BBC Arabic service “boosts terrorists” (& the Shin Bet goes online today)

April 14, 2008

* Syria executes people alleged to have assisted in assassination of Hizbullah chief
* Hebron University shut down after fierce Fatah-Hamas clashes injure students
* Hamas MP tells TV station: After we take Israel, Islam will conquer Europe and America



1. The Shin Bet goes online today in English and Arabic
2. Peres: Carter has “greatly damaged” the Middle East peace process
3. Today and yesterday
4. Hamas MP: Islam to conquer Europe and America
5. Fatah representative in Lebanon: We follow the plan of phases; eventually we will get the Jews out of all Palestine
6. BBC Arabic service “boosts terrorists”
7. “The BBC Goes Native: An analysis of BBC Arabic” (bbcwatch)

[Note by Tom Gross]


The Israeli domestic security and intelligence agency, the Shin Bet (also known as the Shabak), today (Monday, April 14) launched websites in English and Arabic. As previously reported on this list, the Hebrew site has been online since December and can be accessed here.

The Shin Bet, together with the Mossad, is responsible for most Israeli intelligence gathering as well as other security operations.

The website, part of the Shin Bet’s attempts to be more outgoing, includes sections on “The interrogation division” and “The division for countering terror and Arab-Iranian espionage.”

It also has profiles of past directors including its founder, Isser Harel, who went on to head the Mossad.

For more extensive background on Harel, see the dispatch published the day after he died in 2003: Israel Harel, “The man who made the Mossad” (Feb. 19, 2003).



[By Tom Gross]

[This item was published yesterday by National Review Online, and is a follow-up to last Thursday’s dispatch: Al-Hayat: Jimmy Carter to meet Hamas in Damascus; Hamas murders more Israeli civilians.]

Jimmy Carter, who is thought by many to have been the worst U.S. president of modern times, is now turning out to be the most embarrassing ex-president.

Even so notable a statesman as the usually soft-spoken President Shimon Peres of Israel today publicly lashed out at Carter after meeting him in Jerusalem. Carter’s “activities over the last few years had caused great damage to Israel and the peace process,” said Peres.

In an unprecedented diplomatic snub to a leading American politician, Israel’s prime minister (Ehud Olmert), foreign minister (Tzipi Livni) and defense minister (Ehud Barak) have all refused to meet Carter during his visit to Israel, which began today.

(Olmert did, however, find time to chat with “Prison Break” star Wentworth Miller who has been visiting Israel.)

Carter is due to go on to Damascus where he says he plans to meet Hamas terror mastermind Khaled Meshal. Peres said that such a meeting would be a “severe mistake,” calling Meshal a “murderer and terrorist.”


Meanwhile, State Department officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, as well as several leading politicians from Carter’s own Democratic Party are pleading with Carter not to meet Meshal. Several of Meshal’s victims have been Americans.

“Please don’t confer legitimacy on a group that embraces violence and wishes to destroy Israel,” several Democrats wrote in a letter to Carter.

Notable among those who have not criticized Carter is Barack Obama.

Reuters reports from Indianapolis:

“Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Friday it was not his place to criticize former President Jimmy Carter... ‘I’m not going to comment on former President Carter. He’s a private citizen. It’s not my place to discuss who he shouldn’t meet with,’ Obama told reporters while campaigning in Indianapolis.”

Click here to see one of the many children murdered on Meshal’s orders.



* Two Qassam rockets were fired, falling northwest of Sderot. In addition a mortar bomb was fired.
* 107 humanitarian aid trucks carrying medical equipment, sewage pumps and basic food products were transferred to the Gaza Strip from Israel.
* Silvio Berlusconi, who is one of the few pro-American and pro-Israeli politicians in western Europe, has won the Italian elections.


* Lebanon’s Al-Shiraa magazine reported that two weeks ago Syrian intelligence entered the houses of two Syrian officers in Damascus and executed them with shots to the head, alleging that they had assisted in the assassination of Hizbullah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh.
* The PA (Fatah) Governor of the West Bank city of Nablus, a Hamas stronghold, was attacked and four of his bodyguards were shot and wounded by assailants, believed to be from Hamas.
* Three Palestinians died and seven were wounded in a “work accident” explosion in a house in Gaza belonging to a member of Hamas. The AP reports that local residents say the blast occurred as a result of the accidental detonation of explosives.
* Hebron University was shut down until further notice after fierce Fatah-Hamas clashes left many students injured.



Hamas MP and cleric Yunis Al-Astal, told Al-Aqsa TV on April 11, 2008:

“Allah has chosen you [the Palestinians] for Himself, so that you will serve as the engine pulling this nation to... military conquests of the capitals of the entire world. Very soon, Allah willing, Rome will be conquered, just like Constantinople was, as was prophesized by our Prophet Mohammed.

“Today, Rome is the capital of the Catholics, or the Crusader capital, which has declared its hostility to Islam, and has planted the brothers of apes and pigs [Jews] in Palestine in order to prevent the reawakening of Islam – this capital of theirs will be an advance post for the Islamic conquests, which will spread through Europe in its entirety, and then will turn to the two Americas, and even Eastern Europe.”



Abbas Zaki, the Palestinian Authority’s official representative in Lebanon, told Lebanon’s NBN TV on April 9, 2008:

The PLO “has not changed its platform even one iota.... When the ideology of Zionism collapses, and we take, at least, Jerusalem, the Zionist ideology will collapse in its entirety, and we will begin to progress with our own ideology, Allah willing, and drive them out of all of Palestine.” (Translation by MEMRI)



I noted in the dispatch of March 20, 2008 (Guardian editor finally apologizes for comparing Israel to al-Qaeda) that the BBC had launched its Arabic TV channel. The station is initially broadcasting 12 hours a day, but will become a 24/7 service by the summer.

I also noted in that dispatch that a BBC News analyst had praised last month’s Jerusalem yeshiva massacre, and that another BBC Jerusalem correspondent had been caught lying about Israel last month.

BBC Arabic TV is designed to complement the BBC’s widely listened to Arabic radio service.

Trevor Asserson, a longtime subscriber to this email list has, aided by a team of researchers, prepared an in-depth report monitoring BBC Arabic radio.

His report is below. It accuses the broadcasting network’s Arabic radio output of being “out of control,” and providing a respectable platform to “those who hate the USA and Israel” as well as providing a platform for terrorist organizations.

The authors say that the anti-Western and anti-Israel views expressed on air were rarely challenged by presenters, thus giving them “a veneer of legitimacy and truthfulness”.

BBC Arabic, like BBC English, is paid for by the British taxpayer and is under a legal obligation to provide fair and balanced coverage. (For more about the English coverage by the BBC, see: The BBC’s very own Mideast foreign policy.)

In relation to various pro-Iranian and pro-Hizbullah coverage, Asserson tells me: The BBC’s policy towards Israel was already a known reality, but the fact that British soldiers were fighting on the front line while a station financed by their parents’ money broadcast words of support for their enemies is intolerable.

Unsurprisingly, the British press – apart from the local Jewish press and one or two bloggers – have thus far refused to even mention Asserson’s report.

-- Tom Gross



By Trevor Asserson and Deena Pinson (bbcwatch)

(Trevor Asserson is a British solicitor and was a senior partner in one of the world’s largest law firms. Deena Pinson is an academic and a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.)


The BBC has been broadcasting for some years in Arabic on radio. In March 2008 it will commence broadcasting in Arabic on television. This is likely to increase the impact of the BBC in the Arabic speaking world.

Our study of BBC Arabic radio broadcasts shows what a baleful influence that has been, providing the Arab speaking world with a ‘respectable’ platform for terrorist organizations, rogue states and those who hate the USA and Israel. We believe that BBC Arabic Television will follow the same pattern.


We decided to conduct a study of BBC Arabic during the 2006 War between Israel and the Hizbullah in Southern Lebanon because the war presented a sizeable body of material about a single unfolding story.

We recorded, translated and transcribed the BBC’s principal news analysis program, Hadeeth Al-Sa’a, for a period of four weeks from 19 July to 20 August 2006. We analyzed views expressed by the invited program guests whose selection we believe is the weather vane of BBC attitudes.

We categorized all program guests, based on what they said, as either neutral or likely to encourage support or antipathy for one of the warring parties. In order to lend depth to the categorization, we graded their attitude as mild (1) or forceful (2). We also graded the likely impact of an individual guest based both on his status, the institution he represented and the nature of his argument and the manner of its conveyance. The aggregate words spoken multiplied by the attitude and impact grades provided a ‘weighted word’ count.

Our detailed findings are set out in the attached table at Schedule I.1 We set out in Schedule II a summary of views expressed by individual program guests together with selected quotations which we think indicate principal views held by the person quoted.

We have not considered the time given to individuals. What they say, rather than the speed at which they say it, appears to us to be a more sensible measure.


The BBC has an obligation to be fair and impartial. It fails time and time again, as our earlier reports have shown. The Independent Panel, set up by the BBC to analyze its Middle East broadcasts, recognized the systemic problem within the BBC and recommended that it set up a ‘guiding hand’ to monitor its programs to ensure that it achieves its obligation of due impartiality.2 The BBC refused and instead set Jeremy Bowen in charge of its Middle East broadcasts, despite there having been questions raised as to his impartiality.

The BBC guidelines explain that:

“…due impartiality does not require absolute neutrality on every issue or detachment from fundamental democratic principles”.3

The BBC has always ignored our calls for it to explain how it interprets those words. In fact the BBC appears to ignore them. Thus it refuses for example to use the word ‘terrorist’ to describe the blowing up of a school bus full of children, because it wishes to remain “neutral”.4 This refusal was maintained notwithstanding a call from the Independent Panel to use the word terrorist more widely.5

Hizbullah is listed by the UK government, amongst many others, as a “terrorist organisation.” This is the same UK government through whose laws the BBC was born and is sustained. Hizbullah is armed and trained by Iran, a country whose President has called for the total destruction of Israel.6 This is a public call for genocide. Israel has a free press; an independent judiciary; and representative forms of Government. Iran and the Hizbullah do not. If the BBC had remained attached to democratic principles it should be more ready to give air time to the dilemmas of a democratic Israel than to its undemocratic enemies.

In fact we identified 17 spokespeople for Hizbullah and Iran amongst program guests and only 5 for Israel.7

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the BBC has in fact become detached from democratic principles and has become a proactive participant in the war of ideas, reflecting back to the Arabic speaking world some if its nastiest views.


We found that, excluding ‘neutral’ guests, some 82% of program guests were pro Hizbullah and some 18% pro Israel.8 Our analysis of weighted words produced identical results – 82% weighted words pro Hizbullah and 18% pro Israel.

In terms of attitudes to the 2006 War, our findings are alarming, but given our previous reports, unsurprising. The airtime given by BBC Arabic to the pro Hizbullah position outweighed that given to the pro Israel position by a ratio of some 4.5 to 1.

What was more surprising was the very marked anti American sentiment which we detected. Many program guests expressed blatantly and viciously anti American positions, examples of which are set out below. While this unto itself may be acceptable and even desirable in a free press, the latitude afforded to these guests in sharing their sentiments, the highly evident disproportion in the representation of such views and the relative absence of challenge of these views in a manner which would conform with journalistic principles of impartiality and balance prompt serious concern.

In addition we came across a number of quite extreme statements. For example we were told that the bombing of an electricity station was a “crime” which is “unprecedented historically”9 and we learn that it is US policy “to crush the Palestinians completely and to take all of their lands.”10 When comments as extreme as this go uncorrected and unchallenged, the BBC appears to have tossed its moral compass into the waves and completely to have lost its bearings.

What emerges is a BBC which is providing a solid and respectable platform for anti Western ideologues. Many of these people have respectable sounding titles and doubtless – on television – will be smartly turned out. However their words will support people seeking to undermine the social values of those who built the BBC and who continue to pay for it.


The following is a selection of some of the statements made by various program guests, indicating their attitudes towards the USA. The identity of the speaker and date of the interview are in the endnotes, together with a reference to the page in Schedule II where the full quotation can be found.

When reading these words it should be remembered that they were broadcast by the BBC, the incumbent national UK broadcaster, during a period when the UK had soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting shoulder to shoulder with the USA against a threat of Islamist terrorism which had brought bloody death and destruction to the streets of both London and New York.

While some of the statements are by themselves innocuous, taken together they amount to a campaign to delegitimise and demonize the USA in the eyes of the Arabic speaking world.

“…[we] are doubting their [America’s] sincerity and respect”11

“America has to change its politics and speak honestly”12

“That [Bush] government wanted to have complete control over the world”13

“…the world, which is controlled by the US”14

“…the main side of this conflict is the US”15

“As we all know on the Arab street, if your enemy is Israel or America, you are on the right side”16

“…the problem is not with Israel; it is with the American Government…American politics is a failure that has no logic”17

“This talk about the war being that of Iran and Syria is nonsense. However, it is true that this is an American war; that was stated clearly by Condoleezza Rice”18

“Hizbullah has been leading this fight with dignity and justice… the positions of Europe and America center on their own obsessions … their war on terror… and they have considered Hizbullah a terrorist group, which is, of course, wrong”19

“…there is a kind of vision in the American government…to crush the Palestinians completely and to take all of their lands”20

“…the Americans constantly talk about breaking the hearts and minds of the Arabs and Muslims”21

“This new [American] strategy…is totally contrary to the principles of human rights”22


The 2006 War started when Hizbullah invaded Israeli territory, attacked an army convoy killing some Israeli soldiers and kidnapping two others. Israel responded with a massive bombardment of Hizbullah positions and economic targets in South Lebanon, being the area controlled by Hizbullah. This was followed by an invasion in the last days of the war. Hizbullah rained thousands of medium range missiles on Israeli civilian areas.

There were civilian and military deaths and destruction on both sides, although all agree that the Lebanese suffered more deaths and greater destruction. There were massive population evacuations in both Israel and Lebanon from the affected areas. Israel was criticized internationally for overreacting to the initial aggression. After the war Amnesty International accused both sides of carrying out indiscriminate attacks against civilians.23

The BBC Arabic gives little indication of the destruction, the evacuations and the deaths (often of Israeli Arabs), caused by the thousands of Hizbullah rockets fired into Israel. By contrast some of the language used to describe Israel is hysterical in tone and the translated transcript reads like an Islamist extremist tract. Here are some examples:

Facing the “Israeli aggression”24

Israel is said to have “evil objectives… this way of twisting things and the aggressive attitude”25

“…the Israeli military machine…works to a great extent based on hatred”26

“Israelis, who are violating all international law”27

“…breaching all of the international laws”28

“The crimes that they are committing…a real crime, which contradicts all of the laws”29

“…barbaric Israeli attack”30

“…the barbaric Israeli army”31

Lebanon is facing “a barbaric war”32

They are “destroying villages completely”; they are “racist barbaric”33

“We are facing a monster who does not care about the law or about morals…a killer monster”34

“…Israel is the deadly monster…a destructive monster”35

“They are committing massacres”36

“… the atrocities in Lebanon that we have seen so far from Israel, including all of their massacres”37

There is a need for an “assurance against further [Israeli] massacres”38

They refer to “a month of killing our children”39

There is reference to “this ugly crime against the Lebanese and the Palestinian people”40 (notwithstanding that Israelis including Israeli Arabs were in fact being killed by Hizbullah rockets at the time.)

“…this is collective punishment, Nazi punishment”41


Almost all commentators at the time agree that the initial Hizbullah incursion and kidnap of two Israeli soldiers caused the war. Without it there would have been no war. One obtains a very different view from listening to BBC Arabic:

“…the kidnapping of the two soldiers was just an excuse”42

“I believe that the reason for this attack is not the two soldiers”43

“…we all know that this attack over the last three weeks has nothing to do with the release of the Israeli detainees…Israel wanted to destroy the infrastructure of Lebanon and this is part of historical revenge against the Lebanese people”44

“Olmert took…the kidnap of the Israeli soldiers as an excuse to invade, destroy and kill innocent people”45

“…I don’t see any relationship between Israel’s attacks on Lebanon and the existence of Hizbullah”46


There are some comments made by program guests which are so shrill and absurd that they should disqualify these guests from being given air time by any serious broadcaster. The BBC Arabic brings us the following gems:

“Israel is a country that wants to expand and they have a plan to force on to the regions of Palestine, Lebanon or even Egypt”.47 (In fact, Israel has voluntarily withdrawn from territory in Gaza (Palestine), Lebanon and Egypt.)

“…barbaric Israeli attack, which kills everybody everywhere”48

“We faced Israel in 1967 and won militarily”.49 Israel would doubtless be happy to suffer a repeat of its military defeat of 1967.

“These are crimes unprecedented historically”50 (referring to the Israeli bombing of electricity stations).

“Israel is extensively targeting every part of Lebanon”.51 In fact, Israel was targeting Hizbullah controlled South Lebanon. In Beirut people were sunbathing on the beach.

“…it became apparent that Israel is targeting the entire Lebanon, its people, and infrastructure”52

“…all the massacres committed by Israel, like no one in history has seen something similar. It is even worse than what Germany committed”53


UK and indeed Western foreign policy is presently pre-occupied with a belligerent Iran which is issuing blood curdling threats against the West, supporting terrorists who threaten the West – including Hizbullah – and is building a nuclear capability.

One would like to imagine that the BBC would be supportive of the intellectual battle which the West is fighting. At the very least, one would hope that the BBC would be balanced in its coverage of the issue. In fact the BBC appears to be lending support and providing a platform to those who legitimize Iranian aims and deprecate those of the West.

“I hope that Iran has something to scare Israel, as an Arab citizen from the Middle East. I wish that all Arab countries would have nuclear weapons”54

“Iran’s opinion is rooted in morals and rules, legal and logical”55

“…claims of Iranian instigation are untrue”56

Europe and America “have considered Hizbullah a terrorist group, which is of course wrong”57

The Hizbullah soldiers are referred to as “martyrs…the honor resistance which does the utmost that any group can do…to defend their country”.58

Calling the Lebanese who died in the conflict “martyrs [whose] blood is still fresh”.59

“Hizbullah was clear that their operation…targeted military objectives, not civilians, as did Israel”60

“I will ask Iran, and every Arab country who can, to have nuclear weapons”61


The BBC Arabic radio appears to be out of control. It is providing a platform for a wide range of anti Western and in particular anti American ideologues to express their nasty, at times absurd and sometimes dangerous views in a forum that is almost invisible to most Westerners. The often unchallenged broadcast of such views by the BBC gives those views a veneer of legitimacy and truthfulness.

Overall, in the 25 programs analyzed, there emerges an unmistakable identification with parties with whom Israel is in conflict. While most programs provided a forum for the expression of a variety of positions, the blatant disproportion, both quantitatively and qualitatively, in the voice afforded to the respective views points to an unequivocally biased program to the detriment of the Israeli position. Frequently, program hosts make no pretence at objectivity, and even when the questions posed by the host were relatively neutral, they were often tainted by clear animosity toward Israel and the West, while generally no attempts were made to challenge the virulently anti-Israel and anti-West views expressed.

The relative lack of Arabic speakers amongst those who pay for the BBC means that the BBC does not benefit from the criticisms of the general listening public as it does for its English speaking programs. The corrective influence which those complainants normally provide is necessarily absent.

Having rejected the Independent Panel’s recommendation to appoint a “guiding hand” to monitor its Middle East output, the BBC has no systems in place to know what its own journalists think. We are not aware of any systematic method it has for monitoring program content. It seems that the BBC has less control of its Arabic programs than of any others, because it appears that relatively few of its senior staff speak Arabic.

We are left with the disturbing fear that the most powerful media organization in the world has left the fox guarding the hen house.


The footnotes and schedules to this report, referred to above, are available in the pdf version of the report which can be downloaded here (sixth report).

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.