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Israeli lives matter more than Arab lives
Washington's sick double standard

July 28, 2006 | Page 5

ALAN MAASS looks at the hypocrisy of the U.S. media and political establishment in their attitude to the war on Lebanon.

ARAB LIVES don't mean as much as Israeli lives--not to the Israeli government, not to the U.S. government, and not to the American media that claims to report objectively about both.

This gaping double standard was evident in every news story about the assault on Lebanon, every pundit's pronouncement on the cause of the conflict and every politicians' declaration of unswerving support for Israel's "right to defend herself."

Israel's devastating air assault has inflicted at least 10 times as many casualties on the Lebanese. By the end of last weekend, the Israeli death toll stood at 36, while the official body count provided by Lebanese authorities--and certainly a vast underestimate since no one knows how many corpses lie beneath the rubble of demolished buildings--was 375.

And even this 10-to-1 gap is deceptive. Roughly half of the Israelis killed in the conflict are civilians--the other half are Israeli Defense Force soldiers killed during combat operations. In Lebanon, on the other hand, even the American media admit that only a handful of the casualties were connected to Hezbollah forces.

But it takes an effort to keep this disparity in mind with the media so determined to report Israel's assault as an even exchange of violence.
When a Hezbollah missile struck a train station in Haifa July 16, CNN reported the attack as a massive escalation that "tripled" the Israeli death toll. But Israel itself had claimed the lives of as many victims--eight--in the first hours of its assault on Lebanon.

A Washington Post story a few days later described how Hezbollah had "effectively shut down Haifa, Israel's third-largest city, and sent thousands of northern Israel residents fleeing for safety along southbound highways." Further down, the article reported that the total number of missiles to hit Haifa that day was four--with "three landing in unpopulated areas" and the "fourth striking an apartment building."

Meanwhile, Israeli warplanes struck targets across Lebanon on the same day--including an army base on the northern coast of the country, far from Israel.

On July 14, a Fox News reporter and camera crew broadcasting a live report from Gaza came under fire by Israeli troops--and the Fox News anchors back in the U.S. justified the incident. "If you're somebody, and you're a long ways away, and you just see something, and you don't know who it is, sometimes you just start shooting," said the anchor. Imagine the commentary if the gunfire had come from Palestinians.

"Certainly, by giving only one part of the narrative where you have Israelis as the victims of unprovoked violence, it would be hard not to take Israel's side," said Jim Naureckas of the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Media. "If you're taking your information from the U.S. media, it'll be hard to construct a different way of looking at it."

While major newspapers managed to convey their defense of Israel and suspicions of Hezbollah in supposedly objective news articles, they really let loose on the editorial page. "Make no mistake about it," lectured the Los Angeles Times, sounding identical to a spokesperson for the Bush State Department. "Responsibility for the escalating carnage in Lebanon and northern Israel lies with one side, and one side only. And that is Hezbollah, the Islamist militant party, along with its Syrian and Iranian backers."

Typically, such editorials called for Israel to "exercise caution" and avoid damage to civilian targets. But it must be self-evident even to editorial writers that Israel's strategy is to expand the devastation, not limit it.

"In the last 24 hours," journalist Robert Fisk, whose home is in Beirut, said in an interview on the left-wing radio and TV program Democracy Now! "we found that the Israelis have turned to attacking a milk factory--Liban Lait, it's actually the producers of milk I drink every morning in my tea--and a paper box factory, for heaven's sakes, hardly a terrorist target.

"We've already seen them smash up the runways of Beirut Airport and destroy most of the new Manara lighthouse in Beirut. The Israelis today even attacked the factory which imports Procter & Gamble goods here. We've had a convoy of new ambulances from the United Emirates, crossing from Syria into Lebanon, attacked from the air."

As left-wing writer Gabriel Ash concluded on the Dissident Voice Web site: "Since Israel can only achieve its aims by widening the scope of the war and forcing other parties to get involved, 'damage to civilians' is not a byproduct but the core of Israel's strategy of escalation."

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OF COURSE, the U.S. media are only reflecting the bipartisan consensus in Washington of total support for Israel.

Late last week, a Republican-sponsored resolution expressing solidarity with the Israeli onslaught passed the U.S. House on a 410-8 vote. Liberal Democrats like Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky voted in favor. Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Lee ducked the issue by voting "present."

Leading the Democrats' pro-Israel chorus is New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, scrambling to the front of any pro-Israel event her handlers can schedule for her.

"I want us here in New York to imagine, if extremist terrorists were launching rocket attacks across the Mexican or Canadian border, would we stand by or would we defend America against these attacks from extremists?" Clinton said at a pro-Israel rally near United Nations headquarters in New York City--to "roars of approval," according to the New York Times.

The Republicans, however, have no intention of being outflanked. In an op-ed article called "The Third World War has begun" posted on the British Guardian newspaper Web site, former House Speaker--and now part-time candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination--Newt Gingrich announced, "The civilized world stands balanced between victory and defeat."

Unsurprisingly, Gingrich thinks the only way to tip the balance is to support Israel in annihilating the "mortal threat" from Hezbollah. "The free world must stand up to the barbarism or be defeated by it," he concludes.

Bush administration officials don't usually speak their minds quite as freely, but John Bolton--the White House's neo-con representative at the United Nations--explicitly gave voice to the U.S. government's official double standard in dismissing any comparison between Hezbollah attacks and Israel acts of "self-defense."

"It's simply not the same thing to say that it's the same act to deliberately target innocent civilians, to desire their deaths, to fire rockets and use explosive devices or kidnapping, versus the sad and highly unfortunate consequences of self-defense," Bolton told a reporter.

As Asian Times writer Pepe Escobar commented, "Translation: Dead Lebanese civilians are collateral damage, expendable and not worth the life of a single Israeli."

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