Heavy smoke rose from the rocket stricken city of Haifa on Sunday afternoon, following intense bombardment by Hizbullah’s long-range missiles, but much of the international media turned a blind eye to the scenes, omitting them from their coverage of the war.
The foreign press, which has flooded the world with images of damage in Beirut, seems to have largely sidelined pictures of war damage in Israel, despite the thousands of missiles and rockets that have rained down on northern Israel, causing wide scale destruction to buildings, vehicles, and the burning down of hundreds of thousands of trees.
As a tentative ceasefire appeared to take hold, CNN reported on the “thousands of refugees (who) poured back into southern Lebanon, trying to return home.” There was, however, no coverage given in the report to the thousands of displaced Israelis in central and southern Israel, who are waiting to go back to their own homes in northern Israel, some of which have been destroyed.
In contrast, The Associated Press did report on the situation in the north: “Northern Israel remained virtually empty in comparison. The streets of Haifa, Israel’s third-largest town, which has been peppered by Hizbullah missiles, were quieter than normal… More than half the 22,000 residents of the border town of Kiryat Shmona had fled in the fighting, and those who remained stayed holed up in their homes.”
Missing: Images of bombed out Haifa in international media (Photo: Dorot Golan)
The BBC website, following a previous trend, dedicated just one image, out of a succession of eight photographs to the experiences of Israeli civilians in the north.
The other photographs in the series focused on the IDF fighting in Lebanon, and Lebanese civilians caught up in the war. There were no images of Hizbullah members engaged in fighting.
“Air strikes were launched against targets in various parts of Lebanon, causing several deaths and injuries,” a caption read under an image of an injured Lebanese child.
The selection of images and accompanying captions strongly suggested that the BBC believes Hizbullah was “responding” to Israeli actions: “Hizbullah responded with more rockets fired at northern Israel, forcing people to seek safety in shelters,” the British media outlet said.
On Hizbullah’s terms
During its television coverage of the war in Lebanon on Sunday, CNN chose the word “resistance” to describe Hizbullah’s actions in Lebanon – a term used by Hizbullah – as well as Hamas, and Iraqi jihadis – to describe their own attacks. ‘Resistance’ is however a value laden term, which implicitly argues that armed jihad organizations are ‘resisting’ and defending against aggression, rather than initiating it.
CNN also twice described Israeli leaflets dropped over Lebanon as “propaganda.” While it has done the same with American army leaflets dropped in Iraq and Afghanistan, CNN appears to shy away from describing leaflets issued by jihadi and terror organizations as “propaganda,” using instead terms like “urge” and “called on” to describe leaflets issued by Hamas in Gaza or the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The inconsistencies seem to point to a wider assumption: Western democracies issue “propaganda,” but jihad organizations ‘urge,’ ‘warn,’ and advance their points of view.
Dissention in Lebanon ignored
Meanwhile, voices emerging from Lebanon blasting the use of their country as a launch pad from which to attack Israel have been virtually ignored.
A notable exception was an article published in the American magazine, the New Republic by Lebanese journalist Michael Béhé.
“The politicians, journalists and intellectuals of Lebanon have, of late, been experiencing the shock of their lives. They knew full well that Hizbullah had created an independent state in our country, a state including all the ministers and parallel institutions, duplicating those of Lebanon. What they did not know – and are discovering with this war, and what has petrified them with surprise and terror – is the extent of this phagocytosis,” wrote Béhé, who also said his country has “become an extension of Iran.”
A glimpse though much of the international media shows scant attention has been paid to such dissenting voices in Lebanon. In contrast, the BBC website prominently features an article describing small anti-war activities in Israel.