Most of the time, the media act like the Israeli assault on Lebanon
is an evenly matched conflict. What’s the real balance?
The idea that Israel is evenly matched with Lebanon, or with the forces of Hezbollah
and Hamas, is a complete denial of reality.
Israel is one of the world’s largest and most advanced military powers.
Though the media rarely acknowledge this, Israel has more than 200 nuclear weapons
(and is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty). It has one
of the world’s most advanced air forces and world-class military technology
in every other respect.
And Israel is backed fully by the United States, which not only arms Israel
as no other country, but supplies it with more than $3 billion a year in direct
aid. So really, you can’t talk about Israel versus Lebanon or any other
force in the region. You have to talk about the United States and Israel versus
We saw this explicitly when the response of the Bush administration to Israel’s
criminal assaults on Lebanon--which by that point had killed some 300 people--was
to speed up delivery of laser-guided missiles so Israel could carry out more
The reality is that Israel alone--and certainly with U.S. backing--can militarily
overwhelm any combination of states in the region. The Arab states have shown
that they are unwilling or unable to challenge Israel, for fear of the political
and military consequences, which is one of the reasons why Hezbollah’s response
to Israeli attacks has received such support.
But Hezbollah’s missiles are no match for Israel. The balance of casualties--now
running at well over 10 Lebanese killed (overwhelmingly civilians) for every
Israeli casualty (mostly military, involved in the invasion)--clearly reflects
The advantage the Lebanese have against Israel is not military. It’s
political. Despite its overwhelming firepower, Israel is failing to achieve
its objectives, much like the U.S. is failing to achieve its objectives in Iraq.
The price, though, is being paid by Iraqis, Palestinians and Lebanese--and will
continue to be paid as long as the United States and Israel are allowed to get
away with this.
MOSHE YAALON, a former top Israeli general, wrote in the Washington
Post: “Hoping to retain its high moral standards in the face of such a
cynical enemy, Israel has made every effort to avoid harming civilians.”
Is that true of the assault on Lebanon?
YAALON IS engaged in the basest propaganda. Israel’s logic is that it
doesn’t “intend” to kill innocent civilians, so therefore,
Israel cannot be held accountable when its bombs kill innocent civilians. The
U.S. has long used this same specious argument about Iraq.
But the fact is that in its choice of weapons and targets, Israel is routinely
carrying out attacks that will inevitably kill large numbers of civilians.
Israel is deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure to provoke
the people of Lebanon and Palestine to take political actions that will benefit
Israel. The only term for this is state terrorism.
And Israel has said that the people of Lebanon and Gaza (and elsewhere in Palestine)
are legitimate targets because they are “harboring” Hezbollah and
Hamas--or, as you commonly hear in the media, “suspected terrorists.”
This is another blanket excuse for carrying out war crimes.
What we are seeing today in Gaza and Lebanon is a continuation of Israeli policy
historically. The Qana massacre we just witnessed, with at least 28 Lebanese
killed, is an echo of the 1996 Qana massacre, in which more than 100 people
Before Israel’s official establishment in 1948, the Zionist groups that
founded the state used violence in order to drive out the native Palestinian
population. Then, when Israel became a formal state, it did so through the violent
expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians, many of whom have been in exile
since, along with their families, or died in exile. Israel then created a new
generation of refugees in its expansionary war of 1967.
It has used torture and violence to maintain its hold on the Occupied Territories,
to suppress the Arab minority within Israel, and to expand its control over
Palestinian land through settlements, roads and now the apartheid wall that
it is expanding.
In 2001, journalist Chris Hedges described what life is like under occupation
for ordinary Palestinians: “Yesterday, at this spot, the Israelis shot
eight young men, six of whom were under the age of 18. One was 12. This afternoon,
they kill an 11-year-old boy, Ali Murad, and seriously wounded four more, three
of whom are under 18.
“Children have been shot in other conflicts I have covered--death squads
gunned them down in El Salvador and Guatemala, mothers with infants were lined
up and massacred in Algeria, and Serb snipers put children in their sights and
watched them crumple onto the pavement in Sarajevo--but I have never before
watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport.”
EXAMPLES ABOUND of the double standards of the U.S. media when it comes
to reporting on Israel and the Middle East. Can you talk about why?
THE FACT is that Israel is a vital ally of the United States, and therefore,
its actions are viewed through that distorting prism. The U.S. and its allies
have essentially a blank check from the establishment press, which reflects
the values and priorities of those who are in power--because the media have
the same class interests, the same world view, the same institutional roots.
Karl Marx once wrote that the ruling ideas of a given society are the ideas
of its ruling class, and that is certainly true of the propaganda pumped out
by the mainstream media today. The media are corporations, and most journalists
who succeed in the world of establishment journalism do so by internalizing
the values of those who dominate our society.
The press doesn’t have a conservative bias or--as it is often absurdly
alleged--a liberal bias, but an establishment bias. We saw this very clearly
in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, when the corporate media served as a
megaphone for the lies that Washington concocted to sell this war.
It’s not just Israel that received special treatment as a U.S. ally,
as some allege. When Saddam Hussein was an ally of the U.S., his crimes were
unimportant to the press. But when he became a threat to U.S. interests, the
very crimes that the U.S. media ignored before were now such outrages that they
justified invading Iraq, overthrowing Hussein and occupying the country.
This pattern is widespread. The U.S. and its partners or clients can get away
with murder. Their enemies are always guilty, no matter what the evidence.
THE U.S. is supposed to be an “honest broker” of peace
in the Middle East. What’s the real relationship between Israel and the
THE UNITED States has never been an honest broker in the Middle East, and today,
the Bush administration isn’t even keeping up the pretense of being one.
The U.S. has let the Israeli attack dog off the leash and is urging it on, hoping
Israel can advance U.S. interests in a region where the U.S. has suffered a
serious setback since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
And that really is the heart of the relationship. Israel is a watchdog for
U.S. interests in the strategic Middle East, a region with two-thirds of world
oil reserves. It is a client state.
Richard Nixon understood this. Nixon was a raving anti-Semite, but he loved
Israel, because Israel had shown its ability to confront Arab nationalism.
And Israel is the one state in the region in which the population supports
(and benefits from) the alliance of its government with the United States. In
all of the Arab states, the opposite is the case, which makes Arab clients such
as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan far less reliable.
IS THERE any evidence that U.S. officials are trying to restrain the
Israeli attack, as they claim?
THIS IDEA would be laughable, if the reality of what the U.S. and Israel are
doing were not so tragic. The U.S. didn’t just give Israel a green light,
it urged Israel on, armed Israel, bought Israel time, gave Israel political
cover, and protected it from international censure.
The United States has outsourced its policy of regime change temporarily to
Israel. And soon, I think we will see Israel in turn try to outsource its occupation
of Lebanon to the so-called international community, with U.S. backing.
ANTHONY ARNOVE is co-author, with Howard Zinn, of Voices
of a People’s History of the United States, and editor of the South
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