BBC World Service history show recycles one inaccuracy and adds more

As readers may recall, on June 5th listeners to the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness’ heard that the Lebanese civil war began in June 1982 – and that Israel started it.

The day after that programme was aired BBC Watch submitted a complaint to the BBC on that issue but to date has received neither acknowledgement nor a response to the request to correct that obvious inaccuracy.

Moreover, on June 11th that same report by Simon Watts was recycled in its entirety (from 10:09 here) in another BBC World Service radio history programme – ‘The History Hour’ – where the item was described as being about “an assassination attempt that sparked Lebanon’s war”.

Once again, after Watts asked had the son of the former Israeli ambassador Shlomo Argov about the reaction in Israel to the attempted assassination of his father in London in June 1982 by a Palestinian faction and Gideon Argov had gone on to say “and then the war broke out”, listeners heard Simon Watts interject:

[14:55] Watts: “That war turned out to be the Lebanese civil war.”

As in the previous programme, listeners heard an archive recording of a news bulletin.

“Israel has launched air attacks against Palestinian targets in Lebanon in retaliation for the shooting of her ambassador in London. The Israeli air raids were aimed around the Lebanese capital Beirut. Targets included a Palestine Liberation Organisation training school. Several other buildings including this sports stadium were damaged. The PLO said at least 30 civilians were killed. Later, Palestinian guerillas are said to have carried out rocket attacks against the Jewish settlements in north Israel.” [emphasis added]

After which Watts told listeners that:

Watts: “It’s now known that the Israeli defence minister Ariel Sharon had been planning an assault on PLO targets in Lebanon for months. He later described the assassination attempt as the spark that lit the fuse.”

As was noted here previously, remarkably BBC audiences did not hear a single word about the additional – and highly relevant – background to those plans and Operation Peace for Galilee.

However listeners to ‘The History Hour’ did hear an addition to Watts’ report from an interviewee he was keen to present as “respected” and having “accolades”.

Watts: “So just how far did that shooting, that attempted assassination in London in 1982, mark a watershed moment for the Middle East? Well joining me now is Rami Khouri – professor at the American University in Beirut – who’s covered the region as a respected journalist for many decades. So from the Israeli perspective, was the attempt to kill Shlomo Argov the catalyst or the excuse for that move into Lebanon?”

Khouri: “It was certainly both but the evidence from historical reports by both Israelis and others is that the defence minister then – Ariel Sharon – had been planning for years probably to do a major attack on Lebanon and his aim was to get the PLO out of there, destroy the PLO’s facilities, get the Syrians out of Lebanon and force a peace treaty with the Christian-led government that the Israelis hoped to install in Lebanon and the assassination attempt was basically the excuse that gave the government the ability to say go ahead with this.”

Once again BBC World Service audiences were not informed why Sharon would have needed plans to “get the PLO out” of Lebanon. They were told nothing of the fact that the PLO had thousands of terrorists – including foreign mercenaries – based in Lebanon at the time and that Palestinian terrorists had committed hundreds of attacks against Israeli civilians in which 29 Israelis had been murdered and over 300 wounded in the eleven months before June 1982 alone.

Watts: “So Lebanon was a tinder box anyway which was ready to blow.”

Despite earlier having told listeners himself that the Lebanese civil war began in June 1982, Watts did not appear to notice that American-born Rami G Khouri contradicted his claim – or that he whitewashed Palestinian terror attacks such as those in Ma’alot and Misgav Am by describing them as “clashes”.

Khouri: “Lebanon had been experiencing internal civil war for some years and the civil war in Lebanon coincided with the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict between Zionism and Arabism and that was just the latest episode at that moment. But there was also a continuous legacy of a decade or two at least of clashes between the Israelis and Palestinian groups, Syrian groups, other Leftist nationalist groups in Lebanon who were against Israel and this fighting had been going on for years and years but this incident happened in the midst of an intense war that was getting worse, not better.”

Watts: “But from ’82 onwards things ratcheted up. As we heard in the piece just now, Gideon says that his father…eh…would not have been pleased by what the war did to Israel’s image abroad. So how would you characterise what it did to Israel’s image?”

Listeners next heard Khouri misrepresent the circumstances of the founding of Hizballah while using the term ‘Palestine’ contrary to BBC guidelines and seeming to claim that Lebanon is “part of Palestine”.

Khouri: “Really 1982 was a pivotal year. You had the birth of Hizballah in Lebanon to fight the Israeli occupation and the birth of Hamas in Palestine. So unilateral Israeli military action in any part of Palestine has tended to generate a reaction that has made conditions for Israelis worse in security terms.”

Watts: “And from your point of view, the move by Israel into Lebanon in ’82 – what were your memories of what happened and how has it affected your life?”

Listeners then heard a monologue which went completely unchallenged by Watts despite its blatantly partisan and often inaccurate portrayal of the first Lebanon war.

Khouri: “Well there was a very powerful moment. I had left Lebanon just before that in the late ’70s when I was in Lebanon working as a journalist. When the war broke out it became very dangerous so I moved to Jordan and I followed there events of course intensely with day-to-day news reports. And I remember at one point feeling so bad, so weak, so repulsed by the fact that the Israelis and others – sometimes it was the Syrians, sometimes it was some Lebanese forces, different people – but mostly the Israelis attacking helpless Palestinians in most cases and then various massacres like the Sabra and Shatila one that happened later in 1982. And then at one point I remember driving home from the newspaper late at night saying I can’t just sit here and see my fellow Palestinians being massacred like this. I’m not a fighter but maybe I can go there and write press releases or do what I do which is writing and journalism. And so there was a sense that I wanted to figure out how can I help and this is what every Palestinian in the world feels. And of course this is what most Jews in the world have felt over the years about their vulnerability around the world.”

Israeli forces of course fought armed Palestinian terrorist militias in southern Lebanon – not “helpless Palestinians”. While Khouri carefully avoided stating directly that Israel was responsible for Sabra and Shatila, he certainly steered listeners in that inaccurate direction.

Khouri continued – deliberately failing to distinguish between the armed Palestinian terrorists expelled from Jordan in 1970/71 and from Lebanon in 1982 and the ordinary Palestinians who were not “driven out” of either country. In Khouri’s one-sided narrative there is of course no place for the thousands of Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists and no mention of Hizballah’s endless violations of UN resolutions.

Khouri: “But there was a sense that the Palestinians in 1982 had a pivotal moment because they had previously been driven out of Jordan and now they were being driven out of Lebanon and their political situation was increasingly vulnerable and weak. So the feelings since 1982 continue I think with every Palestinian and with many Israelis – as we heard from Gideon Argov. You know there is a decent side to Israeli sentiment that we understand but there’s also a bloody side that has killed thousands of Palestinians and we saw the bloody side affirmed in 1982 in a very dramatic way but also in a way that I think we have to register as a failure. It did not bring peace to Galilee because what happened was Hizballah came out of this and Hizballah is the only force in the Arab world that has twice forced Israel to accept a ceasefire at the UN and end military fighting. So the ironies I think are plenty for everybody to consider.”

Watts: “That’s the writer and academic Rami Khouri who, among other accolades, is a fellow of Harvard’s Kennedy School.”

Despite this extended version of Watts’ report including ‘Israeli’ and ‘Palestinian’ points of view, it by no means gave BBC audiences a balanced account. While Gideon Argov was asked primarily about the attack on his father’s life, Rami Khoury was given free rein to promote inaccuracies and falsehoods to enhance his partisan narrative. That would have been bad enough in any BBC show but in one that purports to provide audiences with “historical reporting” it is obviously unacceptable.

Related Articles:

BBC WS history programme claims Israel started the Lebanese civil war

NPR AND RAMI KHOURI (CAMERA)

Rami Khouri’s NPR Platform: A Triumph of Polemics Over Reality (CAMERA)

 

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BBC WS history programme claims Israel started the Lebanese civil war

The Lebanese civil war began in 1975 and lasted fifteen years. Listeners to the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness’ were however recently told that it began in June 1982 – and that Israel started it.

The June 5th edition of ‘Witness’ was titled “The Assassinaton [sic] Attempt that Sparked a Middle East War“.

“In June 1982, the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Shlomo Argov, was shot and critically injured by a Palestinian gunman outside the Dorchester Hotel in London. The attack was the trigger for the start of the devastating war in Lebanon just days later. Simon Watts talks to Shlomo Argov’s son, Gideon Argov.”

Simon Watts introduced the programme as follows:

Watts: “Today I’m taking you back to the summer of 1982 and a gun attack on the Israeli ambassador to London which started a war in the Middle East.”

Listeners later heard the perpetrators of that attack described as a “Palestinian hit squad” but only six minutes and fourteen seconds into the nine-minute programme were they informed of the name of the faction responsible.

At 04:56 Watts asked Gideon Argov about the reaction in Israel to the attempted assassination of his father. Having mentioned the “outpouring of shock and sorrow and support” from the general public, Argov went on to say “and then the war broke out”.

Watts interjected:

[05:17] Watts: “That war turned out to be the Lebanese civil war.”

Listeners then heard an archive recording of a news bulletin.

“Israel has launched air attacks against Palestinian targets in Lebanon in retaliation for the shooting of her ambassador in London. The Israeli air raids were aimed around the Lebanese capital Beirut. Targets included a Palestine Liberation Organisation training school. Several other buildings including this sports stadium were damaged. The PLO said at least 30 civilians were killed. Later, Palestinian guerillas are said to have carried out rocket attacks against the Jewish settlements in north Israel.” [emphasis added]

Watts went on:

[05:49] Watts: “It’s now known that the Israeli defence minister Ariel Sharon had been planning an assault on PLO targets in Lebanon for months. He later described the assassination attempt as the spark that lit the fuse.”

Remarkably, listeners to this ‘history’ programme did not hear a single word about the additional – and highly relevant – background to those plans and Operation Peace for Galilee.

“In March 1978, PLO terrorists infiltrated Israel. After murdering an American tourist walking near an Israeli beach, they hijacked a civilian bus. The terrorists shot through the windows as the bus traveled down the highway. When Israeli troops intercepted the bus, the terrorists opened fire. A total of 34 hostages died in the attack. In response, Israeli forces crossed into Lebanon and overran terrorist bases in the southern part of that country, pushing the terrorists away from the border. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) withdrew after two months, allowing United Nations forces to enter. But UN troops were unable to prevent terrorists from reinfiltrating the region and introducing new, more dangerous arms.

Violence escalated with a series of PLO attacks and Israeli reprisals. Finally, the United States helped broker a cease­fire agreement in July 1981. The PLO repeatedly violated the cease-fire over the ensuing 11 months. Israel charged that the PLO staged 270 terrorist actions in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and along the Lebanese and Jordanian borders. Twenty-­nine Israelis died and more than 300 were injured in the attacks.

Meanwhile, a force of some 15-18,000 PLO members was encamped in scores of locations in Lebanon. About 5,000-6,000 were foreign mercenaries, coming from such countries as Libya, Iraq, India, Sri Lanka, Chad and Mozambique. Israel later discovered enough light arms and other weapons in Lebanon to equip five brigades. The PLO arsenal included mortars, Katyusha rockets and an extensive anti­aircraft network. The PLO also brought hundreds of T­34 tanks into the area. Syria, which permitted Lebanon to become a haven for the PLO and other terrorist groups, brought surface-to-air missiles into that country, creating yet another danger for Israel.

Israeli strikes and commando raids were unable to stem the growth of this PLO army. The situation in the Galilee became intolerable as the frequency of attacks forced thousands of residents to flee their homes or to spend large amounts of time in bomb shelters. Israel was not prepared to wait for more deadly attacks to be launched against its civilian population before acting against the terrorists.”

Obviously the BBC World Service needs to correct its inaccurate claim concerning the Lebanese civil war immediately.

 

 

Inaccuracy, omission and oddity in a BBC Radio Ulster item on Israel – part one

While we have seen some problematic programmes relating to Israel on BBC Radio Ulster in the past, the May 20th edition of the station’s “religious and ethical news” programme ‘Sunday Sequence‘ included a long item (from 34:04 here and also aired on BBC Radio Foyle) which was even more remarkable than usual – not least because one contributor managed to shoehorn the Eurovision Song Contest, the 9/11 terror attacks, BDS, Salisbury and Iranian youth unemployment into the discussion.

“After a week of horror in Gaza, is the roadmap to peace now in complete ruins? Dr Julie Norman, Rev Gary Mason and Tom Clonan discuss how peace could somehow yet be found.”

Four days before this programme went on air a Hamas official had announced that fifty of those killed during the ‘Great Return March’ rioting on May 14th were members of Hamas. Prior to that, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad had claimed three of the dead. Information available to the public had already shown that some 80% of those killed since the pre-planned rioting began at the end of March were members of various terror factions in the Gaza Strip.

None of that information was communicated to listeners in presenter Roisin McAuley’s introduction to the item, or indeed in the rest of the broadcast. Listeners did, however, repeatedly hear the use of the term ‘Palestine’ – despite the fact that the BBC Academy’s “journalists’ guide to facts and terminology states “in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank”.

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

McAuley: “International attention is once again focused on the Israel-Palestine conflict.  A hundred Palestinians were killed in Gaza border protests in the last month [sic]; sixty on last Monday alone. The UN human rights chief accused Israel of using wholly disproportionate force. Israel’s UN ambassador accused Hamas of using children as human shields. Peace seems further away than ever. The problem seems intractable: an adjective once applied to the troubles here and to divided societies elsewhere. Can those examples be followed? Where should peacemaking begin? To answer those questions our panel – Dr Julie Norman, research fellow at the George Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, the Rev Gary Mason, founder of ‘Rethinking Conflict’ and Tom Clonan, Irish Times security correspondent and former Irish Army officer who served with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon – UNIFIL – during the Israeli operation against Hizballah in 1996.”

With Tom Clonan having told his Lebanon stories to the media many times before, there can be no doubt that when the producers of this programme decided to invite Tom Clonan to participate, they knew exactly what listeners were going to hear next – and what not.

Clonan: “Operation Grapes of Wrath was a punitive operation against the people of South Lebanon – not just Hizballah – because Hizballah, in contravention to the laws of armed conflict, were deployed in and amongst the civilian population and Israel – contrary to the laws of international conflict and the Geneva conventions – declared southern Lebanon a free-fire zone and as a consequence hundreds of innocent men, women and children were killed. So that was the action – which was clearly illegal – targeting civilians.”

Obviously Clonan’s story has nothing whatsoever to do with the declared subject matter of this item, but within its first few minutes he has facilitated the establishment in listeners’ minds of the notion that Israel has a habit of ‘illegally targeting civilians’. Interestingly, Clonan had nothing at all to say about UNIFIL’s failure – at that time of 18 years – to fulfil its mandate of preventing Hizballah’s entrenchment in southern Lebanon or the terror group’s rocket attacks on northern Israeli communities that preceded the operation.  Mispronouncing the name of the location, Clonan went on:

Clonan: “One of the consequences was that after the massacre at Qana which I attended that day – 112 men, women and children killed in one incident – a then relatively unknown Islamist extremist, Osama Bin Laden, declared a fatwa on the United States in which he cited Qana as the…one of the casus bellis [sic] and that four years later led to Mohammed Atta and others flying aircraft into the Twin Towers. George Bush announced a global war on terror, invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Absent from Clonan’s portrayal of a ‘massacre’ is the fact that Hizballah terrorists had fired missiles from the vicinity of the UN post at Qana, the fact that the UNIFIL personnel there had made no attempt to stop that repeated fire despite the fact that civilians were sheltering in their post and the fact that the deaths of the civilians was completely unintentional.

After BBC Radio Ulster audiences had essentially been told that the 9/11 terror attacks were Israel’s fault, Clonan continued, equating Israel with the Syrian dictator who uses chemical weapons against his own civilian population and presenting a highly debatable portrayal of the laws of armed conflict.

Clonan: “So I think when a state – whether it be Israel or Assad’s regime – when they decide to engage in an act of disinhibition [sic] and indiscriminate violence against civilians, I think they do so at their peril. There are four principles governing the use of force against civilians. Now they’re very, very simple and they’re universal. One of them is justification – in other words you can only use live ammunition in defence of your own life or in defence of those of your comrades. The next one is about minimum force – that’s the second principle; unarmed restraint by weight of numbers. The use of baton rounds, gas, something that people in Northern Ireland would be very familiar with from our shared history. The firing of live ammunition is…is…is so far down the line and the Israelis have so many non-lethal options open to them but instead they use the Givati Brigade, an infantry brigade of the Israeli military, to conduct what is essentially a police action – a bit like putting the parachute regiment into Derry – and with the predictable and consequent effect of shooting 1,360 people on Monday over a eight-hour period. I’ve calculated that is one person shot every 20 seconds.”

Making no effort to clarify to listeners that the casualty figures quoted and promoted by Clonan are sourced from the terror group that initiated, facilitated and organised the violence, McAuley then gave credence to his 9/11 allegations while inflating the significance of a conflict that is way down the list of the current major conflicts in the world.

[37:32] McAuley: “Tom, it’s quite clear that not only is this an intractable situation but you are saying that if you’re making comparisons with the war against Hizballah, it is very, very important because you spelt out the consequences of that. So I want to ask you, Julie, would you say that this is the most important as well as the most intractable problem facing the world today in terms of not wanting another war?”  

Norman’s response [from 37:57] deliberately erased the fact that over 80% of those killed during the Gaza border rioting since March 30th were linked to terror groups.

Norman: “I would say the framing of this incident in comparison to what happened with Hizballah is even tricky because this wasn’t just Israel cracking down on Hamas. As Tom rightly pointed out this was largely a civilian-based protest. You had 40,000 people – elderly people, women, children – all kinds of people there. This was not just a Hamas protest although Hamas was involved in some of the organising.”

Neither Norman nor McAuley bothered to inform BBC Radio Ulster audiences that the overwhelming majority of those killed were males in their twenties and thirties – indicating that while indeed “elderly people, women, children” had been recruited to the publicity stunt, most of them were not directly involved in the violence. Again quoting Hamas figures, Norman went on:

Norman: “I would also point out also that what happened on Monday was not a one-time incident. What happened on Monday was following 6 weeks of protests at the border. In addition to those who were killed on Monday there were over 40 killed and over 9,000 wounded in the weeks leading up to Monday. This is an intractable situation. This kind of resistance and protest has been going on, will continue and unfortunately this type of response to the protests has also been consistent.”

Revealingly, neither Norman nor any of the other participants made any effort to clarify at point or later on in the item that those so-called ‘protests’ have included shooting attacks, IED attacks, firebomb attacks and infiltrations and attempted infiltrations of the border fence.

The second part of this post will address the rest of the item.

 

Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer discusses the outcome of the recent election in Lebanon.

“Lebanon’s May 6 elections have resulted in the further consolidation of Hezbollah and its associated movements within the legal frameworks of the state. The movement and its allies won over half of the seats in the 128-seat parliament. At the same time, the 2018 elections do not appear set to usher in any fundamental alterations to the status quo in Lebanon.
The majority achieved was not sufficient as a basis for constitutional change to alter the rules of the game related, for example, to the sectarian power-sharing agreements that underly Lebanese political life.

However, Hezbollah and Amal and co will have comfortably more than their own “blocking third” in parliament, sufficient to prevent any changes not to their liking.”

2) At the Washington Times, Tony Badran and Jonathan Schanzer write about the same topic.

“Less discussed, but not less important, is that Lebanon is a headquarters for other elements of Iran’s regional terrorist network. It’s a fact the Lebanese interior minister openly acknowledged two years ago when he described Lebanon as “a global terrorist and security operations room.” Lebanon is currently the base for senior Hamas operative Saleh Arouri, who runs terror operations in the West Bank, and other officials from the Palestinian terrorist group. […]

Once again, the government in Beirut did nothing to stop this. Nor did it do anything to oust some of the other terrorist groups that target the Gulf Arab states. The Ansar Allah group in Yemen, better known as the Houthis, reportedly have been receiving training in Lebanon since at least 2010 — a fact some Hezbollah members have acknowledged publicly. The Houthis also have an office in Beirut, as well a television channel, which broadcasts Hezbollah-style propaganda.

Iran-backed terrorists have used Lebanon as a base from which to target other Gulf states, like Kuwait and Bahrain. But it certainly doesn’t end there. Just ask the Moroccans, who just last week accused Hezbollah of smuggling arms to the Polisario Front, a violent separatist group in the Western Sahara.”

3) Palestinian Media Watch has published a compilation of testimonies from Palestinian refugees.

“A number of points are very significant. First, these testimonies – though personal stories – are also describing large-scale movements, such as the flight from major cities like Jaffa and Safed. Second, they describe general orders to leave by Arab leaders and armies, broadcast on Arab radio to the entire Arab population. Third, the testimonies are presented openly by refugees themselves and by public figures, including leaders, in the official PA media. All of this suggests that awareness of Arab responsibility for the refugee problem must be widespread among the Palestinian population itself – even though Palestinian leaders refuse to accept responsibility in international forums.”

4) At the Times of Israel, David Horovitz discusses the ‘original sin’ of the Iran nuclear deal.

“The P5+1’s failure to stop the ayatollahs dead in their would-be nuclear tracks is mirrored by the demonstrably lackadaisical approach of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN body charged with policing the deal. How it can allow itself to certify that Iran is complying with the accord when the terms of the deal do not allow it to carry out anytime-anywhere inspections of suspect sites is beyond comprehension. And its response to the Mossad’s astonishing haul of Iran’s own nuclear weapons documentation in the past few days simply beggars belief.

Imagine that your entire life’s work is dedicated to one acutely sensitive area of expertise, that you are constantly hampered by restricted access to your core research material, but that you are nonetheless the world authority in your field. Then imagine that someone else manages, through extraordinary enterprise and courage, to gain access to more core material, much more, than you could ever have imagined existed. And offers to make it available to you.

Would you a) express your profound gratitude and rush to pore over the new discoveries or b) dismiss the material, sight unseen, as irrelevant? No prizes for guessing which course of action the IAEA adopted hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled and began to detail Iran’s own nuclear weapons documentation, spirited out of Tehran from under the noses of the Islamic “We have never sought nuclear weapons” Republic.”

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

 

Weekend long read

1) At Tablet Magazine Jonathan Schanzer takes a look at “How Malaysia Became a Training Ground for Hamas“.

“As it turns out, Hamas has a significant presence in Malaysia. For years, the terrorist group has used Malaysia to engage in financial activities and even plan operations from outside Gaza, particularly as the group has been forced out of its traditional Middle East areas of operations, such as Syria.

 Malaysia doesn’t appear to be concerned about the optics of this Hamas presence. As the Inspector General of Police in Malaysia said at a press conference last year, “If they come in peace and do not create any problems, then what is the issue?”

The problem is that Hamas operatives don’t come in peace. In 2012, at least ten members of Hamas traveled to Malaysia for training to prepare for a cross-border attack against Israel. The group reportedly trained for kidnapping soldiers, anti-tank ambushes, and sniper attacks.”

2) Writing at the Forward, Emily Landau discusses the relevance of the recently exposed Iranian nuclear files.

“Make no mistake: the Iranian archives that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently presented to the world are very important.

Maybe the information we have seen so far is not new, although there is a multitude of documents that we might still hear about. But it comes straight from the horse’s mouth. These are Iranian documents, which lay out their nuclear plans and activities in a very clear and unambiguous manner.

There’s no room for any doubt that Iran was working on a military nuclear program.

This is in contrast to the IAEA reports on Iran since 2011, when the special annex laying out Iran’s suspected military work was first included in the Agency’s open reports. These reports were couched in uncertainty.”

3) At Forbes, Carrie Sheffield looks at how the BDS movement stunts the Palestinian economy.

“The numbers speak for themselves: Israel (population 8.3 million) has GDP of $291 billion, the Palestinian Territories (population 4.1 million), $11.3 billion. In 2012, Israeli sales to the Palestinian Authority were $4.3 billion, about 5% of Israeli exports (excluding diamonds) less than 2% of Israeli GDP, according to the Bank of Israel. In 2012, Palestinian sales to Israel accounted for about 81% of Palestinian exports and less than a percentage point of Israeli GDP. Palestinian purchases from Israel were two-thirds of total Palestinian imports (or 27% of Palestinian GDP).

Such trade flow asymmetry shows Palestine needs Israel, economically speaking. Yet the BDS crowd would impair economic ties between these areas, despite evidence that trade between peoples lessens outbreak of war. BDS-ers want to obliterate the vast trade surplus Israel extends to Palestine and offer nothing in its place.”

4) At the JCPA, Dr Shimon Shapira discusses the outcome of the recent election in Lebanon.

“The Lebanese constitution, which is based on the National Pact of 1943, divides the government among the country’s religious sects. Therefore, following the elections, the president will continue to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the chairman of Parliament a Shiite. However, with regard to the division between 128 members of Parliament, half of whom are Christians and half Muslims, Hizbullah has increased its parliamentary power through pacts with the Shiite Amal Party and the party of President Michel Aoun. The party of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri is the biggest loser.

The necessity for forming a national unity government will apparently obligate all sides to maintain the present formula of power, according to which President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, and Parliamentary Chairman Nabih Berri will continue in their current positions. However, the main significance of a Hizbullah victory is that it strengthens the veto power that the Shiite organization possesses with regard to any Lebanese government decision. Therefore, Hizbullah will continue to lay the foundations of Lebanese policy in the spheres of foreign and internal policy.”

 

 

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.

Related Articles:

BBC trumpets Hizballah narrative of ‘resistance’

BBC’s Newshour Extra listeners get a partisan ‘explanation’ of Hizballah

 

 

What do BBC audiences know about the Coastal Road Massacre?

Next week will mark forty years since the Coastal Road Massacre took place on March 11th 1978. Thirty-eight people – including thirteen children – were murdered and seventy-one wounded in that Fatah perpetrated attack, making it the single most deadly terrorist attack carried out in Israel.

Coastal Road Massacre memorial

“During the Jewish Sabbath, March 11, 1978, twelve members of a Palestinian terrorist cell led by female terrorist Dalal Mughrabi landed on a beach near Ma’agan Michael, north of Tel Aviv, having departed from Lebanon with a stash of Kalashnikov rifles, RPG light mortars and high explosives. They walked less than a mile up to the four-lane highway, where they began a murderous rampage, opening fire at passing vehicles before hijacking a bus en route to Haifa. They murdered American photo-journalist Gail Rubin, who was taking nature photographs nearby.

The terrorists continued to fire and throw grenades at passing cars, while shooting at the passengers, and dumping at least one body out of the bus. At one point they commandeered another bus, and forced the passengers from the first bus to board the second one.

The bus was finally stopped by a police roadblock.”

Prompted by that attack and previous ones perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists based in Lebanon, Israel launched Operation Litani days later.

Members of the BBC’s funding public searching online for reports produced by their national broadcaster relating to the terror attack that prompted Operation Litani (and later led to the establishment of the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon) will, however, find very little information indeed.

No archive coverage of the Coastal Road Massacre is currently available at all and the sole references to that attack appear in reports relating to the subsequent Israeli operation in Lebanon.

A BBC report titled “Civilians flee southern Lebanon” dated March 17th 1978 states in its eleventh paragraph:

“Israel launched an offensive in southern Lebanon in retaliation for the 11 March bus hijacking in Tel Aviv in which 35 people were killed and 100 others were injured. […]

 Israel accuses Palestinian fighters of using southern Lebanon to mount intermittent cross-border attacks against civilian and military targets in Israel.”

A report from June 13th 1978 – “Israeli troops leave southern Lebanon” – tells readers that:

“Operation Litani, Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon, was launched following a Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) attack on the Tel Aviv-Haifa road which killed 37 people.

PLO troops were using southern Lebanon as a staging area for their attacks and Israeli forces moved in to destroy their bases.”

Included in the BBC’s ‘Palestinian Territories profile’ is the following:

“1978 March – PLO attack kills 38 civilians on Israel’s coastal road. Israel carries out first major incursion into southern Lebanon, driving PLO and other Palestinian groups out of the area.”

The BBC’s ‘Lebanon profile’ describes the same events as follows:

“1978 – In reprisal for a Palestinian attack, Israel launches a major invasion of southern Lebanon. It withdraws from all but a narrow border strip, which it hands over not to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) but to its proxy South Lebanon Army mainly Christian militia.”

Curiously, in the BBC’s ‘Israel profile’ there is no entry at all for 1978.

Some of the BBC’s coverage of the 2006 Second Lebanon War includes a timeline headed “Israel in Lebanon” in which the first entry reads: “March 1978: Israel invades to stop Palestinian attacks”.

As we see, in the little reporting that there is, the BBC uniformly describes the Coastal Road Massacre as having been carried out by the PLO – failing to specify that the terrorists belonged to the PLO’s Fatah faction.

It is hence perhaps unsurprising that the regular glorification of the Coastal Road Massacre, its perpetrators and planners by both the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party goes unreported by the BBC. As the ITIC notes in an extensive study of that topic:

“The PA and Fatah have commemorated Dalal al-Mughrabi every year since the days of Yasser Arafat. Events are usually held on or about March 11, the day of the Coastal Road Massacre, sometimes on other days. The official events are attended by senior PA and Fatah movement figures and the Palestinian media gives them extensive coverage.”

In a recent glorification video produced by Fatah, the victims of the attack – including children – were said to be ‘soldiers’.

The sole BBC reference to Palestinian glorification of the Coastal Road Massacre terrorists to be currently found online dates from 2003 when Lyse Doucet hosted a phone-in discussion with the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen after the broadcast of a film he made titled “Arafat Investigated”. The transcript of that discussion includes the following:

Lyse Doucet: “There was a sequence in the film where you had Yasser Arafat praising Dalal al Mughrabi as the road to freedom and yet this Palestinian woman was, according to the film, in 1978 responsible for one of the worst terrorist incidents in Israeli history, killing nearly 40 people and injuring many others. Well, Ruth Green, Neil Solden, among many others, have asked you: Arafat is publicly praising the terrorists, how can he be a man of peace and still do that?”

The BBC Middle East editor’s response perhaps casts light on the BBC’s chronic under-reporting of the issue of Palestinian glorification of terrorism. 

Jeremy Bowen: “Well, lots of Israelis say that and of course the Israeli Government has concluded that Arafat has been a terrorist his entire life and he is not a man of peace. In the Oslo process the feeling was that the man had changed. Now, I don’t know whether he has changed fully or not but I think that the point made in the film by Eyad Sarraj, the Palestinian we talked to in that, is important in so far as what he said was that these people are seen by Palestinians as heroes of their would-be independence movement, and it’s important for them to be mentioned and it fulfils their ritualistic sloganising function. Let’s not forget that before Israeli independence Messrs Shamir and Begin were regarded by the British as terrorists. They went on – in the case of Begin – to win the Nobel Prize for Peace.”

For years the BBC has promoted the notion that the prime factor preventing peace from coming to the Middle East is Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and specific areas of Jerusalem. More recently another factor was added to the BBC’s list of ‘things preventing peace’: the US administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

However, remarkably little has been done to inform BBC audiences of issues that detract from that trite narrative such as the Palestinian Authority’s payments to convicted terrorists, PA and Fatah incitement or PA and Fatah glorification of terrorism of the type seen annually around the anniversary of the most lethal terror attack on Israeli civilians.

That is not omission – it is editorial policy.

BBC News again claims Israeli involvement in Syria’s war

On February 22nd an article by the BBC’s Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher appeared in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Syria conflict: Will powers end up in direct war?“.

Although the article is tagged ‘Syrian civil war’ – a conflict in which Israel is not involved – readers find the following statement:

“To the south, Israel has sat out most of the conflict, loath to be drawn in – to the disastrous extent that it was during the 16 years of the civil war in Syria’s neighbour, Lebanon. It has mostly limited itself to targeted attacks on alleged Iranian bases and suspected Hezbollah arms supplies.” [emphasis added]

Apparently the BBC’s Arab affairs editor would have his readers believe that Israel carries out strikes on the strength of allegations and suspicion. Notably, Usher’s claim of Israeli involvement in the Lebanese civil war omits all mention of the frequent attacks against Israel launched by the PLO from Lebanese territory – attacks which sparked Operation Litani in 1978 (three years after the civil war began) and Operation Peace for Galilee in 1982.

Later on Usher tells readers that as the Syrian civil war progressed:

“Israel saw battle-hardened Hezbollah and Iranian fighters move closer and closer to its border – prompting a more active, though still cautious, engagement in the conflict.”

That claim once again inaccurately suggests that Israel has been ‘engaged’ in the Syrian civil war.

He goes on:

“But the increasing international commitment on its various battlefields runs the risk of shifting it from a war between proxies to one directly between the powers pulling the strings. And that is a highly dangerous development.

Recent events have shown that the limited comfort that those involved will always pull back from the brink of deeper confrontation, may not be entirely reliable.

An Israeli fighter jet was shot down over Israel by a Syrian missile, following the interception of an Iranian drone in Israeli airspace as part of a ratcheting up of tensions in the hitherto quieter south of Syria.”

Usher closes his article with the claim that:

“If nothing else, all this may only prolong the Syria war. But it raises fears of all-out confrontation between the outside players – all of whose interests remain as fundamentally opposed as they have been at any time in the conflict.”

Once again, Usher is implying that Israel is a ‘player’ in that war.

This is far from the first time that the BBC has promoted the erroneous notion that Israel is involved in the Syrian civil war: it has been doing so since 2013. The corporation’s journalists appear to be incapable of understanding that Israeli strikes on Iranian weapons bound for Hizballah or Israeli responses to cross-border fire from Syria do not make Israel a ‘player’ in the Syrian civil war but are in fact related to the Iranian and Hizballah aggression against Israel that long predates that conflict.

As we see, even the BBC’s Arab affairs editor is unable to grasp that there is more than one set of events going on at the same time and to distinguish between the separate topics of the war in Syria and actions that are exclusively linked to the protection of Israel’s citizens. Notably too, Sebastian Usher’s analysis did not include any mention of the humanitarian and medical aid supplied to Syrians by Israel.  

Related Articles:

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

BBC presentation of Israeli view on Syria intervention replete with inaccuracies

BBC WS ‘Weekend’ airs a confused report on Iranian drone story

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News gives a stage to Iranian disinformation

As has been documented here (see ‘related articles’ below), one notable feature of the BBC’s coverage of the infiltration of an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace on February 10th was the corporation’s unnecessary qualification of the event.

“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

Significantly, the BBC’s coverage of that and related stories also failed to provide audiences with an accurate portrayal of the context of Iranian military activities in Syria and Lebanon.

On February 22nd the BBC News website published an article titled “Fear of war looms over Syria neighbours, Iran says” on its Middle East page. The article is based on a filmed interview by the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet with Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi and a transcript was also promoted on the website.

In the article BBC audiences were told that:

“The deputy foreign minister refused to confirm that Iran had sent a drone into Israeli airspace from Syria earlier this month. He said the drone belonged to the Syrian army.”

As can be seen in the transcript, Doucet’s challenge to that blatant disinformation was remarkably weak.

“DOUCET: But they’re [the Israelis] angry about the drone which they say you sent into Israeli airspace. What was its purpose?

ARAGHCHI: The drone also belongs to the Syrian army.

DOUCET: But it was Iran that sent it over into Israel.

ARAGHCHI: Well I cannot confirm that. The Syrian army has lots of capabilities. But the fact is that the Israeli army is also sending drones up on a daily, or hourly basis all around Syria and in other neighbouring countries. So they shouldn’t be angry when they are faced with something that they are doing against others on a daily basis.

DOUCET: Was the drone to test Israeli resolve, was that why it was sent in? What was its purpose?

ARAGHCHI : Well I think you should ask the Syrian army men why they, you know, why they did that. But the fact is they were able to shut down a jet, Israeli jet fighter who actually entered into their airspace. So this is, this is a very important development and I think the Israelis should reconsider their, you know, their military policies.”

Lyse Doucet also provided Abbas Araghchi with a platform for amplification of disinformation concerning Iran’s activities in Syria – portrayed in the article thus:

“Mr Araghchi told the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet that Iran was there to fight terrorism, and dismissed warnings about Iran’s intentions as “propaganda”.

“Just imagine if we were not there. Now you would have Daesh [the Islamic State group] in Damascus, and maybe in Beirut and other places,” the minister said. […]

Mr Araghchi said Iran was in Syria to fight “terrorist elements” at the invitation of the Syrian government, and its alliance with Syria and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah aimed to “combat the hegemonic policies” of Israel.”

As can be seen in the transcript, Doucet made little effort to challenge that Orwellian disinformation either and failed to clarify to BBC audiences that Iran’s proxy Hizballah initiated the 2006 war.

“DOUCET: Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed what others have noticed, that Iran seems to want to establish a land bridge, a corridor, from Iraq to Syria into Lebanon, connecting all of its allies. Is that your strategic ambition?

ARAGHCHI : Well we are in Syria fighting a terrorist elements, and we have there by the invitation of the Syrian government to help them establish peace and, you know, stability and territorial integrity of Syria. We continue to be there as long as we are asked by the Syrian government to help them fighting the terrorist and terrorist elements, and to establish peace and order and stability in that country.

DOUCET: But it’s also – you saw the New York Times did a study of all the Iranian positions of Iran, you know the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) advisors, also your allies like Hezbollah, the other militias, giving the impression that Iran is establishing its own bridgehead in –

ARAGHCHI: Just imagine if we were not there. Now you had Daesh [Islamic State group] in Damascus, and maybe in Beirut and other places. So I think we have to actually don’t care about these kind of propaganda which have some other objectives perhaps.

DOUCET: Some say this latest call is to make Syria a new front, between Iran, Hezbollah and Israel – an Axis of Resistance, as they call it.

ARAGHCHI: Well an Axis of Resistance is there for a number of years now.

DOUCET: But you’ve been, is that your ambition to strengthen it for Iran?

ARAGHCHI: This is actually to combat the hegemonic policies of Israeli regime in the region, and to, you know, stand firm against Israeli aggression. We all remember –

DOUCET: So it is an Axis of Resistance?

ARAGHCHI: Well the Axis of Resistance is always there, you know, when Hezbollah and the Syrian government actually combat it, Israeli forces when they attacked Lebanon in the past, we all remember Israeli attacks to the Lebanon territory, we all remember when they occupied Beirut, you know, as an Arabic, Arab captor. And we all remember 2006 when they invaded southern Lebanon. I think Lebanon, Syria and other countries in the region have every right to establish a kind of resistance against these aggressions by Israelis.””

Doucet refrained from asking Araghchi about his country’s repeated violations of UN SC resolution 1701, the support it provides for terror groups in the region including Hizballah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or the genocidal threats against Israel repeatedly voiced by Iranian regime officials.

“DOUCET: Now Prime Minster Netanyahu made it clear in Munich, and I quote: he says Israel will continue to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military presence in Syria. Do you take that threat seriously?

ARAGHCHI: I think Israel should find the root causes of its problems somewhere else. They always try to accuse Iran for the problems they are facing in the region and I think this is actually wrong perception they are creating and against Iran, and I don’t think they can achieve anything by this.”

Obviously one must wonder why the BBC thinks that its audiences’ understanding of the background to recent and potential events in the Middle East (as well as other topics such as the demonstrations in Iran and the imprisonment of dual nationals) is enhanced by hearing poorly challenged disinformation and spin that could just as well have been aired on Iranian state TV.