Aiding And Abetting Hezbollah’s Propaganda War

The Sydney Morning Herald is guilty of it. Today the paper is running a piece with accusations from various doctors that Israel is using chemical weapons against Hezbollah in Lebanon:

Lebanon is investigating reports from doctors that Israel has used weapons in its 15-day-old bombardment of southern Lebanon that have caused wounds they have never seen before. “We are sending off samples tomorrow, but we have no confirmation yet that illegal weapons have been used,” Health Minister Mohammed Khalife said.

The Israeli army said it had used only conventional weapons and ammunition in attacks aimed at Hizbollah guerrillas and nothing contravening international law.

Blackened bodies have been showing up at hospitals in southern Lebanon two weeks into the war between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas that has seen at least 418 people, mostly civilians, killed in Lebanon and at least 42 Israelis. Killed by Israeli air raids, the Lebanese dead are charred in a way local doctors, who have lived through years of civil war and Israeli occupation, say they have not seen before.

Bachir Cham, a Belgian-Lebanese doctor at the Southern Medical Centre in Sidon, received eight bodies after an Israeli air raid on nearby Rmeili which he said exhibited such wounds. He has taken 24 samples from the bodies to test what killed them. He believes it is a chemical. Cham said the bodies of some victims were “black as shoes, so they are definitely using chemical weapons. They are all black but their hair and skin is intact so they are not really burnt. It is something else.” “If you burnt someone with petrol their hair would burn and their skin would burn down to the bone. The Israelis are 100 per cent using chemical weapons.”

[…]

Television footage shows some bodies, such as those of 20 civilians killed when an Israeli missile hit the van in which they were fleeing the border village of Marwaheen, blackened in the way Cham describes. No one knows what killed them. “We are seeing abnormal burns, different from wars we’ve seen in the past. The corpses of these victims are shrinking to half their normal size. You think it is the corpse of a child at first but it turns out to be a grown man,” said Raed Salman Zeinedine, director of Tyre Government Hospital. “We’ve never seen anything like it but what the causes are I don’t want to speculate. We have no scientific answer.”

The Israel Army said it did not target civilians at all. “We use only weapons and ammunition which will best hit our targets and cause least collateral damage,” said army spokesman Captain Jacob Dallal. “It could be that a body is burned from fire or the force of an explosion, but between that and suggesting we do something illegal under international law are two different things.”

The story also quotes Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch who is investigating these claims and suggests that Israel might be using phosphorus which has “a legitimate use in illuminating the battlefield at night” but, if used offensively, is “a violation of international conventions.”

The charge that any country is using chemical weapons is a serious one indeed and it should go without saying that the media should not publish such an accusation until they have proof of its accuracy. And as far as I can tell, the only sources for this story were a couple of doctors in Lebanon that certainly could have an animus towards Israel at the moment.

Nevertheless, The Herald has now legitimized a wild accusation against Israel that only serves to help Hezbollah’s propaganda war. It’s rumor mongering plain and simple. This story will doubtless spread regardless of its accuracy and, as Steven Taylor observes, “one guesses that the mere accusation will solidify into known fact in the minds of many in the anti-Israel world.”

UPDATE (James Joyner): I agree that the SMH report has the effect of bolstering Hezbollah in the propaganda war. However, I disagree that they, therefore, have a duty to sit on a story that appears to be based on at least some reasonable basis. Not only are there doctors making these reports but we have Human Rights Watch investigating. And the second sentence of the story contains a strong disclaimer from the Lebanese government: “We are sending off samples tomorrow, but we have no confirmation yet that illegal weapons have been used,” Health Minister Mohammed Khalife said.

Indeed, I’m rather sure that Israel is using white phosphorous (WP, Willie Pete) shells or something similar for illumination and marking purposes. It’s not at all clear what advantage they would gain from using them as offensive weapons, however.

________

Related: U.S. Used “Chemical Weapons” in Falluja

FILED UNDER: Media, Middle East, , ,
Greg Tinti
About Greg Tinti
Greg started the blog The Political Pit Bull in August 2005. He was OTB's Breaking News Editor from June through August 2006 before deciding to return to his own blog. His blogging career eventually ended altogether. He has a B.A. in Anthropology from The George Washington University,

Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    You know, if this idea of the media as a priesthood would just go away, we wouldn’t see posts like this.

    If (presumed?) third parties are asserting the use of chemical weapons, then that is news. The media does not owe Israel or any other country any obligation to independently investigate whether or not chemical weapons are indeed being used. They should check with the IDF and supply any additional facts that they possess, but there is no such thing as an obligation to wait until they have videotape of a chemical attack.

    A media report “legitimizes” nothing.

  2. Steve says:

    If (presumed?) third parties are asserting the use of chemical weapons, then that is news. The media does not owe Israel or any other country any obligation to independently investigate whether or not chemical weapons are indeed being used

    They may not owe Israel anything but they owe us, the reading public, the truth not speculations disquised as truth. I contend that putting speculations in a newspaper is assumed by most as facts because that is what we expect from the news media. Anderson, you are a perfect example of this. The article states

    The story also quotes Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch who is investigating these claims and suggests that Israel might be using phosphorus which has â??a legitimate use in illuminating the battlefield at nightâ?? but, if used offensively, is â??a violation of international conventions.â??

    What does the word “might” mean to you. Obviously it means a fact because you state

    If (presumed?) third parties are asserting the use of chemical weapons, then that is news.

    Your only question is if the assertion comes from a third party not if the assertion is speculation which if you read the quote again you will see that it is purely speculation.

  3. LJD says:

    Hitting the bong early today, aren’t you Anderson?

    You say the media has no responsibility to verfiy ‘third-party’ reports?

    Like, yeah, I just watched little green men airlifting WMDs out of Iraq. You have a responsiblity to report it, because Andersen says its news!

    The standard journalists should be held to is verfiying, by scientific evidence that chemical weapons were used. Then verifying, with some proof (date stamped video, reliable witness accounts, etc.) that said weapons were actually used BY the Israelis, and that these ‘strangely burned bodies’ were the actual victims.

    God help us if reporting goes the way of area 51 and UFO/Martian stories.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Steve,

    What’s untrue or even speculative about this?

    Lebanon is investigating reports from doctors that Israel has used weapons in its 15-day-old bombardment of southern Lebanon that have caused wounds they have never seen before. �We are sending off samples tomorrow, but we have no confirmation yet that illegal weapons have been used,� Health Minister Mohammed Khalife said.

    Khalife is the Health Minister. He said that. Lebanon is, presumably, indeed investigating. They have no confirmation.

    How has the reading public been failed?

    Now, again, the Tinti/Taylor point that the mere allegation will stick even if the investigation proves nothing happens is likely true. But, by that standard, the press should never have reported that Al Gore wanted a recount in 2000 and that there was a series of court battles over that.

  5. Anderson says:

    Like, yeah, I just watched little green men airlifting WMDs out of Iraq. You have a responsiblity to report it, because Andersen says its news!

    Okay, reputable or quasi-official third parties, like the minister of health. That eliminates me and LJD.

    Note that LJD’s proposed standards would’ve prevented any newspaper’s breaking the story of the Holocaust, had any survivor/escapees turned up to report it. (Actually some did & the story got nonreported anyway, which I guess helps my point.)

  6. LJD says:

    So now we’re dealing with a Lebanese holocaust? Nice choice of examples. You really are too much.
    At least you’re consistent though. You likely wouldn’t give U.S troops the benefit of the doubt either.

  7. LJD says:

    …and you have the audacity to call Maliki an anti-semite.

  8. Ryan says:

    Hey guys, how do you let ideology get in the way of basic morality and decency? Ascribe to the principles of the author of this post on Fallujah and dismiss any possiblity of criminal conduct by your favored party because your side is purer and better. It is racist to argue such a position. In Iraq, American soldiers confirmed we used white phosporous as a weapon. I’d bet money Israel is too, seeing as how they’re a branch on the same tree.

  9. Herb says:

    Over and above the news accusations of the use of chemical weapons by Israel are those who aid and abet the terrorist by their words in public discussions, newspapers, Television and the Blogs condemning those who actually fight the War on Terror.

    I have seen it here on OTB, as well as every reader and commenter. We have read comments made by those who condemn Israel for using “Overwhelming Force”, “Killing of Civilians”, and general bigoted comments against Israel. I really wonder if their comments come from ignorance, stupidity or a hate for Jews. But one thing I can say for certain is, “They are Aiding and Abetting Terrorism”, everywhere in the world.

    Obviously, they have not realized that their support for terrorist in the GWOT can only lead to their own Life or Death as well as their families.

  10. Neo says:

    �Phosphorus shells do have a legitimate use in illuminating the battlefield at night.”

    This is not quite true, unless you intend to exacerbate the darkness with smoke. Phosphorus shells are usually used for smoke, either to obscure or mark an area. Sometimes the smoke is used to flush out occupants of tunnels or trenches, as the fumes are an eye and nasal irritant.

    My guess is that that the Israelis are using multiple artillery pieces to fire at this particular area, and one of them fired a phosphorus shell to mark, with smoke, where it’s shells were going (i.e. to differentiate it from the rounds of the other artillery pieces).

    The ironic part of this story may be that these unfortunate people may have been hit by a shell that was meant to keep the artillery firing as accurately as possible.

  11. Steve says:

    Whatâ??s untrue or even speculative about this? Khalife is the Health Minister. He said that. Lebanon is, presumably, indeed investigating. They have no confirmation.

    James,
    I never quoted this part of the story. My point was that the article as a whole was leading readers to believe that there was a strong possibility that Isreal was using chemical weapons even though there was no verifiable proof. I used Anderson’s comment to show how people’s thoughts can change from what is written to what they say based on their “filters.”

    Now, again, the Tinti/Taylor point that the mere allegation will stick even if the investigation proves nothing happens is likely true. But, by that standard, the press should never have reported that Al Gore wanted a recount in 2000 and that there was a series of court battles over that.

    Now, using your standard, Dan Rather was perfectly within his reporters’ rights to report the alligations against President Bush. I do believe the critisism of Mr. Rather is that he didn’t verify the authenticity of the documents that the allegations were based on. Is the standard “news” or is the standard “truth”? Do readers deserve “news” or do we deserve “truth”?

  12. Anderson says:

    So now weâ??re dealing with a Lebanese holocaust?

    Didn’t say that.

    I do believe the critisism of Mr. Rather is that he didnâ??t verify the authenticity of the documents that the allegations were based on.

    In Rather’s case, verification was rather easy, as PowerLine et al. quickly demonstrated. Gross negligence. Also, it was a big newsmag story, not a daily news report. Long before that CBS report, it was widely reported in various news outlets that Bush shirked various aspects of his TANG duty. Accurately, to judge by the lack of any persuasive rebuttal even today.

    Remember how the White House froze in the headlights when the CBS special came out, until the blogs started shooting the forgeries down? They were afraid the docs were real. Even the secretary of the guy who’d supposedly wrote the letters says that they accurately reflected what he thought and said at the time.

    FWIW, I suspect that the relevant docs were destroyed after Bush became governor, and the dumbass forger thought he would just undo the process.

    All a tempest in a teapot though. If Bush were a good president, no one would care about his TANG misdeeds, and being the terrible president that he is, no one need reach that far back for material to criticize him on.

  13. LJD says:

    Once again we see the lunacy of the left, where it doesn’t matter at all if something actually occurred. All it takes is their deep desire to believe that it is true.

    So Ryan, smart guy, care to provide me a link to your credible source, where our guys deliberately used WP as a weapon?

  14. legion says:

    LJD,
    Boo-yah.

    US troops used white phosphorus as a weapon in last year’s offensive in the Iraqi city of Falluja, the US has said.
    “It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants,” spokesman Lt Col Barry Venable told the BBC – though not against civilians, he said.

    The US had earlier said the substance – which can cause burning of the flesh – had been used only for illumination.

  15. Anderson says:

    But Legion, did the BBC independently perform scientific tests to see whether the Lt. Colonel’s report was accurate?

  16. Fake but accurate works for you, eh Anderson? Especially since we are talking about Chimpy McHitlerburton.

    I don’t remember the White House freezing up when CBS tok its best shot at influencing the outcome of the general election on September 8, 2004, especially since it only took a few hours before the authenticity of the documents in question were, well, in question. By the morning after the broadcast, Charles Johnson had posted irrefutable evidence that the documents were forged. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for that deer in the headlight look, unless, of course, you assume that having one’s eyes open constitutes a deer in the headlights look.

    As someone else once said, you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. Bush may be every bit as bad as you say he is, but you’re going to have to do better than this if your want to convince anyone not sitting in the choir.

  17. Anderson says:

    Fake but accurate works for you, eh Anderson?

    Um, no actually. Where did I say that?

    Still waiting for that decisive argument based on the UNFIL mandates, btw.

    I donâ??t remember the White House freezing up

    See Dave Neiwert on the White House response.

  18. Herb says:

    It’s guys like Anderson, who “Aid and Abet Hezbollah” with his constant whining about so called failures and errors of the Bush Administration. He has not realized that negative rhetoric about Bush is perpetuating the terrorist cause and giving them strength to carry out another 9/11. He has also shown his negative thoughts about Israel in the current war with the terrorist. He has not learned that it is very wrong for him to put his personal feelings and ambitions above that of this country. His constant and consistant criticism of Bush only satisfies his own ego and is not a help in the GWOT. He has not learned that terrorist also watch the news, read the newspapers, and read the blogs.

    If you watch Anderson carefully, you will see that he only gets his vast amount of knowledge and insight from others that support the views he expresses.

    In other words, He Plagiarizes most everything he says.

  19. Michael says:

    The standard journalists should be held to is verfiying, by scientific evidence that chemical weapons were used. Then verifying, with some proof (date stamped video, reliable witness accounts, etc.) that said weapons were actually used BY the Israelis, and that these “strangely burned bodies” were the actual victims.

    Does this mean that journalists are to be held to a higher standard of accuracy that the DoD? I mean, our secretary of state went before the entire UN to claim that Iraq has WMDs, without any more proof than this.

    They’re journalists, people, not scientists. Whoever wrote that report probably could point out white phosphorous from a road flare. If my opinion, the journalist here was at least responsible enough to note that it was only suspicions and investigations. They quoted doctors, not laymen. Sure they were Lebanese doctors, the victims are in Lebanon! They are sending off sample, presumably for independent identification and verification by a third party.

    I agree with James that they have no obligation to sit on this story. They aren’t reporting that Israel did use non-conventional weapons, they’re reporting about the possibility that Israel used non-conventional weapons. That is a story in and of itself.

  20. Anderson says:

    If you watch Anderson carefully, you will see that he only gets his vast amount of knowledge and insight from others that support the views he expresses.

    In other words, He Plagiarizes most everything he says.

    Has anybody been able to figure out Herb’s concept of “plagiarism”? It appears to be a synonym for “learning from others.”

    If that’s the case, then Herb is to be admired for his resolute originality.

    (I’ll pass over the bit about how I’m a terrorist supporter, since I suppose it would get my comment deleted if I replied to that as it merits–although, strangely, Herb is allowed to dish out such things.)

  21. Anderson says:

    Oh, and (sign of the times) I’d missed Tinti’s treason-baiting post title.

    Could conservatives try going a whole month without accusing any media outlets of treason? Just as a spiritual exercise?

  22. Ok, Mr. Anderson, in your words:

    FWIW, I suspect that the relevant docs were destroyed after Bush became governor, and the dumbass forger thought he would just undo the process.

    If you can’t see why that isn’t buying the fake but accurate argument, then you will never understand why I’m not going to spend the time to explain the UNIFIL mandates to you.

    Finally, when Big Media goes a month without helping our enemies, then perhaps conservtaives can go a month without accusing any Big Media outlets with treason. Fair enough?

  23. Herb says:

    “learning from Others”

    That’s A REAL GOOD JOKE:

    Everyone WHO WATCHES YOU AND READS YOUR COMMENTS KNOWS FULL WELL THAT:

    You have demonstrated to everyone here “You don’t Learn a Thing”. You Know Everything.

  24. Anderson says:

    FWIW, I suspect that the relevant docs were destroyed after Bush became governor, and the dumbass forger thought he would just undo the process.

    The documents may have been “fake but accurate” but that doesn’t “work for me”; fraud is fraud.

  25. Anderson says:

    Everyone WHO WATCHES YOU AND READS YOUR COMMENTS

    But why on earth would anyone do that?

  26. LJD says:

    Boo yah?

    Let’s get back to the subject of the post ‘Aiding and Abetting Hezbollah’s Propaganda War’. Some thing Legion and Anderson seem more than happy to do. (and in other cases aiding Al Qaeda in their war against the U.S.)

    I’ll admit, I didn’t see the release on this, however I don’t get my news from BBc either. But let’s take a look at the link YOU provided.

    It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants,” spokesman Lt Col Barry Venable told the BBC – though not against civilians, he said.
    Col Venable denied that white phosphorous constituted a banned chemical weapon.
    Col Venable told the BBC’s PM radio programme that the US army used white phosphorus incendiary munitions “primarily as obscurants, for smokescreens or target marking in some cases.
    “However it is an incendiary weapon and may be used against enemy combatants.”
    And he said it had been used in Falluja, but it was a “conventional munition”, not a chemical weapon.
    It is not “outlawed or illegal”, Col Venable said.
    He said US forces could use white phosphorus rounds to flush enemy troops out of covered positions

    Kinda changes the picture you painted. But hey, keep on fighting for the other side.

    The claims made in Iraq, and that which the liberal media jumped on board with, was that the U.S. used it AGAINST CIVILIANS. If that’s not propaganda, I don’t know what is.

    Perhaps it would have been wise to not jump in with both feet until they had all the facts. Now more than ever, propaganda is intimately tied to the GWOT. We all know Hezbollah and Al Qaeda use it to their advantage. The problem is we are more than willing to use it on ourselves.

  27. LJD says:

    We also used nerve gas, musard gas, and napalm, right? This had to be reported, because its ‘news’.

    http://globalresearch.ca/articles/LOR503A.html

  28. legion says:

    Only in LJD’s world is it considered helping the enemy to actually notice facts. What did you ask for, LJD?

    So Ryan, smart guy, care to provide me a link to your credible source, where our guys deliberately used WP as a weapon?

    And that’s exactly what I showed you, from the US Army’s own mouth.

    The claims made in Iraq, and that which the liberal media jumped on board with, was that the U.S. used it AGAINST CIVILIANS.

    Oh, NOW you want a different strawman to play with, since the old one took his ball & went home? First of all, Fallouja, where the US was originally noted for using WP as a weapon, is (was) a city. There were still civilians in it. There’s been no confirmation that civilians were actually hit by the WP, but if you fire WP into a city, even targeted at the bad guys, there’s always a chance you’ll accidentally hit civs instead – it’s a reasonable question to have asked if that happened.

    This particular thread is about Israel possibly firing WP into Lebanese cities and possibly hitting civs by mistake as well. This too is a question that has to be asked – is using WP offensively worth the risk of hitting the wrong target with it? That’s not ‘helping the enemy’ – it’s taking a cold look at our (or in this case, Israel’s) tactics and deciding if they work. Asking questions is not disloyalty.

  29. LJD says:

    You have ‘proven’ nothing. Did you even read the link you provided, or mine?

    A ‘civilian’ in a bunker that needs to be ‘rooted out’ (i.e. actively firing on us) is a combatant.

    This is unconfirmed rubbish.

  30. legion says:

    I do, LJD. Do _you_ even read what you _type_? You asked for a reference on the US using WP as a weapon. I gave it.

    Whether Israel is doing the same thing (to combatants or civilians) is, as you say, unconfirmed. But it’s a totally separate issue from what you asked about.

    As for the accusations that the US used nerve gas, etc. in Iraq, I don’t give that globalreasearch article any more credence than you – I note tho that even the article admits that only the Christian Science Monitor and Al Jazeera even mentioned the accusations. Not even the EEEEEEEVIL CNN or NYT bought into that tripe.

  31. LJD says:

    I’m not going to argue semantics or play word games with you, Legion.

    The point was, to put it veeerrry simply, was the insinuation that the U.S. (or Israel) did something illegal (i.e use banned weapons or attack civilians). That was clearly not the case, however I see you choose to think it so. e.g. Your assumption that since Fallujah was a ‘city’ that ‘civilians’ must have been targeted.

    Ryan’s original comment, to which I was responding, suggested criminal conduct, and (gasp) racism!

    So what is your take on my link? Is it ‘news’ to report that we used nerve or mustard gas, or napalm? Some guy saw it happen so it must be true, right?

    You prove my point exactly about the propaganda. You want so badly to prosecute the administration that you are willing to believe unsubstantiated claims by the enemy, even at the expense and safety of our troops, who you so whole-heartedly ‘support’. Get a grip.

    My personal feeling, that if there are a bunch of cowardly terrorist hiding in a bunker, and it is not in violation of international law, use the WP to get them out and save American lives. Unless of course, you have come up with some touchy-feely, painless way for us to kill these guys. Euthanasia bombs?

  32. legion says:

    Wow, you’re stupid. Let’s deconstruct…
    Ther was an accusation that the US used WP as an offensive weapon. That’s not playing semantics, jacka**, that’s reading your own words and assuming you actually meant them. If you can’t type the question you actually want answered, that’s not my problem. The US initially denied using using WP as an offensive weapon at all. That denial was wrong – we actually did use it offensively – but WP clearly doesn’t qualify as a “chemical weapon”, so no actual crime occurred. It appears to be completely legal to use WP against the enemy – the entire debate here is about whether Israel is taking reasonable care not to hit civilians when they shoot at Hezbollah. Nobody here yet has said they shouldn’t be shooting at Hezbollah.

    Next, I _never_ said or even implied that civilians were deliberately targeted by either the US or the Israelis – go back to reading comprehension 101. I said firing into a city runs the risk of hitting civilians. There is no concievable way to confuse that statement with an accusation of targeting civilians. You’re being deliberately stupid now.

    Finally, you go completely off the deep end, making crap up out of whole cloth… if you actually grasped basic english, you’d see in my previous post that I agreed with you that the the article you linked accusing the US of using nerve gas, etc. was crap.
    Sheesh.