BBC reporter who “breached the requirements of due impartiality” back in Israel

The September 2nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an item relating to events from the previous day which was introduced by presenter Martha Kearney (from 38:20 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Kearney: “There’ve been clashes between Israel and the militant group Hizballah along the Lebanese border. Let’s talk now to Barbara Plett Usher, our correspondent in Jerusalem. And at the outset, Barbara, just explain to us why this is…ahm…such an important area. There has been actually war – hasn’t there? – between Israel and Hizballah…eh…around southern…southern Lebanon.”

As readers may know, while posted in Israel in 2004 Barbara Plett Usher produced a report which is still available online about Yasser Arafat that was described in a Telegraph editorial thus:

“Many listeners to the BBC were rightly outraged last week by the broadcast from its Middle East correspondent, Barbara Plett, in which she cloyingly described how she wept as Yasser Arafat was airlifted from Ramallah for medical treatment.

She said: “When the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose above his ruined compound, I started to cry . . . without warning.” Almost as a footnote, she later admitted that an “ambivalence towards violence” was one of his failings. […]

Ms Plett’s flood of feeling is just the most overt and recent manifestation of a pro-Palestinian bias endemic within the BBC. As a publicly-funded organisation, it should remember that it is not paid to take sides. As things stand, however, we might conclude that Mr Arafat’s culpable “ambivalence towards violence” is echoed by our national broadcaster.”

The BBC received a large volume of complaints concerning that item and in 2005 the BBC governors ruled that Plett Usher’s report “breached the requirements of due impartiality”.

That apparently has not deterred the BBC from sending Barbara Plett Usher – who has been reporting from the US in recent years – back to Israel.

Radio 4 listeners heard the following:

Plett Usher: “It is an important area because it’s the front line for conflict between Israel and Hizballah but the thing that’s interesting is that there hasn’t been much conflict between them for the past thirteen years. They fought a major war in 2006 but there’s been a sort of uneasy ceasefire between them since, so this flare-up is the first kind of clash we’ve seen like this in years.”

That of course is inaccurate. Incidents that have taken place along the Israel-Lebanon border since the end of the 2006 conflict include the planting of explosive devices in February 2007, the detonation of two explosive devices in March 2014, the detonation of explosive devices and the injury of two IDF soldiers in October 2014, the killing of two IDF soldiers and wounding of seven others in an attack using anti-tank missiles in January 2015 and the detonation of an explosive device in January 2016. In December 2018 the IDF commenced Operation Northern Shield to locate and destroy cross-border tunnels dug by Hizballah which were definitely not part of any “sort of uneasy ceasefire”.

Kearney: “And what’s been happening?”

Plett Usher: “So the Hizballah [sic] fired a number of anti-tank missiles at Israeli military positions and they received quite a large incoming return fire as a result. They claim to have killed a number of people although the Israelis said that wasn’t the case. Now the point here is that the Israelis had been expecting some kind of confrontation because there’s been tensions rising over the past week. A number of drone strikes in Lebanon and Syria attributed to Israel has meant that Hizballah has said it would retaliate.”

The August 25th strikes in Syria – which were not “attributed” because Israel immediately claimed them – were not carried out using drones as claimed by Plett Usher but did target IRGC drones intended for use in an attack against Israel. Plett Usher failed to inform listeners of the relevant fact that that two Hizballah operatives were killed in that strike before continuing:

Plett Usher: “In particular there was a drone strike in Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, which Hizballah felt that’s its stronghold and it needed to respond. Now the Israelis did not confirm they carried out that strike but they did say that they were trying to prevent the…eh…the development of long-range precision missiles which is something they’re very concerned about. They believe Iran is helping Hizballah do that. So that was what was building ahead of time and then you had this flare-up.”

Israel does not “believe” that Iran is helping Hizballah to develop precision-guided missiles – it has solid evidence some of which was made publicly available four days before Plett Usher made this report, meaning that there was no justification for her use of the term “believe”.

As we see Barbara Plett-Usher produced a report which, despite being relatively short, was replete with basic inaccuracies and failed to provide Radio 4 listeners with the wider context of UN SC resolution 1701 and its relevant call for all armed militias to be removed from southern Lebanon.

What Barbara Plett-Usher is doing in Jerusalem and how long she is scheduled to be there is unclear. What is already apparent is that BBC audiences are not getting accurate reporting which will “build people’s understanding”.

Related Articles:

A familiar face returns to the BBC Jerusalem bureau

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Superficial BBC reporting on incidents in Syria and Lebanon

On the morning of August 25th the BBC News website published a report originally headlined “Israel says it struck Iranian ‘killer drones’ in Syria to prevent attacks” on its Middle East page. The headline was later amended to read “Israel says it struck Iranian ‘killer drone’ sites in Syria”.

The article in fact relates to two separate incidents, the first of which took place over twelve hours before the publication of the BBC’s report. The BBC described that incident as follows:

“Israel has struck Iranian military sites in Syria to prevent what it said was a pending drone strike by Iran.

Israel’s military rarely acknowledges operations in Syria, but it claimed on Saturday its strikes had prevented an attack on Israel “using killer drones”. […]

An Israeli military spokesman said the strikes on Saturday targeted Iran’s Quds force in Aqraba, south-east of the capital, Damascus.”

A part of that story which the BBC chose not to tell – even though the information was readily available – is as follows:

“The Israeli military said its strike late Saturday targeted operatives from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force as well as Shiite militias who had been planning on sending “kamikaze” attack drones into Israel armed with explosives. […]

[IDF Spokesman] Conricus said Israel had monitored the plot for several months and on Thursday prevented Iran from making an “advanced attempt” to execute the same plan. Then, Iran tried again late Saturday to carry out the same attack, he said. […]

“This was a significant plan with significant capabilities that had been planned for a few months,” Conricus said. “It was not something done on a low level, but rather top down from the Quds Force.”

He said the Iranian attack was believed to be “very imminent.””

Neither did the BBC bother to inform its audiences that, as reported by Ha’aretz:

“A commentator close to the Revolutionary Guards wrote [on Thursday August 22nd] in the Iranian newspaper Kayhan that Israeli actions in Iraq and Syria would be met with surprises, such as launches of UAVs at sensitive security targets, ports and nuclear sites in Israel. The plan that was foiled, according to the IDF, was identical to the action threatened beforehand by the commentator.”

The BBC did choose to amplify Syrian claims:

“A Syrian military source quoted by the official Sana news agency said that Syrian anti-aircraft defences “detected enemy targets from Golan heading towards the area around Damascus”.

“The aggression was immediately confronted and so far the majority of the enemy Israeli missiles have been destroyed before reaching their targets,” the source said.”

BBC audiences were not informed that – despite those claims – at least three Hizballah operatives were reportedly killed.  

By way of ‘context’ BBC audiences were told that:

“Israel is believed to have carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria since civil war broke out there in 2011, to try to prevent Iran gaining a foothold.”

While Israel has indeed carried out strikes in order to prevent both advanced weaponry reaching the Hizballah terror organisation and Iran’s entrenchment in Syria, that context is not relevant to this particular story, which is about the prevention of an imminent attack by Iranian forces on Israel. That fact of course explains why in this case Israel did release statements concerning the incident.

The second story in this report relates to an incident which took place a few hours later in Lebanon and which was portrayed by the BBC in the first two versions of the article as follows:

“Separately, reports said two Israeli surveillance drones had come down in a stronghold of the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah in the Lebanese capital Beirut.

Hezbollah officials said an unmanned drone fell on the roof of a media centre belonging to the group, and was followed by a second unmanned drone that exploded in mid-air and crashed nearby.

Residents told the Associated Press they heard a large explosion that shook the area, after hearing the sound of an aircraft. Israel’s military declined to comment on the reports.”

Some two and a half hours after the report’s initial publication, the sub-heading “Blatant attack” was added along with comments from the Lebanese prime minister.

“Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri called Israel’s alleged surveillance drones a “blatant attack on Lebanon’s sovereignty”.

“This new aggression… forms a threat to regional stability and an attempt to push the situation towards more tension,” he said in a statement.”

The BBC does not appear to have carried out any independent verification of the claims put out to news agencies by Hizballah – including the allegation that the drones were Israeli – before publishing its own report.

And so BBC audiences got superficial and incomplete reporting on two separate incidents based in no small part on second-hand claims made by ‘reliable’ sources such as the Hizballah terrorist organisation and the Assad regime.

 

 

 

BBC News promotes Iran loyalist’s unproven claims

On the evening of August 21st an article headlined “Iraq paramilitary force blames US and Israel for mystery blasts” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page. Its opening lines told BBC audiences that:

“A powerful Iran-backed paramilitary force in Iraq has said it holds the US responsible for a series of blasts at its bases in recent weeks.

The deputy head of the Popular Mobilisation, which is dominated by Shia militias, alleged that US forces had brought four Israeli drones into the country to target its positions.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis said the force would use “all means at its disposal” to prevent and deter future attacks.”

The BBC did not subsequently provide any evidence to support the allegation that it chose to amplify but it did take make sure to inform readers that:

“Last year, Israel’s then defence minister suggested that it might attack suspected Iranian military assets in Iraq, as it has done repeatedly in Syria since the start of the country’s civil war.

When asked by reporters on Monday about the explosions in Iraq, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Iran has no immunity, anywhere.”

“We will act – and currently are acting – against them, wherever it is necessary.””

BBC audiences had to read down to the article’s closing paragraphs in order to find any information which might help them judge the reliability – and possible motives – of the source of the unevidenced claim it elected to amplify.

“The Popular Mobilisation’s fighters played a key role in the war against IS.

With the help of Iranian military advisers, weapons and funding, they prevented IS militants reaching Baghdad in 2014 and later helped Iraqi security forces regain control of the country.

The US, which also supported Iraqi security forces against IS, has said several of the Shia militias in the Popular Mobilisation are directly controlled by Iran. It has accused the militias of targeting US diplomatic facilities in Iraq and warned that they may have been given Iranian ballistic missiles.”

As Jonathan Spyer noted in July when the Iraqi prime minister announced that the Shia militias of the Popular Mobilisation Units were to be integrated into the Iraqi security forces: [emphasis added]

“The Shia militias are the main instrument of Iranian policy on Iraqi soil.  Not all groups involved in the 150,000 strong PMU are Iran-linked, but the largest and most consequential groupings are. These include the Badr organization, led by Hadi al-Ameri, Ktaeb Hizballah, headed by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Asaib ahl-al Haq, and Hizballah al-Nujaba.

All the above mentioned groupings are franchises of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). All were established by and are controlled by Iran, answering directly to the IRGC’s Qods Force and its leader, General Qassem Soleimani.”

The BBC failed to inform readers that, in addition to being “the deputy head of the Popular Mobilisation”, its quoted source is – as documented by the FDD – also a senior commander in Ktaeb Hizballah.

“Kataib Hezbollah is a relatively small Iraqi Shiite militia that serves as a vehicle through which the IRGC-Quds Force projects power in Iraq. […] its chief, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, is currently Iraq’s deputy national security adviser as well as an operational leader of the PMF. Born in Basra in 1953, Muhandis has worked for decades with the IRGC, including his participation in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait that killed six and injured 90 others.

Muhandis is the de-facto deputy of Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani in Iraq; the Iranian general has called Muhandis a “living martyr.” Kataib Hezbollah was among the earliest Iraqi groups to dispatch fighters to Syria, where it helped organize groups including Liwa Abu-Fadl al-Abbas, a militia composed of Iraqi Shiites. In 2015, a Kataib Hezbollah official told the Washington Post that Kataib Hezbollah had sent 1,000 fighters to Aleppo in response to a direct request by Soleimani. Along with other Iranian-backed militias, Kataib Hezbollah has begun to fill the power vacuum created by the fall of the Islamic State caliphate.”

The BBC closed its article with references to Muhandis (who was indeed designated by the US a decade ago) and his militia but failed to inform readers of the connection between them.

“The US has designated one of the militias in the Popular Mobilisation, Kataiib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades), as a terrorist organisation.

It has also listed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis as a “specially designated global terrorist”. It alleges that he advises Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and that he has been involved in the bombings of Western embassies and attempted assassinations in the region.”

In other words, the BBC chose to unquestioningly amplify unproven allegations concerning explosions at arms depots in Iraq made by one of Iran’s senior operatives in that country.  

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Writing at the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Spyer reviews the current situation in Syria.

‘The international news focus has long moved on from the Syrian conflict. Behind the oft-stated clichés of the conflict “winding down” and of regime survival or victory, however, a complex and often deadly reality remains. […]

Assad regime apologists have sought for a long period to present a view of the war in which the status quo antebellum was in the process of being restored. This image does not entirely correspond to reality. Assad, with Iran and Russia, controls around 60% of the territory of Syria. The area east of the Euphrates controlled by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces constitutes roughly 30% of Syria. The Turkish-guaranteed Sunni Islamist area in the northwest covers the remaining 10%.’

2) At the ITIC, Raz Zimmt takes a look at an Iranian charity.

‘“The Foundation of the Oppressed” is the largest charitable foundation in Iran and the second largest economic entity in the country. Since the late 1980s, the Foundation of the Oppressed has become a large economic holding company controlling firms and groups in the sectors of services, industry, mining, energy, construction and agriculture. The Foundation operates under the direct supervision of the Supreme Leader Khamenei and maintains a tight working relationship with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The Foundation plays a central role in Iran’s efforts to expand its economic role in Iraq and Syria, as a lever to entrench its influence in the region. At this stage, the Foundation of the Oppressed and firms operating under it are not under American sanctions, and it is unclear whether the recently announced sanctions against the office of the Supreme Leader will include this foundation too.’

3) Also at the ITIC, a report on the new Albukamal Border Crossing.

‘The new border crossing between Syria and Iraq at Albukamal is considered strategically important by Iran. That is because the crossing is vital for the land bridge Iran seeks to construct between its territory and the Mediterranean Sea. The route allows Iran to send forces, supplies and weapons through Iraq to Syria and from there to Lebanon. It can be assumed that Iran is of the opinion that the land bridge will enable it to reduce its dependence on risky aerial and naval routes. The new crossing, when it opens, will enable larger numbers of vehicles to enter Syria and make it easier to preserve secrecy (since it is farther from residential buildings). Therefore it is likely that the new crossing is being constructed with Iranian aid, and possibly with Iranian involvement. In addition, Iran participates in securing the area between Albukamal in Syria and al-Qa’im in Iraq by using Shi’ite militias deployed permanently in the region.’

4) The Press Gazette reports the NUJ’s reaction to the BBC’s recent agreement to reporting restrictions imposed by Iran.

‘The morale of BBC Persian journalists has been “deeply affected” by a management decision to abide by reporting restrictions in exchange for access to Iran, the National Union of Journalists has claimed. […]

The union said the “professional integrity” of BBC Persian journalists “has been undermined” by the move. Iranian authorities continue to target journalists at the London-based news service in a bid to silence them.’

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At Mosaic magazine Professor Eugene Kontorovich explains “The Many Incoherences and Hypocrisies of International Law on Jerusalem”.

“Under the uti possidetis principle, then, Israel’s borders at the moment of independence are quite clear: the borders of Mandatory Palestine. Those borders include all of Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria as well. The UN, in its thousands of resolutions to the contrary, flagrantly ignores that principle.

This conclusion is not affected by the UN General Assembly’s partition proposal, adopted as Resolution 181 in November 1947, that provided for the formation in Palestine of two states, Jewish and Arab, with the city of Jerusalem designated a separate internationally-administered entity (the corpus separatum). That is not only because the UN proposal was a non-binding recommendation, but because, having been rejected by the Arabs, it was never implemented and did not in fact result in a partition of the Mandate. Uti possidetis goes by the prior administrative borders as they were, not as they might at various times have been imagined to be.”

2) MEMRI documents the broader background to a speech from a senior Hamas figure which was recently ignored by the BBC: “Hamas Official Fathi Hamad’s Speech Was No Exception”.

“After a July 12, 2019 speech by Hamas political bureau member Fathi Hammad urging Palestinians to kill Jews all over the world sparked outrage, Hamas issued a clarification stating that his statements did not reflect the movement’s official positions and that Hamas’s struggle is against the occupation, not against Jews around the world or the Jewish faith.

However, MEMRI publications from the past two years show that statements by Hamas members and officials, and content published by Hamas’s official media, have been rife with antisemitism. […]

It should be mentioned that all of these statements were made after Hamas published its May 1, 2017 policy document aimed at presenting the movement as pragmatic, democratic, and tolerant. This document was also aimed at distancing the movement from the antisemitic statements that appear in its charter (although it does not supersede the charter), by stating that Hamas does not fight the Jews as such, but only the Zionist occupation.”

3) The ITIC takes a look at a topic serially under reported by the BBC – “Summer Camps in the Gaza Strip”.

“In the past UNRWA organized and funded some of the summer activities for the children in the Gaza Strip. However, in recent years UNRWA suspended its activities because of financial problems. The vacuum was filled by Hamas and the PIJ, which increased their summer camp activities accordingly. In the past Hamas summer camps were organized by the ministries of education and the interior. However, in recent years, with the formal addition of military training to the high school curriculum (“al-Futuwwa”), organizing the summer camps was turned over to the military wings of Hamas and the PIJ (to continue al-Futuwwa training). Apparently the transition had a direct influence on the summer camps’ programs and more emphasis is currently placed on indoctrination and paramilitary training. […]

Hamas’ summer camps are expected to open on July 20, 2019. The camps, called Pioneers of Liberation, are supervised by Hamas’ military wing, and their theme is “Going to Jerusalem”.”

4) Jonathan Spyer analyses the Iraqi prime minister’s announcement of the integration of Shia militias into the Iraqi security forces. 

“The Shia militias are the main instrument of Iranian policy on Iraqi soil.  Not all groups involved in the 150,000 strong PMU are Iran-linked, but the largest and most consequential groupings are.  These include the Badr organization, led by Hadi al-Ameri,  Ktaeb Hizballah, headed by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Asaib ahl-al Haq, and Hizballah al-Nujaba.

All the above mentioned groupings are franchises of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). All were established by and are controlled by Iran, answering directly to the IRGC’s Qods Force and its leader, General Qassem Soleimani. […]

The militias are powerful players – politically, militarily and economically.  Prime Minister Adel Abd al Mehdi, meanwhile, is a weak figure with no real power base of its own.  Iraq is not a country ruled by law.  The prime minister as a result simply possesses no coercive mechanism for imposing his will on the Shia militias.  He can order their dissolution if he so wishes.  The result will be the further enmeshing and fusing of the militias with the official bodies of the state – without the ceding by the latter of their own vital chain of command.  This chain of command leads to Qassem Soleimani, and thence to the office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.”

 

BBC newsgathering again relies on Syrian state outlets

On the morning of July 1st the BBC News website published a filmed report titled “Syria war: Video shows ‘Israeli missiles being intercepted’” and a written report headlined “Syria war: Israeli jets ‘hit Iranian targets in Homs and Damascus’”.

As specified in its synopsis, the commentary-free video is made up entirely of “footage released by Syria’s state-run Sana news agency” and viewers were told that it “appears to show missiles being intercepted in mid-air”. [emphasis added]

Likewise, 37.3% of the written report’s 209 words was given over to allegations made by two Syrian state-run news agencies – with nothing to suggest any independent verification by the BBC – including the following unconfirmed claim:

“In Sahnaya, south of Damascus, four civilians – including a toddler – were killed as a result of Israeli “aggression”, Syrian state-run broadcaster al-Ikhbariya said.” [emphasis added]

Although a further 35.4% of the report repeated claims made by the UK-based organisation ‘the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’, the BBC did not include the following:

“The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group, said it was not immediately clear if the six civilians, among them an infant, were killed by the attacks themselves, which were attributed to Israel, by Syria’s anti-aircraft fire, or by some other secondary explosion.”

The BBC’s own contribution to the report came in just 57 words which did not include a description of Hizballah as a terrorist organisation, despite it being defined as such in the UK. [emphasis added]

“Israel’s military has not commented. It periodically attacks what it says are threats to Israeli security in Syria.

These include what it has identified as advanced weaponry destined for the Islamist Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Iranian bases in Syria.

Israel says it will not allow its arch-enemy Iran to entrench itself in Syria, Iran’s key ally.”

BBC audiences were not informed of an apparently related incident in northern Cyprus.

“Meanwhile, Turkish-held Cyprus said a Syrian anti-aircraft missile that was fired at Israeli jets landed north of Nicosia. No casualties were reported.

“The first assessment is that a Russian-made missile, […] which was part of the air defense system that took place last night in the face of an air strike against Syria, completed its range and fell into our country after it missed,” Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Kudret Ozersay said in a social media post.”

Not only have audiences been given very little factual information about the efforts of Iran and its proxies to establish a foothold in Syria in recent years but – as is the case once again in this latest report – 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.

As has frequently been the case in the past, we see that BBC newsgathering for this report consisted mainly of repeating unconfirmed claims from state-run Syrian media. Given that those sources have been shown in the past to repeatedly disseminate false claims, one would expect a serious media outlet to be considerably more cautious about promoting their unverified statements to its funding public in supposedly factual news reports.

Related Articles:

BBC News framing of Iranian forces in Syria

BBC News framing of Iranian activity in Syria continues

BBC inconsistency on Iran’s Syria build-up continues

Slapdash BBC News reporting of events in northern Israel and Syria

Reviewing the sourcing of BBC Radio 4 December 26 news bulletins

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 News framing of Iranian forces in Syria

On January 10th an article was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page under the headline “US to expel every last Iranian boot from Syria – Pompeo”.

“The US will work with allies to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says.

Mr Pompeo warned there would be no US reconstruction aid for areas controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad until Iran and its proxies had left.”

Most versions of that report go on to include a section headed “Why did Pompeo mention Iran?” in which BBC audiences are told that:

“Iran, alongside Russia, has been supporting the Syrian government in the Syrian civil war, providing arms, military advisers, and reportedly combat troops.” [emphasis added]

The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word ‘reportedly’ is as follows:

“According to what some say (used to express the speaker’s belief that the information given is not necessarily true)”

Apparently therefore we can conclude that the BBC is of the opinion that the articles in British papers such as the Telegraph and the Guardian along with reports from media outlets in other countries and agencies such as Reuters about the presence of Iranian troops and militias in Syria are not necessarily true.

Apparently too the BBC believes that statements made by France’s foreign minister on that issue and a 2016 report by Human Rights Watch are not necessarily true.

And it would seem that in the BBC’s view the work done by researchers at a variety of think-tanks on that topic – such as the Washington Institute, the Atlantic Council, the FDD and the Carnegie Endowment – all hinges on information that is not necessarily true.

“Based on a meticulous reading of press reports of funeral services held in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon for Shia foreign fighters killed in Syria and Iraq, 535 Iranian nationals were killed in combat in Syria between January 2012 and January 2018. In comparison, at least 841 Afghan, 112 Iraqi, 1,213 Lebanese, and 153 Pakistani Shia foreign fighters were killed fighting in Syria during the same period.”

The BBC’s public purposes oblige it to “provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”. Clearly that obligation is not met when the BBC unnecessarily qualifies information that has been in the public domain for years – and especially when that qualification dovetails with Iran’s long-standing policy of claiming that its presence in Syria is solely in an ‘advisory’ capacity.