the Camera Lens: Television's Conflicting Reports
By Jamal Dajani
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
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
God help us...
(New America Media Commentary)