Weekend long read

1) The CST’s Dr Dave Rich discusses “The arrogance of Labour’s antisemitism definition“.

“…one-by-one Labour has abandoned the basic principles of anti-racism when it comes to dealing with antisemitism and Jews. Instead of allowing its Jewish MPs and its Jewish affiliate to define antisemitism and lead the fight against it, the Labour leadership insists on doing this for itself. Whereas anti-discrimination law focuses on detrimental outcomes, Labour insists on proof of “anti-Semitic intent”. Consultation with external Jewish leadership bodies ranges from perfunctory to non-existent.

As long as Labour continues with this course of action, its problem of antisemitism will keep getting worse – and Jewish disenchantment with the Party will become ever more entrenched.”

2) UN Watch has published a report titled “The United Nations and Antisemitism: 2008-2017 Report Card“.

“Anti-racism is the defining ideology of the United Nations and its human rights mechanisms. Yet all too often, as documented in this report’s comprehensive examination of the actions of key UN officials, agencies and experts over the past decade, it seems that the UN sees racism everywhere, and antisemitism nowhere. […]

UN plenaries like the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, which enact hundreds of resolutions a year, including on subjects related to racial and religious discrimination, failed to address the threat of antisemitism, other than in a few passing words included in general statements. Until 2010, both the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council adopted annual resolutions focused on the “defamation of Islam and Muslims,” mandating special reports, yet there was never one resolution to address anti-Jewish hatred and violence.”

3) The FDD has published a report concerning “The Escalation of Conflict between Israel and Iran in War-Torn Syria“.

“Until recently, Israel’s policy in Syria effectively was “Lebanon plus,” geared toward postponing a third Lebanon war by preventing Hezbollah’s acquisition of what Israeli officials call “game-changing” systems, transferred under the fog of war from Iran via Syria. Such systems in the hands of Hezbollah would prevent the Israeli air force or navy from operating with impunity. They are longer-range, more precise missiles capable not only of reaching anywhere in Israel, but also of threatening strategic facilities and installations. […]

More recently, the Israeli approach has widened. The IDF has targeted weapons systems destined to remain in Syria – to be used by Iran or its proxies, in an attempt to establish a new hostile front on Israel’s borders.”

4) At the ITIC, Dr Raz Zimmt profiles “The Owj Arts and Media Organization“.

“The Arts and Media Owj Organization (literally: “climax”) is a non-governmental organization operating in Iran since the spring of 2011. The organization initiates, leads and promotes activity in the spheres of art and culture inspired by the values of the Islamic Revolution and in accordance with the official ideology of the Iranian regime. The Owj organization is tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the content distributed by it is used to promote radical worldviews reflective of the position of the Iranian regime and the revolutionary current in Iran. The productions of the organization reflect a critical position toward the nuclear policy adopted by President Rouhani, deep hostility toward the United States, Israel and recently Saudi Arabia as well. The anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist activism of the organization includes, among other facets, involvement in Holocaust denial and production of movies and television serials that reflect anti-Zionist and even anti-Semitic views.”

 

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

On the afternoon of July 11th a Syrian drone infiltrated Israeli airspace.

“A Patriot missile was fired at a Syrian drone that infiltrated 10 kilometers into Israel on Wednesday afternoon, prompting a rocket-alert siren to go off in several communities in the Golan Heights. The IDF intercepted the drone over the Kinneret [Sea of Galilee]. […]

The IDF said that they tailed the drone for 15 minutes after it entered Israel from Syria. […]

IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said that the drone was spotted before it entered the demilitarized buffer zone between the two countries.

“We spotted an unmanned aerial vehicle at around 3:20pm flying toward the buffer zone and we followed it. It was spotted before it crossed into the demilitarized zone,” he said.

“We carried out a number of activities to prevent friction and defense activities including calling four war planes and two combat helicopters and we prepared Patriot missile batteries. When we realized that there were optimal conditions, we intercepted the drone using one Patriot missile,” he continued.”

Several hours later, Israel responded with strikes on three Syrian military posts.

A BBC News website report titled “Syria war: Government attacks IS enclave in south-west” that was published some two and a half hours after the interception included a description of the incident in twenty-six words, none of which clarified that the drone had infiltrated 10 kms into Israel.

“On Wednesday, the Israeli military said it had launched a Patriot missile at a drone launched from Syria, setting off air defence sirens in Israeli communities.”

Readers were also told that:

“The Syrian army’s advance towards the occupied Golan Heights has also alarmed Israeli officials, who believe it may attempt to deploy soldiers along the frontier in defiance of a 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement that created a buffer zone patrolled by UN peacekeepers.”

The relevant fact that UNDOF forces redeployed to the Israeli side of the buffer zone four years ago and no longer carry out their designated mission with regard to Syrian forces was not clarified.

The article continued:

“Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy, has deployed hundreds of troops to Syria, ostensibly as advisers to the government. Thousands of Shia militiamen armed, trained and financed by Iran have also been battling rebels alongside the Syrian army.

Mr Netanyahu has vowed to stop what he considers Iranian “military entrenchment” in Syria and has ordered a number of air strikes on Iranian facilities.” [emphasis added]

BBC audiences were not informed that, according to pro-Assad sources, Hizballah is “helping to lead a Russian-backed offensive in southern Syria which has left over 250,000 people displaced” or that additional Iranian-handled Shia foreign militias are also taking part in that campaign. Neither were they told that last month Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) deputy commander Hossein Salami said

“Today an international Islamic army has been formed in Syria, and the voices of the Muslims are heard near the Golan… Orders are awaited, so that the custom of God vis-à-vis the eradication of the evil regime [Israel] will land and the life of this regime will be ended for good. The life of the Zionist regime was never in danger as it is now.” [emphasis added]

Apparently though the BBC is still quite happy for its audiences to go away with the impression that Iran’s military build-up in Syria is primarily an Israeli claim.   

Related Articles:

BBC News website map misleads on UNDOF

BBC inconsistency on Iran’s Syria build-up continues

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

The omission in a BBC WS opinion piece based interview

On July 1st an opinion piece by former IDF Spokesman Peter Lerner was published in the Ha’aretz newspaper under the title “Should Israel Open Its Borders to Desperate Syrian Refugees?“.

On July 4th the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour‘ conducted an interview with Peter Lerner based on that opinion piece and some of the points made in it were brought up while another – interestingly – was not.

Presenter James Menendez introduced the item (from 38:29 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Menedez: “Syrian government troops and their militia have been closing in on rebels in Daraa province, prompting more than a quarter of a million people to flee their homes – that’s according to the UN. But there is nowhere for them to go: the Jordanian border is closed, so too the border with Israel across the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. A few days ago Israel’s hardline defence minister Avigdor Lieberman said on social media that while Israel was prepared to continue to offer humanitarian assistance to civilians, it wouldn’t accept any Syrian refugees. Well one man calling for a change in that policy is Peter Lerner – for many years a spokesman for the Israeli Defence Forces. This is what he told me on the line from northern Israel, close to the Syrian border.”

In fact, what Lerner called for in his article was rather more nuanced than its presentation by Menendez suggests:

“While Lieberman’s zero refugee policy is morally questionable, the reasoning behind it may be reports in Israel last week citing intelligence sources suggesting Iran is trying to abuse operation Good Neighbor to infiltrate terrorists into Israel.

Israel should make exceptions to its ‘no entry’ policy for refugees, especially orphaned children who are in dire need.” [emphasis added]

In the ‘Newshour’ interview Lerner began by briefly outlining the medical assistance and humanitarian aid Israel has been supplying for the past five years before saying:

Lerner: “So I don’t think that Israel has officially stated that there’s a policy of not opening the border and I think that at the current situation we need to assess that policy and suggest perhaps more assistance, more help – perhaps to facilitate orphaned children that might need assistance and keep them out of harm’s way.”

In his article Lerner also brought up another possibility:

“But if Israel is unwilling to permit refugees to enter its territory, the government now needs to establish a safe zone on the eastern side of the border.

On the international front, the success of a safe zone for displaced Syrians will only be successful if it can truly be safe. Russia alone can secure the required assurances that Assad’s troops and its militias keep at a safe distance. The IDF will have to protect the people that flee to the sanctuary, supply food, shelter, sanitation and medical aid.”

In the radio interview he made a brief reference to that idea which was not picked up by Menendez.

Lerner: “I also think that on the other side of the border there needs to be an international effort to establish an area where people can come and gather…”

Menendez then asked:

Menendez: “In terms though of what Israel should do at the border – I mean does it mean opening the border to all those who may be asking for refugee status, all those who may need medical help?”

After Lerner had explained that the Syrians have for decades been “told that Israel is the arch-enemy” and cited “reports in the Israeli media that Iran was attempting to infiltrate terrorists on this platform”, Menendez jumped in:

Menendez: “Do you…just on that point, do you believe that intelligence assessment that Iran may try to use any greater access across the border to infiltrate people into Israel?”

Lerner: “Absolutely. […] Where there is a hole it is potentially and usually abused. Now the reality on the ground means that Israel needs to take that into consideration but I definitely think that there’s more room than a zero entrance policy. I’m not talking about a widespread opening but I think, you know, a bit more compassion towards people that are actually in dire need.”

Menendez apparently did not comprehend the points made by his interviewee.

Menendez: “What about taking in refugees on a formal basis? As we know, Syria’s other neighbours have taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees – why not Israel?”

Lerner once again explained that “Israel is officially in a state of conflict with Syria” and that no “friendly mechanisms” exist before going on:

Lerner: “But that’s exactly my point. I think that there is room for more compassion and not necessarily opening the border because Israel hasn’t got the means or the ability to accept tens of thousands of refugees…”

The interview ended soon after that with listeners hearing nothing at all about one of the other main points raised in Lerner’s article:

“Israel must also appeal to UNDOF (the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force), the UN peacekeeping force to review its mandate. UNDOF was established in 1974 to monitor and supervise the ceasefire between Israel and Syria that ended the Yom Kippur War. In the absurd reality of the Middle East, that is what they continue to do today. There are over 1000 deployed UN personnel that could immediately assist the people in need. However, since the Syrian civil war began, UNDOF has vacated most of its observer camps in the Syrian Golan Heights.”

Obviously listeners’ understanding of the story would have been enhanced had the fact that there are UN soldiers deployed in the vicinity of thousands of displaced Syrians been mentioned in this item. But for some reason the BBC chose to omit that information. 

Related Articles:

BBC News ignores Israeli aid to displaced Syrians

 

 

 

Looking behind a BBC News website tag

On June 27th two items relating to the same topic appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ and ‘Middle East’ pages:

OPCW chemical watchdog gains power to assign blame

Chemical weapons: New watchdog powers an important step” by Jonathan Marcus

In his article diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus points out that:

“Until now, chemical weapons inspectors, working under the auspices of the OPCW (the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) were in a curious position.

They could send teams to an alleged chemical weapons attack. They could take samples and draw their conclusions. They could determine whether indeed a chemical weapons incident had occurred.

But whatever evidence they turned up, they could not point the finger at a particular country or non-state actor as the perpetrator. […]

One way of getting around this was the so-called Joint Investigative Mechanism – a concerted effort by the OPCW and the UN to investigate some of the alleged chemical attacks in Syria.

In difficult conditions this did indeed investigate alleged chemical attacks in Syria and found sufficient evidence to determine that the Syrian Arab Armed Forces (President Bashar al-Assad’s troops) were responsible for three chemical weapons attacks in 2014 and 2015, and that the Syrian regime was responsible for the Sarin nerve agent attack in April 2017 in Khan Shaykhun.”

Despite that accurate portrayal by Marcus of the findings concerning some of the past chemical attacks in Syria, curiously the BBC News website chose to tag both those articles “Suspected Syria chemical attack”.

A look at all the BBC reports appearing under that tag shows that it was created shortly after the chemical weapons attack in Douma on April 7th 2018 to which the US, the UK and France subsequently responded with strikes on Syrian government chemical weapons sites. Obviously the French, British and American governments considered the evidence convincing enough to justify those strikes but nevertheless, some of the articles appearing under that tag continue to amplify unsupported Syrian and Russian claims – for example:

“Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has told BBC News the allegations of chemical weapons use were “based on media reports and social media” and that the incident was “staged”. […]

The [Syrian] government denies using chemical weapons and says the attack was fabricated.” (BBC News website, April 18th 2018)

“The US, UK and France say that, based on open-source information and their own intelligence, they are confident chlorine and possibly a nerve agent were used.

The Syrian government and Russia deny chemical weapons were used and say evidence was fabricated.” (BBC News website, April 21st 2018)

“Syrian opposition activists, rescue workers and medics say more than 40 people were killed in a suspected chemical attack on the Syrian city of Douma in April.

France said it had “proof” that “chemical weapons were used – at least chlorine – and that they were used by Bashar al-Assad’s regime”.

The Syrian government denied the allegation. And its key ally Russia said it had “irrefutable evidence” that the incident had been “staged” with the help of the UK.” (BBC News website, June 26th 2018)

As we see the BBC continues its policy of promoting false balance in the form of claims from Syria and Russia – despite both those governments having been shown to have lied about previous chemical attacks. In contrast, the New York Times recently published the findings of an investigation it conducted into the Douma attack.

Readers can judge for themselves which approach – proactive investigative reporting or box-ticking uncritical amplification of unsubstantiated claims – best serves the interests of the public to whom the BBC is obliged to deliver  “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards”.

Related Articles:

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

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

BBC News ignores Israeli aid to displaced Syrians

Those who read an article titled “Syria war: Air strikes knock out hospitals in Deraa” on the BBC News website on June 27th learned that:

“Up to 50,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in the past week. […]

The United Nations said the government’s artillery and air strikes had prompted between 45,000 and 50,000 people to flee their homes in Deraa province and head towards Jordan and the Golan Heights.

It warned that the displaced population was in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, and that southern border communities would soon be overwhelmed because Jordan had said it would not allow in any more refugees.” [emphasis added]

Readers of another article on the same topic that was published on the afternoon of June 28th under the headline “Syria war: Air strike on Deraa shelter kills 17 civilians” were told that:

“UN officials said on Tuesday that between 45,000 and 50,000 people had fled their homes in Deraa province and head towards Jordan or the Golan Heights. They warned southern border communities would soon be overwhelmed because Jordan had said it would not allow in any more refugees.”

photo credit: IDF

On the morning of June 29th it was announced that the Israeli army had delivered tons of humanitarian aid to displaced Syrians during the night.

“The IDF delivered about 60 tons of humanitarian aid to the Syrian Golan Heights on Thursday night after some 120,000 fled the southwestern part of the country in the wake of the Syrian army’s onslaught in the area.

During the special overnight operation, some 300 tents, 13 tons of food, 15 tons of baby food, three pallets of medical equipment and medicine and some 30 tons of clothes and shoes were transferred into Syria from four different spots on the border.

The aid was transferred to Syrian refugee camps in the southern and central parts of the Syrian Golan. The camps, located near the border with Israel, house several thousands of Syrians under poor conditions with no access to water, electricity, food or other basic necessities.”

Despite having reported the UN’s call for humanitarian assistance the BBC News website did not produce a new report or even update its June 28th article to inform audiences of the Israeli delivery of aid to displaced Syrians.

Update:

Later versions of an article published on the BBC News website on July 2nd (three days after the aid had been delivered) under the headline “Syria war: 270,000 displaced by fighting in south-west” inform readers that:

 

 

 

BBC News website map misleads on UNDOF

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.

As can be seen below, 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.

“The mission’s observation role has been limited since its September 2014 relocation to the Alpha side of the ceasefire line. […]

Israel and Syria value UNDOF’s presence and want to see the mission return to the Bravo side. However, the security situation on the Syrian side is still not conducive to full redeployment of UNDOF troops. Council members continue to support the eventual complete return of UNDOF to the Bravo side but are mindful that this would require a favourable security environment, which is crucial for maintaining the confidence of troop-contributing countries.”

As the UN Security Council noted when it last extended UNDOF’s mandate, the so-called demilitarized zone has long failed to live up to its name.

“Stressing that there should be no military forces in the area of separation other than those of UNDOF,

Strongly condemning the continued fighting in the area of separation, calling on all parties to the Syrian domestic conflict to cease military actions in the UNDOF area of operations and to respect international humanitarian law,

Condemning the use of heavy weapons by both the Syrian armed forces and armed groups in the ongoing Syrian conflict in the area of separation, including the use of tanks by the Syrian armed forces and opposition during clashes,”

Moreover, it was recently reported that Syrian regime troops have taken over an abandoned UNDOF position in the DMZ in violation of the 1974 agreement.

While the UNSC stated that “the ultimate goal is for the peacekeepers to return to their positions in UNDOF’s area of operations as soon as practicable” that is currently not the case and so the BBC’s portrayal of the DMZ as being an area in which UNDOF has a physical presence is inaccurate and misleading to audiences.

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) NGO Monitor has published a study of The Latin American BDS Network.

“Anti-Israel campaigns in Latin America, specifically in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico, have grown in recent years. For decades Latin American governments generally had strong ties with Israel, but this shifted during the 2000s when many governments demonstrated solidarity with Palestinians by recognizing a Palestinian state and condemning Israeli actions in Gaza. Still, countries such as Mexico and Argentina have substantial trade with Israel and have called for greater economic cooperation with the State. Furthermore, several of the Latin American countries that unilaterally recognized a Palestinian state chose to abstain in the UN vote on the US decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – demonstrating ties to Israel.

In contrast to the strong economic and diplomatic ties with Israel, many local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are active in promoting BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions), lawfare, and various other delegitimization campaigns against the State of Israel. These campaigns are often accompanied by demonizing and antisemitic rhetoric. These organizations appear to receive no government support and therefore rely on international BDS groups, as well as American, European, Israeli, and Palestinian NGOs for assistance in their campaigns.”

2) At the Fathom Journal Dr Simon Waldman discusses “the urgent need to rethink UNRWA”.

“Bureaucratic, badly managed, constantly overspending, UNRWA is almost always in a state of crisis and in the need of a bail out. And not only does it get one every year, but it receives its yearly lifeline without being obligated to restructure or reform. This is not to say that UNRWA does not do good work. It does plenty. Shelter, healthcare and education benefit millions not only in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but also in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. There’s also emergency relief, sanitation and psychological support for the 1948 Palestinian refugees (and to some extent 1967 refugees), and their descendants.

But here lies the problem. Instead of weaning refugees from dependency as was originally intended, over the course of decades Palestinians became reliant on UNRWA, whose operational definition of a ‘refugee’ includes the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the original refugees. In doing so, instead of encouraging the resettlement and rehabilitation of descendants of the original refugees, UNRWA, with the support of western nations, has perpetuated their misery.”

3) At the New York Times James Loeffler writes about “The Zionist Founders of the Human Rights Movement“.

“Starting in the early 1960s, even before the Six-Day War of 1967, the international human rights community began to parrot the Soviet and Arab propaganda lines about Israeli racism and Zionist fascism. When Jewish leaders raised the subject of anti-Semitism at the United Nations in the 1970s, they were answered with a horrible meme that went viral: “Zionism is Racism.” That same decade, Amnesty International broke with its longstanding policy of not sponsoring prisoners who use or endorse violence and took up the cause of Palestinian Fatah members.

Furthermore, a deeper, insidious logic is also at work for many human-rights organizations. They readily point to the Holocaust as history’s wake-up call that sparked the human rights movement. But they selectively ignore a key fact of that history: it was Zionist activists who gave us so many of the ideals and instruments of modern human rights. They fought for human rights out of their particular experience as Jews — which is the very thing that drove them to embrace Zionism.”

4) At the JCPA, Dr Dore Gold takes a look at relations between Russia and Iran against the Syria backdrop.

“Russia is not cutting its ties with Iran. But it is clearly cutting back Iran’s freedom of action in Syria. The idea that Russia would back Iran’s use of Syria as a platform for operations against Israel or Jordan is not tenable. Still, Russia would remain the primary supplier of Bashar Assad’s army in Syria as well as his strategic partner. Unquestionably, Iran would need to reassess its Middle Eastern strategy after Moscow’s pronouncements calling for it to leave Syria and not continue to be perceived as the force that put at risk all that Russia had achieved as a result of the Syrian civil war.” 

BBC Radio 4 reframes last month’s Iranian attack on Israel

Last week BBC Radio 4 ran a five-part series of programmes – presented by Edward Stourton and featuring Fawaz Gerges and additional guests – under the title “How Syria Changed the World“.

The fourth episode – titled “Sectarianism” – opened with Stourton telling listeners that:

Stourton: “In early May the Israeli military authorities ordered the opening of bomb shelters on the Golan Heights. Then on the night of May the 9th to 10th the Israelis launched their biggest attack yet on Iranian positions inside Syria.”

Listeners then heard part of what appears to be a news report:

“The Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman told Iran ‘if you bring us rain, you’ll get a flood’. The wave of overnight airstrikes by Israel on Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria has borne his words out.”

In fact, Lieberman’s comment was made after the events of the night of May 9th/10th.

Stourton did not bother to inform Radio 4 listeners that the May 8th order to open shelters on the Golan Heights came as a result of “abnormal movements of Iranian forces in Syria” – detected after a month of threats against Israel from Iran.

Neither did he bother to mention (not for the first time) the rather relevant fact that those “overnight airstrikes by Israel” were preceded by Iran having launched 32 missiles at Israel.

As we see, less than a month after it took place the BBC has reframed the incident in which Iran’s IRGC forces attacked Israel, turning it into a story in which “the Israelis launched their biggest attack yet” – and making 32 Iranian missiles completely disappear from audience view.  

Related Articles:

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

Iran missile attack: BBC News promotes misinformation

Iranian propaganda goes unchallenged on BBC radio – part one

Iranian propaganda goes unchallenged on BBC radio – part two

 

BBC inconsistency on Iran’s Syria build-up continues

On the afternoon of May 22nd the BBC News website published a report headlined “F-35 stealth fighter sees first combat, in Israeli operation“. Readers were told that:

“The US-made F-35 stealth fighter has seen its first ever combat action, flying in an operation for the Israeli air force.

The air force chief showed an image of jets over Beirut, Lebanon, and said the planes had “already attacked twice on two different fronts”. […]

Maj Gen Amikam Norkin told heads of 20 foreign air forces meeting in Israel: “We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East and have already attacked twice on two different fronts.” He did not specify the targets.”

However, as local media had reported earlier the same day, Maj Gen Norkin also gave the conference participants some additional information concerning an incident earlier this month:  

“During his speech, Norkin also revealed that earlier this month Iranian forces in Syria had fired more rockets at Israeli military bases on the Golan Heights than the army had previously acknowledged.

“The Iranians fired 32 rockets, we intercepted four. The rest landed outside Israeli territory,” he said.”

The BBC apparently did not consider that new information newsworthy because no mention of it appears in this report. Readers were also not told that in the same speech Maj Gen Norkin said:

““We’re watching what the Iranians are doing around us. The al-Quds Force has set up on the T-4 air base, some 250 kilometers (150 miles) from Israel,” Norkin told the visiting air commanders.

“From this base, they tried to attack [us] with a drone that infiltrated into Israel a few months ago. After that, we noticed they were continuing to store weapons on that base, including the air defenses that we attacked a month ago,” he said, referring to an April 9 air raid on the T-4 base, in which at least seven IRGC members were killed, including the senior officer in charge of its drone program.”

Earlier this month Israeli military officials clarified the nature of the target of the strike on the T4 airbase on April 9th.

“According to the army, the specific target of the strike on the T-4 base was a shipment of advanced air defense weapons, including one with a range of 110 kilometers (70 miles). […]

According to IDF assessments, in recent weeks Iran has stepped up its efforts to bring a number of advanced munitions into Syria, notably air defense systems, with which the IRGC could fire on Israeli fighter jets.

The anti-aircraft systems Iran has been bringing into Syria are meant to threaten Israel’s air superiority in the region, providing a cover for Iranian forces in Syria to carry out attacks against the Jewish state, the military believes.”

The BBC did not report on that May 11th statement but had around the same time, to one degree or another, noted the IRGC’s entrenchment in Syria that includes the import of weapons such as missiles and anti-aircraft batteries – for example here, here, here and here.

Nevertheless, in this May 22nd report the build-up of Iranian weapons in Syria was once again portrayed as something that Israel “believes” is happening rather than as fact. [emphasis added]

 “The BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem says Israel’s claim to have used it [the F-35] in an operational strike even before the Americans may be designed as a further show of military strength, as it believes elite Iranian forces are trying to entrench themselves in Syria to threaten Israel.”

When some BBC journalists report frankly about Iran’s transfer of weapons to Hizballah and the IRGC’s entrenchment in Syria while others continue to promote faux ‘objectivity’ by unnecessarily qualifying information, the losers are obviously the members of the BBC’s funding public whose understanding of this story depends on which particular report they happen to stumble.  

Related Articles:

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

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

Inaccuracy and omission from ‘parachuted’ BBC Radio 4 presenter in Jerusalem

In recent days we have seen a number of BBC programmes broadcasting ‘special editions’ from Jerusalem. While the benefits to the BBC’s funding public of flying presenters of domestic programmes such as Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ and ‘Sunday‘ out from the UK for a jaunt to Israel may remain a mystery to many, the May 11th edition of Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ provided a prime example of the perils of ‘parachuting’ reporters into an environment with which they are less than adequately familiar.

Presenter Mark Mardell introduced the item (from 27:49 here) with what was by that time an inaccurate claim regarding a “high alert” in northern Israel and a decidedly presumptuous prediction of its continuation. Interestingly though, he had nothing at all to say about the missile attacks by Iran against Israel the previous day.

Mardell: “Northern Israel is still on high alert and will stay so for a few days yet after the full-scale attack on Iranian bases within Syria. It’s obviously a tense time and next week the State of Israel will be 70 years old. My colleague Edward Stourton is in Jerusalem.” [emphasis added]

Evidently – and not only in this programme – the BBC has elected to ignore the fact that Israelis celebrated the 70th anniversary of their country’s independence on April 19th and instead has adopted the staggeringly patronising policy of deciding for itself (in a manner similar to that in which it presumes to decide where Israel’s capital is – and is not) that Israel’s independence day should be marked according to the Gregorian calendar rather than the Hebrew one.

Edward Stourton also began his item by erasing Iranian missile fire at Israel from the picture. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Stourton: “Mark, Israel was of course born in war and – as the exchange of fire into Syria over the past few days has reminded the world – its history has been scarred by conflict ever since. The way events unfolded seven decades ago is a deeply and bitterly contested story but the bare bones of it go something like this: in the autumn of 1947 the newly-formed United Nations voted to partition what was known as Palestine between an Arab and an Israeli state with an internationally managed special enclave around Jerusalem and Bethlehem.”

Stourton made no effort to inform listeners that the Arabs rejected the UN’s Partition Plan recommendation, thus rendering it irrelevant, before going on:

Stourton: “Violence between the two sides escalated into civil war and the British, who had a mandate to run Palestine, lost control.”

Listeners then heard an archive newsreel recording in which the founders of the Jewish state were portrayed as “lawless” and “thugs” – a recording which was also used by the BBC in the same programme last month.

Archive recording: “Against a background which daily gains resemblance to war-scarred Europe, Palestine is now gripped with almost unrestricted racial warfare. With British influence waning and United Nations actions still delayed, the lawless elements of Jew and Arab populations take over from the servants of a policy of law and order. In the back streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Jaffa the thugs of both sides build up the armoured cars for war against each other. In between them – victims of the struggle – stand the great majorities of civil people on both sides.”

Stourton: “Well that was the way Pathé News reported the story and Britain in fact dictated the timetable by announcing its mandate would end on May the 14th 1948. That afternoon, here in Jerusalem, David Ben Gurion – Israel’s first leader – declared independence.”

The declaration of independence was of course made in Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem. After listeners had heard an archive recording of Ben Gurion speaking, Stourton went on:

Stourton: “Well the new state came into being at midnight and the following day four Arab states attacked Israeli forces.”

Stourton then introduced his two guests – Sami Adwan from Bethlehem and Israeli ‘new historian’ Tom Segev – who, unsurprisingly, expressed remarkably homogeneous views.

Listeners heard Adwan claim that in 1948 Palestinians were “deprived from their national rights…their rights, their resources and their property, their places”. Awad went on to claim that “they were expelled without any reason, without any cause”.

Stourton – whose sole response to those claims was “well indeed” – refrained from clarifying to listeners that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians who left in 1948 were not driven out by the Israelis, but left of their own accord – often because they were urged to do so by their own leaders. He likewise failed to mention that the Palestinians were not the passive actors portrayed by Awad, but also took part in what was intended to be a war of annihilation initiated by the Arab states and then he went on to give a context-free portrayal of the Six Day War.

Stourton: “Well indeed and just staying with you for a moment, this weekend marks Jerusalem Day which remembers the moment in 1967 when Israel took the east of Jerusalem in the Six Day War. Fair to say that that period added another sort of layer of disputed history if you like.”

When Adwan went on to claim that “the British, the Israelis are responsible for our catastrophe”, Stourton made no effort to question him on the topic of Arab and Palestinian responsibility.

Listeners heard highly partisan portrayals of the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem from both Stourton and Segev, with the latter describing it as an “unnecessary development” and opining that the Palestinian refugee issue is a “burden…on our [Israel’s] morality and on the justification for the existence of Israel”.

When Adwan later presented a partisan view of the UN Partition Plan, Stourton failed once again to inform listeners that the proposal was rejected by Arab leaders – including representatives of the Palestinians – and hence has no relevance.

Obviously the aim of this unbalanced and partisan report – riddled as it was with important omissions and inaccuracies – was to advance the narrative of “disputed history”. No effort was made to get beyond that falsely ‘balanced’ label and to provide Radio 4 listeners with accurate and impartial information that would enhance their understanding of a complicated story.

Nevertheless, one would expect that if the BBC is going to go to the expense of sending UK based journalists abroad to report on a story off their usual beat, it would at least ensure that they are au fait with the basic historical facts and ensure that they provide them to the corporation’s funding public. 

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