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Update – 5 August 2010

Posted by Emily Chrapot on 5 August 2010 at 2:52pm:

Dear All,

Yesterday morning, before I even had the chance to read the morning papers, I came upon an article by Barry Rubin entitled ‘Today’s Example of Ridiculous Media Bias Against Israel’.

Here is a chronology of events to which he was referring:

* The Israeli army wishes to cut down some bushes that are pushing against the border fence between Israel and Lebanon on the Israeli side.

**Since Israel’s withdrawal from Southern Lebanon in 2000, there is an internationally recognised border called ‘The Blue Line’ (see more). Israel’s security fence is pushed back slightly from this border in order for Israel to conduct maintenance and patrol. 

* The IDF contacts UNIFIL to inform them that maintenance needs to be carried out and requests that they contact the Lebanese army to inform them that this is not an aggressive act, it is simply maintenance.

** UNIFIL was created in 1978 to restore international peace and security and assist the Lebanese Government in restoring its effective authority in the area. As a result of the Second Lebanon War in 2006 UN Resolution 1701 called for an increase of troops from 2,000 to 15,000. UNIFIL forbids armed groups, foreign or domestic in Lebanon and established an embargo of weapons to Lebanese groups other than the government. It also banned Hezbollah from returning to southern Lebanon and acts as an impartial buffer between Israel and Lebanon. 

* Lebanese soldiers come and open fire on Israelis, and the Israelis return fire. 

* One Israeli officer is killed, as well as two Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist.
Barry Rubin’s article then continues by quoting articles from Reuters (erroneously reporting that Israeli soldiers were on the Lebanese side) and other sources, and on a local level, neither of our broadsheets failed in my expectation that it would be reported inaccurately.

Yesterday the Australian featured an AFP/AP article entitled ‘Three die in Israeli border clash’ where a Lebanese army spokesman is quoted as saying, “The Israelis began to fire and we responded”. The Age’s offering by Jason Koutsoukis, entitled ‘Soldiers die in Israeli-Lebanon border clash’ was no better. The opening line, “At least three Lebanese Army soldiers were reported killed last night following clashes with Israeli troops along the border between the two countries” gives good indication of just how balanced the article was going to be.

Let us jump forward a day, when our local broadsheets would have most certainly obtained more facts about the situation. UNIFIL issued a statement declaring, “Following the exchange of fire between the Lebanese army and the Israeli army across the Blue Line in El Adeisse yesterday, the UNIFIL investigators were on the ground and commenced investigations. The investigations are still ongoing and the findings will be intimated on conclusion of the investigations. UNFIL established, however, that the trees being cut by the Israeli army are located south of the Blue Line on the Israeli side” (see more).

It seems to be a vital piece of information, and yet Age readers had to wait for the last line of Jason Koutsoukis’ offering in the Age today entitled ‘Tensions high on Israel-Lebanon border’ to figure out who was at fault. Koutsoukis wrote, ‘UNFIL spokesman Lieutenant Naresh Bhatt added weight to Israel’s version of the incident when he confirmed that an inspection of the area by UN troops indicated that the tree targeted for removal by Israel was in Israeli territory’. The forces responsible for governing the area have confirmed that they were in Israeli territory, and all Koutsoukis could muster up is that it “added weight”?  He didn’t venture into the field of analysis (which he often does) to ask why the provocation at this time or whether there was any relationship between this attack and an earlier one by terrorists on Eilat and Aqaba at a time when direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestine Authority were reported to be coming closer.

The Australian’s John Lyons’ version ‘Growing fears of a third war between Israel and Lebanon’ was only marginally more balanced. 

What interests me the most are the pictures that have accompanied the reports of the incident. For example, despite all of the clear facts, the Age today features a large picture of Israeli tanks near the border, with smaller photos of a wounded and bloodied Lebanese soldier, a map of the Lebanese town near where the incident occurred and a Hezbollah rally. The implication here is simple – the big Israeli tanks, alongside the battered Lebanese soldier; the aggressor and the victim. The picture of the map is of interest considering the IDF spokesman’s release of an aerial shot, clearly showing that the incident occurred on Israeli territory and not in al-Adeisa, as the Age map suggests.

The Australian features a similar small picture of the wounded Lebanese soldier but the large picture is captioned ‘A Lebanese soldier aims at the spot where Israeli soldiers uprooted a tree, causing a deadly clash, on Tuesday’.

How convenient that there were journalists with the Lebanese soldiers, even though their story is that the Israelis attacked unprovoked after crossing the border. But the main photo of interest is of course the AP photo that appeared in the New York Times alongside an article entitled ‘U.N. Supports Israeli Account of Border Clash’ which clearly show UNIFIL soldiers standing next to the Israeli crane. Funny how UNIFIL soldiers needed to carry out an investigation given that they were standing right there. Surely they understand their mandate by now?

For more on this issue, please read the following from Honest Reporting entitled: Media Collusion in Lebanon Ambush.

Best wishes,
Emily.

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