readers will be aware, it is extremely rare for BBC audiences to be provided with the background information necessary for their understanding of the events which preceded Israel’s capture of the Golan Heights and additional areas in 1967. All too often we see that the BBC begins its accounts of history in June 1967 without providing the necessary context.

With the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War approaching – and with it, one can assume, augmented BBC coverage of the topic – it is obviously all the more important for audiences to be provided with accurate, impartial and comprehensive information concerning the background to that war.

Related Articles:

Twenty-nine hours later – BBC News reports Golan cross-border attack

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ misleads on EU statement on Iran missile test

January 31st saw the appearance of BBC reports concerning reactions to a recent Iranian ballistic missile test.iran-missile-test-art-31-1

Visitors to the BBC News website found an article titled “Netanyahu: Iran missile test must not go unanswered” and the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ also included an item on the topic.

In that item (from 30:10 here), presenter James Coomarasamy interviewed Israel’s ambassador to the UN. During the conversation (32:16) Coomarasamy said to Danon:

“You’ll be aware that the European Union has said that it does not believe that these tests were in violation of that UN Security Council resolution; that this was a…not under the nuclear agreement.”

So did EU foreign policy spokesperson Nabila Massrali really say that the test did not violate UNSC resolution 2231? Not according to ABC:

“Meanwhile, the European Union called on Tehran to “refrain from activities which deepen mistrust”.

EU foreign policy spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said that a ballistic missile test would not be a violation of the nuclear deal, but that it was “inconsistent” with Resolution 2231.

“Whether it constitutes a violation is for the Security Council to determine,” she said.”

And not according to the Times of Israel:

“The EU spokeswoman noted that since Iran’s ballistic missile effort was not included in the nuclear accord, “the tests are not a violation.”

Additionally, it was up to the Security Council to determine if the latest test was a violation of UN resolutions on Iran’s missile program, she said.”

And not according to AP:

“The European Union called on Tehran to “refrain from activities which deepen mistrust.” EU foreign policy spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said a ballistic missile test would not violate the nuclear deal with world powers, but added that it was “inconsistent” with Resolution 2231.

“Whether it constitutes a violation is for the Security Council to determine,” she said.”

And not according to the Independent:

“The EU called on Tehran to “refrain from activities which deepen mistrust”, with foreign policy spokesperson Nabila Massrali saying that a ballistic missile test would not constitute a violation of the nuclear deal but was “inconsistent” with Resolution 2231. 

“Whether it constitutes a violation is for the Security Council to determine,” she added.” 

So, while Ms Massrali did point out that the test would not violate the JCPOA (because it does not relate to missile development), she did not – as Coomarasamy inaccurately and misleadingly claimed – say that it did not violate UNSC resolution 2231.

Related Articles:

BBC News promotes Iranian missile ‘deterrent’ propaganda

 

Weekend long read

1) As noted at the Tower, the Guardian’s Martin Chulov recently published an interesting article about a particular outcome of the war in Syria. Weekend Read

“Iran is repopulating Syrian territory from Damascus to Homs with Shiites families from elsewhere in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, turning the area into “zones of influence” that Iran “can directly control and use to advance broader interests,” The Guardian reported earlier this month. […]

Lebanese officials have been paying close attention to what they say has been a systematic destruction of Land Registry offices in areas coming under Assad’s control. It has been confirmed that these offices have been burned in the cities of Zabadani, Darayya, Homs, and Qusayr, meaning that residents who fled cannot prove ownership of their homes.

Abu Mazen Darkoush, a former Free Syrian Army commander, said that after many neighborhoods in Homs were cleansed of their residents, families who returned were refused entry into their homes by officials who cited their lack of proof of ownership.”

2) The Times of Israel has a report on some of the Israeli organisations helping Syrian civilians afflicted by the war in their country.

“In one month, an online crowdfunding campaign, “Just Beyond the Border,” has raised over $350,000 to bring much-needed emergency aid to the children of Syria — more than double its original aim.

The campaign’s title reflects the ideology behind it: that Israelis simply cannot ignore the horrors taking place in neighboring Syria.

Speaking to The Times of Israel recently, Yoav Yeivin, one of the lead organizers of the campaign who is also a Jerusalem city council member for the Hitorerut/Wake-Up Jerusalem movement, said he was inspired by his Holocaust survivor grandmother.

“I was raised with the understanding that apathy could be lethal,” he said.”

3) Although nearly two years have passed since the BBC last reported on the topic, the story of Syrian patients receiving treatment from the IDF and in Israeli hospitals continues – as Reuters recently reported.

“It happens nearly every night. After dark, the Syrian wounded come to known locations on the Israel-Syria front in the Golan Heights, driven by desperation to seek help from an enemy army.

Israeli soldiers on lookout or patrol spot them waiting by the fence and whisk them away to a rear position where army medics soon arrive, according to army officials operating in the Golan Heights.”

4) Israel’s Channel 10 recently reported another development regarding Israeli aid to Syrians.

“Israel is to grant refugee status to 100 orphaned Syrian refugee children, in line with a decision by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Wednesday.

According to Channel 10, the children will receive temporary resident status and become permanent residents after four years, and be able to remain in Israel for their entire lives.

Channel 10 said that the children will be integrated into Arab Israeli families. Furthermore, any of the children’s immediate relatives will also be considered for refugee status.

The government made the final decision on the future of the refugees and will now liaise with the relevant international organizations to bring the orphans into the country.”

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.

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