Four Years On

Last week the IDF released important declassified information regarding Hizbollah’s use of villages in Southern Lebanon as military bases and ammunition stores . In direct violation of UN resolution 1701, military bases have been established in over 100 villages, some a stones’ throw from the Israeli/Lebanese border. Weapons stores have been built in deliberate proximity to schools, hospitals and residential areas, effectively transforming the local population into human shields.

There is an eerie sense of déjà vu about these revelations; the failure of UNIFIL forces to implement the 2004 UN resolution 1559 regarding the disbanding and disarmament of militias in Lebanon led directly to the Hizbollah-initiated events which sparked the second Lebanon war four years ago this week.

The similarly abysmal failure of the UN to follow through on its own resolution (1701) which was passed as a result of that war means that we have come full circle to a situation in which Hizbollah once again sits only a matter of meters from Israel’s border, but this time with even more sophisticated weaponry.

In vain I searched the CiF website for some sort of reporting about or comment on the information released by the IDF. After all, the contravention of UN resolutions is a favourite subject for many a Guardianista but only, it seems, when Israel is supposedly doing the contravening. Would it not be useful for CiF readers to have some prior knowledge of the current situation in Southern Lebanon so that when the next hostilities break out they will be able to appreciate why Israel has no choice but to attack targets in supposedly civilian areas? Apparently the Guardian does not deem such information to be of value to its audience.

Trying to comprehend this obviously selective approach to the responsibilities of journalism, I delved into the archives and took a look at the Guardian’s coverage of the outbreak of the second Lebanon war on July 12, 2006.

It was a Wednesday, just days after the end of the last World Cup, and I was hanging laundry outside when I realized that something was very wrong. That afternoon I received an e-mail from my sister in the UK, and in reply I wrote the following.

“In the meantime, we seem to have a bit of a war going on an hour north of us. Two of our soldiers were kidnapped by Hizbollah this morning and they’ve also been shelling villages on that northern road we drove along when we went to Acco –remember? So there have been fighter planes screeching over our house all morning and our troops have gone into Lebanon to try to get the kidnapped lads back. They’ve just said on the radio that there is going to be a general call-up of reserve soldiers and seeing as Y (our son) is assigned to reserve service on that border, I guess he’ll be called up.”

However, the first mention of rocket attacks upon Israeli towns and villages in the Guardian came only at 8 p.m. (BST) the following day, and even then in the usual doubtful language of ‘Israel claims’ and ‘Israel says’. On July 17th, CiF published one article about a missile attack on Haifa  and no less than 7 articles about Israeli attacks on Lebanon. Unfortunately, Haifa was by no means the only place under attack that day.

“Hi Sis, Here we are on the sixth day of our war. Last night around 10 p.m. Afula, Nazereth and the surrounding villages came under attack. This morning a soldier was killed in Schem. Just before lunch there was a failed attempt at a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. At 1:30 p.m. Haifa was hit again by 5-6 barrages. Five minutes ago, Moshav X. just down the road from us was hit. Fortunately it fell in a field. And of course terrorists in Gaza are still firing Kassam rockets on Ashkelon & Sderot. I’ve been busy giving out a month’s supply of chronic medications to the 100 or so of my patients with diabetes, high blood pressure etc. in case we get the order to evacuate. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for us.”

July 26th seemed like a quiet day in Israel if one was to go by the complete lack of Guardian articles on the subject of Hizbollah attacks upon Israel. The reality was of course somewhat different.

“Just a line to tell you we’re ok. I don’t know what time I’ll get home tonight. As is always the case in situations of continued stress, one starts to get people coming in with non-specific physical complaints that are actually of mental origin. Last night I got home around 12:30, just in time for a barrage of missile attacks which lasted about 45 minutes and was so close that the whole house was shaking non-stop. I thought the windows were going to fall out of their frames.”

August 2nd seems to have disappeared from the CiF archives. On the ground, the cease-fire had just ended:

“Just a quickie to tell you we’re all right. The so-called cease-fire ended at midnight last night and immediately the noise started up again. 160+ rockets fired into Israel so far today. Hung out my washing this morning to the not so tuneful accompaniment of the air raid siren. Talk to you tomorrow.”

On August 8th, Guardian readers were treated to George Monbiot’s shamelessly revisionist version of events as well as five articles describing the results of Israeli actions in Lebanon and one about attacks on Arab neighbourhoods in Haifa.

“Just a quickie – we were in the shelters/safe rooms from 10:30 until 12:30 this morning and now we’ve just been told to get back in there. Or at least I think that’s the case: there seems to be something wrong with the PA system – either that or our chief of security has suddenly started speaking Swahili. We’re taking in some refugees today. One of our Druze friends rang last night to ask if he could bring his children to us. A missile fell right by their house and the kids are really freaked out.”

By August 10th, the Guardian was busy discussing initiatives for a cease-fire, but on the ground it was much of the same. By this time our two eldest sons, both reservists, had been called up. Our middle son was doing his conscripted service near Gaza at the time and our daughter’s boyfriend’s regiment was deep inside Lebanon.

“Good morning! Hope you’re having a better one than we are so far. Last night the siren went off around 11 p.m. and we didn’t get the all-clear until around 12:30. Then at 04:50 this morning we had a Nasrallah-style wake up call. I rushed upstairs to bring E (our daughter) down to the security room because the second storey isn’t safe. True to form your niece had managed to snooze her way right through a minute-long deafening wailing siren, a PA message that I’m surprised didn’t wake you up in England and the beep beep of an incoming warning text message on her mobile which was right beside her bed. She couldn’t understand why I was literally dragging her out of bed and confiscating her pillow and blanket at a time of the day she simply doesn’t do. Of course I couldn’t get back to sleep after I’d got her to safe quarters; there was far too much noise going on. I counted three short-range Katyusha falls and one of the longer range ones. They have a different sound when they hit the ground. So I decided to do what any Brit would do under the circumstances and make a cuppa, only to discover to my dismay that we’d run out of milk. Being woken up by Hybar missiles is one thing. Not being able to have a decent cup of coffee to go with it is quite another. After the all clear around 6 a.m., I took the dogs out for a walk. The poor things are absolutely terrified by the missiles, especially Max.  The sun was just coming up and there was still an enormous full moon in the sky. The mountains were wearing their morning blue-grey tone and the sky was graded purples and pinks. It all looked so choccy-boxy – if you could pretend for a moment that you couldn’t hear the rumbling, growling boom of the firing of heavy artillery. Last night 15 of our reserve soldiers were killed, so naturally we are very worried about A. Talk to you tomorrow.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQFQCg7BqT4]

One wonders just how long the Guardian’s readers will continue to accept its selective reporting regarding the situation in Lebanon and in particular the funding, arming and training of Iranian proxies both there (in blatant contravention of UN resolutions) and in Gaza.

To attempt to pass off Israel’s past, present and future conflicts with Iranian-inspired and controlled terror groups as local disputes over land or prisoners is to deny its readers a comprehensive understanding of the Middle East and beyond.

If the familiar type of selective reporting highlighted above is the best that the Guardian’s Middle East correspondents and ‘experts’ can do, the British public will obviously have to turn to suppliers of news more fit for purpose in order to obtain a more comprehensive and realistic view of the ongoing processes, the influences of which extend far beyond the Eastern Mediterranean

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