UPDATED: AP Timeline Obscures Arab Attacks

July 17 update follows.

July 13, 2006 — As Israel began responding to Hezbollah’s cross-border assault, the Associated Press was rewriting the history of conflict between Lebanon and Israel. On July 12, the wire service dispatched a skewed timeline entitled “A look at key events in Lebanon-Israel conflict.”

This isn’t the first time the AP has demonstrated a lack of objectivity by echoing the Lebanese/Hezbollah narrative.

For example, in July 2004, when Israel responded to an unprovoked attack by Hezbollah on two of its army technicians, the AP cast Israel as the aggressor, relying almost completely on Lebanese and Hezbollah accounts of the incident.

Similarly, an Associated Press journalist repeated Hezbollah propaganda by reporting as fact the terrorist group’s attacks on Israel were merely a response to Israeli “attacks on civilians”–even though other AP reports belied this claim.

After Hezbollah reignited hostilities on the Israeli-Lebanese border by firing missiles and kidnapping Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the Associated Press dispatched a timeline again distorting the nature of the conflict.

Ostensibly, the July 12 timeline provides historical context to the latest outbreak of hostilities. In fact, it distorts the history of conflict between the two sides, focusing almost exclusively on Israel’s response to aggression from Lebanon while ignoring Palestinian and Lebanese assaults:

A look at major events between Lebanon and Israel:

1978: Israeli forces invade south Lebanon to attack Palestinian guerrillas, retaliating for an attack on an Israeli bus that killed more than 35 people near Tel Aviv. U.N. Security Council calls for Israeli withdrawal and an international peacekeeping force for south Lebanon.

1982: Israel invades again, this time occupying part of Beirut. Israeli attacks leave up to 14,000 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians dead. Shiite Muslims form the militant group Hezbollah, which becomes the main opposition to the Israeli occupation.

1982: In September, the Israeli army moves into Beirut a day after Lebanese president-elect Bashir Gemayel is killed in a bomb explosion. Israeli-allied Christian militiamen massacre hundreds of Palestinians in Beirut’s Sabra and Chatila refugee camps.

1985: Israel retreats south, but sets up a border buffer zone in south Lebanon. Israel trades three Israeli soldiers captured by Palestinian guerrillas in 1982 for 1,150 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners.

1986: Israeli warplane shot down in south Lebanon, navigator Ron Arad captured by Shiite guerrillas. His fate remains unclear, but he is presumed dead.

1992: Israeli jets kill Hezbollah leader Sheik Abbas Mussawi. The group chooses current leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

1993: In July, Israel launches its heaviest artillery and air assault on south Lebanon since 1982 in bid to eradicate Hezbollah and Palestinian guerrillas.

1994: Israeli troops abduct Lebanese guerrilla leader Mustafa Dirani, hoping to use him to get information about missing Israeli Ron Arad. Israeli aircraft strike a Hezbollah base, killing about 50 guerrillas.

1996: In April Israel launches an operation in another bid to end guerrilla attacks. Israeli jets also strike Lebanese power stations. Israeli artillery kills more than 100 Lebanese civilians sheltering at a U.N. base in Qana, south Lebanon.

1997: Twelve Israeli soldiers killed in commando raid on south Lebanon.

2000: In May, Israeli troops withdraw from buffer zone, ending 18 years of occupation. In October, Hezbollah captures three Israeli soldiers, later found dead, in a border attack. Later the group kidnaps an Israeli businessman.

2004: Hezbollah swaps the Israeli businessman and the remains of the three Israeli soldiers for 436 Arab prisoners, including Dirani, and the bodies of 59 Lebanese fighters. Israel still holds at least three Lebanese prisoners and Hezbollah vows to win their release.

2006: On July 12, Hezbollah kidnaps two Israeli soldiers in cross-border raid. Israel responds by sending in tanks and by bombing bridges and roads in south Lebanon to try to prevent the hostages from being taken north.

Virtually every entry starts by naming Israel as the actor–”Israeli forces invade…”; “Israeli invades again…”; “the Israeli army moves into Beirut…”; “Israeli troops abduct Lebanese guerrilla…”; etc. By contrast, no aggressor is specified for the “attack on an Israeli bus” in 1978, nor the “guerrilla attacks” in 1996. Likewise, using the passive voice in the 1997 entry, AP avoids naming the killers of the Israeli soldiers.

AP also avoids mentioning numerous murderous attacks by Hezbollah and the PLO against Israel—attacks that are not only “key events” in the conflict, but crucial to understanding why Israel invaded Lebanon. In May 1974, for example, Palestinian terrorists infiltrated Israel from Lebanon, took Israeli school children as hostages in the town of Ma’alot, and murdered over 20 Israelis, most of them teenage girls. As BBC.com notes, “It was attacks like the one at Ma’alot that led Israeli troops to invade Southern Lebanon in 1978.” This and similar massacres by terrorists infiltrating from Lebanon surely belong on the AP timeline.

More recent Hezbollah attacks are ignored as well. The fatal July 2004 attack, and Hezbollah assaults on May 28, 2006, Feb. 3, 2006, Nov. 21, 2005 (to name a few) are not on the AP timeline.

Perhaps most surprising is that the word “Katyusha” is not mentioned even once on the timeline. The thousands of Katyusha rockets fired at Israel from Lebanon, which for years terrified and traumatized residents of northern Israel forced to spend their days in bomb shelters, are certainly a key part of the Lebanon-Israel conflict and vital to understanding Israel’s retaliations/invasions/attacks. Consider the AP report in December 1998 which notes that the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona was “so often hit by rocket attacks such as today’s that some Israelis call it ‘Kiryat Katyusha….’”

United Nations Security Council resolution 1559, which calls for the “disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias” and Hezbollah’s dedication to the destruction of all of Israel are also important points which could have been noted in the timeline–if only the AP were not so narrowly focused on Israeli acti on.

July 17 Update: New AP History is More Thorough and Balanced

Less than a week after the publication of AP’s problematic timeline and CAMERA’s critique, the wire service, to its credit, has dispatched a more thorough and balanced overview, “A look at the history of Lebanese-Israeli conflict.”

The updated piece acknowledges ongoing attacks against Israel from Lebanon, mentioning by name the attacks in Kiryat Shmona and Ma’alot and referring to the “Katyusha rockets being fired by Hezbollah into Israel proper.”

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