In the vision of certain members of the press, Israel is a colonialist mass murderer, and the word terrorist does not exist without quotation marks surrounding it. Israelis are aggressors. Islamist terrorists, be they Palestinians or Iranian backed Hezb'allah, are victims. These media types come to the Middle East with their narrative firmly in place. It is so because they believe it to be so.
I was an eyewitness to a classic example of this in Jenin, in 2002. Western journalists and United Nation envoys were in an uproar over an alleged Israeli massacre of a thousand Palestinians. There were grisly, supposed eyewitness, accounts of Israeli bulldozers shoveling hundreds of corpses of helpless Palestinian refugees into mass graves. There were stories of Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian children in front of their parents and then throwing their bodies into wells and sewage pits.
Comparisons were made to ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, to Nazi war crimes and the term genocide was spoken with righteous indignation. The truth turned out to be somewhat less Baroque. There was a battle not a massacre.
In that battle some fifty Palestinian combatants were killed, as were twenty three Israeli soldiers. The battle was a ferocious one and in the Arab press there were glowing tales of the fifty Palestinian fighters who fell in glorious combat against the Zionist enemy they valiantly slaughtered. But to the majority of Western journalists the facts became a footnote on the inside pages, reported weeks after the front page banner line headlines screamed about the supposed massacre.
There was one journalist, Sheila McVicar of CNN, who was so openly hostile in her attitudes toward Israel that an Israeli Army medical officer, a gentle man who was head of pediatrics at Hadasa Hospital, inquired quietly as to the source of her anger at Israel. He tried to explain to her that Jenin was not the shelter of helpless refugees, rather it was exactly what its residents proclaimed it to be: the suicide bomber capital of the world. Hundreds of Israeli men, women and children, almost all of them civilians, had been murdered by the suicide bombers dispatched from Jenin. That is why a battle took place there. After close to thirty people were blown to bits at a Passover dinner in Israel, the Israeli military took action against those who dispatched the suicide bombers, trained them, armed them and sent them out to murder again and again.
'Maybe,' demanded Ms. McVicar, 'You should ask yourself why they became terrorists.'
'I do,' said the good doctor. 'It's something I ask myself all the time. Why would someone from Jenin choose to come to Jerusalem or Hadera to commit suicide just so they could kill a few Jews along the way? Why would they choose death over life?'
'I can sum it up for you,' said Ms. McVicar defiantly, 'I can sum it up in one word: occupation,' she said spitting the word out, as if it left a foul taste in her mouth.
'But my dear, Ms.McVicar,' the good doctor said, 'Jenin hasn't been occupied for nine years. In nine years there has not been the footprint of one Israeli soldier in Jenin. Jenin is ruled by the United Nations and the PLO.'
Ms. McVicar did not reply. She turned on her heel as if she had been spat upon and stormed off. How dare this man respond with facts? How dare he contradict the narrative to which she was so firmly committed?
The latest example of this journalistic attitude, but by no means the most egregious, can be seen in an article by one Robert Fisk. He adds a new twist. 'We' by which he not only means Western Europe, but graciously includes Israel in this imperial 'we', 'We' told the 'Arabs' that we believed in 'Democracy' then 'We' betrayed them, one in all.
'And remember our promise to honor the fledgling Democracy of Lebanon...which brought the retreat of the Syrian Army. Lebanon was then held up to be a future model for the Arab world. But once Hezb'allah crossed the frontier and seized two Israeli soldiers killing three others on July 12th, we stood back and watched the Lebanese suffer.'
At the risk of subjecting Mr. Fisk to the same insult of perspective, fact and logic which was inflicted upon Ms. McVicker, one is compelled to place his truly twisted assertion into the historical context of which it is a part.
At the urging of the International Community (both Europe and the United Nations) as well as the government of Lebanon, Israel withdrew from quite literally every centimeter of land it had occupied in almost two decades of fighting with Hezb'allah. In order to provide Israel with guarantees for its security in return for withdrawing from Lebanon, both the United Nations and the government of Lebanon undertook certain obligations in UN Resolution 1559. Paramount amongst those obligations was the disarming of militias, chief amongst them Hezb'allah. In addition the government of Lebanon was to reassert its sovereignty over Southern Lebanon by having its army take up the positions which Israel handed over.
That Israel lived up to its end of the bargain is beyond debate. The United Nations, using GPS tracking mechanisms, reestablished every inch of the International Border. North of it was Lebanon, south of it was Israel. The launching by either side of attacks against each other in violation of that border was a violation of International Law.
On the other hand there also can be no debate about the fact that neither the government of Lebanon nor the United Nations lived up to its commitments. The Lebanese army was never dispatched to Southern Lebanon. Lebanese sovereignty was never established there. The UN took no actions either to help them do so, nor hinder Iran's terrorist army proxy from occupying Southern Lebanon.
If one wishes to talk about occupied territories, there can be no clearer example of same than Hezb'allah's occupation of Lebanon between the Litani River and Israel's border and in the area of Southern Beirut where Hezb'allah established its capital within a capital, within its state within a state. Instead of ordering its army to take over the positions which Israel abandoned, the Lebanese government allowed an Iranian backed militia to transform itself into a terrorist army which built a Siegfried line like array of fortresses in bands three deep stretching all along Israel's border.
It similarly turned a blind eye as that terrorist army was armed, in contravention of the guarantees both it and the UN had given to Israel, with tens of thousands of offensive rockets and a like number of anti—tank missiles, all of them aimed at Israel. Hezb'allah provided the lame excuse that all this was necessary to protect Lebanon from an Israeli invasion.
Then after six years of planning and preparation for its offensive on July 12th, 2006, Hezb'allah did not 'cross the frontier' with Israel, they launched a totally unprovoked attack against a routine patrol clearly inside Israeli territory which offered no threat whatsoever. For a reporter, Mister Fisk ought to get his facts straight. They did not seize two Israeli soldiers and kill two others, they attacked two humvees with anti—tank missiles and automatic weapons, killing eight soldiers and then kidnapping two. They did so, not because they had nothing else to do that morning and thought it might be fun. They did so in order to provoke exactly the invasion which they proclaimed to the Lebanese people they were there to prevent.
What they had hoped for was a massive armored charge across the border to try and retrieve the two kidnapped soldiers. How do we know this to be true? We know it to be true by their actions. They hit one humvee and then lay in wait for the second one which came to rescue their comrades. Then they hit it as well. In other words, they had set an ambush. The ambush however was not restricted in its purpose to simply the two humvees. Again we know this because of Hezb'allah's actions.
One will remember that it took Israel some weeks to get its reserves in position to be able to enter the fight. When it did so numbers of things were found to be lacking. Things like ammunition, food, and water. That is because Israel was caught with its pants down.
Hezb'allah, on the other hand, was fully prepared, all of its weapons had already been deployed to its forward positions, all of its fighters were already on alert, in position, manning the ambushes for the armored charge which they had hoped to provoke. The IED's which have taken such a toll on American forces in Iraq, were laced along all the entrance routes into Southern Lebanon. 'Tank Hunter' squads were in position and waiting to tear to pieces the expected Israeli armored advance.
This was to be a replay of what the Egyptians had done to the Israeli armor corps in the Sinai Desert in 1973. There, infantrymen equipped with masses of anti—tank weapons decimated entire Israeli armored brigades. In order to ensure this armored charge, Hezb'allah began raining down upon Israel's northern communities what would be over four thousand rockets falling almost exclusively at Israel's civilian population. The thinking most assuredly was that given those attacks upon Israel's civilians, Israel would have to respond with the same kind of armored advance they had launched against PLO terrorists in Lebanon in 1980.
Like so many other military planners, Hezb'allah's leadership was refighting the last war. Aside from that it was, in fact, a good plan.
Unfortunately for Hezb'allah it failed.
Israel did not take the bait. Instead of an armored charge, as Hezb'allah had hoped for, Israel responded by taking out bridges hoping to cut off Hezb'allah's ability to spirit away the kidnapped soldiers. In addition, Israel struck by air at Hezb'allah's command and control center in Southern Beirut.
Contrary to Mr. Fisk's convoluted logic, Lebanon did not suffer because 'we' betrayed its fledgling Democracy. Lebanon suffered because both Lebanon and the United Nations failed to live up to their obligations under UN Resolution 1559 and allowed Iran's terrorist army proxy to occupy Southern Lebanon, and from those occupied territories launch an attack that was meant to drag both Israel and Lebanon into a war which neither wanted.
Witnessing what Hezb'allah was doing, in its six years of occupation and preparation for its offensive, Mr. Fisk and his ilk did indeed stand back and wait for both Lebanon and Israel to suffer.
Fisk goes on to state,
'Had Bush — indeed Blair — denounced Israel's claim that it held the Lebanese government responsible for the kidnapping and killing of its soldiers and demanded an immediate cease fire, then the disaster that is destroying Lebanon's Democracy would not have happened.'
Tisk, tisk, Mr. Fisk. Can one imagine a scenario in which one country allows a terrorist army to equip itself with tens of thousands of rockets which it then rains down on a neighboring country, and yet that country does not hold the country from which those rockets were launched accountable? Is there any country in the world which would, in fact, just shine it on? Especially in light of the fact that this same Hezb'allah which killed and kidnapped Israeli soldiers and launched over four thousand rockets against Israel's civilians, was part of the Lebanese government!
Moreover, Fisk conveniently overlooks the fact that so long as Hezb'allah thought it was wining, it did not want a cease fire. Fisk talks about dead children in Tyre. Unfortunately no one needs to instruct me about the tragedy of the death of one's child. I know it only too well. And my heart grieves with any parent who has suffered that horrific fate. But then, Fisk incredibly states that those children
'Would have been alive if even Blair and Margaret Beckett had demanded a cease fire. But they are dead. And Blair, and Beckett and Bush should have this on their consciences.'
No Fisk, you've got it wrong. The same Hezb'allah which pulled children's bodies from the wreckage of the carnage which they themselves provoked, only to rebury those poor children's bodies, and dig them up again for the next news crew; the same Hezb'allah which in the most cynical fashion launched, from within the Lebanese civilian population, their attacks against Israel's civilian population in order to achieve maximum casualties of both, should have it on their consciences. So should their journalist appeasers and apologists, who enabled them and continue to cover up their crimes.
That Fisk is one such appeaser and apologist becomes clear when he almost gleefully states
'The Israeli Army were (was) soundly thrashed when they crossed the border to fight the Hezb'allah losing forty men in thirty six hours.'
Not that one is keeping score, but simply as a way of illustrating how fast and loose is Fisk with facts, in the first thirty six hours of the war Israel in fact lost 12 soldiers killed and four civilians. When one takes into account that eight of those twelve soldiers were killed in the initial attack, what those figures tell us is that in the first thirty—six hours of the conflict Israel lost as many civilians as soldiers, four of each.
As to Fisk's assertion that Israel was 'soundly thrashed' one is again forced to resort to facts as opposed to the fanciful narrative Fisk has created, in which Hezb'allah is somehow simultaneously the helpless victim and the sound thrasher. So here are the facts: at the end of the conflict all of Hezb'allah's three—band—deep, Siegfried line—like system of fortresses, bunkers, tunnels and armed caches were destroyed or abandoned or in the control of the Israeli Army. Some six hundred of Hezb'allah's elite fighters were killed, an unknown number (unknown because Hezb'allah has yet to release the figures) were wounded.
In contrast to this, Israel suffered one hundred and nineteen soldiers killed. That number, while tragic, represents the lightest casualties ever suffered by the Israeli army in major combat in its history. In 1948 in its war of liberation Israel suffered six thousand killed. In the Six Day War, arguably Israel's greatest victory, the IDF suffered almost seven hundred killed. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War it suffered two thousand seven hundred killed in action.
In the first week alone of the first Lebanon War the IDF had one hundred and seventy six killed. Of the four hundred tanks deployed by the IDF in combat against Hezb'allah, a total of five tanks were destroyed. Hezb'allah on the other hand has been forced to abandon all its strongholds. Its terrorist capital, and infrastructure are in ruins and the positions it once manned are now finally taken up by the Lebanese Army and fifteen thousand man strong United Nations force.
Had those forces been in place on July 11th, as both Lebanon and the United Nations assured Israel after its withdrawal would be the case, none of the children Fisk and I both mourn would have died. None of them. Not one.
'When I sit on my sea front balcony today, I am waiting for the next explosion to come,' writes Fisk.
That at least is true; just as Fisk sat on his balcony refusing to cover the story that lead to the tragedy he now bemoans. That story was how Iran's terrorist army proxy, not Israel, occupied Southern Lebanon, and then used those occupied territories to drag Israel and Lebanon both into its totally preventable war.
Through it all Fisk sits on his sea front balcony writing his next narrative which will no doubt enable, and apologize for, terrorist atrocities yet to come.