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Journalists Fail to Explain Qana

By David Warren

My reader may be wondering what happened to all the coverage from Qana. As usual, when the "liberal" media begin to realize they've been had, the story disappears. But it is never properly corrected. We get a few days of blazing headlines, and round-the-dial TV coverage of an "Israeli massacre", laden with innuendos, and then -- the fade-out. This will not do.

What happened at Qana was, almost certainly, what happened at Jenin in 2002, what happened on a beach in Gaza a few weeks ago, and what has happened on innumerable other occasions. The Israelis are instantaneously accused and convicted of a monstrous and perhaps intentional act of butchery, by people quite incurious about the facts. Their pathological hatred of "Zionism" is all the proof they need. These are people who seldom bother to shed even crocodile tears when Jews are blown to pieces by suicide bombers, or rockets are fired indiscriminately into their homes; but become tremendously excited when the news breaks that some Israeli retaliation may have gone wrong.

It took several months to clarify what had happened at Jenin -- a staged massacre. It will take several months before something like the true story emerges, from Qana. By which time no one will be listening. (The ideologues will continue citing the original lies, regardless.) And yet in both these cases -- Jenin and Qana -- indications of fakery were visible from the beginning.

The Israelis quickly released real-time aerial reconnaissance footage to show the Hezbollah firing rockets from between houses in Qana; then pulling the launchers immediately afterwards into civilian buildings. The Israeli military logged three air strikes around Qana in the course of the evening in question, including one next to the houses that were destroyed. So while it was possible the Israelis had dropped the bombs that killed 54 people -- coincidentally all women and children -- it was, at the worst, unintended "collateral damage" near a valid military target.

The Israelis had extensively leafleted Qana for more than a week before the air strikes, telling civilians to evacuate, and warning just what would happen. Over the same period, Hezbollah pumped 150 Katyusha rockets into northern Israel from in and around this village. Hezbollah are notorious for refusing to allow civilians to evacuate (as U.N. observers have attested), and even preventing their flight at gunpoint. The argument that people "could not get out because the Israelis had wrecked the infrastructure" is rubbish. Once invited by Hezbollah, journalists got into the village quickly, all the way from Beirut. It follows that Hezbollah bears not some, but all of the moral responsibility for civilian deaths at Qana.

But we are still assuming the Israeli air strikes collapsed the houses. That theory begins to crumble, itself, when you look at the times logged for the Israeli air strikes. The houses were first reported to have been destroyed more than seven hours after the air strike next to them (the other strikes were about half a kilometre away). And even if they collapsed by delayed effect, why were women and children allowed to spend the night in a building on the point of collapsing?

Now look at the media pictures. Immediately you see several fishy things. For one, bodies displayed to media are removed, successively, from a single neat hole in the ruins. There is no evidence of a rescue mission having been mounted, or of a continuing search for bodies elsewhere under the rubble. The battered bodies do not resemble those which are seen after most real explosions and building collapses: their wounds do not look recent. All the blood and gore seems to be on just one body.

Moreover, as bloggers such as "Eureferendum" have demonstrated, by juxtaposing press photos from various newspapers, the men showing off the bodies -- and identified in captions as "Lebanese rescue workers" -- are the same as had been present at previous alleged atrocities. They are obviously not rescue workers, but Hezbollah propaganda agents.

The way they are handling and displaying the bodies is entirely inconsistent with rescue work. For instance, they hold up a dead child's head for the cameras; they point to a pacifier still strung around his neck. But notice: the child's body is covered in plaster dust, but the pacifier is clean. Such evidence of staging is glaring, everywhere.

Obvious questions: Did all or any of the victims die at this site? Was the event staged to produce exactly the effect on "world opinion" that was achieved? And in a symbolic location, last used to a similar purpose in 1996?

I do not see how full-time journalists, specializing in the Middle East, can excuse themselves for not asking such questions immediately. I do not see why they cannot spot with their own eyes, what bloggers can spot in their photographs and reporting, thousands of miles away.

We know all about Hezbollah. It is for the journalists now to explain what they were doing, playing the clowns in an Hezbollah circus.


Update: Since this was written, I see the Lebanese Red Cross has reported the number of bodies at the site was 28, not the 54 or 57 that our press and TV took on faith from Hezbollah. And, persons presented as survivors adjusted the time of the incident to coincide better with the proximate air strike the Israelis logged. I have no idea what actually happened. But in the absence of a credible investigation, nobody else has, either; and the dramatic media presentation of the story "as told by Hezbollah" must be assigned to the annals of anti-Israeli propaganda, not journalism.

© Ottawa Citizen

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