An overview of BBC reporting on Operation Northern Shield

On January 13th the IDF announced that with the discovery of a sixth tunnel, it had completed the mission to expose the tunnels dug by the Lebanese terror organisation Hizballah which passed under the international border, infiltrating Israeli territory.

“The tunnel, which had been dug at a depth of 55 meters (180 feet), was the most important one detected since the operation began in December, IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said.

According to him, the stairs were built in the tunnel which contained “railroads to transport equipment, garbage, lighting equipment and ladders to enter Israeli territory. A lot of resources were invested in this tunnel.”

With the latest tunnel discovered and its destruction in the coming days, he added, “the threat posed by the tunnels has been eliminated.” […]

While the military announced the end of the operation, it noted that it “is simultaneously monitoring several locations where Hezbollah is digging underground structures which have yet to cross into Israel.””

With Operation Northern Shield now coming to an end, this is an appropriate time to review the accuracy and impartiality of the BBC’s coverage of that story throughout the six weeks of the mission.

The story of an internationally recognised terrorist group tunneling under an international border into a neighbouring country with the intention of carrying out a large-scale attack actually got remarkably little BBC coverage.

Visitors to the BBC News website saw two reports throughout the six-week operation:

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

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

Listeners to BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’ programme also heard two reports on the same days:

BBC WS radio host questions “factual accuracy” of purpose of Hizballah tunnels December 4th 2018

Razia 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.”

Razia Iqbal: “Why do you think that Israel has made the announcement of cutting off these tunnels today? Is there any sense that this is a diversionary tactic to take attention away from Benjamin Netanyahu’s shaky coalition?”

BBC WS radio’s ‘World Update’ misleads on UN SC resolution 1701 December 19th 2018

The BBC’s domestic Radio 4 audiences heard one report the day after the story broke:

A BBC Radio 4 presenter ‘explains’ UN SC resolution 1701 December 5th 2018

Ritula Shah: “UN Security Council 1701, by the way, called for a full cessation of hostilities in the month-long war between Israel and Hizballah back in 2006.”

Ritula Shah: “Mr Netanyahu’s critics argue that he’s using the discovery of the tunnels to bolster his image at a time when his governing coalition is faltering and he faces mounting legal problems.”

In addition to Razia Iqbal’s unwarranted questioning of the purpose of the tunnels and the promotion by both her and Ritula Shah of the baseless notion that the operation was motivated by political considerations, audiences saw three main characteristics throughout the BBC’s reporting on this story.

In all but the first BBC News website report – where the information was added later – audiences were not given an accurate portrayal of Hizballah’s designation as a terror organisation by numerous countries and bodies. The subject of Iran’s funding and supplying of the terror organisation was grossly downplayed in the two written articles and ignored in the three audio reports.

In all of the reports the crucially relevant topic of UN Security Council resolution 1701 was either completely ignored or inadequately presented. Not one of the five BBC reports gave audiences an accurate explanation of that resolution or how it has been repeatedly violated by Hizballah for over twelve years. Moreover, in the second BBC WS radio report listeners were inaccurately led to believe that the only violation of that resolution comes in the form of tunnels that cross into Israeli territory.

Relatedly, BBC audiences were not given the full picture of the UN peacekeeping force’s failure to identify cross-border tunnels dug over a significant period of time literally under its nose and its serial failure to prevent violations of the UNSC resolution. In the second BBC WS radio report a UNIFIL spokesman’s statements went unchallenged.

Martin Patience: “Israel has accused the United Nations peacekeeping force which patrols the border area of turning a blind eye to the movement but Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force, says that the troops are doing their job.”

Not only was it suggested to audiences in forty percent of the BBC’s reporting that Operation Northern Shield was actually a cynical politically motivated exercise but the corporation failed throughout six whole weeks to produce even one item which would provide its funding public with the full range of background information necessary for proper understanding of the story of a complex operation which, had it been managed and executed less efficiently, could have sparked a major conflict.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio’s ‘World Update’ misleads on UN SC resolution 1701

More lazy BBC reporting on Hizballah’s tunnels

BBC News side-lining cross border tunnels story

A BBC Radio 4 presenter ‘explains’ UN SC resolution 1701

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

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

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

 

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BBC WS radio’s ‘World Update’ misleads on UN SC resolution 1701

h/t AB

Our documentation of the BBC’s decidedly uninformative coverage of Operation Northern Shield has so far included one item aired on BBC World Service radio. On December 19th listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ heard an additional report from the BBC’s Beirut correspondent Martin Patience which was introduced by presenter Dan Damon (from 43:03 here) as follows.

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

Damon: “The United Nations Security Council is expected to discuss rising tensions between Lebanon and Israel – that is later today. Israel says it’s discovered four tunnels that it claims were dug by the Lebanese militant group Hizballah and which were designed to launch attacks inside Israel. For the past two weeks Israeli troops have been working to destroy those tunnels. Our Lebanon correspondent Martin Patience has visited one of the affected areas on the border – the so-called Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel.”

Since arriving in Beirut, Martin Patience has not – as far as we are aware – produced any reporting on the situation in southern Lebanon and Hizballah’s recurrent violations of UN Security Council resolution 1701.

Patience: “We’re on a hilltop and there’s an extraordinary scene in front of me. A couple of meters away is barbed wire that marks the Blue Line – the division between Lebanon and Israel. There’s a dozen or more soldiers on this side wearing blue helmets. They’re from the UN peacekeeping force. And then just beyond that barbed wire I can see an Israeli soldier and beyond the Israeli soldier there are three diggers excavating the hillside. It has started to rain and come down hard. Now what exactly they’re looking for we aren’t sure. But we know that Israel says that Hizballah – the Lebanese militia – has been digging tunnels in this part of the country, right here at the border.”

Patience should of course have been able to tell his listeners “exactly” what the Israeli forces are “looking for” because they had been making that point crystal clear for over two weeks before Patience went on air. Listeners then heard the first of two pointless conversations with anonymous ‘locals’.

Patience: “There’s quite a few young men up here who’ve come to take a look at what’s going on. We’re going to see if we can grab a word with someone. One of them tells me the situation is unpleasant but he’s just waiting to see what will happen. So too are many in Lebanon. The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that if Hizballah tries to disrupt the search for the tunnels it will be hit in a way that it cannot even imagine.”

Failing to tell audiences that at least one of the tunnels had been dug literally meters away from a UNIFIL position, Patience went on:

Patience: “Israel has accused the United Nations peacekeeping force which patrols the border area of turning a blind eye to the movement but Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force, says that the troops are doing their job.”

Tenenti: “I would say that there is a difference between rhetoric – political rhetoric – and the reality on the ground. On the ground we are doing our job with over 400 activities per day with our troops and we have the support of the parties and the commitment of the parties in implementing our mandate.”

Patience: “At least two of the tunnels violate Israeli sovereignty.”

Listeners then heard Tenenti inaccurately suggest that UN Security Council resolution 1701 is only violated by the two tunnels that UNIFIL has so far confirmed infiltrate Israeli territory.

Tenenti: “We confirmed the presence of four tunnels but we were able to verify so far with our technical team – independent technical team – two tunnels violate UN Security Council resolution 1701. So they are violations of UNIFIL’s mandate.”

Rather than clarifying that misleading statement and pointing out to listeners that any and all Hizballah presence and activity south of the Litani River is in fact a violation of that UNSC resolution, Patience went on:

Patience: “But both the UN and Lebanon say that Israeli fighter jets frequently violate Lebanese airspace. And here in Lebanon the issue of the tunnels is widely seen as an Israeli attempt to put diplomatic pressure on Hizballah.”

Failing to explain that Hizballah started the 2006 war when it conducted a cross-border raid, killed and abducted Israeli soldiers and launched missiles at Israeli civilians, Patience continued:

Patience: “The Lebanese militant organisation has been noticeably silent about recent events but in 2006 a devastating war broke out between Hizballah and Israel and that’s always at the back of people’s minds. Technically the two countries are still at a state of war.”

In fact Hizballah’s second in command has not been “silent about recent events”.

“Qassem said that Hezbollah too would not initiate war, but would respond to Israeli aggression and that such a response and counter-response could potentially lead to war.

According to Qassem, Israel’s home front, including Tel Aviv, are under threat. “There is not a place in the Zionist entity that is not within Hezbollah’s range,” he said.”

Listeners than heard more anonymous comment from a ‘man on the hill’.

Patience: “Back at the border I ask a Lebanese man whether he’s worried that the current situation could trigger a conflict. He tells me he doesn’t think so because if it was going to happen it would have happened by now. For the moment neither side appears to be spoiling for a fight. But there remains unfinished business between Israel and Hizballah and the fear always is that a small incident here on the border could trigger something far worse.”

Yet again we see that BBC reporting on this ongoing story makes no absolutely no effort to meet the corporation’s obligation to provide audiences with the information necessary for its full understanding.

Related Articles:

More lazy BBC reporting on Hizballah’s tunnels

BBC News side-lining cross border tunnels story

A BBC Radio 4 presenter ‘explains’ UN SC resolution 1701

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

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

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

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

More lazy BBC reporting on Hizballah’s tunnels

Fifteen days after its first – and only – report concerning Operation Northern Shield the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel urges UN action over Hezbollah ‘attack tunnels’” on December 19th.

As was noted here when the first article appeared, it omitted any mention whatsoever of the obviously highly relevant topic of the UN Security Council resolutions relating to southern Lebanon and the UN force which is supposed to oversee the implementation of those resolutions.

“…the BBC’s record of reporting violations of UNSC resolution 1701 by Hizballah and Iran is very dismal. Obviously that serial omission means that BBC audiences lack the background information crucial to full understanding of this latest story.”

This latest report did include two references to UN SC resolution 1701:

“Unifil added that the tunnels constituted violations of Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war.”

And:

“Lebanon’s foreign ministry has said the Lebanese army will “take all necessary measures to ensure [resolution 1701] is well implemented in co-ordination with Unifil forces”.”

While readers were not provided with an explanation of the text of that resolution (including the stipulation that the area between the border with Israel and the Litani river should be “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL”) which would enable their understanding of UNIFIL’s statement  they next read that:

“However, Hezbollah is part of Lebanon’s national unity government and it has been able to resist international and domestic pressure to disarm its military wing, whose capabilities in some ways exceed those of the Lebanese army.”

As was the case in the December 4th report – and as has often been seen in BBC past content – the latest article cites 2006 Lebanese casualty figures that are devoid of any mention of Hizballah combatants.

“Tensions are high between the Iran-backed Shia Islamist group and Israel, which fought a month-long war in 2006.

More than 1,125 Lebanese, most of them civilians, and 159 Israelis, including 43 civilians, were killed in that conflict.” [emphasis added]

While 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 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. Since then, however, the BBC has adopted a mantra portraying Lebanese casualties during the 2006 war as “mostly civilians” despite there being no evidence of its having been able to independently verify that claim.

Remarkably, this December 19th report does not provide BBC audiences with any information about the UN Security Council session on the topic of the Hizballah tunnels that was held on December 19th.

Related Articles:

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part three

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

BBC News side-lining cross border tunnels story

BBC News website reporting on Operation Northern Shield has to date been confined to the one article published on the day the operation began, December 4th.

Under the sub-heading “What do we know about the operation?” the last version of that report told BBC audiences that:

“Israeli military spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus said the activity was focusing on the border town of Metulla, with the area declared a closed zone.

He said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were concentrating on a tunnel which began in a Lebanese civilian home, was at least 200m (650ft) long, and ran 40m inside Israel.

The IDF announced the start of the operation, dubbed Northern Shield, on Twitter, with video footage showing heavy machinery boring in unidentified locations.”

As noted here previously, that report failed to inform BBC audiences of the important fact that the tunnels dug by the terror group Hizballah in southern Lebanon are a violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701.

Since that article appeared visitors to the BBC News website have seen no further reporting whatsoever. They have not been shown the video footage of Hizballah operatives inside the first tunnel discovered, they have not been told that the tunnel mentioned in that sole report reached within walking distance of the Israeli town of Metulla and they have not been informed of the support for the operation expressed by a variety of foreign governments.

Neither do BBC audiences know anything of a second tunnel identified on December 6th, a third tunnel discovered on December 8th or a fourth one exposed on December 11th.

Clearly BBC News is managing very well to avoid reporting this story to its funding public.

Related Articles:

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

A BBC Radio 4 presenter ‘explains’ UN SC resolution 1701

As documented here previously, two BBC reports on Operation Northern Shield that appeared on December 4th both failed to provide audiences with the background information concerning UN Security Council resolution 1701 which would enhance their understanding of the story of the Hizballah constructed cross-border attack tunnels.

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

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

So what happened the following day when a BBC presenter did actually manage to utter the words “UN Security Council” and “1701”?

The December 5th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included an item (from 29:19 here) introduced by Ritula Shah thus: [emphasis in bold added]

Shah: “Expose and thwart: that’s what Israel’s calling its operation to block tunnels dug into its territory by the Hizballah movement in Lebanon. It said it was neutralising the terror tunnels before they became operational and a threat to civilian communities. Speaking at a press conference, the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the tunnels posed a grave threat.”

Following that whitewashed description of an internationally designated terror group, listeners heard a recording of Netanyahu speaking at that press conference the previous evening, including his description of the tunnels as “a gross violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701”.

Shah immediately told listeners that:

Shah: “UN Security Council 1701, by the way, called for a full cessation of hostilities in the month-long war between Israel and Hizballah back in 2006.”

That information of course would have done nothing to help listeners understand why Netanyahu referred to that UNSC resolution in his comments. But, like her colleagues, Ritula Shah obviously had no intention of telling her listeners that UNSC resolution 1701 also includes the following:

“Emphasises the importance of the extension of the control of the government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) and resolution 1680 (2006), and of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, for it to exercise its full sovereignty, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the government of Lebanon;”

Shah’s listeners were also not told that the 2006 resolution calls for the area between the Lebanese-Israeli border and the Litani river to be “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL”, that it calls for all “armed groups in Lebanon” to be disarmed, that it forbids the presence of “foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its Government” and “sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government”.

Neither did they hear any explanation of the fact that the task of implementing that resolution was given to UNIFIL and that it is now obvious that years of cross-border tunnel construction had taken place literally under that UN organisation’s nose.

Instead of supplying BBC Radio 4 audiences with that crucial information, Shah preferred to promote a theme advanced by her World Service colleagues the previous day.

Shah: “But the Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni has accused the prime minister of blowing the incident out of proportion. Mr Netanyahu’s critics argue that he’s using the discovery of the tunnels to bolster his image at a time when his governing coalition is faltering and he faces mounting legal problems. Anshel Pfeffer has written a biography of Benjamin Netanyahu and is also a correspondent for the Ha’aretz newspaper in Israel. He joins me now. […] Is this in a sense being exploited by Benjamin Netanyahu?”

Unsurprisingly given that, as the programme’s producers probably knew, he had published a column promoting that very claim earlier the same day – Pfeffer replied that it “feels that way” and claimed that the exposure of the tunnels on Israel’s northern border is “not a new operation”. As he claimed that the “timing and especially the media fanfare which has accompanied this” were aimed at “boosting the standing of the new defence minister” (but without telling listeners that the operation had actually been approved by the cabinet before Netanyahu became defence minister), Shah interrupted:

Shah: “So why? Why would he choose to do this now?”

Pfeffer replied that critics claim that Netanyahu is “using this to deflect attention from his own legal troubles” and that “it’s certainly a useful diversion for Netanyahu”.

Shah: “So he faces legal issues, his coalition is fragile, but what about his popularity? Isn’t he someone that Israelis trust in a sense with their security?”

Pfeffer responded by referencing opinion polls.

Shah: “So he’s involved in a couple of separate criminal investigations but could you argue that Tzipi Livni – the opposition leader – in a sense is being just as politically opportunist in pointing up these issues?”

Pfeffer described that as a “fair argument”, pointing out that the opposition is “not popular with the public” and “so when Netanyahu uses this opportunity to present himself as the commander-in-chief, their frustration naturally only grows.”

So what did the BBC’s domestic radio audiences learn from this item about the cross-border attack tunnels dug by a terrorist organisation into the territory of a neighbouring country and the twelve year-old UN Security Council resolution that should have prevented that violation of Israel’s sovereignty from taking place? Absolutely nothing.

Related Articles:

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

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

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

 

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

The December 4th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item billed “Israel targets Hezbollah tunnels” which related to the IDF’s announcement concerning the commencement of Operation Northern Shield earlier in the day.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the item (from 14:07 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “Israel now and the army has launched an operation to cut off tunnels infiltrating its territory from Lebanon. The military accuses the Lebanese militia Hizballah of having dug the tunnels with a view to using them for a surprise attack inside Israel. I’ve been speaking to Anna Ahronheim who is military reporter for the Jerusalem Post newspaper. She’s on the Israel-Lebanon border in the town of Metulla.”

By the time this item was broadcast the IDF had announced the discovery of the first cross-border tunnel (which later in the day was revealed to be meters away from a UNIFIL observation post) running from inside a ‘civilian’ building in the Shia village of Kfar Kila in Lebanon some 40 meters into Israeli territory. Anna Ahronheim began by describing that tunnel.

Ahronheim: “From where I’m standing there’s about maybe 200 – 250 meters away from the tunnel they just announced that they found. The tunnel is closer to the border fence than homes in Metulla but a quick walk in the middle of the night at a brisk pace, it’ll take less than five minutes for them to reach homes. So the army said that this tunnel that was discovered has been neutralised, therefore won’t be able to be used by Hizballah forces.”

Although she failed to clarify to listeners that Hizballah is a widely designated terrorist organisation, Iqbal’s three initial questions were relevant to audience understanding of the story.

Metulla

Iqbal: “And they’ve also said that they’re only operating within territory that is…ah…Israeli and will not cross the border into Lebanon and that is possible for them to do, given the geography?”

Ahronheim:  “I think what the army will do is right now they are operating strictly within Israeli territory but this is not going to be an operation for just several hours or several days. The army believes it’ll take several weeks for all the tunnels to be – or most of the tunnels – to be identified and neutralised and that might mean having to cross into the blue line, into the demilitarised zone in order to deal with the threat.”

Iqbal: “So how many tunnels are we talking about if it’s going to take them several weeks?”

Ahronheim: “They haven’t given any number yet. Right now we only know of one but there’s likely many more.”

Iqbal: “And if there is any…ah…suggestion or indication that they are going into Lebanese territory, that would be extremely serious?”

Ahronheim: “Definitely but of course the army has said today that they communicate a message both to UNIFIL and to the Lebanese army about what was happening and the seriousness of it. I don’t think anyone either in Lebanon or in Israel want to go to war with each other. It’s been 12 years of quiet up on the northern border. I think they want to keep it that way. I think Hizballah also understands that they’re quite occupied in Syria and across the region. A war with Israel is just not on the plate right now.”

At that point Razia Iqbal put relevant questioning aside, instead choosing to indulge her own irrelevant speculations.

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.”

Iqbal did not enlighten listeners as to her opinions on alternative uses for a 200 meter-long tunnel quarried through solid limestone and under the international border by a terror group dedicated to Israel’s destruction.

Ahronheim: “Of course but again, Hizballah has for years – and I can go back to 2012 of Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah saying…talking about, you know, the conquest of the Galilee and that there would be surprise tunnels that would be infiltrating into Israel. So this is something that they’ve been planning for several years.”

Iqbal then went on to promote another bizarre theory:

Iqbal: “Why do you think that Israel has made the announcement of cutting off these tunnels today? Is there any sense that this is a diversionary tactic to take attention away from Benjamin Netanyahu’s shaky coalition?”

In fact this operation had been in the pipeline for years and was given final security cabinet approval on November 7th – i.e. before the coalition government’s majority in the Knesset was reduced in the wake of Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation.

Ahronheim: “There’s a lot of talk about that; the corruption charges that he faces, the shaky coalition. The army says that this has been planned for over two years; that they’ve been having meetings every two weeks – the Chief of Staff and senior officials and the cabinet. Again, the timing of it really might be tied to Netanyahu’s troubles as a diversion but it also could be that, you know, this is a message to Iran. There were reports the other day of Iran flying in directly to Beirut international airport and not via Syria [unintelligible] weapons for Hizballah. So it could be a message in return of Iran’s message to Israel.”

Iqbal closed the interview there, having devoted 40% of her questions to promotion of the notions that Israel might be lying with regard to the purpose of the tunnels and that an operation to thwart an obvious threat to Israeli civilians might have baser political motives.

BBC World Service listeners however heard nothing whatsoever about the highly relevant context of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC resolution 1701 and the impotency of the UNIFIL force charged with overseeing implementation of that resolution.

Related Articles:

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

 

 

 

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

Following the IDF’s announcement of the commencement of ‘Operation Northern Shield’ on the morning of December 4th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel targets Hezbollah ‘terror tunnels’“.

Illustrated with a photograph taken three months ago, the first two versions of the report opened by telling readers that:

“The Israeli military says it has begun an operation to block what it calls “terror tunnels” dug into its territory by the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon.”

The IDF announcement actually used the term “cross-border attack tunnels”.

The original version of the report failed to inform readers that Hizballah is a terror organisation that is designated in whole or in part by many bodies and nations including the EU, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the US and the UK. Later versions included the following paragraph:

“Hezbollah emerged with the help of Iran during Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon in the early 1980s. It sees itself as a resistance movement against Israel, but it is designated a terrorist organisation by Western states, Israel, Gulf Arab countries and the Arab League.”

While readers of later versions of the article were told that Hizballah is an “Iran-backed Shia group”, audiences not only learned nothing of Iran’s funding and supplying of that terror organisation but saw an opaque reference to “arms being transferred to the group through Syria”.

Readers were told that:

“Tensions are high between Israel and Hezbollah, which fought a month-long war in 2006.

More than 1,125 Lebanese, most of them civilians, and some 40 Israeli civilians, were killed in that conflict.

It began when Hezbollah militants launched a raid into Israel, killing eight soldiers and kidnapping two others, who also died.”

As we see the BBC’s portrayal of the commencement of the Second Lebanon war erases the fact that in addition to the cross border raid that sparked the conflict, Hizballah simultaneously fired missiles at Israeli civilian communities. We also see that – as usual – the BBC cites Lebanese casualty figures that are devoid of any mention of Hizballah combatants.

While 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 and UN officials gave similar figures while Israeli estimates stand at around 600 (with 450 identified by name: see page 55 here).

The most glaring omission, however, in all versions of this BBC report is the obviously highly relevant topic of the UN Security Council resolutions relating to southern Lebanon and the UN force which is supposed to oversee the implementation of those resolutions.

UNSC resolution 1701 includes the following:

“Emphasises the importance of the extension of the control of the government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) and resolution 1680 (2006), and of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, for it to exercise its full sovereignty, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the government of Lebanon;”

The 2006 resolution calls for:

  • “security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;
  • full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require 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;
  • no foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its Government;
  • no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government;”

The same resolution expanded the mandate and capabilities of the UNIFIL force in southern Lebanon and charged it, inter alia, with aiding the Lebanese government to prevent Hizballah’s rearmament.

As has frequently been noted on these pages, the BBC’s record of reporting violations of UNSC resolution 1701 by Hizballah and Iran is very dismal. Obviously that serial omission means that BBC audiences lack the background information crucial to full understanding of this latest story. 

Related Articles:

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part three

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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