Tuesday, July 25, 2006

It's not Pallywood, but it might be Cedarwood 

I've seen the pictures. I've read the hype and the headlines, too.

Yes, I realize there is suffering not just in Haifa and Nahariya, but in Lebanon, too, and I really hate that it is happening. Most people in Lebanon, those not smuggling missiles and giving support to Hizbullah's attacks, have no part in this fight. Of course, neither do Israeli civilians living under Katyusha fire either. Sadly, war does tend to hurt those who want no part of it, alongside those who do.

But there remains the question of what really is going on in Lebanon. Who is actually being hurt, and why? The picture-takers and headline-writers would have us believe that Israel is engaged in a massive, almost Nazi-like "blitz" of destruction -- by the way, does it ever puzzle you how Israel can consistently be accused of so much Nazi-like behavior by the media and her enemies, year after year, and yet never make so much as a tiny dent in the threatened Palestinian demographic time-bomb?

Of course Hizbullah is quite active in putting forth this story -- that Israel is brutally and hatefully murdering only Lebanese civilians -- and this message is making a lot of headway in the global media. The purely anti-Israel rhetoric of condemnation and castigation is reaching levels not seen since the Jenin libels of 2002. Almost everything we've heard so far on the subject has been passed through Hizbullah's "Israel is slaughtering innocents for no reason" filter, whether directly by their spokesmen, or simply through journalists' unquestioning acceptance of Hezbullah's own allegations against its Israeli enemies -- all this even as the journalists themselves are intentionally endangered, presumably in the quest for bonus propaganda points against Israeli journalist-killers.

Yet perhaps there is more to the story than the Hezbullah talking points so far publicized by credulous journalists. When we are told that Israel has destroyed large numbers of Hizbullah rockets and weapons caches, while killing only massive numbers of civilians rather than Hizbullah fighters in the process -- Israel allegedly being either too incompetent or too callous to bother aiming for Hizbullah fighters -- common sense should tell us we are being fed propaganda. Undoubtedly civilians and civilian infrastructure are unfortunately unintentionally caught up in this fight, as happens in every war -- except, obviously, terrorist warfare in which civilian deaths are the entire point. But it is far from clear that the extreme version of the story told so far is the full, uncompromised truth. Until the IDF's side of the story is told, such accounts should certainly be accompanied with appropriate context explaining the one-sided nature of the reporting. For the most part, we don't see that.

We've seen this rush to judgement before. We don't really know yet what has happened here, all we have are the convenient allegations of one side in the conflict presented as cold hard facts in the media, even though Israel has yet to respond. The very same thing happened in Jenin. It happened on the beach in Gaza. While this may not exactly be a Pallywood production, there are growing signs of Cedarwood showing up in what we're being sold here.

In fact, before the world convicts Israel in absentia based solely on its enemy's unchallenged testimony, we should look a little closer at what is really going on. While the Hizbullah message has been the one widely disseminated to this point, there is other Lebanese testimony available in this case, pointing to
Hizbullah's filthy methods that endanger the very civilians Hizbullah claims to be protecting. Lebanese civilians are not dying because Israel wants them dead, but because it suits terrorist propaganda purposes to place civilians in dangerous proximity to militants' weapons and then blame Israel for anything that happens.

Not to mention that it is also far from clear that every body counted as civilian is actually civilian. It is a ridiculous idea to think there is an easy way to quickly count militant deaths when a reporter is working under deadline, expecially given that militants dress like civilians and hide among them. After 9/11, the world temporarily announced "we are all Americans now." In Lebanon, after Hizbullah's kidnap and initial missile salvos were launched and the wait for Israel's response begun, Hezbullah's announcement went out, "we are all civilians now." It may very well take some time to unravel just who are the civilians and who are the "civilians."

Just to be clear once more though, skepticism of knee jerk body counts and assessments of blame does not mean I doubt that Lebanese civilians have been affected, or that I do not pray for their peace as well as the peace of my fellow Israelis. Lebanese civilians have been caught in the middle and are paying a terrible price, as those prevented from fleeing by Hezbullah gunmen, or sitting on Hezbullah missiles in their living rooms, are forced into a dangerous situation no civilian should have to face.

Sometimes, however, when one is stuck in the middle, the best way out is to pick a side -- preferably the side whose dreams are most compatible with yours. In the case of Lebanon, those who dream of investement, growth, tourism and a resurgent, prosperous Beirut would be wise to look toward a similar city,Tel Aviv. I know such a choice, opposing Hezbullah and what it stands for, is a difficult and frightening step for Lebanese civilians to take in the face of Hezbullah's violence. But there is a reason we refer to the "courage of your convictions" instead of the "convenience of your convictions."

So, I wish courage in their convictions to those Lebanese who value freedom and the non-Hizbullah view of what Lebanon used to be, and should be again.


UPDATE -- Interesting Links and More Information

Elder of Ziyon has a clear example of the Cedarwood phenomenon, or what he calls Hezbywood.

Mad in Israel answers a really stupid question I've also heard a few times, and does a splendid job of it.

Soccer Dad demonstrates in detail that the charges of "genocide" some are trying to level against Israel and the US are ridiculous, unless it refers to crushing a people under truckload after truckload of humanitarian aid.

Elder of Ziyon shows another side of Big Media's "Jewish genocide" filter -- they publicize every Arab killed by Israeli actions without regard to intent, while completely ignoring the shocking number of murders committed by Palestinians against their own people.

Hashmonean notes an amazing statistic which fails to catch Big Media's interest: while perhaps 300 Lebanese civilians have been killed in approximately two weeks of fighting between Israel and Hizbullah, Lebanon reports that over 100,000 of its civilians were killed by internecine fighting throughout the 90's. To put this amazing contrasting media silence in perspective, for the present fighting to reach a casualty level matching Lebanon's own decade-long record of civilian slaughter, about 25% more Lebanese civilians would have to die every week, and that rate maintained for ten years.

Amazingly, even the UN is starting to wise up here:

The UN humanitarian chief [Jan Egeland] accused Hezbollah of "cowardly blending" among Lebanese civilians and causing the deaths of hundreds during two weeks of cross-border violence with Israel.

The militant group has built bunkers and tunnels near the Israeli border to shelter weapons and fighters, and its members easily blend in among civilians. [...]

On Monday [after visiting Lebanon and Beirut] he had strong words for Hezbollah, which crossed into Israel and captured two Israel Defense Forces soldiers on July 12, triggering fierce fighting from both sides.

"Consistently, from the Hezbollah heartland, my message was that Hezbollah must stop this cowardly blending ... among women and children," he said. "I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was the civilians bearing the brunt of this. I don't think anyone should be proud of having many more children and women dead than armed men.
Especially when even UN representatives are losing the ability to pretend it's because of alleged Israeli cruelty instead of Hezbullah cowardice. If this recognition and condemnation took hold universally, such that there was no reward for Hezbullah's behavior, then Lebanese civilians (and Palestinian civilians for that matter) would no longer bear the brunt of their so-called protectors' violent choices.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: