Just because I was curious, I checked out the Kuwait Times online to see how an Arab nation that’s pretty much on the sidelines is reporting on the Israel-Hezbollah War. I didn’t have to look very far. One of the headlined articles is “Israel on baby-killing spree.” Bizarrely, the article not only does not support these extreme conclusion, it contains facts supporting the opposite conclusion — which is that Israel is trying not to hurt Lebanon’s civilian population.
For example, the first two paragraphs, which one might think would support the title’s proposition, contain some fairly straightforward reporting, including a statement from an Israeli spokeswoman to the effect that they tried to clear civilians from a Hezbollah target:
Israeli air strikes killed 14 villagers in south Lebanon yesterday as Beirut pleaded for a swift end to Israel’s war with Hezbollah guerrillas that has cost around 1,000 Lebanese and 101 Israeli lives in four weeks. Diplomats at the United Nations in New York said a vote on a resolution to end the war might not take place before tomorrow, as fighting in south Lebanon raged on. The vote has been delayed because Lebanon demanded the resolution include a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the south. “We are working to have a quick ceasefire or at the very minimum an end to acts of aggression,” said Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. “Then displaced people can return to their homes.” An Arab League delegation yesterday also called for the UN Security Council to order that Israeli forces be withdrawn from Lebanese territory as part of any UN resolution on a truce deal.
Israeli air raids killed 14 people and wounded 23 in the southern village of Ghaziyeh, rescue workers and hospital officials said. The bombs fell as mourners elsewhere in the village were burying 15 people killed by a raid there on Monday. An Israeli army spokeswoman said the building hit belonged to a senior Hezbollah member and was not near the funeral. She said all residents had been told in advance to leave. Four Israeli soldiers were killed fighting guerrillas, raising Israel’s military and civilian death toll to 101 in the war ignited by Hezbollah’s capture of two soldiers on July 12. [Emphasis mine.]
The story then goes on to acknowledge the rain of Hezbollah rockets on Israel, as well as to report in straightforward fashion Israel’s statement that it will expand operations, dissatisfaction with the UN proposed peace plans, Beirut’s intention to send 15,000 troops to Southern Lebanon, etc. From this news it switches to human interest stories about Hezbollah supporters complaining both about Israeli aggression and the passivity of the Lebanese government. One of these people obliquely acknowledges Israel’s efforts to protect Lebanese civilians when he complains that his community didn’t get the usual Israel notice that the village was an imminent target. I don’t know if that means Israel intentionally didn’t give notices, the civilians didn’t get the notices, or the village was an accidental target. Because Israel is getting no credit for her efforts to insulate civilians — as is evidence by the article’s fact-unrelated headline — she may stop dropping the notices, because all they do is allow Hezbollah, which has mobile missile launchers, to relocate.
And that’s kind of the whole article. There’s not a single word in the article to support the headline — indeed, there are at least two points in which the article points to Israel’s efforts to protect noncombatants — and yet there lies that horrible accusation — Israel is intentionally slaughtering Arab children.
It’s a peculiar cognitive dissonance that allows a newspaper to do what is, by MSM standards, a fairly straightforward report, but nevertheless to caption it with something that parallels a medieval blood libel. I’d be curious to know about the effect on Kuwaiti readers of this chasm between lede and story. Does the average reader even get to the story? Does he read it and wonder, as I did, why the headline was attached and, if he does, does he start looking with a jaundiced eye at other, similar claims? Or does he simply accept with equanimity an extreme claim for which there is no proof?