Weekend long read

1) At Tablet Magazine Shany Mor discusses “The Golan Heights and the Depths of Hypocrisy”.

“…beyond the alarmism and facile bromides inflamed by Trump’s announcement, what the Golan situation actually illustrates is that the whole gamut of international “norms,” when they are applied injudiciously and for political ends as so often happens with Israel, can be reduced to blunt cudgels. The norms used to adjudicate land claims and challenge Israel’s rights to the Golan are not only selectively applied, they are mutually incoherent—their real power is not as legal precedents but as political instruments. To understand this we have to start with a survey of the norms in questions and their historical basis.”

2) At the INSS Carmit Valensi looks at “The Survival of Assad’s Regime and the Challenges to Syria’s Stabilization”.

“On March 10, 2019, hundreds of residents of Daraa in southern Syria protested against the erection of a statue of former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad. The restored statue of Assad the father, which was toppled when the rebellion that sparked the civil war began, is a symbol of the victory of the son, Bashar al-Assad, who, while bruised and battered, remains in power. And yet, current protests alongside other leadership challenges, including the fact that Assad controls only about 60 percent of Syrian territory, indicate that the situation in Syria is far from stable. Against this backdrop, and following eight years of tragic fighting, the factors leading to Assad’s victory, their current validity, and their future repercussions invite examination.”

3) The ITIC sums up the March 30th ‘Great Return March’ events.

“Despite the large number of participants (similar to the number at the first march and the one held on May 14, 2018), during the events there was a low level of violence and a show of relative restraint. As opposed to former return marches, Hamas closely supervised the demonstrators, who were requested to keep a distance of several hundred meters from the fence. The IDF spokesman reported on several hundred Hamas operatives wearing orange vests who prevented demonstrators from reaching the fence. According to the Hamas ministry of the interior, 8,000 operatives of the security forces and policemen were deployed in the various Gaza Strip districts. At the same time, members of the Egyptian security mediators’ delegation were on the ground at a number of demonstration sites. Apparently their presence was also a moderating influence. The members of the delegation were accompanied by Isma’il Haniyeh.”

4) At the Fathom Journal, Jonathan Spyer asks “To what extent is the current Israeli election campaign dominated by national security issues, as has historically been the case?”

“The Israeli public still primarily seeks a leadership it perceives able enough to provide security. The interesting element of the 2019 campaign is that while ‘security’ and the perception of a credible stance of security remains the key attribute to which parties wish to attribute themselves, there is in fact an absence of deep and substantive difference on the main issues comprising Israel’s challenges in this field among the major parties contending the election. This absence leads to a lack of focus on substantive security issues and instead efforts by each party to portray the other as untrustworthy and lacking integrity.”

 

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BBC News framing of Iranian activity in Syria continues

As documented here at the time, earlier this month the BBC chose to ignore the release of information concerning Hizballah operations in the Syrian Golan Heights.

BBC ignores revelation of Hizballah’s Golan network

Not only have BBC audiences been given very little factual information about the efforts of Iran and its proxies to establish a foothold in south-west Syria in recent years but the BBC has on repeated occasions even steered them towards the view that Iran’s military build-up in Syria is primarily a claim touted by Israel.

That framing was again promoted by the BBC’s US State Department correspondent Barabara Plett Usher in several recent reports concerning US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

In an article titled “Trump: Time to recognise Golan Heights as Israeli territory” that appeared on the BBC News website on March 21st, readers saw superfluous scare quotes attached to the phrase military entrenchment.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who has warned about the “military entrenchment” of his country’s arch-enemy Iran in Syria and has ordered air strikes in an attempt to thwart it…”

Subsequent analysis from Plett Usher suggested to readers that the subject of the Iranian build-up of force in Syria is not only open to debate but a tactic used by Israel to advance its interests. [emphasis in bold added]

“Israel has gained traction in the White House and parts of Congress by arguing that Iran is using Syria as a base from which to target Israel, with the Golan Heights as the front line.”

The same ‘analysis’ from Plett Usher appeared in a report published on March 22nd under the title “Golan Heights: Syria condemns Donald Trump’s remarks”.

“Israel has gained traction in the White House and parts of Congress by arguing that Iran is using Syria as a base from which to target Israel, with the Golan Heights as the front line.”

In an article titled “Trumplomacy on Golan Heights: What it all means” which first appeared on March 22nd and was then posted in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on March 25th as well as promoted in a report titled “Golan Heights: Trump signs order recognising occupied area as Israeli” published on the same day, Plett Usher wrote:

 “…Mr Trump said he made the decision for strategic and security reasons, by which he means Iran.

His administration is convinced Iran is using Syria as a base to target Israel, and the Golan Heights are the front line.”

In the March 22nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ (from 12:17 here) listeners heard Plett Usher claim that:

“Mr Netanyahu had stepped up lobbying for such a move since Mr Trump took office. He’s gained traction by arguing that Iran is using Syria as a base from which to target Israel and the Golan Heights is the front line.”

The week before she produced those reports Barbara Plett Usher had been at a press briefing given by the US Secretary of State and had asked a question concerning the Golan Heights.

“MR PALLADINO: Let’s go to BBC, Barbara.

QUESTION: […] And then secondly, if I could on Golan, the human rights ambassador said on Wednesday that removing the word “occupation” or “occupied” from the Golan and the West Bank was not a policy change, but we know that Israel is afraid of Iran and Hizballah threatening Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan, so in your view, does that strengthen the Israeli case for annexing the occupied bit?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So I don’t have anything to add about the change in language that we used. It was characterized properly. There is a real risk. The proxies that are in the region, in southern Syria and in the vicinity of the Golan Heights, are presenting risk to the Israelis, and we’ve made clear the Israelis have a right to defend themselves.”

Not only did Plett Usher herself sound significantly less sceptical about “Iran and Hizballah threatening Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan” in that question but she got a very clear answer from the US Secretary of State.

Nevertheless, in her reports to BBC audiences Plett Usher’s framing includes promotion of the notion that there is room for doubt with regard to the actions and intentions of Iran and its proxies in Syria.

Related Articles:

Iranian military activity in southern Syria under-reported by BBC

BBC inconsistency on Iran’s Syria build-up continues

What do BBC audiences know about the background to tensions in northern Israel?

BBC News cuts out the infiltration part of Syrian drone infiltration incident

BBC Radio 4 manages to report on Iran without the usual distractions

 

BBC’s Golan Heights profile misleads on water and borders

All three of the BBC News website’s March 21st and March 22nd reports concerning the US president’s announcement of the intention to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights included links to the BBC’s profile of that area which was last updated on March 14th.

In that profile BBC audiences are told that:

“The area [Golan Heights] is also a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River. The area provides a third of Israel’s water supply.”

While that may have been the case in the past, does the Golan Heights really currently provide “a third of Israel’s water supply”?

A document produced by the Knesset Research and Information Center last year shows that three main natural sources – one of which is the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) basin – currently together provide just 40% of Israel’s water.

“The Israeli water sector has natural and artificial sources of water. The main natural sources are the Kinneret Basin, which includes aquifers and rivers that flow into the Sea of Galilee, the Coastal Aquifer, and the Mountain Aquifer. Natural fresh water makes up some 40% of water consumption. In addition to the sources of natural water, two sources of artificial water play a vital role in the water sector: desalinated water (mostly seawater), which in 2016 provided 25% of water consumption, and reclaimed wastewater, used mostly for agriculture, which in 2016 provided 25% of the water consumed across all sectors.”

Moreover, rainfall on the Golan is just one of several sources of water supply to the Sea of Galilee and, as the Knesset report goes on to say:

“For years, Israel has faced a water crisis, which has manifested itself in low precipitation and dwindling natural resources (groundwater and sources of surface water, primarily the Sea of Galilee). The drought in Israel’s north, an area that usually receives greater precipitation, is particularly severe.”

“…the volume of water flowing into the Sea of Galilee in the past four years is the lowest ever on record: in August 2017, water flow to the Sea of Galilee reached a record low—that month, the Sea of Galilee lost 26 MCM of water (the previous record was set in August 2014). As a result, the water level in the Sea of Galilee is expected to drop and may break the record low set in 2001, despite the fact that almost no water has been pumped from the Sea of Galilee in recent years.” [emphasis added]

With the Sea of Galilee being only one of the three main natural sources which together currently provide just 40% of Israel’s water supply and the Golan Heights being only one of several severely reduced sources of water to the lake, the BBC’s claim that a third of Israel’s water supply comes from the Golan Heights is clearly inaccurate and misleading.

Readers of this profile also find the following:

“Syria wants to secure the return of the Golan Heights as part of any peace deal. In late 2003, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he was ready to revive peace talks with Israel.

In Israel, the principle of returning the territory in return for peace is already established. During US-brokered peace talks in 1999-2000, then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak had offered to return most of the Golan to Syria.

But the main sticking point during the 1999 talks is also likely to bedevil any future discussions. Syria wants a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 border. This would give Damascus control of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee – Israel’s main source of fresh water.

Israel wishes to retain control of Galilee [sic] and says the border is located a few hundred metres to the east of the shore.” [emphasis added]

There is of course no such thing as a “pre-1967 border”. There is however a 1923 border set out by the then mandatory powers Britain and France.

“The territorial aspects of the Syrian-Israeli dispute date to 1920–23, when Great Britain and France devised a boundary between Syria (then including “Greater Lebanon”) and Palestine, two entities that would fall under League of Nations mandates. Often referred to as the “1923 international boundary,” the line was drawn to keep the upper course of the Jordan River (between Lake Hula and the Sea of Galilee) and the Sea of Galilee itself entirely within Palestine and to give Palestine a few kilometers of frontage on the Yarmouk River. Between Lake Hula and the Sea of Galilee, the boundary ran between fifty and four-hundred meters east of the Jordan River, just below the Golan Heights. Along the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, it ran parallel to the shore and ten meters from the water’s edge. Sovereignty over these water resources was vested in Palestine.” [emphasis added]

There is also a 1949 Armistice Agreement Line, which was specifically defined as not being a border. Article V of the agreement states:

“1. It is emphasized that the following arrangements for the Armistice Demarcation Line between the Israeli and Syrian armed forces and for the Demilitarized Zone are not to be interpreted as having any relation whatsoever to ultimate territorial arrangements affecting the two Parties to this Agreement.

2. In pursuance of the spirit of the Security Council resolution of 16 November 1948, the Armistice Demarcation Line and the demilitarized Zone have been defined with a view toward separating the armed forces of the two Parties in such manner as to minimize the possibility of friction and incident, while providing for the gradual restoration of normal civilian life in the area of the Demilitarized Zone, without prejudice to the ultimate settlement.” [emphasis added]

As documented by Frederic C. Hof:

“During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Syrian troops penetrated Palestine-Israel in several areas. When an armistice was signed in July 1949, Syrian forces still held blocs of territory west of the 1923 international boundary. The parties agreed to a compromise: Syrian forces would withdraw from the farthest extent of their advance (the truce line—later the Armistice Demarcation Line [ADL]) to the 1923 international boundary, and Israel would refrain from introducing military forces into areas vacated by Syria. Thus was created a demilitarized zone consisting of three, non-contiguous blocs of land in what had been mandate Palestine totaling 66.5 square kilometers. In some places the ADL corresponded to the 1923 international boundary, and in others it penetrated into the former Palestine mandate. The demilitarized zone was everything between the ADL and the 1923 international boundary. Syria — quite inexplicably — agreed that the ADL along the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee would correspond to the 1923 international boundary (i.e., the 10-meter strip), even though its soldiers and civilians enjoyed access to the sea’s waters before, during, and after the 1948 fighting. Therefore, any time a Syrian national—military or civilian— crossed the invisible line to swim or fish an armistice violation occurred. Israel claimed sovereignty over the entire 66.5 square kilometer zone. Syria did not, reserving its claims for a future peace conference.” [emphasis added]

There is also what is termed the Line of June 4, 1967 (link includes map). That line is also not a border: it represents the positions – despite the Armistice Agreement – held by Israel and Syria on the eve of the Six Day War.

“Neither side lived up to its [Armistice Agreement] obligations. Syria retained pieces of the demilitarized zone, including the Palestinian Arab town of El Hamma on the Yarmouk River, and treated the 10-meter line paralleling the northeastern shoreline of the Sea of Galilee as if it did not exist. […] Secret talks in 1952–53 to partition the demilitarized zone failed. Between 1954 and 1967 there was a “game of inches” for control of the zone, always fought to the advantage of Israel. On the eve of war in June 1967, Syria still controlled the 10-meter strip and some 18 of the zone’s 66.5 square kilometers, including El Hamma (along with a small salient to its west along the Yarmouk River), the east bank of the Jordan River between Lake Hula and the Sea of Galilee, some high ground overlooking the Sea of Galilee, and a small patch of land overlooking the Hula Valley.” [emphasis added]

Hof goes on:

“As a result of American shuttle diplomacy, Syria came to believe, by July 1994, that Israel would seriously contemplate full withdrawal “to the line of June 4, 1967” in return for a peace treaty satisfactorily addressing Israel’s core concerns. Syria demanded that all land wrested by Israel from Syrian control in June 1967—18 square kilometers of demilitarized zone in the Jordan Valley and the 10-meter strip along the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights—be returned to Syria in its entirety. […] Syria wanted a line that had, for the most part, not been demarcated: a line that, in several key areas, corresponded neither to the 1923 international boundary nor to the 1949 ADL. Syria wanted the eve of war (1967) status quo restored and a boundary drawn reflecting, in effect, a snapshot of who was where on June 4, 1967.”

In other words, the BBC falsely claims the existence of a “pre-1967 border” and its assertion that the existence of a border to the east of the shore of the Sea of Galilee is something that only “Israel says” exists is untrue.  

The claim that a return to a “pre-1967 border” would “give Damascus control of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee” is inaccurate, seeing as the only border in existence prior to 1967 was the one agreed upon in 1923 by France and Britain which left access to the lake within the borders of Mandate Palestine. 

Related Articles:

Partial portrayals of international law in three BBC reports

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At Foreign Policy Jonathan Spyer discusses how “Syria’s Civil War Is Now 3 Civil Wars”.

“In place of the old wars, however, three new ones have started. They are taking place in the three de facto independent areas whose boundaries are becoming apparent as the smoke from the previous battle clears: the regime-controlled area, guaranteed by Russia; the area east of the Euphrates River controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which are primarily composed of Kurdish fighters protected by the United States and Western air power; and finally the area controlled by the Turks and their Sunni Islamist allies in Idlib province. The regime area consists of about 60 percent of the territory of the country, the SDF has around 30 percent, and the Turkish-Sunni Islamist area is around 10 percent. Each of these areas is now hosting a civil war of its own, supported by neighboring enclaves.”

2) Following the exposure of Hizballah operations in the Syrian Golan, the ITIC has produced a profile of the head of those operations.

“The military network in the Syrian Golan Heights is headed by a senior Hezbollah operative, Ali Mussa Abbas Daqduq, codenamed Abu Hussein Sajed, from the village of Ayta al-Sha’ab in southern Lebanon. Starting in 1983, he held a series of operational positions in the fighting against the IDF in southern Lebanon and then in the security zone. In 1988-1990, he participated in the internal Lebanese power struggles. In 2006, he was sent to Iraq to assist the Shiite militias in their fighting against the US army and the coalition countries. He was captured by the Americans, imprisoned, handed over to the Iraqi administration, released and returned to Lebanon (where he returned to routine military activity in Hezbollah). According to the IDF spokesman’s report, after his return, he was placed in charge of the training of Hezbollah’s Special Forces until 2018, when he was appointed commander of the “Golan Portfolio.””

3) At the INSS, Yohanan Tzoreff asks Is the PLO Still the “Sole Representative of the Palestinian People”?.

“Despite ongoing efforts to improve relations between Fatah and Hamas, there is no serious hope of reconciliation between them in the foreseeable future. Noteworthy against this background are the attempts by Hamas and other opposition organizations to challenge both the PLO’s standing as the sole representative of the Palestinian people, and the senior standing of Fatah within the PLO. The Palestinian public, which saw the PLO as its sole representative, understands that it can no longer ignore the dominance of Hamas, which has competed with Fatah for their hearts and minds since 1987. For its part, Fatah is very concerned about this development, and sees this very way of thinking as an existential threat to the “great enterprise” that it has created.”

4) Thomas Joscelyn reports on one aspect of the political unrest in Algeria at The Long War Journal.

“On March 9 and 10, al Qaeda social media channels publicized a new speech by Abu Ubaydah Yusuf al-Anabi, a high-ranking official in Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Al-Anabi’s talk, entitled “Algeria…Getting Out From the Dark Tunnel,” is intended to take advantage of the wave of protests against President Abelaziz Bouteflika and his corrupt government. AQIM did not spark the protests, but the group seeks to inject its jihadist agenda into the story. […]

In the past, al-Anabi has called for violence against France, as well as others. But in his latest address, al-Anabi struck a different tone. He seeks to capitalize on the widespread anger directed at Bouteflika and his security forces. Al-Anabi describes the president as a “mummy,” arguing that he is an illegitimate ruler whether he is judged according to Islamic sharia or “the supposed Algerian constitution.” He points to the poor political and socio-economic conditions in the country as an indictment of the “tyrant and his criminal gang.””

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer looks at “The Fall of the Caliphate”.

“Even as the global media watch the last stand of the diehards at Baghouz, ISIS has already shifted its own focus. The intention is to build an infrastructure that will then, at the opportune moment, strike again in the cities of Iraq, and Syria, too.

 The reason this, or a rival Sunni Islamist project, is likely to once again emerge to prominence is that the final twilight of the caliphate at Baghouz will not settle any of the issues that led to its emergence, and of which it was a symptom.

 The main butcher of civilians over the last decade in the area in question has been the Assad regime.”

2) The ITIC documents “Reactions to Britain’s decision to ban Hezbollah”.

“Hezbollah responded formally to the decision on March 1, 2019, after the British Parliament approved it. Hezbollah vehemently rejected the accusations of terrorism “which the British government had fabricated” and stressed that the organization was a “resistance movement” against the Israeli occupation. The announcement attacks Britain, perceiving it as a “proxy in the ranks of the American patron.” The announcement stresses that Hezbollah would continue to “defend Lebanon, its liberty and its independence.””

3) At the INSS, Pnina Sharvit Baruch analyses “The Violent Events along the Gaza-Israel Border: The Report of the Commission of Inquiry of the Human Rights Council”.

“The report claims that the demonstrations were civilian in nature, had clearly stated political aims, and despite some acts of significant violence, did not constitute combat or a military campaign. Israel, however, contends that one cannot view the events as peaceful demonstrations within a state, since these were violent riots taking place along the border between two entities engaged in an armed conflict, organized and led by one of those parties, i.e., Hamas. The huge gap between the positions of Israel and the COI stems mainly from the fact that the report adopts entirely the viewpoint of the Palestinian victims, with no regard to the complex reality of the situation and to the ramifications of the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas.”

4) At the Tablet, Israel’s former state archivist Yaacov Lozowick writes about a topic the BBC has covered in the past in an article titled “The Myth of the Kidnapped Yemenite Children, and the Sin It Conceals”.

“In May 2016 we told the cabinet that we would gladly unseal the files, if they gave a green light. The cabinet appointed Minister Tzachi Hanegbi to oversee our efforts; Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked sent a top official to assist in redefining the rules of privacy in as liberal a manner as the lawyers could dare, in order to enable our efforts.

We scanned hundreds of thousands of pages in a few days, recruited dozens of students to speed the process and implemented an advanced knowledge management system. Thousands of files were closely examined, and mostly opened. The full archives went online at the end of December 2016. […]

There are no documents that tell or even hint at a governmental policy of kidnapping children for adoption. Not one.” 

 

 

 

More false balance in BBC News report on Douma chemical attack

A report published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on March 1st was presented as follows:

The article itself – titled “Syria war: Chlorine likely used in Douma attack – OPCW” and tagged “Suspected Syria chemical attack” – similarly told readers that:

“The global chemical weapons watchdog has concluded chlorine is likely to have been used in an attack on the Syrian town of Douma last April.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said data gave “reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon took place”.

“This toxic chemical contained reactive chlorine,” it added, without assigning blame.” [emphasis added]

With readers having been told that the OPCW had not specified which party had carried out the attack (but not why), the short report then went on to uncritically amplify Syrian regime denials which have already been proved to be baseless and Russian regime propaganda concerning the ‘White Helmets’.

“The US, UK and France accused Syrian government forces, who were besieging Douma, of using chemical weapons in the 7 April attack, and carried out air strikes in retaliation.

The Syrian government has denied ever using chemical weapons. Its ally Russia has said the attack was “staged” by rescue workers.”

Only some thirteen hours later did the BBC find it appropriate to amend the article in order to inform visitors to the BBC News website that:

“In June, the OPCW was given new powers to assign blame for chemical attacks. However, it was not the mandate of the fact-finding team sent to Douma to do so.”

As we see the BBC continues its policy of promoting false balance in the form of claims from Syria and Russia – despite both those regimes having been shown to have lied about previous chemical attacks.

Related Articles:

Looking behind a BBC News website tag

BBC News website tones down Assad regime propaganda

Despite evidence, the BBC won’t let go of Assad propaganda

 

 

 

 

New BBC report on ‘White Helmets’ again amplifies falsehoods

Readers may recall that last July the BBC News website amplified conspiracy theories cooked up by the Syrian and Russian regimes in two reports relating to the rescue of members of the ‘White Helmets’.

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

BBC News website readers get yet another dose of Assad’s propaganda

“Members of the BBC’s funding public may well be asking themselves why – yet again – their public service broadcaster is generously amplifying conspiracy theories no different from those put out by the regime-controlled news agencies of Syria and Russia.”

On February 21st an article by Catrin Nye appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘UK’ page under the headline “UK rehomes some 100 Syria White Helmets and family members”.

The article is based on a filmed report by Nye shown on BBC television channels and a link is included. In that film Nye correctly tells viewers (from 2:35) that the White Helmets:

“…operate in rebel areas. When the Syrian regime and its allies falsely linked them to Al Qaeda they became targets for the Syrian regime…”

Nevertheless, later on in the written article, readers are provided with a link to one of the BBC’s reports from last July in which 30% of the word count was given over to amplification of that falsehood from the Assad regime.

“Khalil was one of 422 volunteers and family members who had to be rescued by the Israel Defense Forces following a request from the US, UK and other European nations, after they became trapped following a military offensive in July 2018.”

The BBC’s public purpose remit includes the obligation to “accurately and authentically” portray people of “different cultures” in the United Kingdom with the aim of contributing to “social cohesion”.

Quite how the BBC thinks its repeated amplification of a totalitarian regime’s falsehoods concerning these new UK residents contributes to social cohesion is of course a mystery.

Weekend long read

1) The Community Security Trust has published its Antisemitic Incidents Report for 2018.

“The 1,652 antisemitic incidents CST recorded in 2018 represent a 16 per cent rise from the 1,420 incidents recorded in 2017. These 1,652 incidents were spread throughout the year, with over 100 incidents recorded in every month for the first time in any calendar year; indicating that a general atmosphere of intolerance and prejudice is sustaining the high incident totals, rather than a one-off specific ‘trigger’ event. In addition to more general background factors, the highest monthly totals in 2018 came when the problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party was the subject of intense discussion and activity, or when violence surged temporarily on the border between Israel and Gaza; suggesting that these events, and reactions to them, also played a role in 2018’s record total.”

2) At the Washington Examiner, David May and Jonathan Schanzer ask “Why has Human Rights Watch become an anti-Israel activist group?”.

“It’s unclear exactly when HRW began to juggle both human rights research and anti-Israel activism. One could point to the joint declaration of the 2001 NGO Forum in South Africa, reportedly formulated with Human Rights Watch’s assistance, which endorsed sanctions against the Jewish state. It also could have been 2004, when it hired anti-Israel activist Sarah Leah Whitson. Soon after she took over as Middle East director, HRW endorsed a campaign led by vehemently anti-Israel groups to suspend sales of Caterpillar equipment to the Jewish state after pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie was killed when she stood in the way of an Israeli military bulldozer.”

3) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at “Iran’s Strategy for Control of Syria”.

“Iran’s efforts are taking place at three levels:  below the official Syrian state structures – in the arming and sponsoring of Iran-controlled paramilitary formations on Syria soil, within the Syrian state – in the control of institutions that are officially organs of the regime, and above the state, in the pursuit of formal links between the Iranian and Syrian regimes.  As Teheran seeks to impose its influence on Assad’s Syria in the emergent post-rebellion period, meanwhile, there are indications that its project is running up against the rival plans and ambitions of the Russians.”

4) The ITIC analyses Hamas’ latest fundraising efforts.

“Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees, two terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip, recently called on their supporters to donate money using the virtual currency Bitcoin. To date, requests for donors have been made by Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas’s military wing, and by the Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees. […]

The Palestinian organizations’ fundraising campaign in the Gaza Strip is yet another example of the terrorist organizations’ use of virtual currencies, mainly Bitcoin, to finance terror activity. The anonymity provided by trading in these currencies, their availability, and the ability to carry out money transfers around the world quickly and easily without the need for identification or exposure enable these organizations to transfer funds earmarked for terrorist activity without supervision by authorities or banks while circumventing international regulations against money laundering.” 

 

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC has a report on the latest activities of the London-based Hamas operative Muhammad Sawalha.

“Given the absence of effective British regulations and legislation, in ITIC assessment Britain continues to serve as the European center for Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas activities, although the activists in Britain operate carefully. They operate in two main spheres, waging the battle for the hearts and minds of British Muslims (spreading the Muslim Brotherhood’s radical Islam in the local Muslim communities) and carrying out anti-Israeli activities (organizing flotillas, spreading propaganda rejecting the existence of the State of Israel, promoting the BDS campaign against Israel and waging anti-Israel lawfare).”

2) Udi Dekel analyses the current state of Palestinian politics as part of the latest INSS Strategic Survey.

“The Palestinian political system is currently mired in a deep crisis owing to a host of intertwined and mutually reinforcing factors. The focal point is the crisis pertaining to the Gaza Strip and the serious deterioration there over the past year. In the current reality, there is no magic formula on the horizon to dispel the political, security, and humanitarian problems of the Strip and counter their negative implications for Israel’s relations with the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Palestinian political system is keenly mindful of “the day after Abbas” (Abu Mazen), which has paralyzed its ability to make critical decisions. Another factor in the crisis is the unbridgeable gap between Fatah and Hamas and their inability to promote reconciliation. Also relevant is the Palestinians’ lack of confidence in the Trump administration, after it overturned a number of fundamental premises of the traditional United States approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Against this background, the chances of promoting a political initiative between the Palestinian system and the State of Israel are extremely slim and will remain so, even after the Trump administration places its “deal of the century” on the table.”

3) Writing at The Hill, Emanuele Ottolenghi of the FDD discusses sanctions against Iran’s Mahan Air.

“Since the beginning of Syria’s civil war, Iranian commercial airlines have sustained the dictatorship of Bashar Al Assad and the forces waging a scorched-earth campaign on his behalf. Mahan Air has been at the forefront of this effort, prompting the Treasury Department to impose sanctions on it in 2011. Until recently, Mahan and its business partners faced few material costs as a result of sanctions. Its aircraft continued to land not only in Damascus but also at airports across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Then, last year, Treasury changed tactics. Rather than just hitting the airlines with sanctions, the Department began to punish the ground services providers who facilitate the airline’s commercial operations across the globe.”

4) NGO Monitor has published a report on the NGO that is the “Foundation for the UN BDS Blacklist”.

“The allegations published by Who Profits claiming the illegality and immorality of various business activities are echoed uncritically by UN bodies and officials and international NGOs as part of their politicized agendas. UN bodies – notably the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) – are relying significantly on Who Profits in preparing a UN “blacklist” of companies allegedly doing business in settlements. The misleading claims are also regularly cited by corporate social responsibility (CSR) firms in their ratings systems of company compliance with human rights to justify biased reporting and illegitimate divestment.”

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ perpetuates framing of rioting and elections

As we have seen, a significant proportion of the January 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme was given over to two items relating to Israel and the Gaza Strip. The second of those items was discussed here:

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part two

We have also looked at one aspect of presenter Mishal Husain’s introductions to both those items:

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

The first item began (from 37:13 here) with an opaque reference to a new political party running in the upcoming general election in Israel – but without listeners being told even the party leader’s name – and yet more euphemistic portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting as “protests”.

Husain: “A former Israeli military chief has launched a bid to challenge Benjamin Netanyahu in the elections scheduled for April. They’ll come a year after weekly Palestinians protests at the boundary fence between Israel and Gaza began. The UN says that last year 295 Palestinians were killed and 29,000 injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza – the highest annual figure since 2014. Fifteen Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks in the same period. Tom Bateman, our Middle East correspondent, is on the line from Jerusalem and in this coming election campaign, Tom, how much will relations with Palestinians and security feature?”

As BBC reporting on past Israeli elections shows, the corporation has repeatedly promoted the notion that the ‘peace process’ was the most important issue facing the Israeli electorate even when that was patently not the case.

“The most outstanding characteristic of BBC reporting on the 2015 Israeli election from day one was the insistence of its journalists on framing the story from the angle of its effect on negotiations with the Palestinians – despite the fact that other concerns were much higher up on voters’ lists of priorities. So, whilst BBC audiences heard or read occasional brief references to ‘economic issues’, ‘the cost of living’ and ‘house prices’, they were never actually provided with any in-depth background information on those topics and hence were incapable of appreciating why – for example – a previously non-existent party (Kulanu) won ten seats in the incoming Knesset.”

If this item is anything to go by, the BBC has obviously not abandoned that redundant framing. A prominent politics journalist at the Jerusalem Post notes that:

“The Palestinians, peace talks, and settlements seem to be almost entirely irrelevant to this election season.”

Bateman began by airbrushing Hamas’ violent take-over of the Gaza Strip nearly 12 years ago and whitewashing the background to “the conflict between Israel and Hamas”.

Bateman: “Well it will play a role…ah…but I think that the degree to which it’s decisive or significant will very much depend on what happens really on the ground, particularly in relation to the conflict between Israel and Hamas which runs Gaza. And also in terms of the sort of rhetorical situation that you’ll hear Mr Netanyahu talk about a lot in terms of the most strategic threat that he sees which is from Iranian entrenchment, Iranian forces inside…ah…neighbouring Syria. Now on that front there’s been, you know, a significant move in the fact that President Trump has said that US troops will be withdrawn. That is very concerning for Israel but you’re not gonna hear it publicly from Mr Netanyahu who has made a relationship with President Trump key in a priority to his…ehm…diplomatic focus. In terms of what the polls are saying, well despite the situation that we’ve had with Mr Netanyahu; people in his right-wing coalition trying to portray him as being too weak when it comes to Gaza – the more hawkish elements of his cabinet and his defence minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned late last year over this – despite all that the polls still suggest his Likud party’s on course to be again the biggest party, could even gain seats and that it is likely then that he will be able to put together another right-wing coalition.”

Husain: “And on this point about the conflict with Hamas I mean those casualty figures, a big part of them is what’s been going on in Gaza and it…you know you might say it can’t go on like that, it’s not sustainable and yet it has for many months and we reported from there last month.”

Failing to clarify that “the health ministry in Gaza” is the same terror group behind the weekly violent rioting at the border, Bateman went on to make a context-free reference to an earlier incident.

Bateman: “Yeah and I think the protests at the fence every Friday show few signs of going away. Just last Friday another 14 year-old boy was shot and died later of his wounds according to the health ministry in Gaza. However, the numbers have reduced since the peak of the protests in the spring and summer of last year.”

What Bateman and Husain describe as “protests” included the following on that day:  

“About 13,000 Palestinians participated (10,000 last week). The demonstrators gathered at a number of locations along the border. During the events there was a high level of violence, which included burning tires as well as throwing stones, IEDs and hand grenades at IDF soldiers and at the security fence. In the northern Gaza Strip there were at least three attempts to break through the fence into Israeli territory. In one instance IDF forces fired shots at suspicious Palestinians who fled back into the Gaza Strip. One IDF soldier was slightly injured by a stone.”

Downplaying of the violence that has included hundreds of incidents of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, Bateman continued:

Bateman: “There’s been a series of military escalations between Hamas and Israel. Now whether or not that will flare up again I think could have a significant impact on the election process. It may conversely be inspired to some degree by the fact that there are elections in Israel. But what the Israeli prime minister or the tack he has chosen is to try to take a bit of political damage from his own right-wing…from the more hawkish elements and try to contain that situation. That is in the form of a very indirect arrangement brokered by the Egyptians, by the Qataris and by the UN in which the Israelis effectively asked for calm on the perimeter fence. In return Hamas – which is under significant pressure financially because of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade, because of sanctions by the internationally recognised Palestinian leadership too…eh…there are suitcases full of cash – millions of dollars – coming from Qatar into Gaza to pay civil servants’ salaries and also to prevent a collapse of the electricity supply in Gaza. Now that is being permitted by Benjamin Netanyahu. The third payment of $50 million was postponed last week which shows I think just how very fragile this sort of uneasy truce is.”

Bateman failed to inform listeners that those “civil servants” are employees of the Hamas terror organisation or that the reason for the postponement of that “third payment” was a rise in violence that included more rocket attacks that went unreported by the BBC.

While the BBC has not yet produced much reporting on the upcoming election in Israel its framing of that topic so far is just as inflexible and unhelpful to audiences as its framing of almost ten months of weekly violent rioting and border infiltrations which it persists in portraying as “protests”.

Related Articles:

Reviewing the BBC’s record of reporting on Israeli elections

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part two

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign