Weekend long read

1) Writing at Tablet Magazine, Tony Badran explains why “Hezbollah Isn’t Broke. So Why Is Everyone Claiming Otherwise?”.

“Terrorist groups like Hezbollah are withering on the vine as Iran sanctions take effect,” Sen. Tom Cotton tweeted last week, voicing what has now become a consensus in Washington. […]

But this conventional wisdom is wrong. Hezbollah is nowhere close to being broke.

Such a result would indeed be remarkable, if true, considering that many of the administration’s new sanctions meant to hurt Hezbollah’s patron, Iran, have only been in effect for a few months, and not all have been fully applied. Without question, the maximum pressure campaign is the right policy. And there is no doubt that the administration’s economic squeeze is inflicting serious pain on Tehran, though more pressure can and should be applied. But none of this means that Hezbollah is “withering” or close to it. That assessment has been concocted by U.S. officials who latched onto isolated comments by Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, and other flimsy evidence, which they are using to reach rash and unfounded conclusions about the organization’s financial state.”

2) At the JCPA Pinchas Inbari takes a look at “The Fate of Palestinian Refugees in Syria and Lebanon”.

“As soon as the bitter fate of the Yarmouk camp became known there was a secret European initiative to transfer the refugees from the camp to the abandoned site of Aqbat Jaber in Palestinian-controlled Jericho. Mahmoud Abbas rejected the initiative, however, insisting that the right of return does not apply to territories in the Palestinian Authority but to Israel. In private conversations, senior Palestinian officials said that the Palestinian Authority does not want the refugees from Yarmouk within its boundaries because they support Hamas. […]

Ramallah’s apathy was the outcome of the PLO’s position as representative of the refugees. Ad hoc groups were formed to handle the Palestinian disaster, without any connection to the PLO, and some of them were even hostile to it, such as the “Action Group for the Palestinians of Syria.” […]

Hamas saw the vacuum in leadership and gave its support to the Palestinian refugee organizations in Europe. Hamas is currently involved in building a new PLO, and providing patronage for the refugees abandoned by Ramallah may be an important foundation stone in this process.”

3) The ITIC documents last week’s al Quds day events around the world.

“Every year, Global Jerusalem Day events are held in Iran, the Arab states and the West. This year, in Iran hundreds of thousands of people participated in the events, which were also attended by senior figures in the Iranian regime. In the Arab world prominent events were held in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and Yemen. In South East Asia events were held in India and Pakistan, and in the West in Germany, Britain, Austria and Canada. Inspired by Iran, Global Jerusalem Day events had as their theme rejection of the “deal of the century,” calling for practical measures to be taken to ensure its failure. Also prominent were threats against the United States, Israel, and American allies in the Arab-Muslim world (especially Saudi Arabia).”

4) At the INSS, Oded Eran and Shimon Stein discuss “Israel and the New European Parliament”.

“While the results of the recent European Parliament elections indicate a weakening of parties that for years have directed the course of the European Union, they also show relatively high support for a strong organization that wields power and influence. That suggests that no significant change should be expected in EU policy, including in matters of foreign affairs and security. In the Israeli context – and specifically regarding the Iranian nuclear issue and the anticipated Trump administration plan on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – this means that the roots of the disputes between Israel and the EU will remain. Even if the EU is not expected to reduce its ties with Israel, given the respective political situations prevailing in the European Union and Israel, no deepening or expansion of ties should be expected.”

 

Weekend long read

1) Ahead of Al Quds Day, the Henry Jackson Society has published a report on the ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission’ by Emma Fox.

“The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) is a London-based advocacy group established in 1997, inspired by the worldview of Ayatollah Khomeini and the revolutionary, theocratic societal aims he established in the Islamic Republic of Iran. IHRC has gained prominence in recent years for its pro-Hezbollah Al Quds Day parades, its controversial ‘Islamophobia Awards’ and the anti-Semitic rhetoric espoused by the group’s senior figures. However, less attention has been given to IHRC’s wider extremist links and terrorist sympathies. There is also a lack of understanding as to how extremist groups can exploit the charitable sector; obtain public funds; acquire status via academic associates; attain international recognition; and influence governments.”

2) At the ITIC, Dr Raz Zimmt reports on this year’s Al Quds Day theme.

“The “International Quds [Jerusalem] Day,” is held each year since 1979 on the last Friday in the month of Ramadan, following a ruling of the leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ruhollah Khomeini. The event is intended to express the support for the Palestinian cause by Iran and the Muslim world and the “liberation of Palestine,” as well as to besmirch Israel, call of its eradication and defy the United States, the West and their Arab regional allies. […]

Iran, which is facing increasing pressured from the United States, wishes to turn “International Quds Day”, set to take place this Friday, May 31, 2019, to a show of opposition to the peace plan of President Trump, known as the “deal of the century.” On the eve of Quds Day, Ramazan Sharif, the Spokesman of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), declared that the slogan used for Quds Day rallies this year will be “the defeat of the Deal of the Century and stabilization of the Palestinian Question.” He lambasted the “deal of the century” and warned that its purpose is to eliminate Palestine.”

3) The ITIC also documents the “Strong Palestinian Authority rejection of the upcoming American economic workshop in Bahrain”.

“The United States and Bahrain recently announced an economic workshop in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, on June 25 and 26, 2019. The “Peace to Prosperity” meeting will constitute the overture of the American program for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, known as the “deal of the century.” Expected attendees are treasury ministers and businessmen from the Middle East and around the globe. The objective of the workshop is to encourage potential investment in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip that would lead to Palestinian and regional prosperity, which could be made possible by a peace agreement. Later, the Americans are planning to release the political aspects of the “deal of the century,” which will concern the unresolved core issues between Israel and the Palestinians.

Senior Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah figures rushed to announce their unreserved rejection of the economic workshop in Bahrain, despite the severe economic difficulties facing the PA.”

4) Robert Bernstein – the founder of one of the BBC’s most quoted and promoted NGOs, Human Rights Watchpassed away this week at the age of 96. In 2010 he gave a speech on Human Rights in the Middle East.

“During my twenty years at Human Rights Watch, I had spent little time on Israel. It was an open society. It had 80 human rights organizations like B’Tselem, ACRI, Adalah, and Sikkuy. It had more newspaper reporters in Jerusalem than any city in the world except New York and London. Hence, I tried to get the organization to work on getting some of the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly free speech, into closed societies – among them, the 22 Arab states surrounding Israel. The faults of democratic countries were much less of a priority not because there were no faults, obviously, but because they had so many indigenous human rights groups and other organizations openly criticizing them. […]

A Human Rights Watch Board member told The New Republic that they go after Israel because it is like “low-hanging fruit.” By that, I think he means that they have a lot of information fed to them by Israel’s own human rights organizations and the press, that they have easy access to Israel to hold their press conferences, and that the press is eager to accept their reports. The organization, most would agree, was founded to go after what I guess you would call “high-hanging fruit” – that is, closed societies, where it is hard to get in. Nations that will not allow you to hold press conferences in their country. Nations where there are no other human rights organizations to give you the information.”

BBC News disregards al Quds Day hate in London once again

Back in February the BBC News website published an article on one of its regional UK pages about graffiti on a billboard in Luton.

“Police are investigating after a billboard advertising an al-Quds Day rally was vandalised in Luton. […]

Also known as Jerusalem Day, al-Quds Day originated in Iran in 1979 and the poster was billed as “United for Palestine”.

The words “ban race hate posters” were daubed over it. It has been taken down.

The poster advertises and rally and march in London on 10 June. […]

…Reza Kazim, from the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) which is behind the poster, said it “is not dividing the community” and the removal of it “censors free speech”.”

The link provided in that report leads readers to an article published by the BBC in 2013 in which the racial hatred and terror promotion that typify al Quds Day events was whitewashed.

Given the BBC’s past record of ignoring the annual IHRC-organised jamboree of anti-Israel/anti-Jewish hate and public support for the Hizballah terror group, it was hardly surprising to see that this year too no coverage of that June 10 event appeared on the BBC News website. The BBC’s funding public therefore remained unaware of the fact that the rally included calls for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Israel that were met with raucous applause.

“I have a couple of messages today. One message for the Jewish people who are living in Palestine, the other message for the Zionist bunch who are occupying the Palestine, and the other messages is for the Saudis – we are standing in front of their embassy – and the people who are standing on the wrong side. My message to the Jewish people of Palestine is that the British governments, several decades ago, and then America used you to wipe Palestine off the map and you can make sure that the resistance will come and free Palestine and wipe Israel off the map. […] We tell you, you haven’t seen in the Al Quds Day yet. The Al Quds Day, when we march into Al Quds (cheers) with all the conscientious people, with people who have human hearts, with Muslims, and Jews and Christians, we will come, we will free Palestine and we will free the world of this Zionist bunch who is supported by all corrupt powers in the world. My message to the Zionist bunch who are occupying Palestine: “Your days are numbered, either you go yourself, or we will drive you away, we will kick you out of Palestine, that’s a promise.” 

As noted at ‘Harry’s Place’:

“Bahmanpour’s speech alone makes a mockery of the UK’s absurd distinction between the “military” and “political” wings of Hezbollah. The former is a proscribed terrorist group while the latter is not. Hezbollah itself makes no such distinction and nor do its supporters really believe in any separation, including the Al Quds speakers and marchers assembled by the self-styled Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC).”

The motifs heard by the crowd in London were remarkably similar to those heard two days before by Hizballah supporters in south Lebanon when they saw a televised speech marking al Quds Day from Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah.

“Our speech, the Palestinian people’s speech, the Arab and Islamic people’s speech and even Islam’s speech, I can claim that this is Islam’s speech, and the resistance’s speech is we do not want to kill. We do not want to destroy. We do not want to throw anyone into the sea. We tell you with all civility, take your ships, board your planes and return to the countries you came from. The native Jews who are the people of Palestine remain in Palestine. However, the invaders, the settlers who came from all over the world leave. This is the message of Islam, the message of the resistance and the message of the people of the region. No one is going to make a new Holocaust like what Netanyahu said. But if you insist on the occupation, I tell you the day of the great war in this region will come. It will be the day that all of us will pray in al-Quds. We are waiting for that day. A positive waiting. Preparatory waiting. The true faithful waiting.”

And for those wondering who exactly are “the native Jews” or “the Jewish people who are living in Palestine”, here is a taste of the thinking behind such terminology.

As the BBC reported at the time, in January of this year a debate on the UK’s currently partial proscription of Hizballah was held in the House of Commons and that topic remains under discussion. Obviously public and parliamentary debates are not enhanced by the fact that Britain’s public broadcaster repeatedly refrains from reporting on the advocacy of ethnic cleansing of Jews from Israel either in London or by the leader of the terror group whose flags fly on the British capital’s streets.

The fact that the BBC has also 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” or “Lebanese political and military group” as well as misrepresenting its terror designation by numerous countries and misleading audiences with regard to its activities is also clearly not conducive to meeting the corporation’s public purposes.

Related Articles:

BBC tones down Iranian rhetoric and extremism

More BBC whitewashing of ‘Al Quds Day’

BBC News ignores Al Quds Day – in English

Why BBC accuracy matters for its funding British public

Islamic Human Rights Commission & Al Quds Day: Tip of the UK’s Iranian support network iceberg (UK Media Watch)

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

 

 

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.”

 

 

Why BBC accuracy matters for its funding British public

Not for the first time, the annual Al Quds Day march held in London earlier this month did not receive any coverage on the BBC News website. As the Jewish Chronicle reported, the event included the inevitable Iranian sponsored defamation and demonisation of Israel, calls for the eradication of that UN member state and glorification of terrorism.Al Quds day London

“Signs accusing Israel of genocide were handed out at the start of the protest, with a banner at the front of the rally reading: “Dismantling of Zionist State = End Of Bloodshed.” One man carried a homemade placard which said: “Israel is a cancer. We are the cure.””

Although the BBC did not apparently find the hate-fest going on under its own nose newsworthy, there was something novel about this year’s event.

“Approximately 500 pro-Israel activists mounted a counter-demonstration, chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and “Terrorist scum: off our streets” when the Al-Quds Day marchers collected outside the United States embassy in Grosvenor Square. […]

Joseph Cohen, who runs the Israel Advocacy Movement grassroots group, said the day had been “incredible.

“Last year my wife and I were the only people opposing the rally, when there were people marching with Hizbollah flags calling for the genocide of Israel.

It’s amazing today to see hundreds of people coming out to oppose Hizbollah terrorism. Every year they march unopposed. Not this year.””

Since then, a debate has begun on the topic of the display of the flag of a terrorist organisation proscribed by the UK on London’s streets with Dr Matthew Offord MP raising the issue in Parliament.

The Mayor of London also spoke on the topic when it was raised at the London Assembly but, as the Jewish News reports, the issue is not straightforward.  

“The confusion appears to centre on the fact the armed wing of Hezbollah is listed as a terrorist group while the political wing is not, yet the two elements share the same flag. The home office has said “the context and manner in which the flag is displayed must demonstrate that it is specifically in support of the proscribed elements of the group”.”

Obviously some of that confusion could have been avoided had the UK’s national broadcaster adhered to its remit of building an “understanding of international issues” rather than spending years cultivating that same myth of separate ‘wings’ of Hizballah, whitewashing the fact that it is a terrorist organisation by means of euphemisms such as “Lebanese Shia group”, misrepresenting its terror designation by numerous countries and misleading BBC audiences with regard to its activities.

BBC News ignores Al Quds Day – in English

As the P5+ 1 talks with Iran in Vienna dragged on past yet another scheduled deadline, the BBC News website’s report on the subject included the habitual promotion of the notion of a benign Iranian nuclear programme.

“The so-called P5+1 – US, UK, Russia, France, China and Germany – said talks would go on until at least Monday.

The powers suspect Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, which Iran denies.

Iran says its nuclear programme is for purely peaceful purposes.”

Notably, however, neither that July 10th article nor any other English language BBC report informed audiences about the annual day of Iranian state sponsored hate known as Al Quds Day which this year fell on that same date – even as negotiations continued.

The BBC News website’s UK and regional pages were also devoid of reporting on the British version of that event which took place near BBC premises. Apparently the flying of a terrorist organisation’s flag, calls for the eradication of a member state of the United Nations and the negation of Jews’ right to self-determination on London’s streets is not news these days.

BBC Persian’s audiences were, however, provided with an album of photographs from the events in Iran (attended by the president the BBC persists in portraying as ‘moderate’) and those visiting the BBC Arabic website found an article about Al Quds Day in Yemen.BBC Persian Quds Day 

Reporting on the Al Quds Day event in Tehran, the WSJ’s Sohrab Ahmari wrote:

“Regime leaders joined in the festivities. The government’s representatives included the reputedly moderate President Hasan Rouhani, not-so-moderate former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, his brother Sadeq, the head of the judiciary, and Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, commander of the Iranian army’s ground forces.

Mr. Rouhani said in a Persian-language statement on his website: “With unity, resistance, jihad and sacrifice, the Muslims, including the Palestinian people, will reach their lofty goals.” He didn’t specify those goals, but the “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” banners held up by marchers around him, seen in photographs published by regime media outlets, drove home the point. Mr. Rouhani went on to blame “the Zionist regime and the Global Arrogance”—a favorite regime nickname for Washington—for “bankrolling the strife” roiling the Muslim world.

Tehran’s Kayhan newspaper also weighed in. Iran’s 1979 revolution, the newspaper wrote in an English-language editorial, “busted the myth of the holocaust which the Zionists and their godfathers allege happened in Europe during World War 2.” The editorial predicted that the U.S., “which currently terrorizes humanity as the sole superpower, will one fine day cease to be visible on the map of the world.”

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appoints Kayhan’s editor in chief, and the newspaper is widely seen as the leader’s main mouthpiece. The leader’s top military aide, Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, echoed the paper. According to an English-language Fars News report, Gen. Safavi told Quds Day attendees: “Muslims unity and continuation of armed jihad (struggle) and the Islamic resistance of the Palestinian nation constitute the only strategy for saving and liberating the Holy Quds.””

One might think that sort of context would be helpful to BBC audiences trying to understand the ins and outs of the potential outcomes to the tortuous P5+1 negotiations with Iran. The BBC obviously doesn’t.

Related Articles:

BBC tones down Iranian rhetoric and extremism

More BBC whitewashing of ‘Al Quds Day’