Wednesday, August 02, 2006

August 1 Media Critique: "Qana in Context"

HonestReportings latest media critique calls for “context” in the reporting of the Israeli bombing in Qana that killed dozens of civilians.

The context that HR suggests is in 3 parts,

1. HR claims that 150 rockets have been launched from Qana, referring to the IDFs website as the source of information. Perhaps further context might be provided by via a link to a Hizballah website where they deny this.

2. That Hizballah are operating from civilian areas. HR provides a photo and a link to a Herald Sun newspaper report. The photo is of a truck-mounted anti-aircraft gun, with a building in the background. This is commonly what is known as ‘defense’ in its real sense, such weapons being used to shoot down attacking aircraft. A second photo in the Herald Sun article shows a man posing for the photograph holding a gun, with a large fire and rubble in the distant background. It’s impossible to tell where the photo has been taken and what it is meant to portray. The caption informs readers that the man is a ’militant’.

3. That the IDF dropped leaflets advising people to leave. The implication being that by not leaving, Israel is absolved of all responsibility for subsequent events.

Leaving aside the details as HR sees them, it calls for "the media to examine the Qana tragedy in context", with the obvious implication that this is not happening.

Lets test the HR suggestion by looking at the coverage by the BBC, a frequent target of HR, to see if they have failed to provide the context HR expects.

A BBC report the day after the bombing gave this context,

Israel has insisted that Hezbollah sheltered in Qana and used it as a base to fire rockets across the border………The IDF said in a statement that Qana had been used since the beginning of events as a ‘hideout’ and a place from where approximately 150 rockets had been fired into Israel.

The IDF also said that residents in the village and surrounding areas were warned in advance to stay out of areas where rockets were being launched at Israel. – BBC, 31/7/06.

That does appear to be exactly what HR was requesting, the BBC even repeating the Israeli defence twice, so what is their point?

The next section may help to answer this.

HR suggests that maybe all is not as it appears in a section titled "Emerging Doubts”. One ‘emerging doubt’ is that the building collapsed completely some hours after being bombed. Why this is meant to be some mystery, is itself a great mystery.

The other doubt HR would like to cultivate is about the number of casualties,

The Red Cross has published that 28 corpses were evacuated from Qana, 19 of which were children. These figures clash with the Lebanese report that 57 people were killed.
Its source for this is the Israel- based Ynet News,
Red Cross publishes that 28 corpses evacuated from Qana, contrary to Lebanese reports that 57 people were killed. -Ynet News, 1/08/06
Is this really true? Here’s the ICRC press release from which Ynet News gleened this tidbit,
In today's military operations by the Israel Defense Forces against the village of Qana, a building sheltering civilians was directly hit. At the time of writing, the Lebanese Red Cross Society and the Lebanese Civil Defense have extracted 28 bodies from the rubble, 19 of whom are children.
Amazing how omitting just a few words can be so useful. So, the Red Cross was issuing a press release on the day of the bombing that gave the information available at that moment, which wasn't the final tally of dead, but the number of bodies so far recovered, as the ICRC made perfectly clear. No doubt both Ynet News and HonestReporting understood this quite well.

Just more of the dishonesty we expect from HonestReporting.

Perhaps HonestReporting could have included the next paragraph of the same press release to give some much needed context to the issue of the IDFs leaflets,

Issuing advance warning to the civilian population of impending attacks in no way relieves a warring party of its obligations under the rules and principles of international humanitarian law. In particular, the principles of distinction and proportionality must be respected at all times.
That must be the wrong kind of context.

The aim here is not to provide context, but to muddy the waters. Outright denial isn’t required, in fact that would be less effective when the outcomes are undeniable, but suggestions (false ones) of exaggeration of casualty figures and other agendas, imply that all is not as it might appear. Linking this to other incidents where HR claims that false accusations were made (eg. the IDF shooting of Mohammed al-Dura) sends a clear message – don’t judge this yet. And that is the primary goal. Highlight, exaggerate or even fabricate any semblance of doubt to forestall judgment and then let time do the rest.

The other important goal is to reassure the faithful that the IDF remains the most moral army in the world and that the scourge of anti-Israel media bias persists, despite what the facts might suggest.

HonestReporting – your regular inoculation against reality.