BBC journalist scoffs at a topic the corporation fails to cover

An article titled “Trumplomacy: Are we seeing the end of a close Israel-US relationship?” appeared in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on October 9th. Its writer – Barbara Plett Usher – opened with a scornful account of part of a speech made by Israel’s prime minister.

“There was an element of the bizarre in the swearing-in ceremony of Israel’s Knesset (parliament) last week.

Only five months had passed since the last time newly elected members took the oath and, given continued political paralysis after another round of inconclusive elections, they may have to do it all over again soon.

Added to that, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s grim, almost apocalyptic speech could not have been less festive. He warned of an imminent war with Iran and unprecedented security challenges, saying it was unlike any remembered since the days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Granted, his words were seen by many commentators as familiar campaign rhetoric aimed at making the case for why he should continue to lead the country, even though he failed to win a majority in the September vote.

“Ladies and gents, I give you The Great Iranian Threat,” wrote Ma’ariv columnist Ben Caspit in a sardonic take-down of Mr Netanyahu’s “time-honoured security threat”.”

In fact, Netanyahu’s mention of the Yom Kippur War related to budgetary considerations connected to security needs. [translation: BBC Watch]

“Secondly, [we] need to make budgetary decisions which we have not known for many tens of years. It is possible to go back very many years, maybe to the end of the Yom Kippur War, in order to understand what is demanded of us.”

Plett Usher refrained from informing readers that the Israeli journalist she quoted also wrote the following words:

“Deep concern seems to be spreading among Israel’s top security leadership that a rapid deterioration of the situation on the Iranian front is a distinct possibility. […]

All signs indicate that Iran decided to respond forcefully to the many aerial attacks against Iranian and other Shiite targets in Syria and Iraq, which tend to be attributed to Israel.”

Referring to what she described as “an apparent Iranian attack on Saudi oil installations”, Plett Usher later told readers that:

“The Israelis have been pushing back more aggressively and more openly against Iran’s proxies in the region, determined to halt the proliferation of Iranian missiles near their border. But the Saudi attack rang new alarm bells.

If Iran could directly hit Saudi Arabia with cruise missiles, went the thinking, it could do the same to Israel.”

However, providing audiences with factual information about the activities of Iran and its proxies near Israel’s border has long – to put it mildly – not been a BBC priority. BBC audiences have not, for example, been informed on the topic of the deployment of Iranian missiles in south-west Syria as explained in a backgrounder produced by the JCPA in August.

“Since July 2018, press reports have pointed at Iranian missiles deployed in the area near Suweyda, definitely not within the territorial demarcations announced by the Russians to Israel. According to the reports, Iran deployed missiles that were previously in the T4 airbase to the Ledja (a vast rocky lava area north of Suweyda) and to two additional airbases in the area…”

Neither have they seen any meaningful reporting on the activities of Iran’s partner Hizballah in that area.

“Since 2018, Hizbullah has succeeded in recruiting 3,500 young people in the Daraa Department. Hizbullah has succeeded in establishing a presence through local allies in almost all villages and towns of the Daraa Department […] while in the Suweyda Department, Hizbullah’s main ally is the former deputy commander of the Al ‘Amari brigades (active in the Daraa area) who is deployed along the Jordanian-Syrian border and the Ledja area with his Bedouin fighters. […]

Hizbullah has succeeded in establishing four permanent training bases, which also serve as ammunition depots, and short and medium-range missile bases, three of which are in Daraa and the fourth in the area of Quneitra. […]

Hizbullah commands five Shiite militias in the Golan area, each numbering several thousand fighters, and has been busy preparing a military option against Israel since the recovery of the southern provinces of Syria in case of a surge of hostilities between Israel, Iran, the Syrian regime, and Hizbullah. This deployment in the area facing Israel in the Golan provides Iran (and Hizbullah) the ability to open a second front. […]

Unprecedented until now, in June 2019, new positions manned by Hizbullah Lebanese fighters were deployed adjacent to the Israeli lines. These include positions in Tellet Aldrai’at and Tellet Al Mahir in the vicinity of the two small villages of Rafid and El ‘Isha, approximately 200 meters from the UNDOF checkpoint, controlling the central access from the Israeli Golan through Quneitra and from there to the main highway to Damascus.”

Obviously such information is crucial to anyone trying to put Plett Usher’s portrayal of the Israeli prime minister’s speech into its appropriate context but BBC audiences have instead for a long time had to make do with superficial reporting which all too often includes unnecessary qualification of Iran’s regional military entrenchment.  

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BBC promotes what it described in April as ‘conspiracy theories’

On the morning of July 22nd the IDF announced the completion of the overnight evacuation of 800 Syrian ‘White Helmets’ personnel and their families from southern Syria, through Israel and into Jordan.

“The evacuation took place from Quneitra, which straddles the frontier with the Golan Heights and where the civil defense team was trapped. […]

The evacuees arrived at the border with Israel, and the IDF opened the gates and let them through. Medical treatment was provided to those in need, and the evacuees were provided with food and water.

The humanitarian workers and their families then boarded a fleet of buses that was already waiting for them at the site. The army and police blocked roads in the area, allowing the convoy to pass unimpeded.”

After the story broke, the BBC News website quickly produced a report titled “Syria conflict: Israel evacuates ‘White Helmets’” which appeared on its main homepage as well as its ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

In that report BBC audiences were told that:

“The White Helmets describe themselves as a volunteer workforce that acts to save people in Syria’s war zones.

They say they are non-partisan but supporters of President Bashar al-Assad, and his ally Russia, allege links to jihadist groups.”

And again, in a sub-section headed “Who are the White Helmets?”:

“Say they are neutral and have no political affiliation but have been accused of links to jihadist groups by the Syrian government and its Russian allies”

That propaganda has indeed been vigorously promoted by the Assad regime, Russia and their sympathisers.  However, it has also been exposed and debunked – as the Guardian reported in December 2017.

“The campaign to discredit the White Helmets started at the same time as Russia staged a military intervention in Syria in September 2015, supporting President Bashar al-Assad’s army with airstrikes bombarding opposition-held areas. Almost immediately, Russian state media such as RT and Sputnik started falsely claiming that Isis was the only target and throwing doubt on the bombings of infrastructure and civilian sites.

The same propaganda machine scooped up fringe anti-American activists, bloggers and researchers who believe the White Helmets are terrorists, giving them a platform on state TV and amplifying their articles through social media.”

In April of this year BBC Trending produced a report titled “Syria war: The online activists pushing conspiracy theories” which includes a whole section on conspiracy theories relating to the ‘White Helmets’.

“The Sarah Abdallah account is, according to a recent study by the online research firm Graphika, one of the most influential social media accounts in the online conversation about Syria, and specifically in pushing misinformation about a 2017 chemical weapons attack and the Syria Civil Defence, whose rescue workers are widely known as the “White Helmets”. […]

Graphika found 20 million messages about the White Helmets, split between tweets in support and in opposition. Among the opponents, Kelly says, Sarah Abdallah was “by far the most influential”, followed by Vanessa Beeley.

The firm found that Sarah Abdallah’s account was primarily followed by a number of different interest clusters: supporters of pro-Palestinian causes, Russians and Russian allies, white nationalists and those from the extremist alt-right, conservative American Trump supporters, far-right groups in Europe and conspiracy theorists.

These groups were instrumental in making the hashtag #SyriaHoax trend after the chemical weapons attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017.”

Nevertheless, three months on BBC News is still amplifying the propaganda of the Syrian and Russian regimes concerning the ‘White Helmets’ – and that despite the corporation’s obligation to “provide accurate and impartial news…of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

Judging by many of the replies to a Tweet relating to the story sent by the British Foreign Secretary, the BBC News website’s longstanding habit of promoting false balance in the name of ‘impartiality’ by repeatedly amplifying any and every propaganda put out by the Assad regime and its Russian ally is certainly not contributing to meeting that particular ‘public purpose’.

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Multi-platform BBC promotion of Syrian regime falsehood concerning Israel

BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again

More unquestioned amplification of Syrian regime propaganda from BBC News

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Looking behind a BBC News website tag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iran missile attack: BBC News promotes misinformation

Just after midnight on May 10th the attack by Iran that had been anticipated for several days took place in the northern Golan Heights.

“Some 20 rockets were fired at Israeli military bases by Iranian forces in southern Syria just after midnight on Thursday, with some of the incoming missiles being intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, the army said, amid sky high tensions on the northern border. […]

The Israeli army said the missile barrage was carried out by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Forces. This appeared to be the first time that Israel attributed an attack directly to Iran, which generally operates through proxies. The late night rocket barrage was also the largest attack, in terms of the number of rockets fired, in the seven years of the Syrian civil war.”

The BBC News website, however, did not appear to be entirely convinced that Iran was behind the missile fire.

A report that also used qualifying punctuation in its original headline – “Iranian forces ‘fire rockets’ at Israeli positions in Golan Heights” – appeared on the website some three hours after the events began. The first five versions of that report included the following statement:

“…its [Israel’s] government has vowed to stop what it considers Iran’s military “entrenchment” in Syria.” [emphasis added]

Later versions told readers that:

“Israel’s government has vowed to stop what it considers its arch-enemy’s “military entrenchment” in Syria…” [emphasis added]

Apparently the BBC is not persuaded that a foreign power which has moved sufficient military personnel, weapons and equipment into Syria to be able to launch missiles (and previously an armed drone) at a neighbouring country is engaged in military entrenchment.

Under the sub-heading “What happened in the Golan?” readers of earlier versions of the article were actually given an account of what subsequently happened in Syria.

“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) says it has targeted dozens of Iranian facilities with air strikes in retaliation for the attack, which has not been confirmed by Iran.

It said weapons stores, missile launchers and intelligence facilities were all targeted in the wave of strikes overnight.

Syria’s state news agency Sana said Israeli missiles had been shot down south of Homs, but reported that a weapons depot and a radar installation had been hit.”

The BBC did not inform its audiences that residents of ten communities in the Golan Heights – some 24,000 civilians – had to run for shelter when air-raid warnings were sounded just after midnight.  

The sixth version of the report (which by that time had been retitled “‘Iranian forces’ fire rockets at Israeli positions in Golan Heights”) told BBC audiences that:

“Israel has been anticipating a retaliatory attack by Iran since Israel killed seven Revolutionary Guards when it struck Iranian targets in Syria in April. That strike came immediately after Israel brought down what it said was an armed Iranian drone launched from Syria on a mission to attack Israel.” [emphasis added]

Obviously the April 9th attack on the T4 airbase which was attributed to Israel did not come “immediately after” the drone attack which took place two months earlier on February 10th.

Still later versions of the report were again retitled: “Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria after rockets hit Golan Heights” and “Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria in response to rocket fire”. Under the sub-heading “Why does Israel hit Iranian interests?” readers found the following claim:

“Iran is Israel’s arch-foe and has repeatedly called for an end to the existence of the Jewish state.”

Iran has not merely “called for” Israel’s destruction but has serially threatened to bring it about while funding and supplying terror groups similarly dedicated to that aim.

Remarkably, the three latest versions of the BBC’s report amplified spurious claims from a source based in Coventry and a pro-Syrian regime source that “Israeli forces had fired first”.

“The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that monitors the civil war in Syria, confirmed that “dozens of rockets” were fired from Quneitra province and the south-western Damascus countryside towards the occupied Golan.

It did not identify those responsible, but said the rocket attack came after Israeli forces bombarded Baath, a Syrian-controlled town in the Golan demilitarized zone.

 A senior source in an Iranian-led regional military alliance that supports Syria’s government also told AFP news agency that Israeli forces had fired first.” [emphasis added]

As the Times of Israel reported:

“Immediately following the Iranian attack at 12:10 a.m., Syrian state media reported that Israeli artillery fire targeted a military post near the city of Baath in the Quneitra border region, where Syrian regime forces were stationed.” [emphasis added]

A Syrian opposition TV station Tweeted that Hizballah positions near Baath were being targeted almost two hours after the Iranian attack began.

Nevertheless – as readers discovered at the end of the article – while apparently not having bothered to verify those claims before publishing them, the BBC does have the time to answer audience questions.

Superficial BBC News reporting on southern Syria ceasefire

Anyone getting their news exclusively from the BBC will not be aware of the fact that heavy fighting has been taking place for some weeks in the Daraa district of south-western Syria. The BBC also did not report any of the numerous recent cases of spillover fire into Israel: ‘side effects’ of fighting between regime and opposition forces in the Quneitra area.

BBC audiences might therefore have been rather puzzled to find an article on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 7th titled “Syria crisis: US, Russia and Jordan agree ceasefire deal“.

“The US, Russia and Jordan have agreed to put in place a ceasefire across south-western Syria, which is due to begin on Sunday. […]

This agreement, which Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said would cover the regions of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida, is reported to be the result of several months of undisclosed meetings between Russia and the US on Syria.”

A follow-up report appeared on the Middle East page on July 9th under the headline “Syria ceasefire: US and Russia-backed deal in effect“.

“A ceasefire brokered by the US and Russia has come into force in south-western Syria.

It was announced after Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin met for the first time at G20 talks on Friday. The truce is also backed by Jordan.

It is in force along a line agreed by Syrian government forces and rebels. […]

The ceasefire, which Russia has said covers the regions of Deraa, Quneitra and Sweida, was reported to result from months of undisclosed talks between Russian and US officials.”

Neither of those articles informs readers that – as the Jerusalem Post reported:

“… it was not clear how much the combatants – Syrian government forces and the main rebels in the southwest – were committed to this latest effort.”

While the second report does not clarify at all how that ceasefire is to be enforced, the earlier report includes the following ambiguous statement:

“Mr Lavrov said Russia and the USA would coordinate with Jordan to act “as guarantors of the observance of this [ceasefire] by all groups”.”

The Times of Israel reports that:

“There has been no official comment from Syria’s government on the announcement, and there was no mention of the ceasefire on state television’s noon news bulletin. […]

The truce is to be monitored through satellite and drone images as well as observers on the ground, a senior Jordanian official said Saturday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details with reporters. Syria ally Russia is to deploy military police in the area.”

Although at least one BBC journalist is aware of concerns raised by Israel relating to Russian enforcement of the ceasefire along its border, that issue is not mentioned in either article. Ha’aretz reports:

“…Israel wants the de-escalation zones in southern Syria to keep Iran, Hezbollah and other Shi’ite militias away from the Israeli and Jordanian borders. […]

One of Israel’s main concerns is how the cease-fire would be enforced in areas near the Israeli and Jordanian borders and who would be responsible for enforcing it. A senior Israeli official said Russia has proposed that its army handle the job in southern Syria. But Israel vehemently opposes this idea and has made that clear to the Americans, he said.”

Channel 10’s military analyst Alon Ben David notes:

“One must remember that the Russians in Syria are not separate from the Shia axis. The soldiers fight shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian support forces and even often with Hizballah.”

Ynet’s analyst Ron Ben Yishai points out that:

“The agreement does have a serious disadvantage from an Israeli perspective: It halts the advance of Iranian militias and Hezbollah, but fails to completely remove them from the area, as Israel likely demanded behind the scenes. This means that if and when the ceasefire is violated, the forces supported by Iran and Hezbollah would be able to continue their advance towards the Syrian-Jordanian border and the Syrian-Iraqi border, which will make it possible for them to create a strategic corridor to the Mediterranean Sea. Even worse is the fact that they would be able to advance and establish a stronghold in the Golan Heights.

Another disadvantage of the ceasefire deal is that the Assad army and the Russians, which both have an interest in keeping Assad and his people in power, will be responsible for the agreement’s implementation on the ground. If Assad stays in power in Syria, Iran and Hezbollah will stay there too. […]

The Syrian regime, Hezbollah and Iran have a totally different interest in a ceasefire: Assad and the Iranians have realized that they are incapable of conquering the city of Daraa on the Jordanian border and that the rebels—to ease the pressure on Daraa—are successfully attacking them near new Quneitra in the Golan Heights, where the spillovers that Israel responded [to] originated. The Syrian army is pressed in the Quneitra area. It’s failing to advance in Daraa despite help from Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, and therefore has no other choice but to agree to a ceasefire.

This is also why this ceasefire may not last very long. The moment the Syrian regime and the Iranians reach the conclusion they are strong enough to reoccupy Daraa and the border crossings between Syrian and Iraq, they will do it without any hesitation.”

Obviously there is a much broader story to tell than the one presented in these two superficial BBC News reports that cannot be said to meet the BBC’s mission of providing news “of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

BBC’s news from southern Syria front: for Arabic speakers only

With the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen on the ground in northern Syria, audience attentions have been focused on that region where, according to the corporation’s reports, the ceasefire which came into effect on the evening of September 12th is “largely holding“. However, another front is currently rather less quiet.

Throughout the past week or so, multiple incidents of mortar fire from Syria into the Israeli Golan have taken place – attributed to spill-over from the heavy fighting between opposition groups and regime forces and their supporters near the border which continued under the terms of the ceasefire agreement.

On September 13th, after Israel responded to one of the incidents of cross-border mortar fire, the Syrian regime claimed to have shot down two Israeli aircraft. That claim was swiftly refuted by the IDF.

“The statement from the Syrian army said one aircraft was downed over the skies of the Syrian town of Quneitra, near the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, and the other, a drone, was shot down closer to Damascus.

“Our air defenses blocked the attack and shot down the military aircraft in (the southern province of) Quneitra and a drone west of Sa’sa” in the province of Damascus, said the statement carried by state news agency SANA.

The alleged achievement was highlighted widely in Syrian state media.

The IDF in a statement confirmed it had been shot at, but said aircraft used to target Syrian positions overnight were safe.bbc-arabic-plane-golan

“Two surface-to-air missiles were launched from Syria after the mission overnight to target Syrian artillery positions,” an IDF statement said. “At no point was the safety of IDF aircraft compromised.””

Once again, the degree of reliability of information put out by the Syrian regime – which the BBC has in the past unquestioningly amplified and promoted – is glaringly apparent.

The Syrian regime’s claim was the subject of a report – “Syria says it shot down an Israeli airliner and Israel denies” – which appeared on the BBC Arabic website on September 13th. The BBC’s English-speaking audiences, however, have not been informed of that incident or the recent tension-raising uptick in cross-border mortar fire from Syria into Israel.

BBC’s pattern of Gaza reporting migrates north

September 26th saw yet another incident of spillover fire from the fighting in Syria in the northern Golan Heights.

“A rocket launched from Syria fell in open territory in the northern Golan Heights on Saturday evening, causing no injuries or damage. Air raid sirens were not triggered in the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that it was likely a result of errant fire from the ongoing civil war in the neighboring country. There have been numerous such incidents since the war began in March 2011.”

The following day a similar incident occurred in the same area.

“A rocket fired from war-torn Syria strayed into the Israeli sector of the Golan Heights on Sunday, the Israeli army said, in the second such incident in as many days.

The Israeli military said the rocket crashed into a field without causing any casualties or damage.

It said that it was the result of Syria’s conflict in which various factions are fighting against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, as well as each other.”

Neither of those incidents was covered by BBC News. Later on the evening of September 27th Israeli forces responded to the two incidents.  

“An Israel Defense Forces spokesman confirmed that the IDF had conducted two artillery strikes on Syrian positions on the outskirts of Quneitra following earlier rocket strike in the Golan on Sunday night.

The spokesman had said that the IDF “viewed the Syrian army as responsible for any fire emanating within its territory, and that the IDF will not allow any attempts to harm Israel’s sovereignty or citizens.””BBC Arabic Quneitra 27 9

Whilst that event was also ignored by the BBC’s English language services, as has often been the case when Israel has responded to missile fire from the Gaza Strip in recent months, the Israeli action was the focus of an article appearing on the BBC Arabic website on September 27th under the inadequate headline “Israel bombed military sites belonging to the Syrian army“.

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Why is BBC Arabic amplifying Syrian regime propaganda?

Readers may recall that some two and a half years ago the BBC got itself into hot water by promoting Assad regime propaganda on its English language website. Two days after the appearance of an article claiming that “Israeli strikes on Syria ‘co-ordinated with terrorists'” the corporation responded to considerable public outcry by amending the headline.

Apparently though, lessons have not been fully learned from that incident.

As has previously been noted here, on August 21st a report appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page amplified a claim promoted by Syrian state TV according to which five men killed in an Israeli strike following a missile attack on northern Israel were “civilians”.BBC Arabic Sana propaganda

BBC Arabic however went even further. In a report dating from August 20th relating to Israeli airstrikes on regime targets in Syria which took place in response the same day’s missile attack on Israel, readers were provided with unadulterated Syrian state news agency propaganda.

“A statement by the agency SANA that the Israeli attacks aimed at “supporting armed terrorist organizations and raise the morale collapsed,” a reference to armed groups in Syria, which is fighting to overthrow the Syrian regime.”

There is of course nothing new about this particular genre of Syrian regime propaganda and Assad himself recently promoted it in an interview with Hizballah TV.

“In an interview with Hezbollah-affiliated Al Manar television on Monday, Assad said that Syria would not directly strike back at Israel for the attacks, but would hit Israel by fighting with rebels opposing his rule, whom he claimed were the “servants of Israel.”

“The real tools that Israel is using, which are more important than the recent attacks, they are the terrorists in Syria,” Assad said.

“If we want to deal with Israel, we must first deal with its proxies inside Syria,” he added.”

In the Middle East there are already countless media outlets reporting according to a particular political or ideological agenda. It is supposed to be the job of the BBC – including BBC Arabic and other foreign language services – to distinguish itself from regime-run media by providing audiences with accurate and impartial reporting which will enable them to understand what is fact and what is fiction. Uncritical and unchallenged amplification of obviously delusional Syrian regime propaganda is clearly not conducive to achieving that goal.

Another notable point concerning this BBC Arabic report is that the caption to the main photograph illustrating it states that “The Syrian side of the ceasefire line with Israel is currently witness to frequent clashes”. Readers would naturally therefore assume that the image shows the aftermath of one of those clashes on “the Syrian side of the ceasefire line”.

BBC Arabic Sana art photo

However, the exact same image was used in another BBC article produced on the same day and there it was described as showing northern Israel: “Rockets fired into Israel caused brushfires after hitting open areas near Galilee” [sic].

BBC Arabic Sana cf photo

One of those captions is obviously inaccurate and misleading.

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More than a third of BBC report on ISIS destruction of Christian site is about Israel

h/t: MR

BBC audiences might reasonably expect an article carrying the headline “Islamic State in Syria demolishes ancient Mar Elian monastery” to inform them about the wanton destruction of a 1,500 year-old historic religious building. However, a significant proportion of the report appearing under that title on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 21st actually dealt with another topic altogether; curiously described as “a separate development”.Mar Elian art

The article has undergone numerous changes since its initial appearance which can be viewed here. All four versions, however, devote over a third of their word count to the topic of an Israeli strike on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists responsible for the missile attacks on the Upper Galilee region on August 20th.

The original article devoted 36.8% of its word count to that “separate development”, the second version 48.4%, the third version 47.3% and in the version currently available, 34% of the article is not about the destruction of the Mar Elian monastery.

Under the sub-heading “Golan strikes”, the latest version (which is currently illustrated using the same image twice) informs audiences:

“In a separate development, at least five people have died in an Israeli strike on a Syrian-held section of the Golan Heights.

Israel has carried out a series of raid [sic] in the area, which lies in south-western Syria, after rockets fired from Syria struck its territory on Thursday. The rockets set fire to scrubland but did not cause any casualties.”

The number of missiles launched in that cross-border attack is not specified and the fact that there are numerous rural communities in the area in which they landed is not clarified. No effort is made to explain to audiences the wider significance of a missile attack on Israeli civilian targets launched from a section of territory still under the control of the Iranian-backed Syrian regime which, in theory at least, lies within a demilitarised zone supposedly administered by the UN. The report continues with downplaying of the PIJ’s Iranian backing.

“Israel’s military has accused Palestinian militants from the Islamic Jihad group of firing the rockets, who Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran had given “sponsorship and instruction” to [sic].

While the Israelis said five or six militants were killed, a Syrian army source, quoted on Syrian state TV, said the strike killed five civilians.

One Syrian soldier was earlier reported killed in an Israeli strike on military positions in the Syrian-held section of the Golan Heights.

Israel seized most of the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War.”

In other words, BBC audiences are encouraged to view a statement aired on Syrian regime-controlled media as being equally plausible to the one concerning Friday’s strike put out by official Israeli sources.

Interestingly, the BBC chooses not to communicate to its audiences the information on this topic put out by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which is quoted in relation to the subject matter of the earlier part of the article.

“The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the country’s war, said the five dead were members of pro-government National Defense Forces. It did not elaborate.”

The Lebanese media organization Al Mayadeen – known to be close to another Iranian proxy, Hizballah – reported that “three of the people killed in the strike were Palestinian” and one Syrian.

In addition to being bizarrely placed in an article about another topic altogether, the information provided to BBC audiences on this subject once again fails to adequately enhance their understanding of current developments on the Israel-Syria border. 

 

Superficial and inaccurate BBC reporting on cross-border incident in northern Israel

At around 5:30 pm on the afternoon of August 20th, four missiles fired from Syria hit areas on the lower flanks of the Golan Heights and in the Galilee Panhandle. Several hours later an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page with the typical ‘last-first’ reporting style title “Israel fires missiles into Syria after rocket attack“.

Like all BBC News content, that article’s aim was to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” and to inform by means of the provision of “reliable and unbiased information of relevance, range and depth” whilst adhering to standards of accuracy and impartiality. But were those criteria met?Irua Galil Eliyon

The main photograph used to illustrate the report is captioned:

“Rockets fired into Israel caused brushfires after hitting open areas near Galilee” [emphasis added]

Two of the missiles landed in the Upper Galilee district – not “near” it – and we know that the BBC is aware of that because it later quotes an IDF statement.

“A statement released by the Israeli military said the rockets that hit the upper Galilee region….”

The article opens:

“An Israeli aircraft has fired missiles at a building in Syria’s Golan Heights in response to a rocket strike on an Israeli village, according to reports.”

There were four missile strikes – not one as suggested by that phrasing – and the projectiles landed in more than one location. Later on readers are again told that:

“Earlier rockets landed near a village in northern Israel.”

Obviously the main story here is an unprovoked missile attack on civilian targets across an international border. The wider significance of that incident and the effects of the attack on the people it targeted receive no coverage in this BBC report, which devotes almost three times more wording to the topic of the Israeli response than to the missile attack itself.

The bulk of the 318-word article, however, is devoted to the subject of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s denial of involvement via a spokesman over 250 kms away in the Gaza Strip.

“Israeli officials blamed the rocket strike on the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, which denied the claim.

A statement released by the Israeli military said the rockets that hit the upper Galilee region “were launched from the Syrian Golan Heights… by Islamic Jihad, sponsored by Iran”.

The statement went on to say that Israel “holds the Syrian government responsible for attacks emanating from Syria”.

Islamic Jihad had previously threatened reprisals should one of its activists in Israeli detention, Mohammed Allan, die of a hunger strike, but Mr Allan called off his fast on Wednesday after an Israeli court suspended his detention.

Mr Allan is believed to have suffered brain damage after going 65 days without food.” [emphasis added]

The inclusion of the description of Mohammed Allan as “one of its activists” is particularly notable given that the BBC has previously told audiences in two reports (including the link provided) that his affiliation with the terror organization is only “alleged”. The article continues with amplification of PIJ propaganda and a remarkable insinuation:

“Islamic Jihad’s leaders are based in the Syrian capital. Dawoud Shehab, a spokesman for the group who is based in Gaza, denied it had fired on Israel.

“Israel is trying to divert attention from the defeat that it suffered in the face of the determination of the hero prisoner, Mohammed Allan,” Shehab told Reuters.

Islamic Jihad has publicly acknowledged receiving support from Iran, a connection Israel has sought to highlight as it campaigns against the proposed US deal with Iran.” [emphasis added]

In other words, readers are encouraged to view Israeli army statements on this incident as being influenced or dictated by the Israeli government’s stance on the P5+1 (not “US” as stated here) deal with Iran known as the JCPOA.

It is not clarified to readers that the cross-border attack was launched from one of the few areas along the Syrian border with Israel that are still held by the Assad regime – which is of course heavily dependent upon Iran and its proxies at present – and the obviously relevant context of prior Iranian and Iranian-backed activity along that border is absent from this report.

Towards the end of the article readers find more evidence of the BBC’s geographically challenged reporting, tortured phrasing and predictable whitewashing of an internationally recognized terror organization.

“The stretch of border involved in the exchange has been largely quiet since the 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.”

A “border” was obviously not “involved in the exchange”: borders do not fire missiles at civilians. Neither is it clear to which border the BBC refers – the Israel-Lebanon border as implied by its reference to the 2006 war or the Israel-Syria border across which these latest missiles were actually fired but where there was no fighting during the 2006 war.

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘guerilla’ as follows:

“A member of a small independent group taking part in irregular fighting, typically against larger regular forces.”

Hizballah does not confine its activities to attacks on the Israeli military and it is certainly not independent – as evidenced by its Iranian patronage.

The article closes with the following statement:

“Israel captured the western Golan in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it, a move not recognised internationally.”

The context of why that war began and the obviously relevant history of the pre-1967 Syrian attacks on Israeli villages in the Galilee Panhandle and elsewhere which made it necessary for Israel to take the Golan Heights are not included in that partisan account.

So did readers of this article really get the “reliable and unbiased information of relevance, range and depth” which would enhance their understanding of this incident and its wider implications? Hardly – and as long as the BBC continues to whitewash Iranian backed terrorist organisations and the ideology underpinning them, that will remain the case.

More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

On January 18th the BBC News website published a report titled “‘Israel strike’ kills Hezbollah men in Syria’s Golan Heights” which relates to an incident near Quneitra on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights earlier in the day. The report includes several features worthy of note.Hizb strike main

With regard to the incident itself, the report gives a reasonable representation of the information which was available at the time of publication.

“An Israeli air strike has killed six members of Hezbollah in the Syrian sector of the Golan Heights, the Lebanese militant movement says.

Among those reported dead were the son of a late military leader, a current commander, and at least one Iranian. […]

Those who died include Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of a top military commander killed in 2008, and Mohammed Issa, a Hezbollah field commander, Hezbollah officials said.

One member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards had died, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Iran’s semi-official Tabnak news agency said several Revolutionary Guards had been killed.”

The Iranian news agency Fars has since confirmed the death of IRGC officer Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi and a Lebanese source told AFP that in all twelve people were killed in the strike – six from Hizballah and six Iranians – although other reports have presented different information.

With regard to the key question of what a convoy of Hizballah operatives and Iranian Revolutionary Guards were doing near the border with Israel on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, the BBC quotes the version of events promoted by Hizballah media.

“Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV said they were killed in Quneitra province “during a field reconnaissance mission”.”

It then adds:

“Israel said it would not comment, though unnamed sources confirmed an Israeli helicopter strike.

They claimed those targeted were conducting reconnaissance for a Hezbollah attack.”

However, whilst no attempt is made to provide readers with the relevant context of the cross-border attacks carried out by Hizballah in recent months, the article does inform them that:

“Israel has conducted several air strikes inside Syria since the conflict began, said to be aimed at preventing the transfer of stockpiles of rockets from the Syrian government or Iran to Hezbollah.”

The article notes that:

“The incident comes days after a warning to Israel by the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, that his forces might retaliate against what he called repeated Israeli strikes inside Syria.

He said his forces had been stockpiling weapons for such a confrontation and that these included long range missiles that could hit every part of Israel.”

Those quotes come from an interview given by Nasrallah on January 15th to Al Mayadeen TV in which he explained the ‘logic’ behind the statement highlighted in the BBC’s account, according to which a Lebanese terrorist organization backed by Iran is prepared to attack Israel because of that country’s perceived actions in Syria.

“A key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Nasrallah, who has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to help defend the regime, said that Israeli strikes on Syria “target the whole of the resistance axis”, which includes Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran.

“The repeated bombings that struck several targets in Syria are a major violation, and we consider that any strike against Syria is a strike against the whole of the resistance axis, not just against Syria,” he told the Beirut-based Arab news television.  […]

Nasrallah said in the interview that Hezbollah was ready to fight a new war against Israel in Lebanon and renewed a threat to invade the Galilee region of northern Israel. Hezbollah fighters “must be prepared”, he said.

“When the resistance (Hezbollah) leadership… asks you (fighters)… to enter into Galilee, that means the resistance must be ready to enter into Galilee and to go even beyond the Galilee.””

Like much of the media, the BBC’s report focuses on one of the people reported killed.

“Jihad Mughniyeh is the son of Imad Mugniyeh, who was killed in a bombing in a bombing in Damascus in 2008. Hezbollah blamed Israel for the death, but Israel denied it.

Imad Mughniyeh was widely believed to be behind a wave of Western hostage-taking in Lebanon during the 1980s.”

Mughniyeh’s record of course included a lot more than hostage-taking as the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star pointed out – but the self-styled ‘standard-settling’ BBC did not.

“Believed to be the mastermind of Hezbollah’s combat tactics, Mughniyeh was considered to be involved in the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine and French peacekeeping barracks in Beirut, which killed over 350 people, as well as the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and the kidnapping of Westerners in Lebanon in the 1980s.”

The BBC’s descriptions of Hizballah throughout the report fail to note that it is an internationally designated terrorist organization (or even to mention the word terror) or that its ‘Al Manar’ TV station quoted by the BBC in this report was declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity by the United States Treasury and is also banned in several European countries.  

“An Israeli air strike has killed six members of Hezbollah in the Syrian sector of the Golan Heights, the Lebanese militant movement says.”

“Hezbollah militants have been supporting President Bashar al-Assad in a four-year Syrian conflict that activists say has left more than 200,000 people dead.”

“Israel fought a 34-day war with Hezbollah, a mainly Shia group backed by Iran, in 2006.” [all emphasis added]

The caption to the main photograph used to illustrate the article states:

“Hezbollah has strong support in Lebanon”

At the bottom of the article appears an insert which likewise does nothing to enhance BBC audiences’ understanding of the real nature, record and agenda of Hizballah and of course makes no mention of the fact that according to assorted UN resolutions, it should have been disarmed years ago.

Hizb art insert

The link included at the bottom of that insert leads to the December 2013 version of the BBC’s profile of Hizballah which, as readers may recall, was amended to present a much softer picture of the terrorist organization than the profile it replaced by means of airbrushing Hizballah’s terrorist designation by numerous countries worldwide, its terrorist activities outside Lebanon, its involvement in the murder of Rafik Hariri and its role in the Syrian civil war and with no mention made whatsoever of Hizballah’s criminal activities around the globe. 

Obviously BBC audiences will not be able to understand the significance and implications of terrorists and IRGC officers on Israel’s border as long as the BBC continues to fail to represent Hizballah properly.