Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Why Lebanon is losing public opinion in Central Europe

Every time the Italians win the World Cup, Lebanon gets invaded by Israel. It happened in 1982 and it’s happening again. Pure coincidence?

Well of course.

What is not left to coincidence is what is reported by the media outside the Middle East.

One of many Lebanese watching the destruction of their homeland from afar, it is hard to really imagine what is going on the ground from a distance. Having left Beirut just one week before the beginning of the Israeli onslaught, I can’t but visualize Lebanon as the Lebanon of the past several years.
I can’t imagine the Manara being damaged nor can I imagine the total destruction of Dahye or the obliteration of the Casino and Zouk bridges….

In order to get a picture of what’s really going on in Lebanon, I can’t really rely on the good old television set anymore. The internet is what is to be consulted nowadays, for anybody interested in this conflict needs a myriad of sources in order to be able to paint a realistic picture of how things look like at ground zero. Foreign TV stations do not show images of grizzly, dismembered bodies; something I agree with to a certain extent. But most also do not show the countless destroyed buildings and infrastructures in Lebanon.
I’m currently in Zurich, Switzerland. The TV stations I receive are channels from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. And of course CNN.

Most people worldwide receive CNN International and we all know that CNN International (let alone CNN America) broadcasts with a certain level of bias, to the advantage of Israel, of course. PM Olmert gets a lot of air time to explain his position and so do many Israeli generals and pro-Israeli American military and political figures and analysts.
Any Katyusha attack on Israel gets close up and prolonged coverage although the carnage and toll of death in Lebanon are much higher.

The Germans might as well be broadcasting in Hebrew. After the Katyusha attack on the IDF reservists in Kfar Giladi last Sunday the German reporter in Haifa was shedding tears describing how all those soldiers were in fact normal people with wives and children at home. I suppose he forgot that they were about to be sent to fight on the front lines and were most likely to kill innocent people with families. A German analyst on another channel lambasted the Lebanese authorities which are responsible for releasing the casualty figures for not being accurate in their reports. He was criticizing the Lebanese to have reported that there were over 50 deaths as a result of the Qana bombing, where in fact there were “only” 28.
Either way, by watching German news one does not get any historical background to the conflict and one actually gets the impression that Hizballah was holding the South hostage and killing its residents and that in effect, Israel was helping the Southerners.
And as to how many pictures they transmit of the level of destruction in Lebanon. Close to none.

The Germans of course, due to their history, are uncomfortable criticizing Israel. But given that it is Europe’s largest economy and most populous country one should expect their citizens to have the right to more balanced reports.

The broadcasting in Switzerland and Austria is of a more measured nature. Especially the Austrians broadcast many images of destruction in Lebanon and also have reported on the plight of the refugees. With that, they try to give the conflict a human face and do a good job at it.

On the other hand in all the countries mentioned above, serious political analysis completely gets neglected which results in many egregious mistakes which of course sink into the mind of the viewer. For example it is reported everywhere, that in this conflict Hizballah were the first to fire missiles over the border, which isn’t true. These statements were taken as the truth by the media after the interviewing of countless Israeli officials in order to get details of the initial flare up. The Israelis of course, say such things in order to try to justify their aggression to the international community. Only rarely do we find reports about the Lebanese political situation, let alone a report about Hizballah as an organization (i.e as a result of an earlier Israeli occupation) or what goals they might have been seeking with the abduction of the two soldiers. And if we find reports on the Lebanese situation the reports are wrong, for example yesterday it was reported that Lebanon has over a million Palestinian refugees. Not to forget the conception held abroad that all Shi’ites in Lebanon are Hizballah party members and thus are terrorists.
Concerning this war, essentially most reports read the same: Hizballah are terrorists who attacked Israel for no reason whatsoever, abducted soldiers and fired missiles into northern Israel and now Israel is flushing out the terrorists.

Most people can relate to that. After all who wants terrorists attacking you for no reason?
This war, in the eyes of central Europe at least, has in essence become a part of George. W. Bush’s war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lebanese are scattered all over the world. Usually they fill important positions in all sectors of an economy in their host countries and contribute a lot as individuals to their new communities. But come time for the Lebanese diaspora to get together as a strong community and try to educate the local media and population as to what is true and what not, the Lebanese fail miserably. It is crucial to educate our European friends and ingrain in them an interest in Lebanon, if we are to gain them as political friends or as tourists, both attributes would translate into better economic conditions for Lebanon.
The Jewish community is far ahead of us in this regard. Every time there is a report in the evening news or a newspaper article of which the Jewish community disapproves, you can be sure to hear about their complaints the very next day. Complaints which the media and the responsible government institutions take very seriously. And if you keep complaining long enough you just might get your way…..


  1. Thanks for posting this. I too share your position on how we, the Lebanese, are far behind in the media war in many countries.

    I cannot express how crucial your points are. We need to get our act together ASAP and start by revealing how the conflict did not start several weeks ago, but several decades ago!

  2. Actually I am in the US right now, and I do watch occasionally the American news here, if you think CNN is biased... wait to see all the local ones! It's mostly as you described it but even worse, they focus on the fact that Hezbollah are terrorists, provided with weapons by Iran, sponsored by Syria, taking the "poor beautiful" country Lebanon as hostage, controlling Lebanon, killing people in Israel, talkin about Israel's losses while showing pictures from Beirut...
    And this is precisely the reason I did my blog.


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