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More Lebanon Media Notes:

I've got to hand it to Howard Kurtz and CNN's Reliable Sources. This weekly program has by far provided the best insight into press coverage of the Israel-Party of God conflict that I've seen (e.g., see this post). On this week's program:

(1) Party of God threatens to kill reporters. Richard Engel of NBC news admits:

"They've not tried to stop us filming other events while we're in the field, but they have, on several occasions, threatened reporters here in Tyre, south Lebanon. From the location where we're standing right now, we've been able to see, today and on other days, outgoing Katyusha rockets. And on more than one occasion people from Hezbollah have come and said, "Do not film the locations of these rockets when they're being launched."

At one time, when we were talking and having a conversation with this Hezbollah representative, he said, "Look, we're serious, we will kill you if you film these outgoing rockets." So it is a threat, but when we've been out in the field, we've not had situations where they told us to stop filming.

Combine that with previous coverage (see link below) that the Party of God has been taking the media on controlled tours of damaged areas, and also that "The Party of God has a copy of every journalist's passport, and they've already hassled a number of us and threatened one," and a picture of an intimidated, at-least-somewhat controlled media in Hezbollahland begins to emerge.

(2) The only "compelling stories" in Lebanon involve besieged civilians. Engel again: "There are very few people left in the villages now. The only people, when we went recently, and found were just young military-age men, most likely Hezbollah or Amal Party fighters. So it is difficult to continue to find compelling stories, but every day the conflict is changing." Terrorists, apparently, are boring, or, at least, are not willing to appear on camera.

(3) Prominent reporter susceptible to loony conspiracy theory. The Washington Post's Tom Ricks, author a bestseller on the Iraq war, shows a susceptibility to incredibly loony hypotheses when he claims that "according to some military analysts, ... Israel purposely has left pockets of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, because as long as they're being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon." Governments do sometimes do crazy things, but this would be so against the Israeli ethos, and so hard to hide in a country with hundreds of thousands of reservists, most of whom are armchair (or real!) generals, that Ricks's repeating of this rumor tells us a lot more about Ricks than about what's going on in Israel. (For more on this story, see here).

(4) Repressed anger at the Party of God. Brett Sadler of CNN:

it's fair to say that many Lebanese have been exercising a form of political correctness here. In the interests of national unity they're trying to speak with one voice. That's why you're hearing the government rejecting, basically, the resolution, the draft resolution to end the conflict in a phase one resolution. But really now, people are beginning to talk out about the way the Hezbollah rocket fire and the eruptions of this conflict is destroying this country. I think we're going see far more people, if you like, coming out of the woodwork condemning those that don't agree with the Shia hard-liners, like those who don't support Hezbollah.

UPDATE: Party of God using hospital to fire rockets: Sonia Verma reporting in the National Post:

When Dr. Fouad Fatah emerged bleary-eyed from the ruins of his hospital during a pause in Israeli air strikes last week, it felt like the first time in forever. He counted himself as the last living soul in the five-room clinic, the only hospital serving this devastated swath of Lebanon's south. His surviving patients had already been evacuated. The surgeon led a group of journalists over what remained: mangled debris, shredded walls and a roof punched through by an Israeli shell. "Look what they did to this place," Dr. Fatah said, shaking his head. "Why in the world would the Israelis target a hospital?" The probable answer was found a few hours later in a field nearby. Hidden in the tall grass were the burned remnants of a rocket-launcher. Confronted with the evidence, Dr. Fatah admitted his hospital could have been used as a site from which to fire rockets into Israel. "What choice to we have? We need to fight back from somewhere," he said, tapping his foot on the ground. "This is Hezbollah's heartland." .... During a pitched battle in his village of Bint Jbeil last Thursday, the 48-year-old dentist watched from his kitchen window as Hezbollah fighters dragged a rocket launcher across the torn street in front of his house. A few minutes later, he heard four successive blasts. Kareem barely managed to cover his four-year-old son's ears before the rockets were fired. His own ears are still ringing. "Five minutes after they fired the rockets, the Israelis started bombing," he recalled from the safety of a shelter in Beirut."They are making us magnets for the Israelis," he said. .... Anger boiled over last week when a shelter in Qana was hit, killing 29 people, most of them children. "What have they done to deserve this? Is this a military target?" wept Mohamad Chaloub, clutching the lifeless body of his daughter. Local officials said there were no weapons or rockets in the house where the children slept in Qana, no warning before the bomb fell. But the next day, the same Lebanese Red Cross team that dug out the children's bodies stumbled across the shreds of more rocket launchers in a village nearby. One was found deep inside a fruit orchard. Another was found wedged between two houses.

guest:
I'm sure that most reporters on one side of a war zone realize that providing material support for the military of the enemy of that side is tantamount to spying, and will carry harsh problems. Should we be surprised that Hezbollah would punish actions such as filming the location of Katyusha rocket launches?
8.8.2006 11:17pm
guest:
problems = penalties.
8.8.2006 11:19pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Israel doesn't allow reporters to film such things, either, but the punishment is revocation of press credentials, perhaps expulsion from the country, not death.
8.8.2006 11:20pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
And if they'll kill you for that, who knows what else they'd kill you for.
8.8.2006 11:21pm
guest:
The punishment for spying is revocation of press credentials? I'm no lawyer, but I find that hard to believe.

[EDITOR: "Spying" means intentionally giving one side's secrets away. Reporters who film or otherwise report war footage that HAPPENS to reveal secrets 99% or more of the time are not spies. Israel briefly detained some Arab news crews who reported the exact locations of katyushas that landed on Haifa, but it certainly didn't execute them, I'm not even sure if they were ultimately expelled]
8.8.2006 11:27pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
Question for Mr. Bernstein (or anyone else for that matter):

Is there any doubt in your mind that Israel is killing and harming many, many more innocent civilians than Hezbollah is?
....

[EDITOR: We've had many threads on the morality of the current war, and we know it comes down to those who focus on Lebanese civilian casualties, versus those who actually look to see who, at root, is to blame for those casaulties for refusing to live in peace with the other side. This, however, is a thread on media coverage of the war.]
8.8.2006 11:28pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Questions for Mahan Atma:

Is there any doubt in your mind that Hezbollah is trying to increase civilian casualties on both sides of the border, and also to increase the perception of civilian casualties on the north side of the border by pretending that dead Hezbollah fighters are civilians, while Israel tries to decrease (genuine) civilian casualties on both sides of the border?
8.8.2006 11:42pm
limes (mail) (www):
I personally feel that its pretty hard to call someone a 'innocent civilian' who has ignored warnings to leave, has allowed terrorist military forces to co-locate with their families, and probably voted for a political party that includes a para-military arm forbidden to operate in their country.

My understanding is that battle-dead are classified as a 'civilian' if they are not carrying arms. Thus a 22-yr old male found at a gun battery is a 'civilian' if he wasn't armed (or if the rifle was blown out of his hands).

Unless you deny this (and I submit that you cannot), there is a premise problem.
8.8.2006 11:43pm
Uncle Kracker (mail):
Here's a question for David Bernstein:

If you'd been born "Daoud" instead of "David," how might that change your concepts of morality in the Arab-Israeli conflicts?
8.8.2006 11:52pm
Passing By:
When you mentioned loony conspiracy theories, I thought you were going to tell us that a major news network got behind your "the Qana photos were faked" nonsense. So far, the biggest fish you've snagged with that one seems to be the ever-credible Rush Limbaugh. I will grant that the "pockets of missiles" conspiracy theory is at least as ludicrous.

Mahan Atma, the question (like it or not) is irrelevant - this isn't a game of head counts. If Israel were as indiscriminate in its attacks as Hizbullah, the death count in Lebanon would be well into the five figure range, if not higher.

limes, so if Hezbollah tells all "innocent civilians" to leave the areas it can hit with its missiles, those who stay behind are fair game - or is it only if they, say, are from families with military ties, or have voted for anybody in a Labor or Likud coalition? That would be a pretty depraved stance to take, yet it's the moral and factual equivalent of yours.
8.8.2006 11:55pm
MnZ (mail):
Thus a 22-yr old male found at a gun battery is a 'civilian' if he wasn't armed (or if the rifle was blown out of his hands).

What I find interesting is how few pictures of Hezbollah fighters there actually are. If one does a quick search of the news photos, one will find few pictures of a clear Hezbollah fighter - living or dead. The few that exist demonstrate that the only obvious difference between a Hezbollah fighter and a male civilian is a gun.
8.8.2006 11:57pm
Lively:
Uncle Kracker,
We've have been through this many times....in reference to the Muslim/Israeli (Muslim is a better word than Arab because Iranians are Persian)...you will lose your argument on this topic if you base it on moral equivalency as you have done with Prof B.

Back on topic: Who can forget Geraldo Rivera being pulled out of the Iraq war (not killed or threatened) because he drew in the sand and "disclosed" his location.
8.9.2006 12:03am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Passing, I've never remotely suggested that the Qana photos were "faked," though I have suggested that there is significant evidence that they were "staged."
8.9.2006 12:04am
Vovan:
I think that media coverage should focus more on the all too real possibility of Israel suffering biggest military and political defeat in its existance.

Sharon can't come around soon enough.
8.9.2006 12:17am
t e (mail):

"Spying" means intentionally giving one side's secrets away. Reporters who film or otherwise report war footage that HAPPENS to reveal secrets 99% or more of the time are not spies.

As in, I accidentally pointed my camera from a rooftop and just happened to film a rocket being launched and then I accidentally just happened to uplink that footage to my network where it was broadcast because of an oversight?

Please.
8.9.2006 12:19am
TallDave (mail) (www):
Ricks didn't write a book, he wrote a book-length hit piece. Cobra II was basically recycled DNC talking points, but at least it pretended to be serious.
8.9.2006 12:21am
TallDave (mail) (www):
Oh, I should have added: if you read his book, that statement by him will probably not surprise you.
8.9.2006 12:23am
limes (mail) (www):
On media coverage and military operations:

"Look, we're serious, we will kill you if you film these outgoing rockets." -real world
Award Pulitzer Prize to those exposing top-secret intelligence programs. -our privileged current environment

On morality and civilians:

Many Israelis in the rocket footprint have left. Those who haven't (a million) sleep in bomb shelters. I remember an Israeli man, who was killed by a follow-on missile, being chastized on TV for having 'left his bomb shelter'. I guess the media did consider him 'fair game'.

Collective punishment is unfair and cruel to many. One side of this conflict is clearly in violation of the peace agreement. A decisive victory leading to lasting peace is the most ethical outcome.
8.9.2006 12:30am
Uncle Kracker (mail):
Lively,

Humor me. I think Bernstein is attempting to find morality in an amoral situation of tribe X vs. tribe Y. Membership in one or other of the tribes seems to, you know, *really* strongly influence what you think is moral.

I don't mind might being right. I can live in a world like that.
8.9.2006 12:35am
Steve:
I concur that it is positively savage to call for the execution of journalists because they are perceived to be helping the other side.
8.9.2006 12:48am
TallDave (mail) (www):
Is there any doubt in your mind that Israel is killing and harming many, many more innocent civilians than Hezbollah is?

First off, all innocent civilians killed in ths conflict are dead because of Hizbollah, not Israel.

Secondly, a little history. Did Germany kill more American civilians than America killed German civilians? What about the Japanese?

Your argument is that since Hizbollah isn't as good at killing Israeli civilians (even though they intentionally target them) and purposely endangers its own, Israel is morally worse (even though it intentionally avoids targeting civlians) because it protects its citizens better, with the result that there are more Lebanese civilians killed than Israeli. Doesn't make sense.

Intent matters. It is not just a numbers game.
8.9.2006 12:51am
Humble Law Student (mail):
Mahan Atma,

You all aren't interested in intellectual honesty, or even fair exchange, so I'm not going to waste my time with this.

What a JOKE this site has become...


Don't let the door hit ya, where the good Lord split ya.
8.9.2006 1:02am
Lively:
Here is an example of media bias coverage of the war that I read on a blog recently:

"For a view of how Reuters' captions to photos are biased, check out the first 18 photos related to Israel/Hizb/Lebanon at Reuters' site. Here's the first seven captions which are representative of all 18.

Every time, if an Israeli is hurt, it was a "rocket" that did it; if a Lebanese/Hizb is hurt, "Israel" did it. Humans hurt Lebanese, but inanimate objects hurt Israelis, according to Reuters."

pic 1



Orthodox Jews look for a shelter during a rocket attack on the city of Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel near the Israel-Lebanon border August 7, 2006.


pic 2

Workers from the aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) transfer medical supplies by hand across the Litani River, north of the port city of Tyre, southern Lebanon August 7, 2006. The only road link that crossed the river between Tyre in south Lebanon and Sidon was destroyed by Israeli bombardment overnight, essentially sealing the city from the rest of the country.


pic 3


Israeli Arab-Christians carry the coffin of Labiba Mazzam, who was killed after Katyusha rockets hit Haifa on Sunday, during her funeral in Haifa August 7, 2006.



pic 4


Israeli Arab-Christians carry the coffins of Hanna Hamam and Labiba Mazzam, who were killed after Katyusha rockets hit Haifa on Sunday, during their funeral in Haifa August 7, 2006.


pic 5


Workers from the aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) transfer medical supplies by hand across the Litani River, north of the port city of Tyre, southern Lebanon August 7, 2006. The only road link that crossed the river between Tyre in south Lebanon and Sidon was destroyed by Israeli bombardment overnight, essentially sealing the city from the rest of the country.


pic 6


Israeli firefighters examine the damage to a school building hit by a rocket during an attack on the city of Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel near the Israel-Lebanon border August 7, 2006.


pic 7


Israeli firefighters examine the damage to a school building hit by a rocket during an attack on the city of Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel near the Israel-Lebanon border August 7, 2006.
8.9.2006 1:07am
Stu (mail):
Thus a 22-yr old male found at a gun battery is a 'civilian' if he wasn't armed (or if the rifle was blown out of his hands).


A 22-yr old male found at a gun battery is armed with the guns that comprise the gun battery. Unless, of course, it's the western press making the determination.
8.9.2006 2:55am
douglas (mail):
One problem with Ricks theory is that even if true, unless Israeli commandos are putting guns to the heads of Hib'Allah members forcing them to launch the rockets, it's still blood on the terrorists hands. Israel is entitled to use whatever legal tactics it sees fit to minimize casualties IN THE LONG RUN.
8.9.2006 3:39am
Humble Medical Student:
I'm sure the survivors of the USS Liberty will be glad to know that Israel doesn't attempt to kill those who may, even inadvertantly, betray military information Israel doesn't want known.
8.9.2006 5:48am
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
``No compelling stories''

The MSM sells soap opera women to advertisers, they don't sell news. Every story takes a soap opera line. Hence what they cover.

Soap opera women are a minority of women, but a big one, and the only large group you can successfully draw as an audience day after day, whether there's news or not.

So they're the business model of mainstream news.

Men mostly left the MSM in disgust years ago, because they didn't like being addressed as women.

Most women don't like being addressed as women either, but enough of them watch to make news a viable business.

So, really, it's not a disadvantge to be led around, so long as there's material for the nightly episode of soul-searching, feelings and eternal frustration.

The solution is not higher standards of journalism, but ridicule of the media audience. Journalism will either change or die once the audience is shamed into silence.
8.9.2006 6:39am
Mongoose388:
Here's a link that Reuters pulled all photographs off their site by the Lebanese photographer caught doctoring photos.
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3286966,00.html
8.9.2006 8:42am
Mongoose388:
Oh, did I mention the photographer in question is connected with the Qana photos?
8.9.2006 8:44am
gert456:
OK, so Hezbollah does not allow to film the location where a military action happens. So what? No sensible army in the whole world, especially not the american or israeli, will ever allow that the locations of their troops or weaponry be revealed by the press.
If you thought that journalists can film or report whatever they want in Israel, think again. Everything what is filmed there must be approved by the army.
8.9.2006 9:18am
Mohammad:
let see how the journalism work in israel, location that have been hit by katyousha is not allowed to be photographed, several cities and they consider to be a military zone. why not first let israel news reporters works free, hizballah did it, but said don't photo anything that can use by israeli.

i think logic agree here!!!
8.9.2006 9:44am
Laser:
"Passing By" wrote
"I thought you were going to tell us that a major news network got behind your "the Qana photos were faked" nonsense. So far, the biggest fish you've snagged with that one seems to be the ever-credible Rush Limbaugh. "

Great, except that Reuters has admitted the counterfeit and has removed the photos. Sorry, pal.
8.9.2006 9:48am
Laser:
The Hisb'Allah uses the media without shame.

The Hisb'Allah holds daily press sessions in which they expose reporters to the damage they claim has been inflicted by Israel's air strikes. However, they never show the reporters the rocket launching sites, from which over 3000 lethal rockets and missiles have been launched at Israeli civilians--for the sole purpose of killing and maiming non-combatants.

You can understand why they don't show these sites to the press, since most of them are located in schools, hospitals and private homes. And these are mobile sites in any event.

Journalists are photographed, and the Hisb'Allah has copies of all the journalists' passports. Reporters are often threatened to follow the rules set by the Hisb'Allah, or else they may not live to report another attack.
8.9.2006 9:50am
David in DC:
IMO it is acceptable to censor or limit press coverage of military matters, like Hezbollah is doing with their rocket launchers.

For instance, Israel revoked the press credentials of an al Jazeera reporter who broadcast a site where a rocket hit. Israel does not want that information broadcast because it will help Hezbollah aim the rockets.

Frankly, I don't have a problem with Hezbollah for trying to win a propaganda war either. This is part of warfare. My problem is with the media who allow themselves to be manipulated and don't report on the manipulative tactics. It is good to see that some are reporting it.
8.9.2006 9:51am
Laser:
Mohammad said,
"location that have been hit by katyousha is not allowed to be photographed,"

I have the feeling that this gentleman has not watched very much televisinon. Many Katyusha rocketed sites have been indeed photographed. He might note that with the Hisb'Allah having already launched over 3000 rockets and other missiles, there have been SO MANY sites that they cannot all be shown on television.

And let us bear in mind that the Katyushas that have been launched at Israeli cities have one purpose only: to kill and maim non-combatant civilians.
8.9.2006 9:58am
johnt (mail):
Bret Sadler must have it wrong, either that or he's a right wing ideologue,[there are no left wing ideologues as you may have noticed]. I have been assured by VERY SERIOUS PEOPLE speaking in stentorian tones that the Lebanonese masses are flocking to the Hezbollah[ hizbollah, hasbollah, hisballo, can't keep up with the changes] because these worthies give away free graham crackers and the masses can't stand the idea of Israel fighting for their survival.
8.9.2006 10:14am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Here is a look at the Hizbollah Press plan:

I lived until 2002 in a small southern village near Mardshajund that is inhabited by a majority of Shias like me. After Israel left Lebanon, it did not take long for Hezbollah to have its say in other towns. Received as successful resistance fighters and armed to the teeth, they stored rockets in bunkers in our town as well. The social work of the Party of God consisted in building a school and a residence over these bunkers! A local sheikh explained to me laughing that the Jews would lose in any event because the rockets would either be fired at them or if they attacked the rockets depots, they would be condemned by world opinion on account of the dead civilians. These people do not care about the Lebanese population, they use them as shields, and, once dead, as propaganda. As long as they continue existing there, there will be no tranquility and peace.

Dr. Mounir Herzallah
Berlin-Wedding

A translation of a German letter from a Lebanese Shia who lived in the southern area controlled by Hizballah. From: Berlin left-wing daily Die Tagesspiegel
8.9.2006 10:48am
johnt (mail):
Noticed some brilliant points above about tribes and , for lack of a better word, determinism. Rather along the lines of tribe a thinking the world is flat because they're tribe a and tribe b thinking the world is a sphere because etc.
Deep, the next time I pop a couple of caps with Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov I'll pass this wisdom on to them.
As well as to all the Americans with different views on the war, along with Israeli dissidents and so on.
I'll probably hear some guff about how a semi rational mind should be able to make distinctions and even has a moral imperative to do so. Too late, the jury's in. It's what tribe you're born into and you leave your mind on the delivery room floor.
It's the new order, we're all Hottentots now.
8.9.2006 10:56am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
The Jerusalem Post says Qana may have been totally staged.

It is also a story about bloggers.

Bloggers get results

BTW we may know where the dead bodies came from. See the A.J. Strata link at the above location



The Hizbollah story of Qana is unraveling further.

A French language Lebanese publication, citing an unnamed source in Hezbollah, has claimed that the organization placed a rocket launcher on the roof of the notorious building in Qana to provoke an Israeli attack and brought invalid children inside to serve as victims and blacken Israel's name.

Link in the above to another French site saying the children were handicapped.

There is also some evidence the children killed were not residents of Qana.

So iron clad proof? Not yet. But all the evidence is not in.
8.9.2006 11:02am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
M. Simon.

Unnamed source? If it's good enough for the NYT, it's good enough for me.
8.9.2006 11:55am
Uncle Kracker (mail):
Johnt,

I wouldn't call it "determinism," but simply "ethnic interests." If you're born into tribe X, you'll tend to have tribe X's interests at heart, and view their actions differently than you would those of other groups. This includes adopting a view of morality that says "what's good for my tribe is moral, even from an objective viewpoint."

The existence of Israeli dissidents doesn't negate my point, since they are relatively small in number. Besides, IDF members who refuse to fight do not usually do so because they don't have the tribe's interests at heart, but because they believe aggressive military action isn't the best thing for Israel (though they can have purely moral reasons as well, of course).

I don't know if we're all Hottentots now, but we're certainly tribalists -- you, me, David Bernstein, and everyone else. That's biology, baby!
8.9.2006 1:13pm
Mark F. (mail):
A French language Lebanese publication, citing an unnamed source in Hezbollah, has claimed that the organization placed a rocket launcher on the roof of the notorious building in Qana to provoke an Israeli attack and brought invalid children inside to serve as victims and blacken Israel's name.

Right, and the second cousin of my best friend's mother claims that she overheard somebody say that...
8.9.2006 1:33pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Yet another thread degrades into an argument on the ethics of warfare. This despite Prof. Bernstein's admonishment of Mahan Atma.

How about concentrating instead on the ethics of war reporting?
8.9.2006 3:05pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
MnZ sez, 'the only obvious difference between a Hezbollah fighter and a male civilian is a gun.'

There is another reliable method, the one used by the Lebanese.

For many years, I kept a headline clipped from a 1970 newspaper over my desk. It read: 'Don't shoot, we are journalists!'

The story related an incident from the first Lebanese Civil War, a gentler time when journalists (and tourists) were usually treated as mere bystanders and not subjected to Arab hospitality.

A car full of journalists was stopped at a checkpoint, and, as was the custom, they were ordered to drop their trousers.

You see, you couldn't tell approaching a checkpoint which side it belonged to: all Arabs look pretty much alike in green fatigues. So the checkpoint guys compared foreskins. If yours didn't match theirs, they shot you.

I think this is on topic.

++++

As for the challenge to Kracker, I am neither a David nor a Daoud and have no ancestral dog in this fight. I have taken sides, based on morality and decency, and there's no chance I made a mistake.
8.9.2006 8:48pm