August 7, 2006 - In the Hezbollah war the outcome of the battle on the ground has yet to be determined. But the battle in the media is a rout. And that may well be where this war is won or lost.
The images from Lebanon are devastating. And there is no denying what is happening in that country is tragic. Some people with good hearts and consciences are asking whether Israel's response is "disproportionate" - a word that, used by others with different motives, unfortunately has become a battle slogan. Nobody wants Lebanese civilians to suffer - with the possible exception of those who are benefiting from it in the press.
Does anyone really benefit? Hezbollah not only gains from a high Lebanese civilian body count, it is trying to make that happen. Here is just one of many stories:
"Hezbollah came to Ain Ebel to shoot its rockets," said Fayad Hanna Amar, a young Christian man, referring to his village. "They are shooting from between our houses."
"Please," he added, "write that in your newspaper."
... Mr. Amar said Hezbollah fighters in groups of two and three had come into Ain Ebel, less than a mile from Bint Jbail, where most of the fighting has occurred. They were using it as a base to shoot rockets, he said, and the Israelis fired back.
One woman, who would not give her name because she had a government job and feared retribution, said Hezbollah fighters had killed a man who was trying to leave Bint Jbail.
"This is what’s happening, but no one wants to say it" for fear of Hezbollah, she said. [Reference 4]
Another Christian from the same village, who insists on remaining nameless out of fear of retaliation, found Hezbollah guerrillas setting up a rocket on the roof of his home. He pleaded with them to stop, but they fired the rockets anyway. The man and his family escaped with only minutes to spare. An Israeli air strike destroyed the house soon after the rocket was launched. [Reference 7]
Some other incidents:
Lebanese Christian sources report that on Saturday, July 28, Hezbollah fighters fired on Christians trying to escape Rmeish with their families. Two people were wounded. [Reference 7]
A Sunni Lebanese man admitted to a reporter that everyone is afraid of Hezbollah, and that Hezbollah had been storing bombs in the basement of a mosque. [Reference 1]
A man who smuggled out of Lebanon photos showing Hezbollah fighters setting up in residential areas reported the following: "Hezbollah came in to launch their rockets, then within minutes the area was blasted by Israeli jets. Until the Hezbollah fighters arrived, it had not been touched by the Israelis." [Reference 6]
The southern villages that were hit so heavily by Israel were used to store weapons. There is evidence that rocket launchers were placed in tunnels, houses, and even in or near hospitals. A dentist in Bint Jbeil saw Hezbollah fighters launching rockets right in front of his house. Just five minutes later Israelis returned the fire. [Reference 8]
These are not the first reports that Hezbollah has been using the citizens of Lebanon as human shields. Other reports have surfaced that Hezbollah even planted disinformation for the Israeli armed forces to induce them to fire on civilian targets. [Reference 2]
Hezbollah invites Lebanese civilian casualties, by blending among the people and staging attacks from within residential areas. Even a top U.N. official has condemned them for it. Previously I called this cowardly. It is also a calculated strategy of war: put Israel in a position in which, in order to defend itself, it must against its will inflict civilian casualties.
If Israel's response is "disproportionate," then what would be a "proportionate" response? For every missile Hezbollah sends into a home in Haifa, should Israel send one into a home in Beirut? One commentator remarked that Israel should not attack the Lebanese infrastructure, it should attack the "Hezbollah infrastructure." What ignorance. The Hezbollah infrastructure is the Lebanese infrastructure. Hezbollah would use Beirut Airport to bring in arms and advisers from Iran and Syria, and to take Israeli prisoners to Iran. Lebanese roads and bridges have been used to transport rockets. Weapons were hidden in private houses and mosques, hospitals and schools. From as far north as Tyre Hezbollah has fired at Haifa dozens of shrapnel-laden Syrian rockets and even deadlier katyusha rockets from Iran, causing destruction to people and property. Yet most people watching reports of Israel's strikes on Hezbollah bases in Tyre do not know this. Israel warns civilians to evacuate before an attack, but Hezbollah threatens to kill them if they try to leave.
This is as cynical as war can get. Hezbollah's strategy: make the other guy look guilty of your own depraved indifference to human life. And it is working. Israel's attacks on Hezbollah strongholds and the infrastructure Hezbollah uses have so far been too restrained to get the job done, yet forceful enough to make Israel look terrible in the eyes of the world. Hezbollah has booby-trapped its entire operation with Lebanese civilians. It has given Israel this choice: Either remain sitting ducks for our bombs and missiles, or fight back and look as evil as we are. And it is working. The Hezbollah death-glorifying media campaign has been an unqualified success.
Let us remember what each side is fighting for. This war started not just with the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers across the Israeli border and the deaths of eight more. On the very same day Hezbollah fired katyusha rockets into an Israeli town. Hezbollah is fighting to massacre Israeli civilians and drive Israel out of existence. Israel is fighting to stop them.
"We are going to win because they love life and we love death," says Sheikh Nasrallah. And he has indeed pulled off a coup. With a very well-trained army and worldwide network, with backing from Iran and Syria, and espousing an anti-human ideology of racism, hatred, and death worship, Hezbollah has managed to convince much of the world that it is the underdog fighting for truth and justice.
For Hezbollah, even a television camera is an instrument of war.
1. Anderson, Jon Lee. "The Battle for Lebanon." New Yorker, August 7, 2006.
2. Peters, Ralph. "Target: Hezbollah." New York Post, July 28, 2006.
3. Schiff, Ze'ev. "Analysis: Hezbollah Cell Based in Tyre Wreaking Havoc on Haifa." Haaretz, July 27, 2006.
4. Tavernise, Sabrina. "Christians Fleeing Lebanon Denounce Hezbollah." New York Times, July 28, 2006.
5. "Timeline: Conflict in the Middle East." Washington Post, July 19, 2006.
6. Tinkler, Chris. ""Revealed: How Hezbollah Puts the Innocent at Risk; They Don't Care." Australian Sunday Mail, July 30, 2006.
7. United Press International News Staff. "Report: Hezbollah's Christian 'Shields'." UPI Religion and Spirituality Forum, August 3, 2006.
8. Verma, Sonia. "Hezbollah's Deadly Hold on Heartland." National Post, August 5, 2006.
9. Warren, David. "Corrections." DavidWarrenOnline, July 26, 2006.
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