The BBC just placed itself on the right side of history. For like one whole minute.

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Tracy Keeling

The BBC just put itself on the right side of history – if only for a moment. Because the BBC appeared to argue against a war between Israel and Iran in an article on 10 May. But while presenting its case, it actually managed to make a conflict sound quite reasonable.

Well, reasonable for one party in the potential conflict. And you can probably guess which side that is.

Stop the war

Recently, long-standing tensions between Israel and Iran have boiled over. Israel has repeatedly bombed Syria, including in areas where Iran has a military presence. Israel has also accused Iran of attacking its military positions in the Syrian Golan Heights (an area Israel has illegally occupied since 1967). Iran says Israel’s claim that it fired rockets in the Golan Heights is “freely invented and baseless”. Meanwhile, the Syrian military has allegedly taken responsibility for the attack.

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So the BBC‘s defence and diplomacy correspondent Jonathan Marcus posed the question “Israel v Iran: Are they heading for a war?” in his article. And he wrote of the potential war:

It is a conflict that needs to be averted and the time to do it is now. However Israel and Iran remain on a collision course.

The BBC is, of course, right to argue that a war between Iran and Israel should not happen. But that sentence was the sum total of the broadcaster’s moment on the right side of history.

Major threat

The rest of Marcus’s ‘analysis’ consisted of listing all of the reasons why Israel is right to consider Iran a major threat. They included allegations that:

  • Iran has long-range weaponry and may be able to put air defences in Syria that “could range over Israeli air-space”.
  • The country has attempted to heavily arm Hezbollah in Lebanon – Israel’s neighbour.
  • It has a big presence in Syria – Israel’s neighbour – including “a variety of Iranian militias”.
  • Iran opposes Israel and backs groups “intent on its destruction”.

Marcus doesn’t mention in the article any reasons why Iran might view Israel as a threat, apart from the close relations between Israel and an equally hostile US. But there are many reasons why it does:

  • Israel is bombing Syria, Iran’s ally, including attacks on Iranian forces there.
  • Israel has repeatedly threatened to attack Iran.
  • Iran supports Palestine, which Israel has been brutally occupying for over 50 years.
  • Israel has nuclear weapons. It’s also not signed up to any of the big treaties governing WMD non-proliferation, despite the UN calling for it to do so. And Israel enjoys the full support of a number of Western allies, including the US, despite being a key reason why the Middle East is not a nuclear-free zone.

To his credit, Marcus does admit that the current spike in tensions is Israel’s fault – because it bombed a military facility in Syria, and that attack reportedly killed a number of Iranians. But the BBC correspondent leaves readers with the impression that Iran is the “clear danger”. Because he raises the prospect that Iran may “exact its revenge” on Israel through “pro-Iranian factions” via terrorist attacks on Israeli tourists abroad.

The Canary contacted the BBC for comment. A spokesperson said:

We have provided thorough analysis of the complex situation in Iran and Israel through several articles and are confident that our reporting is fair and balanced.

Stoking the war

So although Marcus pleads at the outset for people to “avert” a war, he trots out all the one-sided claims Israel would likely use to justify starting a war. And Marcus is, of course, not alone. Following the Golan Heights attack, reporting from most of Britain’s media outlets resembled a press release from the Israeli government.

But if any of these outlets really want to avoid a war, they need to stop pumping out propaganda that will make one more likely.

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Featured image via BBC News – Wikimedia

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