Since Hezbollah first attacked Israeli towns and troops on July 12, hundreds of thousands of Israeli and Lebanese civilians have fled their homes—the former to escape thousands of Hezbollah rockets targeting Israeli civilians, and the latter to avoid Israel’s counter-offensive, which is aimed at stopping Hezbollah’s rocket-fire and pushing the group from the border.
Millions of readers relying on the Associated Press to learn what is happening in the region most certainly realize Lebanon is experiencing a mass flight of civilians from the war zone in the southern part of the country. Every day, report after report dispatched by the wire service underscores this unfortunate consequence of the war: “a massive Israeli offensive … displaced more than half a million Lebanese”; “Israel appeared to be easing bombardment in populated areas and roads in Lebanon that has killed hundreds, displaced as many as 750,000”; “At least 600,000 Lebanese have fled their homes, according to the World Health Organization. One estimate by Lebanon’s finance minister putting the number at 750,000,” and so on.
But about the masses forced to abandon their homes across the border in Israel, estimated at 300,000 people in the very least, AP has had very little to say.
A comprehensive look at three days of AP coverage during the height of the hostilities—July 25, 26 and 27—reveals the wire service’s disturbing double standard.
During that period, AP stories about the conflict mentioning “displaced” people or “refugees” referred almost exclusively to Lebanese internally displaced. Twenty-eight of those stories discussed the Lebanese displaced without mentioning the Israelis forced to leave their home.
By contrast, one story—which focuses on “refugee” dogs and cats in Beirut—refers as fact to Israelis “fleeing their homes in the north” while also discussing Lebanese who fled their homes. In two other stories, the Associated Press states the number of Lebanese “displaced” as fact while also quoting or paraphrasing Israeli officials claiming hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been forced into bomb shelters. A fourth story, which focuses on the small Lebanese community in Israel, refers to “many” residents of an Israeli town who have fled south.
In short, while a scattered handful of AP stories have mentioned Israelis living in shelters or fleeing the north, the wire service reserves most of its stories—and the emotive words “refugee” or “displaced”—for discussing Lebanese hardships.
A story filed shortly after CAMERA informed Associated Press editors of this glaring discrepancy prominently noted that “500,000 [Israelis] are already living in northern shelters because of rocket bombardments.” It is encouraging that AP definitively reported on the plight of Israelis in that report. But an accurate rendering of the impact of Hezbollah’s rocket onslaught requires full and consistent reference to those Israelis “displaced” by the hundreds of thousands from their homes.