BBC employs smoke and mirrors in report on Iranian weapons smuggling ship

In the early afternoon of March 5th the IDF announced that an Iranian cargo ship sailing under the flag of Panama had been intercepted early that morning in the Red Sea by Israeli naval forces. Concealed among its legitimate cargo, the ship was also carrying Syrian-made 302mm missiles destined to be smuggled via Sudan and Sinai to the Gaza Strip. A video report on the background to the operation can be viewed here.

The BBC’s initial coverage of the breaking news was garnished with revealing punctuation. 

BBC ME tweet ship

Iran ship on ME HP

Breaking Iran ship

The article subsequently underwent numerous changes. First came the version below, going under the same bizarrely punctuated title as the breaking news item and including liberal use of the standard BBC disclaimer “Israel says” as well as the statement below, which would be comical were it not such a damning indictment of the BBC’s failure to meet its commitment to accurately inform its article Iran shipaudiences. 

“Israel has accused Iran of arming groups such as Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Neglecting to inform readers of the violent circumstances in which Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip and of its terrorist designation, the article also states:

“There has not yet been any comment on the incident from Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip.”

But apparently, the BBC’s notion of ‘government’ does not include the prevention of terrorist activity from the territory Hamas controls:

“Almost fifty projectiles were fired towards Israel from the Gaza Strip last year, Israel says.

Hamas denies that it has fired any rockets since a 2012 ceasefire agreement with Israel, and has blamed other groups such as Islamic Jihad.

Israel has in turn launched several air strikes on the Gaza Strip, causing several deaths.”

In the next version of the report, the BBC saw fit to reproduce patently absurd Hamas propaganda:  

“Hamas denied any involvement and said that story was being used by Israel to “justify the blockade” on Gaza.”

It then went on to cite anonymous “critics”, denying BBC audiences the opportunity to judge the merits of such a statement by clarifying the identity and political motivations of those “critics”. 

“Israel tightly controls its border with Gaza, restricting what is allowed in for what it says are reasons crucial to its security. It also maintains a naval blockade. Egypt blockades Gaza’s southern border.

Critics say the blockade is tantamount to collective punishment.”

In this version of the report the number and time-scale of missiles fired from the Gaza Strip was amended and despite that information being in the public domain (even if the BBC does consistently fail to report it), the caveat “Israel says” appeared once again.

“More than 60 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip have hit Israel since the start of last year, Israel says.

Hamas denies that it has fired any rockets since a 2012 ceasefire agreement with Israel, with other militant groups in the Gaza Strip claiming responsibility.

Israel says it hold [sic] Hamas responsible for any attacks from Gaza.”

Once again the curious use of the phrase “in turn” appears, with the result that readers are encouraged to view the issue in terms of equivalence rather than cause and effect.

“Israel has in turn repeatedly launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip, causing several deaths of militants and civilians.”

The later version of the report – with the amended title “Israel halts ‘weapons shipment from Iran’” – again included the same Hamas propaganda statement and citation of anonymous “critics”. Iran ship v4

Once again, what is well-known fact is presented to audiences as an exclusively Israeli claim:

“Israel has accused Iran of arming groups such as Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.”

In conclusion, BBC audiences are actively misled by this report in that they are encouraged to view Iran’s long and well documented history of arming and financing terrorist organisations as a debatable Israeli claim. The repetition of obviously ridiculous Hamas propaganda and citation of barely veiled accusations of war crimes from unidentified “critics” does nothing to lend ‘balance’ or ‘impartiality’ to the article and distracts from the actual subject matter. The deliberately equivocal presentation of the actions of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip and the responses of the armed forces of a nation protecting its citizens from that terrorist activity is clearly politically motivated. 

What should have been a very straightforward story to report has been rendered absurd by the BBC’s self-censorship and the insertion of faux ‘balance’. The end result of that inability to report in an objective and pertinent manner is that BBC audiences are distracted by the report’s ‘smoke and mirrors’ focus on the Gaza Strip at the expense of the provision of accurate information on this latest incident of provision of lethal weaponry to internationally designated terrorist organisations – and the ensuing destabilisation of the region – by the Syrian regime and Iran, even whilst negotiations with the P5+1 on the issue of the latter’s nuclear programme go on.


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