Weekend long read

1) Einat Wilf gives her view of “The Fatal Flaw That Doomed the Oslo Accords” at The Atlantic.

“Ultimately, sooner or later, all wars and all conflicts end, with a bang or with a whimper. There is no reason to assume that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more intractable than others. But if we have learnt anything over the past 25 years, it is that being ambiguous about the simple fact that neither side is going to have the entirety of the land does no one any favors. Israelis will have to accept the fact that they cannot build settlements all over the West Bank, and Palestinians will have to accept the fact that they cannot settle inside Israel in the name of return. The sooner both sides hear and internalize these simple, cold, hard truths, the sooner we will be able to speak of hope again.”

2) At the Jerusalem Post Khaled Abu Toameh brings some views of Ahed Tamimi who in recent months has repeatedly been described by the BBC as “an icon”.

“During a visit to France last weekend, Tamimi appeared in a photo with Salah Eddin Medan, a member of Polisario, the rebel national liberation movement fighting since 1975 to end Morocco’s presence in the Western Sahara.

The photo enraged many Moroccans, who are now saying they regret having backed the campaign to support Tamimi after she was arrested and brought to trial for slapping an IDF soldier in her village last year. […]

“Many Palestinians are asking how come Ahed Tamimi is receiving all this attention from the international media,” said a Palestinian journalist in Ramallah. “There’s a feeling that someone is trying to turn this girl into a big hero and an icon. There are thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prison and no one seems to care. The large-scale attention she’s receiving raises many doubts. The Western media seems to be more interested in her than the Palestinian and Arab media. The Western media is trying to create a Palestinian hero.””

3) At the JNS Yaakov Lappin discusses how “Iran’s activities could ignite a dangerous fire“.

“Traditionally, Iran’s program was to traffic sophisticated weapons to its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah. But this has run into major trouble in the form of an Israeli counter-program to disrupt this arms flow.

So Iran is trying new tricks, including giving Hezbollah the ability to domestically produce its own guided, heavy rockets.

That would give Hezbollah the ability to threaten Israel with massive projectiles, like the Iranian-designed Fateh 110 rocket, which can carry a half-ton warhead, and to do so with firepower that is accurate. The difference between accurate and inaccurate firepower is major. If Hezbollah can precisely hit the most sensitive Israeli targets—be they civilian or military—its ability to strategically threaten Israel grows significantly.”

4) The JCPA’s Yoni Ben Menachem reports on a new Hamas unit linked to the ‘Great Return March agitprop.

“Over the past two weeks, Hamas has created a new unit called, “The Night-time Deployment Unit.”

The purpose of the unit is to strike against IDF soldiers deployed on the Gaza border during the night and to break the routine of incidents on the border ending in the evening hours or on only one day of the week. […]

The establishment of the new unit is part of Hamas’ strategic decision to ramp up again the incidents on the border following the failure to secure a calm through the Egyptian-sponsored negotiations. The tactic is part of the strategy to pressure Israel to remove the blockade of the Gaza Strip.”

Advertisements

Weekend long read

1) The JCPA has a report on part of the background to a story covered by the BBC last week.

“Deadly riots in Iraq’s southern city of Basra erupted following protests waged by the local population that have been going on since early July 2018. The turmoil worsened after the governor of Basra ordered troops to use live bullets against the protesters. Rioters stormed the provincial government building on September 4, 2018, and set it ablaze.

The cause of discontent is the crumbling and obsolete state of the local infrastructures. Today, the blame is directed mainly against the failing water infrastructure, which is causing plague-like conditions in the local population: according to the news from Basra between 500 to 600 individuals are admitted to emergency rooms daily because of water poisoning accompanied by skin diseases. Some 17,000 intestinal infection cases due to water contamination were recorded, according to Basra health authorities. Hospitals are unable to cope with the flow of the sick, nor do the authorities know how to deal with the spreading diseases and the threat of cholera.”

2) At the INSS Oded Eran takes a look at “The Idea of a Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation, Revisited“.

“In the quest for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the idea of a Jordanian-Palestinian federation/confederation, which has been raised from time to time, has recently resurfaced. In a September 2, 2018 meeting between Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen and a group of Israelis, the Palestinian leader said that the idea was raised by the US team engaged in the effort to renew the negotiations between the parties and formulate a proposal for a settlement. Beyond the major question regarding the Palestinians’ political and legal status in the American proposal, a confederation model, particularly one involving Jordan, the Palestinians, and Israel, creates a possibility for “creative solutions” to issues related to economies, energy, and water. A trilateral framework of this nature may also facilitate solutions that include relinquishing elements of sovereignty for the sake of the confederation.”

3) Jonathan Spyer discusses the situation in northern Syria.

“Before the civil war, Syria’s Kurds were among the most severely oppressed, and among the most invisible minorities, of the Middle East. Numbering between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of the pre-war Syrian population, they were prevented from educating or even naming their children in their native language. A section of the Kurdish population was deprived of travel and passport rights. Some, the so-called maktoumeen (unrecorded), lacked even citizenship and access to education.

The emergence of a de facto Kurdish enclave following the withdrawal by the Assad regime from a swath of the county’s north in 2012 changed all this. The enclave successfully defended itself against an early attempt by the rebels to destroy it. In 2014 the Kurds formed a de facto alliance with the US and the West in the war against Islamic State. This war, along with the regime’s (and Russia and Iran’s) war against the rebels, now is in its closing stages.”

4) The ITIC reports on recent violent power struggles in eastern Syria.

“In August 2018, several cities in the Euphrates Valley witnessed violent clashes between the Syrian army and Syrian militias affiliated with it on the one hand, and Shiite militias handled by Iran on the other. The clashes took place in the region between Albukamal and Deir ezZor, and both sides sustained dozens of casualties. In the background, there were violent power struggles and conflicts on the extortion of money from local residents, mainly by collecting “crossing fees” in return for the use of crossings between the two banks of the Euphrates River. During the clashes, attempts were made to find local solutions to defuse the situation: the militias were supposed to stop running the crossings and the Russian Military Police was supposed to take their place. However, since late August 2018, the clashes stopped and a reconciliation committee was convened in the city of Albukamal, to resolve the conflicts.”

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Dr Denis MacEoin chronicles the UK Labour Party antisemitism story at the Gatestone Institute.

“Mainstream, moderate political parties are normally sensitive to accusations in the media or from the public that threaten to put citizens off voting for them. Labour’s anti-Semitic reputation has been on the front pages of newspapers, has led to a plethora of articles in leading magazines, and has been a deep cause of concern for some two years now. The current British government is in a state of crisis – a crisis that could result before long in a fresh general election in which Labour might hope to win or further increase its vote, as it did in 2017. One might have thought that they might do anything to win voters back by abandoning any policies that might make the public think them too extreme to take on the responsibilities of government in a country facing confusion over its plan to exit the European Union. But this July, they did the opposite by turning their backs on moderation, presumably in the hope that this is where the voters are.”

2) At Tablet Magazine Tony Badran discusses “The Myth of an Independent Lebanon“.

“The reason Hezbollah continues to be able to fly in Iranian planes loaded with weapons straight into Beirut airport has nothing to do with absence of state authority, or lack of LAF capacity. Rather, the theory undergirding U.S. policy, which posits a dichotomy between the Lebanese government and Hezbollah, simply has no relation to the reality of Lebanon. The LAF will never take action to prevent Hezbollah’s arms smuggling, because it will never be asked to by the Lebanese government, regardless of how much we “professionalize” it or build up its capacity.”

3) Dr Jonathan Spyer takes a look at Turkish interests in Syria.

“Idlib is set to form the final chapter in a Russian-led strategy that commenced nearly three years ago.   According to this approach, rebel-controlled areas were first bombed and shelled into submission and then offered the chance to ‘reconcile’, ie surrender to the regime. As part of this process, those fighters who did not wish to surrender were given the option of being transported with their weapons to rebel-held Idlib.

This approach was useful for the regime side.  It allowed the avoidance of costly last-stand battles by the rebels.  It also contained within it the expectation that a final battle against the most determined elements of the insurgency would need to take place, once there was nowhere for these fighters to be redirected. That time is now near.  There are around 70,000 rebel fighters inside Idlib.  The dominant factions among them are Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, (the renamed Jabhat al-Nusra, ie the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria), and the newly formed, Turkish-supported Jaish al-Watani (National Army), which brings together a number of smaller rebel groups.”

4) At the INSS Michal Hatuel-Radoshitzky and Kobi Michael discuss “The End to US Funding to UNRWA: Opportunity or Threat?

“The US decision to cease funding UNRWA is no less than historic. Although the Palestinians view such a step as a serious blow, if it is presented as a necessary step on the path to Palestinian statehood, it has the potential to harbor long term, positive implications. While Israel should certainly prepare for negative scenarios that such a policy move may generate in the near term, it is unwise to cling to the current paradigm that distances the Palestinian leadership’s pragmatic and ethical responsibility for rehabilitating and resettling Palestinian refugees within the Palestinian territories. With staunch Israeli, American, and international incentives and policy initiatives, the US decision to cease funding UNRWA can serve as a wake-up call to the Palestinian leadership and potentially inject new life into the Israeli-Palestinian process.”

 

 

 

Omissions and additions in BBC News Syria blasts report

Early on the morning of September 2nd a report appeared on the BBC News website under the headline “Syria blasts at Mezzeh military airport ‘not Israeli strikes’“. BBC audiences were told that:

“Syria has denied reports that a series of blasts at a military airport near Damascus on Sunday were from Israeli air strikes, state media say.

The loud blasts, reported at the Mezzeh airport, were caused by an explosion at a munitions dump, Sana news agency said, citing Syrian military sources.

The incident was the result of an electrical fault, the agency added. […]

The airport is believed to house Syrian Air Force intelligence.”

Readers were not informed that the same site is also believed to house facilities used by Iranian forces and Shiite militias under the command of the IRGC.

Having told readers that the Syrian military says that Israel has no connection to the incident, the BBC’s 269 word report went on to amplify versions of the story contradicting that statement which were attributed to an anonymous “official in the regional alliance backing the Syrian government” and a “monitoring group” based in the UK.

Curiously, the BBC decided to devote over 35% of a report on an incident it had told readers was unrelated to Israel to listing alleged and acknowledged Israeli actions.

“Israel has launched air strikes against Syria in the past and was accused of targeting Mezzeh airport last year. […]

In May, Israel said it had attacked Iranian military infrastructure in Syria following what it said was an Iranian rocket attack on Israeli-held territory.

The following monthIsrael said it had shot down a Syrian warplane which entered its airspace – a rare incident between the two foes.

In January last year, Syrian state media quoted the army as saying that several rockets had landed at the Mezzeh airport compound, accusing Israel of bombarding the area.” [emphasis added]

The first of those links leads to a BBC report dated May 9th which was discussed here. That report does not relate to events “following” the Iranian rocket attacks which actually took place on May 10th.

The second link leads to a BBC report from July 24th – obviously not “the following month” – which was discussed here before its headline was amended.

The incident referred to in that final paragraph – which took place on January 13th 2017 – was discussed here.

Notably, the BBC refrained from informing readers of this article of the context of Iranian weapons supplies to the terror group Hizballah and the build-up of Iranian forces in Syria.

The fact that Mezzeh airbase was among the sites in Syria linked to the regime’s chemical weapons programme that were attacked by the US, the UK and France in April 2018 was likewise omitted from this report.  

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 Radio 4 reframes last month’s Iranian attack on Israel

BBC News report on Syrian plane interception won’t say where it happened

In which BBC News manages to avoid Syrian propaganda for a change

BBC’s Bowen tells WS listeners Israel bombs Syria ‘regularly’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Writing at the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Spyer reports on a recent visit to a region in Syria.

“The situation reflects a sea change in the Syrian dynamic. The Assad regime is no longer under threat. Thanks to Iranian and Russian assistance, its survival is now assured. It remains, however, in possession of only 60% of the territory of Syria. The largest area now outside of regime control is the 30% of the country under the control of the US-supported, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SPD). The Syrian situation is now dependent on the decisions and the rivalries of outside powers, not primarily on the wishes of Syrians on all sides. In the case of the 30% of Syria controlled by the SDF, its future is dependent on the US.”

2) Also at the Jerusalem Post, Peter Lerner discusses “The Question of Proportionality”. 

“Proportionality in warfare is not a numbers game, as so many of the journalists I’ve worked with maintain. One Israeli for one Palestinian is not proportionate warfare. Proportionality weighs on the necessity of a military action against the anguish that the action might cause to civilians in the vicinity. The level of Israel’s intelligence, combined with its operational delivery systems, proved once again that Israel does everything professionally possible in order to limit the deaths of non-combatants.” 

3) At the INSS Udi Dekel and Kim Lavi examine “The Fine Line between Arrangement and Escalation in the Gaza Strip“.

“The recent escalation between Israel and Hamas took place in the context of the efforts to reach an arrangement on Gaza: what amounts to negotiations concomitant with fire, with Hamas demonstrating that it does not fear large scale escalation and is not under pressure to reach an arrangement with Israel at any price. For its part, Israel continues to convey that it does not seek escalation, but cannot exercise restraint in the face of Hamas’s aggression. The deep distrust between Israel and Hamas and the absence of a mechanism for preventing miscalculation, together with the readiness to use force, lessen the chances of an arrangement and increase the risk of escalation. It is difficult to believe that Hamas will achieve what it seeks – an ease of the closure on Gaza and economic and infrastructure projects in the area – without making the key concessions demanded of it: returning the Israeli prisoners and soldiers’ bodies that it holds, and implementing a mechanism that will prevent it from continuing its military buildup. At the same time, success by Hamas will strengthen its standing in the Palestinian arena, consolidate its sovereignty in the Gaza Strip, weaken the Palestinian Authority, and deepen the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

4) The ITIC notes another case of Palestinians posing as journalists.

“The video shows one of the participants standing near the border fence wearing a Press vest. The ITIC did not identify him, but he seemed to be a young man with no equipment for documenting the event or performing media functions. He apparently belonged to the group of young Gazans who carried out the infiltration mission. In ITIC assessment he had no media affiliation and was not an authentic media employee. It is more likely that he wore the vest to keep himself from being shot at by IDF soldiers.”

 

Weekend long read

1) Palestinian Media Watch examines the Palestinian Authority’s payments to the perpetrators of the Sbarro terror attack which took place 17 years ago this week.

“The suicide bomber was Izz al-Din Al-Masri. His family has received $50,124 as a reward for his suicide bombing.

The terrorist who planned the attack and brought the bomber to Sbarro was Ahlam Tamimi. Tamimi was arrested in September 2001 and received 16 life sentences. In 2011, Tamimi was released as part of the deal to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from his Hamas captors. For her time in prison she has been rewarded by the PA with salary payments of at least $52,681.

The suicide belt was built by Hamas bomb- builder Abdallah Barghouti. Barghouti was arrested in May 2003, and received 67 life sentences – 15 of them for building the bomb used to murder the people in Sbarro. He has received salary payments from the PA of at least $191,526.”

2) At Tablet Magazine, Liel Leibovitz takes a look at the recent experiences of another member of the Tamimi clan.

“Last December, a 17-year-old Palestinian woman named Ahed Tamimi assaulted an IDF soldier and was arrested and sentenced to eight months in prison. She became an inspiration to many critics of Israel, and helped inspire several Democrats to write a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and ask that he take up the cause. “We encourage the State Department to stress the importance of ensuring proper treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli detention,” read the letter, “and address this matter in the Department’s next report on global human rights.”

How, then, are young Palestinians detained by Israel treated? Tamimi herself addressed this issue with an interview on Al-Jazeera celebrating her release.”

3) David Daoud reviews the background to the recent assassination of a Syrian scientist.

“A car bomb killed high-ranking Syrian regime scientist Dr. Aziz Esber on Saturday as he was leaving his home in Masyaf, in the countryside of Syria’s Hama Governorate. The explosion also claimed the life of Esber’s driver. In a statement broadcast on its Telegram channel, the “Abu Amara Special Operations Detachment” – a group affiliated with the Organization for the Liberation of al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front – claimed credit for the attack. The group alleged that, after a “surveillance operation,” it had succeeded “planting explosive device” on Esber’s car, and then detonating it and killing him. […]

A Syrian regime source described Esber as one of the regime’s “most import resources for Syrian military power,” and said he was “capable of developing various kinds of weapons, primarily missiles.” The source claimed that, at the time of his death, Esber had been working on upgrading the Syrian Army’s capabilities to help it achieve “parity with the [Israeli] enemy,” and restoring the capabilities it possessed prior to the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War. This dovetails with information t from Syrian opposition sources claiming that Sector IV was working on a project dubbed “Project 99,” focused on developing SCUD missiles in cooperation with North Korean scientists.” 

4) Matthew Levitt documents the history of Iranian terror and assassinations abroad.

“With the July arrest of an Iranian diplomat in Germany for his role in an alleged plot to bomb a rally of Iranian dissidents in Paris, U.S. officials have warned allies to be vigilant of Iranian terrorist plotting elsewhere. Indeed, there is ample precedent for such concern. For decades, Tehran has been dispatching operatives to Europe to carry out assassinations and other acts of terrorism. […]

Immediately following the founding of the Islamic Republic, the Iranian leadership embarked on an assassination campaign targeting individuals deemed to be working against the regime’s interests. Between 1979 and 1994, the CIA reported that Iran “murdered Iranian defectors and dissidents in West Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Turkey.” Overall, more than 60 individuals were targeted in assassination attempts. In many cases, Hezbollah members functioned as the logistics experts or gunmen in these plots.”

BBC News still promoting false balance on Syrian regime chemical weapons

On August 5th the BBC News website published a report titled “Syrian conflict: Government scientist killed in blast” on its Middle East page.

Readers of the BBC’s report on that story were told that: [emphasis added]

“The head of a suspected chemical weapons’ research centre in Syria has been killed in a car bombing, pro-government and opposition media report.

Aziz Asber was the head of a facility belonging to the government’s Syrian Scientific Research Centre.

Western intelligence agents have said the organisation is linked to a Syrian chemical weapons programme.

A rebel group said it carried out the attack, but there has been speculation that others could be involved.”

That link leads to a BBC report dating from May 2017 in which audiences were informed that:

“Syria’s government is continuing to make chemical weapons in violation of a 2013 deal to eliminate them, a Western intelligence agency has told the BBC. […]

The intelligence document obtained by the BBC says Syria’s chemical weapons are manufactured at three sites – Masyaf, in Hama province, and at Dummar and Barzeh, both just outside Damascus. All three are branches of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), a government agency, it adds.”

In June of this year the BBC’s Diplomatic correspondent reported that the OPCW (the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons):

“…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.”

Nevertheless, towards the end of this latest report BBC audiences were once again told that: [emphasis added]

Syria has denied owning or using chemical weapons, but the US and the Syrian opposition accuse the government of carrying out a chemical attack on former opposition stronghold Douma near Damascus that reportedly killed 40 people in April this year.”

It is clearly evident that the Assad regime did not destroy its “entire chemical arsenal” as mandated by UN Security Council resolution 2118 in 2013 and hence does in fact ‘own’ chemical weapons. It is also a fact that the OPCW has determined that the Syrian government’s forces have used chemical weapons on at least four occasions other than the one in Douma in April 2018.

Nevertheless, BBC audiences continue to see false balance in the form of the repeated promotion of inadequately challenged Syrian propaganda that is presumably intended to tick the BBC’s ‘impartiality’ box. In addition to being downright ridiculous, that editorial policy clearly undermines the BBC’s purpose of providing the public with accurate and impartial reporting that enhances its understanding of this issue.

Related Articles:

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

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

BBC News amplification of unchallenged Assad propaganda persists

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

BBC News website tones down Assad regime propaganda

 

 

 

 

Amplification of Assad propaganda on BBC World Service radio

As documented here previously, after the IDF announced on July 22nd the completion of the overnight evacuation of hundreds of Syrian ‘White Helmets’ personnel and their families from southern Syria, through Israel and into Jordan, the BBC News website published two articles amplifying Syrian regime and Russian propaganda concerning that group.

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

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

Yet more amplification of that propaganda was seen in one version of an article on a different topic published two days later.

Similarly, listeners to the July 22nd afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ heard presenter James Coomarasamy introduce its lead item (from 00:01:01 here) as follows:

[emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Coomarasamy: “We begin though in Syria where the rescuers – or some of them at least – have been rescued. According to the Israeli and Jordanian authorities, an international operation has managed to evacuate hundreds of members of the volunteer civil defence force known as the White Helmets and some of their family members from the country. The White Helmets have become a familiar presence at the scene of attacks in Syria but the Assad government and its Russian allies have condemned them as terrorist sympathisers.”

Coomarasamy then went on to report that Western diplomats had been commenting on the rescue operation and read out a Tweet from the British foreign secretary, before introducing (at 01:57) journalist Paul Ronzheimer of ‘Bild’ who had witnessed and reported the event.

Following that conversation Coomarasamy introduced (at 06:30) the founder of the ‘White Helmets’, James Le Mesurier, who explained that the group’s members “are under extraordinary threat” because “they have been – and continue to be – witnesses to the regime and Russian atrocities on the ground”.

When Mr Le Mesurier mentioned “the evacuation of fighters in buses, including those terrorist organisations that the regime claims to be fighting”, Coomarasamy interrupted him (at 10:58):

Coomarasamy: “And of course…yeah and of course the regime would say that the ‘White Helmets’ are a front for some of those organisations.”

Mr Le Mesurier explained the different conspiracy theories promoted by the Assad regime and Syria.

Le Mesurier: “Inside Syria they very much push the narrative that the ‘White Helmets’ are a Western organisation, that they are a front for the intelligence services, to create divisions inside the country and to make life more difficult for them. And at the same time externally in Europe they push the narrative that the ‘White Helmets’ are Al Qaeda and are terrorists. And at the same time they say that the ‘White Helmets’ don’t exist, that all of the rescues are filmed and so on. This is clearly propaganda.”

Coomarasamy nevertheless persisted with his theme (11:51):

Coomarasamy: “But I wonder, does this operation – the fact that it was Western-led – will that not only add credence to some of the arguments that the Assad government tries to make about the ‘White Helmets’?”

The same story was also the lead item in the later edition of the same programme (from 00:00:57 here) and was introduced by Coomarasamy as follows:

Coomarasamy: “We begin though in Syria and a rare example of international cooperation successfully coming to the aid of people apparently under threat from the Assad government. They are people who are used to coming to the aid of others – members of the civil defence force known as the ‘White Helmets’: Western backed and Western trained volunteers who help civilians in rebel held areas. Well overnight more than 400 ‘White Helmets’ and members of their family were brought out of southern Syria in an Israeli-led operation.”

After listeners had heard a voiceover translation of a statement from the Israeli prime minister on the operation, Coomarasamy continued:

Coomarasamy: “The ‘White Helmets’ are viewed by Western governments as life-saving humanitarians but the Syrian authorities and their Russian allies insist that they are a front for terrorist groups.”

Listeners heard (from 02:10) an edited version of the previously aired interview with the ‘Bild’ journalist Paul Ronzheimer and (from 06:14) an edited version of the interview with ‘White Helmets’ founder James Le Mesurier. The editing included repetition of Coomarasamy’s prior amplification of Assad propaganda.

Coomarasamy: “And of course…yeah and of course the regime would say that the ‘White Helmets’ are a front for some of those organisations.”

Coomarasamy: “But I wonder, does this operation – the fact that it was Western-led – will that not only add credence to some of the arguments that the Assad government tries to make about the ‘White Helmets’?”

Although in the previous edition of the programme Le Mesurier had clarified that the operation was led by the UK, Canada and Germany and supported by the US, Israel and the UN, at 08:58, Coomarasamy next chose to focus on just one of those countries, posing the following bizarre question:

Coomarasamy: “So, what does Israel get out of its role in this rescue operation?”

Notably, the person brought in to answer that question – described by Coomarasamy as “Joshua Landis…a Syria expert who heads the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma” – is renowned for his portrayals of the Assad regime as ‘the good guy’ in the enduring conflict (and before it) and has himself amplified propaganda pertaining to the ‘White Helmets’. It therefore came as little surprise to hear Landis – unhindered by Coomarasamy – promote some Assad-style propaganda in his own more subtle style.

Landis: “They’re doing a big favour for the United States and for the European powers in carrying out important humanitarian work and we’ve noticed that throughout the war, Israel has taken in a number of Syrian rebels as well as their family members and civilians who’ve been wounded, treated them in its hospitals, has tried to do humanitarian work in Syria. Of course Israel has been bombing Syria at the same time, attacking Iranian emplacements, Syrian emplacements, shooting down the odd Syrian plane. But for Israel this is about doing a good deed.”

Failing to clarify to audiences that Israeli strikes have targeted Iranian weapons transfers to the terror group Hizballah, Coomarasamy went on:

Coomarasamy: “But as you allude to, it’s something that’s happening on Israel’s doorstep and is very much a military conflict that Israel is getting involved in as well.”

Landis: “Yes, Israel has increasingly become involved in the Syrian civil war. It has supported a number of rebel groups, helping to build a small buffer zone. That has collapsed now, so Israel is going back to dealing with the Assad government and particularly through the Russians and this means that the rebels are collapsing and some of them are seeking asylum, through Israel, to the West.”

Landis’ roundabout portrayal of the ‘White Helmets’ as “rebels…seeking asylum” unsurprisingly went completely unchallenged by Coomarasamy as did his false claims that Israel is “involved in the Syrian civil war” and “has supported a number of rebel groups”.

As we see, the UK’s publicly funded public service broadcaster continues to amplify conspiracy theories no different from those put out by the regime controlled news agencies of Syria and Russia.

Weekend long read

1) At the Gatestone Institute, Douglas Murray discusses “The Great British Foreign Office Fantasy“.

“According to the British Foreign Office, the Golan Heights are ‘occupied’. They have been ‘occupied’ – according to the logic of the UK Foreign Office – since 1967, when Israel took the land from the invading forces of Syria. Ever since then, the Israelis have had the benefit of this strategic position and the Syrian regime has not. This fact, half a century on, still strikes the British Foreign Office as regrettable, and a wrong to be righted in due course. […]

The ongoing madness of the British Foreign Office’s position has been highlighted in recent days thanks to a request which came from the British government, as well as the governments in other European capitals and in Washington. A request which also involved the Golan.”

2) The ITIC has updated its report on a study of Palestinian Authority school textbooks.

“An examination of the new textbooks issued by the PA shows they continue expressing, and in some instances by radicalizing, the same basic principles that appeared in previous textbooks: the delegitimizing of the State of Israel, demonizing the State of Israel, encouraging violence against it and an absence of education for peace. The books, which are strongly hostile to Israel and the Jewish people, are also used by UNRWA-run school, half of whose budget is devoted to education.”

3) The ITIC has also published a report on a ‘flotilla’ bound for the Gaza Strip and expected to arrive in the area next week.

“Three small boats of the flotilla to the Gaza Strip set sail on July 21 and 22, 2018, and are expected to arrive around the end of July. Before they left for the Gaza Strip they conducted a series of propaganda visits to various European ports. The flotilla’s objective is to help the Palestinian propaganda campaign that accompanies the “return marches” by raising awareness to the demand to lift the “siege” on the Gaza Strip. That is supposed lead to international solidarity with the Gazans while defaming Israel.

On July 16, 2018, four boats anchored in the port of Palermo, Sicily, and from there three of them set sail together for the Gaza Strip on July 21, 2018. The most prominent figure in organizing the flotilla is Zaher Birawi, a Palestinian anti-Israeli activist living in Britain, affiliated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Birawi has many years of experience in organizing flotillas and convoys to the Gaza Strip. His official title is “coordinator of the international committee for breaking the siege on the Gaza Strip.””

Readers may recall that Birawi is also linked to ‘Great Return March’ agitprop which has been staged along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel since late March. The ITIC has also published an update to that report with details of the identities of the flotilla’s participants, one of whom is the founder of ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ (MAP) who has in the past been interviewed by the BBC.

4) At Tablet magazine, Tony Badran discusses “Putin’s New Rules for the Golan Heights“.

“Since the start of the offensive in southern Syria last month, there have been all kinds of optimistic takes on how Russia will agree to rein in the Iranians in Syria. But what Putin actually wants to do, his language suggests, is to establish Russia as the central interlocutor for everyone in the region. To that end, what could be better than the tried and true path of hosting talks between Israel and its adversaries in Syria?

Of course, the notion that Israel would restart talks about the Golan when the Iranians are entrenching themselves in Syria is laughable in the extreme—and the Russians clearly know this. Instead, they might start with technical talks, say, about how best to implement the Separation of Forces agreement, or about the modalities of the return of the Assad regime to the area. That, as Putin said, would be the first step.”

 

 

 

BBC News report on Syrian plane interception won’t say where it happened

Roughly an hour after the interception of a Syrian aircraft that had entered Israeli airspace on the afternoon of July 24th the BBC News website published a report initially headlined “Israel shoots down Syrian warplane”. The report was amended seven times over the next eight hours and now goes under the title “Israel shoots down Syrian fighter near Golan Heights” – with the reason for the confusing use of the word “near” unclear.

Version 8

Refraining from informing audiences exactly what had happened in the BBC’s own words, the report opened with a ‘he said-she said’ account which obviously did not contribute to audience understanding of the events.

“Israel says it has shot down a Syrian warplane which entered its airspace – a rare incident between the two foes.

Two surface-to-air missiles were fired at the Sukhoi fighter jet, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tweeted.

According to Israeli reports, it happened over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The pilot’s fate is not clear.

Syrian news agency Sana said Israel had targeted the jet over Syrian airspace, but did not say whether it was hit.” [emphasis added]

With readers none the wiser where – and therefore why – the incident took place, the report continued:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later said that Syria had committed a “blatant violation” of a 1974 ceasefire agreement, which defines the lines of separation between the two sides’ forces on the Golan Heights.”

The UN witnessed 1974 ‘Separation of Forces Agreement Between Israel and Syria’ was also mentioned (though not by name) in a subsequently added insert of ‘analysis’ from BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Tom Bateman.

“Israel and Syria fought their last war 45 years ago and later agreed to separate their forces either side of a 50-mile-long buffer zone – a boundary that had remained Israel’s quietest since.”

Bateman did not clarify to readers that what he described as a “buffer zone” is actually a demilitarized zone or that the agreement states that “Air forces of the two sides will be permitted to operate up to their respective lines without interference from the other side” [emphasis added].

In addition to aiding BBC audiences to understand the story, that information may also have helped BBC Arabic’s Feras Kilani to avoid an embarrassing Tweet.

Amplifying the Assad regime’s baseless propaganda, Bateman also told readers that:

“…Syria will see the Sukhoi’s downing as proof of its belief that Israel has been prepared to help rebel groups to stop the government’s advances.”

In the fourth version of the article, BBC audiences found yet more promotion of Syrian regime propaganda highlighted in two previous reports.

“On Monday, the Syrian government condemned the evacuation by Israel over the weekend of the White Helmets civil defence group from a war zone in the south of the country.

Damascus described the move as a “criminal operation” by “Israel and its tools”.

Version 1

With much of this article based on IDF statements as well as local and agency news reports, it is notable that the BBC News website did not inform its readers that Israel had tried to contact the pilot or that due to the fighting in Syria close to the border, earlier in the day the IDF had put out warnings.

“The IDF said it had noticed increased air force activity in southwestern Syria, near the border, since the morning.

“We have issued numerous warnings through numerous channels and in various languages to make sure that no one on the other side violates Israeli airspace or threatens Israeli civilians or sovereignty,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters.”

Obviously the basic task of any journalist reporting this story was to inform members of the public what happened and where. Rather than doing that, the BBC News website chose to present two conflicting versions of where the aircraft was located when it was intercepted and leave readers to decide which one they prefer to believe. Apparently the BBC is of the opinion that passes as journalism.

Related Articles:

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

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