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.
A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part three
Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701