BBC reporting on Israeli offer to take in Syrian refugees

On January 26th the BBC produced two reports concerning the previous day’s announcement by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri that Israel will take in one hundred orphaned Syrian refugees.

The BBC News website published an article titled “Israel ‘to take in 100 Syrian orphans’” which, while understandably tagged “Syrian civil war’, did not include an ‘Israel’ tag – apparently because, as noted here several months ago, such a tag has not been instated to date.syrian-orphans-art

The article itself gives an accurate account of the story, although the term “dormitories” could have been better translated as boarding schools.

“Under the plan, the orphans would be housed in dormitories to begin with, then absorbed into the education system, Israel’s Channel 10 News reported.”

On the same day, the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an interview by Tim Franks (from 18:40 here) with Gal Lusky of the charity ‘Israel Flying Aid’.

“Millions of Syrians have fled the civil war. Their search for refuge has become one of the defining stories of recent years. Now there’s been an unusual offer for 100 orphans from Syria to be given homes in Israel. They share a border, Israel and Syria, but they also consider each other enemy states.”

The fact that the BBC managed to report this story accurately, impartiality and without needless politicisation should not of course be noteworthy – but it is.

The BBC, jihadists and Islamists

Back in December 2014 the BBC News website published a backgrounder titled “What is jihadism?” which included the following section:

islamists-vs-jihadists-backgrounder

In other words, audiences can apparently conclude that when the BBC uses the term ‘jihadist’ it is telling them that the group described as such uses violence and that when the term ‘Islamist’ is employed, they can understand that those described in that way are non-violent.

With that in mind, it is interesting to see how an article published on January 26th under the headline “Syria war: Rebels unite after attack by Idlib jihadists” describes differing factions in Syria. [all emphasis added]ahrar-al-sham-art

“Insurgent factions in Syria have joined together to fight off an assault by a powerful jihadist group which launched an attack on rebels this week.

Several militias formed an alliance with key Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham amid some of the worst inter-factional clashes in recent times.

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham has accused the rebels of conspiring against it at peace talks in Kazakhstan this week. […]

JFS has been involved in clashes with rebels in Idlib and neighbouring west Aleppo since Tuesday.

Ahrar al-Sham, which has rejected calls by outside powers to dissociate itself from JFS, blamed the jihadists for starting the fighting. […]

On Thursday, Ahrar al-Sham said JFS had rejected its attempts to mediate. The Islamists warned JFS that any attack on its members would be considered a “declaration of war”, according to Reuters news agency.”

The Reuters article also provides more detail:

“Rebel factions Alwiyat Suqour al-Sham, Fastaqim, Jaish al-Islam’s Idlib branch, Jaish al-Mujahideen and al-Jabha al-Shamiya’s west Aleppo branch said in a statement they had joined Ahrar al-Sham.

The Ahrar al-Sham statement also mentioned a sixth group, the Sham Revolutionary Brigades, and said “other brigades” had joined.”

In other words, based on the information previously provided in the BBC’s backgrounder, audiences are encouraged to believe that while Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al Nusra) is a jihadist group that uses violence, Ahrar al-Sham is an ‘Islamist’ group which – by the BBC’s definition – does not. That is clearly not the case at all and obviously the terminology used by the BBC in this report is not sufficiently accurate.

Meanwhile, since that January 26th BBC report was published, Reuters and other outlets have reported the formation of another ‘coalition’ in Syria.

“An online statement issued by the Islamist factions announced the formation of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Liberation of the Levant Committee).

It said the alliance was formed to mend splits among insurgent groups and strengthen opposition to the Damascus government.

The signatories were Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, the Nour al-Din al-Zinki group, Liwa al-Haqq, Jaish al-Sunna and Jabhat Ansar al-Din.”

The FDD reports that the leader of that new coalition – which the BBC would presumably have described as ‘jihadist’ had it reported on the topic – was previously the head of the group it portrays as ‘Islamist’.

“In a statement released online, the joint venture partners say they have merged to form Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, or the “Assembly for Liberation of the Levant.” It is led by a jihadi known as Abu Jaber (also known as Hashem al Sheikh), the former head of Ahrar al Sham, which continues to operate under its own name in Syria. […]

Some reports have identified Abu Jaber as a former member of al Qaeda in Iraq. […]

The establishment of Tahrir al Sham comes after weeks of reported clashes and fierce disagreements between different jihadi factions and other insurgents in northern Syria. It is difficult to discern how the situation unfolded, but JFS and Ahrar al Sham have reportedly disagreed over the direction of the insurgency, leading to some clashes. The two groups have long fought side-by-side against the Assad regime and others. Indeed, Ahrar al Sham has its own links to al Qaeda and openly models itself after the Taliban.”

Clearly audience understanding of this complex topic is not enhanced by the BBC’s use of inaccurate and confusing labels.

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Weekend long read

1) As noted at the Tower, the Guardian’s Martin Chulov recently published an interesting article about a particular outcome of the war in Syria. Weekend Read

“Iran is repopulating Syrian territory from Damascus to Homs with Shiites families from elsewhere in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, turning the area into “zones of influence” that Iran “can directly control and use to advance broader interests,” The Guardian reported earlier this month. […]

Lebanese officials have been paying close attention to what they say has been a systematic destruction of Land Registry offices in areas coming under Assad’s control. It has been confirmed that these offices have been burned in the cities of Zabadani, Darayya, Homs, and Qusayr, meaning that residents who fled cannot prove ownership of their homes.

Abu Mazen Darkoush, a former Free Syrian Army commander, said that after many neighborhoods in Homs were cleansed of their residents, families who returned were refused entry into their homes by officials who cited their lack of proof of ownership.”

2) The Times of Israel has a report on some of the Israeli organisations helping Syrian civilians afflicted by the war in their country.

“In one month, an online crowdfunding campaign, “Just Beyond the Border,” has raised over $350,000 to bring much-needed emergency aid to the children of Syria — more than double its original aim.

The campaign’s title reflects the ideology behind it: that Israelis simply cannot ignore the horrors taking place in neighboring Syria.

Speaking to The Times of Israel recently, Yoav Yeivin, one of the lead organizers of the campaign who is also a Jerusalem city council member for the Hitorerut/Wake-Up Jerusalem movement, said he was inspired by his Holocaust survivor grandmother.

“I was raised with the understanding that apathy could be lethal,” he said.”

3) Although nearly two years have passed since the BBC last reported on the topic, the story of Syrian patients receiving treatment from the IDF and in Israeli hospitals continues – as Reuters recently reported.

“It happens nearly every night. After dark, the Syrian wounded come to known locations on the Israel-Syria front in the Golan Heights, driven by desperation to seek help from an enemy army.

Israeli soldiers on lookout or patrol spot them waiting by the fence and whisk them away to a rear position where army medics soon arrive, according to army officials operating in the Golan Heights.”

4) Israel’s Channel 10 recently reported another development regarding Israeli aid to Syrians.

“Israel is to grant refugee status to 100 orphaned Syrian refugee children, in line with a decision by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Wednesday.

According to Channel 10, the children will receive temporary resident status and become permanent residents after four years, and be able to remain in Israel for their entire lives.

Channel 10 said that the children will be integrated into Arab Israeli families. Furthermore, any of the children’s immediate relatives will also be considered for refugee status.

The government made the final decision on the future of the refugees and will now liaise with the relevant international organizations to bring the orphans into the country.”

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

The lead story in the January 13th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was introduced by presenter Paul Henley (from 01:00 here) as follows:newshour-13-1-17-syria

“First; not for the first time, Syria has accused Israel of military aggression, blaming it for a series of explosions at a military airport on the outskirts of Damascus. The Syrian government said it had been a flagrant attack and that there would be repercussions. Their stance was possibly born of a new-found sense of confidence that things in Syria are going the way of the Assad government. Russian involvement in the war has been hugely important and the possibility of a more Moscow-friendly White House come the end of this month will be greeted with delight in Damascus. I’ve been talking to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen who’s on route from the Syrian capital to Aleppo; was he surprised by these accusations of an Israeli military strike in Damascus?”

The idea that the Syrian regime’s response to this incident is any different to the statements it has put out previously on similar occasions is of course not supported by reality. The term ‘flagrant’ was used by Assad spokespeople back in 2013 and the Syrian regime has threatened retaliation against Israel in the past.

Listeners then heard Jeremy Bowen make the following claim:

“No; the Israelis have bombed various parts of Syria before. It’s something they do relatively regularly. “

Israel does not usually officially confirm its involvement the airstrikes it is alleged to have carried out in Syria since 2013 and so Bowen’s “relatively regularly” assertion is based on conjecture and the claims of the Syrian regime. His broad-brush claim that Israel has “bombed various parts of Syria before” is inaccurate and misleading in that it does not clarify that the alleged strikes have been specifically and exclusively connected to weapons supplies to Hizballah or terrorism against Israel and Bowen’s choice of words is likely to lead the uninformed listener to the inaccurate belief that Israel is involved in the war in Syria.

Bowen continued:

“And the question is what they were after hitting that base. Now, it may well be that there was a target there belonging to Hizballah –  the Lebanese group which of course is a mortal enemy of the Israelis – and perhaps that’s what they were after but, you know, it’s a lot of speculation. One of the things that’s very important to Hizballah is their supply of weapons; not just for their activities in Syria but for their operations in Lebanon as well and perhaps the Israelis had some knowledge that something was going on in that department.”

The conversation between Bowen and Henley then moved on to a different topic, with no mention made of the fact that Hizballah is a terrorist organisation, no information provided regarding the identity of its providers of arms and no reminder of the fact that the supply of weapons to Hizballah is specifically forbidden under UNSC resolution 1701. As readers may recall, those exact same pieces of information were likewise absent from the BBC News website’s report on the same event.

The BBC defined Jeremy Bowen’s job description as follows in 2006:

“Jeremy Bowen’s new role is, effectively, to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent. His remit is not just to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting, but also to find stories away from the main agenda.”

Here we see that rather than making this story more “comprehensible for the audience”, his omission of key information does the exact opposite and his inaccurate and context-free assertion that Israel has “bombed various parts of Syria….relatively regularly” in fact prevents listeners from comprehending the story correctly.

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BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again

More unquestioned amplification of Syrian regime propaganda from BBC News

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

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

It is of course alarming that the fact that a BBC News report does not include Assad regime propaganda should be noteworthy – but that is the case with an article published on the BBC News website on January 13th under the headline “Syria accuses Israel of bombardment“.syria-strike-art

As has been documented on these pages in the past, previous BBC News reports concerning alleged Israeli strikes on weapons shipments destined for the Lebanese terror group Hizballah have frequently been marred by the amplification of unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda which falsely accuses Israel of collaboration with anti-regime forces in Syria.

Most recently such amplification was seen in BBC reports from November 30th and December 7th 2016 which are recycled in this latest article in the form of links.

BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again (November 30th, 2016)

More unquestioned amplification of Syrian regime propaganda from BBC News (December 7th, 2016)

links-syria-strike-art

On this latest occasion too, the Assad regime put out one of its pro forma statements:

““At 3:00 a.m., the Israeli enemy fired several surface-to-surface missiles from inside occupied territory,” the state news agency SANA said, citing a military source. The report said the Israeli missiles caused a large fire but no injuries or deaths.

The regime source also threatened “repercussions” against Israel over the strikes.

The Syrian military source called the alleged missile attack against the Mazzeh airbase part of “desperate attempts by the Israeli enemy to support terrorist groups and raise their low morale.””

However, this time round the BBC quoted just part of the statement and refrained from providing superfluous amplification of Syrian regime falsehoods, telling readers that:

“State-run Syrian news agency Sana reported explosions at the Mezzeh military airport and said ambulances were rushing to the scene.

The army was quoted as warning Israel “of the repercussions of the flagrant attack”, according to Reuters.”

The article also states:

“The Israeli government has previously neither confirmed nor denied that it carries out strikes in Syria.

It is thought to have bombed weapons shipments intended for Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement several times since Syria’s civil war began in 2011.”

Audience understanding of this story and similar ones would of course be greatly enhanced were the BBC to meet its public purpose remit by identifying the parties sending “weapons shipments” to Hizballah, by clarifying the fact that Hizballah is a terrorist organisation and by reminding readers that such supply of weapons is expressly forbidden under the terms of UNSC resolution 1701.

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BBC’s Bowen dismisses Aleppo fears

On December 13th the BBC News website reported several UN statements concerning the situation in Aleppo.

“Syrian pro-government forces in eastern Aleppo have been killing people, including women and children, on the spot in their homes and on the street, the United Nations says.

The UN’s human rights office said streets were full of bodies.

Meanwhile, the UN children’s agency cited a doctor as saying a building housing as many as 100 unaccompanied children was under heavy attack. […]

“We’re filled with the deepest foreboding for those who remain in this last hellish corner” of eastern Aleppo, UN human rights office spokesman Rupert Colville told a news conference.

He said that 82 civilians had reportedly been killed by pro-government forces, of whom 11 were women and 13 children, adding that the death toll could be much higher. […]

The UN’s humanitarian adviser on Syria, Jan Egeland, earlier spoke of “massacres of unarmed civilians, of young men, of women, children, health workers”.

He named a pro-government Iraqi Shia militia as being responsible for the killings, but placed overall blame for any atrocities in the hands of the Syrian and Russian governments.

“Those who let them loose in this area are also accountable,” he said.” [emphasis added]today-15-12

Two days later – on December 15th – Jeremy Bowen appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme (available for a limited period of time from 02:13:35 here) to discuss the situation in Aleppo. The BBC’s Middle East editor is of course charged with providing “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”.

Towards the end of the item (02:21:57) presenter Mishal Husain asked:

“Jeremy, finally, what we heard from that member of the White Helmets was this fear that after the regime takes full control of this area, everyone will be executed. What will happen? Will there be any sense of accountability? Any parameters?”

Bowen: “You know, let’s hope that doesn’t happen and it makes you…I mean I tend to wonder what they would get out of executing people. You know, I think that it’s not like there’s a crazed militia who are taking over there. They are, you know, I think relatively disciplined troops and you’d wonder why an order to execute everybody would be given. I think, particularly since the…we’re hearing from the ICRC in Geneva that the ICRC and SARC – the Syrian Arab Red Crescent – are gonna be there as well facilitating the evacuation of the wounded, so they’ve allowed in some witnesses potentially. If you’re going to do a massacre I doubt that would happen.” [emphasis added]

For the record.

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More unquestioned amplification of Syrian regime propaganda from BBC News

Early on the morning of December 7th reports began to emerge from pro-Assad and pro-Hizballah sources concerning an explosion at the Mazzeh military airport near Damascus.

““Residents of the capital Damascus awoke at approximately 4:00 a.m. to the [sound] of explosions and rising flames and smoke inside the Mazzeh Military Airport,” Al-Mayadeen reported Wednesday morning, citing a statement issued by the Hezbollah-affiliated War Media.

“It is almost certain that Zionist rockets targeted the Mazzeh Military Airport from Lebanese airspace,” the statement said, adding that the Syrian government has yet to make an official announcement on the matter.

Explosions rocked the facility for half an hour while ambulances rushed to the scene, according to the statement carried by Al-Mayadeen, a Beirut-based network that staunchly supports the Bashar al-Assad regime. […]

Meanwhile, a pro-Assad news page based in the regime’s coastal heartland was one of the first to claim that Israeli raids targeted the Mazzeh facility.

“Two Israeli raids targeted the Mazzeh military airport… a number of people have been martyred and injured,” the Al-Bahluliyah News Agency alleged in a post that included footage purporting to show blasts rip through the airport. […]

However, another claim circulated on pro-regime social media outlets held that the explosions were merely the result of an accidental discharge in an arms depot located within the airport.”

Later on in the day, Syrian state media made similar claims, peppered with the usual regime propaganda.

““At 3:00 a.m., the Israeli enemy fired several surface-to-surface missiles from inside occupied territory,” the state news agency SANA said, citing a military source. The report said the Israeli missiles caused a large fire but no injuries or deaths.

SANA said the missiles were fired from a position “west of Tal Abu Nada,” a mountain in the Israeli Golan Heights known as Mount Avital in Israel.

The Syrian military source called the alleged missile attack against the Mazzeh airbase part of “desperate attempts by the Israeli enemy to support terrorist groups and raise their low morale.”

Other Arabic media, including al Jazeera and al Arabiya, confirmed that a large explosion had occurred at the airport. Some reports said the fire was caused when a weapons depot exploded.”

Despite the unreliability of those obviously partisan sources and the absence of any confirmation of the allegations, some 17 hours after the event visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page were informed that “‘Israeli missiles’ hit Damascus airbase”.

me-homepage-damascus-airbase

The article to which that link leads is headlined “Syria conflict: ‘Israel missiles’ hit Damascus military airport” and tagged ‘Syrian civil war’ despite the fact that its subject matter is not connected to that topic.damascus-airbase-art

“Syrian state media say an Israeli missile strike has targeted a military airport on the outskirts of Damascus.

The attack in Mezzeh is reported to have caused fires, but no casualties.

The Israeli military has made no comment, but it is the second time in a week that it is alleged to have carried out a strike on Syrian territory.”

The BBC’s report uncritically amplifies the Syrian regime allegations:

“Syria’s state news agency, Sana, cited a military source as saying that a number of surface-to-surface missiles landed around Mezzeh airport at 03:00 (00:00 GMT).

They were reportedly fired by Israeli forces from a position “west of Tal Abu Nada”, a mountain in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights known as Mount Avital to Israelis.”

It then goes on to unquestioningly amplify Syrian regime propaganda:

“The military source said the attack was part of Israel’s “desperate attempts” to support “terrorist groups and raise their deteriorating morale”, an apparent reference to recent losses on the battlefield by Western-backed rebel forces.”

This is the second time in a week – and at least the tenth time in the last three years – that the BBC has given unchallenged and unquestioned amplification to falsehoods put out by the Assad regime alleging Israeli support for Syrian rebel factions.

The BBC clearly needs to explain to its funding public why they are being serially fed unqualified, inaccurate Syrian regime propaganda that obviously hinders understanding of this particular “international issue“.  

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BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again

 

 

 

 

BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again

Throughout the years of the Syrian civil war, the BBC has on multiple occasions given unchallenged and unquestioned amplification to falsehoods put out by the Assad regime alleging Israeli support for Syrian rebel factions.

BBC unquestioningly promotes Assad’s “destabilisation” claims

BBC promotes Assad propaganda in Syria reports

BBC Q&A on alleged Israeli air strikes is political polemic

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ promotes more Syrian regime propaganda

BBC report on shootings in Golan parrots Assad propaganda

Vital information missing in BBC reports on alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria

Why is BBC Arabic amplifying Syrian regime propaganda?

Multi-platform BBC promotion of Syrian regime falsehood concerning Israel

On November 30th visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page found an article titled “Syria conflict: ‘Israeli jets’ strike outside Damascus“. The initial version of that report read as follows:

alleged-airstrike-syria

Around an hour later the article was amended to include Syrian regime propaganda.

“The Syrian military source said Wednesday’s missile strikes were “an attempt to distract attention” from the Syrian army’s “successes” and a “bid to raise the morale of the collapsing terrorist gangs”, an apparent reference to recent rebel losses in Aleppo.”

That propaganda was already in the public domain when the BBC published the first version of its report but, remarkably, someone at the BBC News website thought it appropriate to amend the article to include that false information – which once again goes unquestioned and unchallenged – and amplify it to international audiences.

So much for “the standard-setter for international journalism“.  

 

Twenty-nine hours later – BBC News reports Golan cross-border attack

At around 8:30 a.m. on the morning of November 27th an incident took place along the border in the south Golan Heights.

“Soldiers from the Golani Brigade’s reconnaissance unit had crossed the security fence with Syria to conduct an “ambush operation,” while remaining inside Israeli territory, when they came under attack from small arms fire, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said.

They returned fire, but soon came under attack from mortar shells.

In response, the Israel Air Force targeted a truck “that had some sort of machine gun on top of it” and killed the four terrorists who were riding in it. […]

According to the IDF, the four men were members of the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, formerly known as the Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist group in Syria that is connected with the Islamic State. […]

The incident was the first major confrontation between Israeli forces and Islamic State affiliated terrorists in the Golan, though Israel has clashed with other fighters on the Syrian side of the border several times.”

The incident received coverage on the BBC Arabic website on the same day. Bizarrely, the article was tagged “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” even though it obviously has nothing to do with that subject matter.

During the night between November 27th and 28th, a building used by the ISIS linked terrorist group was struck by the Israeli air force.

“The IDF said Monday that the target in the overnight airstrike was an “abandoned UN building that has been used by the Islamic State as an operations center along the border in the southern Syrian Golan Heights,” adding that “the compound was the base for yesterday’s attack against IDF forces.”

“This is an additional response to yesterday’s attack, and it is aimed at preventing the terrorists from returning to the installation which poses a significant threat,” the IDF said.”

In the early afternoon of November 28th the BBC News website published a report concerning that strike and the previous day’s incident – which had hitherto gone unreported in English.golan-incident-report

Headlined “Israeli aircraft target IS position in Syrian Golan Heights“, the article opens with an account of the last of the story’s events.

“The Israeli Air Force has bombed a building used by Islamic State (IS) militants in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights, Israel’s military says.

The air raid targeted an abandoned UN peacekeeping facility used as a base for an attack on Sunday against Israeli soldiers on Israeli-occupied territory.

The four militants behind that attack were killed in an earlier strike.”

Readers are not provided with any explanation as to why the UN building was “abandoned” and are not reminded that the so-called ‘demilitarised zone’ has long since ceased to meet that definition, with UNDOF forces having largely retreated from the area. Moreover, towards the end of this report readers find the standard – but now irrelevant – BBC mantra concerning the Golan Heights.

“Israel seized the region in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War, and thwarted a Syrian attempt to retake it in 1973.

Both countries signed an armistice in 1974, after which a UN peacekeeping force was put in place to monitor the demilitarised zone.”

Only in the sixth paragraph do readers find out about the attack that sparked events.

“In Sunday’s incident, Israeli soldiers came under machine-gun and mortar fire, according to the Israeli military.

The air force bombed a vehicle carrying the assailants, whom the military said were members of the IS-linked Khaled Ibn al-Walid Brigade, a Syrian group formerly called the Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade.” [emphasis added]

Not only did the IDF ‘say’ that the four terrorists were members of the ISIS linked group: the BBC refrains from informing its audiences that ISIS later published their photographs.

Readers are not provided with any further information concerning Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Waleed or its recent internal conflicts. Neither are they reminded that one of the groups making up that organisation – the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade – kidnapped UN forces in 2013. Readers are not given any information concerning the size of the area controlled by the ISIS affiliated group adjacent to Israel’s border and the Syrian civilians living in that region have not been the topic of any BBC coverage.

Weekend long read

1) At the Tower Jamie Palmer meticulously documents an important phenomenon in an article titled “The Pro-Palestinian Left is Tearing Itself Apart Over Syria“.Weekend Read 

“This silence has confounded the activists and writers of the Syrian revolution. If the anti-war Left was moved to outrage by air-strikes in Gaza and Baghdad, why was it unmoved by the sight of Syrian bodies and buildings being smashed to atoms in Aleppo and Homs?

The Syrian revolutionaries’ confusion gave way to frustration that in turn gave way to anger, particularly when they noticed that what did galvanize protests was not a pitiless dictator smashing his fiefdom to smithereens, but any suggestion that the West might do something to stop him. When the Assad regime fired sarin gas into the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on August 21, 2013, killing hundreds of civilians, it looked for a moment as if the West, led by America, might finally intervene. It was only then that the anti-war movement lurched back to life.”

2) At the Weekly Standard, Lee Smith gives his take on the recent presidential election in Lebanon.

“Many observers believe this election signifies that Lebanon has now come fully under Hezbollah management. But this has been the case already for years. Hezbollah has controlled key Lebanese institutions, especially the security and military portfolios, since the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005. Hezbollah’s instigation of war against Israel in 2006 was further proof that it had final say over the country’s foreign policy. That Iran’s praetorian guard on the eastern Mediterranean has now placed some 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel throughout Lebanon reinforces the fact that Hezbollah alone has the power to make life-and-death decisions of state, affecting the fate of millions of Lebanese, whether they back the group or oppose it. What the election shows is that Hezbollah has finally replicated the system of its patron, the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

3) Khaled Abu Toameh takes a look at the likely outcomes of the scheduled Fatah conference.

“Barring last-minute changes, the Palestinian Fatah faction, which is headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, is scheduled to hold its Seventh Conference in Ramallah on November 29. This will be the first gathering of its kind since August 2009.

The upcoming conference coincides with mounting tensions in Fatah, the result of internal bickering and growing discontent with Abbas’s autocratic rule. Some 1,300 delegates to the conference will be asked to vote for two of Fatah’s key decision-making bodies — the 23-member Central Committee and the 132-member Revolutionary Council.

Palestinian political analysts predict that the Fatah conference will deepen divisions among the faction’s rival camps, particularly in the wake of Abbas’s continued efforts to eliminate his critics. Abbas, they say, decided to convene the parley in a bid to tighten his grip on Fatah and block the emergence of new leaders.”

4) At the Times of Israel, Lyn Julius discusses one aspect of a BBC programme broadcast last weekend.

“The great historian Bernard Lewis says that the myth of Muslim tolerance is one of the great myths propagated by 19th century Jewish historians who wanted to embarrass the west into giving European Jews greater civil rights. Belief in the myth of Muslim tolerance was a result, more than a cause, of Jewish sympathy for Islam. “The myth was invented by Jews in nineteenth-century Europe as a reproach to Christians – and taken up by Muslims in our own time as a reproach to Jews,” he writes.”

remembrance-day