BBC News fails to provide full background to Hizballah provocations

On July 26th we noted the paucity of BBC reporting on recent – and past – provocations by Hizballah on Israel’s northern border:


On July 28th the BBC News website published a report by Tom Bateman titled ‘Israel-Lebanon border tension raises fears of bloody escalation’. Audio versions of that report were aired on the same day on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme (from 44:19 here) and on the BBC World Service radio programmes ‘Newsday’ (from 39:20 here) and ‘Newshour’ (from 36:50 here).

Bateman’s written report – the one which will remain online as “permanent public record” – begins with an account of an incident which took place two weeks before its publication but was not reported by the BBC at the time. He then goes on to promote the notion of equivalence between the actions of a terrorist organisation and those of a sovereign state:

“Recent months have seen a growing number of incidents at the so-called Blue Line, the United Nations-patrolled boundary that separates Israel and the occupied Golan Heights from Lebanon.

The UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, Unifil, says both Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah have carried out multiple breaches of international commitments at the line and beyond.

And there have been more serious moments still – including rocket fire into Israel by Palestinian militants in Lebanon who have Hezbollah’s backing, and Israeli artillery fire back over the wire.

Earlier this year, a cross-border raid saw a militant from Lebanon – later shot dead by the Israelis – carry out a roadside bomb attack in northern Israel close to the biblical site of Armageddon.”

Contrary to the impression given by the use of the phrase “the biblical site of Armageddon”, that roadside bomb was detonated at Megiddo Junction on the busy Route 65 main road and – as Bateman knows – one Israeli civilian was seriously wounded.

Later in his report, Bateman again promotes that ‘equivalence’ framing:

“I put it to him [the IDF spokesman] that Israel is also in breach at parts of the Blue Line, and breaks a UN Security Council resolution with its overflights of Lebanon.”

That UN Security Council resolution is of course 1701 which was adopted in 2006 to bring an end to the Second Lebanon war. As is the case in much of the BBC’s reporting of stories concerning Lebanon and Hizballah, Bateman’s explanation of that terrorist organisation’s violations of that UNSC resolution is decidedly minimalist: [emphasis added]

“In recent months Israel has complained to the United Nations that Hezbollah has placed tents close to the boundary. One was on the Israeli side of the line on the occupied Golan Heights, in breach of UN resolutions, under which the group is also supposed to have disarmed.

Lebanese officials in turn point to breaches by Israel, including fighter jet overflights of its territory.”

Hizballah was not only “supposed to have disarmed” under the terms of UNSC resolution 1701 (and the previous ones 1559 and 1680): according to that resolution, Hizballah operatives are not supposed to be anywhere near the border with Israel:

“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;”

Bateman however neglects to provide that highly relevant information. Readers are therefore unable to put his subsequent claim that “both sides [are] conducting military drills close to the line” into its correct perspective because they have not been informed that, unlike Israeli forces, Hizballah terrorists should not be located near the Blue Line.

He likewise fails to clarify that UNIFIL has failed in its mission to enforce that resolution but does unquestioningly promote a quote from that organisation:

“…when I asked Unifil for its current take, it praised an “unprecedented period of stability” for the last 17 years in southern Lebanon, thanks, it says, to the “commitment of Lebanon and Israel”.”

Bateman’s portrayal of the First Lebanon war airbrushes the Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians which were the context to that conflict.

“…we’re just metres south of the Blue Line – we head past blue barrels painted with black text: “LINE OF WITHDRAWAL 2000. DO NOT TRESPASS”.

They mark the agreed boundary of Israel’s withdrawal after its 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon, which it invaded in 1982 to drive out Yasser Arafat and fighters of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).”

His portrayal of Hizballah as a product of that war misleads BBC audiences in that it airbrushes the terrorist organisation’s earlier roots.

“Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia militia, is proscribed by Israel and much of the West as a terrorist group, but is backed by Iran. It was founded as a resistance force against Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon in 1982.”

That framing is particularly significant to audience understanding of the next paragraph’s reference to the terrorist organisation’s “founding necessity” – i.e “resistance” to Israeli presence on Lebanese territory.

“Now, the dominant force in the crisis-hit country, it still derives its key base of support by appealing to what it sees as its founding necessity. This is especially so given the mounting challenges faced by the state’s official military, the Lebanese armed forces, which Unifil is there to support.”

Hizballah, however, has for decades made no secret of the fact that its raison d’être is not confined to events in south Lebanon. Just hours after the appearance of Bateman’s reports, its leader once again clarified that – as it has been openly stating for nearly four decades – its aim is the elimination of Israel.

“The entire Middle East will not rest until the “cancerous gland” that is Israel is removed, Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday morning according to Hezbollah-affiliated media in Lebanon.”

Following Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Hizballah continued to ‘justify’ its existence (and weapons) by promoting the notion of ‘disputed areas’ such as Har Dov. As has been the case in the past, Bateman made no attempt to clarify to listeners that the Har Dov area is part of the Golan Heights, as confirmed by the UN, rather than – as claimed by Hizballah – Lebanese territory. [emphasis added]

“The group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah recently accused Israel of breaching the Blue Line and called for the “liberation” of the Alawite village of Ghajar in the occupied Golan Heights.

The Israeli-controlled village straddles the Blue Line. Residents there, backed by Israel, built a new security fence, which juts well inside Lebanon. Unifil calls this an “ongoing violation” by Israel of its international commitments.

Such points are ripe for exploitation by Hezbollah. One of the tents it set up along the line was nearby, in another area of common friction. And earlier this month, an anti-tank missile was fired from the Lebanese side towards the fence in Ghajar, triggering Israeli shelling in response.”

Neither does Bateman inform his readers of the UN’s decision in 2000 to draw the Blue Line right through the middle of the village of Ghajar, apparently with no concern for the Israeli citizens it thereby condemned to living in Lebanon, or the relevant topic of weapons and drug smuggling from Lebanon into Israel at that location.

Notably, Bateman is unable to tell his readers in his own words about the Iranian supply of weapons to Hizballah via Syria and instead resorts to using the ‘Israel says’ tactic: [emphasis added]

“Israel regularly bombs proxy fighters of Iran operating in neighbouring Syria. It says this is to prevent further weapons stockpiling by Hezbollah, which it believes has amassed around 150,000 rockets, including long-range Iranian-made missiles capable of striking Israeli cities.”

Bateman tells readers that:

“Meanwhile, there have been increasing signs of “unity” arrangements between Gaza-based Palestinian militant groups and those in Lebanon, who rally around the defence of al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Several times in the last two years, including this April, Palestinian groups in southern Lebanon fired rockets into Israel during times of violence relating to al-Aqsa. Such rocket fire from Lebanon can only happen with Hezbollah’s say so.”

As was noted here in April when those rocket attacks took place, BBC audiences are already seriously underinformed on the topic of the long-known issue of Hamas’ infrastructure in Lebanon and its collaboration with another Iran-backed terrorist groupHizballah.

While readers of Bateman’s long report may at long last be somewhat more aware of Hizballah’s continuing deliberate provocations along the Israel-Lebanon border, it is all too clear that the BBC continues to fail to provide its audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of this story.

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