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.

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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.

 

A French newspaper reports on a topic the BBC avoids

Despite the fact that the BBC has a permanent presence in Beirut, the last time its audiences saw any reporting from southern Lebanon was over three years ago. Last year, Hizballah violations of UNSC resolution 1701 received no coverage whatsoever.

BBC News yawns over another violation of UNSC resolution 1701

Another UN SC resolution violation goes unreported by the BBC

Calls for a review of the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon – UNIFIL – in August 2017 were not reported by the BBC in the English language until three weeks after the story broke.

The Jerusalem Post recently published an article which is based on a French newspaper’s interviews with UNIFIL soldiers based in south Lebanon.

“The UN force in Lebanon has accused Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army of hampering their work, which includes spying on the peacekeepers, in a report due to appear on the website of French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, on Friday.

 The report quotes a chief warrant officer for the French contingent as saying during an interview: “In the evening we never leave the barracks because the Lebanese forces are not friendly. […]

“We are caught in the aggressor’s grip. Doing the bare minimum has become a political choice,” the officer added.

A former liaison officer with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, who was only recently transferred to another post, told the newspaper that “when we would detect military activities in our area, especially near the Blue Line [border with Israel], the Lebanese Army would prevent us from posting observers. It is as if those decisions did not come from them. Everyone knows that Hezbollah is using the area for the next war.””

The dearth of up to date BBC reporting on the situation in southern Lebanon and UNIFIL’s failure to implement UNSC resolution 1701 obviously means that if and when conflict between Israel and Hizballah does break out again, the corporation’s audiences – as well as the journalists it sends to cover the events – will lack the insight crucial to understanding of the background and context to that story. 

Related Articles:

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

A border dispute BBC audiences know nothing about

Weekend long read

1) At the Tablet, Tony Badran discusses the US Secretary of State’s recent visit to Lebanon.

“As the military confrontation between Iran and its regional proxies on one hand, and Israel on the other hand, heats up, Lebanon has emerged as the nerve center of the Iranian camp. On the eve of Tillerson’s visit, Lebanon hosted Akram al-Kaabi, the leader of an Iraqi militia which operates under the command of Iran’s Qods Force. From Beirut, al-Kaabi stated his group would fight Israel alongside Hezbollah in a future war. The presence of al-Kaabi in Lebanon—his terrorist comrade Qais al-Khazali had dropped by late last year—underscored Lebanon’s role as a hub for Iran’s regional terrorist assets.”

2) The Times of Israel carries an excerpt from Ben Dror Yemini’s latest book – now available in English.

“We must admit that there is no chance for peace in the foreseeable future.

It’s not that the solution is complicated. Despite the disagreements, despite the fantasy of mass Return, and despite the isolated settlements, there are clear parameters for peace. Bill Clinton presented them in late 2000; the Geneva plan presented a similar plan in 2002; Ehud Olmert repeated it, with semantic changes, in 2008; John Kerry introduced two versions with almost the same parameters in 2014. Even the Arab initiative, if we take away the fantasy of mass Return, could have been the basis for an agreement.

Although the parameters are known, peace cannot be achieved.”

3) The ITIC has published a report titled “Palestinian Terrorism: Analysis of 2017 and Forecast for 2018” (full version available in Hebrew here).

“Mahmoud Abbas, the PA and Fatah continue their indirect encouragement of popular terrorism and the shaheed cult in general in various ways. That includes speeches and public declarations issued by senior figures, glorifying the Palestinians who carry out attacks, providing political and media support for popular terrorism, the participation of senior PA and Fatah figures at the funerals held for terrorists killed while carrying out attacks, paying condolence calls to the families of terrorists who were killed, naming streets, institutions and town squares for shaheeds and providing financial support to the families of shaheeds and prisoners.”

4) Professor Richard Landes has produced a video overview of BBC and CNN coverage of UNSC resolution 2334.

“I have, over the past year, slowly put together a video using my archive of recordings of BBC Global and CNN International’s news broadcasts. It portrays a mindset among journalism that has them “in the name of the ‘whole world’,” misinforming the whole world by reciting Palestinian war propaganda as news. “Everybody knows it’s Israel’s fault” that there’s no peace settlement.

Among other violations of journalistic principles of presenting the relevant evidence, I indict the MSTVNM (mainstream TV news media) for not letting their audiences know what Palestinian leaders – both PA and Hamas – say in Arabic, thus compounding the misdirection involved in highlighting and affirming what Palestinian spokespeople say in English.”

Related Articles:

A border dispute BBC audiences know nothing about

 

A border dispute BBC audiences know nothing about

A long-running dispute between Lebanon and Israel concerning land and maritime borders has recently been making headlines again – although those getting their news from the BBC would not be aware of that fact. The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s related visit to Beirut on February 15th (as part of a Middle East tour that was barely covered by the corporation) was not reported and neither were related threats from the head of a terrorist organisation.

As Ha’aretz reported:

“During a press conference in Beirut on Thursday, Tillerson, who arrived in Lebanon as part of his Mideast trip, discussed the growing tensions between Israel and Lebanon, and urged Lebanese leaders to ensure the border between the two countries remains calm.

Lebanon has an unresolved dispute with Israel over the territorial and maritime border issues, in particular concerning Block 9 in the Mediterranean sea which extends partly into waters claimed by Israel. Recently Lebanon has signed an offshore oil and gas exploration and production agreements for the contentious block.”

The US has been trying to mediate between Israel and Lebanon on that issue for some time – as explained in a comprehensive article by Oded Eran of the INSS.

“In late 2011, Israel, out of a willingness to compromise, began to look for diplomatic ways to resolve the developing dispute. In inter-ministerial consultations, the decision was taken not to grant new licenses for the area under dispute in order to facilitate a compromise solution. It was decided not to use UNIFIL as a channel for discussion between Israel and Lebanon, since the mandate of the Force does not refer to the maritime border, and Israel prefers to avoid UN mediation. The Israel interest in mediation led to several contacts by third parties, and ultimately American mediation was the preferred option.

In February 2012, State Department Special Envoy for Middle East Peace Frederic Hof, who was heavily involved in developments in Syria in the framework of the Arab Spring, undertook the task of mediation. Israel reiterated to him its willingness to resolve the dispute by reaching a compromise in direct talks with representatives of the Lebanese government. In April 2012, at separate meetings in London (in view of the Lebanese refusal to participate in a joint meeting), Hof submitted a proposed compromise involving division of the disputed area. On May 2, 2013, then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman approved the American proposal, even though it granted Lebanon a larger share of the area. To this day no official response from Lebanon has been received, although according to reports of US diplomats in contact with the Lebanese government, they discussed inter alia depositing the proposal with the UN. From this it appears that the proposal was acceptable to the Lebanese government.”

As the Times of Israel reported, the dispute also includes a barrier which is being constructed by Israel along its border with Lebanon.

“On Monday, Lebanese military officials told their Israeli counterparts during face-to-face talks that the border wall violates Lebanon’s sovereign territory.

Israel has been building the obstacle — made up of a collection of berms, cliffs and concrete barriers — for a long time, but it has only now angered Beirut.”

Prior to the US Secretary of State’s visit to Beirut:

“Lebanon’s top security body on Wednesday instructed the country’s military to confront any Israeli “aggression” on its land or maritime borders. […]

Hezbollah, a powerful terror group considered to have more military clout than the Lebanese army itself, recently threatened to open fire on IDF soldiers building the barrier, Israel’s Hadashot TV news reported last week.”

Of course under the terms of UN Security Council resolution 1701, the border area is supposed to be “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL”.  

The day after Mr Tillerson’s visit, Lebanon dismissed the US mediation efforts.

“The speaker of Lebanon’s parliament on Friday rejected a US proposal to resolve a maritime border dispute between the country and Israel.

“The proposal is unacceptable,” Nabih Berri was quoted as telling acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield by the official NNA news agency.”

And on the same day, the leader of the Hizballah terror organisation weighed in.

“Hezbollah on Friday urged Lebanon to stand firm in its offshore energy dispute with Israel and warned it could act against Israeli oil facilities if necessary, as the U.S. mediates between the two countries.

In a televised address, the leader of the heavily-armed, Iran-backed movement, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, described the issue as a “battle for all of Lebanon”.

“If Lebanon’s Higher Defence Council were to decide that (Israeli) offshore oil and gas plants…should be forbidden from working, I promise they would stop working within hours,” he told a rally.”

Yet oddly, while this dispute obviously has the potential to escalate into more than verbal sabre-rattling, BBC audiences are not even aware of its existence.

Weekend long read

1) MEMRI provides a translation of an article appearing on a pro-Hizballah website.

“A February 9, 2018 article on the pro-Hizbullah Lebanese website Dahiya claims that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad recently rejected an Israeli demand, relayed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, to remove some 70,000 Iranian long-range missiles that Hizbullah has deployed throughout Syria and are aimed at Israel. The article claimed further that Syria and Hizbullah will wage a “joint missile campaign” against Israel, and that Iranian experts are ready to launch missiles at Israel from every part of Lebanon and Syria. According to the article, Assad has instructed his army to help Hizbullah construct and camouflage missile silos across the country; moreover, intense activity is underway to bring more Iranian missiles to Syria via Iraq, so that within a year Hizbullah will have 500,000 missiles in Syria, in addition to the ones it has already deployed in Lebanon.”

2) Writing at the JNS, Yaakov Lappin discusses Hizballah’s influence on the Lebanese military.

“For the United States, the LAF is a regional partner in the war against the Islamic State. It has received both U.S. funding and arms sales for that purpose.

According to Israeli military assessments, however, the LAF is increasingly coming under the sway of the Iranian-backed terror organization Hezbollah, which dominates Lebanon politically and militarily. […]

A recent visit to the Lebanese-Israeli border by a high-ranking Iranian official, Ebrahim Raisi, who is close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, offers an accurate illustration of who is in control of Lebanon. Raisi was given a tour by armed Hezbollah members, vowing during his visit that “soon, we will witness the liberation of Jerusalem.””

3) At the Asia Times, former UNHCR official Alexander Casella addresses the debate surrounding UNRWA.

“The creation of UNRWA 70 years ago corresponded to a real humanitarian need. However, inbuilt in the fulfillment of that need were two political considerations, the so-called “right of return” and the fact that Palestinian refugee status would be handed down from generation to generation. Both these notions were predicated on what was at the time the core of Arab policy as regards Palestine, namely the obliteration of the State of Israel.

Not only did this not happen but with the recognition of Israel by Jordan and Egypt and the de facto rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, what started off as a political expedient is today a major handicap, and the Palestinian refugee issue is one that both the Arab states and Israel could well do without.

While addressing it is a major political issue that continues to bedevil the Middle East, UNRWA, which started off as a solution, is now part of the problem. And, perversely, while it continues to discharge its assistance mandate, doing so has created among many of its wards as well as among several Arab governments a dependency, not to say a premium for inaction, of which Gaza is a prime example.”

4) Jonathan Spyer discusses the recent Russian sponsored Syrian peace conference.

“The Russians first of all failed even to bring the main protagonists of the war around the table.

The main, UN-recognised Syrian opposition formation, the Syrian Negotiation Commission, did not attend.  One senior member of the commission described the conference as a ‘meeting between the regime and the regime.’  An opposition website produced a picture of a beaming Syrian President Bashar Assad shaking hands with himself as a representation of the Sochi gathering. […]

The United States, France and Britain also did not attend the gathering, seeing it as a Russian attempt to circumvent the UN-sponsored process in order to bring about an outcome more favorable to the Assad regime.

Representatives of the Kurdish Federation of Northern Syria, which controls Syria east of the Euphrates, were not at the conference. The Syrian Kurdish leadership has sought to maintain working relations with Moscow, despite the Kurdish cooperation with the US in Syria.  But Moscow’s acquiescence to the current Turkish assault on the Kurdish Afrin canton in north west Syria has led to widespread anger among the Kurds.  Kurds belonging to rival factions also did not attend.”

 

Can UK MPs turn to the BBC for accurate information on Hizballah?

In his latest report on “The week ahead in Parliament” the BBC’s parliamentary correspondent Mark D’Arcy notes that on January 25th the House of Commons will hold:

“…a general debate on proscription of Hezbollah, led by Labour MP Joan Ryan. She will argue that Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation, driven by an anti-Semitic ideology, and has had a role in destabilising Lebanon, and fighting in Syria. She wants the Government to end its policy of only proscribing Hezbollah’s so-called political wing.”

Two days ahead of that debate MPs were provided with a research briefing on the topic which explains the UK’s current position.

“The UK proscribes the military wing of Hizbollah as a terrorist group, but not the political side of the organisation. The UK Government has long held the view that Hizbollah’s military wing has been involved in conducting and supporting terrorism, and in March 2001, the Hizbollah External Security Organisation (ESO), part of the broader military wing of Hizbollah, was added to the list of proscribed organisations under the Terrorism Act 2000.

On 2 July 2008, Parliament passed The Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2008, extending the prohibition to the whole of the military wing of Hizbollah.

At the time, the Government emphasised that this would not affect Hizbollah’s political, social and humanitarian activities. The current Government has also confirmed that proscription is limited to Hizbollah’s military wing, and does not apply to the organisation’s political activities.”

The previous day another research briefing titled “Lebanon 2018” was also published by the House of Commons library. Both the reports provided in those briefings amplify a myth concerning Hizballah’s origin that is commonly promoted in BBC content.

“Hizbollah – or the Party of God – is a powerful political and military organisation of Shia Muslims in Lebanon. The group was formed, with backing from Iran, in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The group calls for the destruction of the state of Israel, regarding the whole of Palestine as occupied Muslim land.” [emphasis added]

Both those reports claim that:

“During the 2006 war, Hizbollah fired rockets deep into northern Israel. Since then their rocket arsenal has grown to maybe as many as 150,000 rockets with ranges up to 200km. Hizbollah also has armoured vehicles and some warplanes, adding up to a military strength that is certainly greater than the Lebanese Army’s and is comparable to many neighbouring Arab states’.” [emphasis added]

The earlier report twice promotes Hizballah’s baseless claim of Israeli involvement in the murder of Rafik Hariri – a claim that has also been amplified by the BBC.

“In 2007, a UN Special Tribunal was set up to investigate the 2005 assassination of Rafiq Hariri, a former Prime Minister of Lebanon and the present Prime Minister’s father. In 2011 the Tribunal served indictments against four supporters of Hizbollah, whose trial in absentia is continuing. Other reports have blamed the assassination on the Syrian Government, while Hizbollah has said that the Israelis or the Saudis are responsible.” [emphasis added]

The earlier report also promotes an assessment of the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon that was recently contradicted by a census that got no BBC coverage.

“There are about 1 million registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon and many more unregistered (as well as some 450,000 Palestinian refugees).” [emphasis added]

The report’s author allows himself to promote his own conjecture concerning Israel’s security assessments but fails to provide British MPs with information concerning the Hizballah leader’s regular threats against Israel or the terror group’s efforts (together with Iran) to secure a presence on the border between Israel and Syria.

“Israel probably calculates that there is enough instability in the region without an Israeli strike on Hizbollah.”

Remarkably, neither of these reports makes any mention of Hizballah’s criminal activities abroad that fund its terrorism. The only oblique reference to Hizballah’s violations of UNSC resolutions – a topic serially avoided by the BBC – comes in the vague statement “UN Security Council resolutions call for armed militia groups like Hizbollah to disarm”.

Hizballah’s manipulation of internal Lebanese politics (a subject similarly under-reported by the BBC) is also sidelined in the report, as are the effects of its terror activities on the Lebanese banking system. Like the BBC, this report also ignores the issue of Hizballah’s attempts to set up terror cells inside Israel.

Given that these two research briefings are lacking much of the information relevant to an informed discussion of Hizballah, it would be natural for members of the British public and MPs alike to turn to their publicly funded national broadcaster in order to look for more in-depth information.

Unfortunately, however, the BBC has itself spent years cultivating the myth of separate ‘wings’ of Hizballah and whitewashing the fact that it is a terrorist organisation through use of euphemisms such as “Lebanese Shia group” as well as misrepresenting its terror designation by numerous countries and misleading audiences with regard to its activities.

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BBC News ignores a media freedom story from Lebanon

Last year BBC Radio 4 produced a couple of programmes about a call from Gulf States to close certain media organisations – including Al Jazeera and Middle East Eye – in which the story was framed as an assault on media freedom.

BBC media editor’s softball interview with fellow journalist sold audiences short

Also last year, the BBC produced reports concerning Israeli complaints about Al Jazeera that were described as “an attack on free and independent media”.

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part one

BBC’s Israel-Al Jazeera row reporting displays double standards – part two

BBC journalists protest imprisonment of Al Jazeera journalists by Egypt in 2014

Given that proclaimed interest in freedom of the press and the BBC’s track record of calling out some past cases of prison terms given to journalists, one might have therefore expected to see at least one report about a journalist sentenced to imprisonment in absentia by a military court.

“A Lebanese military court has handed down a six-month prison sentence to a journalist for comments critical of the Lebanese army, highlighting the close ties the army has with Hezbollah, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

Hanin Ghaddar, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy known for her vocal criticism of the Iranian-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah, as well as Iran’s efforts to spread its Islamic revolution across the Middle East, stands accused of “undermining the Lebanese army.”

The court ruled that Ghaddar, a U.S. resident, was guilty of “defaming the Lebanese army, harming its reputation and accusing it of distinguishing between Lebanese citizens,” because of an expose she delivered at a conference held by the Washington Institute in May 2014. […]

The Beirut-based SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom condemned the court’s ruling as “a dangerous precedent in Lebanon, in which the military judiciary intervenes in a civil case.”

The sentence is “a new step toward turning the Lebanese government into an authoritarian regime, similar to other regimes in the region, where military judiciary is used for oppressing the public under vague terms and false arguments,” the statement added.”

Curiously however, BBC audiences have to date seen no reporting whatsoever of Hanin Ghaddar’s story.

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BBC News ignores a story about press freedom

A media story the BBC ignored surfaces again

 

Unravelling years of BBC statistics on Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

Among the BBC News website’s profuse coverage of the December 6th US announcement of its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel were reports concerning violent rioting in Beirut:

Beirut protests: ‘Jerusalem remains a rallying cry’Martin Patience, 10/12/17

Trump Jerusalem move: Tear gas at Lebanon US embassy protest” 10/12/17

In the second of those reports, readers were told that:

“Lebanon is home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, including those who fled Israel after it was founded, and their descendants.”

But exactly how many are “hundreds of thousands”?

An online search of BBC reports on that topic shows that in 1999 the BBC told its audiences that there were 350,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon but did not give a source for that number. In 2003 the BBC quoted a figure of 376,472 citing UNRWA and the same UN agency was cited as the source of a figure of 391,679 the following year.

A backgrounder produced in 2008 also quoted UNRWA, informing BBC audiences that as of December 2006 there were 408,438 registered Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. In August 2010 BBC audiences were told of “an estimated 400,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon” and an article published the following month – September 2010 – cited a figure of 405,425 without clarifying its source.

However, a recent development makes the sourcing of those numbers cited by the BBC over the years especially interesting. 

In February of this year the first ever census of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon was begun and its results were made public last week, as reported by AP:

“The first official census of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon has revealed that there are 174,422 Palestinians now living in Lebanon, a figure almost two thirds less than previously estimated.

The Palestinians — both original refugees and their descendants — were believed to number about 450,000 but tens of thousands emigrated from Lebanon in over the past decades, seeking better opportunities.

The census released Thursday was conducted by the Lebanese Central Administration of Statistics and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.”

Reporting the same story, the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star provides some interesting insight into the UNRWA supplied figures quoted by the BBC over the years.

“The findings came as a surprise to some, as the standard estimate of the Palestinian refugee population in Lebanon cited by local and international media as well as aid groups has long stood around 450,000. This figure was based upon the number of refugees registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

As no census in Lebanon had ever taken place, UNRWA’s registration records served as the most reliable go-to source for an estimate.

However, UNRWA has never claimed that the number of registered refugees in Lebanon should have served as a de-facto head-count for the population.

“We have 469,331 refugees officially registered with UNRWA in Lebanon,” Huda Samra, spokesperson for the U.N. agency, told The Daily Star. “This reflects the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon who come to us to register for benefits, which include educational, vocational and health services.”

Deaths or relocation outside the camps and perhaps to other countries are not necessarily reported to UNRWA.” [emphasis added]

In other words, for nearly two decades (at least) the BBC has been promoting statistics which did not – and according to the UNRWA spokesperson quoted by The Daily Star, were never intended to – reflect the actual number of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon.

Related Articles:

BBC’s ‘Obstacles to Peace’: wrong on right of return – Part 1

BBC’s ‘Obstacles to Peace’: wrong on right of return – Part 2

The BBC’s reporting of statistics and Gaza casualty ratios