Large sections of the international media are not only misreporting the current conflict in Lebanon. They are actively fanning the flames.
The BBC World Service [heard locally on WHYY-91FM] has a strong claim to be the No. 1 villain. It has increasingly come to sound like a virtual propaganda tool for Hezbollah, and as it desperately attempts to prove that Israel is guilty of committing "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity."
While the slanted comments and interviews are bad enough, the degree of pictorial distortion on BBC-TV is worse. The way many stations worldwide portray it, you would think that Beirut has begun to look like Dresden and Hamburg in the aftermath of World War II air raids.
International TV channels have used the same footage of Beirut over and over, showing the destruction of a few individual buildings in a manner which suggests that half the city has been razed.
From the distorted imagery, selective witness accounts, and almost round-the-clock emphasis on casualties, you would be forgiven for thinking that the level of death and destruction in Lebanon is on a par with that in Darfur, where Arab militias are slaughtering hundreds of thousands of non-Arabs.
The BBC would, of course, never reveal how selective their reports are, since this might spoil their campaign to demonize Israel and those who support her. But one senior British journalist, working for another company, last week let slip how the news media allows its Mideast coverage to be distorted.
CNN "senior international correspondent" Nic Robertson admitted that his anti-Israel report from Beirut on July 18 about civilian casualties in Lebanon, was stage-managed from start to finish by Hezbollah. He revealed that his story was heavily influenced by Hezbollah's "press officer" and that Hezbollah has "very, very sophisticated and slick media operations."
When pressed a few days later about his reporting on the CNN program "Reliable Sources," Robertson acknowledged that Hezbollah operatives had instructed the CNN camera team where and what to film. Hezbollah "had control of the situation," Robertson said. "They designated the places that we went to, and we certainly didn't have time to go into the houses or lift up the rubble to see what was underneath."
Robertson added that Hezbollah has "very, very good control over its areas in the south of Beirut. They deny journalists access into those areas. You don't get in there without their permission. We didn't have enough time to see if perhaps there was somebody there who was, you know, a taxi driver by day, and a Hezbollah fighter by night."
Yet "Reliable Sources," presented by Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz, is broadcast only on the American version of CNN. So CNN International viewers around the world will not have had the opportunity to learn from CNN's correspondent that the pictures they saw from Beirut were carefully selected for them by Hezbollah.
Another journalist let the cat out of the bag last week. Writing on his blog, Time magazine contributor Christopher Allbritton, casually mentioned in the middle of a posting: "To the south, along the curve of the coast, Hezbollah is launching Katyushas, but I'm loathe to say too much about them. The Party of God has a copy of every journalist's passport, and they've already hassled a number of us and threatened one."
It's not just that the supposed crimes of Israel are completely overplayed, but the fact that this is a two-sided war (started by Hezbollah) is all but obscured. As a result, in spite of hundreds of hours of broadcasting by dozens of BBC reporters, you wouldn't really know that hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been living in bomb shelters for weeks, tired, afraid, but resilient; that a grandmother and her 7-year-old grandson were killed by a Katyusha during a Sabbath dinner; that several other Israeli children have died.
Some international journalists seem to find it amusing or exciting to bait the Jews. They don't understand yet that Hezbollah is part of a worldwide radical Islamist movement that has plans, and not pleasant ones, for all those — Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Jew — who don't abide by its wishes.
Tom Gross is a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.