Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Today's Example of Ridiculous Media Bias Against Israel

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By Barry Rubin

Along Israel's 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.

One Israeli officer was killed, another seriously wounded; three Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist for a Syrian-backed pro-Hizballah newspaper were killed.  Interesting question: why would a reporter be in the far south of Lebanon to watch people trim trees, unless he knew that there was going to be a shooting attack by the Lebanese side? (No Israeli reporters had been informed or invited of the routine maintenance operation.)

So how did Reuters and Yahoo report this? By saying that Israeli soldiers had crossed into Lebanon and been fired on, thus implying the Lebanese army was acting in self-defense! 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."

By the way, AP was so "accurate" as to correct the name of their photographer but not the biased inaccuracy of its facts!

The New York Times also takes a "neutral" approach: "Each side blamed the other for the flare-up, trading accusations of violating the United Nations Security Council resolution that underpins the four-year cease-fire." But what is most amazing is the additional information that tells us more about contemporary journalism than almost anything you can read:

"Israel said that its forces were engaged in routine maintenance work in a gap between the so-called Blue Line, the internationally recognized border, and its security fence, and that it had coordinated in advance with the United Nations peacekeeping force in South Lebanon, Unifil."

Hello? Can't the mighty New York Times contact the UNIFIL offices and find out that Israel's story is true? Indeed, isn't it indicated by the UNIFIL presence as observer? Well, it isn't surprising since the same newspaper is unable to find the evidence, publicly available, that the Turkish IHH group that organized the Gaza flotilla had a history of being a terrorist-supporting group.

Oh, and then there's this amazing little example of bias in the article:

"Israeli and Lebanese army troops exchanged lethal fire on their countries’ border on Tuesday, in what was the fiercest clash in the area since Israel’s month-long war against the Lebanese Hizballah militia in the summer of 2006."

So, there's no mention of the cause of the war: a Hizballah attack into Israeli territory, killing several Israeli soldiers and kidnapping two who were taken into Lebanon. According to the great "newspaper of record," Accorfing to the Times, Israel just arbitrarily attacked Lebanon in 2006, just as it is said to be doing in 2010.

The truth, however, 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.

If the mass media cannot get this right how can it report accurately on other situations like the following:

2000: Israel offers to return the entire Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for full peace. Syria refuses.

2000: Israel offers to accept an independent Palestinian state in all of the Gaza Strip, almost all of the West Bank, and most of east Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority refuses.

2008: Hamas tears up a ceasefire, begins massive mortar and rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, Israel defends itself.

2010: A Turkish pro-terrorist organization trying to help Hamas, a genocidal and antisemitic terrorist group, sends self-described jihadis on a ship who chant slogans about killing Jews and being Jihadi martyrs. When Israeli soldiers land, the Jihad warriors attack them with weapons and kidnap several. Israeli forces rescue the soldiers, killing nine attackers in the operation.

Note, though, that the Times discounted the video of Israeli soldiers being attacked by claiming--with no evidence--that perhaps Israeli forces had been shooting beorehand at unarmed civilians on the ship!

But if the media cannot even get right a previously announced, UN-approved, maintenance activity on Israeli territory then what hope is their getting right anything more complex?

Here's a video of the attack from Reuters showing how relaxed the situation was before the Lebanese soldiers opened fire on the Israelis standing around watching the operation.

To its credit, the Canadian Broadcasting Company issued a correction saying that the tree's location is disputed and changing the photo caption to say the tree is "near" the border rather than on the Lebanese side.

We now have a UNIFIL official on record as saying that the Israeli soldiers who were attacked were on Israeli territory. Which mainstream media outlets will or won't cover this fact?

In this case, the Guardian did a proper job, as follows:

"The Lebanese army opened fire first at Israeli soldiers who entered Lebanese territory ... This constituted defence of our sovereignty and is an absolute right."

"Israel continued to insist that its forces did not cross the blue line, the UN name for the border. It says an IDF unit was carrying out routine maintenance work to remove a tree obscuring its sight lines into Lebanon – but from Israeli territory – when the firing began.

"Unifil, the UN force that monitors the border, today said the tree was in Israeli territory."

To its credit, the New York Times has now reported the story under the unforgettable headline: "U.N. Supports Israeli Account of Border Clash."

Here's a report on the UK media showing most of the press did correct the story.


Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

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