BBC mixed messaging on Iranian support for the Houthis persists

In June 2019 we documented the BBC’s approach to the subject of Iran’s ties to the Houthi militia in Yemen:

BBC still fence-sitting on Iranian support for Houthis

The same editorial policy has been in evidence in the seven months since then, with BBC audiences seeing repeated promotion of messaging which originally appeared in a backgrounder titled “Yemen crisis: Why is there a war?” that is now dated 21 March 2019 but was first published in October 2016. For example: [emphasis added]

June 14th 2019, ‘Yemen war: Second assault on Saudi Abha airport in two days’:

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

June 24th 2019, ‘Yemen war: Civilian killed in Houthi attack on Saudi airport’:

“The coalition has said the drones are “Iranian made”, but Iran has denied supplying weapons to the rebels. […]

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

August 1st 2019, ‘Yemen war: Houthi missile attack on military parade kills 32’:

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

September 30th 2019, ‘Yemen war: Houthi rebels release hundreds of detainees’:

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

December 29th 2019, ‘Yemen: Houthis blamed for attack on military parade’:

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

January 19th 2020 (since amended and re-dated), ‘Yemen war: At least 70 soldiers killed in missile attack’:

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

Interestingly, over the same period of time some other reports have given audiences a more realistic portrayal of the issue.

August 1st 2019, Frank Gardner, ‘Yemen war: Has anything been achieved?’:

“…for Yemen’s legitimate, UN-recognised government and its Saudi and Emirati backers, this war has always been about preventing an unacceptable takeover of the country by a tiny minority with links to Iran – the Houthis. […]

The war did not begin with the Saudi-led air campaign in March 2015. It began six months earlier when the Houthis, a small, largely unheard-of Yemeni tribal group from the mountainous north, marched on the capital, Sanaa, and evicted the legitimate government.

Then, with the backing of forces loyal to the ousted former Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh, the Houthis took over most of the populated areas of Yemen.

For Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, this felt like an Iranian-backed coup on its southern frontier and the ruling princes resolved to act. […]

The UAE view is that its participation in this war has helped achieve several things. It has prevented a Houthi takeover of the whole country, which it considers would have ultimately given Iran control over the strategic Bab al-Mandeb Strait between Africa and Arabia.”

September 4th 2019, ‘Yemen: Western powers may be held responsible for war crimes – UN’:

“The Western powers provide weapons and logistical support to the Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s government, while Iran backs the Houthi rebels.”

September 16th 2019, Jonathan Marcus,Drone’ attack on Saudis destabilises an already volatile region’:

Iran has well-developed ties with the Houthis and there is little doubt it has been the key player in enabling them to develop their long-range strike capability, whether through armed UAVs or missiles.

In 2018, a report from a UN expert panel pointed to the remarkable similarity between the Houthi Qasef-1 UAV and the Iranian Ababil-T. In a wide-ranging study, it asserted that Iran had broken the arms embargo against Yemen and supplied the Houthis with a variety of weapons systems.

Much the same conclusion was reached by a March 2017 study from the independent Conflict Armament Research organisation, which focused on Iranian UAV assistance. […]

Iran, along with its Houthi allies, is conducting a classic war of the weak against the strong; a “hybrid conflict” as it is known in the strategic textbooks. It is borrowing many of the tactics from the Russian play-book – the use of deniability; proxies; cyber-operations and information warfare.”

September 22nd 2019, ‘Iran warns foreign forces to stay out of Gulf, amid new US deployment’:

“Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels said they had carried out the attacks….”

November 28th 2019, ‘Yemen civil war: 128 detainees sent home from Saudi Arabia’:

Iran-supported Houthi rebels seized much of the west of Yemen and ousted President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in March 2015.” 

Obviously some BBC journalists are fully aware of the support provided by Iran to the Houthis – as has been documented by the UN and academic researchers.

“Iran has funded the Houthis even before the lawful regime fell in 2014. Most of the funding, $10- 25 million, was delivered courtesy of the Iranian embassy in Sanaa, in the form of support for cultural and religious events. This funding reflects one of the pillars of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy – cultural and religious support for Shiite around the world. After the fall of the Yemenite lawful regime and the start of hostilities, Iran continued to funnel large sums of money through Sanaa International Airport until coalition forces shut it down in 2015. It should be noted that despite a blockade that has been imposed on Yemen’s naval ports, ships with humanitarian aid continued to dock, especially in the Port of Hodeida, and it stands to reason that some carried concealed cash shipments. It should also be noted that in January, a report by a UN Panel of Experts on Yemen found that fuel loaded from Iranian ports under false documentation was being donated to listed individuals in Yemen by companies functioning as front companies in order to avoid detection by UN inspectors. The fuel was then sold and with profits used to finance the Houthi war effort. The Panel also traced the supply of UAVs and a mixing machine for rocket fuel to the Houthis, as well as uncovering that individuals of Iranian origin funded these purchases. […]

Despite the aerial and naval blockades imposed by the KSA-led coalition forces, Iran has consistently attempted to arm the Houthis. Between April 2015 and October 2016, the U.S. Navy, in its capacity as a member of an international task force formed to fight piracy and prevent violation of an international embargo on gun running, detained five vessels en route from Iran to Houthi forces that carried a wide variety of armament, such as AK-47 assault rifles, anti-tank missiles and antitank mines. An analysis performed by Conflict Armament Research Organization found that the AK-47 serial numbers were consecutive which attests to the fact that they came from a government owned stock rather than arms dealers. Further, a serial number on a Kornet AT-missile captured in Yemen belonged to the same batch of weaponry that has been captured on one of the above vessels. Additional shipments continued to flow to the Houthis and the last one reported, which included over one thousand assault rifles, was captured by the U.S. Navy at the end of August 2018. Previous interceptions by the Australian and French Navies in 2016 in the Red Sea yielded Iranian weapons, including almost 2,000 AK-47s and 100 RPGs on a single dhow, and a similar number of AK47s and nine anti-tank missiles on a different boat.”

The question which therefore arises is why – alongside the realistic reporting provided by some of its correspondents – does the BBC continue to promote messaging which dovetails with Iranian propaganda and conflicts with its obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news” which will “build people’s understanding”.

Related Articles:

BBC News still unsure about Iranian involvement in Yemen

Limited BBC journalistic curiosity on Iranian involvement in Yemen

The BBC and the Houthi logo

BBC News portrays Iranian involvement in Yemen as ‘overplayed’

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – December 2019

Throughout the month of December 2019, sixteen written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which were carried over from the previous month and some of which also appeared on other pages.

(dates indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

One report concerned external security issues:

Israel-Iran: Risk of an all-out conflict grows after Syria strikes Jonathan Marcus (20/11/19 to 26/11/19 and 28/11/19 to 1/12/19)

One item related to political/legal issues:

ICC wants to open ‘war crimes’ investigation in West Bank and Gaza (21/12/19 to 23/12/19) discussed here

One item concerned archaeology:

Israelis find rare Roman fish sauce factory (17/12/19 to 20/12/19)

Four reports related to religion/Christmas/Palestinians:

Jesus manger: Relic returns to Bethlehem in time for Christmas  (30/11/19 to 5/12/19)

Saint Barbara: A celebration for Arab Christians Barbara Plett Usher (17/12/19 to 31/12/19) discussed here

Banksy ‘nativity scene’ appears in Bethlehem hotel (21/12/19 to 23/12/19) discussed here

The Christians helping Bethlehem shepherd families give birth safely (25/12 /19 to present) discussed here

Of nine items relating to internal Israeli internal affairs, three concerned politics:

Israel will hold unprecedented third election in a year (12/12/19 to 17/12/19) discussed here

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu in party leadership challenge (26/12/19) discussed here and here

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu comfortably wins party leadership challenge (27/12/19 to 30/12/19) discussed here

Four reports concerned legal/criminal cases, of which two related to a case in Cyprus in which Israelis had been released without charge in July, yet the BBC continued to publish reports on the website’s ‘Middle East’ page:

Netanyahu: Corruption charges an ‘attempted coup’  (21/11/19 to 4/12/19 and 6/12/19 to 9/12/19)

Israel’s deportation of Human Rights Watch activist condemned (25/11/19 to 2/12/19) discussed here

Ayia Napa Briton found guilty over false rape claim (30/12/19 to 31/12/19)

Ayia Napa: Foreign Office ‘concerned’ over Briton found guilty over rape claim (31/12/19 to present)

Two reports concerned social issues:

How Beitar Jerusalem’s football club owner took on racism and won Alex Capstick (20/12/19 to 1/1/20) discussed here

Beitar Jerusalem: How do you change ‘the most racist’ club in Israel? Alex Capstick (20/12/19 to 26/12/19) discussed here

The BBC News website continues its practice of reporting Israeli affairs far more extensively than it does internal Palestinian internal affairs. All of the December reporting concerning Palestinians came within the framework of one-sided Christmas coverage.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – November 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – October 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – September 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – August 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – July 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – June 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – May 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – April 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – March 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – February 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2019

 

BBC News avoids the term ‘occupation’ in Cyprus gas report

A report titled “Turkish drone fuels tension over Cyprus gas claims” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on December 16th.

The report begins by informing readers that:

“A Turkish military drone has arrived at a base in Turkish-backed northern Cyprus to help controversial gas exploration projects near the island.

A Turkish military official said the drone would escort its drilling ships. There are two – the Fatih and Yavuz – in the area, despite strong criticism from Cyprus and its EU partners.” [emphasis added]

It goes on:

“Turkey alone recognises the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”

Readers are provided with a similarly worded map:

Later on an attempt is made to provide some historical background:

“The Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities have been separated by a UN buffer zone since 1974, when Turkey invaded the north of the island in response to a military coup in Cyprus backed by Greece.”

Interestingly – but predictably – the words ‘occupation’ and ‘occupied’ do not appear anywhere in this report. As has been the case in past BBC reporting, there is no reference in the report to “illegal settlements” or “international law” despite the fact that it was Turkish state policy to facilitate and encourage the immigration of Turkish nationals to Cyrpus during the latter half of the 1970s.

In contrast to BBC coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, readers do not find any pronouncements allocating disputed territory to one side or the other in the style of the frequently employed terminology “occupied Palestinian land” and “Palestinian territory” and no mention is made of the presence of Turkish troops in northern Cyprus. Moreover, the previous BBC policy of describing northern Cyprus as being ‘controlled’ by Turkey appears to have been abandoned.

Readers are told that:

“The Republic of Cyprus, Greece and Israel are also exploring for gas.

In July [sic] a new “East Mediterranean Gas Forum” (EMGF) was launched by those three countries, plus Egypt, Jordan, Italy and the Palestinian Authority. However, Turkey was excluded.”

The EMGF was actually established in January 2019.

The background to the story includes agreements reached in late November between Turkey and the interim government of Libya which are described as follows:

“Last month, Turkey and the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya signed an agreement on maritime boundaries in the region.

The Memorandum of Understanding aims to protect the rights of both countries against any “illegal” encroachments by other players in the region.

In a separate memorandum, Turkey and the GNA agreed on military co-operation. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government was “ready to provide all kinds of support to Libya”. He met GNA leader Fayez al-Sarraj in Istanbul on Sunday.”

The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus adds:

“Turkey’s deal with the Libyan government in Tripoli extends Ankara’s claimed exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to touch that of Libya. This effectively cuts off Israel, Egypt, Cyprus and the Palestinians from Greece and Italy, threatening planned energy pipeline projects in the region.

Egypt objected. Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador and received support from the EU.”

Writing at the FDD, Aykan Erdemir provides a more helpful explanation:

“Turkey signed an agreement with Libya on November 27 in an attempt to redraw maritime boundaries in the volatile eastern Mediterranean. […] the Turkey-Libya deal will fuel further tensions by threatening Greek, Cypriot, and Egyptian control of their territorial waters. […]

The deal seeks to create a maritime corridor between the two countries, stretching from southwest Turkey to northeast Libya. This corridor would cut through a zone currently claimed by Greece and Cyprus, which are planning a future gas pipeline connecting eastern Mediterranean gas fields to markets in Europe – a project that would help the continent reduce dependency on Russian gas. Ankara’s attempt to dictate new boundaries directly challenges the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Cyprus, Egypt, and Greece. […]

Tensions among Ankara, Athens, and Nicosia were already high due to Turkey’s exploration and drilling for gas within Cypriot territorial waters. Since a 1974 coup attempt led by Greek army officers, Turkey has occupied the northern part of the island, where Turkish Cypriots maintain a self-proclaimed independent state recognized only by Ankara. After the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus discovered natural gas within its EEZ, Turkey has repeatedly attempted to drill in Cypriot territorial waters. The Turkish government claims its drilling is necessary to ensure equal shares for Turkish Cypriots in gas revenues, but its incursions into Cypriot and Greek waters have escalated tensions with Athens and Nicosia, forced the European Union to consider imposing sanctions, and left Ankara with few allies in the region.”

The BBC report’s explanation of what its opening sentence described as “controversial gas exploration projects” is as follows:

“Turkey has long challenged the Republic of Cyprus government’s exclusive drilling rights in the region. Turkey is now stepping up oil and gas exploration of its own.”

And:

“The Republic of Cyprus argues that Turkey has no right to drill for hydrocarbons off its coast.

Turkey says its drilling operations are taking place inside its continental shelf, and therefore comply with international law.”

That ‘he said-she said’ portrayal of the dispute clearly does not provide BBC audiences with the “depth of analysis” required “to build people’s understanding” as required by the corporation’s public purposes.  

Related Articles:

Not all ‘occupied territories’ are equal for the BBC

When the BBC News website reported an enduring conflict without a narrative

BBC double standards on disputed territory in evidence again

 

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – November 2019

Throughout the month of November 2019, thirty written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which also appeared on other pages.

(dates indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

Eight reports concerned an escalation of violence between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad:

Israel kills top Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza (12/11/19) discussed here, here and here

Israel-Gaza violence: Rockets and air strikes follow militant death (12/11/19 to 22/11/19) discussed here

Israel-Gaza violence spirals after killing of top Palestinian militant (12/11/19 to 13/11/19) discussed here and here

Israel-Gaza fighting continues for second day after militant’s death (13/11/19 to 14/11/19) discussed here and here

Israel-Gaza ceasefire holding despite rocket fire (14/11/19 to 15/11/19) discussed here and here

Israel-Gaza ceasefire strained by rockets and air strikes (15/11/19)

Israel-Gaza: Israel vows to investigate civilian death claims (16/11/19 to 19/11/19)

Israel-Gaza clash: Why Hamas chose restraint Barbara Plett Usher (18/11/19 to 23/11/19) discussed here

Three reports concerned other external security issues:

Iran nuclear deal: IAEA finds uranium particles at undeclared site  (11/11/19 to 15/11/19)

Israel-Iran: Risk of an all-out conflict grows after Syria strikes  Jonathan Marcus (20/11/19 to 26/11/19 and 28/11/19 to 1/12/19)

Israel carries out ‘wide-scale strikes’ on Iranian forces in Syria (20/11/19 to 22/11/19) discussed here

Seven items related to political/diplomatic stories:

Jordanians detained by Israel for months freed after diplomatic crisis (6/11/19 to 7/11/19) discussed here

Jordan ends border enclaves land lease for Israeli farmers (10/11/19 to 11/11/19) discussed here

US says Israeli settlements are no longer illegal (18/11/19) discussed here and here

Pompeo: Previous US stance on Israeli settlements ‘hasn’t worked’ (18/11/19 to 24/11/19)

US settlement move endorses ‘law of the jungle’ – Palestinians (19/11/19 to 21/11/19) discussed here and here

US settlement move reduces chances of Israeli-Palestinian peace deal Barbara Plett Usher (19/11/19 to 25/11/19) discussed here and here

Israelis and Palestinians on US settlement move (19/11/19 to 21/11/19 and 23/11/19 to 29/11/19)

Two items related to historical content:

WW2 Jewish survivors in rare reunion with Greek rescuer (4/11/19 to 5/11/19)

Greek rescuer, 92, meets families of WW2 Jews she saved (4/11/19 to 18/11/19)

One report related to religion:

Jesus manger: Relic returns to Bethlehem in time for Christmas (30/11/19 to present)

Of nine items relating to internal Israeli internal affairs, one concerned politics:

Benny Gantz unable to form Israel coalition government (20/11/19 to 24/11/19)

Seven items related to legal stories:

Israel court rejects Human Rights Watch activist’s deportation appeal (5/11/19 to 6/11/19) discussed here

Israel’s deportation of Human Rights Watch activist condemned (25/11/19 to present) discussed here

Netanyahu: Corruption charges an ‘attempted coup’ (21/11/19 to present)

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM charged with corruption (21/11/19)

Benjamin Netanyahu: What are the corruption charges? Originally published in February 2019 (21/11/19)

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM defiant in face of ‘coup’ (22/11/19)

Israel’s Netanyahu facing fight of his political life Barbara Plett Usher (22/11/19 to 25/11/19) discussed here and here

One report concerned planning:

Jerusalem: Israel approves controversial Old City cable car plan (6/11/19 to 7/11/19) discussed here

The BBC News website continues its practice of reporting Israeli affairs far more extensively than it does internal Palestinian internal affairs with visitors having seen no coverage of that topic whatsoever during the month of November.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – October 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – September 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – August 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – July 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – June 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – May 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – April 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – March 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – February 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2019

 

 

 

BBC News ignores rockets on northern Israel but reports response

When sirens warning of rocket fire from Syria sent residents of the northern Golan Heights and Upper Galilee scurrying for shelter shortly before 5 a.m. on November 19th, the BBC did not find that story newsworthy.

“Four projectiles were fired at northern Israel from Syria in the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, the Israel Defense Forces said. All four were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

The Israeli military believes the rockets were fired by Iran or one of its proxies.”

The Israeli response which came the next day was however considered worthy of BBC News website coverage and on the morning of November 20th a report originally confusingly headlined “Israel hits ‘dozens of Iranian and Syrian targets’” and now titled “Israel carries out ‘wide-scale strikes’ on Iranian forces in Syria” was published on its ‘Middle East’ page.

Apparently not having bothered to verify details of the previous day’s incident itself, the BBC reported it as something that ‘Israel said’ happened.

“The Israeli military says the “wide-scale strikes” responded to rockets fired by an Iranian unit into Israel. […]

On Tuesday morning, the Israeli military said it had intercepted four rockets fired from Syria towards northern Israel. It said the rockets did not hit the ground.”

As usual in coverage of such incidents, the BBC’s report uncritically amplified claims made by the infamous Syrian state news agency.

“Syria says two civilians died and that Syrian air defences shot down most of the missiles over Damascus. […]

Syria’s state news agency Sana said that the country’s “air defence confronted the heavy attack and intercepted the hostile missiles”.

It said that Syria destroyed “most” of the Israeli missiles.

The news agency added that the strikes on Syrian territory were carried out from “Lebanese and Palestinian territories”.”

Also in line with longstanding BBC editorial policy, the report presented an unnecessarily qualified account of Iran’s activities in Syria.

“Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011.

It has been trying to thwart what it calls Iran’s “military entrenchment” there and block shipments of Iranian weapons to Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.”

Readers were told nothing of the list of Iranian attacks on Israel throughout the past two years.

Later the same day the BBC News website published an additional article by its diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus titled “Israel-Iran: Risk of an all-out conflict grows after Syria strikes” and inaccurately tagged “Syrian civil war”.  

The BBC News Twitter account promoted that article with the claim that “Israel’s strikes in Syria risk broad conflict with Iran”.

So there we have it: according to BBC-think it is not Iran’s funding and arming of terrorist organisations to Israel’s south and north or Iran’s support for the establishment of Hizballah infrastructure in the Syrian Golan or even Iran’s reported deployment of missiles in south-west Syria which raise the risk of “broad conflict” but Israel’s response to Iranian aggression.

Related Articles:

Iran missile attack: BBC News promotes misinformation

Slapdash BBC News reporting of events in northern Israel and Syria

BBC Radio 4 reframes last month’s Iranian attack on Israel

Two months on, BBC still qualifying Iranian drone story

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – September 2019

Throughout the month of September 2019, twenty-four written or filmed reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which also appeared on other pages and three of which were carried over from the previous month.

(dates indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

One report concerned a terrorist incident:

Israeli PM Netanyahu whisked away amid sirens (10/9/19 to 21/9/19)

Four reports concerned alleged or confirmed external security issues:

Hezbollah fires rockets into Israel from Lebanon (1/9/19 to 5/9/19) discussed here

Israel and Hezbollah: Shadow-boxing with live weapons Jonathan Marcus (2/9/19 to 8/9/19)

Inside Iraqi paramilitary base hit in ‘Israeli’ strike (9/9/19 to 17/9/19)

Syria war: ‘Air strikes’ hit Iran-backed forces near Iraq border (9/9/19 to 10/9/19)

Three items related to political/diplomatic stories, including a long-running report carried over from the previous month about an alleged spy for Israel in Iran.

‘Iran tortured me into confessing to be an Israeli spy’ Jiyar Gol (13/8/19 to 15/9/19)

Saeid Mollaei: Iranian judoka fears for safety after refusing to quit World Championships BBC Sport (2/9/19 to 4/9/19) discussed here

Netanyahu denies Politico report Israel spying on the White House (12/9/19 to 17/9/19)

One item concerned archaeology:

Denisovans: Face of long-lost human relative unveiled (19/9/19 to 22/9/19)

Three reports, one of which was carried over from the previous month, concerned Palestinian social and political affairs:

Gaza explosions: ‘Suicide bombers’ kill three police officers (28/8/19 to 1/9/19)

Israa Ghrayeb: Murder charges for Palestinian ‘honour killing’ (12/9/19 to 15/9/19)

Israa Ghrayeb: Palestinian woman’s death prompts soul-searching Tom Bateman (16/9/19 to 18/9/19) discussed here

Of 12 reports concerning Israeli affairs, eleven related to the general election, coverage of which was discussed here.

Israel PM Netanyahu vows to annex occupied Jordan Valley (10/9/19)

Arab nations condemn Netanyahu’s Jordan Valley annexation plan (11/9/19 to 13/9/19)

Israel election a referendum on Netanyahu Jeremy Bowen (16/9/19 to 19/9/19)

Israel’s election: The most important things to know (17/9/19 to 19/9/19)

Israel election: Netanyahu in tough fight in this year’s second vote (17/9/19)

Israel election: Netanyahu and rival headed for deadlock (18/9/19)

Israel election: Netanyahu and Gantz compete over leadership (19/9/19 to 22/9/19)

Israeli elections: What do the results reveal? Tom Bateman (21/9/19 to 29/9/19)

Israeli elections: Arab parties back Gantz to oust Netanyahu (23/9/19 to 25/9/19)

Israeli elections: Netanyahu and Gantz take ‘significant step’ towards deal (23/9/19 to 25/9/19)

Israeli elections: Netanyahu asked to form next government (25/9/19 to 27/9/19)

One report carried over from the previous month concerned Palestinian detainees:

Palestinian conflict: Diaries of childhood in Israeli military detention Megha Mohan/Yusef Eldin (28/8/19 to 10/9/19) discussed here.

The BBC News website continues its practice of reporting Israeli affairs far more extensively than it does internal Palestinian affairs with visitors having seen over seven times more coverage of the former in the first three quarters of the year.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – August 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – July 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – June 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – May 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – April 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – March 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – February 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2019

 

 

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – February 2019

Throughout the month of February 2019, seventeen items relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, some of which also appeared on other pages.

(dates indicate the time period during which the item was available on the ‘Middle East’ page)

One item related to security issues:

Gaza protest deaths: Israel may have committed war crimes – UN (28/2/19 to 2/3/19) discussed here

Two items related to aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict:

Hebron: One Street, Two Sides (18/2/19 to 22/2/19) discussed here and here

Hezbollah to be added to UK list of terrorist organisations (25/2 19 to 26/2/19) discussed here

One item related to Palestinian affairs:

US stops all aid to Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza Yolande Knell (1/2/19 to 4/2/19) discussed here

Of the reports concerning Israel, three articles concerned foreign and diplomatic relations:

Warsaw summit: Why Iran is the elephant in the room Jonathan Marcus (12/2/19 to 19/2/19)

Poland PM cancels Israel trip after Netanyahu’s Holocaust comment (17/2/19 to 18/2/19) discussed here

Holocaust: Israel summit scrapped in ‘racism’ row with Poland (18/2/19 to 21/2/19)

One item related to trade:

US to buy Israeli Iron Dome missile defence system (6/2/19 to 9/2/19) discussed here

One report concerned the upcoming general election:

Israel elections: Netanyahu challengers Gantz and Lapid join forces (21/2/19 to 25/2/19)

Three reports related to legal/criminal cases in Israel:

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM faces corruption charges (28/2/19 to 1/3/19) discussed here

Benjamin Netanyahu: What are the corruption allegations? (28/2/19) discussed here

Netanyahu and the allegations of corruption Tom Bateman (20/2/19 to 28/2/19) discussed here

One item related to historical subject matter:

A 2,000-year-old biblical treasure BBC Travel (25/2/19 to 27/2/19)

One item related to science:

Israel’s Beresheet Moon mission gets under way Jonathan Amos (22/2/19 to 25/2/19)

One item concerned social issues:

Why I use a Jewish ritual bath after my period Erica Chernofsky (10/2/19 to 14/2/19)

Two additional items did not actually relate directly to Israel:

Niger man deported by Israel marooned in Ethiopian airport Emmanuel Igunza (18/2/19 to 19/2/19) discussed here

Argentina’s Chief Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich attacked during break-in (26/2/19 to 27/2/19) discussed here

As has been the case in previous years (see ‘related articles’ below), the BBC News website continues to cover Israeli affairs far more extensively than it does internal Palestinian affairs.

Related Articles:

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – January 2019

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q4 2017 – part two

 

 

 

 

 

Looking behind a BBC News website tag

On June 27th two items relating to the same topic appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ and ‘Middle East’ pages:

OPCW chemical watchdog gains power to assign blame

Chemical weapons: New watchdog powers an important step” by Jonathan Marcus

In his article diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus points out that:

“Until now, chemical weapons inspectors, working under the auspices of the OPCW (the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) were in a curious position.

They could send teams to an alleged chemical weapons attack. They could take samples and draw their conclusions. They could determine whether indeed a chemical weapons incident had occurred.

But whatever evidence they turned up, they could not point the finger at a particular country or non-state actor as the perpetrator. […]

One way of getting around this was the so-called Joint Investigative Mechanism – a concerted effort by the OPCW and the UN to investigate some of the alleged chemical attacks in Syria.

In difficult conditions this did indeed investigate alleged chemical attacks in Syria and found sufficient evidence to determine that the Syrian Arab Armed Forces (President Bashar al-Assad’s troops) were responsible for three chemical weapons attacks in 2014 and 2015, and that the Syrian regime was responsible for the Sarin nerve agent attack in April 2017 in Khan Shaykhun.”

Despite that accurate portrayal by Marcus of the findings concerning some of the past chemical attacks in Syria, curiously the BBC News website chose to tag both those articles “Suspected Syria chemical attack”.

A look at all the BBC reports appearing under that tag shows that it was created shortly after the chemical weapons attack in Douma on April 7th 2018 to which the US, the UK and France subsequently responded with strikes on Syrian government chemical weapons sites. Obviously the French, British and American governments considered the evidence convincing enough to justify those strikes but nevertheless, some of the articles appearing under that tag continue to amplify unsupported Syrian and Russian claims – for example:

“Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has told BBC News the allegations of chemical weapons use were “based on media reports and social media” and that the incident was “staged”. […]

The [Syrian] government denies using chemical weapons and says the attack was fabricated.” (BBC News website, April 18th 2018)

“The US, UK and France say that, based on open-source information and their own intelligence, they are confident chlorine and possibly a nerve agent were used.

The Syrian government and Russia deny chemical weapons were used and say evidence was fabricated.” (BBC News website, April 21st 2018)

“Syrian opposition activists, rescue workers and medics say more than 40 people were killed in a suspected chemical attack on the Syrian city of Douma in April.

France said it had “proof” that “chemical weapons were used – at least chlorine – and that they were used by Bashar al-Assad’s regime”.

The Syrian government denied the allegation. And its key ally Russia said it had “irrefutable evidence” that the incident had been “staged” with the help of the UK.” (BBC News website, June 26th 2018)

As we see the BBC continues its policy of promoting false balance in the form of claims from Syria and Russia – despite both those governments having been shown to have lied about previous chemical attacks. In contrast, the New York Times recently published the findings of an investigation it conducted into the Douma attack.

Readers can judge for themselves which approach – proactive investigative reporting or box-ticking uncritical amplification of unsubstantiated claims – best serves the interests of the public to whom the BBC is obliged to deliver  “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards”.

Related Articles:

Why does the BBC describe the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack as ‘suspected’?

Despite evidence, the BBC won’t let go of Assad propaganda

Same plane, two countries, two different BBC News portrayals

On May 22nd the BBC News website published an article titled “F-35 stealth fighter sees first combat, in Israeli operation” (discussed here) in which readers were told that:

“The F-35, from the world’s priciest military programme, has been criticised both for cost and combat effectiveness.

Last year, Defence Secretary James Mattis had to defend the programme after then President-elect Donald Trump tweeted criticising its huge price, said to be close to $100m (£74m) per plane. […]

The US has certainly put a lot of faith in a programme that is expected to run through to 2070 and is projected to cost $1.5tn by then.

However, it has also come in for heavy criticism and not just over the price.

An influential military blog in 2015 reported that the F-35 lacked manoeuvrability and was unable to beat an F-16 in a dogfight. It was also reported to have cockpit visibility issues.

Analysts say the emphasis on stealth capabilities may have compromised air-to-air effectiveness.”

Two weeks later, on June 6th, Britain’s Royal Air Force announced that four of the F-35 jets it had purchased had arrived in the UK and the BBC News website covered that story in a news report.

“Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson described the jets as “game-changing”.

“These formidable fighters are a national statement of our intent to protect ourselves and our allies from intensifying threats across the world,” he said.”

The report included a link to an additional article on the same topic written by the BBC’s defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus and titled “Why the RAF’s new F-35 jets matter” in which the plane was described as follows:

“The F-35B, according to Douglas Barrie, senior Fellow for Military Aerospace at the IISS, “is the first aircraft that will enter British service designed from the outset to be low-observable, that is stealthy. This provides greater survivability than previous aircraft designs.”

Aviation analyst Justin Bronk of RUSI agrees, noting that the aircraft represents “a step change in the RAF’s ability to conduct operations against states with modern surface to air missile defences – such as Russia’s S-400.

It can conduct strike missions and act as a superb intelligence gathering and target-acquisition asset in a way which would be extremely risky for existing fighters like Typhoon.”

The F-35 is not just able to find and hit targets itself. Its sensors can suck up information and pass this to other aircraft or combat systems, giving a whole new level of situational awareness in complex air operations. The presence of the F-35 effectively ups the capabilities of older aircraft engaged in the same mission.”

While the article does refer to the high cost of the aircraft, unlike in the May 22nd report no mention is made of doubts concerning “combat effectiveness”, lack of “manoeuvrability”, “cockpit visibility” or “air-to-air effectiveness”.

Apparently the BBC’s portrayal of the aircraft depends upon which country is buying and operating it.

Related Articles:

BBC inconsistency on Iran’s Syria build-up continues

 

 

BBC policy on portrayal of UN anti-Israel bias on display again

The October 12th announcement from the US State Department regarding withdrawal from UNESCO was the subject of an article that originally appeared on the BBC News website’s US & Canada and Middle East pages under the interestingly punctuated title “US quits Unesco over ‘anti-Israel bias'” and several hours later had its headline changed to “Israel to join US in quitting Unesco“.

The first five versions of the article carried the original headline with versions 2 and 3 telling BBC audiences that:

“…last year, Israel suspended cooperation with Unesco after the agency adopted a controversial resolution which made no reference to Jewish ties to a key holy site in Jerusalem.”

And:

“…earlier this year, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Unesco for declaring the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank a World Heritage site.”

The UNESCO resolution mentioned in that first paragraph was passed in October 2016 and the site warily described by the BBC as having “Jewish ties” is none other than the holiest place in Judaism – Temple Mount. BBC reporting at the time failed to provide audiences with the background information which would enable understanding of that resolution’s context: the long-standing Palestinian campaign to erase Jewish heritage and history that is part of its tactical delegitimisation of Israel. 

The resolution to which the second paragraph refers was passed in July 2017 and BBC reporting at the time likewise inaccurately claimed that the Israeli prime minister had condemned UNESCO’s designation of the location as a World Heritage site when in fact Israel’s objections were rooted in UNESCO’s designation of the old city of Hebron as a ‘Palestinian’ site – and the consequent erasure of its Jewish history and heritage – rather than in any objection to conservation per se. 

Only in version 4 of this article (which appeared well over two hours after its initial publication) was some clarification added to that second paragraph:

“…earlier this year, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Unesco for declaring the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank a Palestinian World Heritage site.

He accused Unesco of ignoring Judaism’s ancient connection to the city, which includes the crypt where its matriarchs and patriarchs are buried.”

An insert of analysis from Jonathan Marcus that was added from version 4 onward included the following: [emphasis added]

“But it is the organisation’s perceived anti-Israel bias that is the fundamental issue here. It has condemned Israel in the past for its activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and earlier this year it designated the old city of Hebron a Palestinian World Heritage Site – a step Israel insisted denied centuries of Jewish history there, not least the Tomb of the Patriarchs that dates back to biblical times.”

UNESCO’s bias against Israel is of course more than just “perceived” – as recorded by UN Watch, between 2009 and 2013 inclusive:

“UN Watch has counted no less than 46 UNESCO resolutions against Israel, one on Syria, and zero on Iran, North Korea, Sudan or any other country in the world.” 

UNESCO’s outgoing director general has criticised the body she headed in the past and the previous UN Secretary General admitted ‘disproportionate’ focus on Israel at the UN as a whole, as did his predecessor as far back as 2006. Earlier this year the full complement of US Senators sent a letter to the new UN head demanding an end to the “unacceptable” anti-Israel bias at that organisation and former US officials including  Susan RiceHillary Clinton and Samantha Power have made the exact same point. In March 2015, while speaking to the UN Human Rights Council, the then US Secretary of State John Kerry said:

“No one in this room can deny that there is an unbalanced focus on one democratic country,” he said, decrying the fact that no country other than Israel has a permanent agenda item on the council’s schedule. “The (council’s) obsession with Israel actually risks undermining the credibility of the entire organization.”

Bizarrely though, the BBC continues to put the phrase anti-Israel bias in scare quotes and to portray endemic UN bias to its audiences as “perceived”.

Related Articles:

BBC report on UNESCO row marred by lack of context and previous omission

Another deficient BBC News report on UNESCO denial of Jewish heritage

Third time unlucky for BBC audiences trying to understand UNESCO charades

Superficial BBC WS report on PA’s latest UNESCO stunt

BBC erases the real story in report on UNESCO’s Hebron resolution

The missing word in BBC R4 reporting on UNESCO Hebron resolution

BBC ME correspondent: Jewish history in Hebron is a ‘view’

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ dodges the issue of UN bias against Israel