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ABC forgot to ‘raise eyebrows’ after Hezbollah omission, Jewish leaders say

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28 December 2023, The Australian, Alexi Demetriadi

Jewish leaders have criticised the national broadcaster’s initial coverage of two Australian brothers killed by Israeli air strikes in southern Lebanon for failing to “raise an eyebrow” upon publishing the story before Hezbollah soon after said one was a fighter for the terror group.

The ABC, about 4pm Wednesday, broke the news that brothers Ali and Ibrahim Bazzi, and the latter’s wife, Shourouk Hammoud, were killed by an Israel air strike in the town of Bint Jbeil, Lebanon.

About 90 minutes later, on Hezbollah’s Telegram channel, the terror group announced the death of Ali Bazzi and that he was one of its fighters – saying he had “rose to martyrdom”.

The statement was accompanied by a photograph of Ali Bazzi in military uniform, on Hezbollah letterhead, as is custom when the group announces a fighter’s death.

Ibrahim Bazzi and Ms Hammoud have not been claimed by the terror group as of Thursday.

The ABC’s story, void of that detail upon first publication, was updated 10 hours later with a line in paragraphs nine and 10 that the AFP was reporting that the elder brother was a Hezbollah fighter and that a funeral had taken place.

By way of comparison, the AFP broke that news about 7pm Wednesday, which was included in other major news outlets about 30 minutes later.

A subsequent, second article was published by the ABC on Thursday morning accompanied by pictures from the funeral ceremony for the three in Bint Jbeil.

Given the location of the trio’s death – Bint Jbeil is a known Hezbollah stronghold, and the terror group and Israeli forces across the border are engaged in shelling strikes at that location – Jewish leaders have asked how the ABC’s eyebrows were not “raised”.

The story featured interviews with the brothers’ family members, and Ms Hammoud’s.

“The fact that these men travelled to a known terror stronghold on the border with Israel in defiance of warnings from the Australian government should have immediately raised eyebrows with journalists,” Australian Jewish Association CEO Robert Gregory said, particularly as Hez­bollah confirmed Ali Bazzi was a member soon after.

Mr Gregory alleged the ABC often “sanitised” the organisation’s image.

An ABC spokesman said: “The link to Hezbollah was verified and reported by the ABC in an accurate and timely manner.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim said it was a “failure of professional standards” for a “critical fact” not to be pursued or allegedly “glossed over” upon first instance.

“While all families will grieve over the loss of a relative, that is no excuse for anyone in the media to gloss over or fail to ask the hard questions,” Mr Wertheim said.

“Why would any Australian choose to commit a criminal offence by volunteering to fight with a designated Iranian-sponsored terrorist organisation? And how much did members of their family know about and encourage this?”

Lieutenant Colonel (Res.) Sarit Zehavi – founder and president of security-focused centre Alma – speaking more broadly to The Australian, said Hezbollah had “escalated” activities in the past week, using civilian areas such as Bint Jbeil to both store and launch weapons.

“In the funeral (of the Bazzis and Ms Hammoud) you can see all their coffins covered with Hezbollah flags,” she said.

On Thursday, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus was unable to say whether Australia was aware that one of two brothers killed by the Israeli air strike may have had links to Hezbollah before the proscribed terrorist organisation claimed him as one of their own.

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Article source: 28 December 2023, The Australian, Alexi Demetriadi

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000