The blogosphere is alive with the sound of propaganda. Reuters have sacked the photographer Adnan Hajj for faking photographs with his Photoshop kit. This was not simply gilding the lily, but a clumsy attempt (literally) to paint Israel blacker than it really is. It was so clumsy that it was rapidly spotted by amateurs on the web. Which all begs the question, what were the photo-editors at Reuters doing? We now hear professional photographers commenting that it was a very amateur attempt at deception, and boasting that if they wanted to distort a photograph no-one would be able to spot it. Why wasn't it spotted before it was published? Over 900 of Hajj's photographs have now been withdrawn by Reuters.
Which raises the question of how unbiased are the Media. I try to read 4 newspapers every day: The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Independent. I recognise that none of them are unbiased, but I know where they are coming from. It used to be possible to rely on the BBC for unbiased news reports, but it has now become clear that it too has an agenda. It has been taken over by the Guardianistas.
There are issues on which it is right to be anti-American or anti-Israeli or anti-Christian or anti-Tory; but equally there are issues on which it is right to be anti-Russian, anti-Arab, anti-Moslem and Anti-LibDem. That doesn't make any of these parties or people completely right or completely wrong. We live in a fallen world peopled by sinners.
The war between Israel and Lebanon is being played out on the television screens of the world. It is perhaps a good thing that it is. The carnage and cruelty of World War One could not have continued had there been people watching at home, whatever the jingoism or lies by governments. However, that puts an especial responsibility on journalists and photographers. During the Iraq war we had reports from journalists who prefaced their reports with the information that they were embedded with American Forces. It is clear that reports from Lebanon (and indeed Israel) are from reporters who are effectively embedded with Hezbollah (or with the IDF). We should be told this.
What I have gained from watching this war is:
1] It began when Hezbollah invaded Israel, killed 8 soldiers and captured 2.
2] It then began to fire short range rockets into northern Israel.
3] Israel responded by bombing Hezbollah targets and Lebanese infrastructure, notably, Beirut airport, fuel tanks at one of the ports, roads and bridges all over Lebanon.
4] This bombing has been described as an over-reaction.
5] There are many claims of excessive collateral damage with mainly women and children killed.
6] Hezbollah have been firing more and more rockets with anti-personel warheads into Israel killing close to 100 Israelis (roughly 3000 - for comparison the Germans fired about 4000 V1 and V2 weapons at London in 1944-5).
7]The ratio of deaths is roughly 10 Lebanese to each Israeli.
However, my knowledge of the background tells me this:
1] Since the establishment of the state of Israel there have always been Arabs who resent it and some who will not be satisfied until Israel is wiped from the face of the map.
2] There is some justification for this resentment. Some Arabs were forcibly removed from their homes, and some fled in fear.
3] It isn't going to happen. Even if the Israelis were unable to defend themselves the world's only superpower would guarantee their presence.
4] If agreement cannot be reached with surrounding nations, Israel will simply hunker down behind a high wall and bomb anyone who attacks.
5] It would be infinitely preferable to reach agreement with surrounding countries and sign peace treaties.
6] It would be cheaper for America to pay every displaced Arab for his land than pay for increasingly expensive weaponry for Israel.
7] Eventually there will be a cease fire in this war and the sides will have to negotiate.
8] Neither side is ready to stop yet.
There are some things to learn from the way that the media has handled this war.
1] There is no such thing as right being completely on one side or the other. Even in wars fought with the purest of motives such as World War 2, atrocities occur on both the good and evil side. There may have been no other way to stop Hitler and his evil plans, but there is no doubt that the bombing of German cities killed thousands of non-combitants in an horrific way. There is no doubt that allied soldiers shot prisoners just as German soldiers did. Allied propagands was certainly successful. Churchill's famous speeches to the House of Commons were made at a time when there were no microphones there. They were later re-recorded by an actor in a studio and released to the broadcast media.
2] The manipulation of the media by Hezbollah has been impressive. The media should have been allerted to the possibility because they have been hoodwinked in the past by Hezbollah.
3] Why have most of the dead bodies in Lebanon been women, children and old people? Clearly because showing dead Hezbollah fighters would be bad for morale and showing the pictures of children recruits more sympathy. But think about it. Even if the Israelis were deliberately targeting women and children they would have killed some Hezbollah by collateral damage. One of the reasons that the Geneva Convention insists on soldiers wearing uniform is to protect civilians. Since Hezbollah do not wear uniforms, not only are they beyond the protection of Geneva, but they deliberately expose their own civilians to retaliation. How many of the Lebanese dead are Hezbollah (choose your own noun to go with the adjective - soldiers, fighters, militants, terrorists)?
4] The media must learn to be more sophisticated in the way it reports these wars so that it does not become a tool of one side or the other. The BBC has a special responsibility in this. It is funded from the public purse. Its charter says it must be impartial.
One hypothesis for the cause of this war that has been aired on the internet has been the suggestion that Iran has enginered this war to distract attention from its development of nuclear weapons. Because I can no longer trust the media, I don't know how likely this is to be true. Apparently something special is due on August 22nd. Watch this space.