People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
August 06, 2006
The Mainstream Media On Lebanon
THE mainstream media is playing dirty on Lebanon – as it has on many other issues of public concern in recent times – with impunity, identifying India’s ‘national’ interest with the aggressor Israel rather than the victim Lebanon, and further identifying interests of arms dealers and the narrowest sections of the ruling classes in India with those of the Indian people, not to speak of the rather unashamed defence of imperialism against democracy. The facts of the Israeli aggression and its devastation of Lebanon have been grossly under-reported and sanitised, in order to minimise negative public opinion against Israel and the US government, which is overseeing the massacre of hundreds of innocent civilians and the wounding of thousands, and the devastation of the infrastructure in the country rebuilt with great hardship during the last fifteen years.
The current phase of aggression began on July 12, 2006, from which date Lebanon has been subjected to a total blockade. The cities and the villages are besieged; the airports, the roads, the bridges, the factories, the ports, the power stations and the dwellings are bombarded continuously and without any respite. Tens and tens of civilians have been killed each day since then, hundreds are wounded everyday, hospitals are overflowing, and hundreds of thousands of Lebanese are fleeing these horrible attacks. The civilian populations are trapped and truly taken as hostage. The Lebanese economy has been put to ground in a matter of days. All the humanitarian convoys – ambulances, drugs, food – are bombarded by the Israeli aerial attacaks. All the communication and means of transport are destroyed to isolate the population and to better strike it thereafter.
The number of those displaced is reported to be between 800,000 and 900,000, out of a population of little more than four million. According to Lebanese and international sources, Beirut's international airport as well as other smaller airports, have been destroyed or are unfit to be used. Lebanon's principal seaports have similarly been bombed, as have more than 60 bridges and 70 roads, along with electrical power plants, fuel tanks, gas stations, civil defence centre, radio stations, factories, schools, hospitals, ambulances – including those of the Red Cross – warehouses, moving vehicles, church and mosque, as well as hundreds of residential houses. (Irene Gendzier, ZNet, July 31, 2006).
According to a July 25 Associated Press report, Lebanese doctors in Tyre were treating patients who were suffering from burns caused by phosphorous incendiary weapons used by Israel. The AP report indicated that the Geneva Conventions prohibit the use of "white phosphorus as an incendiary weapon against civilian populations and in air attacks against military forces in civilian areas… Researchers from Human Rights Watch have reported that Israel used cluster munitions in the village of Blida on July 19. The Human Rights organisation provided photographs of "M483A1 Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions, which are US-produced and -supplied, artillery-delivered cluster munitions." (Gendzier)
And the ‘civilised’ world, including our government which claims to represent the heritage of ‘thousands’ of years of pluralistic culture and tolerance, has been looking on, and more important going along, with the patently false justificatory excuses that this entire devastation is in response to violence from the Lebanese. Can the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah be a justification for this genocide? Yet the ‘civilised’ world dithered in a way that should shame us. And such dithering has been made to sound credible because the media has not played its role of putting the facts of the case for public scrutiny.
SECOND PHASE OF AGGRESSION
Newspapers which never tire of telling us that the Hindutva anger on Babri masjid was based on old, historical ‘grievances’ cannot think it proper to go back even twenty years in the case of Lebanon. Few, except the most politically conscious of citizens of this country, will know that as in the case of Iraq, this is a second phase of aggression, that Lebanon was one of the most modern societies, that it has a mixed population of Muslims and Christians with a Muslim majority, that the US government in its typical fashion had supported fundamentalism there in its bid to establish a pliant regime, and that Israel has virtually been in occupation of Lebanese territory for decades. In 1982, 17,000-20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians killed as a result of the Israeli invasion, followed by the savage massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila at the hands of Israel’s Ariel Sharon and his allies, Lebanese Phalangists.
As Siddharth Varadarajan has pointed out in an exceptional opinion piece, “It is Israel’s legacy of disastrous wars against Lebanon that lies at the root of the present problem. Tel Aviv cannot take refuge under the claim that Hizbollah attacked first. Israel remains in illegal possession of Lebanese territory – the Sheba farms – and is thus an occupying power. Secondly, there has hardly been a day since its withdrawal from Lebanon two years ago that Israel has not violated Lebanese air space or territorial waters. Thirdly, Israel has refused to provide the Lebanese government with a map of the thousands of landmines it buried throughout its erstwhile occupation zone in southern Lebanon, leading to the death and maiming of Lebanese civilians on an almost monthly basis. Fourthly, it is Israel that first placed civilians, including its own citizens, at risk by indiscriminately bombing Lebanese towns and villages.” (The Hindu, August 1, 2006 p.11).
The Israelis hold in their dungeons several hundreds of Lebanese prisoners including some for more than 20 years. Tens of resolutions were voted by the United Nations (UNO) against Israel and none has ever been respected without getting the reaction of all the self-called ‘democratic and free’ countries. Are these facts not available to our media?
The Indian Express has now given an “exclusive” on how beholden we are to Israel, in the bargain detailing, the arms deals that the BJP government made with Israel, and which the Congress-led government continues with. (Indian Express, August 1, 2006, pp. 1, 2) The CPI(M) is of course dubbed the villain by this newspaper for having called for snapping military ties with Israel. We are told that it was Israel that came to the rescue of India during the Kargil war, and how after an SOS from the defence ministry, Israel’s director general defence, Amos Aron, flew to New Delhi on June 5, 1999 and ensured that supplies were immediately delivered. It says that “during the Kargil conflict, Israeli teams even helped the Army interpret images taken by UAVs, helping it surmount the almost disabling lack of weapon-locating radars.” This is followed by a description of the various weapon systems for which we are beholden to Israel.
The appearance of such a report at this juncture can only serve Zionist interests. It amounts to supplementing its strong advocacy of Israel in the editorial, and aims at making it that much more difficult for the Indian government to express principled opposition to aggression on Lebanon, to ensure that it defends its ties and deals with Israel rather than condemn Israel. Arms form the bulk of the aid that the US gives to Israel, and on the other hand arms purchase form a major link in the ties that bind India and Israel. The place of arms sales in neo-liberal economics, and the linkages between new age imperialism, arms production, shady arms deals, and criminalisation of politics, have also brought into their fold the mass media. The right wing, sectarian, ideologies serve them well through advocating violent solutions as well as hiding their real intent behind claims of ‘civilisational faultline’ and ‘clash’.
The mainstream Indian media cannot preach pluralism and tolerance on one page while giving us sanitised versions of Zionist aggressions on another. It cannot mouth sympathy for the hares, while hunting with the hounds.