The media war against Israel
The Jewish state is fighting not one enemy, but two: Hezbollah, and those who peddle its propaganda
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
LONDON - Large sections of the international media are not only misreporting the current conflict in Lebanon. They are actively fanning the flames.
The BBC world service has a strong claim to be the number-one villain. It has come to sound like a virtual propaganda tool for Hezbollah. As it attempts to prove that Israel is guilty of committing "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity," it has introduced a new charge -- one which I have heard several times on-air in recent days.
The newscaster reads out carefully selected "audience comments." Among these are invariably contained some version of the claim that "Israel's attack on Lebanon" will serve as a "recruitment" drive for al-Qaeda.
But if anything is going to win new recruits for Osama bin Laden and his like, it will not be Israel's defensive actions, which are far less damaging than Western TV stations would have us believe, but the inflammatory and one-sided way in which they are being reported by those very same news organizations.
While the slanted comments and interviews are bad enough, the degree of pictorial distortion is even worse. From the way many TV stations worldwide are portraying it, you would think Beirut has begun to resemble Dresden and Hamburg in the aftermath of Second World War air raids. International television channels have used the same footage of Beirut over and over, showing the destruction of a few individual buildings in a manner which suggests half the city has been razed.
A careful look at aerial satellite photos of the areas targeted by Israel in Beirut shows that certain specific buildings housing Hezbollah command centres in the city's southern suburbs have been singled out. Most of the rest of Beirut, apart from strategic sites such as airport runways used to ferry Hezbollah weapons in and out of Lebanon, has been left pretty much untouched.
From the distorted imagery, selective witness accounts, and almost round-the-clock emphasis on casualties, you would be forgiven for thinking that the level of death and destruction in Lebanon is on par with that in Darfur, where Arab militias are slaughtering hundreds of thousands of non-Arabs, or with the 2004 tsunami that killed half a million in Southeast Asia.
In fact, Israel has taken great care to avoid killing civilians -- even though this has proven extremely difficult and often tragically impossible, since members of Hezbollah, the self-styled "Party of God," have deliberately ensconced themselves in civilian homes. Nevertheless the civilian death toll has been mercifully low compared to other international conflicts in recent years.
Last week, a senior journalist let slip how the news media allows its Mideast coverage to be distorted. CNN "senior international correspondent" Nic Robertson admitted that his anti-Israel report from Beirut on July 18 about civilian casualties in Lebanon was stage-managed from start to finish by Hezbollah. In particular, he revealed that his story was heavily influenced by the group's "press officer," and that Hezbollah have "very, very sophisticated and slick media operations."
When pressed a few days later about his reporting on the CNN program Reliable Sources, Robertson acknowledged that Hezbollah militants had instructed the CNN camera team where and what to film. Hezbollah "had control of the situation," Robertson said. "They designated the places that we went to, and we certainly didn't have time to go into the houses or lift up the rubble to see what was underneath."
Robertson added that Hezbollah has "very, very good control over its areas in the south of Beirut. They deny journalists access to those areas. You don't get in there without their permission. We didn't have enough time to see if perhaps there was somebody there who was, you know, a taxi driver by day, and a Hezbollah fighter by night."
Yet Reliable Sources, presented by Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz, is broadcast only on the American version of CNN. So CNN International viewers around the world will not have had the opportunity to learn that the pictures they saw from Beirut were carefully selected for them by Hezbollah.
Another journalist let the cat out of the bag last week. Writing on his blog while reporting from southern Lebanon, Time magazine contributor Christopher Allbritton casually mentioned in the middle of a posting: "To the south, along the curve of the coast, Hezbollah is launching Katyushas, but I'm loath to say too much about them. The Party of God has a copy of every journalist's passport, and they've already hassled a number of us and threatened one."
Robertson is not the only foreign journalist to have misled viewers with selected footage from Beirut. NBC's Richard Engel, CBS's Elizabeth Palmer, and a host of European and other networks, were also taken around the damaged areas by Hezbollah minders. Palmer commented on her report that "Hezbollah is also determined that outsiders will only see what it wants them to see."
Palmer's honesty is helpful. But it doesn't prevent the damage being done by organizations such as the BBC, whose bias is obvious to those who know the facts. First, the BBC gave the impression that Israel had flattened the greater part of Beirut. Then to follow up its lopsided coverage, its Web site helpfully carried full details of the assembly points for an anti-Israel march due to take place in London, but did not give any details about a rally in support of Israel also held in London a short time later.
Indeed, the BBC's coverage of the present war has been so extraordinary that even staunch BBC supporters in London seem rather embarrassed -- in conversation, not on the air, unfortunately.
If the BBC were just a British problem, that would be one thing, but it is not. Thanks to British taxpayers, it is the world's biggest and most lavishly funded news organization. No other station broadcasts so extensively in dozens of languages, on TV, radio and online.
The BBC's radio service alone attracts over 163 million listeners. It pours forth its world view in almost every language of the Middle East: Pashto, Persian, Arabic and Turkish. (Needless to say, it declines to broadcast in Hebrew, even though it does broadcast in the languages of other small nations: Macedonian and Albanian, Azeri and Uzbek, Kinyarwanda and Kyrgyz, and so on.)
It is not just that the supposed crimes of Israel are completely overplayed, but the fact that this is a two-sided war (started, of course, by Hezbollah) is all but obscured. As a result, in spite of hundreds of hours of broadcast by dozens of BBC reporters and studio anchors, you wouldn't really know that hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been living in bomb shelters for weeks now, tired, afraid, but resilient; that a grandmother and her seven-year old grandson were killed by a Katyusha rocket during a Friday night Sabbath dinner; that several other Israeli children have died.
You wouldn't have any real understanding of what it is like to have over 2,000 Iranian and Syrian rockets rain down indiscriminately on towns, villages and farms across one third of your country, aimed at killing civilians.
You wouldn't really appreciate that Hezbollah, far from being some ragtag militia, is in effect a division of the Iranian revolutionary guards, with relatively advanced weapons (unmanned aerial vehicles that have flown over northern Israel, extended-range artillery rockets, anti-ship cruise missiles), and that it has a global terror reach, having already killed 114 people in Argentina during the 1990s.
The BBC and other media have carried report after report on the damaged Lebanese tourist industry, but none on its damaged Israeli counterpart, even though at least one hotel in Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, was hit by a Hezbollah rocket. There are reports on Lebanese children who don't know where they will be going to school, but none on Israeli children.
Many have grown accustomed to left-wing papers such as Britain's Guardian allowing their Mideast coverage to spill over into something akin to anti-Semitism. For example, last month a cartoon by the Guardian's Martin Rowson depicted Stars of David being used as knuckle dusters on a bloody fist.
Now the Conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph, Britain's best-selling quality daily, and previously one of the only papers in Europe to give Israel a fair hearing, has got in on the act. The cartoon at the top of the Telegraph comment page last Saturday showed two identical scenes of devastation, exactly the same in every detail. One was labelled: "Warsaw 1943"; the other: "Tyre, 2006." The suggestion, of course, is that modern Israel is no different from Nazi Germany.
A politician had already given the cue for this horrendous libel. Conservative MP Sir Peter Tapsell told the House of Commons that British Prime Minister Tony Blair was "colluding" with U.S. President George W. Bush in giving Israel the okay to wage a war crime "gravely reminiscent of the Nazi atrocity on the Jewish quarter of Warsaw."
Of course, there was no "Jewish quarter" of Warsaw. In case anyone needs reminding (Sir Peter obviously does) the ghetto in the Polish capital, established in October 1940, constituted less than three square miles. Over 400,000 Jews were then crammed into it, about 30% of the population of Warsaw. 254,000 were sent to Treblinka where they were exterminated. Most of the rest were murdered in other ways. The ghetto was completely cleared of Jews by the end of May 1943.
The picture isn't entirely bleak. Some British and European politicians, on both the left and right, have been supportive of Israel. So have some magazines, such as Britain's Spectator. So have a number of individual newspaper commentators.
But meanwhile, anti-Semitic coverage and cartoons are spreading across the globe. Norway's third largest paper, the Oslo daily Dagbladet, ran a cartoon comparing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to the infamous Nazi commander SS Major Amon Goeth, who indiscriminately murdered Jews by firing at them from his balcony -- as depicted by Ralph Fiennes in Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List. (A month earlier, Dagbladet published an article, The Third Tower, which questioned whether Muslims were really responsible for the September 11 attacks.)
Antonio Neri Licon of Mexico's El Economista drew what appeared to be a Nazi soldier with stars of David on his uniform. The "soldier" was surrounded by eyes that he had apparently gouged out.
A cartoon in the South African Sunday Times depicted Ehud Olmert with a butchers knife covered in blood. In the leading Australian daily The Age, a cartoon showed a wine glass full of blood being drunk in a scene reminiscent of a medieval blood libel. In New Zealand, veteran cartoonist Tom Stott came up with a drawing which equated Israel with al-Qaeda.
At least one leading European politician has also vented his prejudice through visual symbolism. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero wore an Arab scarf during an event at which he condemned Israel, but not Hezbollah, who he presumably thinks should not be stopped from killing Israelis.
It's entirely predictable that all this violent media distortion should lead to Jews being attacked and even murdered, as happened at a Seattle Jewish centre last week.
When live Jews can't be found, dead ones are targeted. In Belgium last week, the urn that contained ashes from Auschwitz was desecrated at the Brussels memorial to the 25,411 Belgian Jews deported to Nazi death camps. It was smashed and excrement smeared over it. The silence from Belgian leaders following this desecration was deafening.
Other Jews continue to be killed in Israel itself without it being mentioned in the media abroad. Last Thursday, for example, 60-year-old Dr. Daniel Ya'akovi was murdered by the Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, the terrorist group within Fatah that Yasser Arafat set up five years ago using European Union aid money.
But this is far from being an exclusively Jewish issue. Some international journalists seem to find it amusing or exciting to bait the Jews. They don't understand yet that Hezbollah is part of a worldwide radical Islamist movement that has plans, and not pleasant ones, for all those -- Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Jew -- who don't abide by its wishes.
- Tom Gross is a former Jerusalem correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph. His Web site is www.tomgrossmedia.com (external - login to view).
How is it that a guy of so-called intelligence, this Mr Gross, can't figure out that when you blow up peoples kids over issues that will never be settled by war, the parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and grandparents will pack heat and make it their life ambition to f you up. People don't need to read the BBC to become violently angry over their kids getting blown up by the acts of other governments. Give us a break from the bovine scattology.
Another tactic in this "asymmetric" war is to make the Israelis the bad guys for resisting terrorism. Jews have a well-cultivated sense of guilt (take my word for it). And, for obvious reasons, no insult could hurt more than depicting Jews as Nazis. Hence, the nigh-upon global campaign to depict Israelis as the heirs to Hitler. Of course, ad hitlerum argumentation is just the tip of the propaganda spear. "Aggression," "apartheid," "racist": no insult is barred from the anti-Israel script. Terrorize your enemy and make them feel like villains in the process - that's a powerful strategy.
This strategy depends on the willing support of what Lenin called "useful idiots." These are the accommodating Westerners - many of them intellectuals - all too willing to take the word of totalitarians and even more eager to believe that the champions of democracy are in the wrong. Some social scientists call these people "French," but that is too limiting. There are plenty of them in America, too.
Just wondering what media resources people out there trust the most ..
My first and foremost source of information for news is CPAC; otherwise, I lean toward the CBC.
Quote: Originally Posted by KreskinHow is it that a guy of so-called intelligence, this Mr Gross, can't figure out that when you blow up peoples kids over issues that will never be settled by war, the parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and grandparents will pack heat and make it their life ambition to f you up. People don't need to read the BBC to become violently angry over their kids getting blown up by the acts of other governments. Give us a break from the bovine scattology.Quote has been trimmed
Quote: Another tactic in this "asymmetric" war is to make the Israelis the bad guys for resisting terrorism. Jews have a well-cultivated sense of guilt (take my word for it). And, for obvious reasons, no insult could hurt more than depicting Jews as Nazis. Hence, the nigh-upon global campaign to depict Israelis as the heirs to Hitler. Of course, ad hitlerum argumentation is just the tip of the propaganda spear. "Aggression," "apartheid," "racist": no insult is barred from the anti-Israel script. Terrorize your enemy and make them feel like villains in the process - that's a powerful strategy.
This strategy depends on the willing support of what Lenin called "useful idiots." These are the accommodating Westerners - many of them intellectuals - all too willing...
Getting Out of the Bunker
By David Gergen
U.S. News & World Report
In her splendid new book, "Team Of Rivals," historian Doris Kearns Goodwin tells of a day when men were true leaders. Unexpectedly beaten for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860, William Henry Seward of New York could easily have sat out the election; instead, he threw himself into the fall campaign and sent his former rival, Abraham Lincoln, to the White House. Lincoln could have dismissed three of his rivals for the nomination; instead, he recruited them for top posts and formed one of the best cabinets ever. Democrat Stephen Douglas could have worked against Lincoln's presidency; instead, he held out his hand and helped his old nemesis govern.
These were Americans at their best. They put their country first, and because of them, the republic survived. How long ago and far away that all seems today--especially as our current "leaders" wander through the stormy present, putting themselves first, allowing the nation to drift dangerously.
While Democrats deserve blame--and plenty!--it's the president who sets the tone in Washington. George W. Bush earned credit for his early response to September 11 and for the bipartisan way he worked on No Child Left Behind. But those are becoming singular landmarks of success in an administration that has made one policy blunder after another while marginalizing moderates in its own party and riding roughshod over members of the opposition.
The president campaigned and won--twice--on a conservative agenda, and he is certainly entitled to pursue such an agenda now. But we elect someone to serve as president of all the people--not half the people. Our best leaders have always understood that it is important to strike a balance, sticking to key principles while reaching out and working with those not of their particular persuasion. Taking office after a poisonous election, Thomas Jefferson famously declared, in his first inaugural, "We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists." Lincoln not only included his Republican rivals in his cabinet but insisted on former Democrats, too. Franklin Roosevelt invited two prominent Republicans into his war cabinet. John Kennedy tapped Republicans to serve as secretaries of defense and treasury, as well as national security adviser. Stiff-necked, stubborn leaders who refuse to work with others--like Woodrow Wilson after World War I--have usually gone down to devastating defeat.
President Bush is now in a real mess--and he's losing one of his most valuable assets for governing: public trust. Recent polls show that more than half of the public no longer believes in his honesty and that some 57 percent believe the administration "deliberately misled people to make the case for war in Iraq." He cannot govern in this condition, as recent weeks have shown.
The obvious answer is to take a page from the Gipper's playbook. Ronald Reagan skillfully rebuilt his presidency after the Iran-contra scandal nearly destroyed it in his second term. He went on television for a talk that was candid and gracious, made documents and aides available to Congress, brought in fresh blood, and reached out to one and all. Not everything went smoothly afterward, but Reagan left office with the highest approval ratings of any retiring, two-term president.
Many observers have proposed a similar approach by Bush, but the White House and its conservative allies are saying not just no, but hell no. Television address? Forget it. Consultations with Democrats after Harriet Miers pulled out? Nothing doing. Work out a united front on Iraq with responsible congressional leaders--senators like John Warner and Mark Pryor, for example? No, let's put a pitchfork in those Democrats who dare talk of withdrawal, questioning their patriotism in the process. Fresh blood? Nada.
It's understandable that Bush keeps Karl Rove; he is an invaluable adviser, and there's no evidence that he has broken any law. But why not bring in a seasoned conservative like former Sen. Fred Thompson to serve alongside as counselor? After all, Reagan restored public trust after he brought in former Sen. Howard Baker & Co.
No, the Bush team wants to stay in its bunker, refusing course corrections, maintaining its excessive secrecy, and trying to govern with no more than half the country. One is tempted to walk away from the argument. But there is something bigger at stake here than Bush's sagging approval ratings. The president's remaining time in office is equal to the length of JFK's entire presidency, plus four months. Frankly, whether one is a Republican or Democrat, it would be unhealthy for the country to have a disabled president--and bitter, clawing opponents--for that long a time. From education to healthcare, avian flu to rebuilding New Orleans, China to Iran, too many issues demand urgent, united attention to afford a long period of paralysis. Somehow we have to find a way out of this mess. Lincoln and his compatriots put country first--and their lesson could serve us all well now.
The National Post and Global News.