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Beware of Disinformation

Beware of Disinformation

In waging their propaganda war, Israel's enemies count on journalists to report first and research later.


A CNN reporter is taken to an area of Beirut and told that the rubble of buildings is a result of Israeli air strikes on civilian targets. The reporter repeats the allegation as fact. He has no way of knowing what was in the buildings, whether it was a rocket workshop, a hiding place for katyushas, the home of a Hizbullah leader, or a command center. In fact, he doesn't even know if the Israel was responsible for the destruction that he is shown.

In waging their propaganda war, Israel's enemies count on journalists to report first and research later, if at all, and CNN and other media outlets have fallen into their trap.

Israel's adversaries learned a long time ago that they can attract publicity and sympathy by fabricating statistics and screaming "massacre." This was the case in April 2002 when Palestinians claimed that 500 people were "massacred" in Jenin. They could not produce any evidence to support the scurrilous charge, and their own review committee reported a death toll of 56, of whom 34 were combatants. By the time the truth was reported, the story had been repeated throughout the world media and Israel's image was tarnished.

During the last war in Lebanon, disinformation was the norm. Perhaps the most dramatic example occurred when the Washington Post published a photograph (August 2, 1982) of a baby that appeared to have lost both its arms. The UPI caption said that the seven-month-old had been severely burned when an Israeli jet accidentally hit a Christian residential area. The photo disgusted President Reagan and was one reason he subsequently called for Israel to halt its attacks. The photo and the caption, however, were inaccurate. The baby, in fact, did not lose its arms, and the burns the child suffered were the result of a PLO attack on East Beirut.

The media also reported that Israel's operation to end the PLO threats to northern Israel resulted in 10,000 deaths and 600,000 homeless in south Lebanon. The 600,000 homeless figure originated in mid-June 1982 with the Palestine Red Crescent, headed by Yasser Arafat's brother, Fathi. Francesco Noseda of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who had originally used the bogus number, later repudiated it. By then, however, it was too late and the perception had been created that Israel was responsible for the mass killing of civilians and the creation of a humanitarian disaster.

Not a single Lebanese civilian would be in danger, however, if Hizballah was not controlling southern Lebanon and attacking Israel.

The Lebanese Prime Minister is trying this tactic again in 2006 by claiming that Israel has perpetrated massacres and has made 500,000 people homeless. No effort is made to confirm these claims; they are simply repeated by the media, thereby reinforcing the incentive for Arab propagandists to spread disinformation.

During the war in Lebanon in 1982, there would have been zero dead or homeless if the PLO hadn't used south Lebanon as a base from which to menace Israel. This same point can be made today, but is being ignored by the media in its obsession with casualty figures and its desire to find evidence of Israel attacking innocents. Not a single Lebanese civilian would be in danger, however, if Hizbullah was not controlling southern Lebanon and attacking Israel. This fact appears lost on most journalists covering the current conflict.

The press is also spending a great deal of time talking to Lebanese civilians and their relatives in the United States and highlighting the difficult conditions they are enduring. This is no doubt the case since they are living in a war zone; however, the media has spent almost no time talking to the Israelis living under the constant threat of rocket attacks. Few reporters have gone into the bomb shelters to interview the frightened Israeli families. No one seems interested in how the relatives of Israelis in the United States feel about their loved ones being under siege.

Similarly, every report has focused on the Americans living in Lebanon while no one seems interested in the thousands of Americans living in Israel. It is terrible that tourists and students need to be evacuated from Lebanon, but what about those same groups in Israel? What about the hundreds of students on summer tours and programs in Israel, many of whom were in the north when the violence escalated? While the complications of leaving the country may not be as severe as in Lebanon, it is still very difficult to arrange a quick exit from Israel, and many American parents are in a state of panic worrying about their children in Israel.

Wars are never easy to cover, and each side of a conflict wants to make its case through the media. A responsible press, however, does not repeat whatever it hears; it first makes every effort to insure the accuracy of its reporting. That is the standard expected of journalists covering the war between Israel and Hizbullah.

July 22, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 11

(11) Anonymous, July 29, 2006 12:00 AM

Expressing gratitude for what Israel is doing in Lebanon

I'm Lebaneese Christian, I just want to tell you that I pray for the israeli governemant and army. May The Lord bless each soldiar in the israeli army and protect them all and give them the victory over Hisbollah. Please let me ask you forgiveness because I know that we lebaneese christian diceaved you in the past. But now I thank you from the deep of my heart for what you are doing. Please know that there is in Lebanon many christians that share my feelings and my point of view and we cant wait untill we reach that blessed day when we lebaneese christians and israeli jews will be able to dwell togather as brothers in peace. Gob bless Israel, God bless his Peapole by Peace. Shalom ouvrakha 'al yitsrael. Amen.

(10) Janet Turner, July 26, 2006 12:00 AM

You can fool some of the people (reporters) all of the time

We are all guilty of believing inaccurate information from time to time and humbled when we realize how we've been deceived.Reporters, being human and wanting a good salary and a great story, all too often go for their own glory and swallow the bait hook, line and sinker. Better that they should be a 'doubting Thomas' and make use of their investigative skills but they're in such a hurry for the story, the glory and the salary. And all too often their moral standards are so confused that their reporting is vague, shallow, without depth and truth.

(9) Carol Sutherlin, July 25, 2006 12:00 AM

Propaganda/CNN coverage

Right on! I watch Fox/CNN and have noticed the anti-Israeli slant for some time. But I also read the "Jerusalem Post" each day, as well. As an American citizen, I absolutely WILL NOT VOTE for any candidate who opposes Israel. Israel

(8) Rivka B, July 24, 2006 12:00 AM

Straight to the point

Unfortunately, once a person forms an opinion it is really hard to explain anything else to that individual. I do completely agree with this article and massive media mis-representation online, and on TV. If only more articles like this were published in other media. Thank you for keeping our spirits strong.

(7) Anonymous, July 24, 2006 12:00 AM

Oscar winning performances

We here in Australia see the "devastation" that Israel is "causing" and the suffering of the Australians in Lebanon. How they are fighting to be returned to their homes and leaving their loved ones behind.Oscar winning performances all of it. When the camera is on them, it is tears, fears and jitters, turn the camera onto someone else and in the background you see the same person chatting away. The minute the camera comes close, it's Oscar time again. The only ones who seem to be "suffering" are the Lebanese. We are yet to see one Jew coming home to Australia, not one and I mean not one has been shown. I actually wonder as to whether there are any Jews in Australia. Seems not..... because we have yet to see a Jew being evacuated......we have yet to see one Jewish child crying in fear..... we have yet to see one Jewish mother crying for her son, or wife for her husband... makes you think doesn't it. God be with you Israel.

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