Sometimes half-full, two-thirds empty describes a news report. It applies to The Washington Post’s “Israel on alert over growth of Hezbollah; But neither the country nor the military group wants another war” (July 24, 2016 in print, July 23 online).
By William Booth, The Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief, the article reviewed the Israeli-Hezbollah standoff 10 years after their 2006 war in Lebanon. The respected Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs thought it substantive enough to include in the July 25 edition of the Daily Alert it assembles for wide distribution by the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.
The dispatch does include useful background, including details on Hezbollah’s modernized weaponry, Israeli intelligence on the movement’s transformation of “hundreds of villages in southern Lebanon into covert fire bases with hidden launch pads” and the observation that “another Lebanon war could be devastating, especially for civilians” on both sides.
Unfortunately, a major error and significant omissions undermined “Israel on alert over growth of Hezbollah.”
- Hezbollah fired mortars and rockets at the Israeli village of Shlomi;
- Under cover of that unprovoked fire, Hezbollah gunmen crossed the Lebanese-Israeli border into Israel near the village of Zarit and attacked an Israel Defense Forces patrol consisting of two Humvees and their crews;
- Three Israeli soldiers were killed immediately, three severely wounded and two kidnapped and killed;
- Five more Israeli soldiers, sent to rescue those kidnapped, also were killed;
- Israel responded with fighter-bombers and artillery, and a naval blockade, with only small infantry incursions into Lebanon for 10 days;
- Hezbollah continued firing rockets and missiles into northern Israel (more than 4,000 total during the 34-day conflict), confining several hundred thousand Israelis to shelters or “safe rooms” in their homes or forcing them to flee southward; and
- On July 22 the IDF launched a larger-scale ground invasion.
The Post’s language strongly implied that the war began only or primarily when “Hezbollah kidnapped a pair of Israeli soldiers on the border.” Not “on the border” but inside sovereign Israeli territory. Further, not the kidnapping of two troops only, but also the killing of eight, wounding of three and kidnapping—and killing—of two more, under cover of sustained mortar and rocket fire targeting numerous Israeli civilian areas.
That kidnapping two soldiers on the border would have been unlikely to cause the war can be seen by the fact that three weeks earlier, on June 25, 2006 Hamas terrorists fired mortars at IDF positions near the Gaza Strip, infiltrated Israel, killed two soldiers and kidnapped one—without leading to a general Hamas-Israeli war.
Washington also had something to say
Among the important omissions:
The Post quoted an Israeli commander of paratroopers saying “Hezbollah is not a group or organization or a movement. It’s an army. A big terrorist army.” But it failed to note that the United States designated Hezbollah as an international terrorist organization nearly 20 years ago (“Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” U.S. Department of State).
There is no mention of Hezbollah’s long record of anti-American terrorism, including the 1983 bombings of the U.S. embassy in Beirut in which 63 people, including 17 Americans, died and of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in the city that killed 241 service members and others.
According to The Post, “ten years ago, Hezbollah fired 4,000 short-range, relatively crude rockets at Israeli, about 100 a day, killing some 50 Israeli civilians. Today, the group has 100,000 rockets, including thousands of more accurate mid-range weapons with larger warheads capable of striking anywhere in Israel anywhere in Israel….”
Nowhere does the newspaper report that Hezbollah’s weapons, including the rockets and missiles, violate U.N. Security Council resolutions 1593 and 1701, both of which call for disarmament of all Lebanese groups except the country’s military. Resolution 1701 was adapted to help end the 2006 Hezbollah-Israeli war.
Genocidal intent goes unmentioned
The Post reported “Hezbollah poses a far greater threat to Israel than it did 10 years ago. The challenges posed by Islamist militant movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip are almost trivial by comparison, Israeli senior commanders say.”
The newspaper said leader Hasan Nasrallah “warned that Hezbollah rockets could strike ammonia plants at the port in Haifa in any future fight, saying that the damage would be equivalent to an atomic bomb and could lead to the deaths of 800,000 people. ‘Haifa is just one of many examples,’ Nasrallah said. ‘The leaders of Israel understand that the resistance has the ability to cover the entirety of occupied Palestine with missiles.’”
Yet The Post failed to note the genocidal ideology Hezbollah and its threats serve. Like Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah’s antisemitism and anti-Zionism is annihilationist.
Hamas’ charter calls for the destruction of Israel, genocide of the Jews, and creation of an Islamic theocracy over what was Israel, the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Hezbollah’s Nasrallah has described Jews as descendants of apes and pigs, “Allah’s most cowardly and greedy creatures” and asserted “if we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say Israeli.”
The Post told readers the 2006 conflict “left more than 1,000 soldiers and civilians dead ….” This was an inadequate approximation. By many accounts, the fighting resulted in nearly 1,200 dead in Lebanon, of whom 532 were identified by Israel as Hezbollah members, with estimates of 700 or more Hezbollah killed. (See “Questioning the Number of Civilian Casualties in Lebanon,” CAMERA, Sept. 7, 2006.)
Among Israelis, 121 soldiers died—The Post did not mention this figure—and 44 civilians were killed. The Post wrote “some 50 Israeli civilians” were killed.
“Israel on alert over growth of Hezbollah” contained much of value to readers. However, by error and omission, The Post article still managed to recall the “wet-streets-cause-rain” view of journalists’ too-frequent struggles with cause-and-effect.