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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Media bias in Lebanon incident (Barry Rubin)

Worth reading:

Along the border with Lebanon, east of Metulla, some bushes were pushing in on the border fence. The fence is set in slightly from the border precisely so that Israeli soldiers can work on it. The IDF called UNIFIL and informed the UN that this work was going to be done today so that they could tell the Lebanese army that there was no aggression going on but just routine maintenance. Soldiers from UNIFIL came to observe and can be seen standing next to Israeli soldiers in the photos. Photographers were also standing by to film the operation.

But Lebanese soldiers opened fire on the Israelis who were working and in no way acting aggressively. The fact that journalists were standing next to the Lebanese soldiers shows that they knew Israel was going to do this maintenance and were observing. After the Israeli soldiers were ambushed, they returned fire. Reportedly, one Israeli officer, three Lebanese soldiers, and a Lebanese (?) journalist were killed. 

So how did Reuters and Yahoo using an AP photo report this? By captions on photos saying that Israeli soldiers had crossed into Lebanon and been fired on! Other news agencies merely reported: Israel says the soldiers were inside Israel; Lebanon says they were on Lebanese territory.

Reuters: "An Israeli soldier is seen on a crane on the Lebanese side of the Lebanese-Israeli border near Adaisseh village, southern Lebanon August 3, 2010. Israeli artillery shelled the Lebanese village on Tuesday, wounding two people, after Lebanese Army troops fired warning shots at Israeli soldiers."

Yahoo: "A Lebanese officer spoke on condition of anonymity under military guidelines, said the clash occurred as Israeli troops tried to remove a tree from the Lebanese side of the border." No Israeli is quoted.

AP also missed explaining the story properly: "The violence apparently erupted over a move by Israeli soldiers to cut down a tree along the border, a sign of the high level of tensions at the frontier where Israel fought in 2006 with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah....There was no sign of any extensive Israeli preparations for a large-scale operation — an early indication the clash might not trigger a wider conflict." 

The truth is easy to ascertain--did Israel announce the maintenance, permit the photographers and UN people to watch and then cross deliberately into Lebanon?--but Israel is being portrayed as an aggressor that caused the outbreak of fighting. So millions of people will either believe that Israel was at fault or that the event is in question.

The narrative, however, is simple: In an unprovoked attack, Lebanese soldiers fired on Israelis and murdered one soldier.
The presence of the photographers ahead of time, and particularly the fact that the journalist who was killed worked for the Hezbollah-aligned Al Akhbar newspaper, combined with the fact that the initial fire was not towards the soldier who was cutting the tree but towards his commanders, all indicate something being planned ahead of time.

(The Hezbollah-Al Akhbar link was reported in Corriere.)