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    « Who claims to know what British Jews think of Israel? | Main | Goodbye to all this »

    Comments

    Stephen

    I have watched the BBC play this game over Iraq with disgust and anger, but now it's becoming quite something else. It seems as if they really want Israel to commit suicide. I am so angry: I will NEVER give them a penny of their stupid license fee again.

    Rick

    The BBC is a lost cause - but SkyNews was not particularly good the other day. Frankly I don't think they understand the issues. I wish Israel would describe the captured soldiers as "Border Guards" on Israeli territory when killed or kidnapped.

    The public has never been informed properly about anything by the media which is little more than a propaganda unit.

    Today I watched ZDF News where the interviewer pressed the Interior Minister of Lebanon when they would control their own country and not cede control to Hezbollah - he answered a different question - the interviewer returned to ask him when Lebanon intended to fulfill the UN Resolution and disarm Hezbollah or was it incapable............

    First time I have heard such direct questionning.

    Last night I thought Steinmeier the German Foreign Minister was weak. He is SPD - asked if German troops would participate in a buffer unit he alluded to historical issues with Israel. Funny I thought.

    He is a successor to Joachim von Ribbentrop, Germany's Foreign Minister hanged at Nuremberg, yet he can visit Tel-Aviv.............but seemingly German soldiers are animals who would behave like the SS if asked to patrol a border.

    How insulting to the Bundeswehr but so SPD. The German Defence Minister (CDU) said he would consider the idea. The SPD is not altogether pro-Israel or pro-German military.........and Steinmeier is not trustworthy, then again he did work for Joschka Fischer which hardly inspires trust

    Rick

    http://tinyurl.com/qhxhp

    The SPD is now coming out against Israel demanding immediate ceasefire.......

    Schnitzel

    "but seemingly German soldiers are animals who would behave like the SS if asked to patrol a border."

    That wasn't what he was saying at all. He was merely trying to anticipate a situation, for instance, in which a German solider shot an Israeli soldier. If that were to happen the fallout would for very obvious reasons be earth-shattering.

    And no doubt there would be many Holocaust survivors and others in Israel who would be shocked at the deployment of German troops on Israel's border.

    As an aside, the SS were hardly alone in Germany or indeed the rest of Europe in behaving like "animals" during the Holocaust. I suppose, as has been said before many times, the SS is a convenient alibi for everyone else.

    Rick

    He was merely trying to anticipate a situation, for instance, in which a German solider shot an Israeli soldier.

    How many Israeli soldiers have been shot by Unifil ?

    This argument is specious. The Luftwaffe bombed Belgrade in 1941 and its Waffen-SS Bosnian and Kosovan units massacred Serbs - it did not stop Rudolf Scharping and Joschka Fischer urging the Luftwaffe to bomb or the Bundeswehr to fight the Yugoslav Army in the most lurid language.

    The argument of the SPD is fatuous.........maybe you should read the comments of Hubertus Heil of the SPD calling for an unconditional Ceasefire in Lebanon

    Rick

    The real reason is that the SPD were not trusted in government for the first 20 years of the Federal Republic - they were seen as too close to the GDR and Moscow. They have perpetuated a guilt complex in Germany as a means of tacking Left on most issues and holding the Armed Forces (but not the Lawyers) inheritors of historical guilt as if every soldier is party to some great crime but only the SPD is pure as the driven snow.

    The use of myth by the German SPD to bolster its claim to power is similar to that of minority factions in the MIddle East. Deploy German troops in a NATO force in the Middle East and the taboo is broken and with it the remaining shreds of SPD moral hubris.

    JJM

    "He was merely trying to anticipate a situation, for instance, in which a German solider [sic] shot an Israeli soldier."

    Let's get something straight here: any serious "buffer zone" force is sooner or later going to have to shoot Hezbollah fighters, not Israeli soldiers.

    If such a force is not prepared to do this, there's certainly no chance it would ever be prepared to take on the IDF in a confrontation.


    Steve M

    Jan Egeland Blasts Hizbollah

    I haven't seen this on the BBC either.

    szenidedatz

    UN humanitarian boss blaming Hezbollah for 'cowardly blending with women and children' is a real 'man bites dog story'. That's why BBC buried it as deeply as it could:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5212158.stm

    Lynne

    Rick:

    I'm not sure how many Israeli soldiers have been shot by UNIFIL, but back in 2000, an Indian army unit stood by and did nothing to prevent the murder of a few Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of others, and the UN sat on the evidence which pointed to pay-offs from Hezbollah that saw some terrorists dawning UNIFIL uniforms in order to perpetrate the attack.

    I believe I came across this courtesy of frontpagemag.com who picked it up from the captainsquarters.com blogsite.

    Rick

    Yes Lynne, but none of this merits the calumny against the Bundeswehr implied by the German (SPD) Foreign Minister Steinmeier, nor the comments by Schnitzel.

    There is no reason why German soldiers should not participate in any proposed NATO force in the border area................not that i think NATO will do anything of the sort since such ideas are floated when the pot boils only to be forgotten when the heat is turned off

    Mark

    I think Rick's earlier post hits the nail on the head. Even if the interviewers do raise questions with anti Israeli speakesr they always get an easier time of it than Israelis do at the hands of ...oooh lets say, Jon Snow.

    I have rarley felt so depressed and let down by a Western media than at this moment.

    delbarre

    I was a Hezbollah muppet… Nic Robertson

    http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=4&x_outlet=12&x_article=1149

    “Back on July 18, Hezbollah took (BBC correspondent) Robertson and his crew on a tour of a heavily damaged south Beirut neighborhood. The Hezbollah “press officer” even instructed the CNN camera: “Just look. Shoot. Look at this building. Is it a military base? Is it a military base, or just civilians living in this building?”

    Juste au cas o?, il n’en a rien dit.

    “In his original story, Robertson had no complaints about the journalistic limitations of a story put together under such tight controls, and Robertson himself at one point seemed to agree with the Hezbollah propaganda claim that Israeli jets had targeted a civilian area: “As we run past the rubble, we see much that points to civilian life, no evidence apparent of military equipment.”

    Nic Robertson, of course, isn’t the only correspondent going on these Hezbollah-arranged tours… “This morning, Hezbollah showed journalists around the ruins of its former stronghold, but Hezbollah is also determined that outsiders will only see what it wants them to see.”

    Nowhere is this shortcoming more evident than in BBC’s reporting on the latest Middle East crisis in Israel, Lebanon and Gaza. Even while Israeli cities are being bombarded by Katyushas, Kassams, Fajr’s and other weaponry deployed by Hizballah and Hamas, the BBC Web site is replete with articles devoted exclusively to Israel’s military operations in Lebanon and Gaza, and the preponderance of photos, graphics and human interest stories present the toll of these operations on Lebanese and Gazan residents. By contrast, attacks against Israel are mentioned only in the odd news story which also includes discussion of Israeli counter-attacks.

    The human dimension of the Hamas/Israel and Hizballah/Israel wars are depicted only in terms of Arab -- not Israeli-- victims. For example, the following behind-the-scenes, human interest stories appeared on July 17 on BBC’s Middle East Web pages as background to the Middle East conflict:


    See also :





    JPost.com » Opinion » Op-Ed Contributors » Article


    Jul. 25, 2006 22:24 | Updated Jul. 25, 2006 23:01
    Be flippant, and never mind the facts
    By ANDREA LEVIN

    Early media coverage of Hizbullah's aggression against Israel presented a generally sound picture of cause and effect, of the terrorist group's agenda and of Israel's right to remove the menace to its people.

    The BBC, however, is a frequent exception.

    Correspondent Nick Thorpe, for instance, in a report broadcast on July 15 and posted as well on the network's Web site - "Becoming Israel's greatest enemy" - opted for jarringly flippant characterizations of the present crisis in Lebanon, followed by anti-Israel distortions and platitudes.

    An introductory account of the assault of Katyusha rockets raining down on northern Israel, and the less lethal Kassams plaguing the south of the country, are reported like a child's fable.

    Thorpe says: "The Kassams mostly needle the Israelis, like pinpricks in the ankles of a giant, taunting him to stamp back with his big, US-issue army boots. The Katyushas are like poisoned arrows. They drive him mad."

    Thorpe likes the image of Israel as a mad giant, saying later: "The giant is kicking out, then landing punch after punch on long-suffering Lebanon."

    The fact that the allegedly "giant" nation is actually so tiny that its entire northern region and nearly a third of its population are being battered by Katyusha missiles is of no interest to the story-teller.

    BUT THE Hizbullah-launched conflagration is only a backdrop to the central, indelible and preferred story, and Thorpe soon segues into his topic - Palestinian feelings and grievances. He notes:

    "For many Palestinians there is proof at last that the state which has taken 78% of what they regard as their land since the foundation of Israel in 1948 - and every day seems to take a little more - can actually be beaten." ...

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1153291996216&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull


    Delbarre

    Shortcut to: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0607/23/rs.01.htm



    I Was a Hezbollah Tool
    After touring parts of Beirut as part of a Hezbollah “media event,” CNN reporter Nic Robertson (pictured) admitted and he was just used by the terror organization. The admission came on CNN’s July 23 edition of Reliable Sources. The eye-opening dialogue between Robertson and Reliable Sources host, Howard Kurtz, say it all. (transcript corrected against the actual broadcast):
    Howard Kurtz: “I want to go now to CNN's Nic Robertson, who joins us live from Beirut. Nic Robertson, we were speaking a moment ago about the way journalists cover Hezbollah and some of these tours that Hezbollah officials have arranged of the bomb damage in the areas of Southern Lebanon. You, I believe, got one of those tours. Isn't it difficult for you as a journalist to independently verify any claims made by Hezbollah, because you're not able to go into the buildings and see whether or not there is any military activity or any weapons being hidden there?”
    Nic Robertson: “Well, Howard, there’s no doubt about it: Hezbollah has a very, very sophisticated and slick media operations. In fact, beyond that, it has very, very good control over its areas in the south of Beirut. They deny journalists access into those areas. They can turn on and off access to hospitals in those areas. They have a lot of power and influence. You don't get in there without their permission. And when I went in, we were given about 10 or 15 minutes, quite literally running through a number of neighborhoods that they directed and they took us to."
    "What I would say at that time was, it was very clear to me that the Hezbollah press official who took us on that guided tour — and there were Hezbollah security officials around us at the time with walkie-talkie radios — that he felt a great deal of anxiety about the situation....But there’s no doubt about it. They had control of the situation. 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.”
    “So what we did see today in a similar excursion, and Hezbollah is now running a number of these every day, taking journalists into this area. They realize that this is a good way for them to get their message out, taking journalists on a regular basis. This particular press officer came across his press office today, what was left of it in the rubble. He pointed out business cards that he said were from his office that was a Hezbollah press office in that area.”
    “So there's no doubt that the bombs there are hitting Hezbollah facilities. But from what we can see, there appear to be a lot of civilian damage, a lot of civilian properties. But again, as you say, we didn't have enough time to go in, root through those houses, see if perhaps there was somebody there who was, you know, a taxi driver by day, and a Hezbollah fighter by night....”

    Kurtz: “To what extent do you feel like you're being used to put up the pictures that they want — obviously, it’s terrible that so many civilians have been killed — without any ability, as you just outlined, to verify, because — to verify Hezbollah’s role, because this is a fighting force that is known to blend in among the civilian population and keep some of its weapons there?”
    Robertson: “Absolutely. And I think as we try and do our job, which is go out and see what's happened to the best of our ability, clearly, in that environment, in the southern suburbs of Beirut that Hezbollah controls, the only way we can get into those areas is with a Hezbollah escort. And absolutely, when you hear their claims they have to come with more than a grain of salt, that you have to put in some journalistic integrity. That you have to point out to the audience and let them know that this was a guided tour by Hezbollah press officials along with their security, that it was a very rushed affair, that there wasn't time to go and look through those buildings.”
    “The audience has to know the conditions of that tour. But again, if we didn't get all — or we could not get access to those areas without Hezbollah compliance, they control those areas.”

    Delbarre

    Anderson Cooper of CNN covering the same event as Nic Robertson!
    CNN's Anderson Cooper Exposes Hezbollah's Media Manipulations
    Posted by Rich Noyes on July 25, 2006 - 17:54.
    On Monday’s "Anderson Cooper 360," CNN’s Anderson Cooper related his visit to a Hezbollah-controlled section of Beirut where he was supposed to photograph certain damaged buildings, part of the terrorist group’s strategy of generating news stories about Lebanese civilian casualities caused by Israeli bombs.

    But instead of merely transmitting Hezbollah’s unverified and unverifiable claims to the outside world, Cooper — to his credit — exposed the efforts by Hezbollah to manipulate CNN and other Western reporters. It’s quite a contrast from the much more accommodating approach taken by his colleague, Nic Robertson, in a report that aired on a variety of CNN programs (including AC360) back on July 18, a report that Robertson himself has now conceded was put together under Hezbollah's control.

    Unlike Robertson, Cooper was explicit about how Hezbollah’s operatives had set all of the rules: “Young men on motor scooters followed our every movement. They only allowed us to videotape certain streets, certain buildings,” he explained. He countered Hezbollah claims that Israel targets civilians by pointing out that the group based itself in civilian areas and that Israel's air force drops leaflets warning of attacks.

    Cooper exposed for CNN viewers that the sight of speeding ambulances, sirens blaring, was just a phony play staged by Hezbollah: “One by one, they’ve been told to turn on their sirens and zoom off so that all the photographers here can get shots of ambulances rushing off to treat civilians....These ambulances aren’t responding to any new bombings. The sirens are strictly for effect.”

    CNN showed cameramen from other news organizations dutifully photographing the ambulances as they went by.

    Cooper had left Lebanon and was stationed in Haifa, Israel for Monday’s broadcast. His report on his trip “Inside Hezbollah” appeared at about 10:40pm EDT Monday (6:40am Tuesday, local time), the first hour of his two-hour program.

    “We'd come to get a look at the damage and had hoped to talk with a Hezbollah representative. Instead, we found ourselves with other foreign reporters taken on a guided tour by Hezbollah. Young men on motor scooters followed our every movement. They only allowed us to videotape certain streets, certain buildings. Once, when they thought we'd videotaped them, they asked us to erase the tape. These men are called al-Shabab, Hezbollah volunteers who are the organization's eyes and ears.”

    Gesturing to racks of music CDs in a building that had lost at least one of its walls, Cooper remarked, “You see their CDs on the wall still.”

    He continued: “Hezbollah representatives are with us now but don't want to be photographed. They'll point to something like that and they'll say, ‘Well, look, this is a store.’ The civilians lived in this building. This is a residential complex.

    “And while that may be true, what the Israelis will say is that Hezbollah has their offices, their leadership has offices and bunkers even in residential neighborhoods. And if you're trying to knock out the Hezbollah leadership with air strikes, it's very difficult to do that without killing civilians.

    “As bad as this damage is, it certainly could have been much worse in terms of civilian casualties. Before they started heavily bombing this area, Israeli warplanes did drop leaflets in this area, telling people to get out. The civilian death toll, though, has angered many Lebanese. Even those who do not support Hezbollah are outraged by the pictures they've seen on television of civilian casualties.”

    As the video showed a group reporters and photographers interviewing a single woman on a blanket, Cooper explained, “Civilian casualties are clearly what Hezbollah wants foreign reporters to focus on. It keeps the attention off them — and questions about why Hezbollah should still be allowed to have weapons when all the other militias in Lebanon have already disarmed.

    “After letting us take pictures of a few damaged buildings, they take us to another location, where there are ambulances waiting.

    “This is a heavily orchestrated Hezbollah media event. When we got here, all the ambulances were lined up. We were allowed a few minutes to talk to the ambulance drivers. Then one by one, they've been told to turn on their sirens and zoom off so that all the photographers here can get shots of ambulances rushing off to treat civilians. That's the story that Hezbollah wants people to know about.

    “These ambulances aren't responding to any new bombings. The sirens are strictly for effect.”

    Cooper concluded: “Hezbollah may not be terribly subtle about spinning a story, but it is telling perhaps that they try. Even after all this bombing, Hezbollah is still organized enough to have a public relations strategy, still in control enough to try and get its message out.”

    Rich Noyes's blog | login or register to post comments
    Categories: Anderson Cooper 360 | Anderson Cooper | CNN | Israel/Palestine | Middle East | Nic Robertson


    Delbarre

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/why_the_un_post_was_bombed/

    Kissing cousins: The UN and Hezbollah flags fly side by side at the UN observer post. (Pic thanks to Michelle Malkin)

    The lynching of Israel continues, this time with United Nations boss Kofi Annan accusing it of the “apparently deliberate targetting” of a UN observation post, killing four observers.

    The usual suspects are now running with this line, with The Age front page screaming: “UN told: please explain.’’

    The venom against Israel - as splashed about by former Deputy Prime Minsiter Tim Fischer on ABC 774 this morning - is extraordinary. Do these people seriously think Israel aims to kill UN staff, and that this was not simply - as Israel insists - a tragic mistake?

    What makes Annan’s allegation so unforgiveable is that his UN Interim Force in Lebanon has been warning for days about what almost certainly caused this tragedy. Hezbollah fighters, who have already been firing behind screens of women and children, have also been shooting from behind and next to the UN positions, presumably hoping Israel will not dare shoot back and risk exactly this kind of propaganda disaster.

    Read the UNIFIL press releases for yourself to learn that Hezbollah has not just shot at and seriously wounded UNIFIL observers - without any protest from Kofi Annan or The Age. You’ll also learn that UNIFIL has repeatedly reported Israeli shelling and bombing near UNIFIL outposts because Hezbollah fighters were shooting from right beside them .

    Says the UNIFIL press release of 20 July:

    Hezbollah firing was also reported from the immediate vicinity of the UN positions in Naquora and Maroun Al Ras areas at the time of the incidents (of Israeli return fire).

    Can the jeering critics of Israel stop catcalling for a minute and explain how Israel is to defend itself against an enemy that shoots from among women and children, and from behind UN soldiers? Can they explain why they are such apologists for terrorists? Can Annan explain why he did not call on Hezbollah to stop risking the lives of his staff, or pull them out when they were being used to screen terrorist fighters?

    UPDATE 1: More evidence. Retired Canadian Major General Lewis Mackenzie says he recently received emails from the Canadian peacekeeper killed at the UN post who’d told him that Hezbollah was using his post as cover.

    We received emails from him a few days ago, and he was describing the fact that he was taking fire within, in one case, three meters of his position for tactical necessity, not being targeted. Now that’s veiled speech in the military. What he was telling us was Hezbollah soldiers were all over his position and the IDF were targeting them. And that’s a favorite trick by people who don’t have representation in the UN. They use the UN as shields knowing that they can’t be punished for it.

    (Thanks to Little Green Footballs)

    UPDATE 2: Canada’s prime minister Steven Harper also makes sense:

    Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper said an Israeli attack on a UN outpost that killed four, including a Canadian, was a “terrible tragedy” but not likely deliberate.

    At the same time, he questioned why the UN had manned the outpost in Lebanon near the Israeli border as bombs exploded all around.

    “We want to find out why this United Nations post was attacked and also why it remained manned during what is now, more or less, a war during obvious danger to these individuals,” he told reporters.

    UPDATE 3: Hezbollah is listed here and in the US and Canada as a terrorist group. Yet The Age today gave one of its spokesmen, Ali Fayyad, a senior member of Hezbollah’s executive committee, a quarter of a page to put his case against Israel. Am I alone in finding this shameful? I guess the paper at least “balanced” it by running alongside it a piece by an Israeli minister. Can someone older than I tell me if it was the habit of The Age in World War 2 to run pieces by Mr Hitler alongside ones by some Jewish spokesman not yet dead for the sake of a “balanced” argument? We can’t be far from the day that The Age hires Mr Osama bin laden as a columnist. When Michael Leunig retires, perhaps?

    Victoria

    Thursday, July 27 2006
    'They Use the UN as Shields'
    The UN peacekeeping post hit by Israeli shelling was used by Hezbollah for cover. One of the Canadian peacekeeper killed had recently emailed retired Canadian Major General Lewis Mackenzie (pictured) about the problem, and Mackenzie discussed this with CBC Radio:

    What he was telling us was Hezbollah soldiers were all over his position and the IDF were targeting them. And that’s a favorite trick by people who don’t have representation in the UN. They use the UN as shields knowing that they can’t be punished for it.
    Hear the full interview at LGF.

    JJM

    Sadly, it does now appear that the Canadian officer killed in the IDF attack at Khiam was Maj Paeta Hess-von Kruederer.

    Fatefully, he had sent an email to CTV News which was published on their website (it's still there - www.ctv.ca). I provide for your consideration (without further comment), his own words about IDF targeting:

    "What I can tell you is this: we have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both artillery and aerial bombing. The closest artillery has landed within 2 meters of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but has rather been due to tactical necessity."

    The phrase "due to tactical necessity" was the "veiled speech" Major-General MacKenzie was referring to.

    Victoria

    Who is Samir Kuntar that Hizbullah wants relased?

    Friday, July 28, 2006
    Death Cult Hero Samir Kuntar
    Samir Kuntar, currently imprisoned in Israel, is a hero in Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.

    And he’s a cold-blooded, remorseless child killer. (Hat tip: WriterMom.)

    JERUSALEM — He stares out from a poster like a movie star. Clean-shaven but for his thick, dark mustache, with dark curly hair and piercing blue eyes, he poses on one jeans-clad knee, staring fiercely into the camera.

    To Palestinians, and to Hezbollah, Samir Kuntar is a hero, a political prisoner who has spent 27 years in Israeli jails.

    A Druze from a small village in south Lebanon, Mr. Kuntar is one of four Lebanese prisoners in Israeli prisons, and is by far the longest-serving of those on record. (Palestinian human-rights activists believe there is another Lebanese prisoner who has been held a year longer, but his detention has never been confirmed by Israeli authorities.) When Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah speaks now of freeing Lebanese prisoners from Israel, it is Mr. Kuntar he is seeking.

    But Mr. Kuntar is a killer. In 1979, at the age of 17, he and three others, recruited by a Palestinian militant group fighting an Israeli incursion into Lebanon, launched a small boat from the tip of Lebanon’s southern coast and came ashore at the northern Israeli town of Nahariya. There, they killed a police officer they encountered, before taking a family of four in an apartment hostage.

    The mother, Smadar Haran, had managed to slip into a crawl space with her two-year-old daughter Yael and avoid detection. But as police began to arrive, the gunmen took her husband Danny and four-year-old daughter Einat down to the beach, where they shot Danny in front of his daughter and smashed in her skull with a rifle butt.

    The tragedy didn’t end there; Smadar’s frantic efforts to keep her little one quiet resulted in Yael’s death from suffocation. ...

    “Experience tells me there have been many prisoner swaps, and at the end of the day there will be one [involving Kuntar],” said Buthaina Duqmaq, a lawyer and founder of the Mandela Institute in Ramallah, an advocacy group for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli institutions, who visits Mr. Kuntar regularly.

    From her bag, she pulls out a half-dozen strings of worry beads — some in the red-and-black colours of Palestine, some in the yellow-and-green of Hezbollah — all made by women in prison as gifts for Mr. Kuntar.

    “He is a symbol of the Arab prisoners’ movement. He is very much liked . . . thousands of prisoners that have been inside Israeli jails talk about him. Even those who have not met him talk about him,” she said. ...

    “I have never heard him repent. I have never heard him regret. To him, he joined a liberation movement and he is proud of that,” Ms. Duqmaq said.

    Victoria

    Lifting the Cover of the Hezbollah PR Effort

    by Paul McLeary

    http://www.cjrdaily.org/politics/lifting_the_cover_of_the_hezbo_1.php

    Writing on his blog Wednesday while reporting from southern Lebanon, freelance journalist and Time magazine contributor Christopher Allbritton, in what almost looked to be a throw-away line, relayed that "To the south, along the curve of the coast, Hezbollah is launching Katyushas, but I'm loathe 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." (Emphasis mine.)

    This jogged our memory of some reports earlier in the week about how journalists are getting around parts of Lebanon, and how Hezbollah is trying to shape the coverage.

    One was an exchange on Howard Kurtz's Reliable Sources show on CNN, in which Kurtz interviewed CNN's Nic Robertson about reporting from Lebanon. Just a few days before, Hezbollah minders had taken Robertson on a tour of a neighborhood in southern Beirut that had been hit by Israeli missiles.

    Robertson told Kurtz, "Hezbollah has a very, very sophisticated and slick media operation," and in southern Beirut, "they deny journalists access into those areas. They can turn on and off access to hospitals in those areas."

    He also said that Hezbollah "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 ... Hezbollah is now running a number of [press tours] every day, taking journalists into this area. They realize that this is a good way for them to get their message out, taking journalists on a regular basis."

    This is a tricky issue, disclosure-wise, but in his initial report of July 18, Robertson did tell viewers at the start that "We went in to those southern suburbs of Beirut with that media representative from Hezbollah. They haven't let western reporters into some parts of that very, very, very carefully controlled southern suburbs ... they took us in because they wanted to show us what was being damaged." He then ended by again reminding viewers that it was a "very, very brief and swift tour escorted by Hezbollah." The disclosure that Hezbollah acted as tour guide does put the report into perspective, but still, Robertson could have dwelled a bit more on the calculated photo op CNN's cameras were provided by an obviously interested party. But given that he filed the report from the middle of a very hot war zone, we're willing to cut him some slack and give him points for broaching the subject of Hezbollah's PR initiative at the top, and at the end, of his report.

    Anderson Cooper followed up this past Monday with a similar report, telling viewers that "we found ourselves with other foreign reporters taken on a guided tour by Hezbollah ... They only allowed us to videotape certain streets, certain buildings."

    "This is a heavily orchestrated Hezbollah media event. When we got here, all the ambulances were lined up. We were allowed a few minutes to talk to the ambulance drivers. Then one by one, they've been told to turn on their sirens and zoom off so that all the photographers here can get shots of ambulances rushing off to treat civilians ... These ambulances aren't responding to any new bombings. The sirens are strictly for effect."

    Reporting from a war zone almost invariably entails certain moral or ethical compromises made on the fly that are, more often than not, necessary. If being led around by Hezbollah "press officers" is the only way for reporters to tour bomb-damaged neighborhoods in Beirut, so be it -- as long as they disclose as much. Cooper did, and in the process pulled the curtain back on a tragi-comic scene that seems just as PR-savvy as it does sickeningly calculated.

    Just as disturbing, and so far flying under the radar, is Allbritton's report that Hezbollah has copies of reporters' passports, and may be using that as leverage over them. This in no way means that reporters are being swayed by the terrorist group, but it does bring the question of intimidation, and journalists' ability to report freely, into focus.

    peter sampson

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah. Well, he's correct that hundreds of rockets have been fired, and naturally that has to be stopped. But he didn't mention, or maybe at least in this comment, that the rockets were fired after the heavy Israeli attacks against Lebanon, which killed -- well, latest reports, maybe 60 or so people and destroyed a lot of infrastructure. As always, things have precedence, and you have to decide which was the inciting event. In my view, the inciting event in the present case, events, are those that I mentioned -- the constant intense repression; plenty of abductions; plenty of atrocities in Gaza; the steady takeover of the West Bank, which, in effect, if it continues, is just the murder of a nation, the end of Palestine; the abduction on June 24 of the two Gaza civilians; and then the reaction to the abduction of Corporal Shalit. And there's a difference, incidentally, between abduction of civilians and abduction of soldiers. Even international humanitarian law makes that distinction.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what that distinction is?

    NOAM CHOMSKY: If there's a conflict going on, aside physical war, not in a military conflict going on, abduction -- if soldiers are captured, they are to be treated humanely. But it is not a crime at the level of capture of civilians and bringing them across the border into your own country. That's a serious crime. And that's the one that's not reported. And, in fact, remember that -- I mean, I don’t have to tell you that there are constant attacks going on in Gaza, which is basically a prison, huge prison, under constant attack all the time: economic strangulation, military attack, assassinations, and so on. In comparison with that, abduction of a soldier, whatever one thinks about it, doesn't rank high in the scale of atrocities.

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