Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hezbollah Targets Civilians. On Both Sides.

Listening to the news reports on the war in the Middle East, it's easy to miss the implicit double-standard. The journalists generally try to provide balanced facts, which at this point include a casualty count of at least 548 Lebanese (at least 477 civilians), and 56 Israelis (19 civilians). Without context, these bare facts make Israel look the bully and lend credence to the charges of "disproportionality". The figures are updated daily, reinforcing the false impressions, and context is seldom provided. The missing context includes several crucial factors. For one, the Israeli capability to destroy what they aim at is far superior to Hezbollah. The vast majority of Hezbollah's rockets have landed in Israel with no mortal result, not for lack of intent, but for lack of capability. For another, the Israeli capability to take refuge is far superior to the Lebanese. Having had Scud missiles sent at them from the first Gulf War, the Israelis were well-prepared with warning systems and bomb shelters built into many homes. Finally, the most important reason is that Israel does its best to keep its own civilians safe, while Hezbollah cynically pushes Lebanese civilians into the line of fire.

This issue of targeting civilians is another place where the insidious double-standard creeps in. Hezbollah peppers Israel with rockets, generally targeting civilian areas such as Haifa and Tiberius, with little ability to hit any particular target, but they don't really care, because their intention is to cause general terror. However, they are terrorists, and such indiscriminate targeting is what everyone expects of them. There is no surprise or controversy in their intent, so their intent gets little attention in the day-to-day news. The count of Hezbollah rockets fired, along with any notable damage of the day, is duly reported, but as to their indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians -- no news there. The terrorists are doing just what we expect terrorists to do. With Israel, on the other hand, its stated intention is to hit military targets and avoid civilian casualties insofar as possible, a noble intention that they have understandably fallen short of on numerous occasions. Yet precisely because expectations are so high for Israel to conduct itself flawlessly, every time Israel hits any civilians, that's news, and gets reported as such. Thus, we repeatedly hear on the news the shock and horror of Israel hitting civilians. Because news inherently focuses on the unexpected, and because the expectations are so imbalanced when a decent nation fights a terrorist group using civilian shields, the news cannot help but create an imbalanced impression unfavorable to Israel.

Listening to the news, it's too easy to miss the responsibility of Hezbollah, not only for the Israeli civilian casualties, but for the Lebanese civilian casualties. The IDF is doing its utmost to hit only military targets, but it is Hezbollah who is intentionally and callously using the Lebanese civilian population as its shield. What happened at Qana (where 37 children were killed) was a tragedy, and the Israelis did indeed drop the bomb, but it was Hezbollah who drew target rings around the town. That building where the Lebanese children were hiding is the same place that Hezbollah were hiding their rocket launchers. People of Lebanon, if you think that Hezbollah is your "protector" from the Israeli aggressor, your trust is misplaced. Hezbollah cares nothing for you, except to use you, your wives, and your children for cannon fodder and propaganda.

UPDATE: Here's some very interesting info about the imbalance in the news coverage. It seems Hezbollah have quite the propaganda machine going.

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