BBC News framing of Iranian forces in Syria

On January 10th an article was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page under the headline “US to expel every last Iranian boot from Syria – Pompeo”.

“The US will work with allies to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says.

Mr Pompeo warned there would be no US reconstruction aid for areas controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad until Iran and its proxies had left.”

Most versions of that report go on to include a section headed “Why did Pompeo mention Iran?” in which BBC audiences are told that:

“Iran, alongside Russia, has been supporting the Syrian government in the Syrian civil war, providing arms, military advisers, and reportedly combat troops.” [emphasis added]

The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word ‘reportedly’ is as follows:

“According to what some say (used to express the speaker’s belief that the information given is not necessarily true)”

Apparently therefore we can conclude that the BBC is of the opinion that the articles in British papers such as the Telegraph and the Guardian along with reports from media outlets in other countries and agencies such as Reuters about the presence of Iranian troops and militias in Syria are not necessarily true.

Apparently too the BBC believes that statements made by France’s foreign minister on that issue and a 2016 report by Human Rights Watch are not necessarily true.

And it would seem that in the BBC’s view the work done by researchers at a variety of think-tanks on that topic – such as the Washington Institute, the Atlantic Council, the FDD and the Carnegie Endowment – all hinges on information that is not necessarily true.

“Based on a meticulous reading of press reports of funeral services held in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon for Shia foreign fighters killed in Syria and Iraq, 535 Iranian nationals were killed in combat in Syria between January 2012 and January 2018. In comparison, at least 841 Afghan, 112 Iraqi, 1,213 Lebanese, and 153 Pakistani Shia foreign fighters were killed fighting in Syria during the same period.”

The BBC’s public purposes oblige it to “provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”. Clearly that obligation is not met when the BBC unnecessarily qualifies information that has been in the public domain for years – and especially when that qualification dovetails with Iran’s long-standing policy of claiming that its presence in Syria is solely in an ‘advisory’ capacity.

 

 

 

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Weekend long read

1) The ITIC has published an assessment of “The impact of the withdrawal of the American troops from Syria on the campaign against ISIS“.

“From a military perspective, the end of American activity in Syria is liable to be detrimental to the campaign currently being waged by the Kurdish forces east of the Euphrates against last important ISIS-controlled area in Syria. The blow is expected to be particularly hard if America stops its aerial support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). However, in ITIC assessment, the most serious impact of the American pullout is expected to be its influence on morale and the political situation: the Kurds, who control extensive areas in the northeastern part of the country, feel betrayed and their cohesiveness may be harmed. Thus they can be expected to look for new strategic support, especially from the Syrian regime and Russia. The Kurds’ motivation to continue fighting ISIS may be reduced and they may retreat to the heart of their area of control in northeastern Syria and stop clearing the lower Euphrates Valley of ISIS fighters.”

2) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at the Turkish aspect of the withdrawal of US forces from Syria.

“The contradiction between the western attempt to appease Turkey, and the tentatively emergent strategy vis-a-vis Syria had been apparent for some months. It now looked set to be resolved – one way or the other.

If the US indeed now follows through with the rapid withdrawal of the American military presence in Syria in its entirety, as a number of news outlets have reported and the President appears to have confirmed, then we have an answer. It means that the US has indeed blinked first, and is set on reversing course in Syria – by embarking on a hurried exit from the country. This will be interpreted by all sides as a strategic defeat, an abandonment under pressure of allies, and a debacle.”

3) MEMRI reports on recent criticism of Hizballah in Lebanon.

“Since the parliamentary elections in May 2018, Lebanese Prime Minister and Al-Mustaqbal movement leader Sa’d Al-Hariri has been trying to form a national unity government incorporating all the major political forces in Lebanon, including Hizbullah. His efforts have so far been unsuccessful, however, partly due to steep conditions presented by Hizbullah regarding the government’s makeup, mainly its demand to appoint a Sunni minister from the March 8 Forces, the faction led by Hizbullah. […]

This political crisis, which has been ongoing for over six months, has evoked furious responses from Lebanese politicians and columnists, who accuse Hizbullah of serving Iranian interests at the expense of Lebanon’s, and also of using its weapons to take over Lebanon and of subordinating it to Iranian patronage. The bleak political climate even cast a pall over Lebanon’s 75th Independence Day, marked on November 22, with some calling not to celebrate it because Lebanon is not truly independent. Criticism was also directed at President Michel ‘Aoun and at his son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebral Bassil, both of them Hizbullah allies, for allowing Hizbullah to effectively control the country.”

4) At the JCPA Amb. Alan Baker discusses “Electing the Palestinian Attorney-General to the ICC Nominations Committee for Judges“.

“The election of the Palestinian Attorney-General, Dr. Ahmad Barrak, to serve as a member of the “Advisory Committee on Nominations” of judges of the International Criminal Court, if it were not so serious, could be seen as comical. It cannot but invoke the ancient Latin maxim “ovem lupo commitere,” or in its literal and colloquial version “to set the wolf to guard the sheep.”

This perhaps sums up the acute absurdity to which respected international institutions in the international community, and particularly the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, have descended. Sadly, they have permitted themselves to be abused and manipulated by an irresponsible Palestinian leadership, intent on hijacking international organizations for obvious and blatant political purposes. 

However, the election of a Palestinian representative to the judges’ Nominations Committee, as unwise and ill-advised as it may be, is indicative of a far wider and more serious problem facing the International Criminal Court, with the admission of what purports to be “The State of Palestine” as a party to its Statute.”

 

Reviewing the sourcing of BBC Radio 4 December 26 news bulletins

Listeners to BBC Radio 4 on December 26th heard some interestingly sourced news bulletins concerning an alleged Israeli attack on sites in Syria late on the evening of December 25th. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Among the headlines at the start of BBC Radio 4’s December 26th “Midnight News” programme was:

Israel has attacked a weapons site in Syria and says it’s intercepted a Syrian missile heading towards its territory.”

There was however no confirmation at that stage of that highlighted claim.

Later on (from 02:31 here) listeners were told that:

Newsreader: “Syria says its air defences have intercepted missiles fired by Israeli aircraft close to the capital Damascus but it acknowledged that an arms dump had been hit. Youssef Taha has more details.”

Taha: “A Syrian military official said that most of the missiles were brought down before they reached their targets but he acknowledged that a weapons dump near Damascus was hit. Video footage shown on state media showed an object moving over the city being intercepted and then the sound of a loud explosion followed by a burst of artillery shelling. Israel confirmed the attack and said it later activated its air defence system to bring down a Syrian missile. Israel has on numerous occasions targeted Iranian and Hizballah sites in Syria that it regards as threats to its own security. An Israeli army spokesman said there were no injuries among Israeli troops and no damage.”

Contrary to the claim from Youssef Taha that “Israel confirmed the attack”, at that stage – a few minutes after midnight UK time on December 26th – Israel had not confirmed anything of the sort and in fact no official statement has been made to date. The only Israeli announcement at that stage concerned the activation of an aerial defence system “in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria“.

As we see Taha’s newsgathering was based entirely on unverified claims made by the Syrian military and Syrian state media – neither of which is renowned for its honesty and accuracy.

Despite the absence of official confirmation from Israel, later that morning listeners to a news bulletin broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme were likewise told that (from 02:53 here):

Newsreader: “Israel has attacked an arms depot near Damascus. It said it had also intercepted a Syrian missile heading towards Israeli territory. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

The IDF statement did not actually include the word ‘intercepted’ in either Hebrew or English but Knell went on to repeat that claim.

Knell: “Syrian air defences shot down missiles fired by Israeli war planes from Lebanese air space according to the official Syrian news agency. But it says that an arms depot was damaged by an Israeli strike. The Israeli military declined to comment on the report but said that Israel’s aerial defence system had intercepted a rocket launched from Syria. Israel has previously carried out dozens of airstrikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian military targets and to prevent advanced weapons being handed to Hizballah, the Iranian backed Lebanese militant group.”

Once again BBC newsgathering consisted of repeating unconfirmed claims from state-run Syrian media and the same unreliable source was quoted in a news bulletin aired in the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘World at One’ (from 04:22 here) on the afternoon of the same day.

Newsreader: “Israel has attacked a weapons storage site near the Syrian capital Damascus. Syrian state media says three soldiers were injured. Reports say that two suspicious cargo planes bound for Iran had taken off from Damascus just before the airstrikes. The Israeli military hasn’t commented but says its air defences intercepted a missile fired from Syria last night. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

Knell: “Israeli war planes flying over southern Lebanon fired missiles at targets near Damascus according to the official Syrian state news agency. It says most were shot down but an arms depot was damaged. Israeli media say that 2 Iranian planes bound for Tehran left Damascus airport just before and at around the time of the airstrikes. Reports have previously linked their airlines to weapons transfers to the Lebanese militant group Hizballah. The Israeli military has only confirmed that its air defences intercepted a missile fired from neighbouring Syria after the time of the reported air raids. Israel has previously said it struck some 200 targets in Syria over the past 2 years, saying it acts to stop Iranian entrenchment and to prevent advanced weapons being handed to Hizballah.”

A news bulletin in the radio 4 programme ‘PM’ (from 03:19 here) on the afternoon of the same day promoted claims from a source which – like official Syrian media and the Syrian military – had been shown to have repeatedly lied about chemical weapons attacks in Syria in recent years.

Newsreader: “Russia says that 2 passenger planes were directly threatened last night by Israeli airstrikes on Syria. The defence ministry in Moscow said that the endangered flights had been landing in Damascus and Beirut. Israeli war planes damaged an arms depot near Damascus and wounded three soldiers. Israel hasn’t commented.”

On the evening of December 26th the same unverified claim was amplified in a news bulletin aired in the Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ (from 03:20 here).

Newsreader: “Russia says an Israeli missile strike on targets in Syria last night directly threatened 2 civilian planes. The Russian foreign ministry described the attack as a gross violation of Syrian sovereignty. In the past Israel has acknowledged carrying out 200 missile strikes in Syria over 2 years with the aim of stopping Iran entrenching itself in the country and preventing advanced weapons reaching the Lebanese militant group Hizballah. Here’s our Middle East correspondent Yolande Kell.”

Knell: “Israeli war planes flying in Lebanese air space targeted an arms storage site near Damascus according to the official Syrian news agency. Russia’s defence ministry says 14 of the 16 missiles they fired were shot down and that Israel’s actions threatened 2 passenger planes, one landing in Beirut and the other in the Syrian capital. Israel’s military hasn’t commented on the reports but said that its air defences had intercepted a missile fired from neighbouring Syria. Relations between Israel and Russia became strained in September when Syria shot down a Russian military plane during an Israeli airstrike, killing 15 people on board. Afterwards Russia announced that it had delivered its advanced S300 air defence system to Syria despite Israel and the US urging it not to.”

Late on the evening of December 26th the AP news agency published what it said was confirmation of the strikes in Syria – and a response to the Russian claims – from an anonymous “Israeli security official”.

However as we see, the BBC’s presentation of the story during the first 24 hours after it broke was primarily based on statements put out by official Syrian and Russian sources which the BBC repeated unquestioningly without independent verification.

Given that those sources have been shown in the past to repeatedly disseminate false claims, one would expect a serious media outlet to be considerably more cautious about promoting their unverified statements to its funding public in supposedly factual news bulletins.

Related Articles:

BBC News recycles seven month-old misinformation

BBC promotes Assad propaganda in Syria reports

Why is BBC Arabic amplifying Syrian regime propaganda?

Multi-platform BBC promotion of Syrian regime falsehood concerning Israel

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

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

 

BBC News recycles seven month-old misinformation

In the early hours of December 26th the BBC News website published a short report headlined “Syria military says Israel strikes hit Damascus weapons depot“.

The BBC was unable to provide its audiences with much factual information on the story, the details of which are still unclear.

“Loud explosions have been heard close to Syria’s capital Damascus overnight, in what the Syrian military says were Israeli air strikes on a weapons depot.

A Syrian military official told state media the depot was hit, and three soldiers were injured. Syria said most of the missiles were intercepted.

Israel has not confirmed the strikes. It said it activated its air defence systems to bring down a Syrian missile.”

Readers did however find the following opaque statement:

“Israel has on numerous occasions targeted Iranian and Hezbollah sites in Syria that it regards as threats to its own security.” [emphasis added]

No effort was made to provide BBC audiences with the essential background information concerning Iran’s transfers of weapons and military equipment to the terror group Hizballah via Syria in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701. Readers were likewise not informed of the relevant context of the build-up of Iranian and Iranian sponsored military forces in Syria.

The BBC closed its report with a link to an article it published on May 10th.

“Israel rarely admits carrying out such strikes.

But in May, Israel said it had struck almost all of Iran’s military infrastructure inside Syria in its biggest assault since the start of the civil war there in 2011.

The strikes came after rockets were fired at Israeli military positions in the occupied Golan Heights overnight.”

As was noted here at the time:

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

Seven months on that misinformation not only remains in situ but the BBC has now chosen to re-promote it.

Related Articles:

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

Iran missile attack: BBC News promotes misinformation

Omissions and additions in BBC News Syria blasts report

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the JCPA Dr Shimon Shapira discusses “Hizbullah’s Operational Plan to Invade the Galilee through Underground Tunnels“.

“One of the main lessons Hizbullah learned from the Second Lebanon War in 2006 was the necessity of changing the aims of its next war with Israel. The new goals included building up its defensive capabilities and developing methods of attack that would allow Hizbullah to fight the war within Israeli territory. Hizbullah’s military commander, Imad Mughniyeh, led this process of integrating these lessons. He asserted that during the next war, Hizbullah would invade the northern Israeli Galilee region and conquer it. Hizbullah set its sights on regions which have topographical superiority in comparison to Israel’s inferior topographical positions near the border.”

2) The ITIC sums up the first day and a half of ‘Operation Northern Shield’, including Lebanese reactions.

“According to the IDF spokesman, since 2014 a joint military intelligence-Northern Command team has been dealing with the intelligence, technological and operational aspects of the issue of the tunnels. Large IDF forces are participating in the operation to remove the threat of Hezbollah tunnels on the norther border, which are a gross violation of Israeli sovereignty and UN resolutions, especially UN Security Council Resolution 1701. The IDF has reinforced its forces in the north and is on high alert. The IDF spokesman in Arabic warned Hezbollah and the Lebanese army not to approach the attack tunnels being dealt with by the IDF.”

3) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at the situation in south-west Syria.

“Evidence is also emerging of the presence of Hizballah personnel and other pro-Iranian Shia militiamen in Syrian Arab Army uniforms among the regime forces returning to the border area with the Golan Heights. This is despite the nominal Russian commitment to keep such elements at least 85 kilometers from the border.  This Iranian activity close to the border goes hand in hand with Teheran’s activity further afield, including the transfer of Shias from southern Iraq to deserted Sunni neighborhoods.”

4) The CST has published its report on Antisemitic Discourse in Britain in 2017.

“Antisemitism played an unusually prominent role in British public life in 2017, both in the expression of antisemitic attitudes and in the discussion of antisemitism as an important part of national politics and media debate.

Explicit hostility to Jews is still rarely expressed in public life without condemnation, but the expression and transmission of antisemitic attitudes about “Zionists” or Israel, including conspiracy theories and the abuse of Holocaust memory, are more common, and on occasion were even defended as a legitimate part of mainstream politics during 2017. Alternatively, the issue of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is sometimes inserted into unrelated discussions about antisemitism or other Jewish-related issues.”

Related Articles:

CST report cites UK Media Watch’s critique of Financial Times’ dual loyalty trope  (UK Media Watch)

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The Kohelet Forum has published the second part of a report on “The Scope of European and Multinational Business in the Occupied Territories”.

“There are numerous territories around the world currently under belligerent occupation, where the occupying power has allowed or facilitated the movement of settlers into the occupied territory.
In all these cases, this is done over the vigorous objection of the occupied party and is at odds with its sovereignty or self-determination.
Among the most salient examples are Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara and Turkey’s of northern Cyprus. Both of these have seen massive government-backed settlement enterprises that dwarf anything in the West Bank. The majority of the population in these territories now consists of settlers, fundamentally undermining the possibility of self-determination or a political solution. There are also settlers in Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and the Occupied Ukrainian Territories. In all these cases, foreign companies actively support the various settlement enterprises. These activities include extracting natural resources from the territories, providing infrastructure support to the occupying power, and in general, making the settlement enterprises more economically viable.”

2) The ITIC reports on a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rally held in the PA controlled town of al Bireh.

“On November 10, 2018, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) held a rally to mark the anniversary of the founding of the organization and the death of its founder, Fathi Shqaqi. The rally was held in a large hall in al-Bireh where a recorded speech by Ziyad al-Nakhalah, the newly elected PIJ leader, was played. Al-Nakhalah stressed the importance of the armed struggle against Israel and called on the residents of the West Bank “to lead the armed resistance against Israel as they did in the [second] intifada in 2000” [during which the PIJ was one of the most prominent organizations in carrying out suicide bombing attacks].

Al-Bireh is next to Ramallah (and about 15 kilometers, or about nine miles, from Jerusalem). It is an important administrative center for the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Judea and Samaria, and some of the PA’s offices are located there. It can be assumed that al-Nakhalah’s speech could not have been given in al-Bireh without the authorization, or at least the prior knowledge, of the PA’s security services.”

3) MEMRI takes a look at reports concerning claims of efforts to change Syrian demography.

“Throughout the Syria war, websites opposed to the Assad regime have repeatedly claimed that this regime and its ally Iran were using the war to change Syria’s demography by expelling Sunni populations, deemed a potential threat to the regime, and bringing in Shi’ites, who are more likely to support it. According to these reports, the Assad regime and Iran use a variety of methods – including threats, siege and starving – to compel Sunnis to emigrate and then seize their property and replace them with elements loyal to the regime, including non-Syrians. President Assad outlined this policy in a July 2015 speech, saying, “The homeland does not belong to those who live there, nor to those who hold a passport or are citizens. The homeland belongs to those who protect and guard it.” In the recent months, several websites reported that the regime was naturalizing thousands and even millions of Shi’ites, members of Iranian and Iran-backed militias that are fighting alongside the Syrian army.”

4) On Universal Children’s Day PMW reviewed Palestinian Authority messaging to children.

“Today, November 20th, is known as Universal Children’s Day because it is the day the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) and the Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989). 

The PA joined the UN’s Convention of the Rights of the Child in 2014. […]

The PA and Fatah leadership is abusing Palestinian children by presenting terrorists as heroes, “Martyrs” as role models, and glorifying the murder of Jews and Israelis. Sports tournaments, names of schools, school books, cultural events, and even music videos glorify terrorist murderers and urge Palestinian youth to aspire to kill and be killed.” 

Weekend long read

1) At the JNS Yaakov Lappin takes a look at a story which long since dropped off the BBC’s radar – Egypt’s campaign against the ISIS branch in Sinai.

“With security threats to Israel from Iran and Hezbollah along the northern borders, and Hamas and other terror elements in the Gaza Strip to the south often receiving the lion’s share of public attention, the activities of the Islamic State-affiliated terror group state in the large Sinai Peninsula are often overlooked.

However, efforts by Egypt, along with quiet reported Israeli support, to crack down on the group appear to be making significant progress. Although a large-scale counter-terrorism operation has not eliminated the threat, it has greatly reduced it, a senior Israeli defense analyst told JNS.”

2) The ITIC provides a “Profile of Ziyad al-Nakhalah, the New Palestinian Islamic Jihad Leader“.

“On September 28, 2018, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) spokesman Da’ud Shehab announced the election of Ziyad al-Nakhalah as secretary general. Al-Nakhalah, the organization’s third leader, replaced Ramadan Abdallah Shalah, who has been in a coma for the past six months (following a series of strokes). The PIJ is Iran’s preferred proxy in the internal Palestinian arena. Ziyad al-Nakhalah, who has strong connections with Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force, plays a central role in foster and promoting the PIJ’s collaboration with Iran. Therefore it can be expected that under al-Nakhalah’s leadership the PIJ will continue to promote Iran’s interests in the Gaza Strip and in the internal Palestinian arena in general; and in return the PIJ will profit from generous Iranian financial and military support, which will help it preserve its status as the second most important terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip (after Hamas).”

3) At the INSS Gilead Sher and Mor Ben-Kalifa discuss the “Challenge to the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty“.

“One year prior to the automatic renewal of the annex to the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, King Abdullah announced that Jordan would not renew the special regime governing the areas of Naharayim and Zofar for another twenty-five years. Jordan, he said, will impose its sovereignty fully over these areas. The dire socio-economic and demographic situation in Jordan, coupled with the intensifying grass-roots protests throughout the Hashemite kingdom and the political deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, has heightened public pressure on King Abdullah to cancel the peace treaty, whether in part or in its entirety. Over the years, Israeli-Jordanian relations have weathered ups and downs, but the parties succeeded in overcoming even the most extreme crises. The profound common interests that Jordan and Israel have shared for decades may help in overcoming the current challenge – provided that the crisis is handled promptly through covert dialogue, far from the spotlight.”

4) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at “The Return of ISIS“.

“So IS as an organization has survived the successful US-led destruction of the quasi-state it created in 2014.  It has a leadership structure, money, fighters, weaponry and it is currently constructing a network of support in Sunni Arab areas of Iraq and Syria. These areas take in territory under the nominal control of the government of Iraq, the US-aligned Syrian Democratic Forces and the Assad regime.  Small scale attacks have already begun in some areas. The return of the Islamic State in the dimensions it reached in the summer of 2014 does not look likely or imminent.  But the prospects of an IS-led ongoing Sunni insurgency, with roots deep in the Sunni Arab outlying areas of Syria, Iraq and the border between them is an increasingly likely prospect.  The Caliphate may be in ruins.  But Islamic State is back.”

Corrections secured to inaccurate BBC News website maps – part two

As recently documented here:

“In late June we noted the appearance of an inaccurate and misleading map on the BBC News website.

“An article titled “Syria war: Air strikes knock out hospitals in Deraa” which appeared on the BBC News website on June 27th includes a map showing the areas under the control of different parties in south-west Syria.

[…] the UN Disengagement Observer Forces (UNDOF) are portrayed as being present in the demilitarised zone that came into existence under the terms of the 1974 Disengagement Agreement between Israel and Syria.

However, as noted in this report from May 31st, UNDOF vastly reduced its physical presence in the so-called demilitarised zone nearly four years ago when it redeployed to the Israeli side.”

Similar versions of the same map appeared in at least five additional BBC News website reports.

BBC Watch submitted a complaint on that issue and on July 30th we received a response informing us that more time would be needed to address the points raised. On August 18th we received a further communication informing us that the time frame for addressing the complaint had run out.”

However, on October 26th BBC Watch received a communication from the BBC News website.

“Thank you for getting in touch about the maps contained within several articles on the BBC News website and please accept our apologies for the long and regrettable delay in our response.

After considering your point further we have replaced the maps in question.

We hope you will find this satisfactory and thank you once again for getting in touch.”

The replacement map now appears as follows in five reports published on the BBC News website between June 27th and July 12th 2018: see here, here, here, here and here.

In another article dating from July 22nd, the inaccurate map has been replaced by a different one.

None of the six amended articles includes a footnote to advise visitors to the BBC News website who accessed those reports during the past three to four months that the map has been amended due to inaccuracy.

Related Articles:

BBC News website map misleads on UNDOF

Corrections secured to inaccurate BBC News website maps – part one

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the FDD, the Institute for Science and International Security documents “New Information about the Parchin Site“.

“A great deal of on-the-ground information about Iran’s Parchin site has publicly emerged.  This site was involved prior to 2004 in high explosive testing related to the development of nuclear weapons.  The new information, mainly in the form of Iranian documents and photos, is from an archive seized by Israel in Tehran, a fact that was publicly revealed on April 30, 2018 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  He reported that this archive shows that in 2003 Iran was operating a nuclear weapons program, codenamed AMAD Plan, which aimed to build five nuclear weapons and prepare an underground nuclear test site, if a political decision was made to test. The Parchin site was a key part of that nuclear weapons research and development effort.”

2) Dr Shiraz Maher has published an essay titled “The primacy of praxis: clerical authority in the Syrian conflict”.

“A close look at the competing claims, actors, and movements for authority within the Syrian civil war reveals three distinct periods of political and religious influence: that of Syrian scholars, who were the first to inject religious language into the revolution; that of Salafi scholars predominantly from the Gulf; and lastly, that of jihadi organizations like ISIS and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, who were active on the ground.

This paper focuses on which figures relied on action—rather than theoretical abstraction—to establish legitimacy and authority on the ground in Syria. Tracing the conflict from the first clerical attempts to coordinate the Syrian opposition to the conflict’s regionalization, and, later, internationalization, this paper demonstrates that the words of actors on the ground are more likely than those of far-off figures—however popular—to resound effectively.”

3) At the JCPA, Yoni Ben Menachem takes a look at the background to a story first reported by the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh.

“On October 13, 2018, Sheikh Akhram a-Sabri, preacher of the al-Aqsa Mosque, issued a fatwa (ruling in Islamic law) stating that anyone who sells property in the Old City of Jerusalem to Jews no longer belongs to the Islamic religion.

“We will not accept his repentance, and he will not be buried in a Muslim cemetery,” Sabri declared. […]

On October 20, 2018, the Jerusalem police and the Israel Security Agency (ISA) apprehended Adnan Gheith, the PA’s Jerusalem governor, and Jihad al-Faqih, director of the PA’s intelligence office in east Jerusalem, both of whom are supporters of Gen. Majid Faraj. They were arrested on suspicion of abducting a Beit Hanina resident (whose name is known to the author), a known realtor dealing in land and property, whom they suspected of selling a property in the area of Herod’s Gate in the Old City.

The realtor is an Israeli citizen who also holds a U.S. passport.”

4) Also at the JCPA, Nadav Shragai discusses a Jordanian request.

“Jordan has asked Israel to allow it to build a fifth minaret on the Temple Mount, on the eastern wall of the Mount, facing the Mount of Olives. The Jordanian request is not new, and as far as it is known, at least at this stage, Israel does not intend to allow it. This issue has again been put on the public agenda, along with other matters relating to the ties between Jordan and Israel on the Temple Mount, in light of Jordan’s decision not to renew the lease agreement for land in Naharayim and the Arava, which Israeli farmers have been working for the past 25 years.”

Catching up with some recent BBC Middle East reporting

Back in late July visitors to the BBC News website were told that an Israeli MK had resigned:

“An Israeli Arab politician has resigned in opposition to a controversial new law which declares Israel to be the nation state of the Jewish people.”

July 2017

As was noted here at the time, the BBC’s claim concerning Zouheir Bahloul’s resignation was premature and – as reported by the Times of Israel – the MK actually only stepped down on October 16th.

“Zionist Union member Zouheir Bahloul formally resigned from the Knesset on Tuesday, some three months after he announced he would step down as an MK in protest of the recently passed nation-state bill, which he said officially discriminates against Israel’s Arab minority.

The Arab Israeli lawmaker met with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to present his letter of resignation, a day after the parliament returned from a three-month summer recess. […]

Bahloul offered no further explanation after his Tuesday meeting with Edelstein.

He also declined to comment on why he chose to formally resign only after the Knesset recess, a move that saw him rake in more than NIS 100,000 ($27,000) in taxpayer money over the break, based on the NIS 41,432  ($11,000) monthly salary for an MK.”

BBC audiences have not seen any reporting on Bahloul’s actual resignation.

******

In late June we noted the appearance of an inaccurate and misleading map on the BBC News website.

“An article titled “Syria war: Air strikes knock out hospitals in Deraa” which appeared on the BBC News website on June 27th includes a map showing the areas under the control of different parties in south-west Syria.

[…] the UN Disengagement Observer Forces (UNDOF) are portrayed as being present in the demilitarised zone that came into existence under the terms of the 1974 Disengagement Agreement between Israel and Syria.

However, as noted in this report from May 31st, UNDOF vastly reduced its physical presence in the so-called demilitarised zone nearly four years ago when it redeployed to the Israeli side.”

Similar versions of the same map appeared in at least five additional BBC News website reports.

BBC Watch submitted a complaint on that issue and on July 30th we received a response informing us that more time would be needed to address the points raised. On August 18th we received a further communication informing us that the time frame for addressing the complaint had run out.

On October 15th the BBC News website published a report titled “Syria reopens key crossings with Jordan and Israel-occupied Golan” in which we discover that the BBC in fact knows that UNDOF was not in control of the DMZ when it published the map which led audiences to believe that was the case.

“The Syrian national flag was also raised at the Quneitra crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights at a brief ceremony on Monday morning.

The UN, Israel and Syria agreed to re-open the crossing as part of an effort to allow UN Disengagement Observer Force (Undof) peacekeepers to carry out their mandate to maintain a decades-old ceasefire between Israel and Syria. […]

In 2014, after 45 peacekeepers were held captive for several weeks by al-Qaeda-linked jihadists and their bases attacked, Undof withdrew to the Israeli side.

The peacekeepers resumed their patrols in the area of the Quneitra crossing this August, after Syrian government forces regained control of the surrounding province and Russian military police were deployed there.”

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Back in August 2017 we asked “Are BBC audiences getting the full picture on Syria’s chemical weapons?” and since then we have continued to document the corporation’s promotion of false balance when reporting on that subject.

“…BBC audiences continue to repeatedly see false balance in the form of unchallenged Syrian propaganda that is presumably intended to tick the ‘impartiality’ box. In addition to being plainly ridiculous, that editorial policy clearly undermines the BBC’s purpose of providing the public with accurate and impartial reporting that enhances its understanding of global issues.”

May 2017

On October 15th a report was published on the BBC News website under the title “How chemical weapons have helped bring Assad close to victory“. In that article the BBC states that it has gathered evidence to show that:

“…at least 106 chemical attacks have taken place in Syria since September 2013, when the president [Assad] signed the international Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and agreed to destroy the country’s chemical weapons stockpile.”

It is of course impossible to determine how many members of the BBC’s audience – who have previously seen countless promotions of unchallenged denials from the Syrian regime on this issue – will have come across this latest BBC report.

Related Articles:

BBC News website reports a resignation yet to happen

BBC News website map misleads on UNDOF

Are BBC audiences getting the full picture on Syria’s chemical weapons?

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

Looking behind a BBC News website tag

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

BBC’s Davies suggests ulterior motives for IDF Sarin report