On Tuesday’s edition of the PBS News Hour, “special correspondent” Simona Foltyn questioned Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, a former Lebanese intelligence official with close ties to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militant group designated as a terrorist group by the United States.
Foltyn worked for the virulently anti-Israel outlet Arab news network Al-Jazeera English from 2019 to 2021 (on the Iraq beat), and her questions to Ibrahim would no doubt be endorsed by her previous employers.
Gen. Ibrahim’s Hezbolllah ties were ignored.
Ibrahim called “for a political solution,” including a hostage/prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel. Then Foltyn used her taxpayer-funded perch at PBS to draw out the perspective of Hezbollah, even taking up Ibrahim’s argument about Western “double standards” about carnage in the Hamas-Israel war.
Foltyn: Would that be if Hamas specifically asks for support or if Hezbollah fears that Hamas might be destroyed?
Foltyn sounded like a typical European journalist with her (false) hints that the West is showing “unconditional support for Israel,” agreeing with Ibrahim’s “double standard” comment.
Foltyn actually repeated Ibrahim’s own perspective in a brief cutaway segment from the interview.
One good reason for the “double standard” is that the October 6 terrorist attack on Israeli civilians, including rape and torture and hostage-taking — and the counterattack against Hamas in Gaza — are two utterly different things.
This pro-Palestinian bias was brought to you in part by Raymond James financial advisors.
PBS News Hour
7:36:03 p.m. (ET)
Geoff Bennett: Much of the focus of this latest Israel-Hamas war is focused on Gaza and the brutal fighting there. But a larger, more threatening force sits across Israel’s northern border, Lebanese Hezbollah.
Special correspondent Simona Foltyn recently sat down with a former top Lebanese intelligence official who not only knows the region well, but is deeply involved in the negotiations over the hostages taken by Hamas.
Simona Foltyn: Southern Lebanon and Northern Israel have seen daily bombardments and skirmishes as the Israeli army and the Lebanese paramilitary group Hezbollah exchange fire across the border. It threatens to become a major second front in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Major General Abbas Ibrahim was until recently the head of general security in Lebanon. Ibrahim helped mediate last year’s landmark maritime border deal between Israel and Lebanon, and he’s now once again involved in negotiating an exchange of hostages taken by Hamas in return for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, Former Head of General Security, Lebanon: It’s time for a political solution. So we have to start with exchanging prisoners. This way, it’s going to calm down the situation a little bit. Then we will start with the political solution.
Simona Foltyn: According to Hamas, around 50 of the 240 hostages taken into Gaza have already been killed amid Israeli bombardment. At a recent press conference in Beirut, Hamas officials called for a cease-fire to organize a prisoner exchange.
So, was this prisoner swap, do you think that was the main goal behind the attack on October 7?
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim: One of the main reason for this attack is to have their prisoners out of the jail. There are some people who spent 30 to 40 years in the prison, and the Israelis still refuse to release them.
Simona Foltyn: Around 5,000 Palestinians are being held in Israeli jails, including 33 women and 170 minors, while more than 1,200 are placed under administrative detention. Is it just about women and children that are held in Israeli prisons? Or is it also about Hamas fighters?
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim: Yes, I believe — no. I believe, no, it’s not about fighters. From Hamas side, they are asking for women and children. So people are working on a humanitarian pause, because they want to put a mechanism for this exchanging prisoners.
Simona Foltyn: But the Israeli government has rejected proposals for a cease-fire and has continued its air and ground assault on Gaza.
The stated military objective of Israel in this war is to eradicate Hamas, to remove it from power in Gaza. Do you think that this is achievable?
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim: The core of Hamas as a military group is still very strong. They are not going to be eliminated. I want the world to know that this is what happened in 2006 in the south of Lebanon, the same thing.
The Israeli side that, we are going to eliminate Hezbollah. Look, where is Hezbollah now? We are in 2023, 17 years past, and Hezbollah becomes a regional power.
Simona Foltyn: In Southern Lebanon, we have seen a steady rise in tit for tat attacks between Israel and Hezbollah. What do you think is the risk that these tit for tat attacks might escalate into a wider conflict?
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim: I believe, in this case, Hezbollah is still reasonable.
I don’t believe that Hezbollah has the intent to escalate. No, I believe that what’s going on in the region and in the world is in the Israeli’s government hand. I believe that Netanyahu wants the world to be larger. He wants — since he has this support, international support, he feels that this is the right moment, historical moment for him to appear as a hero and to get rid or eliminate Hezbollah and Hamas at the same time.
If Israel continues this way, I believe that the region will be in a war. All the front around Israel will attack Israel. So we have to stop it.
Simona Foltyn: Is there a red line for Hezbollah at which point they might be forced to escalate things further?
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim: If Hezbollah, as I believe, think that Hamas become in a weakened position, I believe that they will interfere, or at least they will go up with their retaliation.
Simona Foltyn: Would that be if Hamas specifically asks for support or if Hezbollah fears that Hamas might be destroyed?
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim: No, I believe they ask for support. This is the condition.
But I can tell you, after my meeting and my connection, the Hamas military wing is still in a good shape. The civilians are paying the price.
Simona Foltyn: We have seen widespread, some would even say unconditional, support for Israel. Some Western nations have even opposed a cease-fire, despite the mounting death toll in Gaza.
How is this perceived in Lebanon and the Arab world?
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim: Look, Simona, I tell the international community and the United States, the policy that you’re following in Gaza or in Palestine, using the double standard, will not work for your interests. It’s working against your interests.
We learn from the America the values. We learn about democracy. I graduated from American schools, military school. I learn a lot. I cannot find what I believe in, what I learn from the America on the real ground now.
We need to be balanced, or at least not to have a double standard dealing with issues.
Simona Foltyn: A double standard specifically when it comes to condemning the killings of civilians.
While the United States and many Western nations were quick to denounce Hamas’ brutal attack on October 7, their criticism of Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza has been much more muted.
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim: I’m not saying that Israel has to stop against Hamas. It’s a war. It’s a war. But Hamas’ military wing, they have to assume the responsibility, Hamas, but what about the civilian?
Now what’s going on is a revenge, revenge on the civilian. We want the cease-fire to take place. We have to stop this massacre.
Simona Foltyn: What is your message to the international community and the United States specifically with regard to how this conflict should be ended?
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim: The Israeli, the war, try to solve the problem, the Palestinian problem, without having the Palestinians on the table. They want normalization with the Arab country.
And every time, they try to convince us, it’s a huge step toward peace. Which peace? You have a problem with the Palestinians. Go solve your problem with the people, not with their neighbors. It will not work.
We have to go for a political solution now. If the two states will not work, we can go for one-state solution, for any solution. Without giving the Palestinians their right or a part of their right, the region will not be stable.
Simona Foltyn: General Abbas Ibrahim, thank you for speaking with the PBS NewsHour.
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim: Thank you. Thank you very much.