BBC says what it said was happening in 2013 may be happening now

When Israel announced last week that it had destroyed a nuclear reactor in the Deir ez Zor region of Syria over a decade ago, the BBC News website described the facility’s purpose as “suspected” and BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Tom Bateman opined that the reason for the timing of the announcement was “to add a sharper military edge to American diplomatic pressure on Europe to toughen its stance on the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers” while ignoring other no less plausible factors.

BBC News still not sure al Kibar was a nuclear reactor

In the March 28th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘, listeners heard presenter Julian Marshall (from 18:06 here) describe the al Kibar facility in similar language and give a portrayal of the intention of the announcement which is not supported by material presented later on in the item. As is usually the case, BBC audiences heard Hizballah described as an “armed group” rather than a terror organisation.

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

Marshall: “Israel conformed for the first time last week that it destroyed a suspected nuclear reactor being built in Syria over a decade ago. Israel officials say the public acknowledgement was meant as a message to their country’s enemies that they’re prepared to act against any serious threat. During Syria’s civil war two of those enemies – Iran and the Lebanese armed group Hizballah – have expanded their presence and influence in the country as they fought on the side of President Bashar al Assad. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been looking at the impact.”

Knell: “An Israeli military video shows fighter jets a decade ago bombing the nearly complete al Kibar facility in eastern Syria. International experts said it was very likely the site was a nuclear reactor but Syria denied it. And Israel is only now confirming it carried out the strike. So why now? Its Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot:”

V/O Eizenkot: “The message of the attack on the Syria nuclear reactor in 2007 was that Israel will not tolerate the development of abilities that threaten the existence of our state. That was the message in 1981 when we attacked Iraq’s nuclear facility and again in 2007 and this is the future message to our enemies.”

Obviously Eizenkot did not say in that March 21st interview that “the public acknowledgement was meant as a message to their country’s enemies” as claimed by Marshall, but that the strike itself on the reactor over a decade ago was the message. Knell went on to promote the same theory as her Jerusalem bureau colleague with regard to the intention of the announcement, claiming that Iran is “now” seen as a threat – when in fact, as the BBC itself has reported, Israel has been voicing concerns about Iran’s nuclear capabilities for many years – and making no mention of Iran’s long history of serial threats against Israel.

Knell: “Israel’s news shows quickly pointed out the link to Iran. It’s now seen as an existential threat because of its nuclear programme and there are fears about its plans in neighbouring Syria. Already Israel’s believed to have hit one Iranian base under construction there. Recently Fox News reported on another one.”

Fox News anchor: “New satellite photos reveal Iran has established another permanent military base outside Damascus.”

Although the BBC published a report in November 2017 about Iranian bases in Syria, audiences have not seen any follow-up reporting on that topic.

For almost five years (since May 2013) the BBC has been telling its audiences that Israel is ‘involved’ in the civil war in Syria.

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

BBC presentation of Israeli view on Syria intervention replete with inaccuracies

BBC News again claims Israeli involvement in Syria’s war

BBC Syria war backgrounder recycles inaccurate claim

However, Knell then presented listeners with a different view:

Knell: “The defence analyst at Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Amos Harel, says that for seven years Israel’s tried to keep out of the Syrian conflict. Now increasingly it’s being drawn in.”

Harel: “Now comes a different stage of the war because it’s rather evident that the Assad regime has won this game, so to speak, and that the sides that helped Assad are more or less fighting for the spoils and this could be dangerous for Israel. One is the growing Iranian presence at the region and specifically in the southern Syria. You have militia that may be present there. And the other is the growing role of Hizballah.”

After listeners heard sounds from a video game, Knell again downplayed Hizballah’s terror designation and Iran’s provision of funding and weapons to its proxy militia.

Knell: “A new video game brought out by the Lebanese Shiite armed group Hizballah which is backed by Iran. Players fight alongside government forces in Syria against rebels including so-called Islamic State. Hizballah’s lost hundreds of men in this war but Mohanad Hage Ali from Beirut’s Carnegie Middle East Center says its military strength has grown.”

Ali: “They’re trying out their different capabilities whether on the ground or the new weaponry that they’re using and trying to expose as much as they can from all of their fighting force to the conflict in Syria to gain experience. They are also training other forces; they set up a number of groups. And all of these supposedly will be part of their influence in Syria for a very long time.”

Refraining from informing listeners that Hizballah has tens of thousands of missiles at its disposal and making no mention of the fact that weapons transfers to Hizballah are prohibited under the terms of UN Security Council resolution 1701,Knell went on:

Knell: “That’s a big worry for Israel, which just completed joint military training with US troops. These exercises were routine but reflect current fears. One simulated a massive missile attack. Israel has struck in Syria dozens of times, acting – it says – to stop Iran adding advanced weapons to Hizballah’s arsenal. Although for now, Hizballah’s deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem considers war unlikely.”

V/O Qassem: “I clearly express the view of Hizballah that it’s ready to confront any aggression if Israel decides to carry out any foolish action but it doesn’t seem to be the right circumstances for Israel to decide to go to war.”

Notably, Knell did not bother to mention the border dispute that the BBC has to date failed to report as a factor for potential “escalation”.

Knell: “The danger lies in an unplanned escalation. Last month this happened. The IDF shot down an Iranian drone after it infiltrated Israeli air space and then struck at its control site in Syria. One of its jets was hit by a Syrian missile and crashed. Israel launched attacks on Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria. Russia apparently calmed the situation but it was a reminder how a bloody civil war could turn into a wider regional one.”

For five years the BBC has been promoting the erroneous notion that Israel is involved in the war in Syria. It has repeatedly failed to clarify to its audiences that strikes on Iranian weapons bound for Hizballah or responses to cross-border fire from Syria do not mean that Israel is “involved” in that war but are responses to the Iranian and Hizballah aggression against Israel that long predates that conflict.

While this report may indicate that at least one BBC journalist has rethought that mantra, the fact that the corporation consistently fails to provide serious coverage of relevant issues, such as the failure of UN SC resolution 1701 to achieve its aims, Iranian arming and funding of Hizballah (which the BBC serially refuses to describe as a terror organisation) and Iran’s establishment of a military presence in Syria, means that BBC audiences lack the information crucial to understanding of the background and context to any future developments.

Related Articles:

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part one

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part two

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BBC reports on designation of a terror group it previously ignored

On January 31st the BBC News website published a report titled “Ismail Haniya: US designates Hamas leader as terrorist“.

“The United States has designated the political leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas as a terrorist and imposed sanctions on him.

The state department said Ismail Haniya had “close links with Hamas’ military wing” and been a “proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians”.”

That presentation failed to inform BBC audiences that the US announcement concerning the man described last year by the BBC as “a pragmatist” also included the following:

“Haniyeh has close links with Hamas’ military wing and has been a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians. He has reportedly been involved in terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens.” [emphasis added]

The report went on:

“Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip, is already designated a terrorist group by the US, Israel, the EU and UK.

It denounced as “worthless” the blacklisting of Mr Haniya.

A statement from the group said the decision would “not dissuade us from continuing to hold fast to the option of resisting and expelling the [Israeli] occupation”.”

BBC audiences were not informed that the term “resisting” is a euphemism for terrorism against Israelis or that as far as Hamas is concerned “the occupation” means Israel in its entirety.

Neither were they told that additional reactions from Hamas officials described the US announcement as “a violation of international laws” and “a reflection of the domination by a gang of Zionists of the American decision” and the BBC’s article was not updated to reflect the fact that the PLO also later condemned the designation.

The article continued:

“The state department also designated three militant groups as terrorist entities:

  • Harakat al-Sabireen, an Iranian-backed group that operates primarily in the Gaza and the West Bank and is led by Hisham Salem, the former leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It is accused of planning and executing attacks, including firing rockets from Gaza into Israel
  • Liwa al-Thawra, a group active in Egypt’s Qalyubia and Menoufia provinces that has said it was behind the assassination of an Egyptian army commander in Cairo in 2016 and the bombing of a police training centre in Tanta in 2017
  • HASM, another Egyptian group that has claimed it assassinated an officer from Egypt’s National Security Agency and carried out an attack on Myanmar’s embassy in Cairo”

BBC audiences reading this report would no doubt have been surprised to learn of the existence of the first organisation on that list given that – as noted here over two years ago – the corporation has failed to produce any reporting whatsoever on Harakat al-Sabireen.

Readers were also not told that the other two groups on the list are suspected of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Hence when they read at the end of the report that the US Secretary of State said that “[t]hese designations target key terrorist groups and leaders – including two sponsored and directed by Iran” [emphasis added], BBC audiences would not understand that, in addition to Harakat al-Sabireen, he was referring to Hamas.

As regular readers know, the BBC has long refrained from producing any meaningful reporting on the topic of Iranian funding of Hamas terror.  

Related Articles:

The terror group BBC audiences have never heard of

The news the BBC has to omit in order to keep up its narrative

BBC audiences in the dark on Iranian terror financing yet again

Filling in the blanks in BBC reports on Hamas, Qatar and Iran

BBC News website plays along with the ‘softer’ Hamas spin

 

 

BBC’s Iran protests backgrounders fail to ameliorate years of omission

As several commentators have noted, the recent protests in Iran have included criticism of the regime’s foreign policy priorities.

At the Spectator Douglas Murray wrote:

“…most early reports indicate that protesters began by highlighting the country’s living standards. Specifically, they complained about the government’s use of its recent economic bonus (from the lifting of sanctions) not to help the Iranian people, but to pursue wider regional ambitions. Iranian forces are currently fighting in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This from a power whose defenders still claim is not expansionist. […]

The nationwide demonstrations, which have not been led by any single demographic, class, or group, have included cries of ‘Leave Gaza, leave Lebanon, my life (only) for Iran’. Chants of ‘Death to Hezbollah’ (Iran’s terrorist proxy currently fighting in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria) have also been heard from Mashhad to Kermanshah.”

At Foreign Policy magazine, Dennis Ross noted that:

“Placards criticizing corruption are rampant, and some demonstrators have even chanted death to the dictator, referring to Khamenei. Protesters have also railed against the costs of Iran’s foreign adventures: One of the earliest chants was, “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran.” […]

The protestors are asking why their money is spent in Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza […] On Hezbollah alone, Iran is estimated to provide more than $800 million a year — and their costs in sustaining the Assad regime come to several billion dollars.”

One of the BBC’s early reports – published on December 29th; the day after the protests commenced – also noted those chants.

“There is also anger at Iran’s interventions abroad. In Mashhad, some chanted “not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran”, a reference to what protesters say is the administration’s focus on foreign rather than domestic issues.

Other demonstrators chanted “leave Syria, think about us” in videos posted online. Iran is a key provider of military support to the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.”

However, when the BBC later began producing backgrounders on the protests in Iran, that issue was downplayed.

In a filmed backgrounder published on January 2nd under the title “Iran protests: Why people are taking to the streets”, Rana Rahimpour of BBC Persian told audiences that:

“The protests started out of opposition to President Hassan Rouhani and his economic policies. People were angry with high inflation, unemployment and corruption. But it quickly became bigger than that, and protesters started calling for the downfall of Iran’s most powerful man: Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. They also called for an end to Iran’s involvement in countries like Syria and Lebanon.”

BBC audiences were not however informed what that “involvement” entails or how much it costs the Iranian people.

In a written backgrounder also produced by Rana Rahimpour and published on the BBC News website on the same day under the headline “Iran protests pose an unpredictable challenge for authorities“, readers found the same statement.

“Within a day, the unrest had spread to some 25 towns and cities, and slogans went beyond the economic, including calls, for instance, for an end to Iran’s involvement in Lebanon and Syria.”

An article titled “Iran protests: US brands Tehran’s accusations ‘nonsense’” that also appeared on the BBC News website on January 2nd included analysis by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen in which readers were told that:

“When the protests started last Thursday, they were about the current economic crisis but as they spread, pent-up frustrations spilled out and politics became a big part of them.

President Rouhani has been widely criticised. He has disappointed voters who hoped he would do more to turn round an economy that has been damaged by years of sanctions, corruption and mismanagement.

Iran’s role in conflicts across the Middle East has also been criticised as it is an expensive foreign policy at a time when people in Iran are getting poorer.”

Another backgrounder – published on the BBC News website on January 4th under the headline “Six charts that explain the Iran protests” made no mention whatsoever of the vast sums of money shoring up the Iranian regime’s protégés and proxies around the Middle East.

Two and a half years ago senior BBC journalists covering the P5+1 deal with Iran assured BBC audiences that the vast sums of money freed up by sanctions relief under the terms of the JCPOA would be used by the Iranian regime to improve the country’s economy.

“President Rouhani was elected because people hoped that he would end Iran’s isolation and thus improve the economy. So the windfall that they will be getting eventually, which is made up of frozen revenues – oil revenues especially –around the world, ah…there are people who argue that look; that will go to try to deal with loads and loads of domestic economic problems and they’ll have trouble at home if they don’t do that. If people – the argument goes on – are celebrating in Iran about the agreement, it’s not because they’ll have more money to make trouble elsewhere in the region; it’s because things might get better at home.”  Jeremy Bowen, PM, BBC Radio 4, July 14th 2015

“In exchange it [Iran] will get a lot. It will get a release of the punishing sanctions. We heard from Hassan Rouhani saying as Iran always says that the sanctions did not succeed but he conceded that they did have an impact on the everyday lives of Iranians. There’s an estimate that some $100 billion will, over time, once Iran carries out its implementation of this agreement, will be released into the Iranian economy.”  Lyse Doucet, Newshour, BBC World Service radio, July 14th 2015.

Since then, the BBC has continued the existing practice of serially avoiding any serious reporting on the issue of Iran’s financing of terror groups and militias across the Middle East.

Given that long-standing policy of omission, it is obvious that BBC audiences are not sufficiently informed on the issue to be able to understand the full significance of those euphemistic references to “Iran’s involvement in countries like Lebanon and Syria”, its “role in conflicts across the Middle East” and its “expensive foreign policy” found in content supposedly meant to explain why Iranians have taken to the streets in protest.

Related Articles:

The figures behind a story the BBC chooses not report

BBC audiences in the dark on Iranian terror financing yet again

BBC silent on renewed Iranian funding for PIJ

BBC euphemisms hobble audience understanding of Iranian terror financing

 

Reviewing BBC portrayal of Hizballah in Hariri resignation reports

The story of the Lebanese prime minister’s “stunning resignation” – as the BBC described it when news of Saad Hariri’s announcement broke on November 4th – can obviously only be fully understood if one is familiar with one of the other major players in that story: Hizballah.

Essential context to that story of course includes the background to the current political landscape in Lebanon – a story that was reported very superficially by the BBC at the time. Clearly too it is important to understand the extent of Hizballah’s influence within the Lebanese government and armed forces as well as the effects that Hizballah’s intervention and actions in other countries has had on Lebanon. An understanding of which countries and bodies designate Hizballah as a terrorist organisation is also crucial, as is familiarity with the extent to which Hizballah is financed and supplied by Iran – and how that translates into Iranian influence in Lebanon.

As one Middle East analyst put it:

“Over the last 11 months, Hariri became a fig-leaf for Hezbollah. As one of the main leaders of the opposition, his appointment as prime minister ostensibly proved Lebanon was maintaining its independence vis-a-vis Iran.

Now, however, the charade is over, and Lebanon remains as it was without the disguise — pro-Iranian, pro-Syrian, and with Hezbollah firmly in control. The Lebanese president is considered to be an Iranian and Hezbollah appointment, the Lebanese army is cooperating and coordinating with Hezbollah, and the Shiite terror group does whatever it likes in Lebanon.”

Since Hariri made his announcement the BBC News website has produced a considerable amount of coverage of the story. However, much of that reporting included softball portrayal of Hizballah which failed to provide BBC audiences with the context essential for full understanding of the story.

The website’s first article on the story – “Lebanese PM Hariri resigns, saying he fears assassination plot” (4/11/17) – whitewashed the financial and military support provided to Hizballah by Iran and airbrushed the terror group’s militia from view, calling it a ‘political party’. No explanation was given regarding the fact that the “political deadlock” was caused by Hizballah.

[all emphasis in bold added] 

“Mr Hariri also attacked the Iran-backed Shia movement Hezbollah, which wields considerable power in Lebanon.”

“Taking up the prime minister’s office last year, Mr Hariri promised a “new era for Lebanon” after two years of political deadlock.

The coalition government he led brought together almost all of the main political parties in Lebanon, including Hezbollah.”

“In Lebanon, the Saudis support Mr Hariri while Iran backs the Shia movement, Hezbollah.”

A report appearing the next day – “Lebanon Hariri resignation a plot to stoke tension, says Iran” (5/11/17) – mentioned the murder of Hariri’s father without clarifying that Hizballah operatives have been indicted by the UN’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

“Rafik al-Hariri was killed by a bomb in 2005 in an attack widely blamed on the Iran-backed Shia movement Hezbollah, which wields considerable power in Lebanon.”

“The coalition government he led brought together almost all of the main political parties in Lebanon, including Hezbollah.”

A report titled “Lebanon PM forced by Saudis to resign, says Hezbollah” that appeared on the same day also failed to mention the STL, downplayed Iran’s financial and military support for Hizballah and once again failed to make any mention of its numerous terror designations.

“The leader of Lebanon-based Shia group Hezbollah has said that Saudi Arabia forced the Lebanese prime minister to resign.

Saad Hariri stepped down in a televised broadcast from Saudi Arabia on Saturday, denouncing Hezbollah and its Iranian backers, and saying he feared for his life.”

“As he resigned on Saturday, Mr Hariri blamed Iran for meddling in several countries, including Lebanon, and said he felt the climate was similar to that which “prevailed” before his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was killed by a bomb in 2005.

The attack was widely blamed on Hezbollah, which wields considerable power in Lebanon but denies it was involved.”

“After taking office last year, Mr Hariri promised a “new era for Lebanon” after two years of political deadlock.

The coalition government he led brought together almost all of the main political parties in Lebanon, including Hezbollah.”

An article by Lyse Doucet – “Riyadh’s night of long knives and long-range missiles” (6/11/17) – briefly touched on some of the essential background that BBC audiences had hitherto lacked – albeit mostly in the form of quotes rather than her own analysis.

“Looking visibly distressed, Hariri spoke of fears for his life in his own country. He pointed an accusing finger at Iran for spreading “disorder and destruction”. And he charged that its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, a major Shia militia and powerful political force, with building a “state within a state”.”

“”By his actions, Hariri created a veneer of respectability for a state which in reality is captured by Hezbollah,” said Ali Shihabi.”

“One Western diplomat with long experience in the region highlighted possible next moves: withdrawal of major Saudi bank deposits; trade embargo; action by the Lebanese military, which the US and UK has long helped train and build in an effort to provide a national counterweight to Hezbollah’s military might.”

“Just last month, the US House of Representatives endorsed the imposition of new sanctions against Hezbollah as part of the Trump administration’s drive to exert greater pressure on Iran.

The measures, which have yet to become law, include a resolution urging the European Union to designate Hezbollah’s political wing, and not just its military wing, as a terrorist organisation.”

The BBC’s new Beirut correspondent Martin Patience also briefly referred to one crucial point in a report titled “Lebanon in crosshairs as Saudi-Iran tensions soar” (10/11/17) but again failed to clarify the real meaning of the phrase “Iran backs”.

“Iran backs the Shia movement Hezbollah here. Its supporters believe Mr Hariri’s resignation was orchestrated by the Saudis in order to weaken their influence in the country.

Hezbollah has been accused of operating a “state within a state”. Its armed wing is more powerful than the Lebanese army and it leads a bloc which dominates the cabinet.”

However, on the same day a report titled “France’s Macron makes surprise Saudi visit amid Lebanon crisis” (10/11/17) returned to vague phrasing.

“In the video statement, Mr Hariri also attacked Hezbollah, which is politically and militarily powerful in Lebanon, and Iran.”

Readers saw the use of a standard BBC euphemism – “militant group” – in a report titled “Lebanon Hariri crisis: President Aoun demands Saudi answers” (11/11/17) which made no effort to explain Iran’s financial and military support to Hizballah.

“Iran and its Lebanese ally, the militant group Hezbollah, accuse Saudi Arabia of holding Mr Hariri hostage.”

“He [Hariri] accused Iran and Hezbollah, a Shia group, of taking over Lebanon and destabilising the wider region.”

The same was seen in an article headlined “Saad Hariri: Lebanon return from Saudi Arabia ‘within days’” (13/11/17).

“He [Hariri] has blamed the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement for his resignation, citing concerns over his and his family’s safety.”

“”I am not against Hezbollah as a party, I have a problem with Hezbollah destroying the country,” he said.

The main problem for the region, he said, was “Iran interfering in Arab states”.”

On November 15th audiences saw the BBC’s first reference to Hizballah as an Iranian proxy in a report titled “Saad Hariri: Saudis detaining Lebanon PM says Michel Aoun” that gave a very limited description of its terror designation and made no effort to explain the background to the current political landscape in Lebanon. However – eleven days into the story – readers also saw the first mention of Hizballah involvement in the murder of Rafik Hariri.

“The Shia Islamist Hezbollah movement, an Iranian proxy that Riyadh considers a terrorist group, is part of the unity government that Mr Hariri formed last year.”

“Mr Aoun is a Maronite Christian former army commander who is an ally of the Islamist militia and political party Hezbollah.”

“His [Hariri’s] father Rafik – himself a former Lebanese prime minister – was killed in a suicide bombing in Beirut in 2005. Several members of Hezbollah are being tried in absentia at a UN-backed tribunal at The Hague in connection with the attack, though the group has denied any involvement.”

“Mr Hariri, a Sunni Muslim who became prime minister for the second time in late 2016 in a political compromise deal that also saw Mr Aoun elected president, has close ties to Saudi Arabia.”

The same reference to the STL appeared in a report titled “Saad Hariri: Lebanon PM ‘can go to France when he wants’” on November 16th along with a description of Hizballah as Iran’s “proxy”.

“Saudi Arabia has denied forcing Mr Hariri to resign in an attempt to curb the influence of its regional rival Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, which is part of a national unity government that Mr Hariri formed last year.”

“His [Hariri’s] father Rafik – himself a former Lebanese prime minister – was killed in a suicide bombing in Beirut in 2005. Several members of Hezbollah are being tried in absentia at a UN-backed tribunal at The Hague in connection with the attack, though the group has denied any involvement.”

By November 18th Hizballah had again been downgraded to an “ally” of Iran with the report titled “Saad Hariri, Lebanon PM, to return to Beirut ‘in coming days’” making no mention of Iran’s patronage of the group or its terror designations.

“In a televised announcement, Mr Hariri accused Iran of sowing “discord, devastation and destruction” in the region. He also accused Iran’s ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, which is part of a national unity government that Mr Hariri formed last year, of destabilising his nation.”

“He also said he feared for his life. Several members of Hezbollah are being tried at a UN-backed tribunal at The Hague over the car-bomb assassination of Mr Hariri’s ex-PM father, Rafik, in 2005.”

As we see, none of these BBC reports gave audiences a comprehensive view of Hizballah’s designation as a terror organisation by the United States, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Canada, France, the Netherlands and Israel and the designation of its so-called ‘military wing’ by the EU, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

The majority of the reports (eight out of eleven) failed to clarify that Hizballah members have been indicted for the murder of a previous Lebanese prime minister.

Portrayal of the extent and significance of Hizballah’s influence on Lebanese politics and armed forces was mostly absent from the BBC reports and the role it played in the “political deadlock” before Saad Hariri became prime minister was ignored.

Most glaring, however, is the fact that none of these eleven reports made any effort to provide BBC audiences with details of the extent of Iran’s financial and military support for the terror group’s activities.

Clearly BBC audiences have not been provided with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of this story.   

 

Weekend long read

1) With the BBC World Service having recently failed to disclose the anti-Israel activism of the sole interviewee in a history show, an article by Prof Gerald Steinberg titled “The Lancet: How an Anti-Israel Propaganda Platform was Turned Around” makes for timely reading.

“The Lancet‘s central role in anti-Israel demonization began in parallel to the wider political war launched in late 2000, at a time of violent clashes between Palestinians and Israelis.  […]

It was during this period that The Lancet began publishing numerous articles advancing this poisonous political agenda, through allegations of medical and health related abuse of Palestinians. This activity took place under the aegis of Richard Horton, who has held the position of Editor in Chief since 1995 and who frequently generates controversy by using the journal to gain visibility for his pronouncements on major social and political issues associated with progressive liberal agendas. In this context, Horton joined the Palestinian cause, reinforced through close association with highly politicized non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHR-I). Under Horton’s direction, The Lancet and MAP co-sponsored The Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance (LPHA), generating a steady flow of pseudo-scientific papers, and, in turn, providing Horton with political support and visibility. […]

Dr. Swee Ang Chai, co-founder of MAP, was another central figure in The Lancet campaign and a frequent contributor to anti-Israel demonization, and the introduction from her book From Beirut to Jerusalem was posted on The Lancet’s “Global Health Network” website. The article, which included no citations and advanced no medical claims, was removed 28 days later following widespread criticism of “factual inaccuracies.” Another piece by Swee Ang cited testimonies of unnamed “eyewitnesses” to make war crimes allegations related to the 2009 Gaza conflict. In addition, she participated in an internet group that promoted David Duke’s racism and anti-Semitism, including promoting a video titled “CNN, Goldman Sachs, and the Zio Matrix” in which Duke accuses Jewish banking, media and political figures of conspiring to create “an unholy tribal alliance.””

2) The ITIC has translated an interview given to a Hamas newspaper by UK-based anti-Israel activist Zaher Birawi.

“Birawi added that despite the difficulties, the main objective of dispatching ships to the Gaza Strip is for their propaganda value, to keep the issues of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and breaking the “siege” alive in public discourse, and to continue to defame Israel (the “occupying entity,” according to Birawi). He claimed that the true test of the success of the flotillas is not whether or not they reach the Gaza Strip, but the coverage of the political and media campaigns accompanying them.

Asked whether ships would sail to the Gaza Strip in the near future, he answered it had been decided in principle to continue to try to break the “siege” by sea. He said the Freedom flotilla coalition was examining a plan to send one or more ships during the summer of 2018. They were currently discussing details and how to ensure success. He also said other NGOs, working in solidarity for the Palestinians, that participated in the Freedom flotilla coalition, were also examining the possibility of sending their own ships.”

3) Readers may recall that in 2015 the BBC rejected a complaint from a member of the public based on information – inter alia – from the group ‘Kairos’. At the Boston Globe, Robert Leikind has more on that organisation.

“Over the last decade, a number of mainline Protestant Churches, including some with a significant presence in New England, have adopted resolutions harshly critical of Israel. During the summer two more were passed by the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ. These measures share three core elements: Each assigns Israel near total culpability for the conflict with the Palestinians; each overlooks decades of Palestinian activity that has undermined prospects for peace with Israel; and each justifies its claims by referring to a document called Kairos Palestine.”

4) The FDD has published a detailed paper on the subject of Hizballah’s finances.

“Hezbollah – a Shiite terrorist group based in Lebanon – is under financial strain, but is likely to stay buoyed by external support from Iran and by its vast network of illicit businesses around the world. The group makes roughly a billion dollars annually through support from Iran (which provides the bulk of its funding), donations from elements within the Lebanese diaspora, and smuggling and drug trafficking networks worldwide. Several countries in South America give the group’s trafficking networks safe harbor. Hezbollah leverages segments of the Lebanese diaspora for donations and “taxation,” and supporters have laundered money and run front companies on six continents. Hezbollah predominantly spends its revenues on providing social services in southern Lebanon, operating as a “state within a state,” and on funding its fighting forces in Lebanon and Syria.” 

 

 

 

 

 

Omissions in BBC reporting on latest Iranian missile test

September 23rd saw the appearance of a report titled “Iran tests missile despite Trump pressure” on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

In addition to an account of the display of a new ballistic missile at a military parade in Tehran, the BBC’s report purports to provide readers with background information on several aspects of the story.

“US President Donald Trump criticised the launch, saying the missile was capable of hitting its ally Israel. […]

In a tweet on Saturday, Mr Trump criticised Iran and accused it, without elaborating, of co-operating with the North Korean regime.”

Two days prior to the publication of this BBC article, the French president had expressed concerns about Iran’s missile programme but that fact was not conveyed to readers.

‘He [Macron] told reporters that Iran’s ballistic missile program must be curtailed and cited the need to reassure “states in the region, and the United States.”‘

Following the display of the missile on Friday, France put out statement that was also not mentioned in this BBC report.

‘An “extremely concerned” French foreign ministry warned the launch violated the United Nations Security Council resolution that endorsed the accord.

“France demands that Iran halt all destablizing activities in the region and to respect all provisions of Resolution 2231, including the call to halt this type of ballistic activity,” a statement read.

“France will consider ways, with its European and other partners, to get Iran to stop its destabilizing ballistic activities.”’

The BBC, however, appears to be keen to steer audiences to the conclusion that opposition to the Iranian ballistic missiles programme comes exclusively from the US and its president.

The report goes on:

“The US announced fresh sanctions on Iran in July over its ballistic missile programme and what it said was Iran’s support for terror organisations.” [emphasis added]

Apparently the BBC is not convinced that Iran’s support for Hizballah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad cited in the US statement at the time constitutes “support for terror organisations”.

In an insert of analysis titled “A message to Trump” from BBC Persian’s Kasra Naji readers find the following statement, which does not clarify that the resolution concerned relates to the JCPOA:

“The missile test is arguably a borderline case as far as the UN Security Council is concerned. A resolution calls on Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”

However, later on in the same report readers are also told that:

“It [the US] says such launches violate the spirit of the 2015 agreement between Iran and six world powers to limit its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. […]

Tehran insists its missile programme does not contravene the agreement. It says the missiles are not meant to carry nuclear warheads.”

The relevant part of UN SC resolution 2231 – paragraph 3 of Annex B (p.99) – does not relate to what Iranian ballistic missiles are “meant to carry” but rather to what they are capable of delivering.

“Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology, until the date eight years after the JCPOA Adoption Day or until the date on which the IAEA submits a report confirming the Broader Conclusion, whichever is earlier.” [emphasis added]

This is not the first time that the BBC has amplified Iranian messaging on the topic of its ballistic missiles programme without adequate clarification of the issue to audiences.

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BBC audiences in the dark on Iranian terror financing yet again

Readers may recall that when the JCPOA deal between Iran and the P5+1 powers was closed just over two years ago, senior BBC correspondents assured audiences that funds freed up by sanctions relief would be used by the Iranian regime to improve the country’s economy.

“President Rouhani was elected because people hoped that he would end Iran’s isolation and thus improve the economy. So the windfall that they will be getting eventually, which is made up of frozen revenues – oil revenues especially –around the world, ah…there are people who argue that look; that will go to try to deal with loads and loads of domestic economic problems and they’ll have trouble at home if they don’t do that. If people – the argument goes on – are celebrating in Iran about the agreement, it’s not because they’ll have more money to make trouble elsewhere in the region; it’s because things might get better at home.” Jeremy Bowen, PM, BBC Radio 4, July 14th, 2015

“In exchange it [Iran] will get a lot. It will get a release of the punishing sanctions. We heard from Hassan Rouhani saying as Iran always says that the sanctions did not succeed but he conceded that they did have an impact on the everyday lives of Iranians. There’s an estimate that some $100 billion will, over time, once Iran carries out its implementation of this agreement, will be released into the Iranian economy.”  Lyse Doucet, Newshour, BBC World Service radio, July 14th, 2015.

Many Middle East observers will not have been surprised by the fact that the last two years have repeatedly shown that the BBC’s analysis was off the mark. Recently, yet another example of Iranian terror financing was publicised.

Last week Hamas’ leader Yahya Sinwar held his first meeting with journalists since taking over from Ismail Haniyeh in February. Reuters reported that:

““Relations with Iran are excellent and Iran is the largest supporter of the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades with money and arms,” Yehya al-Sinwar, referring to Hamas’s armed wing, told reporters.

Neither Hamas nor Iran have disclosed the full scale of Tehran’s backing. But regional diplomats have said Iran’s financial aid for the Islamist movement was dramatically reduced in recent years and directed to the Qassam Brigades rather than to Hamas’s political institutions.

Hamas angered Iran by refusing to support Iran’s ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the six-year-old civil war.

“The relationship today is developing and returning to what it was in the old days,” Sinwar, who was elected in February, said in his first briefing session with reporters.

“This will be reflected in the resistance (against Israel) and in (Hamas’s) agenda to achieve the liberation,” he said.”

The Times of Israel added:

“Hamas is “developing our military strength in order to liberate Palestine,” Sinwar said, but he also stressed that it does not seek war for now “and takes every effort to avoid a war… At the same time we are not afraid of a war and are ready for it.”

“The Iranian military support to Hamas and al-Qassam is strategic,” he added, saying the relationship had “become fantastic and returned to its former era.”

“Every day we build missiles and continue military training,” he added, saying that thousands of people are working “day and night” to prepare for the next conflict.”

Whether or not a BBC representative was present at Sinwar’s first meeting with the press is unclear but the agency AFP – to which the BBC subscribeswas there. Nevertheless, BBC audiences have seen no reporting whatsoever on this latest example of Iranian terror financing.

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Filling in the blanks in BBC reports on Hamas, Qatar and Iran

As readers may recall, while early BBC News website coverage of the rift between Qatar and several other Arab states did clarify that one of Saudi Arabia’s demands was for Qatar to cut ties with Hamas, it did not inform BBC audiences of Qatar’s reported demand that a number of Hamas officials leave that country.

Yolande Knell later produced two reports on the topic of Qatari funding of Hamas which made vague, brief references to that subject.

“Meanwhile, some top Hamas figures living in exile in Doha have moved away to ease pressure on their patron.” BBC Radio 4, 15/6/17

“Many leaders of the group [Hamas] – including its former head, Khaled Meshaal, have been living in luxurious exile in Doha.

Now as Hamas seeks to ease pressure on its patron, several have reportedly left at Qatar’s request.” BBC News website, 20/6/17

As was noted here when the story broke:

Among those reportedly asked to leave [Qatar] was Saleh al Arouri – the organiser of Hamas operations in Judea & Samaria who was previously based in Turkey and was designated by the US Treasury in 2015. Arouri is said to have relocated to Malaysia or Lebanon.”

At the beginning of this month al Arouri made an appearance in Beirut.

“A senior Hamas terrorist believed by Israel to have planned the 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank was spotted publicly in Lebanon’s capital Beirut for the first time since he was expelled from Qatar in June.

In photos published Wednesday, Saleh al-Arouri can be seen meeting with senior Iranian official Hossein Amir Abdollahian — a former deputy foreign minister — and a number of other members of Hamas, among them senior spokesman Osama Hamdan and the terror group’s representative in Lebanon, Ali Barka. […]

After his expulsion from Qatar in June, al-Arouri moved to Lebanon, where he is being hosted by the Hezbollah terror group in its Dahieh stronghold in southern Beirut, Channel 2 reported last month.

Citing Palestinian sources, the report said that Arouri and two other senior Hamas figures have relocated to the Hezbollah-dominated neighborhood in the Lebanese capital, an area heavily protected with checkpoints on every access road.”

Meanwhile, on August 5th the BBC News website published a report about the Iranian president’s inauguration:

“Dozens of world dignitaries attended Mr Rouhani’s inauguration at Iran’s parliament, reflecting an easing in Iran’s isolation since the nuclear deal.

Guests included EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the chairman of the North Korean parliament, Kim Yong-nam, signalling a growing closeness between Tehran and Pyongyang particularly over defence matters.”

The BBC did not however report that the inauguration’s guest list also included Hamas officials.

“A senior Hamas delegation arrived in Tehran on Friday in a bid to bolster the relationship with the Islamic Republic.

The visit included senior Hamas figure Izzat al-Rishq, currently based in Qatar, and head of the Hamas administration Saleh al-Arouri. They were formally invited to the swearing-in ceremony of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is beginning his second term in office.”

That Hamas delegation apparently also met with IRGC representatives.

“Senior members of the Hamas terror group met on Monday in Iran with representatives of the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to Arabic media reports.

A high-level Hamas delegation arrived in Tehran on Friday in order to attend the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and to “turn a new page in bilateral relations” between the two sides, according to a statement by Hamas.

This is the first Hamas visit to Iran since the group elected new leadership earlier in 2017. The rapprochement between Hamas and Iran is reportedly being facilitated by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which is supported by Tehran.

The delegation consisted of Hamas political bureau members Ezzat al-Resheq, Saleh Arouri, Zaher Jabarin, and Osama Hamdan.

During its stay in Iran, the group met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday, as well as a number of other senior Iranian officials. […]

Hamas also needs to re-establish ties with Iran, as its current top backer Qatar is under fire from Gulf allies for supporting the Palestinian terror group.”

At the end of that August 5th BBC report on Rouhani’s inauguration audiences were told that:

“Last month, the US state department accused Iran of undermining stability, security and prosperity in the Middle East.

It criticised Iran’s support for the Syrian government and groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas and accused it of prolonging the conflict in Yemen by providing support for Houthi rebels.”

Had BBC audiences seen any coverage of Salah al Arouri’s relocation from Qatar to the Hizballah ruled suburb of Beirut and of the Hamas delegation’s visit to Tehran, they would of course be much better placed to understand what lies behind those US State Department statements. 

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BBC News passes on Hamas terror financing story

On August 3rd the Israel Security Agency announced the exposure of a complex Hamas money laundering ring involving former security prisoners.

“Through this plot, which began in early 2016, the group [Hamas] managed to transfer approximately $200,000 (NIS 720,000) into its Hebron offices from Turkey, with help from Gaza, in order to fund terrorist activities, the Shin Bet said. […]

The head of the operation was identified by the security service as Muhammad Maher Bader, a senior member of Hamas in Hebron and a member of the Palestinian parliament.

Bader, who was arrested in June, enlisted the help of two couriers, Muasseb Hashalmon and Taha Uthman, both of them residents of Hebron, the Shin Bet said.

Hashalmon and Uthman would travel to Turkey, where they would receive tens of thousands of dollars from a Hamas operative named Haron Nasser al-Din.

According to the Shin bet, the two Palestinian men used the money to purchase commercial goods, which they would ship back to Hebron and sell. The money from the merchandise, save for a small percentage that was their cut, was then used to pay the salaries of Hamas’s high command in the West Bank city and was also given to active members of the terrorist group and to operatives who had been released from prison.”

The BBC has for a long time avoided providing its audiences with any serious reporting on the topic of Hamas’ presence in Palestinian Authority controlled areas and the connection of past and present Hamas operatives in Turkey to efforts to build up that presence. It was therefore not surprising to see that this latest story did not get any coverage at all.

However the BBC News website did have the space and inclination to publish a story it described as being about a “social media row over dog poo”.  One can only conclude that story was deemed by editors to contribute more to audience understanding of Middle East issues than the one about Hamas terror financing.

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Iranian terror financing is not a topic on which the BBC has produced any serious and significant reporting – in fact quite the opposite.

In June 2013 the BBC News website promoted a report by an NGO claiming that “there is no evidence of any financial support provided to Hezbollah” by Iran. The BBC has not however covered subsequent statements conflicting that claim that have been made by both Hizballah’s leader and Iranian officials.

In April 2015 the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent told audiences of Iran’s “alleged support for terrorism” and in July 2015 other senior BBC correspondents were busy telling audiences that the cash influx resulting from the P5+1 deal with Iran on its nuclear programme would be used exclusively to improve the domestic Iranian economy.

In January 2016 the BBC News website told audiences that “Iran has been accused of funding militant groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon” without providing any information that would help them to conclude whether or not such accusations are justified.

As recently as last month BBC World Service radio listeners heard the following from the corporation’s Middle East correspondent:

“…Israel’s government is extremely concerned about Iran. They believe that…ah…because of its action, that they say it’s arming Hizballah just north of Israel here in Syria [sic]…” [emphasis added]

As reported by the Jerusalem Post, in a speech at a conference in Jerusalem last week, the IDF’s chief of military intelligence touched on the topic of Iranian terror financing.

“Iran’s massive funding of terrorist groups that endanger Israel was exposed in shocking detail by IDF Military Intelligence chief Maj.- Gen. Hertzi Halevi on Wednesday.

Speaking at the IDC Herzliya Conference, Halevi revealed that Iran is funding Hezbollah to the tune of $75 million a year, while paying $50m. of Hamas’s budget and approximately $70m. to Islamic Jihad.

Connecting Hamas’s alliance with Iran to recent criticism of Israel for the humanitarian situation in the Gaza strip, Halevi placed the blame for a lack of construction supplies and the electricity problem squarely on Hamas.

Israel has let into the Strip “four times the volume of building materials” required to build one of the world’s largest buildings, but “Hamas is using the materials for war, not rebuilding,” he said. […]

Returning to the Iranian funding and support of terrorism, Halevi noted that Tehran is regularly “acting to get exact and advanced weapons into Lebanon and Yemen.””

Members of the BBC’s audience (who are entitled to expect their understanding of world events to be enhanced by reporting from the corporation they are obliged to fund) will continue to lack context crucial to the understanding of many of the Middle East stories they hear and read for as long as they are denied serious coverage of the topic of the hundreds of millions of dollars of annual terror financing by a country they are repeatedly told is led by a “moderate”. 

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