Revisiting BBC reporting on Hizballah

Back in December 2018 listeners to BBC World Service radio heard Razia Iqbal suggest that Israel’s presentation of the purpose of multiple tunnels quarried through solid limestone under an international border by a terror group dedicated to Israel’s destruction might be made up.

Metulla

Iqbal: “Well given that a war with Israel would not be in the interests of Hizballah, one wonders about the…err…the accuracy or the factual accuracy of those tunnels being potentially used for the way in which Israel is alleging that Hizballah might use them.”

The following month we noted that Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah had clarified the purpose of “those tunnels” during a media interview.

“He confirmed Israeli leaders’ accusations that “Part of our plan for the next war is to enter the Galilee, a part of our plan we are capable of, God willing. The important thing is that we have this capability and we have had it for years.””

However no effort was subsequently made by the BBC to inform audiences of that acknowledgement of the existence and purpose of the Hizballah cross-border tunnels and thereby relieve them of the erroneous impression promoted by Iqbal.

During Hizballah’s annual commemoration of the Second Lebanon War on July 12th, Nasrallah once again stated that the terrorist organisation has plans to invade Israeli sovereign territory, as reported by Seth Frantzman at the Jerusalem Post.

“Nasrallah said there were scenarios or plans that are ready to be implemented that would foresee the invasion of the Galilee by Hezbollah. This threat is not surprising since the terrorist organization has been aiming for years to use the next conflict to grab and hold some territory. It built tunnels under the border of northern Israel that were discovered as part of Israel’s Operation Northern Shield from December 4, 2018, through January 13, 2019.”

Hizballah flag viewed from Metulla

Nasrallah’s latest speech also included boasts about the terror group’s capabilities:

“Nasrallah admits that it had “limited” attack abilities in 2006. Now it claims to have drones and new advanced technologies to use on land, sea and air. Much of this comes from Iran, including precision guidance for missiles and other technology. Hezbollah says its missiles are more accurate. This indicates that Hezbollah’s boasts about being able to reach all of Israel and estimates of it having 150,000 rockets may be reasonable. It clearly wants us to think so.”

BBC audiences are of course serially deprived of information concerning UN Security Council resolution 1701 of 2006 which states that there should be “no authority other than that of the Government of Lebanon” and that previous accords pertaining to “the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State” should be implemented. 

The BBC’s online profile of Hizballah has not been updated for well over three years, meaning that audiences find no information there concerning the cross-border tunnels which were destroyed earlier this year or the UK government’s decision to designate it as a terrorist organisation in its entirety.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio host questions “factual accuracy” of purpose of Hizballah tunnels

Hizballah leader dispels BBC WS presenter’s ‘wondering’

An overview of BBC reporting on Operation Northern Shield

Whitewashing Hizballah on BBC Radio 4

Hizballah London explosives story not newsworthy for the BBC

Usual mantras in BBC News report on Hizballah designation

 

 

 

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Weekend long read

1) At the JNS Yaakov Lapin takes a look at a story ignored by the BBC this week.

“Since the end of the 2014 conflict, enough cement has entered Gaza to build 16 Burj Khalifa skyscrapers in Dubai—the tallest building in the world. That cement has largely gone underground, feeding Hamas’s war machine.

Gaza’s soft sandstone made it possible for diggers to make rapid progress during the peak days of the tunnel project. The tunnels contained rails, electricity, ventilation, communications lines and oxygen tanks—tanks that were originally sent to Gaza for hospital use.

The tunnels are a symbol of Hamas’s priorities: The military build-up always takes precedent over investing funds in Gaza’s civilian population.”

2) Some background to another recent story which the BBC chose not to cover is provided by the FDD’s Tony Badran.

“The Treasury Department designated Hezbollah security chief Wafiq Safa on Tuesday, along with two Hezbollah members of parliament. Safa’s activities epitomize Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanese state institutions, illustrating that the supposed distinction between the two is fictional.

Treasury’s announcement of the sanctions identified Wafa as “the head of Hezbollah’s security apparatus” and “part of Hizballah Secretary General Nasrallah’s inner circle.” It went on to say that Wafa is “responsible for Hizballah’s coordination with the international community and with Lebanese security agencies.” While true, this description greatly understates his influence.

Safa, who reportedly played a role in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, is now the central figure in Lebanese politics and security. As head of Hezbollah’s Liaison and Coordination Unit, Safa is Nasrallah’s troubleshooter. He manages Hezbollah’s relationship with Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.”

3) The JCPA provides context to a story reported on BBC World Service radio last week – “The Truth about Jerusalem’s City of David – The Lies about Silwan”.

“Over the years, hundreds of Silwan residents took part in the archaeological digs of the Antiquities Authority funded by the NGO “Elad” (its name is an acronym for “To the City of David”). More than once the digging was done below the houses of these same Arab workers. They would have kept working there until this very day had they not been threatened with violence by emissaries of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in eastern Jerusalem. These threats forced them to leave their work.

Political opponents of the archaeological excavations in the City of David, which have been conducted for almost 50 years, try every few years to impede the work of the Antiquities Authority, often resorting to legal proceedings. Once or twice they have even gotten as far as the Supreme Court, whose justices are known to be particularly sensitive to claims of the infringement of human rights. The petitioners claimed that the excavations endangered the residents of Silwan, and the Supreme Court looked into their allegations and rejected them.”

4) Israel’s public broadcaster Kann recently aired a documentary series about the work of the police force in Jerusalem. All the episodes of ‘Jerusalem District’ are now available on Youtube with English subtitles.

“Jerusalem District: A nine-episode series that provides a rare glimpse into the activities of the intelligence, detective and Border Police officers in the Jerusalem district and exposes the unrecognized sides of the work of the Jerusalem policemen who are fighting crime and do their best to maintain order in the volatile city.”

 

 

BBC ignores another cross-border terror tunnel

On the evening of July 8th the IDF announced the discovery of yet another cross-border tunnel, this time in the Eshkol region.

photo credit: IDF. Previously discovered tunnel

“Another cross-border tunnel dug into Israeli territory was discovered in the southern part of the Gaza Strip during construction of the country’s underground barrier, the IDF announced on Monday evening.

“At this time, IDF soldiers are conducting an investigation of the passage,” the IDF said. “More information will be provided shortly.”

It is unclear if the tunnel was newly dug by terror groups in the Strip or if it was an old unused tunnel.”

As local media outlets reported:

“The cross-border tunnel is the 18th discovered since the end of the 2014 war…”

While that war (Operation Protective Edge) was still ongoing the IDF destroyed thirty-two tunnels, fourteen of which crossed into Israeli territory.

The last time the BBC produced any dedicated reporting on the subject of the tunnels constructed by terror factions in the Gaza Strip was fifteen months ago – although it avoided giving audiences a clear and accurate description in its own words of their purpose.

BBC still prevaricating on purpose of Hamas tunnels

As was noted here at the time:

“In October 2017 the BBC’s report on a tunnel constructed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad amplified that terror group’s propaganda regarding its purpose. In April 2016 the BBC employed the ‘Israel says’ formula when describing the intended purpose of a Hamas tunnel discovered in the southern part of the border region. In December 2017 the same terminology was seen again.”

Some of the tunnels discovered since August 2014 have been completely ignored by the BBC:

No BBC reporting on latest Hamas cross-border tunnel

Another Hamas cross-border tunnel ignored by the BBC

New type of Hamas tunnel not newsworthy for the BBC

On other occasions tunnels have been given a cursory mention in reports while on others they have been excluded from reporting even though they were relevant to the story.

Although BBC audiences regularly hear that “Israel restricts the supply of many building materials like cement into Gaza”, they have not seen any serious reporting on Hamas’ proven misappropriation of construction materials for terrorism purposes that include cross-border tunnels

It is hence hardly surprising to see that this latest news has to date also been ignored by the BBC’s local correspondents, who apparently are not of the opinion that audience understanding of the popular and frequently covered topic of the situation in the Gaza Strip would be enhanced by knowing that no fewer than eighteen tunnels dug solely for the purposes of terrorism have been discovered in the past five years. 

BBC News reporting on rocket attacks marred by inaccuracy and omission

On the afternoon of May 4th – some five and a half hours after terrorists in the Gaza Strip had begun launching an intense barrage of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians – the BBC News website published an article headlined “Hostilities flare up as rockets hit Israel from Gaza” and tagged “Gaza border clashes” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

In the hours that followed the article was updated sixteen times. The final version – which will remain on the BBC News website as ‘historical records’ – includes some notable points.

The immediate background to the story was portrayed by the BBC as follows:

“Four Palestinians, including two Hamas militants, were killed on Friday after an attack injured two Israeli soldiers.”

Under the sub-heading “What triggered the latest unrest?” readers were told that:

“The violence began during weekly Friday protests in Gaza against the tight blockade of the area. Israel says this is needed to stop weapons reaching Gaza.

A Palestinian gunman shot and wounded two Israeli soldiers at the boundary fence. The IDF blamed Islamic Jihad for the shooting.”

Those “weekly Friday protests” are of course called the ‘Great Return March’ but the BBC erased Hamas’ involvement in the organisation of the violent rioting which has additional purposes besides protesting “the tight blockade”.

In addition to the sniping incident in which two soldiers were injured (and which prompted the response in which two Hamas operatives were killed) violent rioting and infiltrations which went unmentioned by the BBC took place.

“Some of the demonstrators were rioting, throwing rocks and makeshift explosive devices at soldiers, who responded with tear gas and occasional live fire.

A third Palestinian was killed during riots along the border, the ministry said, identifying him as Ra’ed Khalil Abu Tayyer, 19, adding that 40 protesters had been injured. The IDF said troops had identified several attempts to breach the fence.

Earlier, Israeli troops arrested a Palestinian man who crossed the northern Gaza border security fence, the army said, adding that the soldiers who searched him discovered a knife.”

By way of broader background, the BBC report told readers that:

“The flare-up over the weekend followed a truce agreed last month. […]

The latest violence marks yet another increase in hostilities despite attempts by Egypt and the United Nations to broker a longer-term ceasefire, says the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem. […]

Its [PIJ] statement also accused Israel of failing to implement last month’s ceasefire deal, which was brokered by Egypt.”

Notably the BBC’s report failed to mention of Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket fire on April 30th and an additional attack on May 2nd – neither of which were not reported by the BBC at the time. Interestingly the BBC’s report made no reference to the relevant issue of the connection between these latest attacks and upcoming events in Israel including the Eurovision Song Contest.

The BBC’s report amplified statements and a Tweet put out by Turkish officials while uncritically promoting the false notion of “attacks against civilians”.

“One of the air strikes has hit the offices of Turkish news agency Anadolu, prompting condemnation from Istanbul.”

Failing to clarify to readers that a warning was given prior to the strike to allow evacuation, the BBC went on:

“The Israeli military defended targeting the building in a statement, saying the structure was used by Hamas’s West Bank task force and as an office for senior members of the Islamic Jihad.”

In fact the IDF did not make that statement in connection to the building concerned but in relation to another site. The six-storey building in the Rimal neighbourhood in which the office of the Anadolu Agency was located also housed Hamas’ prisoners affairs office, its general security apparatus and its military intelligence. The BBC apparently did not find it remarkable for a ‘news agency’ to have office space in the same building as a terrorist organisation.  

One of the images used by the BBC to illustrate this article was captioned “Rafah was one of the Gaza locations targeted by Israel”.

The BBC did not bother to inform its audiences that what was targeted was in fact not the town of “Rafah” but a cross-border tunnel dug by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad which infiltrated Israeli territory.  

As we see the BBC’s framing of this story is shaped by the omission of relevant information and marred by inaccuracy.

Related Articles:

BBC News again promotes false claims concerning death of Gaza baby

 

 

 

Hizballah leader dispels BBC WS presenter’s ‘wondering’

When we reviewed the BBC’s coverage of Operation Northern Shield earlier this month we noted that on December 4th 2018 listeners to BBC World Service radio heard Razia Iqbal suggest that Israel’s presentation of the purpose of multiple tunnels quarried through solid limestone under an international border by a terror group dedicated to Israel’s destruction might be made up.

Iqbal: “Well given that a war with Israel would not be in the interests of Hizballah, one wonders about the…err…the accuracy or the factual accuracy of those tunnels being potentially used for the way in which Israel is alleging that Hizballah might use them.”

Ms Iqbal was no doubt interested to learn from Hizballah’s leader, during a long interview he gave to the al Mayadeen network last week, that she can stop ‘wondering’ about the purpose of those tunnels.

As outlets including the Times of Israel reported:

“He confirmed Israeli leaders’ accusations that “Part of our plan for the next war is to enter the Galilee, a part of our plan we are capable of, God willing. The important thing is that we have this capability and we have had it for years.””

BBC audiences have to date heard nothing about Nasrallah’s acknowledgement of the existence and purpose of the cross-border tunnels or the UN Middle East envoy’s recent statement at the UN Security Council concerning the failure to grant UNIFIL access to those tunnels on the Lebanese side.

Hence BBC World Service radio audiences around the globe remain under the misleading impression of this story created by a former arts correspondent with no significant experience in Middle East affairs who apparently thinks she knows better than the Israeli intelligence services.

Related Articles:

An overview of BBC reporting on Operation Northern Shield

BBC News website still not sure who dug Lebanon border tunnels

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the first part of Mishal Husain’s BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme interview (from 2:09:59 here) with the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, on January 18th focused on the topic of medical services in the Gaza Strip. Husain then changed the topic to the subject of the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting which she had previously euphemistically described as “protests”.

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

Husain: “Why do you use live ammunition against people who are inside the Gaza side of the boundary fence with Israel?”

Regev: “If people are storming the fence, trying to break through to our side of the border – as the leader of Hamas said, their goal is to tear down the fence, enter Israel and kill our people – then we will stop them. People are launching Molotov cocktails and people are shooting. If people are launching incendiary devices to burn our fields, burn our…”

Husain [interrupts]: “Yes but you’re saying quite a few different things ‘cos storming the fence…OK…let me just give you an example of someone who presumably was considered to be storming the fence. There are pictures of a 14 year-old called Othman Helles who, with a group of other boys – and it’s very clear that they’re a very young age, this was last summer – they go up to the fence. He puts his hand on the top of the fence and immediately there’s a bullet that hits him in the chest and he dies on the spot. Now it is apparent to anyone looking at those pictures – as it would have been to the Israeli soldier who fired that shot – that these were children. Why were they shot?”

Regev: “I think if you are trying to break down the fence, if you’re trying to – as Hamas itself declared – tear through the fence, go to those Israeli communities…”

Husain [interrupts]: “You put your hand on the top of a fence, you’re a child and you’re shot dead by an Israeli soldier.”

As Mishal Husain should be aware, her portrayal of that story does not align with the account of the same incident given by her colleague Tom Bateman to Radio 4 listeners in August 2018.

Bateman: “A BBC crew in Gaza was filming as Othman Helles, away from the fence, used a sling to throw a stone towards Israeli soldiers. A few people burned tyres. Later the 14 year-old walked alongside the fence, put a hand and a foot on it and pulled himself up about a foot off the ground. He was hit with a single shot to the chest. Nineteen of those killed since the end of March have been under the age of 18. The number of children with bullet wounds is more than 600 according to the UN’s humanitarian affairs agency [UN OCHA – Ed.] which bases its recent figures on those of Gaza’s health ministry [i.e. Hamas – Ed.].”

Husain of course did not bother to inform listeners that when Othman Helles tried to climb the border fence, Hamas had been deliberately using youths to sabotage the border fence throughout the weeks of violent rioting and that among those killed under the age of 18 were operatives of terror factions and others linked (e.g. by family) to such factions.

Regev: “First of all you’re talking about a combat situation where hundreds if not thousands of people brought in by Hamas, paid for by Hamas, are storming the border fence, trying to break it down. Countless incidents where they actually had broken through the fence with their wire cutters…”

BBC Radio 4’s self-appointed military expert interjected:

Husain [interrupts]: “Have you ever thought of arresting people?”

Regev: “We do arrest people when we can. We do arrest people when we can but I think if you look at the film from those violent riots at the border, it’s clearly orchestrated by Hamas, it’s clearly violent in intent. The goal – as articulated by Hamas itself – is to break in and kill our people.”

Husain: “But there are people being…there are people being shot dead far inside the fence. I mean I’ve been to the fence and I’ve seen…”

Regev: “So have I.”

Husain: “…there are women – you’ve been to one side. I’ve been to the other side where people are gathering. But there are women there. There are children there. There are people there who are just seeing what they’re doing and there are people far inside the fence who are sometimes hit by live ammunition but also by tear gas canisters. There was a 13 year-old who died from being hit on the head with a tear gas can.”

Regev: “Mishal, I’d like to ask you the following question: everyone who listens to this programme, everyone who knows anything knows that that is a war zone. So why are you busing women and children into a combat zone? And I’d ask one further question…”

With her ‘objectivity’ and ‘impartiality’ on full view Husain interrupted her interviewee yet again:

Husain [interrupts]: “It’s a combat zone though because you’re using live ammunition – that’s why it’s a combat zone.”

Regev: “It’s a combat zone because we are protecting our border against people who are trying to use explosives and other weapons to break in so as to kill our people.”

Husain: “So you don’t…when you hear about the children for example or the medics – there was a young medic who also died inside, inside the fence – when you hear about people like that who’ve paid for being at the fence with their lives, do you never have any kind of qualms about the policy that Israel’s pursuing?”

Regev: “I don’t want to see any innocent person caught up in the cross-fire between us and Hamas: I want to be clear about that. But I’d ask you the following question: in Gaza we pulled out. We redeployed behind the 1967 line which is from the international community’s point of view the recognised border. If we can’t defend that border, what border would you have us defend?”

Husain: “The question is how you defend it and the tactics that you chose to use to defend it.”

Regev: “We are preventing – so far successfully, thank goodness – people, terrorists, from entering our communities and killing our people. You spoke to the Israelis at the southern border who live in fear of terrorists coming across the border and killing them and their children. It is our obligation as a government to protect our people and we will do so.”

Husain did indeed speak to Israelis living near the Gaza border during her December visit but as readers may recall, her main interest – as expressed in 60% of her questions – was asking them about Palestinians.

Husain then changed the subject.

Husain [2:20:59]: “Let’s talk about another border: the border with…eh…in northern Israel – the border with Lebanon – where recently you found tunnels that you say have been dug by Hizballah. Ahm…given Hizballah’s links to Iran and the wider situation in the Middle East, how do you feel about President Trump – who Mr Netanyahu is so close to – deciding to pull US troops out of Syria and the…and also saying that Iranian leaders can do what they want in that country?”

After Mark Regev had answered that question and a subsequent one – “So does President Trump’s decision make Israel less safe?” – Husain closed the interview.

As we see Mishal Husain once again used this interview to advance her chosen narratives concerning Israeli counter-terrorism measures while both promoting inaccurate claims and withholding crucial background information from BBC audiences.

We await with interest the ‘Today’ programme’s interview with the Egyptian ambassador to the UK on the topic of the effects of his country’s counter-terrorism measures on life in the Gaza Strip, the interview with the PLO envoy to the UK on the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s withholding of medicines, permits for medical treatment in Israel, salaries and funding for fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip and of course the interview with a Hamas representative on the topic of the group’s prioritisation of terrorism over social and health care, clean water supplies and sewage treatment for the citizens of the Gaza Strip.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

BBC Radio 4’s selective framing of the “hardships” of Gaza Christians

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part four

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part five

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

The BBC’s monochrome framing of Gaza’s chronic utilities crisis

The common denominators in the BBC News website’s Gaza reporting

 

BBC News website still not sure who dug Lebanon border tunnels

On the evening of January 17th an article titled “Lebanon arrests US man for crossing illegally from Israel” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

While the account of that still sketchy story is much the same as that seen in other media reports, the BBC also found it appropriate to add the following unrelated information.

“Tensions have been high in the region in recent weeks, with the Israeli military launching an operation to destroy six “attack tunnels” under the border that it says were dug by Hezbollah. Hezbollah has not commented on the tunnels.”

Apparently the BBC is still not convinced that Hizballah dug those cross-border tunnels or of their purpose. Yet again however the corporation refrained from providing audiences with an alternative explanation for tunnels hundreds of meters long quarried through solid limestone under the international border by a terror group dedicated to Israel’s destruction. And once again the BBC inaccurately stated that the terror group “has not commented” when in fact Hizballah’s second in command did just that.

The article closed with the following claim:

“Hezbollah and Israel fought a war in 2006 in which more than 1,125 Lebanese, most of them civilians, and 159 Israelis, including 43 civilians, were killed.” [emphasis added]

The same statement previously appeared in two BBC News website reports relating to Operation Northern Shield:

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation  December 4th 2018

More lazy BBC reporting on Hizballah’s tunnels December 19th 2018

While the Lebanese authorities did not differentiate between civilians and combatants during the 2006 war, Lebanese officials did report even before the conflict was over that some 500 of the dead were Hizballah personnel and UN officials gave similar figures while Israeli estimates stand at around 600 (with 450 identified by name: see page 55 here).

In August 2006 the BBC News website acknowledged that “there are no reliable figures” for the number of Hizballah combatants killed in the war that had just ended at the time. Nevertheless, the BBC now promotes a narrative that portrays Lebanese casualties during the 2006 war as “mostly civilians” despite there being no evidence of its having been able to independently verify that claim.

Related Articles:

An overview of BBC reporting on Operation Northern Shield

Weekend long read

1) At the Times of Israel Professor Avi Bell asks “Is ‘East Jerusalem’ Palestinian Territory?“.

“Logic, it seems, is not the currency of a successful legal strategy in international courts. The politicized ICJ may bow to Palestinian demands to call Jerusalem a “corpus separatum” even as the politicized ICC bows to Palestinian demands to recognize “East Jerusalem” as “occupied Palestinian territory.” Experience teaches that Palestinian claims need not persuade or even be logically consistent to succeed, as long as they aim at disadvantaging Israel. The tragedy is that the ICC and ICJ are now joining hands in helping the PLO make a mockery of international law.”

2) The ITIC discusses “Security Council Resolution 1701 and Its Systematic Violation by Hezbollah and Iran“.

“The key paragraphs of Resolution 1701 and the security arrangements relating to the area of Lebanon south of the Litani River have not been enforced during the twelve years since the Second Lebanon War. The Lebanese government is not the sole sovereign in Lebanon as determined by the resolution, and the weapons of the Lebanese army are not the only weapons south of the Litani River (or in all Lebanon). Hezbollah’s military infrastructure, which is deployed in south Lebanon and in the north, was reconstructed and upgraded after the Second Lebanon War. The tunnels recently exposed on the Israeli border are further manifestations of the lack of the resolution’s enforcement. The area south of the Litani River was not demilitarized. Hezbollah continues as its main military power, despite the routine security activities in south Lebanon of the Lebanese army, supported by UNIFIL. Iran continues smuggling weapons into Lebanon by air, by sea and overland, and the Lebanese government makes no real attempt to stop it.”

3) At the INSS Raz Zimmt assesses “A Year of Protests in Iran“.

“The wave of protests that erupted in December 2017-January 2018 in dozens of cities in Iran ebbed after about two weeks, but continued – albeit with less intensity and on a smaller scale – throughout the year. The continuation of the protests reflects the intensity of public frustration that has grown against the background of a deteriorating economic situation and the widening gap between the public and the regime; it is further fed by the citizens’ growing distrust of the political establishment and its failure to provide solutions for their distress. Looking ahead, the deterioration of the economic situation, together with the fundamental problems of the Islamic Republic, contain potential for a future protest movement. However, whether such a movement will become a real threat to stability depends on the regime’s ability to overcome its basic weaknesses, to unite the middle class with the workers, to improve organization at a national level, and to raise political demands that undermine the very existence of the Islamic regime. Iran has faced considerable economic challenges in the past. Over the years the public has been able to adjust to difficult situations, and the regime still has the means to suppress any protests that show signs of spreading. At this stage, it appears that the regime is unable to prevent the continuation of protest, but at the same time, the demonstrators are unable to undermine the foundations of the regime.”

4) Col. Richard Kemp’s submission on behalf of the High Level Military Group to the ‘United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 Protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’ (the ‘Great Return March’) is available here.

“The terms of this mandate are self-evidently biased against the State of Israel and the IDF. The context cited: ‘the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests’ make clear that the UNHRC either failed to understand what was happening on the ground or deliberately misrepresented the reality. In addition, the Commission’s mandate terms the Gaza Strip ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’, which it is not. This gives us cause for concern that the COI which has accepted this biased mandate will fail to produce a fair and objective report into these events. This concern is reinforced by the history of anti-Israel bias by the UNHRC and previous COIs into violence in Gaza.”

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

In two previous posts concerning the December 17th ‘Today’ programme live broadcast from the Gaza Strip (here and here) we saw how well-worn BBC themes were promoted in that programme.

In a third ten minute-long segment (from 1:16:27 here) listeners once again heard from representatives of international organisations rather than the “people on both sides of the divide” as promised by presenter Mishal Husain.

The two themes of blaming the economic and humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip on counter-terrorism measures employed by Israel (with a cursory mention of Egypt) and providing unquestioning and context-free promotion of UNRWA were repeated in that segment too.

Husain began with misrepresentation of a press release put out by UNOCHA, claiming that its appeal for funding is intended to provide aid to the entire population of the Gaza Strip. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “As the United Nations appeals for funds to support 2 million Palestinians who live here [Gaza] saying that living conditions are deplorable, the UK has today pledged £5 million in emergency food aid.”

The UNOCHA statement actually describes the scope of its appeal thus:

“The 2019 HRP appeals for $350 million to provide basic food, protection, health care, shelter, water and sanitation to 1.4 million Palestinians, who have been identified as most in need of humanitarian interventions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”

In other words, Husain once again misled BBC audiences by claiming that all 2 million residents of the Gaza Strip are in need of foreign aid. She continued with repetition of previously heard messaging.

Husain: “But the dire economic reality is taking immense toll on people’s lives. Unemployment is at 50%. Even those who have jobs often receive only half their salary. The economy has been impacted by a blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt citing security reasons. Incomes have also been affected by Palestinian Authority sanctions on Hamas which has been in full control of Gaza since 2007. In recent weeks aid from Qatar has been making a difference but it will only last till April.”

As was the case in the first hour of the programme, listeners were told nothing of the Hamas terrorism which has made counter-terrorism measures in the form of restrictions on the movement of people and dual-use goods necessary. Once again the very relevant issue of Hamas’ prioritisation of terrorism over the well-being of Gaza’s civilian population went unmentioned. Likewise the topic of “Palestinian Authority sanctions on Hamas” was not expanded and so listeners were unable to comprehend what aspects of the situation in the Gaza Strip (e.g. electricity shortages, shortages of medicines, unpaid wages) have been brought about by internal Palestinian disputes rather than by Israeli actions.

Husain similarly failed to tell listeners why there are still Palestinian refugees in a place that has been ruled by Palestinians for over 13 years before re-introducing her next guest.

Husain: “More than half of Gaza’s population are registered refugees and Matthias Schmale – head of Gaza operations for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – took me to see one of the eight camps in this small stretch of land.”

During Husain’s walkabout with Schmale listeners heard that “more than 90% of the population don’t have access to safe drinking water” and that “the desalination system in Gaza has broken down” because of “electricity”. No effort was made to clarify the full background to those statements or to explain that – as the BBC knows – the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip (and resulting problems with water and sewage) has nothing to do with “the blockade”.

Listeners heard more repetition of this programme’s prime messaging.

Husain: “When you say that people are living in poverty, why is that?”

Schmale: “The answer to that is twelve years of blockade. We live in a place that is very small; 40 kms by 6 to 12 kms in width and there’s almost 2 million people living in this constrained space and it’s completely sealed off from the rest of the world.”

Husain: “Hamas is governing Gaza. Shouldn’t it be providing for people here rather than you?”

Schmale: “Yes, I think the responsibility of host authorities is to cater to essentials – provide essential services like electricity, like water, like proper sewage and I think the fact that much of that is non-functional is a reflection of ten years of failed government by the Hamas authorities.”

That of course would have been the ideal moment for Mishal Husain to explain to listeners how Hamas has spent millions of dollars on the construction of cross-border attack tunnels and other terror infrastructure but instead listeners heard about “warm winter sunshine”. Husain likewise avoided the highly relevant topic of Hamas terrorism in the part of her conversation with Schmale concerning fishing.

Husain: “There’s a young man I can see in a small boat just beneath us by the water’s edge. What about fishing? Can people make a living from fishing?”

Schmale: “One of the constant debates with Israel is the fishing zone because in order to fish for safe fish that are not contaminated by the water we see coming out of that pipe you need to be a distance out and they say…”

Husain: “How far are they allowed to go out?”

Schmale: “At the moment 3 miles and 3 miles is not enough.”

Husain then did another pointless tick of the impartiality box which contributed nothing to audience understanding.

Husain: “Israel says the blockade is maintained for security reasons and indeed Egypt also blockades on Gaza’s other border.”

Husain and Schmale visited an UNRWA food distribution centre in the Shati refugee camp.

Schmale: “About 60% of the million people that get food from us [are] living with abject poverty as we call it. That means on about a dollar – just a bit more than a dollar – a day. So about 600 thousand people really depend on this food. They would not survive if they didn’t have this.” […]

Husain: “Who pays for all of this food?”

Schmale: “The biggest donor until the beginning of this year was the United States. For Gaza we need roughly $110 million per year. Last year – 2017 – we got 90 million of 110 million from the United States. 80 million of that was food. As a result of their dramatic cut in the beginning of the year, we ran out of money for this at the end of June. We were only able to continue it and what you’re seeing today because the rest of the organisation [the UN] gave us an advance. We took a loan.” […]

Husain: “So what are you going to do in the long run?”

Schmale: “My hope is that appeals to the international community to prevent Gaza sliding into a Yemen-style situation of massive hunger will be heard.”

Remarkably, listeners were then told that the situation in the Gaza Strip is not connected to armed conflict.

Husain: “You’ve worked all over the world. What do you think of what you see here? How does it compare with what you see elsewhere?”

Schmale: “The disasters I have encountered were either natural – a tsunami, an earthquake – or man-made in terms of war. This is the first time I’m confronted with a humanitarian crisis that is entirely man-made as a result of the blockade. But if people had their own jobs and earned their own money, which they could have, we would not need to do this. Natural disasters are uncontrollable. This is controllable.”

The interview closed with the repetition of a statement from Schmale that had already been heard earlier on in the programme.

Husain: “If there was a different security situation – Israel would say it’s not possible with the current reality, the current stance of Hamas towards it.”

Schmale: “I understand the security argument but I also think that we need to be very careful not to put the entire 2 million population into that basket. You know I would claim that the Israelis know so well what goes on in here and know who the potential people are that would hold a security threat to them. If they wanted to they could with reasonable safety let the peace-loving population go out and earn a living for themselves.”

Once again listeners did not hear any Israeli response to the idea that Gaza residents should and could be allowed to work in Israel “with reasonable safety” – despite the past history of dozens of terror attacks perpetrated by workers from the Gaza Strip.

With UNRWA’s politicised messaging having gone completely unchallenged and with no effort having been made to provide vital background information concerning that organisation and its mission, Hamas terrorism, Hamas’ financial prioritisation of terrorism over civilian welfare and the Hamas-Fatah split, Husain then handed over to the BBC’s economic correspondent who – as we shall see in the next post – interviewed yet another person who does not fall into the “ordinary people” category.  

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

One to listen out for tomorrow on BBC Radio 4

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the Gatestone Institute Khaled Abu Toameh discusses “The Hamas Plan to Take the West Bank“.

“It is clear by now that Hamas is behind some of the recent terror attacks against Israelis in the West Bank. These attacks serve the interests of Hamas and its friends and sponsors, especially the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization – and Iran.

Hamas and its allies have a plan, and they are not even keeping it a secret – to export their “armed struggle” against Israel beyond the Gaza Strip and ultimately to take control of the West Bank. […]

This stance by Hamas points at two important factors; first, that Hamas and its allies are openly working and encouraging the eruption of a new anti-Israel uprising in the West Bank; and, second, that Hamas and its friends have been emboldened by the recent failure of the UN General Assembly to adopt a US-sponsored resolution condemning Hamas and other Palestinian groups for firing rockets at Israel and inciting violence.”

2) The JCPA’s Yoni Ben Menachem takes a look at recent counter-terrorism operations.

“In a joint operation with Israel’s counter-terrorism unit, the Israel Security Agency (ISA) achieved a major coup on December 12, 2018, when it managed to eliminate terrorist Ashraf Naalwa, who was in hiding at the Askar refugee camp near Nablus.

According to security sources, the terrorist was armed with a Carlo submachine gun, and he planned to carry out another terror attack. He was killed at the time of his arrest. Palestinian security elements on the scene arrested another three brothers from the Bushkar family, who sheltered him in their home. […]

Hamas took him under its wing and called upon the residents of the West Bank to help him hide. Hamas claimed that he was “a symbol of the resistance” who managed to defy the Israelis, and posted pictures of him and made appeals on social media networks to emulate his actions.”

3) At the INSS Yoram Schweitzer and Ofek Riemer analyse Operation Northern Shield.

“On December 4, 2018, the IDF launched Operation Northern Shield to destroy Hezbollah’s cross-border tunnels between Israel and Lebanon. Israel announced with much fanfare the existence of the tunnels and the operation to destroy them, following intelligence surveillance of a number of years. The operation is underway via a well thought-out plan that combines intelligence exposure, engineering-based targeted action, and cognitive and diplomatic activity, all of which demonstrate clearly to Lebanon in general and Hezbollah in particular the aims and scope of the operation. The goal is both to minimize the risk of misunderstanding Israeli measures and to mobilize international support for the operation. The decision regarding the timing of the operation was based on operational, technological, and intelligence considerations relating to when the tunnels stood to become operationally viable, as well as Israeli domestic political considerations.”

4) Writing at the Tablet, Tony Badran takes a wider look at the backdrop to that operation.

“Strategically, though, the tunnels are the lesser part of the threat that is being posed to Israel by Iran and its proxies. The more pressing element is Hezbollah’s missile capability. Specifically, with Iranian assistance, Hezbollah has embarked on what Israeli officials refer to as the “missile precision project”—an effort to upgrade its large arsenal of rockets with guidance systems, increasing their accuracy, and thereby changing the severity of the threat they pose.

Iran and Hezbollah have been developing and deploying their guided missile project both in Lebanon and Syria, where, over the past seven years, the Iranians and Hezbollah have increased their military deployment and entrenchment. Iranian-led and Hezbollah forces and infrastructure are now positioned throughout Syria, in key strategic areas including along the Lebanese-Syrian and Iraqi-Syrian borders, as well as in southern Syria, near the border with Israel. It is clear that the combined threat of Iran’s positioning on Israel’s northern borders with Lebanon and Syria—as well as Gaza—is a strategic one. Just look at a map.”