Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How Reuters Rewrites an Israeli Intelligence Analysis to Ignore its Conclusions and Use it Against Israel

By Barry Rubin

The pervasive media slant on Middle East issues is so obvious that it’s funny, and also transgresses the proper rules of journalism.

Here’s a headline on a Reuters dispatch today:

“Israeli official doubts Syria's clout on Hezbollah.”

So, you’d think, Syria isn’t that responsible for what the Lebanese Islamist organization does. In fact, the purpose is shown in the lead:

“Syria may not be able to curb Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas, a senior Israeli official said on Tuesday, casting doubt on the feasibility of a long-standing Israeli condition for a peace deal with Damascus.”

Get it? So Israel cannot ask Syria to stop providing Hezbollah (I prefer Hizballah but I’ll stick with Reuters transliteration here) with advanced arms or not urge it periodically to attack Israel. The poor Syrians are just innocent little lambs.

But what was Amos Gilad, former military intelligence chief and today an advisor to Israel’s defense minister actually saying?

He was saying first that Syria has less influence because Iran is the main sponsor of Hezbollah; second that Hezbollah practically controls Lebanon; and third that Hezbollah can start a war when it chooses and drag in Lebanon, as happened in 2006.

So the headline and lead might have been:

Israeli official says Hezbollah is an arm of Iran.

Or

Israeli official says Hezbollah now dominates Lebanon.

After all, at almost this exact moment, Hezbollah and its allies were naming ten cabinet ministers of thirty in the new Lebanese government. The group--and through its blog also the Iranian and Syrian governments--now have veto power over every decision taken by the Lebanese state.

These are both bigger stories than the headline chosen.

Oh, yes, and there was a third theme to Gilad’s talk that was also very important but which isn’t mentioned in the article. I wonder why? He said that Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip was so effective that Hamas has been intimidated into reducing its attacks on Israel to a minimum. In other words, the war achieved its objective. This runs counter to the view, of course, that force is useless for defeating terrorists (or for any other purpose for that matter).

He also said, and this is barely mentioned in the article, that if Iran gets nuclear weapons the threat from Hezbollah will be worse, that it is more likely to seize real control over Lebanon or to attack Israel.

In short, Reuters tells us the political point it wants to be derived from Gilad’s talk rather than what he actually said.

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