BBC News gives anodyne portrayal of new Lebanese government

On May 7th 2018 the BBC News website published a report about the results of the first election held in Lebanon in nine years. The website’s readers saw no further reporting on the subsequent failure to form a government over the next nine months.

On February 1st 2019 a report titled “Lebanon forms new government after long delay” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

“Lebanese factions have agreed to form a new government of national unity, ending nearly nine months of wrangling.”

Readers were not given any meaningful insight into the background to that “wrangling”, which is explained by the FDD analyst Tony Badran as follows:

“Following its victory in the May 2018 parliamentary election, Hezbollah began orchestrating the formation of a new government. From the outset, the terror group laid out its non-negotiable demands and immediately received the acquiescence of Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri. Namely, Hezbollah wanted to control the lucrative Ministry of Public Health. It succeeded. The new minister, Jamil Jabak, reportedly is the former personal physician of Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah.

Then Hezbollah proceeded to manage the shares of the other sects and parties. The Lebanese Forces, a Christian party, gained seats in the election but Hezbollah marginalized it in the government formation process. Instead of obtaining the Defense portfolio, Hezbollah made sure that ministry went to one of their allies, Elias Bou Saab.

Hezbollah similarly managed the Druze share. Hezbollah forced Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt to give up one of the three allocated seats to a figure approved by Jumblatt’s rival, Talal Arslan, an ally of both Hezbollah and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

Hezbollah also demanded that Hariri offer a share in the government to a bloc of pro-Hezbollah and pro-Assad Sunnis. Not only did Hezbollah force the inclusion of an anti-Hariri Sunni minister, but it also forced its Christian ally, President Michel Aoun, and Aoun’s son-in-law and foreign minister, Gebran Bassil, to vacate a slot from their share. In so doing, Hezbollah stripped any one party, even allies, of the ability to veto government decisions independently.

Hezbollah now controls a majority coalition of all the Lebanese sects.”

The BBC’s anodyne portrayal of the new government in Lebanon is as follows: [emphasis added]

“The 30-member cabinet has four women, including the interior minister – a first for Lebanon. […]

Mr Hariri’s new government will be composed of most of the country’s rival factions, including the Iran-backed Shia movement Hezbollah which – with its allies – made gains in parliamentary elections last May.

One of the main sticking points until now has been how Hezbollah’s Sunni allies, who oppose the prime minister, would be represented in government. They were eventually awarded one position in cabinet, while Hezbollah took two seats.

Jamil Jabak was chosen as health minister by Hezbollah, although he is not a member of it.

Other key members of the new cabinet are Ali Hassan Khalil and Gebran Bassil, who both remain as finance and foreign ministers respectively.

Four women entered the government. Among them is Rhea al-Hasan, the country’s new interior minister.”

Nowhere in this report are BBC audiences informed that Hizballah is a terror organisation which is designated in whole by the US, Canada, Israel, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council and in part by the UK, Australia and the EU.

The BBC’s tepid portrayal of Hizballah as “Iran-backed” obviously does not facilitate audience understanding of the fact that Iran funds its proxy in Lebanon to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

And apparently the BBC finds nothing newsworthy about the fact that members of the new Lebanese cabinet belong to a terror organisation that has an arsenal of some 120,000 missiles, funds its terror activities through international drugs trafficking and money laundering and serially violates UN Security Council resolution 1701.

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BBC News promotes Hizballah’s lexicon and a false narrative

An article published on the BBC News website on May 7th under the headline “Lebanon election: Hezbollah leader declares ‘victory’” includes uncritical use of the lexicon employed by that terror organisation.

“Hezbollah’s leader says the Iran-backed militant Shia group and its allies have achieved “victory” in Lebanon’s first parliamentary elections since 2009.

Although the official results have not been announced, Hassan Nasrallah said their gains guaranteed the protection of the “resistance” against Israel. […]

In a televised address a day after the elections, Hassan Nasrallah declared what he called a “great political and moral victory for the resistance option that protects the sovereignty of the country”.” [emphasis added]

Moreover, the report does not confine itself to using the unexplained term ‘resistance’ in quotes and paraphrasing but promotes the same terminology itself.

“Formed as a resistance movement during the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the early 1980s, Hezbollah is today a political, military and social organisation that wields considerable power in the country.” [emphasis added]

This is of course far from the first time that the BBC has adopted the terror group’s language without clarifying to audiences that ‘resistance’ is actually Hizballah’s euphemistic term for its commitment to the obliteration of Israel and that the “Israeli occupation of Lebanon” ended eighteen years ago.

Moreover, this is also not the first time that the BBC has promoted the inaccurate notion that Hizballah came into existence as a response to the first Lebanon war in 1982. As recently documented by Amir Toumaj, Hassan Nasrallah himself in fact refuted that myth in a speech made to a friendly audience.

“Nasrallah touted that the organization was born after the success of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. That highlights that the network that later became Hezbollah in 1985 was active and had a defined ideology prior to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.” 

As well as failing to clarify that Hizballah instigated the 2006 war with Israel, the article gives an inaccurate portrayal of the extent of Hizballah’s terror designation by failing yet again to clarify that it is also proscribed by the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League.

“It is designated a terrorist group by Western states and Israel, with which it fought a war in 2006, and several of its members are accused of being behind the 2005 assassination of Mr Hariri’s father Rafik – himself a former Lebanese prime minister.”

The simplistic narrative according to which Hizballah came into existence because Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 is undoubtedly more palatable to Western audiences than the actual theological background to the relationship between Hizballah and the Iranian regime. However, the BBC’s continued promotion of that erroneous claim does not serve the interests of members of its funding public trying to understand the terror group’s role in Lebanese politics or in the wider Middle East.

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