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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

While we have seen some problematic programmes relating to Israel on BBC Radio Ulster in the past, the May 20th edition of the station’s “religious and ethical news” programme ‘Sunday Sequence‘ included a long item (from 34:04 here and also aired on BBC Radio Foyle) which was even more remarkable than usual – not least because one contributor managed to shoehorn the Eurovision Song Contest, the 9/11 terror attacks, BDS, Salisbury and Iranian youth unemployment into the discussion.

“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.”

Four days before this programme went on air a Hamas official had announced that fifty of those killed during the ‘Great Return March’ rioting on May 14th were members of Hamas. Prior to that, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad had claimed three of the dead. Information available to the public had already shown that some 80% of those killed since the pre-planned rioting began at the end of March were members of various terror factions in the Gaza Strip.

None of that information was communicated to listeners in presenter Roisin McAuley’s introduction to the item, or indeed in the rest of the broadcast. Listeners did, however, repeatedly hear the use of the term ‘Palestine’ – despite the fact that the BBC Academy’s “journalists’ guide to facts and terminology states “in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank”.

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

McAuley: “International attention is once again focused on the Israel-Palestine conflict.  A hundred Palestinians were killed in Gaza border protests in the last month [sic]; sixty on last Monday alone. The UN human rights chief accused Israel of using wholly disproportionate force. Israel’s UN ambassador accused Hamas of using children as human shields. Peace seems further away than ever. The problem seems intractable: an adjective once applied to the troubles here and to divided societies elsewhere. Can those examples be followed? Where should peacemaking begin? To answer those questions our panel – Dr Julie Norman, research fellow at the George Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, the Rev Gary Mason, founder of ‘Rethinking Conflict’ and Tom Clonan, Irish Times security correspondent and former Irish Army officer who served with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon – UNIFIL – during the Israeli operation against Hizballah in 1996.”

With Tom Clonan having told his Lebanon stories to the media many times before, there can be no doubt that when the producers of this programme decided to invite Tom Clonan to participate, they knew exactly what listeners were going to hear next – and what not.

Clonan: “Operation Grapes of Wrath was a punitive operation against the people of South Lebanon – not just Hizballah – because Hizballah, in contravention to the laws of armed conflict, were deployed in and amongst the civilian population and Israel – contrary to the laws of international conflict and the Geneva conventions – declared southern Lebanon a free-fire zone and as a consequence hundreds of innocent men, women and children were killed. So that was the action – which was clearly illegal – targeting civilians.”

Obviously Clonan’s story has nothing whatsoever to do with the declared subject matter of this item, but within its first few minutes he has facilitated the establishment in listeners’ minds of the notion that Israel has a habit of ‘illegally targeting civilians’. Interestingly, Clonan had nothing at all to say about UNIFIL’s failure – at that time of 18 years – to fulfil its mandate of preventing Hizballah’s entrenchment in southern Lebanon or the terror group’s rocket attacks on northern Israeli communities that preceded the operation.  Mispronouncing the name of the location, Clonan went on:

Clonan: “One of the consequences was that after the massacre at Qana which I attended that day – 112 men, women and children killed in one incident – a then relatively unknown Islamist extremist, Osama Bin Laden, declared a fatwa on the United States in which he cited Qana as the…one of the casus bellis [sic] and that four years later led to Mohammed Atta and others flying aircraft into the Twin Towers. George Bush announced a global war on terror, invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Absent from Clonan’s portrayal of a ‘massacre’ is the fact that Hizballah terrorists had fired missiles from the vicinity of the UN post at Qana, the fact that the UNIFIL personnel there had made no attempt to stop that repeated fire despite the fact that civilians were sheltering in their post and the fact that the deaths of the civilians was completely unintentional.

After BBC Radio Ulster audiences had essentially been told that the 9/11 terror attacks were Israel’s fault, Clonan continued, equating Israel with the Syrian dictator who uses chemical weapons against his own civilian population and presenting a highly debatable portrayal of the laws of armed conflict.

Clonan: “So I think when a state – whether it be Israel or Assad’s regime – when they decide to engage in an act of disinhibition [sic] and indiscriminate violence against civilians, I think they do so at their peril. There are four principles governing the use of force against civilians. Now they’re very, very simple and they’re universal. One of them is justification – in other words you can only use live ammunition in defence of your own life or in defence of those of your comrades. The next one is about minimum force – that’s the second principle; unarmed restraint by weight of numbers. The use of baton rounds, gas, something that people in Northern Ireland would be very familiar with from our shared history. The firing of live ammunition is…is…is so far down the line and the Israelis have so many non-lethal options open to them but instead they use the Givati Brigade, an infantry brigade of the Israeli military, to conduct what is essentially a police action – a bit like putting the parachute regiment into Derry – and with the predictable and consequent effect of shooting 1,360 people on Monday over a eight-hour period. I’ve calculated that is one person shot every 20 seconds.”

Making no effort to clarify to listeners that the casualty figures quoted and promoted by Clonan are sourced from the terror group that initiated, facilitated and organised the violence, McAuley then gave credence to his 9/11 allegations while inflating the significance of a conflict that is way down the list of the current major conflicts in the world.

[37:32] McAuley: “Tom, it’s quite clear that not only is this an intractable situation but you are saying that if you’re making comparisons with the war against Hizballah, it is very, very important because you spelt out the consequences of that. So I want to ask you, Julie, would you say that this is the most important as well as the most intractable problem facing the world today in terms of not wanting another war?”  

Norman’s response [from 37:57] deliberately erased the fact that over 80% of those killed during the Gaza border rioting since March 30th were linked to terror groups.

Norman: “I would say the framing of this incident in comparison to what happened with Hizballah is even tricky because this wasn’t just Israel cracking down on Hamas. As Tom rightly pointed out this was largely a civilian-based protest. You had 40,000 people – elderly people, women, children – all kinds of people there. This was not just a Hamas protest although Hamas was involved in some of the organising.”

Neither Norman nor McAuley bothered to inform BBC Radio Ulster audiences that the overwhelming majority of those killed were males in their twenties and thirties – indicating that while indeed “elderly people, women, children” had been recruited to the publicity stunt, most of them were not directly involved in the violence. Again quoting Hamas figures, Norman went on:

Norman: “I would also point out also that what happened on Monday was not a one-time incident. What happened on Monday was following 6 weeks of protests at the border. In addition to those who were killed on Monday there were over 40 killed and over 9,000 wounded in the weeks leading up to Monday. This is an intractable situation. This kind of resistance and protest has been going on, will continue and unfortunately this type of response to the protests has also been consistent.”

Revealingly, neither Norman nor any of the other participants made any effort to clarify at point or later on in the item that those so-called ‘protests’ have included shooting attacks, IED attacks, firebomb attacks and infiltrations and attempted infiltrations of the border fence.

The second part of this post will address the rest of the item.

 

A French newspaper reports on a topic the BBC avoids

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

BBC News yawns over another violation of UNSC resolution 1701

Another UN SC resolution violation goes unreported by the BBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

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

A border dispute BBC audiences know nothing about

Three previously unreported stories appear in one BBC News article

Last month we noted that BBC audiences had not seen any coverage of the reports that began to emerge earlier this year concerning allegedly Iranian-built underground missile factories in Lebanon.

Reports of a similar project in north-west Syria also came to light in June and began to garner wider coverage in mid-August (though not from the BBC) after satellite images of the site were shown on Israel’s Channel 2.

Both those stories unfolded following reports from sources unconnected to Israel but audiences were not informed of that when the BBC’s first mention of either story came in an article published on August 28th under the headline “Iran building missile factories in Syria and Lebanon – Netanyahu“.

“Israel’s prime minister has said Iran is building sites in Syria and Lebanon to produce precision-guided missiles.

Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of turning Syria into a “base of military entrenchment as part of its declared goal to eradicate Israel”. […]

Mr Netanyahu gave no details about the sites Iran was allegedly building to manufacture missiles, but he warned “this is something Israel cannot accept”.

Two weeks ago, the Israeli satellite imagery company ImageSat International published photographs it said appeared to confirm a report by a Syrian pro-opposition newspaper that a missile factory was under construction in north-western Syria under Iranian oversight.”

The same article also included the BBC’s first mention in English of a story it reported in Arabic three weeks previously.

“Mr Netanyahu also pressed Mr Guterres [UN Secretary General] on the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, Unifil, which Israel alleges has failed to prevent Hezbollah building up its supply of weapons since they fought a war in 2006.

Mr Guterres promised to “do everything in my capacity” to ensure Unifil fulfilled its obligations.

“I understand the security concerns of Israel and I repeat that the idea or the intention or the will to destroy the state of Israel is something totally unacceptable from my perspective,” he added.

Unifil’s mandate is up for renewal at the end of the month.”

Readers are not however told that earlier this month, Mr Guterres himself called for all non-state actors in Lebanon to be disarmed in accordance with UNSC resolution 1701 – including the terrorist militia that the BBC euphemistically portrays in this article as “Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement”.

As regular readers know, BBC audiences are chronically deprived of information concerning Hizballah’s violations of UN Security Council resolution 1701 and so they are obviously not fully aware of the context to what the BBC describes Israeli ‘allegations’ concerning UNIFIL’s record.

While these stories have now finally received some brief BBC coverage in the English language, if audiences are to “engage fully” with the issues they raise as pledged in the BBC’s public purposes, they are clearly in need of much more background information.  

Related Articles:

Another UN SC resolution violation goes unreported by the BBC

BBC News yawns over another violation of UNSC resolution 1701

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

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

BBC ignores calls for UNIFIL mandate change – in English

At the end of this month the mandate of the UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon – UNIFIL – will expire and its renewal is scheduled for discussion at the UN Security Council.

That mandate of course includes clauses which have not been met throughout the last eleven years:

“Assist the LAF [Lebanese Armed Forces] in taking steps towards the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an free [sic] of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL deployed in this area;

Assist the Government of Lebanon in securing its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel.”

However, this time round the mandate’s renewal may perhaps not be as automatic as in previous years. On August 7th the US mission to the UN put out a press release:

“On Friday, August 4, UN Secretary-General António Guterres submitted a letter to the Security Council recommending that the Council renew the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which is due to expire on August 31. In the letter, the Secretary-General called for the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon to strengthen the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the authority of Lebanon’s government. He also noted the illegal presence of armed personnel, weapons, and infrastructure inside UNIFIL’s area of operations, and his intention to look at ways in which UNIFIL could enhance its efforts against them.

“We share the Secretary-General’s strong desire to enhance UNIFIL’s efforts to prevent the spread of illegal arms in southern Lebanon,” said Ambassador Haley. “These arms – which are almost entirely in the hands of Hizballah terrorists – threaten the security and stability of the region. UNIFIL must increase its capacity and commitment to investigating and reporting these violations. The United States will continue to raise the threat posed by Hizballah as we seek significant improvements to UNIFIL when the Security Council renews its mandate this month.””

The UN Secretary General’s letter to the Security Council stated:

“The government of Lebanon must exercise effective authority over all Lebanese territory, prevent hostile actions from its territory, ensure the safety and security of the civilian population, in addition to United Nations personnel, and also ensure the disarmament of all armed groups”.

Whether or not those demands based on UNSC resolution 1701 will finally be met is obviously questionable given the make-up of the current Lebanese government.

Nevertheless, reports concerning Ambassador Haley’s intention to seek “significant improvements” to UNIFIL’s mandate were seen on many media sites – but the story did not receive any coverage on the BBC’s English language platforms.

In contrast, editors at the BBC Arabic website did consider that story newsworthy and an AFP report on the topic was translated into Arabic for publication on that site.

Related Articles:

BBC News yawns over another violation of UNSC resolution 1701

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

 

 

 

BBC News yawns over another violation of UNSC resolution 1701

One might have assumed that the blatant violation of a UN Security Council resolution by a terrorist group and a government’s armed forces would have been of interest to a media organisation that has described itself as “the standard-setter for international journalism”.

Hizballah flag viewed from Metulla

However, when Hizballah took journalists on a tour of the border between Israel and Lebanon on April 20th – accompanied by armed terrorists and the Lebanese army – right under the noses of the UNIFIL troops that are supposed to implement UN SC resolution 1701’s ban on armed paramilitary groups, the BBC stayed mum.

Neither did BBC audiences get any coverage of the next day’s ‘damage control’ visit to the same location by the Lebanese prime minister.

“The Lebanese leader criticized the media tour organized by Hezbollah during which armed gunmen from the group appeared in a UN-created border buffer zone meant to be free of Hezbollah presence, calling it “unacceptable in our opinion.” […]

Hariri, on his visit Friday, met with United Nations peacekeepers stationed in the area and renewed Lebanon’s commitment to international resolutions.

“What happened yesterday is something that we, as a government, are not (involved) with and do not accept,” Hariri said. He struck a conciliatory tone, however, saying “there are political differences (with Hezbollah) that we put aside, and this is one of them.”

“I came here to emphasize that our role as a government is to preserve Resolution 1701,” Hariri said.”

Writing at the Tablet, Tony Badran analyses those events and their broader meaning.

“Last Thursday, Hezbollah organized a tour for journalists along the border with Israel, where the Iranian proxy highlighted the various topographical alterations the IDF has done near the border in preparation for a future war. As part of this event, Hezbollah fighters posed for pictures in the area carrying arms, including a man-portable air-defense system—an overt violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701. The resolution, passed in 2006 to conclude the Second Lebanon war, stipulates that the area between the Blue Line 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 (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon).” To be sure, Hezbollah has been violating that resolution for a decade, but what makes this latest episode all the more egregious is that the Hezbollah tour was chaperoned by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and in the presence of UNIFIL forces in the area. Afterwards, Hezbollah clarified that its tour was “coordinated” with the LAF and UNIFIL. The latter subsequently issued a statement clarifying that the LAF gave it notice of the event “shortly before the media delegation arrived.” In other words, the LAF and Hezbollah were both in on the joke and UNIFIL, at best, was the butt of it. […]

Following the Hezbollah tour, Hariri paid a visit to UNIFIL headquarters, accompanied by the Hezbollah-allied defense minister and LAF commander, where, for added comedic effect, he reaffirmed his “government’s commitment, with all its components” to UNSCR 1701. That is to say, Hariri was mopping up after Hezbollah—a “component” of the government, which had just violated 1701, in collusion with the LAF. Never mind that. “The government is not interested in, nor does it accept, what happened,” Hariri said. And so, the “government” both violates and is committed to UNSCR 1701. Everyone, really, is committed to the charade.”

As has been noted here on numerous occasions in the past, the BBC not only routinely ignores the topic of Hizballah’s continuous violations of UN SC resolution 1701, but has even whitewashed them.

The adoption of that editorial policy of course means that if and when conflict between Israel and Hizballah does break out again, BBC audiences will be unaware of over a decade of violations of that UN SC resolution that are crucial context to any such conflict.

Related Articles:

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

Weekend long read

1) Last month the BBC News website published a rare article about an incident related to internal affairs within the Palestinian Authority and its dominant party Fatah but no follow-up reporting on that topic has since appeared. MEMRI has produced a report on the background to that incident and its subsequent repercussions.Weekend Read

“Halawa’s killing marked the culmination of a series of violent clashes during the last few months between PA security forces and local armed forces, some of which belong to Fatah.These clashes stemmed from the refusal of influential families in the city to accept the PA’s authority. Some of these families, including the Halawa family, belong to factions within Fatah that do not support Fatah Chairman and PA President Mahmoud ‘Abbas.

Ahmad Halawa’s killing enraged many of the city’s residents, who regarded it as a grave and unjustified attack on a member of a prominent local family. The news of his death sparked further clashes that included gunfights between locals who support the Halawa family, some of them Fatah members, and PA security forces;  numerous arrests, and a general strike announced by the Nablus chamber of commerce. The killing also sent shockwaves through the Fatah movement in Nablus: the movement harshly condemned the activity of the PA security forces and declared a period of mourning in the city; moreover, many Fatah members quit the movement as a gesture of solidarity with the Halawa family and in protest of the PA security forces’ activity.”

2) Last week the UNSC extended the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Lebanon for an additional year. David Daoud of the FDD takes a look at “UNIFIL’s Unfulfilled Mandate“.

“…the Council commends the “positive role” UNIFIL has played in creating a “new strategic environment in south Lebanon” in the decade since the Israel-Hezbollah war of 2006. The resolution comes shortly after the force’s new commander commended it turning south Lebanon into an “an oasis of peace.” The truth is rather different: Israel and Hezbollah have had their own reasons for deferring war, ones that have little to do with UNIFIL.”

3) BICOM has been looking ahead at likely scenarios for the Palestinian Authority.

“Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is 81 years old, has publicly stated his intention not to compete again in elections and has appointed no successor. Given the state of the Palestinian system as well as increasing frustration with the PA and the moribund peace process with Israel, a chaotic battle for succession – one that is already underway – is the most likely scenario for the post-Abbas era.”

Links to that two-part study can be found here.

4) Over at the Tower, Annika Hernroth-Rothstein brings a fascinating and touching account of her visit to Iran and its Jewish community.

“Life behind the mechitza offers some much-wanted and rarely-found protection from the eyes and ears of the regime. It is there the women and I speak beyond a whisper, and before the Lecha Dodi prayer, I feel a hand on my arm, grasping desperately for my attention.

“Pray for us, will you, please?”

Her words are sad and real and stark, and they break the wall put up by her masters. I nod but fail to answer; I see a glimpse of her life but fail to fully understand; and I know there is nothing I can do but say a prayer and tell her story.”

Read the whole article here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

On August 12th 2006 the BBC News website reported that:

“The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a new resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Resolution 1701 calls for “a full cessation of hostilities”, and UN and Lebanese troops to replace Israeli forces in southern Lebanon.”

BBC audiences were also provided with the text of that UNSC resolution which of course includes the following:1701 text art

“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 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.

While that UNSC resolution brought an end to the 2006 war, it has obviously failed to achieve its long-term goal of avoiding the next round of conflict by preventing Hizballah’s rearmament and entrenchment in southern Lebanon.

The BBC’s public purpose remit commits it to keeping its funding public “in touch with what is going on in the world” and to building “a global understanding of international issues” and so it would be reasonable to assume that audiences have been kept up to date on the issues pertaining to implementation of Resolution 1701 throughout the decade since it was adopted – but is that the case?

The ‘timeline’ in the BBC’s online profile of Lebanon (last updated in August 2016) makes no mention at all of the existence of UNSC Resolution 1701.

“2006 July-August – Israel attacks after Hezbollah kidnaps two Israeli soldiers. Civilian casualties are high and the damage to civilian infrastructure wide-ranging in 34-day war. UN peacekeeping force deploys along the southern border, followed by Lebanese army troops for first time in decades.”

The profile itself includes a generalised reference to the disarming of militias without specifically recalling Resolution 1701 and without clarifying the current status of that ‘demand’. 

“The UN has demanded the dismantling of all armed groups in Lebanon, including Palestinian militias and the military wing of Hezbollah, which controls much of southern Lebanon.”

The BBC’s current profile of Hizballah (last updated in March 2016) tells audiences that:

“After Israel withdrew in 2000, Hezbollah resisted pressure to disarm and continued to strengthen its military wing, the Islamic Resistance. In some ways, its capabilities now exceed those of the Lebanese army, its considerable firepower used against Israel in the 2006 war.”

And:

“Hezbollah survived the [2006] war and emerged emboldened. Although it is has since upgraded and expanded its arsenal and recruited scores of new fighters, there has been no major flare-up along the border area, which is now patrolled by UN peacekeepers and the Lebanese army.”

No mention is made of Resolution 1701 and the obligation to disarm the terrorist organisation, prevent its rearmament and remove it from southern Lebanon in either of those profiles currently appearing on the BBC News website.

Immediately after the 2006 war, the BBC was able to tell its audiences that:

“UN Security Council resolutions call for armed militia groups like Hezbollah to disarm.” 

Nearly a year after the adoption of Resolution 1701, the BBC sent Martin Asser to southern Lebanon to ‘examine UNIFIL’s performance’. The caption to the main photograph illustrating his article informed audiences that “Unifil troops are meant to prevent Hezbollah bearing arms”.1701 Asser art

“After the July 2006 war, the [UNIFIL] force received new orders and thousands of reinforcements under the ceasefire resolution 1701, which also stipulated the deployment of the Lebanese army in the area.

Previously the area had become the fiefdom of Hezbollah, the Shia Islamist and militant movement whose cross-border raid on 12 July – snatching two Israeli soldiers – was the catalyst for the 34-day conflict.

The post-conflict objective was for Unifil to help the Lebanese government extend its sovereignty to the southern frontier, so Hezbollah’s armed wing would no longer be free to menace nearby Israeli towns or troops patrolling the border.”

Asser added:

“Hezbollah fighters are masters of concealment and guerrilla warfare – their weapons were never on show before the war, so they are unlikely to be caught red-handed by Unifil or Lebanese troops now.”

An old profile of Hizballah from 2010 states:

“Despite two UN resolutions (1559 passed in 2004, and 1701, which halted the war) calling for disarming of militias in Lebanon, Hezbollah’s military arm remains intact.”

In 2013 BBC audiences were told by the corporation’s man in Beirut, Jim Muir, that “Hezbollah has scrupulously observed the ceasefire that ended hostilities in 2006”. In 2015 Orla Guerin reported from south Lebanon but failed to use the opportunity provided by a rare BBC visit to that area to inform audiences of Hizballah’s use of civilian villages to store weapons and as sites from which to launch attacks against Israel.

The BBC has also consistently avoided or downplayed the topic of Iranian breaches of UNSC Resolution 1701 in the form of its transfer of arms to Hizballah. In 2013 BBC audiences heard Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen playing dumb (and some Hizballah spin) on the issue of Syrian transfers of weapons to the terrorist organisation. 

Already in 2007 – just over a year after the war and the resolution which brought it to an end – the UN admitted that Hizballah had “rebuilt and even increased its military capacity” and since then its weapons stocks have vastly increased and diversified. The BBC is of course aware of that fact – as indicated in an article by BBC Monitoring’s Lamia Estatie published on July 11th 2016 under the headline “Hezbollah: Five ways group has changed since 2006 Israel war“.1701 Estatie art

“Its weapons arsenal grew from from [sic] 33,000 rockets and missiles before the 2006 war to an estimated 150,000. Similarly, it swelled from a few thousand members in 2006 to an estimated 20,000-plus.

After 2011, Hezbollah’s military support for the Iran-backed Syrian government – its weapons supply line – gave its fighters considerable combat experience and exposure to Russian military planning.”

No mention of UNSC Resolution 1701 appears in that report either.

It is apparent that as the decade since the UNSC’s adoption of 1701 progressed, BBC audiences saw less coverage of the topic of the existence of the resolution itself and the fact that its terms have been serially violated. Given the obligations to its funding public laid out in the public purposes remit, it is difficult to see how the BBC can justify that pattern of reporting.

Related Articles:

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

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

 

Visiting BBC journalist provides some refreshing reporting

A BBC correspondent usually based in Mexico City is currently visiting Israel and on July 12th produced two reports – one written and one filmed – relating to the tenth anniversary of the Second Lebanon War.

In her filmed report titled “On patrol with the Israel Defense Forces on Lebanon border” Katy Watson gave viewers a rare view of Hizballah’s use of the residents of southern Lebanon as human shields.Watson filmed

“The soldiers tell me they can see weapons being stored in areas where civilians live.”

That important and usually overlooked information was also available to readers of her written report titled “Israel ‘readier’ for new Hezbollah war“.

“In these stakeouts, troops keep an eye on Hezbollah operatives around the clock. From what they see, the weapons Hezbollah has are being stored in civilian areas.

“Every mission that I’ve been on personally has been observing Hezbollah operations in a heavily populated area,” says one of the soldiers, Gabriel. “In a house with a family living in it or in a house next door or behind it.”

Israel has long said that it will target places where the weapons are stashed. It warns if war breaks out, Lebanese casualties would be high.”

Both reports also include information about Hizballah’s rehabilitation of its missile arsenal since the 2006 war.Watson written

“Hezbollah was damaged, but rebuilt over the past decade with the help of Iran and Syria. Israel says the group’s firepower is now much greater than before the war.

“Now they have more than 120,000 rockets and missiles,” says General Yaakov Amidror, a former national security advisor, now with the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv.

“It’s a huge number that you don’t find in any country in Europe for example. When you see all these efforts, you ask yourself one question – what for?””

While more could have been done to provide audiences with information concerning Iran’s provision of funding and weapons to Hizballah and neither report addresses the fact that Hizballah’s weapons stockpiles are a violation of UNSC resolution 1701 that ended the 2006 war and a clear indication of the impotence of the UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon, these two reports by Katy Watson are nevertheless a refreshing change in the landscape of BBC Israel-related reporting.

It is not every day that we come across a BBC journalist who is content with telling a story rather than telling audiences what to think about a story. 

The BBC News website’s muddled geography confuses audiences

On April 7th a report appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Israel admits its fire killed Spanish UN peacekeeper“. Readers are told:UNIFIL art

“A Spanish soldier who was killed in Lebanon in January died as a result of Israeli fire, Israel’s military says.

Corporal Francisco Javier Soria Toledo was hit by Israeli artillery following a Hezbollah attack which killed two Israeli soldiers, according to a military statement.”

In fact, a senior IDF official had already confirmed that the UNIFIL soldier was accidentally killed by IDF fire back in January when the incident took place.

The BBC’s report continues:

“The 36-year-old UN peacekeeper was killed near the village of Ghajar, in the Shebaa Farms area, on 28 January.”

The uninformed reader would obviously take that sentence to mean that the Spanish soldier was killed in a district called the Shebaa Farms, near a village called Ghajar located in that area. Seeing as the Shebaa Farms area (Har Dov) is located on the Israeli side of the ‘Blue Line, the implication is therefore that the soldier was in Israel at the time of his death. In fact, although the soldier may have been “near the village of Ghajar” (his position was apparently around one kilometer to the north-east), he was actually on the Lebanese side of the border where all UNIFIL forces are stationed. 

In addition, the BBC’s suggestion that Ghajar is in the Shebaa Farms (Har Dov) area is in itself inaccurate: Ghajar is part of the Golan Heights and its residents are Alawites – originally Syrian and holding Israeli citizenship since 1981.

Ghajar map

Click to enlarge

Even the BBC’s own map of the region does not place Ghajar in the Shebaa Farms area but nevertheless, the latter half of this short report is devoted to the standard insert on the Shebaa Farms seen in previous BBC coverage of the January cross-border attack by Hizballah. As was the case then, that insert is superfluous seeing as the story has nothing to do with the topic of the Shebaa Farms/Har Dov dispute and the incidents which are its subject matter did not take place within that area.

Ghajar BBC map

Notably, a subject which is relevant to this report gets no mention whatsoever: at no point are readers informed that the task of the UNIFIL forces with which Corporal Francisco Javier Soria Toledo served is to monitor adherence to UN Resolution 1701, according to which Hizballah should have been disarmed years ago and should not be operating south of the Litani River. Had the UN made efforts to enforce that unanimous UNSC decision, the accidental death of the soldier could of course have been avoided.

Ghajar

Ghajar

Related Articles:

More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

Patchy BBC reporting on Hizballah attacks in northern Israel