BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of Gaza mortar and rocket attacks

Right at the end of the May 29th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ listeners heard a short item relating to the mortar and rocket fire by terror groups in the Gaza Strip that had, at the time of broadcast, been going on for over nine hours.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced that report – from 51:03 here – as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “And just before we go, there has been some significant activity on the border between Gaza and Israel. The BBC’s Tom Bateman joins us now on the line from Jerusalem. Ah, Tom, this has been the heaviest military exchange of fire for some time.”

Located over a hundred kilometres away from the scene of the events he was reporting, Tom Bateman began in typical BBC ‘last-first’ mode by describing Israel’s response to – by that time – four rounds of attacks on civilian communities. In line with BBC editorial policy he refrained from describing the people responsible for those attacks as terrorists.  

Bateman: “Yeah, well this is a series of Israeli airstrikes that the Israeli military is describing as its largest response in Gaza since the war of 2014. It says it carried out airstrikes on 30 targets. Eh…speaking to colleagues in Gaza City…I mean they heard very loud explosions over a period of about three hours from around lunchtime. The Israeli military says it’s been targeting militant…ah…groups’ sites there and this follows this morning…ehm…rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. Now most of those mortars were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system but at least two landed in Israeli communities…eh…and one – the Israelis say – in the garden of a children’s nursery that was empty at the time. But the Israeli prime minister said there would be a forceful response. The Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that this has been a massive and powerful strike and it seems that rocket alert sirens are continuing in southern Israel, so there are signs that this may escalate yet further.”

Notably the first three barrages (at around 07:00, 08:00 and 09:30 local time) got just fifty words of coverage from Bateman, who did not bother to inform listeners how many mortars had been fired (28) but added the unnecessary qualification “the Israelis say” to his portrayal of the landing site of one of them. By the time Bateman’s live report was aired, the IDF had announced the destruction of a cross-border tunnel but ‘Newshour’ listeners heard nothing of that.  

Iqbal: “And nothing, no…eh…statement from Gaza at all yet?”

Bateman: “Well we know that, as I say, there has been an escalation since…on Sunday an Islamic Jihad military post was targeted by the Israelis. Three Islamic Jihad militants were killed in that but we await further statements from the groups in Gaza themselves.”

The BBC did not report on that incident on May 27th and so audiences would be unaware of the part missing from Bateman’s account: the fact that the Israeli fire on the PIJ observation post came after the terror group had planted an explosive device on the border fence.

Iqbal: “Tom Bateman joining us live from Jerusalem on that increased military activity – heavy exchange between Gaza and Israel.”

Still located in Jerusalem, Bateman returned to report on the same story in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 50:14 here). Presenter Julian Marshall stuck to the BBC’s editorial line by failing to inform listeners that over 80% of the people he portrayed simply as “Palestinians” were linked to terrorist groups.  

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “And we go now to Israel’s border with Gaza: the scene earlier this month of mass protests during which more than a hundred Palestinians were killed by Israeli live fire. And there’s been a further upset of violence today with massive Israeli airstrikes in Gaza in response to a barrage of shells from Palestinian militants. I heard more from the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Bateman began with the inaccurate claim that “sirens sounded across southern Israel” when in fact that they were initially confined to areas close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

Bateman: “Well it was early on Tuesday morning that…ah…rocket sirens sounded across southern Israel. There was then a…what Israel describes as a barrage of rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel. Now most of the projectiles were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. There were more than 25 fired all together but at least two landed in Israeli communities. Israel is saying one landed in the…in a kindergarten yard. There was no-one there at the time. And after this, which the Israeli military has described as…ehm…the biggest event of its kind from the Gaza Strip since the war in 2014, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, promised a forceful response and then around lunchtime for around three hours there were intensive Israeli airstrikes at locations across the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military says that they targeted more than 30 sites. I was speaking to colleagues in Gaza City. I mean there were incredibly loud explosions that could be heard from there and it appears these were targeting – as far as the Israelis were concerned – Hamas and Islamic Jihad military sites. They believe that most of the rocket and mortar fire had come from Islamic Jihad and from Hamas as well.”

Two and a half hours before this programme went on air it had already been reported that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has issued a statement claiming joint responsibility for the attacks. Bateman’s description of that as something that “the Israelis…believe” is therefore both superfluous and misleading. Failing to adequately clarify that the IED was placed at the border fence by PIJ activists, he continued:

Bateman: “That…it appears to have been in response to an event on Sunday when Israelis fired tank fire at a military post inside the Gaza Strip, killing three Islamic Jihad members. That, the Israelis said, was in response to an explosive device being laid at the Gaza perimeter fence. And so what you have here is a serious escalation.”

Marshall: “And will it escalate further, Tom?”

Bateman: “Well this is a question that was asked of the Israeli military this afternoon and they have said – which is what they always say in these events – that they do not seek an escalation but they won’t tolerate missiles – rockets or projectiles – coming from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli communities. Now there were more rocket sirens whilst Israeli airstrikes were going on. More interceptions it seems and the Israeli media is reporting that at least three Israelis have been wounded from shrapnel. They don’t seem to be very serious injuries but of course that may yield yet another wave of responses from Israel.”

By the time that report from Bateman was aired residents of the western Negev had been rushing to shelters for sixteen hours and at least 70 rockets and mortars had been fired into Israeli territory with more hits recorded than the two mentioned in this report. The number of projectiles portrayed in Bateman’s report – “more than 25” – was accurate thirteen and a half hours before it was aired. Once again listeners heard nothing about the cross-border tunnel running from the Gaza Strip into Egypt and then into Israel which had been destroyed some seven hours previously.

Obviously the total of just over five minutes of reporting that BBC World Service audiences heard in these two editions of ‘Newshour’ did not provide them with the full picture of this story – and not least the fact that the two organisations that initiated the violence with massive mortar attacks are terrorist groups rather than “militants”.

Related Articles:

BBC News website coverage of Gaza terrorists’ mortar attacks

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BBC WS ‘special report’ claims Israel attacked Hizballah in 2006

The BBC’s Paul Moss has been visiting Lebanon and on May 14th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ aired his report (from 45:06 here) about the possibility of a war between Israel and Hizballah.

Apparently inspired by statements made by Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Moss’ report – including the introduction from Julian Marshall – is notable for the fact that it fails to inform listeners even once of the decidedly relevant fact that Hizballah is a terrorist organisation proscribed by many Western and Arab states alike.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “With today’s bloodshed in Gaza it might be hard to imagine but there is the possibility of an even more serious conflict brewing on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. Last week Israel exchanged fire with Iranian forces in Syria and with their allies, the Lebanese group Hizballah. And today Hizballah’s leader suggested they could launch more attacks on Israel. What many people in Lebanon now fear is that the conflict could spread to their country. It happened before in 2016 [sic], leaving more than twelve hundred Lebanese dead. So could it happen again? From Beirut, Paul Moss reports.”

The BBC’s portrayal of the topic of Lebanese casualties during the Second Lebanon was has long been hallmarked by a glaring and consistent absence of any mention of Hizballah combatants. Although the Lebanese authorities did not differentiate between civilians and combatants during the 2006 war, Lebanese officials nevertheless reported even before the conflict was over that some 500 of the dead were Hizballah personnel. UN officials gave similar figures while Israeli estimates stand at around 600 (with 450 identified by name: see page 55 here).

Moss began his report in a shop in Lebanon where the shopkeeper allegedly struck up a conversation about a “deadly war” between Israel and Lebanon. Moss went on to give another euphemistic portrayal of Hizballah itself and also of its relationship with its patron Iran. Remarkably, he failed to make any mention of the fact that Iran supplies its proxy with both funds and weapons.

Moss: “It’s the kind of defiance which even the most mild-mannered Lebanese citizens tend to boast of. Yet there is a genuine worry here right now. The powerful Lebanese political and military group Hizballah has been fighting alongside its allies Iran and both groups have now come under fire from Israel. Israel in turn has been on the receiving end of rockets fired at the Golan Heights and today the Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned this would not be the only response Israel would get. All of these are threats which Israel seems unlikely to ignore.”

Listeners next heard from Lebanese journalist Patricia Khoder.

Khoder: “Israel would not accept Hizballah growing and Iran growing on its borders and this is what is happening for the time being. So at some point maybe there would be an Israeli attack, Israeli offensive in Lebanon.”

Moss then gave listeners an inaccurate portrayal of how the Second Lebanon war began. It was of course Hizballah that initiated the conflict by carrying out a cross-border raid into Israeli territory and concurrently fired missiles at Israeli civilian communities before any Israeli response took place.

Moss: “Patricia Khoder is a writer for L’Orient le Jour newspaper here. She was reporting when Israel last attacked Hizballah in Lebanon back in 2006 and fears Lebanon once again being the arena where this battle is played out – although this time, she says, Hizballah is better armed.”

Khoder: “We don’t have figures but Hizballah is saying that it has 100,000 weapons. Now, they fought in Syria and they were trained as an army and Iran also is training them and Israel would not accept this.”

Curiously, Moss showed no interest in informing listeners that those weapons were supplied to Hizballah by Iran – in violation of the UN SC resolution that brought the previous war between Israel and Hizballah to an end. Listeners did however hear some interesting advance framing:

Moss: “If there was a conflict, what could Hizballah possibly achieve from it? It would be just a defensive war, wouldn’t it?”

Khoder: “Personally I don’t think Hizballah would achieve a lot. It would be a horrible war that would put Lebanon on its knees.”

Listeners heard some ‘man in the street’ interviews with Hizballah supporters before Moss spoke to a member of Lebanon’s Kataeb party (Phalange) called Michel Ragien [phonetic].

Ragien: “They [Hizballah] follow the Iranian orders and if they consider that Iran is being threatened definitely Hizballah will act to cause the war. They will trigger it if they consider that it should be triggered. So now it’s a matter of tactics.”

Moss: “So what are you going to do? Are you going to try and stop Hizballah?”

Ragien: “No, no, no. Unfortunately the decision is in the hand of the Hizballah. They will choose the moment and the way.”

The report ended with more ‘man in the street’ interviews.  

In the programme’s synopsis Moss’ piece was described as “a special report from Lebanon”. It is of course difficult to see what is ‘special’ about an item that conceals the fact that Hizballah is a terrorist organisation, erases relevant repeated violations of more than one UN Security Council resolution and misinforms audiences with regard to how the previous war in Lebanon began. After all, BBC reports have been doing that for years.

Related Articles:

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

 

Two months on, BBC still qualifying Iranian drone story

As readers may recall, one notable feature of the BBC’s coverage of the infiltration of an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace on February 10th 2018 was the corporation’s unnecessary qualification of the event. [emphasis added]

“The Israeli military says a “combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel”.

It tweeted footage which it says shows the drone flying into Israeli territory before being hit.” [emphasis added] BBC News website

“Israel’s military, the IDF, released this footage from one of their helicopters. They say it shows an Iranian drone flying over Israeli territory.” [emphasis added] BBC News website

“…the Israelis have a very different narrative of the events of the past 24-36 hours and for them the original provocation was the flying of this drone over their territory.” [emphasis added] BBC World Service radio

At the same time, BBC reports also amplified Iranian disinformation.

“Meanwhile Iran and the Tehran-backed Hezbollah movement in Lebanon – which are allied with the Syrian government – dismissed reports that an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace as a “lie”.” BBC News website

“Iran denied it had sent a drone into Israel and defended the Syrians’ right to self-defence.” BBC News website

Later on in February BBC audiences got another heavy dose of Iranian disinformation when the corporation promoted written and filmed versions of an interview by the its chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet with Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi.

Among the BBC’s coverage of a strike in the early morning hours of April 9th on a military airbase in Syria used by Iranian forces was an extensive report on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ (from 00:53 here) in which audiences around the world heard presenter Julian Marshall echo the unnecessary qualification previously seen in BBC reporting on the February Iranian drone infiltration. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “But we begin in Syria where in the early hours of this morning Tiyas military airbase – also known as the T4 airbase – came under attack from missiles. [music] Syrian TV playing stirring music over images that it said show the missiles flying over Lebanese airspace on their way to hit the airbase. Syria and its main backer Russia have accused Israel. The Russian defence ministry said two Israeli F15 warplanes carried out the strikes and Syrian air defence systems shot down five out of eight missiles. Syrian and Iranian forces are reported to have been killed. The Israeli Defence Forces told us they have no comment but Israel targeted the same airbase in February after what it said was an Iranian drone had entered its airspace. There had earlier been speculation that it might have been the work of either the United States or France, both of which had threatened possible retaliation after a suspected chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town of Douma which left dozens dead. But both the United States and France have denied involvement.”

Later on in the same programme (from 14:05 here) Marshall spoke to the BBC’s Lyse Doucet who used the same unnecessary qualification.

Marshall: “…what do you make of Israel’s policy of no comment?”

Doucet: “Well that is Israel’s policy. It does not comment on strikes. In fact only once do I know in the Syrian context did they break that policy and that was in February when an Iranian drone is said to have entered Israeli airspace.”

In other words, two months after the incident in which Iranian forces launched a UAV from the T4 airbase in Syria and it was shot down over Israeli territory, the BBC is still failing to present that story clearly and accurately to its audiences.

One of the additional related interviews conducted by Julian Marshall in that programme (from 02:04 here) was with a Syrian journalist called Thabet Salem – who Marshall appeared to believe was qualified to answer the following question:

Marshall: “What would have been Israel’s strategic objective in attacking this airbase?”

Salem: “Well to the Syrians, frankly speaking, destroying Syria is the objective of Israel.”

Listeners around the world heard no challenge to that egregious claim from the BBC’s presenter.

Related Articles:

BBC News gives a stage to Iranian disinformation

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part two

 

 

 

BBC continues to promote anti-Israel campaign with ‘ancestral lands’ theme

h/t AM

With the BBC now having produced over a week’s worth of reporting on the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt organised by Hamas and additional terror factions in the Gaza Strip together with foreign Muslim Brotherhood linked activists, we can begin to identify patterns of reporting in the corporation’s multi-platform coverage.

One theme that has been repeatedly evident on a variety of platforms is context-free promotion of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’. BBC audiences have not however been told on what that demand is based, what its aim actually is, what it means for the internationally accepted ‘two-state solution’ or why the people making that demand continue to be categorised as refugees.

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part two

On March 6th a spin-off from that theme appeared: the description of Israel as “ancestral lands” of Palestinian refugees:

BBC reporting on Gaza border rioting continues to avoid core issue

One may have thought that BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality would have prompted the use of terminology such as “what Palestinians see as their ancestral lands” (particularly seeing as only two years of residency in Mandate Palestine is required to meet the UN definition of refugee) but that was not the case in either the written article or in radio reports promoting the same theme.

The March 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included an item (from 29:05 here) billed thus:

“Palestinians say Israeli troops have killed at least six people on Gaza’s border with Israel. As Israel is criticised by human rights groups inside and outside the country we hear from a military spokesman.”

Presenter Chris Mason introduced that item as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Mason: “When you hear or use the word smokescreen, the chances are the conversation is actually indulging in a spot of imagery about a ruse designed to disguise someone’s real intentions. But along the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip today, a smoke screen was a literal description of the tactic deployed by Palestinians. The choking black clouds – the result of burning tyres – had a simple purpose: make it harder for Israeli soldiers on the other side of the border to shoot protesters in Gaza.”

Obviously listeners would be likely to erroneously conclude from that portrayal that anybody and everybody protesting “in Gaza” is liable to be shot – rather than those engaged in violent rioting right next to the border fence or attempting to infiltrate it. Mason then promoted another falsehood with the claim that all Palestinian refugees were “forcibly displaced”.

Mason: “This was the second week of a planned six-week protest set to end on the 15th of May – the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian ‘Nakba’ or catastrophe in which more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced by Israeli forces in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948.”

He continued with promotion of another now well-established theme: unquestioning repetition of casualty figures provided by the “Palestinian health ministry” – but without clarifying that the ministry concerned is run by Hamas – one of the organisers of the publicity stunt.

Mason: “Today six Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces according to the Palestinian health ministry and – as they did last week – the forces fired teargas to repel those at the border.”

Listeners then heard the “ancestral lands” theme.

Mason: “The protesters are demanding that refugees be allowed to return to ancestral lands that are now in Israel but Israel says the militant group Hamas which dominates Gaza is staging the rallies in order to launch attacks. Our correspondent Yolande Knell has spent the day with a 72 year-old Palestinian man who was one of the protesters today.”

Knell: “This is Jabaliya; one of eight refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. It’s really overcrowded. The streets are narrow with breeze-block buildings. I’ve come to the home of a retired English teacher Ahmed Abdullah to hear his story.”

Abdullah: “Here are the deeds. This was recorded in 1940 through the British Mandate. My mother took me there and she showed me every inch belongs to me.”

Knell: “Ahmed and his mother were the only survivors from their large family in the fierce fighting that followed the creation of the State of Israel. He comes from Hulayqat village, just to the north of Gaza but was brought up here. His family’s land is now an agricultural community in Israel.”

Listeners were given no context whatsoever to that story. They were not informed that Hulayqat was located along the route linking Jewish communities in the Negev to the centre of the country or that in the rioting that preceded the War of Independence, together with the inhabitants of two more hostile neighbouring villages, the residents of Hulayqat regularly harassed Jewish travelers along that road and blocked it. Neither were they told that armed Egyptian volunteers were already located in the area or that Hulayqat was the site of a British military post from which it was possible to control the route to the Negev. With the expectation of invasion by Arab armies, immediately before the War of Independence began the Palmach conducted Operation Barak in order to prevent the Jewish communities in the Negev from being cut off by the Egyptian army. Hulayqat was taken on May 13th 1948.

Knell’s interviewee went on:

Abdullah: “Now Israelis called it Heletz. They built a moshav on the land, on the village, and called it Heletz. Because the Israeli thought one day that the oldest will die and the smallest will forget. We cannot forget. We cannot forget. We know that this is our country and one day we will return back. One day. After 10 years, after 50 years, after 1,000 years – we will return back.”

Knell: “How do you feel about the protests that have been taking place here?”

Abdullah: “I’ve been there. I should be in the front. I lived the whole tragedy. I lived all my life as a refugee. They are talking about my life, about my land, about my future for my sons and grandsons. All people, all the people in the whole world they have countries. They live in countries. We as Palestinians, our country live inside us.”

Knell: “But Israel completely rejects the Palestinians’ right to go back to that land. Is it realistic to keep talking about the right of return to those villages?”

Abdullah: “Of course. It is like an [unintelligible]. We started in Gaza; we began to put pressure on the Palestinians who [unintelligible] to move, move you are a refugee not to leave us alone in Gaza and we will ask the Palestinian refugee in Lebanon to move and also the Jordanian. We want to return back.”

Although it has been clear in some of her other reports that Yolande Knell knows full well that Hamas is one of the co-organisers of this publicity stunt – and is also financing it – listeners then heard another recurrent theme: the downplaying of Hamas’ involvement.

Knell: “When the Israelis say it’s just Hamas that’s trying to stir up violence…”

Abdullah: “It is not Hamas. It is not Hamas. It is people. I’m not Hamas. I don’t believe in Hamas thoughts. I’m secular, not religious. So I took a part.”

Knell: “So you think they’re just one of the parties?”

Abdullah: “Yes but they [Israel] want to cover it with Hamas to show us as we are terrorists. We are not terrorists. We are the victim of terrorism.”

Knell: “So Ahmed, you and some of your 25 grandchildren and I have come now to the protest camp east of Jabaliya on the border with Israel. There’s a big crowd here and we can see Israeli soldiers by the fence across a field. There are tyres burning. There’s been some tear gas fired. It feels very dangerous. The idea is to continue these demonstrations until the middle of May. Are you ready to keep coming back?”

Abdullah: “Yeah. We are not fed up. We are not tired. We will continue day by day. We are on the right way to implement our right of returning to our home and land.”

That item continued with Chris Mason interviewing the head of the political NGO B’tselem about his organisation’s call for Israeli soldiers to disobey orders (also promoted in a written BBC report on the same day) and that was followed by an interview with an IDF spokesperson.

A TV version of Yolande Knell’s one-sided and totally context-free amplification of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ was also seen by viewers of BBC Four’s ‘World News Today’ and an edited version of Knell’s interview with Ahmed Abdullah was heard by listeners to the March 6th evening edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ (from 18:05 here), with presenter Julian Marshall once again unquestioningly quoting Hamas casualty figures and telling listeners that:

“…in similar protests last Friday in support of the demand that Palestinian refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel, 16 Palestinians lost their lives.”

Listeners to an earlier version of ‘Newshour’ on the same day (from 49:32 here) heard similar promotion of Hamas-supplied casualty figures that have not been independently verified by the BBC and were told by Yolande Knell that:

“The Palestinians…they’re calling for the right of those original 1948 Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Gaza – which is about 1.3 million of the 2 million population – to be allowed to go back to their land which is now in Israel. Israel has long rejected such a claim but the Palestinians here say they’re going to keep up these protests until the middle of May when it will be the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel when those hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes or forced to flee.”

The BBC has now had well over a week in which to provide its audiences with the background which would facilitate their understanding of why Israel (and the pro two-state solution international community) ‘rejects’ the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’. In light of its continued failure to produce any such reporting, one can only conclude that the BBC’s intention is not to meet its remit as a supplier of “impartial news and information” but to provide amplification for that anti-Israel political campaign.  

Related Articles:

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

BBC News claims Gaza stone throwers engaged in ‘peaceful demonstrations’

BBC again fails to adequately clarify Hamas’ role in Gaza border agitprop

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part two

BBC Radio 4 dusts off the ‘expert’ hats and ‘disproportionate’ meme

No BBC reporting on preparations for upcoming Gaza border stunt

BBC reporting on Gaza border rioting continues to avoid core issue

 

 

 

 

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part two

In part one of this post we saw how listeners to BBC Radio 4 on March 30th heard a report about the violent rioting along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip which included multiple references to the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’  – without any background information or context on that issue being provided.

Listeners to the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on the same day also heard reporting on the same events. Presenter Julian Marshall introduced the item (from 00:63 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “But we go first to the border between Israel and Gaza. Thousands of Palestinians massed today in what is the start of weeks of protest to demand that refugees be allowed to return to their homes in what is now Israel. The protesters had been told by the organisers – among them Hamas – to be peaceful and not to approach the border fence but stones and firebombs were thrown while the Israeli army responded with tear gas and live fire. And at day’s end 15 demonstrators have been killed and hundreds injured.”

Without clarifying to listeners that the people he described as refugees are in fact descendants of refugees – and why – and without reminding audiences that the Gaza Strip has not been ‘occupied’ for thirteen years, Marshall went on to present some voice-over translations of anonymous speakers – the first of which had also been heard by listeners to BBC Radio 4.

Marshall: “Here are some Palestinian voices on the border.”

V/O Man 1: “We need to change the way we deal with the Israeli occupation. Every peaceful and non-peaceful way has failed. We must find a way to go back to our homeland. It’s been 100 years now and Palestinians are stranded while all the other nations of the world are enjoying peace and democracy.”

V/O Man 2: “Did you see all those who got injured today? We are staying put until we get back our land. I hope we sent a clear message today. What could happen to us more than that? We’re besieged, beaten and have been suffering for so long.”

V/O Woman 1: “This is a peaceful rally. We are here to tell the world that returning to our land is non-negotiable. We will return to our cities.”

As made clear in Marshall’s introduction and as the showcased “Palestinian voices” further indicate, the programme’s producers are obviously aware of the fact that the publicity stunt dubbed ‘the Great Return March’ rests on the issue of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’.

Clearly in order for listeners to be able to reach an informed opinion on that topic, they should have been made aware of the fact that the aim of that demand is in to eradicate the Jewish state and that it is incompatible with the internationally accepted ‘two-state solution’ to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Obviously audiences would also have benefited from hearing some context regarding the circumstances under which some of the Arabs living in the area in 1948 became refugees – and not least the fact that the process began because neighbouring Arab states chose to initiate a war intended to eradicate the emerging Jewish state.

Marshall however supplied no such information before going on to interview former IDF spokesperson Avital Leibovich about the day’s violent incidents on the border. At 07:43 he introduced his next interviewee – a member of the Hamas terror group that co-organised this stunt precisely in order to get such media exposure.

Marshall: “So what does Hamas make of the allegations by Israel that the violence started on the Palestinian side? The protests have been taking place at a number of locations along the border between Israel and Gaza and at one of those, near Malaka, we contacted Ahmed Yousef – a former senior advisor to the leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh.”

Interestingly, in a 2008 interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel, Yousef described plans similar to the ‘Great Return March’ now underway.

“Ahmed Yousef would like to pull off another Rafah-style exploit, but this time against the Palestinians’ archenemy, Israel. He is planning a mass march to the Erez border crossing in northern Gaza. “We’re going to send half a million people there, mainly women and children. Then we’ll see how the Israelis react,” he says. A devilish scheme, since the Israelis would not react as passively to the storming of their border as the Egyptians did. But Yousef is not impressed by such objections. “If the Israelis want our blood, I’m willing to sacrifice my children.”

Yousef has already asked international observers to participate in the “march on Erez.” Some have already agreed to come, and Yousef is happy about this. “This,” he says, “is the beginning of the third Intifada.”” 

Listeners heard Yousef deny seeing anyone approaching the border fence or “firing anything” and dismiss such reports as “what the Israeli try just to justify their aggression and the way of killing people and shooting on them”.

Yousef: “But from my observation I didn’t see any of these accusations or these Israeli lies against the people here. They enjoy actually to sit and talk and sing to show the whole world that we, as Palestinian, as refugee, we are close to our border and we hope that the message received will be received by the world community.”

In response to a question from Marshall about Hamas’ funding of the event Yousef claimed:

Yousef: “This all nonsense. This is the Israeli hasbara, the propaganda machine trying to undermine the people’s spirit. That why everybody brought his family with him and come to show that those grandchildren and their sons and daughters continue that kind of commitment towards their land. Their land is across the border and everybody try to inherit this vision for his family.”

Replying to a question from Marshall about the possibility of a “rethink” of tactics, Yousef made references to a non-existent “siege” and inaccurately implied that Israel is to blame for poor medical services in the Gaza Strip. Julian Marshall made no attempt whatsoever to challenge those falsehoods.

Yousef: “You know that actually it is every day we have people who are – because of the sanction, because of Gaza being under siege – died from different diseases because they can’t get the medical treatment. Or the people are suffering because there is no enough job or work and so you are suffering by any means. You are [in] hell and now the time for the message to cross to the world community that there are, there were people here in Gaza who still suffering from the siege and also they are willing to push the world community to implement United Nations resolution 194 where people should return to their towns and cities and being compensated. So this is the message that the people trying to send and this is the only message.”

Listeners would of course have benefitted at that point had they been informed that UN GA resolution 194 is a non-binding resolution dating from December 1948 that was opposed at the time by Arab states and which (despite long-standing BBC claims to that effect) does not specifically relate to Palestinian refugees and – contrary to often heard assertions – does not grant any unconditional ‘right of return’. 

However Marshall instead provided Yousef with a platform from which to downplay Hamas involvement in the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’ before closing the interview.

Yousef: “But you know most of the people who been actually organise this Great March are youth. They don’t rely on political factions.”

As we have seen in the two examples in this post, the BBC has provided Hamas and some of the publicity stunt’s other organisers with exactly the type of unchallenging media platform that they counted on being given. Concurrently however, the BBC has refrained from providing its audiences with the background information on the Palestinian maximalist demand for the ‘right of return’ that is essential for proper understanding of this latest Hamas agitprop.

Related Articles:

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

BBC News claims Gaza stone throwers engaged in ‘peaceful demonstrations’

BBC again fails to adequately clarify Hamas’ role in Gaza border agitprop

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

 

 

BBC says what it said was happening in 2013 may be happening now

When Israel announced last week that it had destroyed a nuclear reactor in the Deir ez Zor region of Syria over a decade ago, the BBC News website described the facility’s purpose as “suspected” and BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Tom Bateman opined that the reason for the timing of the announcement was “to add a sharper military edge to American diplomatic pressure on Europe to toughen its stance on the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers” while ignoring other no less plausible factors.

BBC News still not sure al Kibar was a nuclear reactor

In the March 28th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘, listeners heard presenter Julian Marshall (from 18:06 here) describe the al Kibar facility in similar language and give a portrayal of the intention of the announcement which is not supported by material presented later on in the item. As is usually the case, BBC audiences heard Hizballah described as an “armed group” rather than a terror organisation.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “Israel conformed for the first time last week that it destroyed a suspected nuclear reactor being built in Syria over a decade ago. Israel officials say the public acknowledgement was meant as a message to their country’s enemies that they’re prepared to act against any serious threat. During Syria’s civil war two of those enemies – Iran and the Lebanese armed group Hizballah – have expanded their presence and influence in the country as they fought on the side of President Bashar al Assad. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been looking at the impact.”

Knell: “An Israeli military video shows fighter jets a decade ago bombing the nearly complete al Kibar facility in eastern Syria. International experts said it was very likely the site was a nuclear reactor but Syria denied it. And Israel is only now confirming it carried out the strike. So why now? Its Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot:”

V/O Eizenkot: “The message of the attack on the Syria nuclear reactor in 2007 was that Israel will not tolerate the development of abilities that threaten the existence of our state. That was the message in 1981 when we attacked Iraq’s nuclear facility and again in 2007 and this is the future message to our enemies.”

Obviously Eizenkot did not say in that March 21st interview that “the public acknowledgement was meant as a message to their country’s enemies” as claimed by Marshall, but that the strike itself on the reactor over a decade ago was the message. Knell went on to promote the same theory as her Jerusalem bureau colleague with regard to the intention of the announcement, claiming that Iran is “now” seen as a threat – when in fact, as the BBC itself has reported, Israel has been voicing concerns about Iran’s nuclear capabilities for many years – and making no mention of Iran’s long history of serial threats against Israel.

Knell: “Israel’s news shows quickly pointed out the link to Iran. It’s now seen as an existential threat because of its nuclear programme and there are fears about its plans in neighbouring Syria. Already Israel’s believed to have hit one Iranian base under construction there. Recently Fox News reported on another one.”

Fox News anchor: “New satellite photos reveal Iran has established another permanent military base outside Damascus.”

Although the BBC published a report in November 2017 about Iranian bases in Syria, audiences have not seen any follow-up reporting on that topic.

For almost five years (since May 2013) the BBC has been telling its audiences that Israel is ‘involved’ in the civil war in Syria.

BBC Q&A on alleged Israeli air strikes is political polemic

BBC presentation of Israeli view on Syria intervention replete with inaccuracies

BBC News again claims Israeli involvement in Syria’s war

BBC Syria war backgrounder recycles inaccurate claim

However, Knell then presented listeners with a different view:

Knell: “The defence analyst at Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Amos Harel, says that for seven years Israel’s tried to keep out of the Syrian conflict. Now increasingly it’s being drawn in.”

Harel: “Now comes a different stage of the war because it’s rather evident that the Assad regime has won this game, so to speak, and that the sides that helped Assad are more or less fighting for the spoils and this could be dangerous for Israel. One is the growing Iranian presence at the region and specifically in the southern Syria. You have militia that may be present there. And the other is the growing role of Hizballah.”

After listeners heard sounds from a video game, Knell again downplayed Hizballah’s terror designation and Iran’s provision of funding and weapons to its proxy militia.

Knell: “A new video game brought out by the Lebanese Shiite armed group Hizballah which is backed by Iran. Players fight alongside government forces in Syria against rebels including so-called Islamic State. Hizballah’s lost hundreds of men in this war but Mohanad Hage Ali from Beirut’s Carnegie Middle East Center says its military strength has grown.”

Ali: “They’re trying out their different capabilities whether on the ground or the new weaponry that they’re using and trying to expose as much as they can from all of their fighting force to the conflict in Syria to gain experience. They are also training other forces; they set up a number of groups. And all of these supposedly will be part of their influence in Syria for a very long time.”

Refraining from informing listeners that Hizballah has tens of thousands of missiles at its disposal and making no mention of the fact that weapons transfers to Hizballah are prohibited under the terms of UN Security Council resolution 1701,Knell went on:

Knell: “That’s a big worry for Israel, which just completed joint military training with US troops. These exercises were routine but reflect current fears. One simulated a massive missile attack. Israel has struck in Syria dozens of times, acting – it says – to stop Iran adding advanced weapons to Hizballah’s arsenal. Although for now, Hizballah’s deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem considers war unlikely.”

V/O Qassem: “I clearly express the view of Hizballah that it’s ready to confront any aggression if Israel decides to carry out any foolish action but it doesn’t seem to be the right circumstances for Israel to decide to go to war.”

Notably, Knell did not bother to mention the border dispute that the BBC has to date failed to report as a factor for potential “escalation”.

Knell: “The danger lies in an unplanned escalation. Last month this happened. The IDF shot down an Iranian drone after it infiltrated Israeli air space and then struck at its control site in Syria. One of its jets was hit by a Syrian missile and crashed. Israel launched attacks on Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria. Russia apparently calmed the situation but it was a reminder how a bloody civil war could turn into a wider regional one.”

For five years the BBC has been promoting the erroneous notion that Israel is involved in the war in Syria. It has repeatedly failed to clarify to its audiences that strikes on Iranian weapons bound for Hizballah or responses to cross-border fire from Syria do not mean that Israel is “involved” in that war but are responses to the Iranian and Hizballah aggression against Israel that long predates that conflict.

While this report may indicate that at least one BBC journalist has rethought that mantra, the fact that the corporation consistently fails to provide serious coverage of relevant issues, such as the failure of UN SC resolution 1701 to achieve its aims, Iranian arming and funding of Hizballah (which the BBC serially refuses to describe as a terror organisation) and Iran’s establishment of a military presence in Syria, means that BBC audiences lack the information crucial to understanding of the background and context to any future developments.

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

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ continues to trivialise the Ahed Tamimi story

The February 13th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item described in its synopsis as follows:

“Also in the programme; the trial of a Palestinian teenager who slapped an Israeli soldier and lunged at another has begun in an Israeli military court”

Presenter Julian Marshall also used the terms ‘slapped’ and ‘lunged’ in his introduction to the item (from 14:04 here).

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “Now, so the trial of a Palestinian teenager who slapped an Israeli soldier and lunged at another has begun in an Israeli military court. Ahed Tamimi, aged 17, is charged with 12 offences including assaulting security forces and incitement to violence. If convicted, she could face a lengthy jail term.”

Marshall then went on to introduce a recording of a statement made by Tamimi’s lawyer – who has been featured in two previous BBC reports by Yolande Knell.

Marshall: “The case of Ahed Tamimi is being heard behind closed doors on the judge’s orders as the 17 year-old is being tried as a minor. Speaking to reporters outside the court, Miss Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky criticised the decision to close the trial to the public.”

Lasky: “The court decided what is good for the court and not what is good for Ahed. They understand that people outside of the military court are interested in Ahed’s case. They understand that her rights are being infringed and her trial is something that shouldn’t be happening. So the way to keep it out of everybody’s eyes is to close doors and not allow people inside the court for her hearings.”

A report by the Times of Israel provides some background to the statement from Lasky which the BBC chose to promote.

“Lasky popped out of the courtroom to provide a quick statement to reporters — in English, of course — expressing her outrage over the ruling.

The attorney explained that upon returning inside chambers, she would argue that because Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people is illegal, the military court hearing Tamimi’s case was illegitimate as well.

The line of defense appeared to establish an uphill battle for Lasky in that it required the judge to denounce his own authority in order to rule in Tamimi’s favor.

But her audience outside the caravan, didn’t seem concerned as they nodded their heads in approval of the defense.”

Marshall next introduced the BBC’s Rome correspondent who appears, once again, to have been temporarily reassigned to the Middle East.

Marshall: “Well let’s speak now to the BBC’s James Reynolds live in Jerusalem and James, remind us of the facts of this case – those, that is, that are not disputed.”

Reynolds: “Right, let’s take you back to December tw…last year in her West Bank village – the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh. There are around 600 people live there. They often periodically every Friday have clashes with Israeli soldiers and at one point on the 15th of December, mobile phone footage shows her confronting and speaking to two Israeli soldiers on the outskirts of the driveway of her family home. And the mobile phone footage – which I’m sure a lot of people have seen – shows her arguing. It shows her first trying to hit one soldier – I think on the arm – and then she slaps him on the face. He doesn’t react. She then moves towards the second soldier and is eventually separated from them. Israel says that that mobile phone footage is enough evidence – it is enough proof of assault – to put her on trial along with a number of other incidents. But Palestinians of course see it very differently.”

Given that Reynolds was asked to state “the facts of this case”, it is of course remarkable that he failed to mention that the Friday “clashes” in Nabi Saleh are organised by Ahed Tamimi’s father and extended family or that the mobile phone footage he partially describes was filmed by her mother Nariman and live-streamed on Facebook. All the more significant is the fact that he failed to inform listeners of Ahed Tamimi’s “message to the world” – as defined by her mother – in that same footage which included the call for violence that is the basis for the charge of incitement against her.

“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine”

Those highly relevant omissions facilitated subsequent trivialisation of the charges against Ahed Tamimi by both Marshall and Reynolds.

Marshall: “It seems – well ehm…I suppose it depends on your perspective – but a relatively minor offence to be tried in front of a military court.”

Reynolds: “Yes and it does sound incredibly surprising when you think of an army – a hugely powerful army – why it would be spending its time prosecuting what on any judgement is a relatively minor misdemeanour. “

In addition to incitement, the charges against Ahed Tamimi include two counts of aggravated assault of a soldier, two counts of stone-throwing, two counts of threatening a soldier and four counts of obstructing a soldier in execution of his duty. In the UK, the charge of obstructing or assaulting a police officer would not be considered “a relatively minor misdemeanour” – i.e. a non-indictable offence – as the BBC well knows.

Displaying his ‘expertise’ by twice inaccurately describing the IDF as “a volunteer army”, Reynolds then went on to bizarrely suggest that the charges against Ahed Tamimi are steered by public mood rather than by the law and to further trivialise her actions.

Reynolds: “But Israelis say it’s about more than that. It is about soldiers. The key thing from Israel’s point of view is this: the army is at the heart of the society here. It is a volunteer army – a lot of Israelis can identify themselves with those soldiers. There’s been praise for the fact that they didn’t react and there’s been a thought among some in Israel that you have to stand up for those soldiers, who are clearly identifiable with the rest of the population, and you have to protect them against insultshowever trivial those insults may be. That might be an explanation which is very difficult to understand outside Israel but here, because of the centrality of a volunteer army to society, it is perhaps more understandable.”

Marshall: “And very briefly, James, what kind of sentence could she face if convicted?”

Reynolds: “If convicted of all crimes, essentially she could be looking at around a year in jail if found guilty.”

This is the BBC’s twelfth report (at least) on Ahed Tamimi in less than two months and the third to appear on ‘Newshour’. Only one of those reports – on the BBC’s domestic channel Radio 4 – has provided audiences with any sort of information concerning the background to the charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi.

In other words, this report continues the editorial policy of providing BBC audiences worldwide with a trivialised and one-sided portrayal of the story which resembles activism more than journalism.  

Related Articles:

BBC News website promotes the Tamimi clan again

BBC News omits a relevant part of the Tamimi charges story

BBC radio’s inconsistent coverage of charges against Ahed Tamimi

BBC’s Knell reports on the Tamimi case again – and raises a question

BBC’s Bowen diverts Ahed Tamimi story with a disingenuous red herring

Jeremy Bowen’s Tamimi PR continues on BBC World Service radio

BBC continues its campaigning with eleventh report on Ahed Tamimi

 

 

 

BBC WS Newshour coverage of Iran drone story – part two

As documented in part one of this post, the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on February 10th presented listeners with a lavish dose of Syrian and Iranian propaganda relating to the story that began when an Iranian UAV infiltrated Israeli airspace earlier on the same day, with presenter Julian Marshall steering listeners towards the view that the story should be seen in terms of ‘narratives’.

The evening edition of the same programme – again presented by Marshall – also led with the same story. The programme’s web page is titled “Israel Defends Attack on Iranian Targets” and the synopsis once again fails to mention the trigger for the day’s events.

“An Israeli army spokesman says airstrikes against targets in Syria were vital to protect national security.”

Opening the programme, Marshall told listeners:

Marshall: “Israeli war planes carry out a series of strikes in Syria during a day of cross-border tension – that is our top story today.”

Marshall’s introduction to the item (from 00:83) once again failed to clarify to audiences that previous Israeli strikes on military targets in Syria have nothing to do with the Syrian civil war and cast doubts on the veracity of official Israeli statements on the incident. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “But we begin with that wave of attacks on Syria by Israeli war planes. It’s certainly not the first time that Israel has launched air raids on Syria in the course of the current conflict but the latest are being described as the most significant attacks of their kind since the 1982 Lebanon war by a senior Israeli Air Force general. It all began with the incursion into Israeli territory of what Israel says was an Iranian drone. Israel dispatched planes in response to attack the drone launch site in Syria and one of the planes was hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile and crashed in northern Israel. And then came the big raid: Israeli war planes attacking a dozen targets in Syria including air defence systems and sites linked to Iran. The prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his country will not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria.”

After listeners had heard a recording of part of the Israeli prime minister’s statement, Marshall went on:

Marshall: “And I asked the spokesman for the Israeli Defence Force, Jonathan Conricus, to tell me more about the targets in Syria.”

Conricus: “This was indeed a large-scale attack – probably the largest that we’ve made over the last thirty or so years. We specifically targeted 12 different targets. Eight of them were Syrian military targets located in the surroundings of Damascus and related to the air defence array – the same ones that fired missiles towards Israeli aircraft. And the four additional targets are perhaps the most special ones because they were Iranian targets inside Syria. All of them part of the effort that Iran has been undertaking for quite some time and that we have been warning against over a long period of time. The four targets belonged to the Iranian military or the Revolutionary Guard – training facility, support facilities and the likes. That was really I think the most important part of the attack that we did was that for the first time we have actually attacked Iranian targets on Syrian soil.”

Marshall: “And attacking Iranian targets on Syrian soil was very much in retaliation for the overflight of what you say was an Iranian drone onto Israeli territory.”

After Lt-Col Conricus explained that the sequence of events began with the penetration of the Iranian UAV into Israeli airspace and that Israel “know[s] for sure that this specific UAV was dispatched by Iranian military and it was handled by Iranian military while it was violating Israeli airspace”, Marshall came up with a claim for which he provided no evidence whatsoever.

Marshall: “With all due respect sir, this was a surveillance drone – was it not? – rather than an armed drone. Did it really pose any threat to the Israeli state?”

Conricus: “We’ll be able to elaborate on that in the coming days. As of now I’m not at liberty to say exactly what that drone was doing but I can assure you that it was not a peaceful mission monitoring the weather or following migrating birds. This was a military UAV that had a specific military mission to penetrate into Israel and to perform a military task.”

After Lt-Col Conricus had spoken about the interception of the drone and the subsequent attack on its command module in Syria, Marshall resurrected an old BBC favourite: the ‘disproportionate’ allegation.

Marshall: “I mean some might think it a somewhat disproportionate response to the flying of a drone over your territory that you mounted such a massive raid on Syrian territory.”

After his interviewee replied, Marshall went on:

Marshall: “But I mean Israel has known for a long time – as have other nations – about an Iranian military presence in Syria. Why choose now to attack? I mean was it simply that drone coming into your airspace? Is that what the trigger was?”

After the IDF Spokesman replied – explaining that Israel had responded “to an act of aggression against us…by striking only military targets in a proportionate manner” – Marshall closed that interview (part of which was later promoted separately on social media) before going on to amplify more propaganda from the Iranian regime and its proxy:

Marshall: “Well Iran has accused Israel of lying about the drone – which it said had not entered Israeli territory – while Hizballah has said the downing of an Israeli plane by Syrian missiles marks the start of a new strategic era.”

Listeners then once again heard the entire interview with the Syrian regime TV journalist Alaa Ebrahim that was aired in the earlier edition of ‘Newshour’ – including the unchallenged repetition of Syrian regime messaging and the claim that there was no such thing as an Iranian UAV at all and so “the Israeli attacks were unprovoked”.  

Once again we see that BBC World Service audiences hoping to get clear, accurate information that would help them understand this story were instead sold short by a ‘report’ that presented the unchallenged propaganda of the Syrian and Iranian regimes on an equal footing with factual information from an Israeli official which Marshall found fit to repeatedly question.

Related Articles:

BBC WS Newshour coverage of Iran drone story –part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part two

 

 

 

BBC WS Newshour coverage of Iran drone story –part one

Earlier we saw (here and here) how BBC News website reporting on a story that began with the infiltration of an Iranian UAV into Israeli airspace on February 10th focused audience attentions on a subsequent effect rather than on the cause. We also saw how the BBC News website unquestioningly gave amplification to disinformation put out by Iran and Syria while implying to audiences that there is room for doubt regarding the veracity of official Israeli accounts of the events. So did BBC radio do any better?

The BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ devoted considerable airtime to that story on February 10th. The webpage of the afternoon edition of the programme presented the subject under the title “Israeli Airstrikes Hit Targets In Syria” without any mention of what began the sequence of events: the Iranian drone that infiltrated Israel.

“Israel has carried out large-scale airstrikes against targets in Syria. The Israeli Defence Force says it attacked air defence systems and sites linked to Iran. Earlier an Israeli fighter jet was brought down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire after a strike on what the Israelis say was an Iranian drone-launch site.”

Presenter Julian Marshall opened the programme with a similarly slanted view of the story:

Marshall: “In a moment: Israel attacks a dozen targets inside Syria. One of its planes is shot down.”

Marshall introduced the item itself (from 01:44) with a description that failed to adequately clarify that previous Israeli airstrikes against targets in Syria have been specifically aimed at preventing the transfer of weapons to Hizballah in Lebanon and are not connected to the civil war in Syria. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “Israel has carried out dozens of airstrikes on the Syrian armed forces and their allies since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011. But the latest are potentially the most serious: large-scale attacks against a dozen targets in Syria including, says Israel, air defence systems and sites linked to Iran. Earlier an Israeli jet crashed in Israeli territory as it encountered massive Syrian anti-aircraft fire. It had been attacking what the Israelis say was a site from which an Iranian drone aircraft was launched. The drone was shot down after it penetrated Israeli airspace. People in northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights reported hearing sirens and explosions.”

Listeners next heard very brief ‘man in the street’ interviews with two anonymous speakers before Marshall went on to unquestioningly parrot Syrian and Iranian propaganda.

Marshall: “Well Syrian state media has acknowledged the Israeli air raids and says more than one plane has been hit. Iran’s foreign ministry has rejected the Israeli claim of an Iranian drone while the deputy head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said that Iran had no military presence in Syria and were only there as advisors. And this is how state controlled TV reported the downing of that Israeli plane.”

Audiences then heard a translated recording from Iranian TV.

“The end of the Zionist regime’s era of hit and run in Syria. For the second time in less than a week, the Zionist regime sent its fighter jets to Syria in the early hours of this morning. But this time, despite the expectations of Israeli officials, Syria’s air defence shot down an Israeli fighter jet.”

Marshall: “And as for Syrian government ally Russia, it’s called on all sides to exercise restraint and avoid escalation.”

Listeners next got an additional copious dose of Syrian regime messaging from a journalist who has in the past promoted the Assad regime’s denials of use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians on the Russian government’s RT channel and who was described by Iran’s Press TV as ‘our correspondent’ in a report amplifying previous false Syrian regime claims regarding Israeli planes.

Marshall: “A short while ago I spoke to Alaa Ebrahim; a journalist in Damascus who works for Syrian state TV and international media. What have the Syrian authorities been saying?”

Ebrahim: “Well officially the Syrian government issued a statement this morning from the command of the Syrian army in which they said that Israeli fighter jet tried to attack Syrian army bases in central Syria and that Syrian aerial defences intercepted that airplane and managed to actually damage it without saying whether the plane went down or not. Well the Syria…what the Syrian government is saying right now is that they actually did not provoke the Israeli airstrike. The airstrike was initiated by Israel – it wasn’t a retaliatory act by Israel. On the other hand the Syrian government is saying that they were reacting to Israeli aggression against them. Later on the state news agency SANA said in its reports that aerial defences from the Syrian army intercepted several missiles fired from Lebanese air space from Israeli fighter jets targeting several bases belonging to the Syrian army both south and west of the Syrian capital Damascus and later on we got the statement that came out from what the Syrian government calls the operation room of the Syrian government allies in Syria which is usually a reference to Iranian advisors and Hizballah fighters fighting alongside the Syrian government and in that statement they said that there was not an Iranian operated drone flying over Israeli airspace and that all the drones belonging to the allies – which is a term used to refer to Iranian and Hizballah fighters – were accounted for, operating in the deserts of central Syria looking over positions belonging to terrorist groups such as ISIL and other groups. So these are the official statements we have been getting since dawn today about the latest developments and I think we can recap once again and say that the Syrian government is saying that they did not initiate anything – they were just reacting to an Israeli airstrike against them.”

Marshall: So the Syrians are…are denying that they were in any way involved with the flying of that drone over Israeli territory?”

Ebrahim: “No, I don’t think the Syrians are denying that they were involved with the flying of the Iranian drone. What the Syrians and their allies – Iran, Hizballah – are saying [is] that they have never flown a drone into Israeli airspace and as a result they say that the Israeli attack was unprovoked.”

Refraining from challenging any aspect of that long repetition of Syrian regime propaganda, Marshall then changed the subject and went on to ask what Damascus residents had heard on the morning of February 10th and whether “any kind of retaliation” is to be expected. After concluding that interview, Marshall introduced both his next guest and the redundant theme of ‘narratives’.

Marshall: “And we’ve approached the Israeli Defence Force for an interview but no-one is available. Anshel Pfeffer is an Israeli journalist with Ha’aretz newspaper and the author of a forthcoming book ‘The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu’. He joins us from Jerusalem. And Mr Pfeffer, the Israelis have a very different narrative of the events of the past 24-36 hours and for them the original provocation was the flying of this drone over their territory.”

Pfeffer: “Yes, that’s the Israeli version of events: that round about 4:30 am local time an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace, was intercepted and shot down by an Israeli attack helicopter and that was what sparked off the chain of events of the last few hours.”

Marshall: You say an Iranian drone: why the certainty?”

Pfeffer: “Well that’s…like you said that’s the version of the Israeli government. They claim to have been tracking the drone, to have known its source at a launch site near Palmyra in northern Syria. According to the Israeli military they have the fragments of the drone and it’s an Iranian model. I’m assuming that at some stage they’ll present those pieces and we’ll be able to see whether it was indeed an Iranian drone. But it’s not new that there are Iranian…there is a significant Iranian military presence in Syria – has been since almost the start of the Syrian war in 2011 – and that this presence also has drone capabilities. So it’s not…the Israeli version of events is rather believable in this case.”

The conversation continued with discussion of the war in Syria and Russia’s role in the region.

By this time listeners could be forgiven for being confused. Was there an Iranian drone or wasn’t there? Is there an Iranian military presence in Syria or not? Rather than providing audiences with clear, concise and factually accurate information that would (as the BBC’s public purposes require) help them understand this story, the corporation once again opted to promote a ‘he said-she said’ account of events that actively hinders audience understanding.

When the BBC World Service launched a new foreign language service last year the then director of the division’s said that “[f]or more than 80 years the BBC World Service has brought trusted news to people across the globe” and the BBC’s Director General said:

“The BBC World Service is one of the UK’s most important cultural exports. In a world of anxieties about ‘fake news’, where media freedom is being curtailed rather than expanded, the role of an independent, impartial news provider is more important than ever.”

As we see, a considerable portion of this item was devoted to unquestioned amplification of unsupported claims and disinformation from two regimes that curtail media freedom – and much worse. But rather than providing listeners in those countries and others with the accurate and impartial information which would be the antidote to such propaganda, the BBC World Service simply facilitated a wider audience for Iranian and Syrian disinformation and added insult to injury by justifying it as ‘narrative’.

And as we will see in part two of this post, that practice continued in a later edition of ‘Newshour’.

Related Articles:

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part two

 

Fatah disinformation goes unchallenged on the BBC World Service

On December 28th the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ – presented by James Menendez – included an interview (from 00:51 here) with Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Menendez: “…when President Trump announced that his administration was recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv it marked the end of decades of American policy in the Middle East. He said it was only a recognition of reality but the status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest issues in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians: so sensitive that it’s always been put to one side during 40 [sic] years of US brokered peace efforts. The rest of the world has never recognised Israel’s occupation of the eastern part of the city. The Palestinians want it as the capital of a future state. For the vast majority of Israeli Jews a unified Jerusalem is the eternal capital of a Jewish state. So does President Trump’s move signal the final death knell for an already moribund peace process? Is the two-state solution a thing of the past? Well with me in the studio is Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett – leader of the right-wing religious Jewish Home party that’s in coalition with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. […] Is the two-state solution then dead in the water following this declaration?”

Having mentioned what he described as the “terror state” in the Gaza Strip, Naftali Bennett – whose party currently holds eight of the 120 seats in the Knesset – laid out his view of a scenario in which “the Palestinians govern themselves from almost all aspects barring an army”.

Bennett: “So we’re talking about an entity where they will have their own government, their own parliament, their own elections, their own tax system. […] And they would govern themselves but it’s less than a state in the sense that they don’t have their own military.”

Bennett also spoke about Jerusalem, stating that “no peace that is predicated on dividing Jerusalem could ever work” and the significance of Jerusalem in Jewish culture, religion and history.

An edited version of that interview was also aired later on the same day in the evening version of the same programme (from 30:00 here) which was presented by Julian Marshall using the same ‘death of the two-state solution’ theme.

Following that (from 35:57 here) Marshall introduced another interviewee.

Marshall: “And we played that interview to Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad – international spokesman for President Abbas’ Fatah party. What did he make of Mr Bennett’s comments?”

Abu Zayyad: “Well Naftali Bennett is known as a fanatic national religious leader who’s coming from a stream in Israel that denies the fact that there is a Palestinian people. He speaks about history and about God’s promises for [unintelligible]. Fortunately for him the Palestinians take this case as a case in which we want a secular state. If he were into a religious war he would have to face one million [sic] and a half Muslims coming to fight for the third most holiest place for them religiously. Mr Bennett says that Jerusalem was not mentioned in the Koran one time. God mentioned it in our Koran by naming the Aqsa mosque itself. But in our context we do not talk about Jerusalem [unintelligible] all the Palestinians from the religious side as he does…”

Marshall made no effort to ask Abu Zayyad whether or not Hamas agrees with his claim that Palestinians want “a secular state” or to inform listeners of the many examples of Palestinian Authority and Fatah use of religiously themed rhetoric when they “talk about Jerusalem”. Abu Zayyad went on:

Abu Zayyad: “…and we take it more towards our human rights and international law demands and requirements. Israel is isolated when 14 countries in the [UN] Security Council votes against the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. East Jerusalem has 350,000 Palestinians living without a nationality until now because of the apartheid system that Israel applies to them. I’m one of those Palestinians. We do not have a passport. We don’t vote and we are not protected by law.”

Failing to challenge Aby Zayyad’s use of the apartheid smear or to clarify to BBC audiences that Arab permanent residents of East Jerusalem have the right to apply for Israeli citizenship and that even those who chose not to exercise that option have the same rights as other residents (including voting in municipal elections and being “protected by law”) with the exception of voting in national elections, Marshall continued:

Marshall: “If you say that your claim to East Jerusalem is not based on religion, what is it based on?”

Listeners then heard an egregious distortion of history that likewise went completely unchallenged by the BBC presenter.

Abu Zayyad: “It’s based on the fact that 650 years ago…in 650 years BC Palestinians arrived to this country and they have been here while the Jewish people arrived actually 350 years BC. They have been living in this land for a long, long time and at the moment at 2017 if you look at the population that is living in East Jerusalem you’re talking about 350,000 Palestinians living in it, working in it and trying to get their rights. We want equality on rights so like any other people we want either sovereignty or equality. Either you give us a state of our own – with East Jerusalem which is part of the Palestinian lands that were occupied at 1967 when Israel went into war – or you simply go to the other option which is one state with equality and basic rights that include voting and a democratic system for everyone on the historical lands of Palestine from the sea to the river.”

Making no effort to clarify to listeners that the relevant part of Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria were never “Palestinian lands” and that they were in fact occupied by Jordan for 19 years until that country elected to attack Israel in 1967, Marshall continued:

Marshall: “But what Mr Bennett seems to have in mind for the Palestinians is simply a geographical entity where you will be able to govern yourselves and collect taxes but will fall far short of statehood. But that clearly is not acceptable.”

Abu Zayyad: “For us who is Bennett at all to decide for us how to rule ourselves? Bennett is simply a fanatic extreme Israeli leader who calls…”

Marshall [interrupts]: “But does he…but does he speak for the Israeli government do you think?”

Abu Zayyad: “He speaks for an extreme right Israeli government that calls for death penalty for Palestinian prisoners, for expelling Palestinians to Gaza and to Jordan to live there instead of their houses in the West Bank and to build more settlements against the international law in Palestinian lands that are occupied in 1967. For us, actually, his words condemn him because it shows that [what] he wants to choose for the Palestinians is an apartheid system.”

Yet again making no effort to question Abu Zayyad’s ‘apartheid’ slur or his false claim that the Israeli government calls for “expelling Palestinians”, Marshall closed the interview there.

As we see the Fatah spokesman was given free rein to promote his falsehoods and propaganda completely unchallenged from the BBC World Service stage. Rather than providing “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them” as the BBC is obliged to do, this item in fact actively hindered audience understanding of the topic under discussion with its unquestioned amplification of  disinformation.