Media Monitors Network
Israel, not Hizbullah, is putting civilians in danger on both sides of the border
by Jonathan Cook
(Thursday August 03 2006)
"The impression that Hizbullah is using civilians as human shields has been reinforced, according to HRW, by that have “blurred the distinction between civilians and combatants, arguing that only people associated with Hezbollah remain in southern Lebanon, so all are legitimate targets of attack.”
Here are some interesting points raised this week by a leading commentator and published in a respected daily newspaper:
My attempt at deception was probably futile because no one seems to seriously believe that criticisms of the kind expressed above can be levelled against Israel.
Freedland, like most commentators in our media, assumes that Hizbullah is using the Lebanese population as “human shields”, hiding its fighters, arsenals and rocket launchers inside civilian areas. “Cowardly” behaviour rather than the nature of Israel’s air strikes, in his view, explains the spiralling death toll among Lebanese civilians. This perception of Hizbullah’s tactics grows more common by the day, even though it and the research of independent observers in Lebanon such as Human Rights Watch.
Explaining the findings of its latest report, HRW’s executive director, Kenneth Roth, blames Israel for targeting civilians indiscriminately in Lebanon. “The pattern of attacks shows the . Our research shows that Israel’s claim that Hezbollah [sic] fighters are hiding among civilians
HRW has analysed the casualty figures from two dozen Israeli air strikes and found that Conservatively, HRW puts the civilian death toll so far at over 500. Lebanese hospital records suggest the figure is now well over 750, with potentially many more bodies yet to be excavated from the rubble of buildings obliterated by Israeli attacks.
Giving the lie to the “human shields” theory, HRW says its researchers
In fact, of the 24 incidents they document, HRW researchers could find Roth states: “The image that Israel has promoted of such [human] shielding as the cause of so high a civilian death toll is wrong.
The impression that Hizbullah is using civilians as human shields has been reinforced, according to HRW, by official Israeli statements that have “blurred the distinction between civilians and combatants, arguing that only people associated with Hezbollah remain in southern Lebanon, so all are legitimate targets of attack.”
Freedland makes a similar point. Echoing comments by the UN’s Jan Egeland, he says Hizbullah fighters are “cowardly blending” with Lebanon’s civilian population. It is difficult to know what to make of this observation.
Egeland and Freedland’s criticism That, presumably, would be brave. But in reality , and Hizbullah can hardly be criticised for using the only strategic defences it has: its underground bunkers and the crumbling fortifications of Lebanese villages ruined by Israeli pounding. -- as long as it does not intentionally put civilians at risk. But HRW’s research shows convincingly that Hizbullah is not doing this.
So if Israeli officials have been deceiving us about what has been occurring inside Lebanon, have they also been misleading us about Hizbullah’s rocket attacks on Israel? Should we take at face value government and army statements that Hizbullah’s strikes into Israel are targeting civilians indiscriminately, or do they need more serious investigation?
Although we should not romanticise Hizbullah, equally we should not be quick to demonise it either -- unless there is convincing evidence suggesting it has been firing on civilian targets. The problem is that
I live in northern Israel in the Arab city of Nazareth. A week into the war we were hit by Hizbullah rockets that killed two young brothers. The attack, it was widely claimed, was proof either that Hizbullah was indiscriminately targeting civilians (so indiscriminately, the argument went, that it was hitting fellow Arabs) or that the Shiite militia was so committed to a fanatical war against the Judeo-Christian world that it was happy to kill Nazareth’s Christian Arabs too. The latter claim could be easily dismissed: it depended both on a “clash of civilisations” philosophy not shared by Hizbullah and on the mistaken assumption that Nazareth is a Christian city, when in fact, as is well-known to Hizbullah, Nazareth has a convincing Muslim majority.
But to anyone living in Nazareth, it was clear the rocket attack on the city was not indiscriminate either. It was a mistake -- something Nasrallah quickly confirmed in one of his televised speeches. The real target of the strike was known to Nazarenes: close by the city are a . Hizbullah knows the locations of these military targets because this year, as was widely reported in the Israeli media at the time, it managed to fly an unmanned drone over the Galilee photographing the area in detail -- employing the same spying techniques used for many years by Israel against Lebanon.
One of Hizbullah’s first rocket attacks after the outbreak of hostilities -- after Israel went on a bombing offensive by blitzing targets across Lebanon -- was on a kibbutz overlooking the border with Lebanon. Some foreign correspondents noted at the time (though given Israel’s press censorship laws I cannot confirm) that the rocket strike targeted a .
There are . There have been reports of rockets landing close to that Arab community.
How these kind of attacks are being unfairly presented in the Israeli and foreign media was highlighted recently when it was widely reported that a Hizbullah rocket had landed “near a hospital” in a named Israeli city, not the first time that such a claim has been made over the past few weeks. I cannot name the city, again because of Israel’s press censorship laws and because I also want to point out that .
Audiences ought to be alerted to this danger by their media. Any reports touching on “security matters” are supposed to be submitted to the country’s military censor, but few media are pointing this out. Most justify this deception to themselves on the grounds that in practice they never run their reports by the censor as it would delay publication.
Instead, they avoid problems with the military censor either by self-censoring their reporting of security issues or by relying on what has already been published in the Israeli media on the assumption that in these ways they are unlikely to contravene the rules.
An email memo, written by a senior BBC editor and leaked more than a week ago, discusses the . It hints at some of the problems noted above, observing that “the more general we are, the free-er hand we have; more specific and it becomes increasingly tricky.” The editor says the channel will notify viewers of these restrictions in “the narrative of the story”. “The teams on the ground will make clear what they can and cannot say -- and if necessary make clear that we’re operating under reporting restrictions.” In practice, however, BBC correspondents, like most of their
Because of this, commentators like Freedland are He notes in his article that “this is a propaganda war as much as a shooting one”. He is right, but does not seem to know who is really winning the propaganda offensive.
by courtesy & © 2006 Jonathan Cook