Limited BBC coverage of latest Hizballah designation

The August 20th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item (from 14:05 here) introduced by presenter James Menendez as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Menendez: “…the government of Paraguay has announced it’s designating the Lebanese Shia Islamist organisation Hizballah as an international terrorist organisation. Its much bigger neighbour Argentina did so last month and there’s speculation that Brazil may be about to do the same, bringing all of them into line with the US, the UK and others.”

Along with the US and the UK, among the “others” which designate Hizballah in its entirety are Canada, Israel, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Netherlands, Bahrain, Japan, the UAE and Kosovo. The organisation is partly designated by Australia, New Zealand, France and the EU.

Menendez continued with a euphemistic description of the terror group’s dependency on Iran:

Menendez: “You may be wondering what Hizballah, with its close ties to Iran and violent opposition to Israel, is doing in South America and why some governments are taking action now. Well pressure from the Trump administration certainly seems to be a factor. Emanuele Ottolenghi has researched and has been in dialogue with White House officials on Hizballah’s influence in Latin America. He’s a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies – a neo-conservative think tank in Washington DC – that’s been advocating a much more hawkish approach to Iran and its proxies.”

Compare the adherence to BBC editorial guidelines stipulating that when introducing interviewees “[a]ppropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context” in that presentation to the one given late last month on the same BBC World Service radio programme:

“Nadav Weiman is a former member of the Israeli Defence Forces. Indeed he was with the special forces sniper team that operated in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He’s now with the advocacy group ‘Breaking the Silence’.”

Ottolenghi began by providing background to the story:

Ottolenghi: “Hizballah has had a growing presence in Latin America for the past four decades and this presence is concentrated in a number of places, including especially the Tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay: a region that is notorious for illicit finance, money laundering, contraband, smuggling and trafficking of all sorts of goods. Hizballah has been pairing up in Latin America for a number of years with organised crime to provide illicit finance and logistical support to those nefarious activities. It plays an important role in the financing of Hizballah’s budget and in the process it has become a partner in crime for cartels and criminal syndicates across South America.”

Menendez is apparently unfamiliar with the topic of terror financing.

Menendez: “So the criminal activities…eh…illegal financing but not military activities per se.”

Ottolenghi: “Not necessarily, although Hizballah is behind two terror attacks in Latin America – one in 1992 and one in 1994, both in Buenos Aires – and a Hizballah operative was caught and arrested while preparing a terror attack in Peru in 2014.”

The case in Peru to which Ottolenghi referred is this one. The earlier cases are of course the attacks on the Israeli embassy and the AMIA centre.  

Menendez: “And have governments in the region been, what, unable or unwilling to try and tackle this?”

Ottolenghi: “Governments in the region have been largely unwilling to recognise this presence as affiliated with Hizballah. They do know that members of the Shia Lebanese community are involved in illicit finance activities. They just do not wish to link this to terrorism and there is a variety of reasons for this, many of which are tied to domestic politics but also to some extent in the past have been connected to ideological stances of governments.”

Menendez: “So is that what’s changed then? That governments…that some governments – take Brazil for example; it’s shifted to the right. And is it also pressure from Washington – pressure from the United States to take action?”

Ottolenghi: “Both things are true. I think the shift to the right across the region has changed the discourse about the issue and certainly US pressure and increased attention to the problem. But also I think governments in the region are increasingly aware that they can no longer tolerate the presence of the pervasive and nefarious nature of organised crime in their own midst.”

Menendez then brought up the myth of separate ‘wings’ to the terror organisation.

Menendez: “The European Union still makes the distinction between Hizballah’s political and military wings and the military wing is a proscribed organisation but not the political wing. Could that have been part of it as well? That people didn’t necessarily group all of Hizballah into the same basket and see it as a terrorist organisation?”

Ottolenghi: “In some countries that’s definitely the case but as it goes in the European Union as well, the department of Hizballah that is largely involved in running overseas financial operations including illicit activities such as drug trafficking is part of the external security organisation of Hizballah which is, properly speaking, the military wing – so-called – of Hizballah. So actually…”

Menendez [interrupts] “Right, so it’s not…it’s not being used to fund political and social activities back in Lebanon then?”

Ottolenghi: “Well I mean the money goes largely to the same pot and so it’s hard to distinguish whether it goes to military or to other activities. And the social and charitable activities certainly are used also to prop up support and ensure loyalty to the goals of the movement.”

Menendez closed the item there. While listeners to BBC World Service radio heard a reasonable report on a story to which the BBC has only relatively recently begun to re-devote attention, no coverage of Paraguay’s decision to designate Hizballah has to date been seen on the BBC News website – the corporation’s “permanent public record”.

Those looking for further information on the terror group’s activities in Latin America in the BBC’s online profile of Hizballah will find nothing: that profile has not been updated for almost three and a half years and it provides no information on the more recent designations of the organisation, including that of the UK.  

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC reporting on Argentina’s designation of Hizballah

Revisiting BBC reporting on Hizballah

 

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Weekend long read

1) At the JCPA Amb. Alan Baker discusses Palestinian violations of international law.

“On June 1, 2018, France, Russia, China, Sweden, and others supported a Kuwait-sponsored draft resolution in the Security Council deploring Israel’s use of “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinian civilians, and condemning the use by Israel’s forces of live ammunition against civilian protesters. It sought to call upon the UN to act to “guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population, including recommendations for an international protection mechanism.”

The call in the opening provision of the draft resolution to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law, would appear to be all the more cynical in light of the flagrant violations by the Palestinian leadership and Hamas of international humanitarian and human rights law. This is especially the case with their willful and deliberate use of women and children, pollution of the environment, and burning and destruction of crops and agricultural produce.”

2) The Middle East Forum has published a report on the charity ‘Islamic Relief’ – which the BBC told its audiences in 2014 had been ‘cleared’ of a “terror funding claim”.

“A new Middle East Forum report reveals that Islamic Relief, a “charity” supported by European and American governments, finances Hamas front organizations. […]

Founded in 1984 in Birmingham, England, Islamic Relief, with branches in over 20 countries, is the largest Islamic charity in the West. It has received at least $80 million over the past ten years from Western governments and international bodies, including the United Nations. It received more than $700,000 from U.S. taxpayers during the past two years. Its officials are members of government advisory panels, while Western cabinet ministers, European royalty, and Trump administration officials speak at its events.

Islamic Relief is, however, banned in both Israel and the United Arab Emirates because of links to terror. The MEF report, Islamic Relief: Charity, Extremism and Terror, confirms its ties to extremism in the West and to terrorism-linked groups in the Middle East.”

3) Emanuele Ottolenghi explains how “Lebanon Is Protecting Hezbollah’s Cocaine Trade in Latin America“.

“Paraguay hosts a significant and growing money laundering operation connected to Hezbollah in the Triple Frontier, where Paraguay intersects with Argentina and Brazil. Increasingly, Hezbollah’s local operatives are involved in the local boom of cocaine trafficking — and there is evidence that Hezbollah is sending senior officials to the Triple Frontier to coordinate these activities.

After more than a decade when U.S. policymakers neglected the Triple Frontier, federal investigations are now finally unearthing multibillion-dollar criminal schemes run by Hezbollah. It was no surprise that Hezbollah would push back by leveraging local influence. It was less obvious that it would do so through the Lebanese Embassy, which is, technically speaking, an arm of the state institutions Washington wants to strengthen as a counterweight to Hezbollah.”

4) Ha’aretz has produced a video about the Palestinian arson attacks the BBC has been so reluctant to report.

BBC WS airs ‘Great Return March’ falsehoods and more

The May 13th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme Weekend – presented by Julian Worricker – included a long item (from 04:38 here) relating to the next day’s opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem. Given the BBC’s coverage of that story so far, it was hardly surprising to see that event once again portrayed as “controversial”.

“The United States will officially open its embassy in Jerusalem tomorrow, following the controversial decision by President Trump to relocate it from Tel Aviv.”

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

Worricker: “…we turn our attention to the Middle East and particularly the events of the next few days. Today it’s an Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City in the aftermath of the June 1967 Six Day War. The day is officially marked by state ceremonies and memorial services. Then tomorrow the American embassy is officially moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. No country has its embassy in Jerusalem because of its contested status. Both Israelis and Palestinians see the ancient city as their capital. But in making the move President Trump is reversing seven decades of US policy and defying a long-standing international consensus.”

In fact, the US Congress of course voted to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital over two decades ago. Worricker could have told listeners that Guatemala and Paraguay are in the process of moving their embassies to Jerusalem too but obviously that would have spoilt the chosen narrative of “international consensus”.

Worricker: “Indications of the controversy aroused come from, among others, Saeb Erekat – the chief negotiator for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation – who has asked fellow diplomats to boycott Monday’s event. And Israel says it will almost double the number of troops on its border with the Gaza Strip and in the occupied West Bank to deal with any wider Palestinian protests about the opening of the embassy.”

Worricker refrained from informing listeners that “protests” on the Gaza border were planned months ago and are billed as having an aim unrelated to the US embassy move: the breaching of that border and infiltration into Israel.

After promising “Israeli and Palestinian voices on this in a moment”, Worricker presented a recycled brief history of Jerusalem from British historian Simon Sebag Montefiore before introducing Gil Hoffman of the Jerusalem Post. Having asked him for his view on why the US embassy move matters, Worricker went on to promptly criticise his interviewee’s reply.

Worricker: “The problem with that view – as you know only too well – is that the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, occupied since 1967, as the potential capital of its future state. So how do you square that circle?”

After Hoffman had pointed out that the US president said in his December 6th 2017 statement that the borders in Jerusalem are to be determined by the parties concerned and that Saeb Erekat – to whom Worricker had referred to earlier – had failed at his job of negotiating with Israel, Worricker found it necessary to both defend Erekat and promote the PLO position.

Worricker: “Well he [Erekat] would say obviously that if he has – to use your word – failed, it’s because the other side hasn’t done what he would require them to do by way of a compromise. Really, we’ve seen decades of US neutrality on this issue. How can it facilitate future negotiations if the US now – on this – favours one side so obviously over the other?”

In response to Hoffman stating that US neutrality had to date failed to resolve the issue, Worricker retorted:

Worricker: “Let me invite you to look at it from the other point of view in that case because going back to my neutrality point, if this is, quote – and this is a crude way of describing it – a big win for Israel, what do you offer to give back in return to those who are clearly angered by this, whether you think their anger is justified or not?”

As Hoffman began to respond by saying that Trump has a plan he’s been working on, Worricker interrupted him:

Worricker: “Mr Trump and Mr Netanyahu clearly are in agreement over this so the two are working to a degree hand in hand.”

Hoffman replied that the US peace plan will no doubt include Israeli concessions in Jerusalem before Worricker closed the interview.

Clearly that less than four-minute interview did not provide listeners with much understanding of “Israeli voices” because Worricker was too busy criticising Hoffman’s replies. 

Worricker next went on to tell listeners that “the 70th anniversary of the creation of Israel” would take place on May 15th – while failing to note that the occasion was marked by Israel on April 19th.

Worricker: “I mentioned Palestinian voices as well. Well protests are expected at that embassy on Monday. It’s a sensitive time because it’s a day before the 70th anniversary of the creation of Israel but the day that Palestinians refer to as a Nakba – catastrophe. That is the day after that independence in 1948 when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled their homes or were displaced.”

Worricker next conducted an interview with a Palestinian film-maker called Azza el Hassan who made a film about PLO propaganda films from the 60s and 70s. At one point (13:09) during that five-minute conversation, Hassan said:

Hassan: “…you know what’s so beautiful about these films? In these films Palestinians are not victims. In fact they’re liberators; they’re going to change the world. They’re propaganda films but there is this nice, dreamy element in them which makes you think it’s a pity that all of this was lost somehow.”

Worricker: “You use the word propaganda, because I am bound to point out that during the 60s and 70s when the PLO – the Palestine Liberation Organisation – was a professedly violent organisation pursuing its aims by violent means – that’s not something to celebrate, is it?”

Hassan: “Well you have to remember that the 70s…you cannot read the 70s from what you’re reading today. The 70s was the period of the Cold War. For example the South African movement was also a military movement – the ANC I mean by that. So when you say that the PLO was into [inaudible] you’re absolutely right but so was all liberating movements at that time.”

Worricker: “Mmm…but it doesn’t justify some of the dreadful acts that were carried out at that time.”

Listeners then heard false claims regarding the ‘Great Return March’ in which the majority of those killed during violent rioting since the end of March – rather than “in the last week” – were shown to be linked to terror organisations. Worricker made no effort whatsoever to challenge those falsehoods.

Hassan: “Absolutely, but if you want to talk about violence now, now in the last week Israel have killed 50 innocent people in Gaza who were just protesting peacefully. So violence is…what’s important is what’s happening now.”

Worricker: “Well let’s talk about what’s happening now because clearly there is a reason for having this conversation beyond the film that you made. We’re going to see in the coming days the American embassy in Israel moving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And we’re going to see the anniversary of the events of 1948 which led to the creation of the State of Israel, so Israelis will celebrate that. Palestinians will regard that as – to use their word – a catastrophe. In other words, the sides are so, so, so far apart. Do you see any hope of anything changing?”

Apparently Worricker is not aware of the fact that Israelis will not be celebrating “in the coming days” an event they have already marked. Listeners then heard promotion of elimination of the Jewish state.

Hassan: “I think there’s always hope. I think nothing will ever stay…nothing ever stays the same. Things have to move. And I believe in a one-state solution. I’ve always believed in it. And…”

Worricker: “One state rather than two?”

Hassan: “Yeah. I think…wouldn’t you want a one-state solution? Why would you want a two-state solution? But what needs to happen is you have to create a humane environment and an equal environment for everyone. And then we can move forward.”

Worricker: “When you look at the way the Palestinians – particularly those in charge, whether it’s in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip – the way they have tried to conduct the campaign that they have conducted in recent years, when you look at the failings and the shortcomings, what should they have done differently?”

Hassan: “As a Palestinian I feel we are in our worst point of history. We don’t even have a proper political position. So lots of shortcomings are appearing and I agree with you but I also find them a natural conclusion to an unnatural and unjust situation.”

Worricker closed that second and distinctly less confrontational interview at that point.

As we see listeners to this long item heard inaccurate claims concerning US policy on Jerusalem and Israel’s Independence Day celebrations. Audiences also heard inaccurate claims relating to the events on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip and – as was the case in the very few reports produced when Israelis actually did celebrate the 70th anniversary of their country’s independence – promotion of the ‘Nakba’ and the campaign to eradicate the Jewish state known as the ‘one-state solution’ was also in evidence.

Related Articles:

BBC R4, WS mark Israeli independence with ‘nakba’ and ‘one-state’