The website of Hizballah’s Al Manar TV station carries details of a statement put out on July 22nd by the terrorist organisation in response to the EU’s blacklisting of its ‘military wing’. The website cites “Hezbollah media relations” as its source for the statement, so we can probably assume that it is accurate.
“Hezbollah expressed in a statement issued Monday evening firm rejection of the European Union’s decision to put its military wing on the list of terrorism, and considered it as “aggressive, unjust decision written with Zionist ink.”
Hezbollah saw in the EU bowing to pressures of the US administration and the Zionist entity as a serious turnover in its compliance to the White House dictates. “It looks as if the decision was written by American hands with Zionist ink and the EU had only to put its seal for approval,” Hezbollah’s statement said.
Hezbollah considered that this unjust decision does not reflect the interests of the peoples of the European Union “and comes in contrast with its values and aspirations that support the principles of freedom and independence, which it had always advocated.”
“If the EU countries think they are booking its locations in our Arab and Islamic countries by submitting to the logic of U.S. blackmailing, we assure them that Washington had made similar decision and gained only further failures and disappointments,” the statement ended up saying.” [emphasis added]
So how did the BBC report that statement? In the latest version of a July 22nd article entitled “EU ministers agree to blacklist Hezbollah’s armed wing” which appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website, the BBC appears to have found fit to tweak that quote.
“In a statement, Hezbollah said the EU decision “was written by American hands with Israeli ink“.
The group said the move “has no justification and is not based on any proof”. ” [emphasis added]
As Middle East observers will be aware, it is very rare for Hizballah officials and spokesmen to call Israel by name, preferring to use atavistic terms such as “the Zionist entity”. So why does the BBC think it needs to tone down – and misquote – the terrorist organization’s statement for Western consumption?
The same article includes a filmed report by the BBC’s Beirut correspondent Jim Muir which also appeared separately on the Middle East page of the BBC News website and was broadcast on BBC television.
In that report Muir promotes the Hizballah line, using the terrorist organisation’s terminology.
Muir: “Hizballah is deeply rooted in Lebanese society, especially in Shiite areas like this part of Beirut, also in the southern suburbs of the capital and in the south of the country and the eastern Bekaa Valley where Hizballah really holds sway. Militarily, it’s stronger than the Lebanese army itself. Politically it’s also very strong. In communities like this there is no way that Hizballah is regarded as terrorist. People here have quite a different view from the European Union.”
Man in the street: “They can say what they like but to us Hizballah is not a terrorist organization. It has a popular base which extends all over the country.”
Woman in the street: “Hizballah is everything to us. We rely on it in a number of ways. It is our strength. If it wasn’t for Hizballah, the Americans and Israelis would have taken over a long time ago. We support Hizballah – it is not a terrorist organization.”
Despite the BBC’s commitment to accuracy and impartiality, Muir makes no attempt to bring Lebanese voices expressing alternative opinions (of which there are many) to his audiences. Neither does he make any effort to provide facts to put into proportion the bizarre “taken over” statement made by his female interviewee. Muir continues by making a couple of valid and accurate points:
“Diplomats here are going to find it very hard to follow through on that distinction between the military wing and political wing of Hizballah that they have tried to make because Hizballah does not make that distinction itself. It’s one organization – it has many MPs in parliament, it has cabinet ministers in the outgoing government, so it’s going to be hard for diplomats to decide exactly who they’re talking to.
Hizballah’s involvement in Syria has been very divisive here. Hizballah fighters are openly combating the rebels alongside government forces. That’s been very divisive, so in Sunni parts of Lebanon you’ll find people certainly who will applaud the European Union for listing Hizballah as a terrorist organization.”
Muir does not however attempt to clarify for his audiences the proportions of Sunni and Shiia within the context of Lebanese demographics, or to explain to audiences that many additional ethnic and religious groups – not necessarily supportive of Hizballah – also exist.
Muir ends his report with a burst of pure Hizballah propaganda.
“It’s ironic that Hizballah’s involvement in Syria may have been something that stiffened European opinion against it because one of the main arguments it has for taking part in that struggle is to combat the Al Qaeda-type terrorists – as they see it – who are fighting alongside the rebels and they’re indeed taking the initiative in many areas. So for Hizballah the whole terrorist issue is highly politicized – that’s why it is undoubtedly going to dismiss this European move as highly politically motivated: part of an Israeli-backed plan to undermine resistance both by Hizballah, by Syria and by their strategic ally, Iran.”
It is perfectly legitimate to attempt to explain to BBC audiences the outlook of a terrorist organization in order to enhance their understanding of a complicated issue, providing that the journalist balances that information with facts so as to avoid turning his report into propaganda. It is quite another thing to adopt a terrorist organisation’s language – as seen in Muir’s use of the term “resistance” – and to promote its conspiracy theories.
Muir’s failure to present any balance to the Hizballah party line, his promotion of the conspiracy theory-based notion of the EU designation as being a “politically motivated” cave-in to a mysterious Israeli master plan and his resulting relativist whitewashing of Hizballah’s very long history of terror and crime is not only inaccurate and partial, but deliberate misinformation.
Regrettably, this is far from the first time that we have seen Jim Muir promoting the concept of “resistance”, whitewashing Hizballah’s violence, trivialising Hizballah’s role in the destabilisation of the region as a whole and gratuitously advancing the anti-Israel conspiracy theories of Hizballah and its supporters.
Jim Muir’s reporting from the Middle East is not helping BBC audiences to “build a global understanding of international issues” – and neither does BBC editors’ ‘tweaking’ of quotes from a terrorist organization in order to make it appear less unhinged.