BBC ignores calls for UNIFIL mandate change – in English

At the end of this month the mandate of the UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon – UNIFIL – will expire and its renewal is scheduled for discussion at the UN Security Council.

That mandate of course includes clauses which have not been met throughout the last eleven years:

“Assist the LAF [Lebanese Armed Forces] in taking steps towards the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an free [sic] of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL deployed in this area;

Assist the Government of Lebanon in securing its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel.”

However, this time round the mandate’s renewal may perhaps not be as automatic as in previous years. On August 7th the US mission to the UN put out a press release:

“On Friday, August 4, UN Secretary-General António Guterres submitted a letter to the Security Council recommending that the Council renew the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which is due to expire on August 31. In the letter, the Secretary-General called for the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon to strengthen the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the authority of Lebanon’s government. He also noted the illegal presence of armed personnel, weapons, and infrastructure inside UNIFIL’s area of operations, and his intention to look at ways in which UNIFIL could enhance its efforts against them.

“We share the Secretary-General’s strong desire to enhance UNIFIL’s efforts to prevent the spread of illegal arms in southern Lebanon,” said Ambassador Haley. “These arms – which are almost entirely in the hands of Hizballah terrorists – threaten the security and stability of the region. UNIFIL must increase its capacity and commitment to investigating and reporting these violations. The United States will continue to raise the threat posed by Hizballah as we seek significant improvements to UNIFIL when the Security Council renews its mandate this month.””

The UN Secretary General’s letter to the Security Council stated:

“The government of Lebanon must exercise effective authority over all Lebanese territory, prevent hostile actions from its territory, ensure the safety and security of the civilian population, in addition to United Nations personnel, and also ensure the disarmament of all armed groups”.

Whether or not those demands based on UNSC resolution 1701 will finally be met is obviously questionable given the make-up of the current Lebanese government.

Nevertheless, reports concerning Ambassador Haley’s intention to seek “significant improvements” to UNIFIL’s mandate were seen on many media sites – but the story did not receive any coverage on the BBC’s English language platforms.

In contrast, editors at the BBC Arabic website did consider that story newsworthy and an AFP report on the topic was translated into Arabic for publication on that site.

Related Articles:

BBC News yawns over another violation of UNSC resolution 1701

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Filling in the blanks in BBC reports on Hamas, Qatar and Iran

As readers may recall, while early BBC News website coverage of the rift between Qatar and several other Arab states did clarify that one of Saudi Arabia’s demands was for Qatar to cut ties with Hamas, it did not inform BBC audiences of Qatar’s reported demand that a number of Hamas officials leave that country.

Yolande Knell later produced two reports on the topic of Qatari funding of Hamas which made vague, brief references to that subject.

“Meanwhile, some top Hamas figures living in exile in Doha have moved away to ease pressure on their patron.” BBC Radio 4, 15/6/17

“Many leaders of the group [Hamas] – including its former head, Khaled Meshaal, have been living in luxurious exile in Doha.

Now as Hamas seeks to ease pressure on its patron, several have reportedly left at Qatar’s request.” BBC News website, 20/6/17

As was noted here when the story broke:

Among those reportedly asked to leave [Qatar] was Saleh al Arouri – the organiser of Hamas operations in Judea & Samaria who was previously based in Turkey and was designated by the US Treasury in 2015. Arouri is said to have relocated to Malaysia or Lebanon.”

At the beginning of this month al Arouri made an appearance in Beirut.

“A senior Hamas terrorist believed by Israel to have planned the 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank was spotted publicly in Lebanon’s capital Beirut for the first time since he was expelled from Qatar in June.

In photos published Wednesday, Saleh al-Arouri can be seen meeting with senior Iranian official Hossein Amir Abdollahian — a former deputy foreign minister — and a number of other members of Hamas, among them senior spokesman Osama Hamdan and the terror group’s representative in Lebanon, Ali Barka. […]

After his expulsion from Qatar in June, al-Arouri moved to Lebanon, where he is being hosted by the Hezbollah terror group in its Dahieh stronghold in southern Beirut, Channel 2 reported last month.

Citing Palestinian sources, the report said that Arouri and two other senior Hamas figures have relocated to the Hezbollah-dominated neighborhood in the Lebanese capital, an area heavily protected with checkpoints on every access road.”

Meanwhile, on August 5th the BBC News website published a report about the Iranian president’s inauguration:

“Dozens of world dignitaries attended Mr Rouhani’s inauguration at Iran’s parliament, reflecting an easing in Iran’s isolation since the nuclear deal.

Guests included EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the chairman of the North Korean parliament, Kim Yong-nam, signalling a growing closeness between Tehran and Pyongyang particularly over defence matters.”

The BBC did not however report that the inauguration’s guest list also included Hamas officials.

“A senior Hamas delegation arrived in Tehran on Friday in a bid to bolster the relationship with the Islamic Republic.

The visit included senior Hamas figure Izzat al-Rishq, currently based in Qatar, and head of the Hamas administration Saleh al-Arouri. They were formally invited to the swearing-in ceremony of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is beginning his second term in office.”

That Hamas delegation apparently also met with IRGC representatives.

“Senior members of the Hamas terror group met on Monday in Iran with representatives of the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to Arabic media reports.

A high-level Hamas delegation arrived in Tehran on Friday in order to attend the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and to “turn a new page in bilateral relations” between the two sides, according to a statement by Hamas.

This is the first Hamas visit to Iran since the group elected new leadership earlier in 2017. The rapprochement between Hamas and Iran is reportedly being facilitated by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which is supported by Tehran.

The delegation consisted of Hamas political bureau members Ezzat al-Resheq, Saleh Arouri, Zaher Jabarin, and Osama Hamdan.

During its stay in Iran, the group met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday, as well as a number of other senior Iranian officials. […]

Hamas also needs to re-establish ties with Iran, as its current top backer Qatar is under fire from Gulf allies for supporting the Palestinian terror group.”

At the end of that August 5th BBC report on Rouhani’s inauguration audiences were told that:

“Last month, the US state department accused Iran of undermining stability, security and prosperity in the Middle East.

It criticised Iran’s support for the Syrian government and groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas and accused it of prolonging the conflict in Yemen by providing support for Houthi rebels.”

Had BBC audiences seen any coverage of Salah al Arouri’s relocation from Qatar to the Hizballah ruled suburb of Beirut and of the Hamas delegation’s visit to Tehran, they would of course be much better placed to understand what lies behind those US State Department statements. 

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The figures behind a story the BBC chooses not report  

More narrative-driven ‘history’ from the BBC World Service

The August 8th edition of the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness‘ is titled “The Murder of Naji al-Ali” and it is described as follows in its synopsis:

“The acclaimed Palestinian cartoonist was gunned down in London in 1987. His attackers have never been identified. Naji al-Ali’s cartoons were famous across the Middle East. Through his images he criticized Israeli and US policy in the region, but unlike many, he also lambasted Arab despotic regimes and the leadership of the PLO. His signature character was called Handala – a poor Palestinian refugee child with spiky hair, who would always appear, facing away with his hands clasped behind his back, watching the events depicted in the cartoon. Alex Last has been speaking to his son, Khalid, about his father’s life and death.”

Despite that synopsis, listeners actually hear very little about the substance of Ali’s criticism of Arab regimes and the Palestinian leadership and even less about how that may have been connected to his murder. They do however hear promotion of the familiar context-free narrative of displaced Palestinians with no responsibility for or connection to the events that resulted in their displacement.

Erasing the essential words ‘British Mandate’ from his use of the term Palestine, presenter Alex Last introduces his guest:

Last: “Some fifty years earlier Naji al Ali was born in a village in Galilee in 1936 in what was then Palestine. Khalid al Ali is Naji’s eldest son.”

 Ali: “The village had Muslims, Christians and Jews and they’re all playing together and sharing things together, I mean, in the village square, so he had a happy life, a normal life.”

The 1931 census shows that the village concerned – al Shajara in the sub-district of Tiberias – had at the time 584 residents: 556 Muslims and 28 Christians – but no Jews. A similar demographic make-up appears in the 1945 census. In contrast to the idyllic impression created by Ali, the villagers of al Shajara frequently attacked their Jewish neighbours in the moshava Sejera (known today as Ilaniya) during the ‘Arab Revolt‘ that began in 1936.

Listeners then hear Last say:

Last: “But in 1948, following the creation of the State of Israel and in the fighting that ensued, at least three-quarters of a million Palestinian Arabs either fled or were driven from their homes. Naji, his family and the other Palestinian Arabs in their village were among them. They became refugees. Naji ended up in a refugee camp in southern Lebanon. It was an experience that would define him.”

Contrary to the impression given by Last, the fighting did not break out after and because of “the creation of the State of Israel” but had begun well before that event took place following Arab rejection of the Partition Plan in November 1947. Listeners are not informed of the all important context of the infiltration of the Arab League’s ‘Arab Liberation Army’ into the Galilee in early January of 1948 and the series of attacks it launched against Jewish communities in the region, including the moshava Sejera. The fighting in Naji al Ali’s village of al Shajara actually took place on May 6th 1948 – eight days before Israel declared independence.

The narrative of passive victims with no responsibility for the conflict that saw them displaced is then further promoted by Ali.

Ali: “Being used to your surroundings, being part of the family, the wider villages, this overnight ended completely and that was a great shock. And suddenly [they] became refugees in a tent. There’s no income. They lost their land. They’ve lost their businesses. No end of [in] sight in a way. It was imprinted on them. I mean my father, his main agenda is Palestine. For him, till the last day of his life he wanted to go back to his village, he wanted to go back to Palestine. It’s very straightforward, it’s very simple. He could not see why not.”

A similarly context-free representation comes at 05:05 when Last tells listeners:

Last: “In 1982 Naji was in Beirut during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the massacres at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps; events which, says Khalid, had a profound effect on his father.”

Audiences are not informed that – despite the impression they may very well have received from Last’s portrayal – the Sabra and Shatila massacres were carried out by a Lebanese Christian militia.

The programme ‘Witness’ purports to provide BBC World Service audiences with “the story of our times told by the people who were there”. All too often, however, we see that when the story relates to Israel, narrative takes priority over history.

Related Articles:

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BBC WS ‘The History Hour’ breaches impartiality guidelines with Palestinian activist 

 

 

Will the new man in Beirut improve the BBC’s record of reporting?

The BBC’s Martin Patience recently announced his upcoming relocation to Beirut on Twitter.

This is not Patience’s first posting in the Middle East: he spent two years reporting for the BBC from Jerusalem between 2006 and 2008 and was in the Gaza Strip for part of the summer 2014 conflict.

One story already waiting for him in Beirut (that has not been covered by the BBC to date) is that of the reports concerning alleged Iranian-built underground missile factories in Lebanon that have been around for some months.

The Times of Israel brings further information.

“The Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group is constructing at least two underground facilities in Lebanon for manufacturing missiles and other weaponry, according to a report by the French Intelligence Online magazine. […]

Sources told the French industry magazine that one of the factories is being built in northern Lebanon, near the town of Hermel in the eastern Bekaa Valley. The second facility is reportedly being constructed along the southern coast, between the towns of Sidon and Tyre.

According to Intelligence Online, the Hermel facility is being used to produce the Fateh 110, a medium-range missile. The southern facility, meanwhile, will be used to make smaller munitions.”

The Tower adds:

“The Iranian general who first revealed the existence of the factories said that they were built because Israel had destroyed munitions factories in Sudan and hit weapons convoys in Syria en route to Hezbollah.

Iran is banned from exporting weapons by the United Nations Security Council, and is specifically forbidden from arming Hezbollah by Security Council resolution 1701.”

The BBC’s record of reporting Hizballah’s violations of UNSC resolution 1701, it is of course very dismal. Whether or not it will improve with Martin Patience’s arrival in Beirut and audiences will finally get to hear about this story and others remains to be seen.

Related Articles:

Another UN SC resolution violation goes unreported by the BBC

BBC News yawns over another violation of UNSC resolution 1701

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

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) On July 13th the BBC and CBS News announced a new partnership.

“BBC News and CBS News announced today a new editorial and newsgathering relationship that will significantly enhance the global reporting capabilities of both organisations. The announcement was made by BBC Director of News and Current Affairs James Harding and CBS News President David Rhodes.

This new deal allows both organisations to share video, editorial content, and additional newsgathering resources in New York, London, Washington and around the world. The relationship between BBC News and CBS News will also allow for efficient planning of newsgathering resources to increase the content of each broadcaster’s coverage of world events.

James Harding, BBC Director of News and Current Affairs, says: “There’s never been a more important time for smart, courageous coverage of what’s happening in the world.

“This new partnership between the BBC and CBS News is designed to bring our audiences – wherever you live, whatever your point of view – news that is reliable, original and illuminating. Our ambition is to deliver the best in international reporting on television. We’re really looking forward to working together.” […]

Sharing of content between BBC News and CBS News will begin immediately. Additional newsgathering components will be rolled out in the coming months.”

Information on CBS News reporting is available at CAMERA.

2) MEMRI brings an interesting clip from an interview with a Lebanese politician talking about a topic serially avoided in BBC reporting.

“Today, nobody dares to open his mouth. Thirty ministers in the government, and none of them dares to say to Nasrallah: ‘What gives you the right to say what you say?’ The president keeps his mouth shut. The army commander keeps his mouth shut. The defense and foreign ministers keep their mouths shut. Nobody even mentions U.N. Resolutions 1701 and 1559. Nobody talks about Lebanon’s international obligations. Nobody says that there can be no military force in Lebanon other than the Lebanese army and the U.N. forces.”

3) Another topic that has to date received no BBC coverage is the subject of an article by Avi Issacharoff at the Times of Israel.

“There have been numerous reports in the Arab and Palestinian media recently about meetings being held in Egypt between Abbas’s political rival, Mohammad Dahlan, and the leaders of Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas. These allegedly took place in Cairo under the close supervision of the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, Khaled Fawzy.

Dahlan and Hamas reportedly agreed to establish a new “management committee” of Gaza, which would see the Fatah strongman share control of the Palestinian enclave.

Abbas will likely demand explanations from Sissi as to the nature of these contacts, and Egypt’s support of them.

The PA chief and his allies have been flooded with rumors about a deal being concocted behind the back of the Palestinian Authority, under the auspices of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. These talks are seen by Abbas as insulting, even a spit in the face. Abbas will want to know whether Fawzy’s reported actions were authorized by Sissi.”

4) At the FDD, Tony Badran writes about a development connected to yet another story ignored by the BBC last year.

“Congress passed the first round of Hezbollah sanctions in late 2015. Known as the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act (HIFPA), the bill targeted banks used by the group and its members. After HIFPA became law, there were rumors in the Lebanese press that some jittery banks were closing the accounts of Hezbollah members. One Hezbollah MP did have his bank account closed.

Lebanese institutions then intervened. The Central Bank of Lebanon reversed the decision of the private bank that closed the Hezbollah MP’s account. Meanwhile, according to Arabic media reports, the Ministry of Finance started paying Hezbollah MPs and ministers’ salaries in cash to avoid banks, though the accuracy of these stories is unclear. Eventually, Hezbollah placed a bomb behind a branch of Blom Bank in June 2016, and everyone got the message: be careful about being “overzealous” in complying with U.S. law.

Reports that Congress is working on an updated and tightened HIFPA have caused much consternation in Lebanon, and this time, state institutions are not waiting until after it passes to undermine it. […]

Last month, the Lebanese Parliament passed a new electoral law to govern the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for May of next year. The law includes a little-noticed amendment aimed at preempting future U.S. sanctions.”

5) The Algemeiner brings us a summary of an address by Judea Pearl concerning the morality of the BDS campaign.

“BDS is not a new phenomenon; it is a brainchild of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, who in April 1936 started the Arab Rejectionist movement (under the auspices of the Arab Higher Committee), and the first thing he did was to launch a boycott of Jewish agricultural products and a general strike against Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine from war-bound Europe.

The 1936 manifesto of the rejectionist movement was very similar to what BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti presented here at UCLA on January 15, 2014. It was brutal in its simplicity: Jews are not entitled to any form of self-determination in any part of Palestine, not even the size of a postage stamp — end of discussion!

Here is where BDS earns its distinct immoral character: denying one people rights to a homeland, rights that are granted to all others. This amounts to discrimination based on national identity, which in standard English vocabulary would be labeled “bigotry,” if not “racism.””

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At Mosaic magazine, Martin Kramer explains why “The Balfour Declaration Was More than the Promise of One Nation“.

“In 1930, the British Colonial Office published a “white paper” that Zionists saw as a retreat from the Balfour Declaration. David Lloyd George, whose government had issued the declaration in 1917, was long out of office and now in the twilight of his political career. In an indignant speech, he insisted that his own country had no authority to downgrade the declaration, because it constituted a commitment made by all of the Allies in the Great War:

In wartime we were anxious to secure the good will of the Jewish community throughout the world for the Allied cause. The Balfour Declaration was a gesture not merely on our part but on the part of the Allies to secure that valuable support. It was prepared after much consideration, not merely of its policy, but of its actual wording, by the representatives of all the Allied and associated countries including America, and of our dominion premiers.

There was some exaggeration here; not all of the Allies shared the same understanding of the policy or saw the “actual wording.” But Lloyd George pointed to the forgotten truth that I sought to resurrect through my essay. In 1917, there was not yet a League of Nations or a United Nations. But, in the consensus of the Allies, there was the nucleus of a modern international order. The Balfour Declaration had the weight of this consensus behind it, before Balfour signed it. This international buy-in is also why the Balfour Declaration entered the mandate for Palestine, entrusted to Britain by the League of Nations. Those who now cast the Balfour Declaration as an egregious case of imperial self-dealing simply don’t know its history (or prefer not to know it).”

2) Yaakov Lappin reports on a worrying development in Lebanon.

“Israeli leaders are continuing to issue public statements on an Iranian underground missile factory that was apparently built in Lebanon. […]

The first report about this missile factory surfaced back in March, in Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida.

That report quoted “an aid to the IRGC commander” who said that “Iran has built factories [for manufacturing] missiles and [other] weapons in Lebanon and has recently turned them over to Hizbullah.”

The original story (translation by MEMRI) has some interesting initial information:

“In response to statements by Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan several days ago – who said that Hizbullah is capable of manufacturing missiles [that can] hit any part of Israel [but] gave no details or explanations – a knowledgeable source who wished to remain anonymous said that, after Israel destroyed an Iranian arms factory in Sudan several years ago that had supplied arms to Hizbullah, and after [Israel also] bombed an arms convoy that was intended to reach Hizbullah via Syria, the IRGC launched a project for establishing arms factories in Lebanon [itself].””

3) With a BBC presenter having promoted and endorsed the political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence‘ only last week and that group currently making headlines, an op-ed by Ben Dror Yemini at Ynet concerning an ongoing story makes interesting reading.

“Breaking the Silence director Yuli Novak is furious about the investigation against the organization’s spokesperson, Dean Issacharof, who stated that he had committed a war crime of beating a Palestinian until he bled. Why is he being interrogated of all people, Novak complained. There are, after all, hundreds of other testimonies. […]

The Military Advocate General wanted to investigate the testimonies that point to a suspected offense, but the organization’s members demanded protection of its sources. And now Novak is complaining that testimonies are not being investigated.”

4) At the Tablet, Tony Badran has more on a story we reported here last week.

“After the second Lebanon war in 2006, when the IDF uncovered the elaborate network of underground Hezbollah tunnels and bunkers in southern Lebanon, the Israelis dubbed these fortifications “nature reserves.” Hezbollah used the “nature reserves,” which were built in forested areas and hillsides, to launch short-range rockets on northern Israel continuously as its fighters hunkered inside, safe from aerial and artillery bombardment.

Eleven years later, the term, intended as a joke, has proved more apt than perhaps the IDF initially imagined. Last week, Israel filed a complaint with the United Nations Security Council in which it charged that Hezbollah had set up observation outposts along the border under the cover of an environmental group called Green Without Borders. Israel released photos and a video backing up its claim.”

 

 

 

Another UN SC resolution violation goes unreported by the BBC

As has been noted here on numerous occasions in the past, the BBC not only routinely ignores the topic of Hizballah’s continuous violations of UN Security Council resolution 1701, but has even whitewashed them.

In April of this year BBC News chose to ignore the story of Hizballah conducting press tours in an area in which, according to that resolution, it is not supposed to operate and another story that emerged last week looks likely to get the same treatment.

photo credit: IDF

On June 22nd the IDF’s chief of military intelligence revealed that:

“Recent IDF intelligence has found Hezbollah operating out of outposts marked with the logo of Green Without Borders – an organization supposedly working to protect Lebanon’s environment by planting trees. […]

According to the intelligence, the organization’s activities is defined and partially funded by Hezbollah. As of now, the organization has established several outposts used by Hezbollah in the Western sector of the Israel-Lebanon border. […]

In order to maintain peace on the Lebanese-Israeli border, the United Nations Security Council approved and enacted Resolution 1701. The resolution states:

“[The Security Council] calls for Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution based on the following principles and elements:…the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon.”

The resolution called for Hezbollah’s disarmament and withdrawal from Lebanon’s southern region. But Southern Lebanon remains Hezbollah’s terror stronghold. The organization is deeply rooted within the population, and Hezbollah flags can be seen near the border marking its presence in the area.”

Israel sent a letter to the UNSC regarding this latest violation of resolution 1701 – about which UNIFIL, despite photographic and filmed documentation, claims to know nothing.

Predictably – given its already poor record of informing audiences about Hizballah violations of that UN SC resolution – the BBC has to date not found this story newsworthy.

Related Articles:

BBC News yawns over another violation of UNSC resolution 1701

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

 

 

BBC’s Bowen tells his annual Lebanon story on Radio 4

Episode 10 of Jeremy Bowen’s BBC Radio 4 series ‘Our Man in the Middle East’ was broadcast on May 26th. Titled “The Nearness of Death“, the programme is described in the synopsis as follows:

“Jeremy Bowen describes the incident as the worse [sic] day of his working life – the day he and his colleagues came under fire from the Israeli Defence Force. Bowen’s driver Abed Takkhoush was hit when the crew of an Israeli tank fired a shell across the border wire into Lebanon. It hit the back of his Mercedes taxi while he was sitting in the driver’s seat phoning his son.”

Bowen has of course publicly revisited that incident on numerous occasions in the past (see ‘related articles’ below) but this programme once again provides insight into the approach taken by the man the BBC chose to be responsible for all its Middle East coverage twelve years ago.

In this report, Bowen’s scene-setting fails to provide listeners with any background information or context concerning the reason why the Israeli army was in Lebanon in the first place and he fails to clarify that Hizballah did not only act against – or because of – Israeli forces.

“We were looking forward to the day ahead down south on the border with Israel. It was a big story. The Israelis were ending an occupation of a broad swathe of South Lebanon that had lasted 18 years. They’d been driven out by an insurgency mounted by Hizballah – the Shia Muslim militia that head become a highly effective guerilla force with the help of Iran and Syria.”

Later on Bowen tells listeners that:

“By the mid-90s the main fight was in south Lebanon between the Israeli occupiers and Hizballah. Israel claimed self-defence and called Hizballah terrorists. Hizballah regarded themselves as a legitimate resistance to occupation and so did most Lebanese.”

Bowen refrains from explaining why there was no Hizballah ‘resistance’ to the Syrian occupation in Lebanon or to inform listeners of the 1989 Taif Agreement and the fact that under that agreement, all militias – including Hizballah – were supposed to have been disarmed and disbanded.

Although in previous accounts Bowen has said “I’d been talking to my literary agent on the phone” at the time of the incident in which his driver was killed, in this programme his version is slightly different.

“The big mistake I made was deciding to stop to do a piece to camera overlooking an Israeli village. I discovered later that journalists and Israeli civilians were watching from a picnic spot as I got out of the car with Malik. I thought we were safe where we were but I didn’t realise that an Israeli battle tank had us in its sights.” […]

“I said to Malik ‘let’s get up there to help him’. Malik’s face was contorted. ‘No’, he said, ‘don’t do it. Abed is dead; he can’t have survived that and if you go up there too, they’ll kill you’. When cautiously I moved towards Abed’s body I heard bullets fizzing over my head and ducked back into cover. A team from the Times later said they heard the tank crew saying on the radio that they’d get the other two with the heavy machine gun. I’ll feel guilty till my last day that we stopped to film there.”

Bowen adds further context-free anecdotes of Israeli actions, telling listeners that in 1996:

“We joined a UN convoy that was trying to reach besieged civilians. The Israelis turned it back with some heavy shelling.”

And:

“Once, the Israelis were shelling the coastal highway from a war ship to stop people getting to southern Lebanon.”

And – while failing to clarify that the two-week Israeli operation in Lebanon in 1996 came after Hizballah shelled Israeli communities, injuring dozens of civilians:

“106 civilians were killed in a single incident in 1996 by Israeli shelling. They’d been sheltering in a UN peace-keeping base in a village called Qana in south Lebanon. Hundreds more were wounded. The UN didn’t accept Israel’s explanation that Hizballah had fired Katyusha rockets at them from close to the base. I’d been in a briefing in the Israeli Defence Ministry that claimed they knew everything that went on in south Lebanon but that day they said they didn’t know they were killing civilians even when UN liaison officers begged them to stop.”

Bowen goes on to use language that does not adhere to BBC editorial standards of impartiality.

“Qana’s dead were buried together. At the funeral I met Hassan Balhas; a young man who’d been left paraplegic by a stray Israeli bullet. 35 members of his family were killed in the massacre.” [emphasis added]

Listeners are also told by Bowen that:

“I’ve been to the homes of Israelis killed by Lebanese and their families’ grief is tragic to see. But there’s been just so much more of it in Lebanon where civilians have suffered disproportionately at the hands of Israel.” [emphasis added]

Going back to the May 2000 incident, Bowen tells listeners that his driver:

Looking into south Lebanon from the Menara area

“…did stop four years later on the day the Israeli army killed him. The Israeli military said the tank fired at us because they thought we were terrorists. That wasn’t the first assumption of Israeli civilians who were watching from their side of the border whose reaction was caught in video collected by a BBC investigation into Abed’s death.”

Listeners then hear an unidentified voice explaining that video.

“People are now saying in Hebrew this car was shot, it was shot from here. Some civilian is saying ‘they hit a civilian car – we’re going to have Katyushas now’. ‘This is very bad’, he’s saying.”

In fact, the Hebrew speaker is not heard using the term “civilian car” but the word “vehicle”. Bowen goes on:

“I went to see a general in the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv. He asked for some understanding. ‘Look’, he said, ‘there were young boys in that tank and they’d been warned they might be attacked by terrorists. They were scared’. I wasn’t very sympathetic. They were in a tank and we were civilians.”

Bowen has of course told that part of the story before too and is on record as refusing to accept the results of the IDF investigation into – and apology for – the tragic incident. Hence, seventeen years on the BBC’s Middle East editor is still using his position to promote the notion that it was impossible for Israeli soldiers to mistake three men travelling in a war zone in a car with Lebanese plates, and carrying camera equipment, for Hizballah terrorists dressed – as was very often the case – in civilian clothing. 

He then closes the item with an oblique, but clear, insinuation:

“Fighters in every war, on every side, dehumanise their enemies. They regard them as something less that living and breathing people who can feel love and fear and happiness. That way, it’s much easier to kill.”

Jeremy Bowen will no doubt continue his efforts to promote his version of this story for as long as the BBC and additional media outlets continue to provide him with the platform to do so. Nevertheless, it is worth bearing in mind that the man who repeatedly tells that story from that particular angle is also the person who for the last twelve years has been entrusted with ensuring that what BBC audiences are told about Israel meets editorial standards of accuracy, impartiality and objectivity.

Related Articles:

Middle East Editor – Jeremy Bowen

Jeremy Bowen: “The Israelis would have killed me too”

Jeremy Bowen’s pink shirt

Context-free Twitter messaging from BBC’s Jeremy Bowen

Jeremy Bowen’s annual reminder of why BBC coverage of Israel is as it is

BBC’s Bowen on CAMERA complaint result: still ‘indignant’ after all these years 

BBC WS culture show gives the latest mainstreaming platform to BDS

Nearly half of the June 19th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Cultural Frontline’ was devoted to the topic of Lebanon’s boycott of the film ‘Wonder Woman’.

“Why has the new Wonder Woman superhero movie been banned from cinemas in Lebanon? We hear about the campaign to boycott the film starring Israeli actress Gal Gadot and speak to political analyst Halim Shebaya in Beirut and Hollywood screenwriter Kamran Pasha in LA, on their arguments for and against the boycott and the ban.”

Presenter Tina Daheley began by telling listeners that:

“The new ‘Wonder Woman’ movie is a global box-office hit but why was it banned in Lebanon?”

Listeners then heard an unidentified voice say:

“It is a non-violent, peaceful way to draw attention to a very important issue.”

The item itself (from 01:18 here) began with Daheley promoting the usual – but inaccurate – BBC mantra according to which the Arab-Israeli conflict has its roots in the events of June 1967. Daheley failed to provide any relevant context concerning the causes of that war.

“…this month marks 50 years since the beginning of the six-day Arab-Israeli war that changed the borders in the Middle East and laid the groundwork for many of today’s issues in the region. The legacy of this decades-old animosity reverberates to this day and affects all aspects of life in the area, including in arts and culture.”

Listeners were told that:

“… just hours before its premiere in Lebanon, the government banned the screening of the movie, citing Gal Gadot’s Israeli background. Lebanon is officially at war with Israel and has a long-standing law in place that boycotts Israeli products and exports. But the last-minute decision by the Lebanese government to ban the film took cinemas by surprise [….] and there’ve been mixed reactions to the ban from audiences in Lebanon.”

Especially in light of Daheley’s introduction to the item, the fact that Lebanon’s law mandating a boycott of Israel was passed twelve years before the Six Day War took place should of course have been clarified, as should the fact that the law applies to more than “Israeli products and exports” and even forbids contact with individuals.  

Listeners then heard four anonymous ‘man in the street’ interviews that were also promoted separately by the BBC on social media.

Daheley next introduced her first interviewee – “Halim Shebaya; a political analyst at the School of Arts and Sciences at the Lebanese American University”.

Shebaya took pains to clarify that he is “not part of the group here that’s calling for the boycott of the movie” but did not clarify what group that is or that its founders include a Hizballah sympathiser. He continued:

“I think given that some pro-Palestinian voices have been calling for a boycott of the movie because of the lead actress’ positions on some issues. Israel has conducted many wars and there have been many civilian casualties in Lebanon and Gal Gadot was reported to have even been serving in the IDF – the Israeli army – during that period. You know, all Israelis have to serve in the army but she’s voiced some explicit public support for the Israeli army’s wars in Palestine [sic] and, I would assume, in Lebanon.”

Listeners were not informed that the 2006 conflict in Lebanon in fact began because the Lebanese terror group Hizballah conducted a cross-border raid and attacked civilian Israeli communities with missiles or that the 2014 conflict in Gaza was sparked by the terror group Hamas’ missile fire on Israeli civilians and construction of cross-border attack tunnels.

The conversation then drifted to the topic of Shebaya’s views on censorship in Lebanon in general before Daheley asked:

“Halim; do you think a cultural boycott can achieve anything?”

Shebaya: “I think it can. Today when we celebrate for example the life of various individuals who took stands in their lives in issues […] to draw attention to some injustices in the world. It is a non-violent, peaceful way to draw attention to a very important issue and whether it’s successful or not will be up for history. I think it has been successful. The boycott campaign has been successful and the end goal is always hopefully to get a peaceful resolution where Israelis and Palestinians and all Arab countries are living in peace; are living in justice. The cultural boycott will make people aware and hopefully spur them to call their governments to pressure all sides into, you know, reach just situation.”

Significantly, Daheley made no effort to challenge that inaccurate representation of the BDS campaign and failed to clarify to listeners that its aim is not ‘peace and justice’ but the eradication of Jewish self-determination in the State of Israel.

Daheley then introduced her second interviewee – ostensibly brought in to give an alternative view of the topic.

“But not everyone supports the boycott. Kamran Pasha is a Pakistani-born Muslim screenwriter, novelist and director living in Hollywood. After facing criticism on social media after writing a positive review of the film, he then posted a statement on Facebook to defend his position. He spoke to us from his home in LA to explain why he wasn’t in favour of a boycott or a ban.”

Pasha’s arguments included the fact that the film is not Israeli-made and that it has a diverse cast and a “positive message of reconciliation”. Listeners were told that:

“In Hollywood […] her [Gal Gadot’s] views are largely very restrained compared to most people that I work with. Most people in Hollywood are passionately pro-Israel.”

Pasha’s main point was not that a boycott is wrong or racist, but that it is ineffective.

“I understand the emotion behind many of the people choosing to boycott ‘Wonder Woman’ because they feel that Gal Gadot’s defence of the IDF  – I believe she posted something on Instagram saying she supported the IDF in its conflict in Gaza. At the same time I do not believe a boycott will be effective.”

Pasha went on to claim that “the best way to help the Palestinian people is for more people who are sympathetic to their position […] to come to Hollywood”, later adding that fighting “for the Palestinian cause […] is what I do here”.

He introduced the unrelated topic of South Africa into the discussion.

“Now we speak of BDS; we speak of the success of how boycotting was effective in South Africa. Many people in the BDS community use that analogy. And in my view BDS did a noble effort for many years that was not particularly effective in the 80s until Hollywood started noticing and then you started having the South African villain […] and right after that there was a seismic shift in public perception about apartheid was happening in South Africa.”

Worldwide listeners to this programme obviously did not hear two opposing opinions on the topic of this latest manifestation of anti-Israel boycotts. What they heard instead was like-minded people debating the technical merits of a boycott campaign (directed at a person solely because of her nationality and ethnicity) rather than its content.

This is of course by no means the first time that the BBC has provided an unchallenged platform for supporters of the anti-Israel, anti-peace BDS campaign without clarification of its real agenda and in the past, BBC audiences have even seen that campaign misrepresented as a ‘human rights’ organisation. Moreover, the BBC claimed in 2015 that it is “not our role” to inform audiences to what the campaigners to whom it regularly gives airtime and column space actually aspire.

And thus – as this latest example once again shows – the BBC continues its policy of mainstreaming an aggressive political campaign that both targets individuals on the basis of their religion and ethnicity and aims to deny the right of self-determination to one particular ethnic group.

Related Articles:

 Omission and inaccuracy in BBC’s ‘Wonder Woman’ Lebanon ban report

BBC’s Connolly misleads on Lebanese boycott law

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the Tablet, Matti Friedman discusses media cooperation with repressive regimes.

“Western news organizations that maintain a presence in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, for example, make compromises in return for access and almost never tell readers what those compromises are. The result, in many cases, is something worse than no coverage—it’s something that looks like coverage, but is actually misinformation, giving people the illusion that they know what’s going on instead of telling them outright that they’re getting information shaped by regimes trying to mislead them. […]

The most relevant example from my own experience as an AP correspondent in Jerusalem between 2006 and 2011 is Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, and where the AP has a sub-bureau. Running that sub-bureau requires both passive and active cooperation with Hamas. To give one example of many, during the Israel-Hamas war that erupted at the end of 2008, our local Palestinian reporter in Gaza informed the news desk in Jerusalem that Hamas fighters were dressed as civilians and were being counted as civilians in the death toll—a crucial detail. A few hours later, he called again and asked me to strike the detail from the story, which I did personally; someone had clearly spoken to him, and the implication was that he was at risk. […]

From that moment on, more or less, AP’s coverage from Gaza became a quiet collaboration with Hamas. Certain rules were made clear to the local staffers in Gaza, and those of us outside Gaza were warned not to put our Gazan staff at risk. Our coverage shifted accordingly, though we never informed our readers. Hamas military actions were left vague or ignored, while the effects of Israeli actions were reported at length, giving the impression of wanton Israeli aggression, just as Hamas wanted.”

2) Yaakov Lappin has a useful backgrounder on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad with a link to further information.

“In Gaza, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is a quarter of the size of Hamas, but that has not stopped it from running its own rocket production centers, digging tunnels, training and arming its operatives.

Iranian assistance enables PIJ to be Gaza’s second biggest terrorist army. Ideologically, it is significantly closer to Tehran than Hamas. And unlike Hamas, PIJ faces none of the dilemas of sovereignty and governance over Gaza’s two million people.”

3) With Hizballah flags set to fly once again on London’s streets this coming Sunday, the FDD’s Tony Badran has a timely analysis of that terror organisation’s standing on its home turf.

“Unfortunately, the goals of strengthening the Lebanese state and disarming Hezbollah are at odds with each other. Hezbollah has completed its takeover of the Lebanese state, including and especially its political institutions and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), along with other security agencies. Strengthening the Lebanese state today means strengthening Hezbollah.

Hezbollah’s control over Lebanon ensures that counting on the “Lebanese state” to disarm Hezbollah is a non-starter. The function of the Lebanese government is to defend Hezbollah, and to align its policies with the preferences of the group and of its patrons in Tehran.”

4) At the Tower, Seth Frantzman also takes a look at Hizballah and Lebanon – seventeen years after Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon.

“May 24 marked 17 years since Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon. The border is quiet now, but every day brings news of ill winds blowing from the north. In early May a man infiltrated Israel from Lebanon and wandered into the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona before being apprehended—an incident that rocked the Israeli defense establishment. Reports indicate that new fencing costing 100 million NIS will be put up along the border, similar to the “smart fences” on the borders with Jordan, Egypt, and Gaza.

As Israel upgrades the fence, the terrorist group Hezbollah is ensconced in Beirut with more power and legitimacy than ever. On May 11 the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah played the pragmatic moderate as he sought to allay Christian Maronite concerns over new elections. The Lebanese parliament’s term expires on June 20 and Christians fear their power is being eroded. Nasrallah isn’t worried, because for all intents and purposes his dream of being the main political and military power in Lebanon has come true. […]

The problem in Lebanon is that both the Christian and Sunni opposition are neutered. They gave up their weapons after the civil war and allowed Hezbollah to keep theirs. The likelihood that Jihadist and Salafi networks will put down roots in Lebanon grows in response to the power of Hezbollah. Whatever fantasies Israel once had for an alliance with Lebanese Christians and the idea that Lebanon, a formerly peaceful country seen as the “Paris” or “Switzerland” of the Levant, could be a good neighbor, is gone forever. Hezbollah will only grow. It is a key Iranian asset, one that is indispensable in the Syrian civil war. Nasrallah has taken to commenting on crises in Yemen and elsewhere, looking beyond Lebanon in hopes of playing a regional role.”