Thursday 13 November 2014

Cosying up to Hezbollah

Hezbollah flag: Nope, clearly not terrorists! (#sarc)

Zoe Conway's excellent reporting of the shenanigans in Tower Hamlets was an unqualified plus for this morning's Today. What though of the programme's main story, its much-prized 'scoop'? Namely Mishal Husain's interview with a Lebanese cabinet minister from the Shia Islamist terrorist group Hezbollah (given the top 8.10 spot)? 

Well, we learned it was the first such interview in four years, despite the fact that the BBC has been trying very hard to get such an interview for some time. It was also apparent that they felt pleased with themselves for having finally pulled it off. 

Interviewing members of terrorist organisations will inevitably lead to accusations of 'promoting' that terrorist organisation's views. Did Today do enough to squash that charge?

Now maybe I'm biased against Islamist terrorist organisations (guilty as charged), but I listened carefully and heard two things for starters: that Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organisation by Israel and that that Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States. Justin Webb quipped about the former (just after 6.30am), saying that Israel wouldn't be happy about what the Hezbollah MP was saying (on the BBC)...

...indeed not, given that the Hezbollah MP equated Israel with Islamic State. 

What was missing, as usual, was the point that Hezbollah isn't just considered a terrorist organisation by Israel and the U.S. but also by the U.K. (the country where the BBC is based), France, the Netherlands, the EU, Canada, Australia, the Gulf Cooperation Council, etc. 

Still, given Hezbollah's importance as a player in the Middle East, we ought to hear what they are thinking and I can't see anything wrong with interviewing a prominent figure from that organisation if that interview is set in the fullest possible context and the speaker's statements diligently critiqued afterwards - or, to use an ironic term in this context, properly fisked. 

I don't think we got any such fisking. I don't think Jim Muir did too badly at 6.30am. (He reported developments without fisking). Jeremy Bowen at 8.15(ish), however, was decidedly underwhelming, seeming (as if half-asleep) to have missed the Hezbollah man's oh-so-generous concession that IS is even nastier to Muslims than Israel, registering surprise that the Hezbollah man hadn't said that IS is even nastier to Muslims than Israel (despite the fact that he had said that) and then reporting, as if breaking the story for the first time, that some of the Hezbollah people he'd met have said that IS is even nastier to Muslims than Israel. Frankly gormless reporting (no offence). 

He sounded just as pleased as punch as everyone else at the BBC that the corporation had got its 'scoop' and seemed to find it all very interesting. His critical faculties were obviously placed in the 'OFF' mode for the duration. 

He certainly didn't think it worthwhile bothering to dismiss the ludicrous, obscene nature of the comparison between IS and Israel. 

And he wasn't alone in that. No one did.

What particularly struck me though was Mishal Husain's line of questioning - the thing she then took up with Jeremy Bowen. 

Her pitch, which she pursued (in characteristic Mishal Husain fashion) was that Hezbollah and the West should get together and that it would be such a shame if they didn't seize this opportunity to move closer to each other. (Jeremy Bowen seemed to be sympathetic to that objective too).  

My point of view is that Hezbollah and the West shouldn't cosy up to each other. I didn't hear that point of view being pushed at all.

UPDATE (17/11): And here's BBC Watch's take on the same interview: BBC amplification of Hizballah propaganda.


  1. Hezbollah and all other Jihadist only ever enter into 20 year truces. Otherwise they are working for our downfall. They might want to eliminate Israel first, but they will definitely get round to us eventually, stopping at Rome, Spain, Athens and Budapest first.

    Dan Read

  2. Whoops - CORRECTION - that was meant to be 10 YEAR truces ...

    I suppose given it's the Islamic lunar years, that's near enough 9 years in real money. It's (usefully) laid down in Sharia law. So the usual warning applies:
    Kaffir Beware.

    Dan Read

  3. 'What was missing' being somewhat of a concern when it comes to BBc editorial, especially from this region.

    Reading this, along with BBC Watch's near daily exposure of BBC Guidelines being deemed by the BBC as just for pussies, the only thing of equal concern is what they concoct to put in.


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