On Monday's World News, ABC anchor Charles Gibson segued from coverage of the Israel-Hezbollah battle to remind viewers of how badly things are going in Iraq. Over an on-screen graphic of the numbers of civilians and military members killed in Iraq compared to the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, Gibson announced: “Well the focus of the world, in recent days, has been on Israel and Lebanon. And attention has been diverted from Iraq. But it should be noted that in the thirteen days since the Israeli/Lebanese crisis began, more Iraqi civilians have died  than Lebanese . And more U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq these past two weeks  than Israeli soldiers have died in their conflict . Also somewhat overlooked is the fact that Saddam Hussein has been on a two-week hunger strike. ABC's Terry McCarthy is in Baghdad tonight....”
Wasn't Tucker Carlson supposed to be MSNBC's conservative counterweight to Olbermann, Matthews, & Co? I might have to rethink that one, judging by the opening roll of his 'Tucker' show this afternoon, which clearly cast Israel as the heavy in the current conflict. Here's how it went:
Open to video of an Israeli tank firing rounds, as an off-screen voice breathlessly announces "Lebanon, under siege" as the scene changes to smoke rising from an urban Lebanese landscape.
Cut to a Lebanese couple, with the woman informing us that "our house is bombed, everything is bombed."
Cut to what looks like a mosque in ruins. Announcer: "Israel's attack on Hezbollah marches on, and so does the devastating toll on civilian life."
Cut to woman in Muslim head shawl comforting distraught young boy with kiss on head.
Bill O'Reilly got his show off to a surprising start this afternoon, with a novel theory as to why the big-city newspapers have tread lightly in criticizing Israel for its role in the current conflict. During his opening monologue O'Reilly theorized that the papers are fearful of turning off liberal Jewish readers.
As per Bill's hypothesis, papers such as the NY and LA Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post have been taking big hits in readership and profitability. With Fox News Channel's ED Hill in the studio, O'Reilly continued: "liberal Jewish readers are all [those newspapers] have left" as a significant market segment. If the papers were to be too critical of Israel, it could alienate their last remaining readership niche.
Better late than never? On CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday, CNN’s senior international correspondent Nic Robertson added all of the caveats and disclaimers that he should have included in his story last week that amounted to his giving an uncritical forum for the terrorist group Hezbollah to spout unverifiable anti-Israeli propaganda.
Back on July 18, Hezbollah took Robertson and his crew on a tour of a heavily damaged south Beirut neighborhood. The Hezbollah “press officer” even instructed the CNN camera: “Just look. Shoot. Look at this building. Is it a military base? Is it a military base, or just civilians living in this building?”
Honestly, NBers, this one took several reads to believe. In fact, I’ve checked the link numerous times, as well as multiple media websites, and this really was reported by the Associated Press: “Mideast diplomats were pressing Syria to stop backing Hezbollah as the guerrillas fired more deadly rockets onto Israel's third-largest city Sunday.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking: this was buried deeeeep inside the article. Nope. This was actually the first sentence of a wire piece entitled “Arabs Press Syria to End Hezbollah Support.”
Shocking? Certainly. However, the best was yet to come:
In our ongoing “Friday Night Fights” segment, an amazing barnburner occurred July 21 that will remind folks of Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd's old "Point/Counterpoint" skit on “Saturday Night Live” with the only thing missing being the famous line “Jane you ignorant slut.”
On the left was Fox News’s Juan Williams. On the right was conservative radio host Laura Ingraham filling in for Bill O’Reilly on “The O’Reilly Factor” (very enthusiastic hat tip to Ian at Expose the Left and Ms. Underestimated with absolutely must-see video to follow!).
From the beginning, this fight perfectly exemplified the divergence in opinion concerning the most recent flare up in the Middle East. Juan enunciated the liberal view that Israel is largely to blame for the rise in hostilities, and that America needs to put pressure on it to force an expedient ceasefire even if it goes counter to Israel’s ongoing security. Here’s a perfect example of Juan’s solution to the current problem:
'Bolton and the other radicals in the administration want Israel to keep pummeling Lebanon a while longer.' No, they want Israel to keep pummeling Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon.
party of mutual Armageddon . . . the war party of Hamas, Hezbollah, the
Israeli right, the Iranian ultras, Rumsfeld, and Cheney.' Moral equivalence strikes again. The terrorists, and those who would stop the terrorists - same difference.
The New York Times op-ed page has a feature today called 'A First Step Back From the Brink.' As the Times describes it:
"With chaos threatening to engulf Lebanon, the need to resolve the conflict in the Middle East has rarely seemed so urgent. The Op-Ed editors went to seven experts with experience in the region, asking each of them what should be the first step toward defusing the crisis."
The Times did accord Richard Perle the opportunity to make the case that 'Israel must see the current fighting through to a conclusion that is unambiguously a defeat for Hezbollah and Hamas.' But most if not all of the other contributors call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, including Judith Kipper of the Council on Foreign Relations who wants to negotiate with Hezbollah and Hamas and describes them as 'political parties and social welfare organizations', albeit with 'military wings.'
On Friday's World News, ABC's Charles Gibson highlighted a Lebanese blog poster who implied that most Israelis are not "reasonable" enough to care about the safety of innocent Lebanese civilians. Responding to an Israeli poster, also quoted by Gibson, who had expressed wishes that the Lebanese people be safe during the airstrikes, the unnamed Lebanese poster implied that most Israelis are unreasonable while complimenting the Israeli poster: "I can rest a little easier in this difficult time because I have found reasonable voices in Israel."
Gibson opened the segment declaring that although "the Israeli and Lebanese governments are not talking to one another," citizens on both sides were communicating through the Internet by posting on blogs. He first quoted an unnamed Israeli soldier: "I'm sending you my best wishes and hope that you and your family will be strong and be alright until this horrible situation will be over." (Transcript follows)
Everyone knows that when it comes to winning wars and achieving peace, the model to follow is that laid out by France, other Europeans, and the UN.
Elizabeth Vargas, steadfast Euro-UN-ophile, is savvy enough to recognize that the US needs to fall in line behind wiser heads and 'condemn or rebuke' Israel. Sadly, an obdurate Bush administration, in the person of spokesman Tony Snow, just wasn't getting the message in a Good Morning America interview this morning.
Vargas: "Tony, this is day ten now of the conflict in the Middle East and only now is the US government considering sending Secretary Rice to the region. Why waiting so long to do so?"
Snow: "Well, first, Elizabeth, you have to understand even though Secretary Rice hasn't been to the region, we've had a high-level . . . delegation . . . there last week. . . Secretary Rice thought she would wait until we had a moment . . . when the time is ripe. Now she views this as a good time to go."
Vargas: "You mentioned European allies. The US has thus far been alone in its refusal to either rebuke or condemn Israel for its excessive force, as Kofi Annan called it last night. And in addition it has refused to call for any cessation of hostilities. At what point does the administration say to its close ally Israel, 'enough'?"
'Today' never showed us just who was holding that placard. But judging from his comments this morning, just how surprised would we be to find it was NBC's David Gregory himself?
Did David perhaps rev up for his appearance by reading this all-out assault on Bush foreign policy from in the LA Times? In any case, he came loaded for Bush bear with a totally bleak tour d'horizon that included these gems:
"The president's foreign policy was designed to make the the Middle East safer. It's not."
"Crisis after crisis has undermined the Bush doctrine."
"A foreign policy that has yet to produce the promised results."
One of the central tenants of professional journalism is the notion that reporters remain objective in their analysis and reporting. Generally, it is the responsibility of a newspaper’s management to ensure that individuals who express a desire to maintain emotional and psychological distance from stories they cover are employed to report news under the title of a “journalist.” If the writer is an opinion writer, this is known as a “pundit.”
That stated, the Washington Posthosted an online “Live from Syria” chat session this past Monday on their website. The forum was conducted by a Syrian writer named Sami Moubayed. The Posts’ description of the writer is “PostGlobal Panelist/Syrian Political Analyst, Journalist and Author.” Flipping to the writer’s website and reading the “About” section, however, shows that Mr. Moubayed has some conflicts of interest when it comes to covering the Lebanon-Israel conflict. From Moubayeb’s profile:
"CBS Evening News" anchor Bob Schieffer participated in a phone interview with Bob Steele of the Poynter Institute yesterday. The discussion focused on Schieffer’s view of the current situation in the Middle East and caused Schieffer to pull out an old left wing talking point about war as he lamented:
"We have made a judgment that this is extremely important because this could set off a much wider war, a war that could, if it got big enough, could cause this country, for one thing, to have to reinstitute the draft."
I suppose, theoretically, Schieffer is correct, but is his fear logical? Is there serious discussion on Capitol Hill to bring back the draft? No, in fact the last time the idea of a draft came to a vote in 2004 it received 2 votes.
Heart-rending images of small children being lifted across a fence. Outraged American/Lebanese evacuees alleging indiscriminate Israeli bombing ["they are bombing streets, gas stations, food stores, ranches."] A crying Lebanese man with blood on his shirt after his brother was killed by an Israeli bomb. And the only two reporters on the scene reporting from . . . Beirut. That was the way the 'Today' largely saw fit to cover the Middle East conflict this morning.
While none of the words or images are necessarily inaccurate [and we were treated to one evacuee heartily thanking Pres. Bush], they utterly fail to tell the whole story. Yes, Israel is militarily superior to its immediate neighbors. So it is easy to portray it as the bully in this fight. But let's look at the larger picture - Israel, a small strip of land, with relatively few people or natural resources, surrounded by hundreds of millions of largely Muslim Arabs in more than a dozen states. Have a look at the map. Israel is a barely discernible dot in the Muslim sea. And just as it is geographically dwarfed so too is it overwhelmed when it comes to natural resources - oil
It is axiomatic that the goal of the foreign policy of the United States should be the advancement of the interests of the United States and not of any other country, no matter how sympathetic, including Israel. That said, should it not give Chris Matthews pause that his pointed anti-neo-con spiel has become indistinguishable from the well-rehearsed Pat Buchanan line on the matter? In a weird twist, Dem hyper-partisan Bob Shrum, a supporter of Israel, was the odd man out on this evening's Hardball.
To demonstrate my point, let's play a little game. Guess who made the following statements?
A. "The neo-cons are out there complaining that this president isn't tough enough. I have no idea what they mean. 50,000 dead in Iraq - it was supposed to be a cakewalk, Ken Adelman is out there today saying we should go other places, you have other guys that want to blow up every Arab country on the list."
On the same day that a Hezbollah rocket killed two children in Nazareth, Israel, NBC's Brian Williams visited an Israeli Defense Force artillery outpost in northern Israel and noted how the soldiers “don't think a whole lot about where these shells go” in Lebanon and laid a guilt trip on an Israeli officer by predicting how one of his shells will inevitably “kill a six-year old boy.” Williams proposed to the officer: “One of these shells today or tomorrow, if we go with the law of averages, is going to kill a six-year-old boy somewhere. And it's not the intended target of one of these shells."
Earlier on Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, Richard Engel highlighted how “in Qasmiya in south Lebanon, an Israeli bomb left a crater where children were playing. Ismail lost his son today. 'They were small children. Do you see Hezbollah here?' he asked." Martin Fletcher soon related how a Hezbollah rocket “smashed into the roof of a car dealership in the Arab town of Nazareth. Two boys playing in the garden were killed instantly. They were ages three and nine.” (Partial transcript of Williams follows)
Last night (Tuesday) on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, senior international correspondent Nic Robertson touted his “exclusive” exchange with a Hezbollah propagandist who led Robertson on a tour of a bombed-out block of southern Beirut. Hezbollah claimed to show that Israeli bombs had struck civilian areas of the city, not the terrorist group’s headquarters.
The Hezbollah “press officer,” Hussein Nabulsi, even directed CNN’s camera: “Just look. Shoot. Look at this building. Is it a military base? Is it a military base, or just civilians living in this building?” A few moments later, Nabulsi instructed CNN to videotape him as he ran up to a pile of rubble: “Shoot me. Shoot. This is here where they said Sheikh Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, is living. This is wrong!”
It's been a tough week for the MSM. You just know they'd like to find a way to spin events in Lebanon and Israel for purposes of criticizing the Bush administration. But one senses they've had a tough time getting traction. Even for our liberal media heroes, making common cause with Hezbollah might be a bridge too far.
When the MSM is reduced to fixating on a mild four-letter word the president let fly, and to second-guessing tactics - as opposed to goals - you know the media's Bush-bashing cupboard is alarmingly bare.
The last best hope for the MSM seemed to be the alleged slowness of the evacuation of Americans in Lebanon. There was Tucker Carlson accusing Israel of 'doing nothing' to help stranded Americans. And the MSM widely reported the number of Americans in Lebanon at 25,000, downplaying the fact that the great majority have dual Lebanese citizenship and are not looking to leave. The actual number of those wishing to get out is apparently in the 5-8,000 range.
The Shiite anti-Israeli terror group Hezbollah crossed from Lebanon into Israel on July 12, killing eight Israeli soldiers and kidnapping two others. Israel is responding with force, unleashing targeted air strikes against Hezbollah positions in Lebanon in an effort to get the kidnapped soldiers back.
The New York Times' coverage of Israel's counterattack has been generally fair, or at least more balanced than usual -- the prospect of wide-scale war appears to have clarified somewhat the paper's often-wishful thinking about the true aims of Israel’s foes.
One major annoying tic that remains is the paper's use of the term "captured" to describe kidnapped Israeli soldiers, when it comes to covering the June kidnapping by Hamas of Gilad Shalit at an Israeli Defense Forces outpost, and the two kidnapped soldiers resulting from the incursion by Hezbollah. "Captured" is a phrase used by anti-Israeli leftists like ANSWER and implies these soldiers were prisoners of war captured on the field of battle, not abducted over a border by a terrorist group.
I don't know about you, but whenever I have to choose whose military strategy to rely on - the Israeli IDF's or a member of the MSM - I'm going to go with the American media guy every time - particularly when the fellow in question is NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams. After all, what battles or wars has Israel ever won? In contrast, those fraternity parties back at Catholic University were an absolute minefield, not to mention the internecine battle scars Brian earned while working in Jimmy Carter's White House.
So it was that I listened with rapt attention to Brian's report from Tel Aviv this morning, and learned - to my horror - that the Israeli battle plan didn't meet muster with General Williams.
NBC's Andrea Mitchell asked on Monday's NBC Nightly News: “What is Hezbollah and what is its end game?” Mitchell first answered that “experts say to prove it can damage Israel in ways Arab countries couldn't.” But then she proceeded to refer to “Hezbollah's charismatic leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah,” also describing him as “a Shiite populist” who she relayed, over video of kids, “provides social services where Lebanon's weak new government cannot.” Mitchell refrained from labeling Hezbollah as “terrorist” -- or mentioning how its real "end game" is the destruction of Israel -- going no further than to say it “operates militias." (Transcripts follows)
Israel versus Hezbollah? Those exchanges pale in comparison to the crossfire between MSNBC host Tucker Carlson and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin 'Bibi' Netanyahu on this afternoon's 'Tucker'. Alright, perhaps I exaggerate a tad, but there was no mistaking Netanyahu's anger at the way Carlson framed the issue of Americans in Lebanon.
Here's how Carlson, who made the plight of the estimated 25,000 Americans in Lebanon a theme of the show, introduced Netanyahu:
"25,000 Americans are trapped as the nation of Lebanon continues to come under fire from Israeli airstrikes. . . Thousands of US citizens are stranded and Israel is doing nothing to help them. Or is it? What will it take to get our people out of harm's way? Here to answer that question is Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel from 1996-99."
Is Harry Smith's goal at every stage of every war to stop it? If he had been around on June 6, 1944, would he have been asking what could be done to stop D-Day? The question arises in light of Smith's questions on this morning's Early Show to Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution.
Right out of the box, cease-fire seemed to be on Harry's mind: "We have Hezbollah content to fire rockets into Israel, just as we heard a couple of minutes ago from [CBS reporter] Sharyn Alfonsi. We have Israel intent on squashing Hezbollah. Is there any country in the world, any group of countries, for that matter, that can compel either side to stop?"
O'Hanlon didn't think so, noting that at this stage neither side shows the remotest interest in a cease fire.
Surely, no one in the U.S. media could have a kind word to say about Hezbollah, the radical Palestinian terrorist group that decades ago seized southern Lebanon as a base for anti-Israeli operations — including the rocket attacks now indiscriminately harassing Israeli towns and cities — and which has killed hundreds of Americans in various hijackings, kidnappings and bombings over the years.
Well, in fact there have been those in the American press who’ve tried to downplay Hezbollah’s perpetration of terrorist acts, including the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks that killed 241 Marines. Even since September 11, 2001, a few journalists have tried to argue that Hezbollah could plausibly be seen as freedom fighters resisting Israeli authority.
Most NBers are likely unfamiliar with the name Eric Boehlert. He is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine that used to write for Salon, and has a book out called “Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over For Bush.” In it, he accused the media of actually having a pro-Bush bias in a book that the Washington Post’s Book World comically declared was “written as though a cadre of Bill Clinton's defenders were its editors.”
Well, Boehlert is at it again, this time claiming at Huffington Post that “the Arab-Israeli conflict is told in the United States mostly through the eyes of Israelis, and that's especially true on cable news channels.”
Boehlert’s angst stemmed from watching CNN on Thursday after reading a Reuters article about 53 Lebanese civilians being killed in an Israeli attack, “a fact that struck [him] as central to the unfolding story” in the Middle East:
Israel might be defending itself on two fronts this morning, but that might not be enough. The Today show was attacking on at least three. And in a brief-but-telling moment, Andrea Mitchell gave away the blame-Israel game with a spontaneous shake of the head.
Here's the gist of Today's reporting:
Israel's offensive against Hezbollah is based on a 'pretext.'
The Bush administration has dropped the diplomatic ball. It should have sent higher-level people in to mediate sooner. In the meantime, despite the concerns of America's European allies, the Bush White House has given Israel a dangerous 'green light' to attack.
The Bush administration is not responding effectively to the crisis because it is 'overwhelmed' and spread too thin by involvement elsewhere.
With ghoulish glee, Today wasted no time speculating on the possibility of $100/barrel oil resulting from the heightened tensions.
On the "Saturday Early Show" this past weekend on CBS, co-host Tracy Smith interviewed CBS terrorism analyst Michael Scheuer. Scheuer, who once attempted to spin the death of the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi, as being good for al Qaeda, used this occassion to claim that we are losing the global war on terror:
"There's an element of desperation, and it wouldn't matter if the Democrats or the Republicans were in power. We really are losing the war on terrorism overseas and probably within North America and Europe also. Bin Laden has inspired a whole generation of Muslims--young Muslim men, especially--to hate our foreign policies. They're very comfortable with our society and with the tools of modernity, whether it's communications equipment or anything else, but our foreign policies are driving people to attack us, and I think that's what we saw in Florida."
Yesterday Lee Cowan, of CBS News, may have exaggerated the size of the protests in Baghdad by people loyal to cleric Muqtada al Sadr, in response to President Bush’s surprise visit. But today, he made up for it. Cowan, reporting from Baghdad for "The Early Show" on CBS, was the only reporter on the 3 major network morning shows to quote from al Qaeda documents found after the death of terrorist leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
While "Good Morning America" on ABC and "Today" on NBC gave only cursory mention of the documents, "The Early Show" led the program with the story. Co-host Julie Chen noted the significance of the documents and what they could mean when she introduced Cowan’s piece:
After being off the last two days, Harry Smith returned to CBS’s "Early Show" this morning and apparently he didn’t forget the bias. Today Smith interviewed Dan Bartlett, a counselor to President Bush. While Smith set up Senator Joe Biden on June 5 to go on the offensive against the war, he tried his best to keep Bartlett on the defensive while downplaying President Bush’s surprise visit to Iraq yesterday.
Smith began the questioning:
"Well, the Iraqis now have a constitution. Now they actually have a government as well. What they don't have in Baghdad is day-to-day security or even electricity. How does the president's visit change that?"
Here’s everything Reuters and the NY Times are telling readers at nytimes.com (3:30 p.m. eastern, Jun. 13) about today's press conference Israel's Defense Minister Amir Peretz held concerning the explosion last week that killed seven Palestinian civilians ("Israel Denies Role in Deadly Gaza Beach Blast")
Israel on Tuesday denied responsibility for an explosion on a Gaza beach last week that killed seven Palestinian civilians and led militant group Hamas to call off a 16-month truce.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz told reporters the explosion was not caused by the Israeli Defense Forces but did not provide an explanation for what might have caused the blast, which killed several members of the same family.
Major General Meir Califi, who headed the army's investigation into Friday's incident, said Israel's shelling of Gaza had stopped by the time the beach explosion occurred.
"The chances that artillery fire hit that area at that time are nil,'' Califi told a news conference.
Hamas, which heads the Palestinian Authority after winning elections earlier this year, has blamed Israel for the explosion, which came on a day of heavy shelling of Gaza.
Israel frequently fires artillery rounds into the coastal strip in response to Palestinian rockets fired at Israel.
There has been a surge in violence between Israel and the Palestinians since the beach explosion, the immediate aftermath of which was caught on film and showed an 8-year-old girl desperately searching for her dead father.
An investigator from international rights group Human Rights Watch told reporters in Gaza earlier that evidence pointed to Israel having fired the shell, but he had to leave the door open to the possibility that the explosion was caused by something else.