Weekend long read

1) At Tablet magazine Liel Leibovitz has been ‘Debunking the latest claptrap on American policy and Israeli settlements’.

“You’re free to like President Trump or dislike him. You’re free to consider his latest Middle East  policy move to be a welcome bit of truth-telling, or a political maneuver to help Bibi, or a rash and potentially ruinous bit of grandstanding aimed at evangelical voters in the US. But one thing is abundantly clear: By promoting the false narrative about the president reversing 40 years of American policy, it is Trump’s credulous critics who are using their ignorance of history to push a radical viewpoint that was widely and repeatedly rejected by actual US policy makers for the vast majority of the past four decades.”

2) Raz Zimmt of the INSS provides an initial assessment of the recent protests in Iran.

“Protests have been underway across Iran since November 15, 2019 in the wake of the government’s decision to increase gasoline prices sharply and ration gasoline consumption. These moves reflect the intensity of the economic crisis facing Iran following the re-imposition of sanctions. The government, which had previously backtracked on its intention to implement economic austerity measures out of fear they would lead to a resumption of popular protests, found itself having to take a calculated risk in an attempt to boost its ability to weather the effects of the sanctions. On the political level, the government’s decision may further weaken President Rouhani’s already shaky public and political status, especially ahead of parliamentary elections in early 2020. At this point, the regime appears to have significant repression capabilities and be ready to use them if and when necessary. However, the protests sharpen the dilemma faced by the authorities who are committed to austerity and streamlining measures, but fear the intensification of popular protests.”

3) At WINEP, Hanin Ghaddar examines the implications of the protests in Lebanon.

“For a month, nationwide protests have swept Lebanon due to deteriorating economic conditions and the persistent corruption of the ruling class. Two weeks into the protests, Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned. When asked to form a new government, he faced a deadlock because he sought one composed of independent technocrats. This type of government is what the protestors are demanding; it is also a requirement for outside financial assistance to Lebanon. No other outcome would generate confidence at home or internationally. Yet it is still unclear who will form the new government, and none of the names proposed so far are suitable given that current authorities are still influenced by Hezbollah.”

4) Also at WINEP, Assaf Orion documents ‘Hezbollah’s Campaign Against UNIFIL’.

“In summer 2006, the United Nations passed Security Council Resolution 1701 with the goal of ending the war between Israel and Hezbollah and preventing a recurrence. Among its terms was an expansion of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, a multinational peacekeeping body created in 1978. UN reports over the past thirteen years have emphasized the general calm in southern Lebanon—but calm does not mean safety and security. Since the 2006 war, Iran has invested billions of dollars in building its Lebanese proxy military force, Hezbollah, throughout Lebanon, including in the south. Hezbollah, in turn, has carried out a relentless intimidation campaign against UNIFIL forces, seeking to undermine their mission and prevent its own exposure. An August 2018 attack by the group near Majdel Zoun, which included seizing peacekeepers’ weapons and setting fire to their vehicles, epitomized Hezbollah’s modus operandi.”

BBC News promotes a claim it previously amended in February

Some three hours after Hizballah had attacked an army base and a military vehicle with guided anti-tank missiles near Avivim on Israel’s northern border on September 1st the BBC News website published a report headlined “Hezbollah fires rockets into Israel from Lebanon”. The report opened with a description of Hizballah which avoids any mention of the fact that it is a terrorist organisation.

“The Lebanese Shia Muslim militant group Hezbollah has fired several anti-tank rockets into northern Israel in retaliation for a reported Israeli drone attack in Beirut last week.

Israeli military sources confirmed rockets had been fired at an Israeli army base and military vehicles.

The Israeli army responded by attacking targets in southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah sources reported several Israeli casualties, but Israel said no-one had been injured on its side.”

The report went on to tell readers that:

“The Lebanese military earlier said an Israeli drone had entered its airspace and dropped incendiary material on a forest along the border.

The Israeli army has acknowledged it started a fire. Tensions on the frontier escalated in recent days.”

The background to those opaque statements is as follows:

“The Israeli military fired artillery shells into a disputed portion of land on the Lebanese border on Sunday, amid soaring tensions along the frontier, a Hezbollah-affiliated news outlet reported.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed conducting “activities” in northern Israel, which sparked a fire near the border, but refused to comment on the nature of those actions.”

Significantly, readers of this report were told nothing of the fact that according to UN SC resolution 1701, Hizballah should have been disarmed years ago and should not be operating south of the Litani River. Neither was any information given concerning the failure of UNIFIL ‘peacekeepers’ and the Lebanese Armed Forces to stop this latest attack by the terror group.  

Readers were told that:

“The Hezbollah attack and Israel’s response represent the most serious border incident between the two parties in recent years.”

Depending on how one defines “recent” one could of course argue that the 2015 Hizballah attack in which two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven injured was significantly more serious.

Later versions of the report closed with a portrayal of the Second Lebanon War which failed to inform audiences that Hizballah instigated that conflict.

“In 2006, Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long conflict that killed more than 1,000 civilians, most of them Lebanese.”

Following a complaint from BBC Watch in February of this year the BBC News website amended three reports promoting a similar statement in order to clarify that the unverified claim that most of the Lebanese casualties were civilians came from the Lebanese government.

As those three reports stated, 43 Israeli civilians were killed during that conflict which means that the BBC is now claiming that at least 957 Lebanese civilians also died.

Estimates of the total number of Lebanese casualties during that 2006 war range from 1,035 to 1,200. As has been pointed out here on several previous occasions, while the Lebanese authorities did not differentiate between civilians and combatants, Lebanese officials did report even before the conflict was over that some 500 of the dead were Hizballah personnel and UN officials gave similar figures while Israeli estimates stand at around 600 (of whom 450 were identified with certainty: 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.

In other words, despite having acknowledged seven months ago that the civilian casualty figures it quoted were based on statements made by a government held hostage by the Iranian terrorist proxy Hizballah, the BBC News website has resumed the practice of promoting inflated Lebanese civilian casualty figures that it has not independently verified.

Related Articles:

BBC News website amends Second Lebanon War claim

Los Angeles Times Corrects on Lebanese Casualties in 2006 War (CAMERA)

An overview of BBC reporting on Operation Northern Shield

 

 

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 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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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:

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

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

 

 

 

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

Inaccuracy, omission and oddity in a BBC Radio Ulster item on Israel – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the May 20th edition of the BBC Radio Ulster “religious and ethical news” programme ‘Sunday Sequence‘ included a long item (from 34:04 here and also aired on BBC Radio Foyle) supposedly about the state of the ‘peace process’ after the May 14th chapter of the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt on the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

“After a week of horror in Gaza, is the roadmap to peace now in complete ruins? Dr Julie Norman, Rev Gary Mason and Tom Clonan discuss how peace could somehow yet be found.”

After listeners had heard Tom Clonan’s inaccurate account of Operation Grapes of Wrath – and been led to believe that Israel was essentially to blame for the 9/11 terror attacks – and Julie Norman’s concealment of the fact that the overwhelming majority of those killed on May 14th were males in their twenties and thirties, presenter Roisin McAuley (once again exaggerating the significance of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict) asked guest Gary Mason:

[39:01] “Now, given that situation, Gary, intractability, the importance for all of us of finding a way out of this absolute morass, where do you begin?”

Mason’s response [from 39:13] included the predictable – yet invalid – claim that it is possible to use the Good Friday Agreement as a template for solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Picking up on Mason’s reference to “the role of civic society” in peacemaking, Julie Norman then inaccurately claimed that violent actions such as the ‘Great Return March’ or the rioting in Bili’in are grassroots peace initiatives.

[42:47] Norman: “…but what you see with the kind of protests at the border, what you see with weekly demonstrations against the separation barrier – these are activists and people who refuse to give in to that despair and who are trying to take some kind of action despite the odds and despite the limitations of the larger political reality…”  

Following some echo-chamber agreement between Mason and McAuley with regard to the US administration’s role in solving the conflict – and the claim that the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem was “a real slap in the face to Palestinians” – the presenter continued:

[45:07] McAuley: “So Tom, who in your opinion can help then? If the US is not in a position to be seen as an honest broker, who is?”

Clonan: “I would strongly hope that the European Union would step up to the plate and begin to impose sanctions and trade embargoes on Israel. And I certainly think individually as nations we could begin by boycotting the Eurovision Song Contest next year. And I say that with great regret because I’m on the record…I’ve written to all of the newspapers in the [Irish] Republic repeatedly over the years saying that we should not boycott Israel. But unfortunately of late Israel has been behaving like a rogue state and should be treated as pariah by the international community. I mean there was a great deal of unanimity of condemnation, quite rightly, of a chemical attack – or a suspected chemical attack – on civilians in the suburbs of Damascus. We also expelled diplomats on suspicion of a chemical weapon attack in Salisbury which injured – seriously injured – two people. Now we need to have that same level of unanimity when it comes to Israel’s actions this week.”

Following some reminiscing from Clonan about the Irish peace process, McAuley revisited his BDS messaging while again promoting her own pet ‘most important thing in the world’ theme.

[48:54] McAuley: “What you’re underlining, Tom, is the importance of this for the region and indeed for the wider world. But are you seriously suggesting that in some way that boycotting a song festival would make any difference at all? I mean why not try to seriously engage with Israel and with everybody on this?”

Clonan: “Israel isn’t interested in engagement just now. I think they feel that their military or their use of force has been rewarded and their behaviour has deteriorated somewhat. I think unfortunately that the situation with Iran – the US withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal at a point where you have youth unemployment in Iran at 60%, where 90% of those arrested in recent civil unrest are under 25 – there’s a youth bulge in Iran that threatens to destabilise the old guard, the ageing Ayatollah. President Rouhani’s government, you know, they’ve managed with considerable pushback to get the Iran deal. I think there’s a sense – and this is what I’m being told by my contacts amongst the international defence and international community – that Israel, the United States and their Gulf state allies detect a last moment of weakness in…within Iran as Shia ascendency reaches its zenith in the region.

What all that has to do with the item’s professed subject matter is of course as clear as mud. McAuley however chose to continue the ‘youth bulge’ theme.

[48:25] McAuley: “You mentioned a youth bulge. There is a youth bulge in Palestine as well. There is a growing number…this is a numbers game to some extent is it not, Julie?”

While acknowledging a “very high youth demographic in Palestine“, Norman responded that she would not equate that with destabilisation.

Norman: “Whether it’s Iran or Palestine, I don’t think we need to fear the youth bulge.”

McAuley then claimed that “eventually, in Israel and the occupied territories as a whole, there will be more Palestinians than there are Israelis”. Norman’s answer to that included the claim that:

[49:22] Norman: “…Israel is wielding power in very violent ways as we saw on Monday and throughout the past several weeks. And it’s not just numbers when one group is living under occupation.”

The fact that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip 13 years ago of course did not get a mention at all in this entire item.

At 50:06 Gary Mason raised the topic of the role of women in making peace, stating that he is a member of the advisory board of an Israeli organisation called ‘Women Wage Peace’. He did not however bother to inform listeners that the group’s activities have been:

“…denounced by Hamas in an official statement, as well as by the Palestinian branch of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, both of which accused Palestinians participating in the initiative of “normalizing” relations with Israel.”

Again ignoring the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of Samaria in 2005, Mason went on to say that Israelis “may have to give up land for peace […] and we just need, I think, to bring that concept into it…”. Listeners were next treated to Mason’s home-grown psychological analysis of “the Israelis”.

In response to McAuley’s question [53:30] “from where can hope come?” Julie Norman again promoted the inaccurate notion that there are Palestinian civil society groups working for peace. Tom Clonan’s reply to the same question [54:15] included the following:

Clonan: “…essentially this is Semitic peoples killing Semitic…Arabs are a Semitic people. And I think with Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump you see the very essence of patriarchal thought which has led to so much destruction in the Middle East over the last two decades and if civil society, religious leaders and other leaders in society and women can be a part of the key to this solution to this, that would be wonderful because I don’t see a solution in the unilateral military intervention strategies that we’ve had post 2001 and 9/11 unfortunately.”

Notably, no-one in the studio bothered to question Clonan’s omission of Hamas from his list of those guilty of “patriarchal thought”.

At 56:33 – after Mason had again invoked the Northern Ireland comparison and claimed that people with a “military background” could also contribute to peacemaking, McAuley came up with the following bizarre claims:

McAuley: “I know that Peace Now – the big Israeli movement for peace and defence of the Palestinians and sitting down in front of tanks and so on that are about to destroy houses – that was founded by veterans of the 1948 war who had driven their tanks into Israel to take the land.”

Where those tanks had supposedly been driven from was not clarified to listeners before Clonan jumped in with a plug for yet another political NGO.

[56:58] Clonan: “And the Breaking the Silence movement as well: you know Israeli serving and ex-serving military. And I mean even from my own experience I mean I had my epiphany in the Middle East […] and to just witness man’s inhumanity to man and I mean it was only after becoming a parent myself that I was able to put my experiences into context. It was only after I buried my own little daughter that I understood what it was like for those Lebanese men, women and children to suffer in that way. And the Israelis in the settlement towns of Sderot and on the border that were being attacked by Hizballah indiscriminately. […] The constant disinhibited [sic], indiscriminate use of force at the moment, I think with that they’re sowing the seeds of their own destruction and what Israel needs in the Middle East is friends. And what better friends to have than the Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians. It is possible but we need imagination, we need leadership.”

The item closed soon after that. Only then, after nearly twenty-five minutes of hopelessly uninformed – and often downright ignorant – discussion, were listeners told that:

[58:56] McAuley: “The Israeli government response to the events on Monday was that the military actions were in keeping with Israeli and international law. They asserted that the demonstrations along the border were – quote – part of the conflict between the Hamas terrorist organisation and Israel. The military’s open fire orders, they said, were therefore subject to international humanitarian law – also known as the law of armed conflict – rather than international human rights law.”

Clearly this long item cannot possibly have contributed to audience understanding of the professed story and its context, riddled as it was with gross inaccuracies, deliberate distortions and important omissions – and not least the important issue of Hamas terrorism. The repeated inappropriate comparisons to the Northern Ireland conflict likewise detracted from listeners’ understanding of the background to the topic supposedly under discussion and the one-sided claims and comments from contributors and presenter alike – including promotion of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – are ample evidence that the prime aim of this item was to promote a specific political narrative.

Related Articles:

Inaccuracy, omission and oddity in a BBC Radio Ulster item on Israel – part one