War Through the Camera Lens: Television's Conflicting Reports
By Jamal Dajani

Monitoring Arab, Israeli, Iranian and US satellite television networks in a time of war is an exhausting job. Trying to make sense of the commentaries and analysis of the current conflict is an exercise in futility.
I have been switching back and forth between channels for what seems like forever. I spent 10 hours at the office, came home, had dinner, rested a bit and took a shower. I felt refreshed.
It’s almost midnight in San Francisco, 10 a.m. in Beirut. I have been watching Al Jazeera and Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. (LBC) for the past two hours. The field reporting on Al Jazeera is excellent. They know how to connect the dots: Beirut, south Lebanon near today’s fiercest battles, Haifa, Jerusalem and then Gaza. Later I’ll watch some CNN after a repeat of Larry King.
On U.S. networks, I often find myself watching celebrity anchors who put the spotlight on themselves more than the conflict itself. More airtime is devoted to these talking heads than to the story of 14 members of the same family buried beneath the rubbles of a bombed building; or the half million people made refugees in Lebanon; or the rockets falling on Haifa; or the four U.N. observers who were just killed. Meanwhile, several networks consistently introduce many of their so-called Middle East experts as independent analysts when they’re often right-wing Lebanese Christians or members of Israel-backed think tanks with agendas and axes to grind.
At times, the coverage has resembled the early days of the war on Iraq. Retired generals have been recruited into action by most major networks to dazzle viewers with computer-generated battle scenes. Superstar anchors with little or no experience in the Middle East -- the likes of CNN's Anderson Cooper -- are parachuted into Haifa and Beirut. Even CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta gave us his health report from northern Israel and Beirut. This time, however, he taught me nothing about my health. Sanjay’s face beamed with excitement as he shadowed Lebanese and Israeli doctors around hospital operating rooms.
In the fog of war, news is muddled with opinion. Many reporters seem to wear their flags on their sleeves, and I am not speaking just about Arab and Israeli journalists. Also in the midst of that same fog of polemics, accusations seem to flourish in the media and on college campuses.
In an opinion piece published in the Los Angeles Times, Alan Dershowitz, a professor of Law at Harvard University and author of the book “Making the Case for Israel,” argues that there is a vast difference between “innocent” civilian casualties such as those in Israel and those who “voluntarily place themselves in harm’s way in order to protect terrorists from enemy fire.” In short, he absolves Israel of its killing of many if not most civilians in Lebanon and Palestine. I don’t know how Dershowitz's mind functions. Perhaps in his next op-ed he'll find a way to legitimize the killings of the four UN observers.
On a Lebanese network, Ra’ed (Thunder) a beautiful baby of a few hours is shown on camera in the city of Tyre. “Ra’ed was made homeless even before he was born,” the reporter says. “Ra’ed will grow up to bring down his thunder and seek vengeance from those who had pillaged his country and killed his brothers and sisters,” the reporter adds.
God help us...
(New America Media Commentary)


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