Weekend long read

1) At the Fathom journal, Jamie Palmer “explores the impact on the politics of the Left of desperately simplistic narratives of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. 

“Some people do approach the conflict with fully formed antisemitic attitudes previously learned elsewhere. Stalinists, white supremacists, and Islamists all encourage distrust and dislike of Jews for ideological reasons of their own. But what of the majority of young writers and activists on university campuses who will go on to work in NGOs and write for the mainstream left-wing press? For the most part, such people take pride in their antipathy to racism, and do not come to the Arab-Israeli conflict with a pre-existing and irrational antipathy to Israel.

In cases where such attitudes subsequently develop and become manifest in antisemitic statements and tropes, it is usually as a means of explaining what otherwise seems incomprehensible. Motivated reasoning has led to the construction of conflict narratives designed to protect the Palestinians’ preordained status as righteous victims. But as the explanatory limitations of these narratives have encountered unfolding complexities on the ground, they have only produced new crises of understanding, and a requirement for ever more conspiratorial explanations of Israeli behaviour.”

2) The JCPA explains the background to a story touched upon by the BBC last month: “Why Israel Is Concerned About American-Russian Understandings on Syria“.

“The agreement reached during the G-20 meetings in Hamburg between U.S. President Trump and Russian President Putin on July 7, 2017, about establishing a de-escalation zone in southwestern Syria was accepted with mixed feelings in Israel.

Jerusalem, of course, welcomes stability in the southern part of Syria. But Prime Minister Netanyahu voiced concern about the agreement mainly because it focused on the de-escalation zone. It tacitly gave legitimacy to the prolonged presence of Iranian and Iranian-backed forces throughout the regions of Syria nominally controlled by the Assad regime.” 

3) Palestinian Media Watch reports on an increase in Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists and their families.

“The PA has publicized its budget for 2017, which includes how much it will be spending on salaries to terrorist prisoners and to families of terrorist “Martyrs.” Ignoring demands to stop rewarding terror by the United States, EU countries, Israel and many others, the PA in 2017 is actually increasing significantly these outlays.” 

4) At the Times of Israel, Amanda Borschel-Dan brings some background to a story the BBC reported last month.

“The Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby, which has in a settlement agreed to pay some $3 million in fines and to forfeit thousands of ancient artifacts from Iraq, is implicated by US prosecutors of — knowingly or not — participating in a smuggling scheme out of the Middle East. Among other ruses, antiquities dealers forged provenance and intentionally mislabeled imported looted items to the US as “tile samples.” […]

During Sunday’s operation, which involved the Israel Antiquities Authority, Israel Police and Israel Tax Authority, the East Jerusalem homes and businesses of five antiquities dealers were raided, garnering previously unreported antiquities including ancient parchment pieces written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin, as well as ancient weapons, sculpture from the Hellenistic and Roman periods, pottery and bronze, silver and gold coins.”

Weekend long read

1) In light of events in Jerusalem this past week (that have at the time of writing gone unreported by the BBC), a JCPA briefing on the subject of the incitement constructed around lies concerning Temple Mount provides useful background.

““Al-Aksa is in danger” is a classic libel that was embroidered in the first half of the twentieth century against the Jewish people, the Zionist movement, and, eventually, the State of Israel. The state and its institutions – so, in brief, the libel claims – are scheming and striving to destroy the mosques on the Temple Mount and build in their stead the Third Temple. The longer the libel lives, its delusive variants striking root, the more its blind and misled devotees proliferate. The libel is ramifying, taking hold of the academic, religious, and public discourse of the Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim world as if it were pure truth. Absurdly, it strikes at the Jewish people and the State of Israel precisely in the place where the Jewish state has made the most generous gesture, the greatest concession, ever made by one religion to another – on the Temple Mount, the holiest place of the Jewish people and only the third place in importance for the Muslim religion.”

2) At the Times of Israel, David Horovitz writes about the same story.

“It’s outrageous that in parts of the Muslim world, Israel is being castigated for installing metal detectors designed to boost security at the holiest place in the world for Jews and the third holiest for Muslims. Don’t they want security there?

It’s outrageous that many of those who are castigating Israel for ostensibly “changing the status quo” at the Temple Mount / Al-Aqsa Mosque compound are doing so without so much as mentioning the murderous attack that defiled the holy site and prompted the deployment of the metal detectors: On Friday, three Muslims — Israeli Arab Muslims — emerged from the compound, guns blazing, and shot dead two Border Police officers who were stationed on duty immediately outside. The two victims just so happened to be Druze — an Arabic-speaking monotheistic community incorporating many Islamic teachings. To put it really crudely then, Arabs killed Arabs at a holy place, the Jews are trying to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, and the Arab world is furious with the Jews about it.”

3) At ‘Point of No Return’ we learn of a proposed new museum in Jerusalem.

“An architect of Tunisian origin is behind a project to build a Museum to Jews from Arab Countries.  Jean-Loup Mordehai Msika explains why such a museum, in the heart of Jerusalem, is vital to inform visitors of the ancient roots of the Jewish people in the Middle East. The project, unveiled publicly for the first time on Point of No Return,  has the backing of  the coalition of associations of Jews from Arab countries in Israel and is now with the Jerusalem municipality for approval.” 

4) This week the IDF revealed details of its operations providing humanitarian aid to Syrians battling with the effects of the civil war in their country.

“Over four years ago, an injured Syrian came to the border asking for medical help from the IDF. Back then, there was no policy, just a commander’s on-the-spot decision to provide care to an injured civilian. Since then, the aid has continued on a near daily basis. In June 2016, as part of a decision to expand humanitarian aid efforts, the IDF Northern Command established the headquarters of Operation Good Neighbor.

The goal of Operation Good Neighbor is to provide humanitarian aid to as many people as possible while maintaining Israel’s policy of non-involvement in the conflict. The first activities coordinated by the headquarters took place in August 2016. Since then, there have been more than 110 aid operations of various kinds.”

Additional reporting on that subject can be found here, here and here.

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2017 – part one

Between April 1st and June 30th 2017, a total of seventy reports with content relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, one of which was carried over from the previous quarter.

Some of the reports were produced by other departments (e.g. BBC Technology) or appeared on other pages of the website (e.g. ‘UK’ or ‘US & Canada’) but were also posted on the Middle East page.

Although the Israeli security services recorded 356 terror attacks during the second quarter of 2017 (see ‘related articles’ below), just three of those attacks received coverage on the BBC News website.

(The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which a report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Israeli killed in West Bank car-ramming attack  (6/4/17 to 10/4/17) discussed here

Jerusalem stabbing: Tributes paid to Hannah Bladon (14/4/17 to 18/4/17) discussed here

Israeli policewoman stabbed to death in Jerusalem (16/6/17 to 20/6/17) discussed here and here 

Two other reports related to Syria:

Syria war: ‘Israeli strike’ hits military site near Damascus airport (27/4/17 to 30/4/17) discussed here and here

Syria war: Israel Patriot missile downs ‘target’ over Golan (27/4/17)

In all, 7.14% of the BBC News website’s reports in Q2 covered stories relating to security/terrorism. The additional topics found in the BBC’s coverage of Israel and the Palestinians during the second quarter of 2017 will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – April 2017

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2017

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2017

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2017 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2017 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q4 2016 – part two (includes links to previous reports) 

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”.

Why does the BBC describe the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack as ‘suspected’?

On June 27th an article titled “US warns Syria over ‘potential’ plan for chemical attack” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East and US & Canada pages.

The article includes references to the attack that took place in Khan Sheikhoun in April of this year and the language used is noteworthy.

At the head of the article readers find a video – originally broadcast by the BBC a month after the attack – with the caption “Abo Rabeea says he is still suffering from the suspected chemical weapons strike in Khan Sheikhoun”. [emphasis added]

The article itself opens:

“The US says it has identified “potential preparations” for another chemical attack in Syria, and issued a stark warning to the Syrian government.

The White House said the activities were similar to those made before a suspected chemical attack in April.” [emphasis added]

Later on readers are told that:

“President Assad denied his forces were behind the suspected nerve gas attack in the rebel-held north-western town of Khan Sheikhoun in April.”

The link in that paragraph leads to a BBC video from April showing an AFP interview with Bashar al Assad that the Syrian regime found friendly enough to post on its own website.

In the weeks since that attack took place a number of investigations have been conducted by various parties.

A report published by the UN’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) found that samples taken from victims and from the environment indicated exposure to “sarin or a sarin-like substance”.

The French government also published a report in late April in which it was concluded that sarin was used in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4th and that:

“The  sarin  present  in  the munitions used on 4 April was produced using the same manufacturing process as that used during the sarin attack perpetrated by the Syrian regime in Saraqib [in April 2013]. Moreover, the presence of  hexamine  indicates  that  this  manufacturing  process  is  that  developed  by  the  Scientific Studies and Research Centre for the Syrian regime.”

Similar conclusions were reached by additional parties including the US, Turkey and the UK as well as Human Rights Watch – an NGO usually considered by the BBC to be an impeccable source.

Is it possible that the BBC is not aware of those reports and hence is still describing the attack as “suspected” and amplifying Assad’s propaganda on the topic? That possibility is ruled out by the fact that included in the related reading at the bottom of this article is a link to a BBC report from April 26th titled “Syria chemical ‘attack’: What we know” that informs readers of the results of the investigations carried out by the OPCW, Turkey and France.

And yet despite that, visitors to the BBC News website still find plenty of content relating to that story which is presented using language and punctuation which suggests to audiences that there is reason to doubt whether an attack took place, what type of weapon was used and who carried it out.

This is of course far from the only case of false balance in BBC reporting that obstructs audience understanding of a story. The BBC News website, for example, still carries a report amplifying inaccurate Hamas claims concerning a 2014 incident in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza despite the fact that the circumstances have been repeatedly clarified over the last three years. The practice of promoting false balance clearly hampers the BBC’s purpose of providing the public with accurate and impartial reporting that enables understanding of  global issues. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s ME editor suggests Syria chemical attack related to Israel

BBC News’ migrant crisis coverage: Bowen embeds with Assad

BBC promotes Assad propaganda in Syria reports

BBC’s Davies suggests ulterior motives for IDF Sarin report

BBC’s Assad interview and the ‘related articles’ 

BBC’s filmed Six Day War backgrounder falls short

On June 5th a video billed “1967 Six Day War – in 60 seconds” appeared on the BBC News website’s main homepage and its Middle East page.

The video itself is titled “Six Day War: What happened – in 60 seconds” and its synopsis reads:

“In June 1967, Israel and Arab countries fought a war which lasted six days, but changed the face of the Middle East.”

The video’s opening frame tells viewers that they are about to learn “How the conflict unfolded”. However, the events which caused Israel to launch what the BBC rightly recognises as “a pre-emptive strike” are bizarrely erased from this account. The video continues:

“Day 1 June 5 1967

In a pre-emptive strike Israeli planes took out Egypt’s air force before it could take off

As fighting began, Israel also attacked Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi air forces, gaining air supremacy

Israeli ground forces enter the Sinai to fight the Egyptian army

Jordanian army shells West Jerusalem and other Israeli cities

Day 2 June 6 1967

Heavy combat between Israeli and Jordanian forces across Jerusalem and the West Bank

Day 3 June 7 1967

Israel captures the Old City of Jerusalem with its holy sites: Western Wall and Dome of the Rock

Day 4 June 8 1967

In the south, Israeli forces reach the Suez Canal, capturing the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt

Israel takes over the West Bank. An estimated 300,000 refugees flee to Jordan

Day 5 June 9 1967

In the north, Israeli forces push into the Syrian Golan Heights, taking most of it from Syria

Day 6 June 10 1967

Israeli forces capture more territory on the Golan Heights. Ceasefire declared ending the war.”

Completely absent from this backgrounder is any mention of the crucial events which preceded Israel’s preemptive strike on June 5th 1967: the massing of Egyptian troops in Sinai, the UN’s removal of peacekeeping forces from Sinai at Nasser’s demand, the closure of the Straits of Tiran by Egypt, the massing of troops by other Arab countries on Israel’s borders or Israel’s concerted diplomatic efforts to avoid the conflict.

Neither is any mention made of the message conveyed by the Israeli prime minister to the King of Jordan on the morning of June 5th, telling him that “we shall not engage ourselves in any action against Jordan, unless Jordan attacks us”. Likewise, Syrian attacks on Israeli communities both before and during the war are completely eliminated from the BBC’s account.

Once again we see that the BBC is not in the least committed to providing its audiences with the full range of accurate and impartial information that would enhance their knowledge and understanding of an event it so vigorously promotes.

Related Articles:

BBC WS tells a context-free tale of Egypt’s Six Day War ‘naksa’

Six Day War Anniversary resources

Reviewing a BBC News Online Six Day War backgrounder

BBC’s Bateman erases history and context from his account of the Six Day War

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Last month we noted here that a BBC backgrounder on the Six Day War which is still available to audiences online tells audiences that:

“In May 1967, President Nasser demanded the removal of Unef troops from the Sinai, closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and signed a defence pact with Jordan. Some historians question whether Nasser planned to go to war, but all three factors, and Egyptian troop deployment in the Sinai, led to a pre-emptive strike by Israel.” [emphasis added]

Writing at Ynet, Ben Dror Yemini addresses that issue.

“More than anything else, the Six-Day War has turned into a rewritten war. A sea of publications deal with what happened at the time. Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt, the revisionists assert, had no ability to fight Israel, and anyway, he had no intention to do so.

It’s true that he made threats. It’s true that he sent more and more divisions to Sinai. It’s true that he expelled the United Nations observers. It’s true that he incited the masses in Arab countries. It’s true that the Arab regimes rattled their sabers and prepared for war. It’s true that he closed the Straits of Tiran. It’s true that Israel was besieged from its southern side. It’s true that this was a serious violation of international law. It’s true that it was a “casus belli” (a case of war).

All that doesn’t matter, however, because there is a mega-narrative that obligates the forces of progress to exempt the Arabs from responsibility and point the accusing finger at Israel. And when there is a narrative, who needs facts? After all, according to the mega-narrative, Israel had expansionist plans, so it seized the opportunity. Different scholars are distorting the facts in a bid to turn the Arabs into victims and Israel into an aggressor.”

2) The same topic is also discussed (along with additional points relevant to BBC portrayal of the war, especially by its Middle East editor) in an essay by Gabriel Glickman published at the Middle East Forum under the title “This Time, the Loser Writes History“.

“It is a general law that every war is fought twice—first on the battlefield, then in the historiographical arena—and so it has been with the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war (or the Six-Day War as it is commonly known). No sooner had the dust settled on the battlefield than the Arabs and their Western partisans began rewriting the conflict’s narrative with aggressors turned into hapless victims and defenders turned into aggressors. Jerusalem’s weeks-long attempt to prevent the outbreak of hostilities in the face of a rapidly tightening Arab noose is completely ignored or dismissed as a disingenuous ploy; by contrast, the extensive Arab war preparations with the explicit aim of destroying the Jewish state is whitewashed as a demonstrative show of force to deter an imminent Israeli attack on Syria. It has even been suggested that Jerusalem lured the Arab states into war in order to expand its territory at their expense. So successful has this historiographical rewriting been that, fifty years after the war, these “alternative facts” have effectively become the received dogma, echoed by some of the most widely used college textbooks about the Middle East.

The first step to absolving the Arab leaders of culpability for the conflict—especially Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, who set in motion the course of events that led to war—was to present them as victims of their fully understandable, if highly unfortunate, overreaction to a Soviet warning of an imminent Israeli attack on Syria. Taking at face value Nasser’s postwar denial of any intention to attack Israel, educated Westerners—intellectuals, Middle East experts, and journalists—excused his dogged drive to war as an inescapable grandstanding aimed at shoring up his position in the face of relentless criticism by the conservative Arab states and the more militant elements within his administration.”

3) BBC audiences regularly hear or see the Arab-Israeli conflict and its offshoot, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, described as the Middle East conflict with the overt or covert suggestion being that if only that were solved, peace and harmony would descend on the region. Writing at the Telegraph, Charles Krauthammer unravels that myth.

“Unfortunately, Trump muddied the waters a bit in Israel by at times reverting to the opposite strategy – the inside-out – by saying that an Israeli-Palestinian deal would “begin a process of peace all throughout the Middle East.”

That is well-worn nonsense. Imagine if Israel disappeared tomorrow in an earthquake. Does that end the civil war in Syria? The instability in Iraq? The fighting in Yemen? Does it change anything of consequence amid the intra-Arab chaos? Of course not.

And apart from being delusional, the inside-out strategy is at present impossible. Palestinian leadership is both hopelessly weak and irredeemably rejectionist. Until it is prepared to accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state – which it has never done in the 100 years since the Balfour Declaration committed Britain to a Jewish homeland in Palestine – there will be no peace.”

4) At the JCPA, Dr Jaques Neriah documents the under-reported phenomenon of foreign fighters deployed by Iran in Syria.

“Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria and especially since the advent of the Islamic State (ISIS) and its franchises in the Arab Middle East and Africa, world attention has been focused on the foreign volunteers who flocked by the thousands to boost the ranks of the jihadist militias, mainly the ranks of the Islamic State and Al-Qaida.

The attacks perpetrated in Europe, the United States, and throughout the world, by terrorists who were trained and inspired by the jihadist organizations, emphasizes the need to understand the phenomena to combat it better. Many analysts concentrated on the hordes of jihadi volunteers from more than 80 nations and warned about the dangers of those fighters returning home to become sleeper operatives.

By contrast, while there is considerable media coverage about the foreign jihadists and while the Western coalition tries to contain the flow of new recruits to ISIS, under the radar and almost unnoticed, Iran managed to deploy in Syria its own fighters and proxy armies to fight for the Assad regime’s survival in Syria. While the jihadist organizations recruited their volunteers from the Sunni Muslim world, Iran turned to the Shiite populations to supply the needed manpower for Iran’s Syrian front.”

 

Reviewing a BBC News Online Six Day War backgrounder

Fifty years ago today, the build-up of events that led to the Six Day War had already begun.

After fourteen Palestinian terror attacks had been carried out with Syrian support since April 7th, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol warned Syria of retaliation on May 13th 1967.    

Also on May 13th, the USSR promoted disinformation about a fictitious planned Israeli attack on Syria to the Egyptians and Syrians.

On May 14th Egyptian troops were mobilised around the Suez Canal and two days later Nasser demanded the removal of UN peacekeepers from the Sinai Peninsula: an ultimatum that was met by the UN Secretary General on May 18th.

On May 17th two Egyptian warplanes flew a reconnaissance mission over Israeli territory and on May 19th tens of thousands of Egyptian troops and hundreds of tanks massed in the Sinai.

Three days later, on May 22nd 1967, Egypt created a casus belli by blockading the Straits of Tiran.

So how are those events portrayed to the BBC’s audiences? In the past we have looked at some of the BBC produced material concerning the Six Day War that remains accessible online (see ‘related articles’ below). Another item still available is a backgrounder titled “1967 Middle East War” which is undated but appears to have been compiled about a decade ago.

The first page of that backgrounder ostensibly provides an introduction to the topic and the events that led to the conflict. Subsequent pages give day-by-day accounts of the fighting which are notable for their significant omissions, perhaps the most glaring of which is the absence of any mention of the message conveyed by the Israeli prime minister Levi Eshkol via a UN official to the king of Jordan on the morning of June 5th informing him that:

“We are engaged in defensive fighting on the Egyptian sector, and we shall not engage ourselves in any action against Jordan, unless Jordan attacks us. Should Jordan attack Israel, we shall go against her with all our might.”

In other words, the BBC erases the fact that Jordan’s decision to attack despite that communication was the precursor to its defeat in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem.

The introduction is noteworthy for the fact that it promotes a theme seen in additional BBC material: a passively worded portrayal of the 1948 invasion of territories designated as part of the homeland for the Jewish people at the San Remo conference in 1920, without any clarification of the fact that the conquered areas were subsequently occupied (and in the case of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem, subjected to unrecognised annexation) by the belligerents.  

Rather, BBC audiences are told that:

“The 1967 Middle East War, also known as the Six Day War, was the third conflict between Israel and neighbouring Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

The first, in 1948, left East Jerusalem and the River Jordan’s West Bank under Jordanian control and the coastal Gaza Strip under Egyptian control.”

The build up to the Six Day War as described by the BBC includes a portrayal of Arab League backed terror organisations established three years earlier as “newly-formed Palestinian militant groups”:

“Tensions continued to rise and newly-formed Palestinian militant groups began cross-border raids with Arab support. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser was keen to unite the Arab world and spoke of “the destruction of Israel”, while Israel feared it could be wiped out.

In May 1967, President Nasser demanded the removal of Unef troops from the Sinai, closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and signed a defence pact with Jordan. Some historians question whether Nasser planned to go to war, but all three factors, and Egyptian troop deployment in the Sinai, led to a pre-emptive strike by Israel.” [emphasis added]

The BBC refrains from informing its audiences of the fact that Nasser had been warned in advance that blockade of the Straits of Tiran would bring about war.

“In a desperate attempt at de-escalation, on May 19, Israeli diplomats frantically dispatched cables to capitals around the world, declaring that as long as Egypt did not close the Straits of Tiran – its artery to the East, including access to oil from Iran – it would not initiate any hostilities. Through Paris, Washington and Moscow, Jerusalem was sending an explicit message to Cairo: A naval blockade would be considered a casus belli. At that point, tens of thousands of Egyptian troops and hundreds of tanks had already deployed in the previously demilitarized Sinai – a buffer zone filled with UN peacekeepers designed to prevent a surprise attack. Three days later, despite the Israeli warning, Egypt nonetheless announced it was closing the Tiran Straits. “The Israeli flag shall not go through the Gulf of Aqaba,” Nasser said in a speech.”

A noteworthy omission from the BBC’s account is any information concerning the part played by the USSR in stoking tensions.

“In mid-May, Soviet meddling severely escalated the brewing conflict. On May 15, Israel Independence Day, plans for a parade involving large numbers of Israeli troops in western Jerusalem drew outrage in Arab countries. Wishing to defuse the situation, Eshkol forbade bringing heavy weapons into the capital. This decision was used by the Soviets to stoke tensions; on May 15, Anwar al-Sadat, then speaker of the National Assembly, visited Moscow, where he was warned (falsely) by the Soviets that Israel was planning to invade Syria sometime between the dates of May 16 and May 22. The Soviets cited the absence of weapons in the Jerusalem parade as proof that the Israelis were preparing for war and falsely claimed that Israel was massing brigades along its norther border with Syria. Syria also quickly passed the disinformation to Egypt’s President Nasser, who on May 14 declared a state of emergency and made a show of parading his troops through Cairo on their way to Sinai. During this period, Arab leaders and the media spoke daily of eliminating Israel.”

Also noteworthy is the fact that readers are not informed of the terror attacks against Israeli civilian communities launched from Syria in the Spring of 1967 or the Arab League’s Jordan River Headwater Diversion Plan.

Like other BBC produced material on the topic of the Six Day War which is still available online, this backgrounder is deficient in providing audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the build up to the conflict.

In particular, the failure to properly explain the status of the Gaza Strip, Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem before they were belligerently occupied by Jordan and Egypt 19 years prior to the Six Day War hinders full audience comprehension and lays the foundations for misunderstanding of events throughout the subsequent fifty years and until this day – particularly given the BBC’s penchant for presenting history in the Middle East as having begun on June 10th 1967.  

Related Articles:

BBC online description of Six Day War: not accurate, not impartial, barely informative

Article ruled not impartial by ESC five years ago remains on BBC website

BBC: Nasser ‘asked’ UN peacekeepers to leave Sinai in 1967

Yom Yerushalayim

What does the BBC News website tell audiences about the Khartoum Resolutions?

Reviewing original BBC reporting on the Six Day War

 

BBC News website amends claim of Israeli strike in Syria

Earlier this month we noted that an article titled “Syria war: ‘Israeli strike’ hits military site near Damascus airport” that appeared on the BBC News website on April 27th included an insert titled “Recent suspected Israeli attacks in Syria”.

That insert began by listing an alleged incident in the Syrian Golan from April 23rd – even though the sources of the claim are repeatedly unreliable and in spite of the fact that security sources in Israel had already dismissed reports of Israeli involvement.

BBC Watch wrote to the BBC News website drawing attention to those facts and requesting a correction.

Although no reply was received, an amendment – albeit less than satisfactory – was made to the article on May 2nd.

Before:

After:

However, no footnote has been added to advise BBC audiences of the change.

Related Articles:

BBC News website promotes an ‘Israeli attack’ that wasn’t

Weekend long read

1) Ahead of the upcoming presidential election in Iran, Potkin Azarmehr provides a useful guide to the electoral system in that country.

“Iran’s next presidential elections are scheduled to be held on 19th May. Iranians are given a choice of six candidates to choose from for the next president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The question I am often asked these days is ‘who will be the next president of Iran? Will Rouhani have a second term or will it be one of the other five candidates?’

Islamic Republic of Iran is a unique system of governance with no precedence in history prior to 1979. It is the first time the Shia clerics experience running the government and there is currently no other similar form of governing a country anywhere else in the world.

It is therefore important to understand how this unique system of governance works and not to assume this is a presidential elections similar to what takes place elsewhere.”

2) Jonathan Spyer reports on his extraordinary visit to Syria.

“I should explain first of all how I came to be in Damascus.   I have been writing about Syria now for over a decade.  I have visited the country numerous times since the outbreak of its civil war in mid-2011.  My visits, though, were always to the areas controlled by the Sunni Arab rebels or the Kurdish separatist forces.  This was a notable gap in my coverage.  I wanted to remedy it.

The Assad regime makes it hard for journalists to acquire visas.  The authorities are keen consumers of media, and keep track of the names of reporters who have spent time among their enemies.  The number of journalists who have managed to report from both the government and rebel sides is very small.  I  had tried on a number of occasions to acquire a visa, but made little progress.

Finally, a colleague suggested the idea of joining a delegation of foreign supporters of the regime.  With the war going its way since late 2015, the Syrian government has begun to cautiously open up to visitors. But like other authoritarian regimes, it prefers to welcome these in groups, and under careful supervision.

I made contact with the organizers of one of these delegations. The process was surprisingly straightforward.”

3) At the Tablet, Tony Badran takes a look at the current state of Lebanese politics.

“A high-level delegation of Lebanese politicians and bankers reportedly will visit Washington later this month to try and convince Congress to soften impending sanctions legislation designed to squeeze the Iranian proxy, Hezbollah. Already, there have been visitors from Lebanon in recent weeks for this purpose, and there’s been speculation in Lebanese media that prime minister Saad Hariri, who has expressed his hope to “change” the legislation, might himself come to town to make the case for going easy on Lebanon.

Generally speaking, the function of Hariri and what is known as “the Lebanese government” in the power configuration in Lebanon is confined to this sort of activity, which could be summarized as running interference for and mopping up after Hezbollah, the real authority in the country. It is principally for this reason, among others, that Hariri’s erstwhile patrons in Saudi Arabia effectively have washed their hands of Lebanon, and pulled a grant they had pledged to the Lebanese Armed Forces. Why waste money on an Iranian satrapy?

Hariri is stuck. In order to return as prime minister, he had to sign on to Hezbollah’s terms. This has meant endorsing Hezbollah’s ally, Michel Aoun, for president, in order to form a new government. And the new government was stacked with Hezbollah allies in key ministries.”

4) Writing at Ynet, Ben Dror Yemini gives his view of the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike and its initiator.

“We want peace. We fight for peace. But in the meantime we must remember that we are in a state of war. Not one war, but two wars. One is taking place on the battlefield. Hamas drags us there every few years. This war is being waged on a lower key, both through the knifing and stone-throwing terror attacks and through different other measures targeting Israel nonstop.

The second war is a war on the collective consciousness. A war of demonization. A war that seeks to present Israel as a monster. This war has had quite a lot of achievements.

The jailed terrorists, from Fatah and Hamas, have become full partners in both wars. Some of them try to launch and plan terror attacks from prison. Others try to present themselves as martyrs fighting for “an end to the occupation” or for “liberation.” Every other prisoner tries to present himself as a freedom fighter, and every other prisoner is actually Nelson Mandela. It’s true that they murdered civilians and babies and women and elderly people. And it’s true that when they say “an end to the occupation,” they are referring to Tel Aviv as well. And it’s true that their liberation is sort of like the Islamic State is liberating Iraq and Hamas is liberating Gaza. But in the war on the collective consciousness, they are winning.”