Problems in Reporting the Israel-Hezbollah Exchange

The prisoner exchange between Hezbollah and Israel was accompanied by heavy media coverage of the actual deal as well as related events.  Not all of the mainstream coverage is accurate.

For example a International Herald Tribune / New York Times article by Dina Kraft incorrectly reported, “in Israel, where the captured reservists, Mr. Goldwasser and Mr. Regev, both university students, have been declared dead.” In fact, while they were widely presumed dead, the formal process to declare them dead, involving the Israel Defense Forces chief rabbi, had been halted.

Also, repeating an earlier uncorrected falsehood, the Los Angeles Times‘s Richard Boudreaux falsely reported the chronology of events surrounding the capture of Israeli reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev:

The war two summers ago started with a cross-border raid by Hezbollah aimed at seizing soldiers to bargain for the release of Kuntar, who was serving multiple life sentences, and other Lebanese prisoners.

Eight Israeli soldiers in a border-patrol convoy were killed in the raid and their bodies recovered. The Israeli military said Goldwasser and Regev, shown on video being half-carried and half-dragged into Lebanon, were seriously wounded and possibly killed in the attack.

The fighting escalated as Israel bombarded Lebanon from the air, and thousands of Hezbollah rockets rained on northern Israel.

But the fighting did not “escalate” with Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel (or an Israeli attack on Lebanon, for that matter.) The fighting started with Hezbollah rocket attacks, which were ongoing during the cross-border raid. As the Los Angeles Times’ own Laura King and Vita Bekker report July 13, 2006:

Under cover of rocket and shell fire at northern Israeli hamlets and border army posts, the guerillas sprayed gunfire at two armored Israeli jeeps patrolling the frontier. It was at the site of that attack, which left three soldiers dead, that two Israelis were captured, Israeli news reports said.

Likewise, the New York Times reported at the time:

The Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah surprised Israel with a bold daylight assault across the border on Wednesday [July 12]…. The fighting on the Lebanese border erupted around 9 a.m., when Hezbollah attacked several Israeli towns with rocket fire, wounding several civilians, the Israeli military said. But that attack was a diversion for the main operation, several miles to the east, where Hezbollah militants fired antitank missiles at two armored Humvees patrolling the Israeli side of the border fence, the military said. Of the seven soldiers in the two jeeps, three were killed, two wounded and two abducted, the military said. (Clashes Spread to Lebanon as Hezbollah Raids Israel, July 13, 2006)

National Public Radio made the same error in August 2007, and responsibly corrected with the following on-air correction Aug. 23, 2007 :

In a recent story we stated that last year’s conflict between Israel and Hezbollah erupted when Hezbollah launched a cross border raid and captured two Israeli soldiers. We then said that Israel unleashed air strikes and sent troops and tanks across the border. And Hezbollah retaliated by firing Katyusha rockets into Israel. In fact, Hezbollah launched an initial round of Katyushas at the time of its cross border raid. The katyusha attacks escalated and expanded to most parts of northern Israel after the Israeli air strikes began.

CAMERA will continue to monitor coverage of events as they develop, and to notify editors of errors in news reports.

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