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17 August 2006 Edition

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Media View

Reality breaks through the bias

Most journalists know - even if they don't proclaim it - that the Israeli PR machine is massively resourced compared to its opponents in the Palestinian and Arab camp. And while there are differences (of emphasis only) between the European and US media, these, too, are essentially pro-Israeli.

Thus, the public were recently presented with the usual fatuous line about civilians on both sides being bombarded as the Israelis perpetrated massacres of Lebanese civilians. But reality breaks through eventually and while The Irish Times and RTÉ satisfied their ethical consciences by taking the Israeli view from Peter Hirschberg and Richard Crowley, respectively, and a Lebanese view from Lara Marlowe and Michael Jansen in the Lebanon, most Irish people concluded fairly quickly that the Israelis were committing war crimes in that country.

Thank God, meanwhile, for Robert Fisk, the quintessential English, public school boy who actually believes in fair play and all those values that the British ruling class preaches but does not practice. Fisk is no revolutionary and does not claim to be. He simply tells the truth as he sees it on the ground and compares it with the lies and murderous activities of the Israelis and their western backers.

But while the Israelis lost the PR war over culpability for civilian slaughter in the last month of high tech butchery against Lebanon, it was left to Fisk this week to report on the reality of another dimension of the Israeli invasion, namely, the military defeat suffered by one of the most powerful and sophisticated war machines in the modern world. The Irish Times reported in a matter-of-fact way last Monday that the Israeli Army "estimated" they had killed 530 Hezbollah fighters in the month's fighting; that it had pushed 30,000 Israeli soldiers into Lebanon over the previous weekend, airlifting many to points "deep inside South Lebanon"; and that the operation was "intended to weaken Hezbollah forces as much as possible" before the arrival of UN and Lebanese Army soldiers.

And the reality? You had to read Fisk - in the Irish Independent, for God's sake - to be told that nobody in Lebanon believed that the Israelis had more than 10,000 soldiers in the region and that they had taken serious casualties. Fisk reported 43 Israeli soldiers killed in one day last weekend and the downing of a helicopter was, he reported, without precedent in Israel's long war in the Lebanon. Hezbollah-guided missiles had "caused havoc" among the Israeli war machine and while the Israeli military appears to be good at destroying civilian life, buildings and infrastructure, it was "signally inefficient in crushing the 'terrorist' army they swore to liquidate". Fisk opined that nobody should underestimate the momentous turning point that such Israeli military impotence marked in the Middle East in last week's events.

Meanwhile, it is impossible to resist quoting the ludicrous argument that Sean Gannon, chair of the Irish Friends of Israel, resorted to in last week's Irish Times when rationalising the massacre of Lebanese civilians. Gannon quoted a UN diplomat remarking that nobody "should be proud of having [my emphasis] many more children and women dead than armed men". So 'having' civilian dead is dishonourable but actually killing civilians is apparently something to be proud of. Sometimes, even the slickest PR machine strips itself bare to reveal a deadly and barbarous mentality.

You have to hand it to Gerry O'Carroll, sometime commentator on life, crime and punishment who, as a former detective, is a little more honest than those Garda mouthpieces masquerading as 'security' correspondents. Gerry has occupied many stations in life (pardon the awful pun) and one of his current roles is as aide to barrister Jim O'Callaghan, Fianna Fáil election candidate in Dublin South East. But these days O'Carroll spends most of his time regaling readers and other hacks with stories about the depravity of modern criminals and how he has spent a lifetime stemming the tide of murder and mayhem in our society.

The former Special Branch hero and crime-buster told the Evening Herald last week that the Hunger Strikers were honourable men who had sacrificed their lives for high ideals. So far, so good. One wonders what methods his hard-nosed editor used to extract this truthful confession out of Gerry. But O'Carroll then went on to denounce the opportunists who were intent on exploiting the memory of the Hunger Strikers and who had come along 25 years later to claim their heritage - Sinn Féin. Who does O'Carroll believe the Hunger Strikers gave their allegiance to? Fianna Fáil? The Green Party? The GRA? I think we should be told.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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