Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part two

As noted in part one of this post the BBC’s correspondent in Beirut, Rami Ruhayem, produced both audio and written reports on the tenth anniversary of the Second Lebanon War on July 12th.

The written report – which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page – is titled “Ten years on, is Hezbollah prepared for another war with Israel?” and it opened with the use of euphemistic terminology to describe that internationally designated terror organisation and further promotion of the questionable ‘mutual deterrence’ theme found in Ruhayem’s radio report. [emphasis added]Ruhayem written 12 7

“In a region transformed by the wars in Syria and Iraq, the stand-off between Israel and Hezbollah, the Shia jihadist group it last confronted in full-scale warfare in 2006, appears to be one thing that has not changed.

Ten years is the longest period without major fighting between them – a sign, perhaps, that the mutual deterrence established after 2006 is here to stay.”

It went on to amplify unfounded rumour disseminated by a pro-Hizballah Lebanese newspaper.

“But earlier this year, rumour spread in Lebanon that Israel was preparing to attack and finish off Hezbollah, sparking media speculation that the summer of 2016 will see an even bloodier re-run of the war of 2006.”

That was followed by a partial description of the events which sparked the Second Lebanon War in which the missile attacks on Israeli civilian communities that took place together with the infiltration into Israeli sovereign territory were erased.

“Back then, Hezbollah killed eight Israeli soldiers and abducted two in a cross-border raid, and demanded an exchange of prisoners with Israel.”

Ruhayem again presented a picture of Lebanese casualties during that war which – although better than his audio report – failed to provide audiences with accurate information.

“According to official figures, 1,191 people were killed in Lebanon, the majority of them civilians. In Israel, 121 soldiers and 44 civilians were killed.”

As noted previously, Lebanese figures do not differentiate between civilians and combatants but Lebanese officials reported even before the conflict was over that some 500 of the dead were Hizballah combatants and UN officials gave similar figures. Israeli estimates stand at around 600 – more than half of the total Lebanese casualty figures.

Having told readers that “Israel lost and Hezbollah won”, Ruhayem went on to describe the effects of the war in Lebanon but provided no comparative information about the number of people displaced or infrastructure and homes damaged on the other side of the border.

“Up to a million people were displaced, and around 15,000 homes and 900 factories were destroyed, along with roads, bridges, the runway at Beirut International Airport, and other infrastructure.”

As in his audio report, he then went on to describe the ‘Dahiya doctrine’ but without clarifying that the Dahiya neighbourhood of Beirut is Hizballah’s command and control centre.

“Israel laid out a strategy of deterrence, first made public by Maj Gen Gadi Eizenkot in 2008 when he was head of the Israeli army’s Northern Command.

He said that what happened in Dahiya, the southern suburb of Beirut in which neighbourhoods were flattened by Israeli airstrikes in 2006, would “happen in every village from which shots were fired in the direction of Israel”.

Gen Eizenkot, now Israeli chief of staff, articulated what came to be known as the Dahiya Doctrine.

“We will wield disproportionate power,” he said, “and cause immense damage and destruction. This isn’t a suggestion. It’s a plan that has already been authorised.

“Harming the population is the only means of restraining Nasrallah.””

But the most remarkable feature of this article is its problematic presentation of Hizballah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war – once again without any mention being made of Iran’s role in that development.

“From early on in the war, Hezbollah sent its fighters across the border to support President Bashar al-Assad. […]

Their rationale for involvement in support of President Assad has evolved, but a dominant theme is that Syria has been the backbone of the resistance against Israel, and that the attacks on the regime are aimed at undermining Hezbollah by depriving them of an ally that has provided much needed logistical support.

According to their narrative, the war in Syria was a continuation of the 2006 war by other means, with the Americans, Israelis and Saudis trying to finish off the “axis of resistance”, by destroying the glue that holds it together – the Assad regime.”

Ruhayem did not present any challenge to that very transparent Hizballah propaganda or even bother to remind readers that the Syrian civil war began as a popular uprising against the repressive Assad regime and that Israel is not involved in the war in Syria.

In contrast to his audio report, Ruhayem did note Hizballah’s augmented missile arsenal but failed to tell readers where it came from or that it is a clear breach of UN SC resolution 1701.

“There seems to be agreement that Hezbollah has amassed a much larger missile arsenal. Various estimates from both sides suggest they have more than 100,000 missiles, and Hassan Nasrallah insists Israeli missile defence systems are incapable of effectively neutralising them in a new confrontation.”

He yet again whitewashed Hizballah’s origins while promoting a scenario unsupported by any evidence.

“”We are talking about a defensive war, in which we are the ones who are on the receiving end of aggression,” Hassan Nasrallah said.

This reflects Hezbollah’s new posture and priorities. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, they kept up a persistent guerrilla campaign against the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon, and it was through attrition over almost two decades that they forced them out in 2000.

Some in Israel believe it is better for them to wait and watch than wage war now.

Deputy Chief of Staff and head of the Northern Command Maj Gen Yair Golan said Israel should be in no rush to wage pre-emptive war against Hezbollah.”

It is of course highly unlikely that Israel would do any such thing unless Hizballah took steps which left it no alternative. But if conflict between Israel and Hizballah did break out again, BBC audiences would obviously be seriously lacking the background information crucial to their understanding of that event because reports like these two from Rami Ruhayem fail to provide them with information concerning relevant issues such as the failure of UN SC resolution 1701 to achieve its aims, the rearming of Hizballah and its use of communities in southern Lebanon as human shields and Iran’s patronage of the terror organization which the BBC refuses even to describe in accurate terminology.

One might have perhaps thought that a media organisation that describes itself as “the standard-setter for international journalism” would at some point in the last decade have got round to conducting a serious investigation into why the UN Security Council resolution which ended the 2006 conflict has failed to prevent the conditions being put in place for a third devastating war in Lebanon.

Related Articles:

Why doesn’t the BBC present an accurate picture of Hizballah?

BBC’s Jim Muir whitewashes Hizballah violations of 1701

BBC trumpets Hizballah narrative of ‘resistance’

BBC coverage of STL amplifies Hizballah propaganda

BBC amplifies Hizballah propaganda yet again

Weekend long read

Dr Jonathan Spyer of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs at the IDC in Herzliya has written a sober, sombre and insightful retrospective of his five years of visits to Syria throughout the developing civil war.Weekend Read

“By summer, the stage was set for the civil war to come. The death toll was rapidly mounting. Western leaders called for Assad’s resignation in August. But Assad was going nowhere. These were the days of the Arab Spring. People power and demonstrations were supposed to be enough to bring down the dictators. This happy narrative neglected to note a fact of salient importance. Deposed dictators – Zine El Abidine Bin-Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Ali Abdullah Salah in Yemen – had fallen not only or mainly because of popular unrest against them. They were deposed because their patron, the United States of America, chose to abandon them in their hour of need. Assad had chosen different friends. He wasn’t aligned with the West, but with Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. And the response of these two powers, from the very outset, was to provide the dictator with whatever level of support he required to stay in his seat.”

Read the whole article here.

Over at the Gatestone Institute, Douglas Murray ponders the topic of “Excuses” for Terrorists.

“When Israel is attacked, the steps of the Israeli embassies in London and other European capitals are not littered with flowers, teddy bears or candles, or scrawled notes of sympathy. Indeed, whenever Israelis are attacked and murdered, there is a response at Israel’s embassies. It tends to be less teddy-obsessed; it consists more of crowds roaring in rage against Israel and having to be held back from further antagonism by the local police.

It is possible that there are those who believe Israel is simply on a different continent from Europe and that, despite being an essentially Western society, it is not one to which we feel sufficiently close. Whenever a terrorist outrage occurs in a Western capital these days, there are always those who ask why the mourning for Paris or Brussels, say, is stronger than the mourning for Ankara or Beirut.

But the Paris/Brussels question for Jerusalem rarely, if ever, gets asked. One could take the lowest road and say it is because in Israel the victims are Jews. But there is also an explanation just as true. It is that Israel is seen as different because when Israel is attacked by terrorists, it is seen by a great number of people in the West not to be an innocent victim. It is seen as a country which might have in some way brought the violence upon itself.”

With the surge in terrorism against Israelis that began last autumn having reached its six-month landmark, political scientist Dr Daniel Polisar takes a look at the Palestinian opinion polls which might provide some insight into where it is heading.

“The uprising has also failed to elicit substantial sympathy for the Palestinians or to blacken Israel’s reputation in significant circles in the West—despite the potential “David versus Goliath” appeal of teenage boys and girls wielding knives and scissors and dying or being disarmed and arrested at the hands of Israeli policemen and soldiers. To be sure, there have been the occasional egregious pieces of reporting, most notably by the BBC when it headlined a story about the stabbing deaths of two Israeli civilians by diverting attention to police actions aimed at stopping the perpetrator from continuing his killing spree: “Palestinian Shot Dead after Jerusalem Attack Kills Two.””

Published at Mosaic, the entire article is available here.

Related Articles:

BBC News flunks headline of report on Jerusalem terror attack

Bad press, complaints lodged over BBC’s Lions Gate terror attack headline

BBC Two’s ‘Inside Obama’s White House’: unchallenging and uncritical

BBC Two has been showing a series titled ‘Inside Obama’s White House’ and the third episode of that programme – already shown on March 29th and to be broadcast again tonight at 23:15 local time – addresses the topic of the US president’s record in the Middle East.

Obama prog ME

The synopsis to that episode – titled “Don’t Screw It Up” – reads as follows:Obama prog synopsis

“Episode three explores how Barack Obama set out to end George Bush’s wars in the Middle East and reset relations with the rest of the world. In Cairo he speaks to the Arab world, calling democracy a human right. Two years later when protest erupts in Tahrir Square, the president is torn between secretary of state Hillary Clinton and defense secretary Robert Gates, who believe Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak provides regional stability, and his young advisors, who are in tune with the promise of the Arab Spring. Before long, a similar test arises in Libya, Hillary Clinton changes her position to back military intervention and Obama agrees to join allies in airstrikes against Colonel Gaddafi.

In Syria, when shocking evidence shows the use of chemical weapons, Obama decides to bomb. But when the British Parliament votes against intervention, he decides he needs the backing of a reluctant Congress. Foreign secretary William Hague explains why the British parliament voted against intervention in 2013 and President Obama explains why he then decided to seek the backing of Congress.

This episode also explores how Obama scored a big win when he negotiated a secret deal to end the nuclear threat from Iran – behind the backs of his closest allies. Secretary of state John Kerry tells how he worked through the night, with President Obama on the phone, to secure the outlines of the deal.”

Given the BBC’s record of uncritical promotion of the US administration’s view of the negotiations with Iran and the resulting JCPOA, it is hardly surprising to see that issue presented in this programme as a “triumph”.  Remarkably, Middle East perspectives of Obama’s decisions relating to the region do not get a platform in this programme and perhaps most notably the US president’s spin concerning his retreat from his self-imposed ‘red lines’ in Syria goes unchallenged.

Previous episodes are available to viewers in the UK on iPlayer here.

 

BBC News promotes unchallenged Assad propaganda

The synopsis to a filmed report which, in addition to being shown on BBC television, appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on March 1st under the title “Syria ceasefire key to European migrant crisis” tells BBC audiences that:Syria report Rosenberg

“Key to reducing the flow of migrants into Europe is an end to the the [sic] conflict in Syria.

The temporary ceasefire brokered by Russia and America is largely holding, though so-called Islamic State and the al Nusra Front, linked to Al Qaida, are excluded from it.

Steve Rosenberg has been embedded with Russian forces in the Northern Syrian province of Latakia.

He was taken to the villages of Kinseeba and Gunaymiyah and sent this report.”

Despite being “embedded with Russian forces”, Rosenberg made sure to qualify a claim made by his hosts:

“Later the general claims the blasts were artillery shells fired by terrorists from close to the Turkish border. But we cannot confirm what those explosions were or where they came from.”

A significantly less balanced approach was evident when a claim from Bashar al Assad made during an interview with a German TV station was highlighted later on in the report.

Rosenberg: “Today Syria’s president accused rebels of violating the agreement to halt hostilities.”

Assad: “As [for] the Syrian army, we [have] refrained ourselves from retaliating in order to give the chance for that agreement to survive. But at the end everything has a limit. It depends on the other side.”

Notably, audiences were not informed of the fact that the widely seen claims that the temporary ceasefire is “largely holding” may be questionable given reports from the field and what appears to be an unreliable system for reporting violations. More importantly, viewers were not told that Assad’s claim that his forces have remained inactive is highly contentious or that reports of the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s forces during the ceasefire have emerged.

Sadly for the BBC’s reputation as an accurate and impartial broadcaster this is far from the first time that dubious claims from the Syrian regime have been amplified without challenge or qualification.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Davies suggests ulterior motives for IDF Sarin report

BBC does damage control after Bowen’s Assad advocacy

An award-winning BBC interview and a dictator’s legacy wish

Last week’s Royal Television Society awards ceremony for television journalism saw BBC News win the ‘Interview of the Year’ category.

“The winner secured an exclusive news-making interview with the key figure at the heart of one of the biggest stories of the year. The judges recognised the hard work that went into setting up the interview, negotiating terms, maintaining editorial independence and the cool-headed expertise which produced a compelling encounter.”

RTS award Assad interview

As was noted here at the time, that interview was particularly remarkable for the fact that the words Iran and Hizballah did not appear in any of Bowen’s questions and the points made in the Times editorial which followed it still ring true a year later.

“The worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War has its origins in President Bashar al-Assad’s decision to crush dissent in Syria four years ago instead of listen to it. Assad lied about this in an interview with the BBC, broadcast as UN negotiators arrived in Damascus yesterday for peace talks. He called the demonstrators terrorists.

He lied, too, when he said his armed forces have not used chemical weapons or barrel bombs against civilians. The evidence in both cases has been painstakingly gathered and is overwhelming.  Yet the fact that Assad is willing once again to answer questions from western reporters reflects an awkward reality. […]

Assad’s aim in speaking out is to persuade those with short memories that in a region convulsed with violence he is a leader with whom the wider world can do business. […] Assad is busy rewriting history to rationalise atrocities and lay spurious claim to power.”

Moreover, the issue of “editorial independence” was called into question seven months later when Jeremy Bowen produced a series of reports which not only uncritically amplified Bashar al Assad’s agenda but actively misled audiences with regard to the Syrian regime’s role in creating the migrant crisis in Europe.

One year on Assad has been talking to the Western media again and now says that he wishes to be remembered as “the man who saved Syria”. Some of the material available in the BBC’s “historical record” – including this prize-winning interview – will do little to present members of the public with a realistic view of Bashar al Assad’s claim to that title.

How Pavlovian BBC responses can lead to inaccurate reporting

On January 22nd the BBC News website published a report titled “Syrian arrested in Germany over UN kidnapping” which opens as follows:Syrian arrested art

“A Syrian has been arrested in the south German city of Stuttgart on suspicion of helping to kidnap a UN peacekeeper in Damascus, prosecutors say.

The peacekeeper escaped in October 2013, eight months after being captured in Syria’s capital.

Germany’s federal prosecutors say al-Nusra Front, an Islamist group affiliated to al-Qaeda, was behind the kidnapping.”

The article goes on to state:

“The peacekeeper, whose nationality was not named, had been based in the demilitarised zone on the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights and it is not known why he was in Damascus.” [emphasis added]

As anyone familiar with the region will know, the area still known as the demilitarized zone (although it long since ceased to meet that description) is not “Israeli-occupied” at all and has not been throughout more than four decades of its existence.Camp Faouar

But a closer look at this story demonstrates even further how the Pavlovian response “Israeli-occupied” to the term “Golan Heights” from a BBC journalist led to inaccurate reporting.

Whilst the German authorities may indeed not have mentioned the UN peacekeeper’s identity and nationality, as other reports on the story note, the only person of that description to have escaped his kidnappers in October 2013 after eight months in captivity was the Canadian national Carl Campeau who acted as a legal advisor to UNDOF.

And – as noted in several interviews given by Mr Campeau after his ordeal – at the time of his kidnapping he was actually based in Syria – at UNDOF’s Camp Faouar which is located to the east of the demilitarised zone.

In other words, there was no reason whatsoever for the term “Israeli-occupied” to appear in this report.  

BBC reports on 2015 internet ‘falsehoods’ – but not its own

Promoted using the heading “Fakes and Falsehoods” and with the sub-heading “Eight ways the internet lied to you in 2015”, the BBC News website published an article on December 27th similarly titled  “How the internet misled you in 2015” which opens with the words “it was another busy year for journalists debunking fake or misleading images on social media.”Internet fakes art

It was also another busy year for those “debunking” inaccurate and misleading content on the BBC News website and on the corporation’s additional platforms. Here (in no particular order) are a few examples of some of the ways in which the BBC misled its audiences in 2015.

1) In September the corporation’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen repeatedly told audiences that refugees fleeing Syria were doing so because of ISIS and whitewashed the Assad regime’s attacks on its own civilians.

BBC News’ migrant crisis coverage: Bowen embeds with Assad

More BBC Bowen beating of the Assad regime drum

More BBC amplification of the ‘ISIS worse than Assad’ meme

2) In March the BBC told its audiences that the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran brought “plenty of positive side-effects” for women in that country.

How the BBC whitewashed the issue of women’s rights in Iran

3) In July the BBC’s Razia Iqbal told audiences that Iran does not threaten Israel.  

No wonder BBC WS presenter Razia Iqbal got Iranian threat to Israel wrong

BBC ECU upholds complaint concerning Iranian threats to Israel

4) In August the BBC told audiences that “Israel has used administrative detention against Palestinians but not against Jewish suspects.”

BBC News misleads audiences on administrative detention

BBC News website corrects inaccurate administrative detention claim

BBC responses to complaints on accuracy failures

5) In April the BBC News website told audiences that Israeli forces had fired 88 mortar rounds at a school in the Gaza Strip in 2014.

BBC article on UN Gaza report includes inaccurate representation of its content

BBC amends inaccurate claim on Gaza mortar fire

6) In August the BBC told audiences that Jerusalem has a “secular majority” and, in October, that the city is not Israel’s capital.

The figures behind the BBC’s claim of a ‘secular majority’ in Jerusalem

BBC News website corrects Jerusalem “secular majority” claim

BBC News gets Israel’s capital city right – and then ‘corrects’

7) In September and October the BBC repeatedly misrepresented Temple Mount by describing it as “the Al Aqsa Mosque” and “a Muslim site”. Audiences were even misled by BBC Arabic’s Nawal Assad on the issue of the status quo regarding prayer at the site.

A worldwide platform for incitement from BBC Arabic’s Nawal Assad

Disturbing themes in BBC coverage of the wave of terror in Israel

More conspiracy theory amplification from BBC’s Yolande Knell – and why it matters

8) In July the BBC told us that terror attacks in Israel are “not comparable” to terror attacks in Tunisia or Kuwait and that the stories are “very different”.

The BBC, terrorism and ‘consistency’

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

9) In June the BBC yet again misled audiences with regard to the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and reports produced throughout the year continued to mislead on the issue of why reconstruction there is so slow.  

BBC’s English and Arabic flotilla reports promote inaccurate information

BBC News website corrects Gaza Strip naval blockade inaccuracy

A side to the Gaza reconstruction story the BBC isn’t telling

Yolande Knell’s political campaigning continues in BBC ‘Gaza anniversary’ coverage

10) Also in June, the BBC told audiences that the first suicide bombing carried out by a British citizen abroad took place in 2014. 

BBC News inaccurately claims first suicide bombing abroad by a British citizen was in 2014

BBC News website corrects ‘first British suicide bomber’ claim

Readers are invited to add other examples to the list in the comments below. 

 

 

 

BBC radio stations mangle Samir Kuntar story – part two

h/t DK

The December 20th edition BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Rebecca Kesby – included an interview with Smadar Haran Kaiser (from 04:11 here) which was promoted as follows at the start of the show.

“Coming up on the programme today we’ll have reactions to the death of the Hizballah leader from a woman whose entire family was killed in a raid he took part in. It’s a compelling story from a woman with every reason to hate but who refuses to do so.”Newshour 20 12 Kesby

The synopsis appearing on that programme’s webpage promotes the item as follows:

“Israeli widow remembers Hezbollah attack”

Kuntar and his three associates did not of course carry out the terror attack in Nahariya in 1979 on behalf of “Hezbollah” (which – according to the BBC’s own profile of the organization – did not even exist at that time) but as Palestine Liberation Front operatives.

In her introduction to the item, Kesby upgraded Kuntar’s status within Hizballah ranks and predictably failed to inform listeners that it is an internationally designated terrorist organization.

“Now, one of the most senior leaders of the Shiia militant group Hizballah has been killed in Damascus. Samir Kuntar died when missiles hit a residential building in the Syrian capital. The Lebanese-based group blames Israel for the attack. They haven’t confirmed or denied it, although an Israeli minister did welcome the news of his death earlier today. Several rockets were later fired into northern Israel – perhaps in retaliation for the assassination – and we understand mortars were then fired from Israel into Lebanon.”

The subsequent part of the introduction indicates that Kesby had no idea who she was interviewing and her ignorance concerning the circumstances of the Nahariya attack obviously misleads listeners.  

“Well Samir Kuntar had previously been jailed by the Israelis for a notorious attack on a police officer and his family back in 1979. We’ll be hearing from that policeman’s widow in just a moment…”

Smadar Haran Kaiser is of course the widow of Danny Haran who was murdered by Kuntar and his group together with their four year-old daughter Einat. The murdered policeman was Eliyahu Shahar.

Kesby continued:

“… but first, Rami Khouri is a senior fellow at the American University in Beirut. He told me more about Samir Kuntar.”

Khouri was given a platform from which to whitewash terrorism against Israelis by means of inaccurate rebranding.

“He joined a Palestinian group in Lebanon called the Palestine Liberation Front and in 1979 he was involved in a guerilla operation in Israel which the Israelis called a terrorist operation…” [emphasis added]

A “guerilla operation” would by definition be directed against regular military forces. Kuntar’s cell targeted a civilian apartment building after killing a policeman who happened upon them by chance and then murdered a father and his small daughter. Kesby made no attempt to relieve audiences of the inaccurate impression given by Khouri and notably listeners were not told of the circumstances of Einat Haran’s death.

“Well Smadar Haran Kaiser’s husband was murdered by Samir Kuntar and her two daughters were also killed in that attack.”

Fortunately, Smadar Haran Kaiser proved to be more than capable of dealing with Kesby’s statements-cum-questions – several of which do not relate to the terror attack itself.

“The Israeli authorities haven’t confirmed or denied that they were responsible for this assassination today. Do you think they were and do you support it?”

“Is there a danger that this kind of attack provokes yet more violence?”

But in addition to the inaccurate information given to listeners, what is notable about this item is that (like most of the corporation’s coverage of this story) it focuses audience attention on the past, avoiding all mention of Kuntar’s more recent activities as an operative for Hizballah and Iran in Syria. That information is of course much more relevant to BBC audiences trying to understand the story.

Related Articles:

BBC radio stations mangle Samir Kuntar story – part one

Resources:

BBC World Service contact details

 

Terrorist murderer of four Samir Kuntar dubbed ‘militant’ by BBC News

A terrorist convicted by a court of law for the murders of four people was downgraded by the BBC to the status of “militant” on December 20th.

Kuntar on ME pge

Such terminology is also seen in the body of the article titled “Lebanese militant Samir Qantar killed in rocket strike in Syria” and the international terror organization with which Kuntar was most recently associated is described in similarly euphemistic language.

“Key Lebanese militant Samir Qantar has been killed in a rocket strike near the Syrian capital, Damascus, Hezbollah has said.

The Lebanese Shia militant group blamed Israel for the air strike.” [emphasis added]

The BBC also found it appropriate to amplify a denial by Kuntar – despite the existence of forensic evidence to the contrary.  

“He was convicted of murder over an attack on a civilian apartment block in Nahariya in 1979, carried out when he was 16.

Two policemen, a man and his four-year-old daughter were killed. A baby girl was accidentally smothered by her mother as she hid in a cupboard.

He was accused of killing the four-year-old girl with a rifle butt, which he denied.” [emphasis added]

The article goes on to state:Kuntar vers 1

“His release in 2008 in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in 2006 was highly controversial.”

Audiences are not informed that Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were “captured by Hezbollah” and killed in an unprovoked cross border raid into Israeli territory.

Whilst the BBC’s report focuses on the attack committed by Kuntar in 1979, it does not inform readers that at the time he was an operative for another designated terrorist organization – the Palestine Liberation Front.

That focus on Kuntar’s past comes at the expense of the provision of obviously relevant context concerning his more recent activities, which this article condenses into the following opaque statement:

“Qantar is believed to have become a key figure in Hezbollah since his release.”

Whilst refraining from reporting adequately on that topic in its own words, the article quotes a US State Department announcement from three months ago which the BBC did not find newsworthy (in English, at least) at the time.

“In September, the US state department designated him a terrorist saying he had become one of Hezbollah’s “most visible and popular spokesmen”.

“Since Qantar’s return, he has also played an operational role, with the assistance of Iran and Syria, in building up Hezbollah’s terrorist infrastructure in the Golan Heights,” it said.”

A caption to one of the images illustrating the article states “[a] number of other people were killed in the air strike” but BBC audiences are not provided with any further information.

“Syrian media said that among the dead was Farhan Shaalan, a commander in the National Defense Forces, a Syrian anti-Israel resistance group founded by Kuntar and others. Those reports said that senior Hezbollah members were also present in the building at the time of the attack.”

Readers are not provided with detail about the obviously relevant issue of Kuntar’s recent operational roles with Hizballah and Iran– as documented in an article earlier this year from the Washington Institute.

“Meanwhile, Israel is also contending with terrorist threats from locals — including Druze — recruited by Hezbollah to place roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs) near the Golan security barrier. Israeli military officials pointed to at least fifteen such attacks from March to December 2014. As one general told the New York Times last November, using locals provides plausible deniability; “Hezbollah gives them the IEDs and the Iranians give them the inspiration,” he noted. In January, an Israeli airstrike killed Jihad Mughniyah, son of the late Hezbollah terrorist chief Imad Mughniyah, as he took a “commanders’ tour” of the area; an Iranian general and several other operatives were killed as well. Since then, Jihad’s brother Mustafa has taken on a more prominent role in this part of Syria.

Although neither Hezbollah nor Iran wants to draw Israel into Syria at the moment, both feel compelled to maintain their credentials as pillars of the “resistance” against Israel. Accordingly, Hezbollah has used Samir Kuntar — a Lebanese Druze convicted for murdering an Israeli family in 1979 and released in a 2008 prisoner swap — to actively recruit Druze youths for terrorist attacks. Kuntar reportedly started off recruiting local militias to defend Druze villages from JN and other rebels. He then privately approached a few trusted recruits from Khadr to attack Israel, including two youths who originally came from Majdal Shams across the border.

Recruiting Druze, let alone Israeli Druze, put the entire community in a precarious position. Making matters worse, Kuntar’s cell carried out an IED attack on April 27, which fell during the major Druze holiday of Ziyarat al-Nabi Shuayb. Furious over the incident, one Druze leader reportedly made a youth publicly disavow his involvement in Kuntar’s group while standing in front of his whole village.”

Readers may recall that the April incident was also the subject of some confusing BBC reporting which made liberal use of the term “militants” and was as unsatisfactory as most of the previous BBC reporting on Hizballah attacks against Israel in the Golan Heights. However, whilst those incidents were not mentioned in this report, the writer did find it necessary to inform readers that “Israel is believed to have carried out a number of attacks inside Syria during its civil conflict, targeting Hezbollah”.

At least one Hizballah-linked figure has already threatened Israel following Kuntar’s death. If – or more likely when – such an attack comes, BBC audiences will of course be too under-informed to understand its context. 

Weekend long read

This week’s long read focuses on recent Middle East related stories which did not appear on BBC channels.Weekend Read

Having ignored recent reports of a visit by the head of ISIS’ Sinai branch to the Gaza Strip, the BBC also refrained from covering reports concerning financial transactions between it and Hamas. Alex Fishman at Ynet reports:

“Hamas’ military wing in the Gaza Strip has been transferring tens of thousands of dollars a month to the Islamic State group’s Sinai branch over the past year, via one of its emissaries. […]

Hamas is paying the Islamic State militants in Egypt to secure weapons shipments being smuggled through the Sinai to Gaza.

The shipments primarily consist of explosive propellant material that Hamas needs in order to make rockets. As such the money is going towards smuggling both military equipment and material needed to build Hamas’ military infrastructure.”

At the Washington Institute, Ehud Ya’ari writes on the same topic:

“Over the past two years, IS Sinai helped Hamas move weapons from Iran and Libya through the peninsula, taking a generous cut from each shipment. Hamas relies on Bedouin guides to avoid detection by the Egyptian army and reach the few tunnels that have survived Cairo’s aggressive flooding and closure campaign. In this manner, IS Sinai acquired the advanced Kornet antitank missiles it has used to sink an Egyptian patrol boat off the coast of al-Arish and destroy several tanks and armored carriers stationed in the peninsula’s northeastern sector. Hamas has also provided training to some IS Sinai fighters and assisted with the group’s media campaign and online postings.”Belgian rifle art

Interestingly, a recent BBC report which supposedly “tracked” the journey of weapons from Libya to the Gaza Strip did not actually explain to readers the mechanisms of arms smuggling through Sinai.

Also at the Washington Institute, Aaron Y. Zelin and Oula A. Alrifai report on ISIS in Southern Syria.

“Much attention has been given to the Islamic State’s military and governance activities in northern and eastern Syria, but there has been less focus on its slow and steady growth in the southern theater. Since July 2013, it has been building a presence in a number of locales around Damascus, with the eventual goal of taking the city. While such aspirations are still far beyond the group’s military capabilities, it has actively rolled out soft-power strategies. Focusing on the Islamic State’s activities in the north and east of Syria could prevent a complete understanding of what it is attempting to accomplish.”

The Tower reports from the US on the ‘Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015’.

“A bill that seeks to impose mandatory sanctions on banks that knowingly conduct business with Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 425 – 0 on Wednesday, The Hill reported. The proposed legislation is now heading to the White House, where President Barack Obama is expected to sign it.

The measure would direct the Obama administration to report on the Lebanon-based terror group’s drug trafficking and organized crime activities, as well as outline its global support networks

It would also require the administration to determine any telecommunications companies that contract with Al-Manar, a TV station affiliated with Hezbollah.”

And at the Times of Israel, Avi Issacharoff writes about Hizballah’s changed approach to publicizing its casualties in Syria.

“The Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah has seen between 1,300 and 1,500 of its fighters killed in battles in the Syrian civil war, which means that together with the wounded it has lost as much as a third of its fighting force, according to Israeli estimates.

Some 5,000 of the organization’s members have been injured in fighting alongside regime troops against rebel groups, including the Islamic State.[…]

Recently, Hezbollah has been publishing details of its members killed in Syria and is not trying to hide its losses, in contrast to its policy during the early years of the Syrian civil war, which broke out in 2011.”