Accuracy, impartiality and context lacking in BBC Two film on Gaza

BBC Two has recently been showing a four-part series titled “Mediterranean with Simon Reeve” which will be available on BBC iPlayer for the next five months.

“Simon Reeve embarks on an extraordinary four-part journey around the Mediterranean, uncovering the wild extremes that lie behind the tourist veneer.”

In episode two of the series (also available here) its writer and presenter visited Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and the Gaza Strip.

“Travelling south, Simon’s next stop is Israel, a country that perhaps more than any other depends on the Mediterranean for its survival. With few friends in the region, Israel has to transport most of its goods by sea. Simon joins the Israeli Navy who patrol the coast and protect the country’s offshore oil reserves using the latest military weaponry and technology, including unmanned, combat-ready drone boats.

From Israel Simon crosses one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders to reach the Gaza Strip. Palestinians and Israelis have endured a seemingly endless cycle of violence and in Gaza the result has been devastating destruction. Many building materials are restricted by an Israeli blockade on Gaza, but Simon meets an inspiring young woman who has helped reconstruction efforts by inventing an ingenious method of making bricks from ash. It’s a rare ray of hope in one of the most troubled regions of the Mediterranean.”

Informed viewers may well have raised an eyebrow at Reeve’s failure to mention the relevant context of UN Security Council resolutions forbidding the presence of armed militias in the area of southern Lebanon he described as “territory controlled by Hizballah” while en route to visit the terror organisation’s ‘museum’.

In addition to a trip on a navy boat, Reeve’s trip to Israel included a desalination plant and a visit to “party town” Tel Aviv. At the end of his subsequent trip to the Gaza Strip Reeve declared:

“So much about the Arab-Israeli conflict is about picking a side and personally I refuse to. My heart breaks for the suffering of the Jewish people throughout history. My heart breaks for the suffering of the Palestinians. So many opportunities for real, lasting peace have been lost here and we see two sides that seem in many ways to be moving further apart, not closer together.”

That monologue however came after viewers have been presented (from 42:27) with a fifteen-minute context-free, politicised and, in parts, inaccurate view of the Gaza Strip.

After a brief reference to “missiles launched from Gaza” Reeve told viewers:

“I crossed one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders. So this is a long walk through a cage – a caged passageway that takes us from the very modern, pretty wealthy state of Israel to the much poorer and densely packed Gaza Strip. I’ve never been through a border quite like this. It is extraordinary in every possible sense and – my God – you look across here…look at the barrier that encircles Gaza. It’s a very forbidding, foreboding place to walk towards, quite frankly. There’s a…there’s a dehumanisation of the people who live here. The whole process makes you feel like you’re entering the cage of the wild animals.”

The concrete barrier near the Erez Crossing pointed out by Reeve of course does not ‘encircle’ Gaza at all. Reeve however did not bother to interview anyone from Israeli communities such as Netiv HaAsara which are protected from Palestinian terrorism by that barrier or make any effort to explain its purpose.

Having entered the Gaza Strip, Reeve teamed up with “our guide in Gaza” – failing to clarify that he is a BBC employee before viewers heard Rushdi Abu Alouf promote political propaganda.

Abu Alouf: “Of course they keep calling Gaza the biggest open-air prison which is true because it’s closed from four sides. So Israel is calling this strip of land is like a hostile entity.”

Viewers got no explanation as to why Israel declared the Gaza Strip a hostile entity in September 2007 and Reeve next misled BBC audiences with an inaccurate portrayal of how and when Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority.

Reeve: “Since elections in 2006 Gaza has been controlled by Hamas – a militant Islamic group considered terrorists by Israel and many Western governments.”

Viewers also heard a ‘creative’ portrayal of the purpose of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad military position.

Abu Alouf: “They operate in this area because it’s not far from the border so they always try to be ready for any Israeli escalation.”

Audiences were given an inaccurate (even according to previous problematic BBC reporting) account of civilian casualty figures during the 2014 conflict (47:55).

Reeve: “Israelis and Palestinians have endured endless cycles of violence. Here militants can fire rockets into Israel. Israel can attack with overwhelming force. Weeks of conflict here in 2014 between Israel and Palestinians left two thousand civilians dead, including an estimated 500 children.” [emphasis added]

He went on:

Reeve: “Eighteen thousand homes were destroyed. Israel restricts the supply of many building materials like cement into Gaza – Israel says to prevent Hamas building tunnels for attacks.” [emphasis in the original]

Reeve appears to have sourced the number 18,000 from UNOCHA – where that figure is presented as including partly damaged structures rather than the number (11,000 according to other UN reports) of dwellings “destroyed”.  Of course millions of tons of dual-use goods including cement have been imported into the Gaza Strip since the 2014 conflict under a UN supervised mechanism. Reeve made no effort to inform audiences of Hamas’ proven misappropriation of construction materials for terrorism purposes that include cross-border tunnels.

Failing to explain to viewers why “Gaza is under blockade” or why electricity supplies only run for four hours a day, Reeve gave audiences a simplistic view of Gaza’s economy which failed to include any mention of the relevant topics of the policies and actions of Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.

Reeve: “But the blockade here is devastating Gaza’s economy. Gaza now has among the highest unemployment rates in the world and it’s believed most of its people survive on less than $2 a day.”

Reeve: “But today Gaza’s fishing industry is in crisis. It’s thought less than half of Gaza’s fishermen are still putting out to sea. Across the Mediterranean fish numbers are in steep decline. Here fishermen face additional challenges.”

Viewers were even told by a Gaza fisherman that fish do not come any closer than nine miles from the shore – with no challenge from Reeve.

Reeve: “This part of the Mediterranean is completely empty.”

Fisherman: “Fish can only be found nine miles out. The Israeli army only allows us to go out six miles.”

Although Reeve acknowledged that he had been unable to verify an account of an incident in which the same fisherman claimed to have been shot by Israeli forces, the BBC aired it anyway. No effort was made to introduce the relevant context of arms smuggling by sea to the Gaza Strip.

With no mention having been made of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip thirteen years ago, audiences were led to believe that Israel is “the occupier”.

Abu Alouf: “Look for young people in Gaza the only thing [they] know about the Israelis is that they are the occupier who come in tanks and aeroplanes and bomb Gaza.”

Simon Reeve ended his visit to the Gaza Strip by telling viewers of this film – categorised in the credits as a “current affairs production” – that:

Reeve: “The situation here is utterly shocking and maddening.”

Significantly, BBC Two audiences heard nothing whatsoever about Hamas’ agenda of destroying the Jewish state – or whether or not Reeve finds that and the terrorism against Israeli civilians which aims to bring that agenda about “utterly shocking and maddening”.

Clearly impartiality and accuracy were not at the forefront of priorities for the makers of this context-lite (especially in comparison to Reeve’s previous efforts to explain the Cyprus conflict) segment of Simon Reeve’s film.

Related Articles:

BBC News continues to promote dubiously sourced Gaza statistics

BBC continues to avoid independent verification of Gaza casualty ratios

More context-free BBC portrayal of Gaza construction imports

 

 

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BBC continues to ignore Hizballah violations in south Lebanon

Back in June 2017 we noted that the BBC had ignored a story about Hizballah setting up outposts close to the Israel-Lebanon border, under the guise of an environmental group, in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701.

This week – as the Jerusalem Post and others reported – the IDF announced the discovery of another such outpost, this time near Kibbutz Misgav Am.

al-Adisa from Misgav Am

“The IDF has accused Hezbollah of once again violating United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 after uncovering an observation post used by the Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist group along Israel’s northern border.

The group attempted to conceal the post – located in the al-Adisa village opposite Kibbutz Misgav Am, about one kilometer from the border – under the guise of the fictitious environmental NGO “Green Without Borders.”

The IDF says it was the sixth such post discovered in the past couple of years. Similar to those uncovered last year, this one also acted as a forward observation post to gather intelligence on IDF troops. […]

According to the military, while it has voiced its concerns to the United Nations about the area, the terrorist group has prevented members of the UN and United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) from investigating the area, claiming that it is private land.

“This is a blatant, daily violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which prohibits any armed military presence south of the Litani River except for the Lebanese army and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon,” the army said.”

Not too long after it was first revealed that Hizballah was using a fictitious ‘green’ NGO to mask its activities along the border a new BBC correspondent arrived in Beirut. BBC audiences have however seen no reporting on last year’s story or – to date – the latest one concerning Hizballah’s ‘Green Without Borders’ front. 

The absence of up to date BBC reporting on the situation in southern Lebanon and UNIFIL’s failure to implement UNSC resolution 1701 obviously means that if and when conflict between Israel and Hizballah does break out again, the corporation’s audiences – as well as the journalists it sends to cover the events – will lack the background information crucial to proper understanding of that story. 

Related Articles:

Another UN SC resolution violation goes unreported by the BBC

Will the new man in Beirut improve the BBC’s record of reporting?

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

BBC report on Hizballah rockets omits relevant background

Visitors to the BBC News website on September 20th were informed that “Hezbollah ‘has precision rockets despite Israeli strikes in Syria’“.

“The leader of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah movement says it has acquired sophisticated rockets despite Israel’s efforts to prevent it obtaining them.

Hassan Nasrallah told supporters it did not matter what the Israelis did to try to cut supply routes because the group already possessed “precision rockets”.

He did not produce evidence of this.”

Concealing the fact that Hizballah deliberately started the Second Lebanon War in July 2006 by conducting a cross-border raid and firing missiles at Israeli civilian communities, the report went on:

“Israel, which in 2006 fought a war with Hezbollah, has conducted air strikes in Syria aimed at stopping Iran supplying its ally with advanced weaponry. […]

In another speech on Thursday morning, the Hezbollah leader declared that the dozens of Israeli strikes aimed at preventing it from acquiring rockets with highly accurate targeting capacity had failed because it had “already been achieved”.

“No matter what you do to cut the route, the matter is over and the Resistance possesses precision and non-precision rockets and weapons capabilities.””

So as we see, the BBC is fully aware of the fact that since 2006 Iran has made considerable efforts to supply the terror group Hizballah with “advanced weaponry”. It would therefore obviously have been appropriate for the BBC to go on to inform its audience that such efforts breach more than one UN Security Council resolution, including that which brought the 2006 war to an end.

“At the end of the Second Lebanon War, the U.S. and France drafted the text of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which was adopted unanimously on August 11, 2006, with Russian and Chinese support. Article 15 states that the resolution prohibits all UN member states from allowing their nationals to engage in “the sale or supply to any entity or individual in Lebanon of arms and related material of all types.” In short, Iranian weapons transfers to Hizbullah are a violation of a decision of the UN Security Council. Several years earlier, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1559, which also called for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias on the soil of Lebanon.”

Given the BBC’s dismal record of reporting on violations of UN SC resolution 1701, it is unsurprising to see that once again audiences reading this article were denied key information that would enable them to “engage fully” with this issue.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

BBC failure to provide context in Hizballah weapons stories continues

BBC News yawns over another violation of UNSC resolution 1701

BBC’s Hizballah omissions continue to blight reporting

BBC WS ‘special report’ claims Israel attacked Hizballah in 2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News describes something it failed to report last week as ‘rare’

On the afternoon of August 2nd a report appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the superfluously punctuated headline “Israel ‘thwarts IS attack’ on Golan Heights“.

That unnecessary qualification continued in the report’s opening sentences: [emphasis added]

Israel says it has killed seven suspected Islamic State (IS) militants who it says had crossed inside Israeli lines on the Golan Heights.

The Israeli military said it launched an air strike near a ceasefire line separating Israeli and Syrian sides of a demilitarised zone.”

The BBC’s report also failed to give readers a clear picture of where the incident took place:

“Israel said the group was around 200m (656ft) from an Israeli fence in the zone, delineated by Israel and Syria in 1974.”

As Ynet and other local media outlets reported:

“The incident began around 10:30pm on Wednesday, when the terrorists were spotted around 200 meters from the border fence, just north of the Israel-Syria-Jordan border. […]

“Assad’s forces are currently in the final stages of recapturing of the Syrian Golan and are operating in the south of the Golan against ISIS-linked groups, and as a result of that we see ISIS fighters dispersed throughout the area near the border, as they flee the areas occupied by Assad,” IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said.”

BBC audiences were however given the impression that the fighting in the area is over:

“Syrian rebel fighters and government forces have clashed in the area, though President Bashar al-Assad has regained control of late.”

Readers of the BBC’s report were also told that:

“It is a rare attack by Israel on militants in the area, recently retaken by Syrian forces from IS and rebels.”

Israel of course responds to incidents that take place along that border and so the ‘rarity’ of Israeli actions depends on events initiated by others. The BBC itself reported an incident in November 2016 (albeit belatedly) when Israel responded to ISIS gunfire at a group of IDF soldiers.

The last of those ‘rare attacks’ took place nine days before this report was published, following a cross-border incident involving the same ISIS militia.

“Two rockets from Syria apparently landed in the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel Wednesday […]

 “We heard a whistling,” one local recalled. “And then a second whistling. And then we saw [one of the missiles] falling into the water, maybe 50 meters from the beach.”

The projectiles were believed to have been fired from the southern part of the Syrian Golan Heights, where the regime of Bashar Assad has been completing its campaign against the last rebel villages remaining in the area.

Military sources said late Wednesday they inclined to believe that the projectiles were fired by Islamic State jihadists at Syrian regime forces […]

Incoming rocket sirens blared across the Israeli Golan Heights, sending residents of the area scrambling to bomb shelters.”

The IDF later targeted the ISIS rocket launcher.

“Israeli defense officials believe ISIS launched the grad rockets at Israel as a provocation, in an effort to make Israel attack the Syrian army in retaliation. These assessments are based on the fact Assad’s army was attacking ISIS from the north and east, and so any fire to the west would have to be intentional. “

Seeing as the BBC completely ignored that attack at the time it is perhaps unsurprising that it now classifies the latest Israeli response as “rare”.

The BBC’s report closes:

“The BBC’s Middle East correspondent, Tom Bateman, who is in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, says that despite the infiltration, Israel sees Iranian forces loyal to President Assad as the biggest threat from inside Syria.

Israel says it will not allow Iran – Israel’s arch-foe – to strengthen its military presence in Syria – something Israel considers a direct threat.

Although Israel is not directly involved in the Syrian conflict, it has increasingly carried air strikes against Iranian assets and military personnel in Syria.”

Bateman did not bother to clarify to readers why Israel should consider Iranian entrenchment in Syria “a direct threat” or that Israeli strikes in Syria have for the most part been directed at Iranian weapons transfers –in breach of UN Security Council resolution 1701 – to its proxy terrorist group Hizballah.  

Related Articles:

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

 

BBC WS ‘special report’ claims Israel attacked Hizballah in 2006

The BBC’s Paul Moss has been visiting Lebanon and on May 14th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ aired his report (from 45:06 here) about the possibility of a war between Israel and Hizballah.

Apparently inspired by statements made by Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Moss’ report – including the introduction from Julian Marshall – is notable for the fact that it fails to inform listeners even once of the decidedly relevant fact that Hizballah is a terrorist organisation proscribed by many Western and Arab states alike.

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

Marshall: “With today’s bloodshed in Gaza it might be hard to imagine but there is the possibility of an even more serious conflict brewing on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. Last week Israel exchanged fire with Iranian forces in Syria and with their allies, the Lebanese group Hizballah. And today Hizballah’s leader suggested they could launch more attacks on Israel. What many people in Lebanon now fear is that the conflict could spread to their country. It happened before in 2016 [sic], leaving more than twelve hundred Lebanese dead. So could it happen again? From Beirut, Paul Moss reports.”

The BBC’s portrayal of the topic of Lebanese casualties during the Second Lebanon was has long been hallmarked by a glaring and consistent absence of any mention of Hizballah combatants. Although the Lebanese authorities did not differentiate between civilians and combatants during the 2006 war, Lebanese officials nevertheless reported even before the conflict was over that some 500 of the dead were Hizballah personnel. UN officials gave similar figures while Israeli estimates stand at around 600 (with 450 identified by name: see page 55 here).

Moss began his report in a shop in Lebanon where the shopkeeper allegedly struck up a conversation about a “deadly war” between Israel and Lebanon. Moss went on to give another euphemistic portrayal of Hizballah itself and also of its relationship with its patron Iran. Remarkably, he failed to make any mention of the fact that Iran supplies its proxy with both funds and weapons.

Moss: “It’s the kind of defiance which even the most mild-mannered Lebanese citizens tend to boast of. Yet there is a genuine worry here right now. The powerful Lebanese political and military group Hizballah has been fighting alongside its allies Iran and both groups have now come under fire from Israel. Israel in turn has been on the receiving end of rockets fired at the Golan Heights and today the Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned this would not be the only response Israel would get. All of these are threats which Israel seems unlikely to ignore.”

Listeners next heard from Lebanese journalist Patricia Khoder.

Khoder: “Israel would not accept Hizballah growing and Iran growing on its borders and this is what is happening for the time being. So at some point maybe there would be an Israeli attack, Israeli offensive in Lebanon.”

Moss then gave listeners an inaccurate portrayal of how the Second Lebanon war began. It was of course Hizballah that initiated the conflict by carrying out a cross-border raid into Israeli territory and concurrently fired missiles at Israeli civilian communities before any Israeli response took place.

Moss: “Patricia Khoder is a writer for L’Orient le Jour newspaper here. She was reporting when Israel last attacked Hizballah in Lebanon back in 2006 and fears Lebanon once again being the arena where this battle is played out – although this time, she says, Hizballah is better armed.”

Khoder: “We don’t have figures but Hizballah is saying that it has 100,000 weapons. Now, they fought in Syria and they were trained as an army and Iran also is training them and Israel would not accept this.”

Curiously, Moss showed no interest in informing listeners that those weapons were supplied to Hizballah by Iran – in violation of the UN SC resolution that brought the previous war between Israel and Hizballah to an end. Listeners did however hear some interesting advance framing:

Moss: “If there was a conflict, what could Hizballah possibly achieve from it? It would be just a defensive war, wouldn’t it?”

Khoder: “Personally I don’t think Hizballah would achieve a lot. It would be a horrible war that would put Lebanon on its knees.”

Listeners heard some ‘man in the street’ interviews with Hizballah supporters before Moss spoke to a member of Lebanon’s Kataeb party (Phalange) called Michel Ragien [phonetic].

Ragien: “They [Hizballah] follow the Iranian orders and if they consider that Iran is being threatened definitely Hizballah will act to cause the war. They will trigger it if they consider that it should be triggered. So now it’s a matter of tactics.”

Moss: “So what are you going to do? Are you going to try and stop Hizballah?”

Ragien: “No, no, no. Unfortunately the decision is in the hand of the Hizballah. They will choose the moment and the way.”

The report ended with more ‘man in the street’ interviews.  

In the programme’s synopsis Moss’ piece was described as “a special report from Lebanon”. It is of course difficult to see what is ‘special’ about an item that conceals the fact that Hizballah is a terrorist organisation, erases relevant repeated violations of more than one UN Security Council resolution and misinforms audiences with regard to how the previous war in Lebanon began. After all, BBC reports have been doing that for years.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

 

A French newspaper reports on a topic the BBC avoids

Despite the fact that the BBC has a permanent presence in Beirut, the last time its audiences saw any reporting from southern Lebanon was over three years ago. Last year, Hizballah violations of UNSC resolution 1701 received no coverage whatsoever.

BBC News yawns over another violation of UNSC resolution 1701

Another UN SC resolution violation goes unreported by the BBC

Calls for a review of the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon – UNIFIL – in August 2017 were not reported by the BBC in the English language until three weeks after the story broke.

The Jerusalem Post recently published an article which is based on a French newspaper’s interviews with UNIFIL soldiers based in south Lebanon.

“The UN force in Lebanon has accused Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army of hampering their work, which includes spying on the peacekeepers, in a report due to appear on the website of French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, on Friday.

 The report quotes a chief warrant officer for the French contingent as saying during an interview: “In the evening we never leave the barracks because the Lebanese forces are not friendly. […]

“We are caught in the aggressor’s grip. Doing the bare minimum has become a political choice,” the officer added.

A former liaison officer with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, who was only recently transferred to another post, told the newspaper that “when we would detect military activities in our area, especially near the Blue Line [border with Israel], the Lebanese Army would prevent us from posting observers. It is as if those decisions did not come from them. Everyone knows that Hezbollah is using the area for the next war.””

The dearth of up to date BBC reporting on the situation in southern Lebanon and UNIFIL’s failure to implement UNSC resolution 1701 obviously means that if and when conflict between Israel and Hizballah does break out again, the corporation’s audiences – as well as the journalists it sends to cover the events – will lack the insight crucial to understanding of the background and context to that story. 

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

A border dispute BBC audiences know nothing about

A border dispute BBC audiences know nothing about

A long-running dispute between Lebanon and Israel concerning land and maritime borders has recently been making headlines again – although those getting their news from the BBC would not be aware of that fact. The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s related visit to Beirut on February 15th (as part of a Middle East tour that was barely covered by the corporation) was not reported and neither were related threats from the head of a terrorist organisation.

As Ha’aretz reported:

“During a press conference in Beirut on Thursday, Tillerson, who arrived in Lebanon as part of his Mideast trip, discussed the growing tensions between Israel and Lebanon, and urged Lebanese leaders to ensure the border between the two countries remains calm.

Lebanon has an unresolved dispute with Israel over the territorial and maritime border issues, in particular concerning Block 9 in the Mediterranean sea which extends partly into waters claimed by Israel. Recently Lebanon has signed an offshore oil and gas exploration and production agreements for the contentious block.”

The US has been trying to mediate between Israel and Lebanon on that issue for some time – as explained in a comprehensive article by Oded Eran of the INSS.

“In late 2011, Israel, out of a willingness to compromise, began to look for diplomatic ways to resolve the developing dispute. In inter-ministerial consultations, the decision was taken not to grant new licenses for the area under dispute in order to facilitate a compromise solution. It was decided not to use UNIFIL as a channel for discussion between Israel and Lebanon, since the mandate of the Force does not refer to the maritime border, and Israel prefers to avoid UN mediation. The Israel interest in mediation led to several contacts by third parties, and ultimately American mediation was the preferred option.

In February 2012, State Department Special Envoy for Middle East Peace Frederic Hof, who was heavily involved in developments in Syria in the framework of the Arab Spring, undertook the task of mediation. Israel reiterated to him its willingness to resolve the dispute by reaching a compromise in direct talks with representatives of the Lebanese government. In April 2012, at separate meetings in London (in view of the Lebanese refusal to participate in a joint meeting), Hof submitted a proposed compromise involving division of the disputed area. On May 2, 2013, then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman approved the American proposal, even though it granted Lebanon a larger share of the area. To this day no official response from Lebanon has been received, although according to reports of US diplomats in contact with the Lebanese government, they discussed inter alia depositing the proposal with the UN. From this it appears that the proposal was acceptable to the Lebanese government.”

As the Times of Israel reported, the dispute also includes a barrier which is being constructed by Israel along its border with Lebanon.

“On Monday, Lebanese military officials told their Israeli counterparts during face-to-face talks that the border wall violates Lebanon’s sovereign territory.

Israel has been building the obstacle — made up of a collection of berms, cliffs and concrete barriers — for a long time, but it has only now angered Beirut.”

Prior to the US Secretary of State’s visit to Beirut:

“Lebanon’s top security body on Wednesday instructed the country’s military to confront any Israeli “aggression” on its land or maritime borders. […]

Hezbollah, a powerful terror group considered to have more military clout than the Lebanese army itself, recently threatened to open fire on IDF soldiers building the barrier, Israel’s Hadashot TV news reported last week.”

Of course under the terms of UN Security Council resolution 1701, the border area is supposed to be “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL”.  

The day after Mr Tillerson’s visit, Lebanon dismissed the US mediation efforts.

“The speaker of Lebanon’s parliament on Friday rejected a US proposal to resolve a maritime border dispute between the country and Israel.

“The proposal is unacceptable,” Nabih Berri was quoted as telling acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield by the official NNA news agency.”

And on the same day, the leader of the Hizballah terror organisation weighed in.

“Hezbollah on Friday urged Lebanon to stand firm in its offshore energy dispute with Israel and warned it could act against Israeli oil facilities if necessary, as the U.S. mediates between the two countries.

In a televised address, the leader of the heavily-armed, Iran-backed movement, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, described the issue as a “battle for all of Lebanon”.

“If Lebanon’s Higher Defence Council were to decide that (Israeli) offshore oil and gas plants…should be forbidden from working, I promise they would stop working within hours,” he told a rally.”

Yet oddly, while this dispute obviously has the potential to escalate into more than verbal sabre-rattling, BBC audiences are not even aware of its existence.

BBC WS ‘Weekend’ airs a confused report on Iranian drone story

Iran’s provision of weapons to Hizballah – sometimes via Syria – and Israeli efforts to prevent such transfers was common knowledge long before the civil war in Syria began in the spring of 2011.

In November 2009, for example, Israel intercepted the Francop which was carrying some 500 tons of weapons and ammunition.  

“According to the shipping documents, the cargo was originally loaded in Bandar Abbas, Iran, brought by another ship to the Egyptian port of Damietta, and then transloaded to the Francop, with an ultimate destination of Latakia, Syria. This destination was confirmed by Syria’s foreign minister, although he denied that the shipment included arms. […]

Following the preliminary search, the Israelis escorted the Francop to the port of Ashdod, where a complete search revealed the full extent of the arms shipment. Labels on the shipping containers and shipping documents, as well as markings on ammunition crates and the ammunition itself, established a clear link to various Iranian government organizations, including the Iranian state shipping line and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

In January 2010 – well over a year before the conflict in Syria broke out:

“…American intelligence services reported the transfer of 26 M-6002 missiles of Syrian manufacture to Hizbullah in Lebanon. These missiles, with a range of over 250 km., are intended to reinforce Hizbullah’s ability to strike at the Israeli home front if and when hostilities erupt. […]

Israeli and Western intelligence services have long been aware of Syrian and Iranian involvement in Hizbullah’s arms buildup. Damascus Airport has been identified as the transit point for airlifts of Iranian arms that were subsequently transferred to Hizbullah via the open Syrian-Lebanese border, under the supervision of the Syrian security services.”

Iran’s transfers of weapons to Hizballah – which of course breach more than one UN Security Council resolution, although the BBC regularly fails to inform audiences of that fact – did not cease after war broke out in Syria in March 2011. The BBC, however, has long depicted alleged Israeli efforts to thwart those transfers as being connected to the war in Syria and another example of that misleading portrayal was seen on February 10th in the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Weekend‘.

Listeners heard presenter Julian Worricker introduce the item (from 01:17 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Worricker: “We’ll also go live to Jerusalem fairly shortly in this half-hour in the light of the news that Israel is saying that one of its fighter jets has crashed after attacking Iranian targets in Syria, the pilots parachuting to safety in Israel.”

Worricker then turned to one of his studio guests – journalist Mary Dejevsky – citing her recent visit to Israel. Dejevsky described “the mood” in Israel as:

Dejevsky: “…a great feeling of security and success in terms of foreign policy that Israel had managed to stay aloof, mostly, from the war in Syria. But at the same time there was a kind of looming apprehension about the ever closer encroachment – as it was felt in Israel – of Iran and Iranian influence towards the Israeli border…”

She added:

Dejevsky: “…Israel has tried very hard to keep its intervention such as it has been – airstrikes on select convoys that they regard as coming from Iran and supplying Hizballah in Lebanon – that they’ve tried to keep those interventions as absolutely discreet as possible. And suddenly everything in a way has been blown open.”

Obviously the events that followed the incursion of an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace on the morning of February 10th – an incident which was notably absent from Worricker’s introduction – are not directly connected to previous alleged strikes by Israel against supplies of weapons to Hizballah.  Julian Worricker, however, went on to suggest to listeners that efforts to prevent Hizballah getting weapons are in fact connected to the war in Syria.

Worricker: “I was going to pick you up on your remark of “aloof, mostly”, just stressing the mostly because clearly strikes by Israel in Syria are not uncommon per se. You alluded to the particular targets they would always say that they are aiming for when they do it but clearly when a fighter plane comes down – even in Israeli territory – that clearly ups the ante.”

Later on in the same programme (from 11:49), Worricker spoke to the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem. After listeners had at last heard an accurate portrayal of the sequence of events that began with the infiltration of an Iranian UAV into Israeli airspace from Bateman, Worricker asked:

Worricker: “A word about Israeli action in Syria of this nature: how common has it been in recent times?”

Obviously airstrikes in response to a serious breach of Israel’s sovereignty by an Iranian UAV have not been “common” but Bateman’s response did not clarify that to listeners.

Bateman: “It is not uncommon and what Israel says is that it has two red lines for its engagement in Syria. They are cross-border fire that comes from Syria into the Golan Heights and what they describe as weapons transfers from Iranian forces to Hizballah – Lebanese militant fighters who are fighting inside Syria. They are the two triggers, if you like, that Israel says causes it to act inside Syrian territory – usually airstrikes – and they’re not uncommon. Israel rarely comments on them officially although a senior military figure said last year that the number was around a hundred of these attacks that have taken place over the last few years. So these things do happen. I think what is uncommon here of course is the event that this appears to have ended with: this Israeli jet coming down.”

Since 2013 the BBC has been telling its audiences – inaccurately – that Israel is “involved” in the conflict in Syria. As has been noted here in the past:

“In spite of the BBC’s suggestion to the contrary, Israel is not “involved in the conflict” in Syria. That conflict is a civil war between Assad loyalists (and their foreign allies) and anti-Assad rebels (and theirs) and Israel does not support one side or the other. Any actions which may have been taken by Israel are exclusively linked to the protection of its citizens.”

The BBC has also repeatedly downplayed the threats posed to Israel by the presence of Iran and Hizballah in Syria as well as their repeated aggressive rhetoric.

It perhaps therefore comes as no surprise to see that the BBC’s own journalists are unable to provide audiences with a lucid and informative account that distinguishes between the factors that lie behind the recent events in Israel and Syria and the separate topics of Iran’s supply of weapons to Hizballah in Lebanon and the civil war in Syria.

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BBC’s Hizballah omissions continue to blight reporting

On February 7th the BBC News website published an article concerning Syrian regime claims of an Israeli attack on a military site in Syria. Although the story has nothing to do with the civil war that has been raging in Syria for almost seven years, the BBC (not for the first time) chose to use a headline which suggests the contrary: “Syria war: Israel ‘strikes Damascus military complex’“.

“Israeli warplanes have fired missiles at a Syrian military position near the capital, Damascus, Syrian media report.

A Syrian military statement said its air defence systems blocked most of the missiles, but gave no further details.

A monitor said ammunition depots in Jamraya were hit. It is the location of a scientific facility where the West suspects chemical weapons are produced.”

Unlike many of the BBC’s previous reports on similar stories, this one managed to avoid amplifying the inevitable Assad regime propaganda against Israel.

Readers were told that:

“Israel, which has acknowledged carrying out at least 100 clandestine strikes in Syria since 2011, declined to comment.

Many of the Israeli strikes are believed to been aimed at preventing transfers of advanced weapons to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.

The Iran-backed group fought a war with Israel in 2006 and has sent thousands of fighters to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.”

However, as has repeatedly been the case in the past, the BBC did not bother to identify the parties transferring “advanced weapons” to Hizballah or to clarify the fact that Hizballah is a terrorist organisation rather than just a “movement” or a “group”. Neither did the article supply essential context by informing readers that such transfers of weapons are expressly forbidden under the terms of UNSC resolution 1701. The fact that Hizballah initiated the 2006 war is also not clarified to readers.

Obviously those all too regular omissions have a negative effect on reader understanding of this particular story and others.

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Can UK MPs turn to the BBC for accurate information on Hizballah?

In his latest report on “The week ahead in Parliament” the BBC’s parliamentary correspondent Mark D’Arcy notes that on January 25th the House of Commons will hold:

“…a general debate on proscription of Hezbollah, led by Labour MP Joan Ryan. She will argue that Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation, driven by an anti-Semitic ideology, and has had a role in destabilising Lebanon, and fighting in Syria. She wants the Government to end its policy of only proscribing Hezbollah’s so-called political wing.”

Two days ahead of that debate MPs were provided with a research briefing on the topic which explains the UK’s current position.

“The UK proscribes the military wing of Hizbollah as a terrorist group, but not the political side of the organisation. The UK Government has long held the view that Hizbollah’s military wing has been involved in conducting and supporting terrorism, and in March 2001, the Hizbollah External Security Organisation (ESO), part of the broader military wing of Hizbollah, was added to the list of proscribed organisations under the Terrorism Act 2000.

On 2 July 2008, Parliament passed The Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2008, extending the prohibition to the whole of the military wing of Hizbollah.

At the time, the Government emphasised that this would not affect Hizbollah’s political, social and humanitarian activities. The current Government has also confirmed that proscription is limited to Hizbollah’s military wing, and does not apply to the organisation’s political activities.”

The previous day another research briefing titled “Lebanon 2018” was also published by the House of Commons library. Both the reports provided in those briefings amplify a myth concerning Hizballah’s origin that is commonly promoted in BBC content.

“Hizbollah – or the Party of God – is a powerful political and military organisation of Shia Muslims in Lebanon. The group was formed, with backing from Iran, in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The group calls for the destruction of the state of Israel, regarding the whole of Palestine as occupied Muslim land.” [emphasis added]

Both those reports claim that:

“During the 2006 war, Hizbollah fired rockets deep into northern Israel. Since then their rocket arsenal has grown to maybe as many as 150,000 rockets with ranges up to 200km. Hizbollah also has armoured vehicles and some warplanes, adding up to a military strength that is certainly greater than the Lebanese Army’s and is comparable to many neighbouring Arab states’.” [emphasis added]

The earlier report twice promotes Hizballah’s baseless claim of Israeli involvement in the murder of Rafik Hariri – a claim that has also been amplified by the BBC.

“In 2007, a UN Special Tribunal was set up to investigate the 2005 assassination of Rafiq Hariri, a former Prime Minister of Lebanon and the present Prime Minister’s father. In 2011 the Tribunal served indictments against four supporters of Hizbollah, whose trial in absentia is continuing. Other reports have blamed the assassination on the Syrian Government, while Hizbollah has said that the Israelis or the Saudis are responsible.” [emphasis added]

The earlier report also promotes an assessment of the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon that was recently contradicted by a census that got no BBC coverage.

“There are about 1 million registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon and many more unregistered (as well as some 450,000 Palestinian refugees).” [emphasis added]

The report’s author allows himself to promote his own conjecture concerning Israel’s security assessments but fails to provide British MPs with information concerning the Hizballah leader’s regular threats against Israel or the terror group’s efforts (together with Iran) to secure a presence on the border between Israel and Syria.

“Israel probably calculates that there is enough instability in the region without an Israeli strike on Hizbollah.”

Remarkably, neither of these reports makes any mention of Hizballah’s criminal activities abroad that fund its terrorism. The only oblique reference to Hizballah’s violations of UNSC resolutions – a topic serially avoided by the BBC – comes in the vague statement “UN Security Council resolutions call for armed militia groups like Hizbollah to disarm”.

Hizballah’s manipulation of internal Lebanese politics (a subject similarly under-reported by the BBC) is also sidelined in the report, as are the effects of its terror activities on the Lebanese banking system. Like the BBC, this report also ignores the issue of Hizballah’s attempts to set up terror cells inside Israel.

Given that these two research briefings are lacking much of the information relevant to an informed discussion of Hizballah, it would be natural for members of the British public and MPs alike to turn to their publicly funded national broadcaster in order to look for more in-depth information.

Unfortunately, however, the BBC has itself spent years cultivating the myth of separate ‘wings’ of Hizballah and whitewashing the fact that it is a terrorist organisation through use of euphemisms such as “Lebanese Shia group” as well as misrepresenting its terror designation by numerous countries and misleading audiences with regard to its activities.

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