On January 29th the BBC’s Cairo correspondent Orla Guerin was to be found in southern Lebanon making a filmed report for BBC television news which was also posted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the interestingly punctuated title “Hezbollah ‘attack site’ near Shebaa Farms identified“. The same superfluous punctuation also appeared on the website’s Middle East homepage and in tweets promoting the report.
Guerin tells BBC audiences:
“Well we’re told that the attack happened in the gap between those trees. The Israeli troops were in vehicles. They were on a local roadway when they came under fire from Hizballah and that of course has sparked fears of a wider confrontation. The fence down here along the roadway marks the disputed border in this area.”
Guerin’s description of the border as “disputed” of course reflects the Hizballah/Lebanese narrative and she makes no effort to inform viewers of the very relevant fact that the UN determined a decade and a half ago that the area does not belong to Lebanon.
“On 15 May 2000, the United Nations received a map, dated 1966, from the Government of Lebanon which reflected the Government’s position that these farmlands were located in Lebanon. However, the United Nations is in possession of 10 other maps issued after 1966 by various Lebanese government institutions, including the Ministry of Defence and the army, all of which place the farmlands inside the Syrian Arab Republic. The United Nations has also examined six maps issued by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, including three maps since 1966, which place the farmlands inside the Syrian Arab Republic. […] It is worth noting that, notwithstanding the conflicting evidence to which I have alluded, and whatever the present understanding between Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic, these farmlands lie in an area occupied by Israel since 1967 and are therefore subject to Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) calling for an Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory. (A total of 81 maps were available to the United Nations from various sources dating from before and after 1966; 25 of these were issued by the Governments of Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic.)”
“It’s been relatively quiet here since 2006 when Israel and Hizballah went to war.”
Of course that war began because Hizballah initiated it with a cross-border raid accompanied by missile fire on Israeli civilian communities. Guerin’s portrayal, however, promotes a false notion of equivalence and her description of the area as “relatively quiet” is no less misleading.
In addition to periodic missile fire at the town of Kiryat Shmona and its environs (see examples here, here, here and here), there have also been shooting attacks (see one example here) and placement of explosive devices on the border fence (see examples here, here and here).
Guerin goes on to say:
“The big concern now is whether either side has the appetite for a repeat of that. In the past few hours since we’ve been here it’s been quiet. We’ve been hearing United Nations choppers. We’ve also heard some Israeli drones. But this is a farming area and we have seen some people going back to work in the fields. There was Israeli shelling here yesterday. Some of that affected the outskirts of the villages here – these border villages – and the schools remain closed. But officials have told us that about 50 or 60 families fled. Now some of those have returned.”
Seeing as the BBC did not bother to send a reporter into the field in northern Israel to find out how Hizballah’s attack affected the local residents there, it is interesting to see Guerin’s focus on the topic of villagers in southern Lebanon. But what is really remarkable is the fact that despite the Kornet anti-tank missiles used in the attack having been fired from a location four or five kilometers inside Lebanese territory, Guerin makes no attempt to report on that aspect of the story.
Hizballah’s use of villages in southern Lebanon as weapons stores (in violation of UN SC Resolution 1701) is no secret. One of those villages – al Khiam – is not far from the location in which Orla Guerin filmed her report. And yet, Guerin refrained from using the opportunity provided by a rare BBC visit to southern Lebanon to inform audiences of the context of Hizballah’s use of civilian villages to store weapons and as sites from which to launch attacks against Israel which is essential for their full understanding of this story and its wider background.