BBC Academy touts Jeremy Bowen Gaza report as model journalism

Under the heading “Journalism Skills Reporting”, the BBC Academy published a video of a report produced by Jeremy Bowen in 2009 as an example of best practice when “Describing the scene”.academy-bowen

“At its most basic, journalism is about telling people what you’ve found out, what’s around you, and what you can see. You’re there – the audience isn’t. Some of the most powerful reporting is cast in this mould.

It’s tempting, especially when you’re reporting from an extraordinary scene, to overload your audience with how you feel about the events whose aftermath you’re witnessing.

It’s also easy to leap to considering the causes or context. Sometimes that’s important; often it gets in the way.

Watch Jeremy Bowen as he reports from a bomb site in Gaza in 2009. His commentary on what he sees as he walks around the room is cool, clear, dispassionate, and powerful.”

Like the BBC Academy’s portrayal of the circumstances in which the report was made, Bowen’s commentary is completely devoid of the context behind that story.

“The IDF concluded Wednesday that Israeli tank shells caused the deaths of four Palestinian girls, including three daughters of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, when his house was accidentally attacked on January 16, during Operation Cast Lead. Following the investigation, the army confirmed that two shells had hit the building. […] The IDF said that a Golani Brigade force was operating near Beit Lahiya when it came under sniper and mortar fire in an area laden with explosives. After determining that the source of the fire was in a building adjacent to Abuelaish’s home, the force returned fire. While the IDF was shooting, suspicious figures were identified in the top floors of the doctor’s house, and the troops believed the figures were directing the Hamas sniper and mortar fire, the army said. Upon assessing the situation in the field while under heavy fire, the commander of the force gave the order to open fire on the suspicious figures, and it was from this fire that his three daughters were killed, said the IDF. Once the soldiers realized that civilians, and not Hamas gunmen, were in the house they ceased fire immediately, continued the army. […] The IDF Spokesman’s Unit stressed that in the days prior to the incident, Abuelaish – who had worked before at Beersheba’s Soroka University Medical Center and had very good connections with Israelis – was contacted personally several times by officers in the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration to urge him to evacuate his home because of Hamas operations and the intense fighting that was already taking place in that area for several days. In addition to the personal contact made directly with the doctor, the IDF issued warnings to the residents of Sajaiya by dropping thousands of leaflets and by issuing warnings via Palestinian media outlets.”

While the BBC Academy apparently holds the view that “context […] often… gets in the way”, it is difficult to see how BBC journalists can fulfil the corporation’s remit of building “understanding of international issues” if context is deemed an optional extra.

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Comparing BBC reporting on human shields in Gaza and Iraq

As readers no doubt recall, one of the many remarkable features of BBC coverage of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip was the corporation’s failure to report on Hamas’ use of the local civilian population as human shields.

Not only did BBC journalists refrain from reporting adequately on the issue of Hamas’ placement of military assets in populated areas (with the BBC later claiming that it was “very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out”) and the terror group’s instructions to civilians to stay put in such areas but some BBC correspondents even went out of their way to deny the phenomenon.

“I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.” Jeremy Bowen, July 22, 2014.

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.” Orla Guerin, August 13, 2014.

Complaints from members of the public on that issue were eventually dismissed by the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee in a tortured and self-contradicting ruling which adopted an interpretation of the term human shields that conflicts with existing definitions. The ESC advisor wrote:

“…there may not be universal agreement over the meaning of ‘human shield’ – and whether this should be understood to mean the deliberate placement of civilians near combat targets (and preventing them from leaving) or simply firing from residential areas.” 

In contrast to that ‘radio silence’ on the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields in Gaza in 2014, recent BBC coverage of the multinational military operation to drive ISIS out from the Mosul area in Iraq which began on October 16th has included several reports concerning that terror group’s use of human shields.human-shields-1

Just three days after the operation commenced, the BBC News website published an article titled “Mosul battle: US says IS using human shields” which amplified statements made by one of the parties to the Combined Joint Task Force conducting the operation.

“The US has accused Islamic State (IS) militants of using civilians as human shields as Iraqi forces move closer to the group’s stronghold in Mosul. […]

Asked by reporters in Washington if IS was using civilians as human shields, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said “absolutely”.

“They are being held there against their will,” he said on Tuesday. “We have not seen any change in the last day of people leaving or fleeing.”

Residents reached by telephone by Reuters news agency said IS was preventing people fleeing the city and had directed some of them towards buildings likely to be targeted by air strikes.”

The report did not include any indication of independent BBC confirmation of those claims.

October 21st saw the publication of an article headlined “Mosul battle: IS ‘may use civilians as human shields’” which amplified speculative statements made by a UN official.

“At least 200 Iraqi families have been made to leave their homes for Mosul by Islamic State (IS) fighters and could be used as human shields, the UN warns. […]

Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said there was “a grave danger that ISIL fighters will not only use such vulnerable people as human shields but may opt to kill them rather than see them liberated,” using an acronym for IS.”human-shields-2

On October 28th the BBC News website published a report titled “Mosul Iraq battle: ‘Tens of thousands of civilians’ used as IS human shields” which again amplified UN statements.

“Islamic State (IS) militants have abducted tens of thousands of civilians from around the Iraqi city of Mosul to use as human shields, the UN says. […]

“Credible reports” suggested that civilians in sub-districts around Mosul had been forced from their homes and relocated inside the city since the offensive began earlier this month, UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said. […]

“Isil’s depraved cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilian hostages to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men and children as human shields,” Ms Shamdasani added, using an acronym for IS.”

Once again, there was no indication of the BBC having independently confirmed those reports before their publication.

On November 7th visitors to the BBC News website and viewers of BBC television news saw a filmed report titled “Battle for Mosul: IS ‘herded human shields like sheep’“.

“The BBC’s Karen Allen spoke to residents of one town near Mosul who say they were used as “human shields” by retreating militants.”

So as we see, within less than a month since the launch of the military operation against ISIS in the Mosul region, BBC audiences were alerted to the terror group’s use of civilians as human shields on at least four occasions. The majority of those reports were based on information provided by outside sources and – in contrast to the 2014 reports from the Gaza Strip, where the corporation did have journalists on the ground in the relevant areas – the BBC apparently did not find it necessary in this case to find “evidence” of its own before reporting on the use of human shields by ISIS. 

No follow-up to a story the BBC previously featured in four reports

This week one of the juveniles who carried out a terror attack in Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighbourhood in October 2015 was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment.

“The 14-year-old from East Jerusalem was convicted earlier this year on two counts of attempted murder for the October 2015 knife attack, in which he and his cousin critically injured a 12-year-old boy and a 25-year-old man.

The teenage assailant was 13 when he carried out the attack along with his 15-year-old cousin, who was shot dead by security forces responding at the scene.

According to the indictment filed in May, the court rejected the defense presented by the teen’s attorneys that the cousins had no intention of murdering the Israelis, but rather had simply wanted to “scare the Jews.”

The judges determined that the cousins went on the stabbing spree in order to “help Hamas and become martyrs.” Still, they took into account the defendant’s apology and the fact that his elder cousin had stabbed the two victims.”

As has been noted here before, it is extremely rare to see any follow-up reporting by the BBC after Palestinian terrorists have been arrested and put on trial (although the corporation has produced coverage of the legal process in cases in which the perpetrators were Israeli Jews) and it was therefore unsurprising to see that audiences were not informed of the outcome of the trial of the Pisgat Ze’ev attacker even though the story was covered by the BBC extensively at the time.Pisgat Zeev attacks report

On the day of the attack (October 12th 2015) the BBC News website produced a report which was amended to include a politicised description of its location.

“Two youths were stabbed earlier at a settlement in East Jerusalem, leaving one of the victims, a 13-year-old boy, in a critical condition.”

Two days later the BBC News website published an article which initially gave context-free amplification to false claims concerning the two terrorists from the PA president.

“He also accused Israel of carrying out “executions of our children in cold blood”…” 

On October 15th and 16th the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen produced written and filmed reports in which the father of the older attacker was showcased and Bowen roundly dismissed the subject of incitement.Bowen filmed Manasra

“When I met Khaled Mahania, the father of 15-year-old Hassan Mahania, who attacked and badly wounded young Israelis in a settlement in East Jerusalem, he is unable to explain.

Hassan was shot dead as he carried out the attack; his 13-year-old cousin and accomplice was run down by a car and badly hurt.

The Israeli government blames the attacks on incitement by political and religious extremists. A video has circulated of a Muslim cleric in Gaza waving a knife and calling on Palestinians to slit the throats of Jews.

Khaled Mahania told me he had not replaced his son’s smartphone since he broke it last year. He had no mobile internet access, and none at home.

Khaled had even thrown out the TV because he believed his children should read and talk to each other. Khaled broke down as he said his son was a typical teenager, not political and certainly no radical.”

When the recently sentenced youth was convicted in May, it was reported that:

“The indictment stated that Manasra returned from school and met his cousin. “They talked about the ‘situation’ at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the state of the Gaza Strip residents, the PA and Hamas. Intending to help them, they decided to become martyrs and be killed as part of a religious war.”

Since the surge in violence began last autumn, Bowen and his colleagues have repeatedly dismissed the issues of incitement and glorification of terrorism as contributing factors, preferring instead to promote PLO approved talking points concerning “the occupation” to their audiences.

Remarkably, the fact that this Palestinian teenager – and many others – expressed a will to die as a “martyr” in a “religious war” has not distracted the BBC from promotion of that chosen political narrative or prompted it to carry out any serious journalistic investigation into the issue of incitement.

Reviewing BBC portrayal of the Balfour Declaration

The launch by the British Jewish community of a very useful new resource in the form of a website called ‘Balfour 100’ on the 99th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration provides an opportunity to take a look at how the BBC has portrayed that document over the years and what information is available to members of the public conducting a search online.

Significantly, the timeline in the BBC News website’s current “Israel Profile” begins in 1917. While erasing the context of World War One from its portrayal of British operations in the region, the Balfour Declaration is described as follows:balfour-in-profile

“1917- Britain seizes Palestine from Ottomans. Gives support to “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine through the Balfour Declaration, along with an insistence that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities”.”

In a documentary titled ‘The Birth of Israel‘ – produced within the framework of BBC coverage of the 60th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence in 2008 – Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen’s portrayal of the Balfour Declaration (from 07:50 here) started off accurately and impartially.

“In November 1917 as British troops were fighting their way up to Jerusalem, seizing Palestine from the Turks, the Foreign Secretary in London wrote a letter that became known as the Balfour Declaration. The Balfour Declaration said the British would view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and use their best endeavours to make it happen. And it also said it was clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

Bowen then turned to the promotion of editorialised commentary clearly designed to shape audience opinion:

“Now, there’s a whole series of incompatible promises in that and the British never found a way to keep them. As a result they were regarded as betrayers by both sides. For the Zionists it was a big step forward. But, said the writer Arthur Koestler, it was an impossible idea: one nation promising another the land of a third. It did a great deal to create the conflict that continues today.”

In November 2001 the BBC News website produced a series of web pages presenting “Key Documents” related to “Israel and the Palestinians” which are still accessible today. The page titled “The Balfour Declaration” includes the text of the letter, preceded by the following introduction:balfour-in-key-documents

“The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was the first significant declaration by a world power in favour of a Jewish “national home” in what was known as Palestine.

Historians disagree as to what the then British Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour, intended by his declaration. The letter has no mention of the word “state”, and insists that nothing should be done “which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

The letter was addressed to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the Jewish community in Britain. It became an important arm of the movement to create a Jewish state in Palestine.”

Another article from November 2001 which is still available online is also titled “The Balfour Declaration” and was apparently intended to act as a backgrounder. The article opens with the following assertion:

“As Prime Minister Tony Blair meets the Palestinians and Israelis, some protesters have been highlighting the role Britain played in fashioning today’s troubled Middle East.” [emphasis added]

Following a reasonable presentation of the document itself, readers are told that:

“There are various theories as to why the British came to make the declaration. These range from there being a desire to get influential Jewish American backing for the WWI effort, to a belief in the Old Testament right of Israel to claim Palestine as its own.

An Israeli revisionist historian, Tom Segev, says many of the British feared the Jews, believing they secretly ran the world. And not really knowing what to do with Palestine, the creation of a Jewish homeland was therefore convenient for the British. But, says Segev, it had the effect of setting Jew against Arab.

Whatever the truth, the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration is a traditional time for anti-British demonstrations by some Palestinians.

There has also been some speculation that when Osama Bin Laden said Islam had been “tasting this humiliation and contempt for more than 80 years,” it was to the Balfour Declaration he was referring.”

A timeline titled “A History of Conflict” – undated but still available online – includes an entry for 1917 which inaccurately claims that Ottoman rule over Palestine was brought to an end by “Arab forces” rather than by Allenby’s troops.balfour-in-timeline-1917

“At the time of World War I the area was ruled by the Turkish Ottoman empire. Turkish control ended when Arab forces backed by Britain drove out the Ottomans.

Britain occupied the region at the end of the war in 1918 and was assigned as the mandatory power by the League of Nations on 25 April 1920.

During this period of change, three key pledges were made.

In 1916 the British Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, had promised the Arab leadership post-war independence for former Ottoman Arab provinces.

However, at the same time, the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement between war victors, Britain and France, divided the region under their joint control.

Then in 1917, the British Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour committed Britain to work towards “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”, in a letter to leading Zionist Lord Rothschild. It became known as the Balfour Declaration.”

As has been noted here on previous occasions, the Hussein-McMahon correspondence did not include Palestine, as Sir Henry McMahon himself pointed out in a letter to the Times in 1937.

McMahon letter Times

As we see, while the text of the Balfour Declaration is accurately represented by the BBC, the corporation regularly allows itself to engage in related commentary which is less than objective. With the Balfour Declaration set to be the subject of political campaigning in the approach to its 100th anniversary this time next year (see ‘related articles’ below), the BBC’s funding public is obviously in need of both accurate and impartial information on the topic.

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Multi-platform BBC promotion of Syrian regime falsehood concerning Israel

An interview with the Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen appeared on several BBC platforms on September 7th.

An audio version of the interview was heard by listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Newsroom’.mekdad-the-newsroom

A filmed version of the interview was shown on BBC News television programmes and posted on the BBC News website.

The same filmed clip was also embedded into an article titled “Syria conflict: Opposition unveils transition plan” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

In all versions of that interview – which was slightly edited on the different platforms – BBC audiences heard barely challenged denials from Faisal Mekdad with regard to the Syrian regime’s use of barrel bombs against the civilian population and the fact that most of the civilian casualties of the civil war have been caused by Assad’s forces and supporters.

Audiences also heard the following falsehood go completely unchallenged by the man whose job ostensibly includes the provision of “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”.mekdad-filmed

“This is a war against Syria. This is war from, I mean, the most horrible…ah…I mean, forces in the entire world. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are giving money. Turkey is using its army. The United States and Western Europe – and particularly France and UK – are doing, I mean, whatever they can do to end the role being played by Syria. Israel is there in the middle of the conflict.” [emphasis added]

As any Middle East reporter worth his salt of course knows, Israel is not involved in the Syrian civil war and it is certainly not the cause of that conflict. Jeremy Bowen however did not bother to relieve BBC audiences of the inaccurate impression promoted by his interviewee and instead went straight on to his next question.

Not for the first time – see ‘related articles’ below – Jeremy Bowen’s reporting on Syria actively hinders the meeting of his employer’s obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues”.

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What does the BBC News website tell audiences about the Khartoum Resolutions?

September 1st marked the 49th anniversary of the Arab League’s issuing of the Khartoum Resolutions.Khartoum summit

“…the leaders of thirteen Arab states gathered at a summit conference in Khartoum, Sudan from August 29 to September 1. There they pledged to continue their struggle against Israel. Influenced by Nasser, “their conditions were quite specific: no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and ‘maintenance of the rights of the Palestinian people in their nation.’ The Khartoum Declaration was the first serious warning to the Israelis that their expectation of an imminent ‘phone call’ from the Arab world might be a pipe dream”.”

For years the BBC has cited the Six Day War as the central factor in its portrayal of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the broader Arab-Israeli conflict and even beyond. In 2007 the corporation’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen told radio audiences that:

“The legacy of 1967, military occupation and violent resistance, the unresolved refugee crisis and the competition for control of land and water…lies behind most of the shameful brutal and tragic events I have witnessed in 16 years of covering the Arab Israeli conflict for the BBC.”

“It would be bad enough if the misery of the past 40 years was confined to the Palestinians and the Israelis. But now at the start of the 21st century, their war affects all of us.. It’s at the center of the conflict between the West and the Islamic world… Ignoring the legacy of 1967 is not an option.” [emphasis added]

One might therefore expect that audiences would be able to find information concerning the Khartoum Resolutions on the BBC News website but a search for that term yields no results whatsoever.

The website’s current profile of the Arab League offers no information on that subject either and neither does its predecessor which is still available online. An old ‘timeline’ of the Arab League dating from 2011 includes the following entry for 1967 and a subsequent ‘timeline’ from 2013 offers the same information.

Arab League timeline

Next year will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War and no doubt the BBC’s coverage of the topic will be extensive. Whether or not that coverage will finally include the provision of BBC audiences with information concerning the Arab League’s rejection of peace after losing that war remains to be seen.

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘More or Less’ and Radio 1’s ‘Newsbeat’ were commended in the recent BBC Trust review of the impartiality of the corporation’s reporting of statistics in its news and current affairs output. Those two programmes recently came together with BBC Monitoring to produce a multi-platform feature on the subject of deaths resulting from terrorism in Western Europe.Newsbeat terror

Terror deaths in Western Europe at highest level since 2004” Newsbeat

“The start of 2016 saw the highest number of terrorism deaths in Western Europe since 2004, BBC research has revealed.

The first seven months of the year saw 143 deaths, which is also the second worst start to the year since 1980.”

Counting Terror Deaths” ‘More or Less’, BBC Radio 4

“Is 2016 an unusually deadly year for terrorism?

In a joint investigation with BBC Newsbeat and BBC Monitoring, we’ve analysed nearly 25,000 news articles to assess whether 2016 so far has been a unusually [sic] deadly year for terrorism. It certainly feels like it. But what do the numbers say? We estimate that, between January and July this year, 892 people died in terrorist attacks in Europe – making it the most deadly first seven months of a year since 1994. But the vast majority of those deaths have been in Turkey. The number for Western Europe is 143, which is lower than many years in the 1970s.”More or Less R4 terror

Counting Terror Deaths” ‘More or Less’, BBC World Service Radio

“With high profile attacks in Brussels, Nice and Munich, you might think that 2016 has been a particularly bad year for terrorism in Europe. But what happens when you put the numbers in historical context and compare them with figures for the rest of the world?”

The research underlying all those reports used a “working definition” of terrorism described as follows in the radio programmes:

“Terrorist attacks are acts of violence by non-state actors to achieve a political, social, economic or religious goal through fear, coercion or intimidation.”

Since the surge in terror attacks against Israelis began last September, the BBC has provided its audiences with a variety of explanations for the violence. The preferred explanation proffered by the corporation’s Middle East editor has been ‘the occupation’.

“Many Palestinians have told me they believe the reason for the attacks is that another generation is realising its future prospects will be crippled by the indignities and injustice of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.”

“Violence does not come out of the blue. It has a context. Once again, the problem is the unresolved conflict between Palestinians and Jews. It is at the heart of all the violence that shakes this city.

A big part of the conflict is the military occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, that has lasted for nearly 50 years. It is impossible to ignore the effects of an occupation that is always coercive and can be brutal.

In successive Palestinian generations, it has created hopelessness and hatred. In some cases, that bursts out into murderous anger.”

“Palestinians say they don’t need to be told when to be angry after almost fifty years of an occupation that is always coercive and often brutal.”

Another ‘explanation’ repeatedly offered to audiences goes along the following lines:More or Less WS terror

“The recent rise in violence is blamed by Palestinians on the continued occupation by Israel of the West Bank and the failure of the Middle East peace process.”

In addition to those political factors, the BBC has frequently cited a religious factor as context to the surge in violence.

“The current escalation was partly triggered by Palestinian fury over restricted access to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. The site is holy to Muslims and Jews, who call it Temple Mount.”

“In the last few weeks what we’ve had is this big flare-up in tensions over the Al Aqsa Mosque compound; about access to this important religious site.”

“But the key to all of this, we think, is this ancient dispute about rights of worship at the Al Aqsa Mosque – which is called Temple Mount by Jews of course.”

“Tensions have been particularly high in recent weeks over the long-running issue of access to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem.”

But despite having cited political, social and religious factors as explanations for the Palestinian violence against Israelis in recent months, as has been documented here on countless occasions the BBC nevertheless universally refrained from describing those attacks as terrorism or their perpetrators as terrorists. 

With the corporation now having finally found a working definition of terrorism with which it is apparently comfortable, its long-standing editorial policy of eschewing accurate terminology when covering Palestinian attacks on Israelis clearly becomes even more egregious.  

Related Articles:

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Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

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

 

Investigative report highlights BBC’s NGO impartiality fail

Over the past fourteen months we have documented several cases in which the BBC has amplified the messaging of what it labels an “Israeli activist group” but failed to comply with its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing audiences of the agenda and ideology that lies behind the political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’.BtS written

BBC editorial guidelines flouted in promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’ booklet

Another breach of editorial guidelines in yet more BBC promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’

The context of the BBC’s promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’

BBC’s ME Editor gives unchallenged amplification to Palestinian defamation

What the BBC World Service edited out of a ‘Boston Calling’ report

Last week Channel 10’s investigative journalism programme ‘HaMakor’ presented an interesting report on ‘Breaking the Silence’ in which the issue of the reliability of the NGO’s ‘testimonies’ was examined.

Our colleague Gidon Shaviv has now translated the results of that investigation in an article titled “Breaking the Silence Gets Failing Grade in Channel 10’s Fact-Check“.

 The findings of Channel 10’s investigation show that the BBC’s repeated unquestioning and uncritical amplification of ‘Breaking the Silence’ is not conducive to meeting its public purposes and yet again underscore the urgent need for the corporation to adhere to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality when quoting and promoting that – or any other – political NGO. 

Comparing BBC reporting on English and Israeli football hooligans

Last month the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen found it appropriate to respond to an Israeli spokesman’s statement concerning the very real problem of incitement and glorification of terrorism sanctioned and organized by the Palestinian Authority and its main party Fatah by promoting an irrelevant comparison – and false equivalence – between that and the behaviour of a specific group of Israeli football hooligans. 

“The Israeli prime minister’s spokesman told me that “teaching Palestinian children to hate is one of the primary causes of the terror attacks against Israeli civilians today… their impressionable minds should not be poisoned with hatred by the Palestinian Authority.”

“Hate-filled Palestinian rhetoric against Israel is not hard to find. It cuts the other way too.

Fans of one of Jerusalem’s professional football clubs, which has roots in a right-wing Zionist youth movement, are notorious for chanting “Death to Arabs” during games.”

Previous BBC reports concerning a group of Beitar Jerusalem fans (of which there have been far more than necessary) have also alleged a connection between certain political ideologies and racism.

“Beitar Jerusalem is traditionally seen as the club of Israel’s political right wing.

Many politicians, past and present, from the conservative Likud party are lifelong fans.”

BBC audiences have also been told that the actions of a specific group of fans from one particular club prompt general “Football racism fears in Israel”.Davies Beitar

Interestingly, the not entirely novel behaviour of a group of English football fans in Marseille this last week were not deemed by the BBC to prompt ‘football violence fears in England’ or ‘football inebriation fears in England’.

None of the plethora of BBC articles and reports on the topic alleged a link between the rioting fans and any particular UK political party and neither did they suggest linkage between the violent fans’ political views and their actions. And of course no BBC reporter tried to paint the behaviour of a few hooligans as being representative of English society as a whole.

In fact, BBC audiences were told that “there is a small minority who drink too much and get involved in some anti-social behavior”, that “only a “handful” of England fans had been involved” and that “the England fans had done nothing wrong”. In addition, BBC audiences learned that “reports of England football fans being involved in fights in Marseille have been “blown out of proportion” and that “it’s just a small minority who go to cause trouble really”.

Compare and contrast.