Our documentation of the BBC’s decidedly uninformative coverage of Operation Northern Shield has so far included one item aired on BBC World Service radio. On December 19th listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ heard an additional report from the BBC’s Beirut correspondent Martin Patience which was introduced by presenter Dan Damon (from 43:03 here) as follows.
[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Damon: “The United Nations Security Council is expected to discuss rising tensions between Lebanon and Israel – that is later today. Israel says it’s discovered four tunnels that it claims were dug by the Lebanese militant group Hizballah and which were designed to launch attacks inside Israel. For the past two weeks Israeli troops have been working to destroy those tunnels. Our Lebanon correspondent Martin Patience has visited one of the affected areas on the border – the so-called Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel.”
Since arriving in Beirut, Martin Patience has not – as far as we are aware – produced any reporting on the situation in southern Lebanon and Hizballah’s recurrent violations of UN Security Council resolution 1701.
Patience: “We’re on a hilltop and there’s an extraordinary scene in front of me. A couple of meters away is barbed wire that marks the Blue Line – the division between Lebanon and Israel. There’s a dozen or more soldiers on this side wearing blue helmets. They’re from the UN peacekeeping force. And then just beyond that barbed wire I can see an Israeli soldier and beyond the Israeli soldier there are three diggers excavating the hillside. It has started to rain and come down hard. Now what exactly they’re looking for we aren’t sure. But we know that Israel says that Hizballah – the Lebanese militia – has been digging tunnels in this part of the country, right here at the border.”
Patience should of course have been able to tell his listeners “exactly” what the Israeli forces are “looking for” because they had been making that point crystal clear for over two weeks before Patience went on air. Listeners then heard the first of two pointless conversations with anonymous ‘locals’.
Patience: “There’s quite a few young men up here who’ve come to take a look at what’s going on. We’re going to see if we can grab a word with someone. One of them tells me the situation is unpleasant but he’s just waiting to see what will happen. So too are many in Lebanon. The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that if Hizballah tries to disrupt the search for the tunnels it will be hit in a way that it cannot even imagine.”
Patience: “Israel has accused the United Nations peacekeeping force which patrols the border area of turning a blind eye to the movement but Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force, says that the troops are doing their job.”
Tenenti: “I would say that there is a difference between rhetoric – political rhetoric – and the reality on the ground. On the ground we are doing our job with over 400 activities per day with our troops and we have the support of the parties and the commitment of the parties in implementing our mandate.”
Patience: “At least two of the tunnels violate Israeli sovereignty.”
Tenenti: “We confirmed the presence of four tunnels but we were able to verify so far with our technical team – independent technical team – two tunnels violate UN Security Council resolution 1701. So they are violations of UNIFIL’s mandate.”
Rather than clarifying that misleading statement and pointing out to listeners that any and all Hizballah presence and activity south of the Litani River is in fact a violation of that UNSC resolution, Patience went on:
Patience: “But both the UN and Lebanon say that Israeli fighter jets frequently violate Lebanese airspace. And here in Lebanon the issue of the tunnels is widely seen as an Israeli attempt to put diplomatic pressure on Hizballah.”
Failing to explain that Hizballah started the 2006 war when it conducted a cross-border raid, killed and abducted Israeli soldiers and launched missiles at Israeli civilians, Patience continued:
Patience: “The Lebanese militant organisation has been noticeably silent about recent events but in 2006 a devastating war broke out between Hizballah and Israel and that’s always at the back of people’s minds. Technically the two countries are still at a state of war.”
In fact Hizballah’s second in command has not been “silent about recent events”.
“Qassem said that Hezbollah too would not initiate war, but would respond to Israeli aggression and that such a response and counter-response could potentially lead to war.
According to Qassem, Israel’s home front, including Tel Aviv, are under threat. “There is not a place in the Zionist entity that is not within Hezbollah’s range,” he said.”
Listeners than heard more anonymous comment from a ‘man on the hill’.
Patience: “Back at the border I ask a Lebanese man whether he’s worried that the current situation could trigger a conflict. He tells me he doesn’t think so because if it was going to happen it would have happened by now. For the moment neither side appears to be spoiling for a fight. But there remains unfinished business between Israel and Hizballah and the fear always is that a small incident here on the border could trigger something far worse.”
Yet again we see that BBC reporting on this ongoing story makes no absolutely no effort to meet the corporation’s obligation to provide audiences with the information necessary for its full understanding.