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Israel sells its story on a new Lebanon war, and the 'Times' bites

If you’re going to publish ominous warnings portending the killing of scores of civilians, shouldn’t you verify the grounds and ask why?

Soldiers from the IDF's Egoz Reconnaissance Unit, which specializes in guerrilla warfare in southern Lebanon. (Illustrative photo: IDF Spokesperson/Flickr)

Soldiers from the IDF’s Egoz Reconnaissance Unit, which specializes in guerrilla warfare in southern Lebanon. (Illustrative photo: IDF Spokesperson/Flickr)

In an article published on the New York Times website today, Israel sells the author, Isabel Kershner, the pretense for its next war: its claims that Hezbollah has dramatically beefed up its military infrastructure along Israel’s northern border.

Those claims on their own don’t come as much of a surprise. It’s been widely acknowledged that Hezbollah has increased its capabilities in southern Lebanon. Nor is the overt battle cry the most ominous part of the piece. What’s most concerning is Israel’s warning that since Hezbollah has embedded its facilities within southern Lebanese villages, all bets are off when it comes to their residents. They are now human shields, Israel says. “At the end of the day, it means that many, many Lebanese will be killed,” the piece quotes Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser, as saying.

That’s one of a number of warnings in the piece, which are quite chilling when taken in context. Israel killed more than 1,000 Lebanese during the 2006 Second Lebanese War. Its relentless air strikes destroyed extensive civilian infrastructure. Human Rights Watch later found that the strikes were indiscriminate, targeting civilian areas long after Hezbollah had left them. (Forty-four Israel civilians were killed in that war, along with 119 soldiers.) There’s little reason to believe the next round will be less bloody, and plenty of reason to believe it will be deeply familiar, or worse:

An Israeli expert familiar with military planning said that if Israel attacks Lebanon again, it would probably do so in three phases. First, it would strike without warning at targets that pose the greatest threat, he said; then it would call for civilians to evacuate southern Lebanon. Once a critical mass of people had left, ground troops would move in.

But beyond reminding readers of what we have to look forward to, it’s hard to understand why this piece was published. Its problems are manifold. It’s a government-packaged story with a bit of added background. It fails to recognize the irony of officials in their central Tel Aviv military headquarters lambasting Hezbollah for embedding among civilians. It doesn’t do much to substantiate the story it’s echoing. “The Israeli claims could not be independently verified,” Kershner (or her editor) writes.

If Israel is paving the way for another war, shouldn’t its claims be thoroughly, painstakingly investigated before they’re used as a pretense to kill hundreds or thousands of people?

It’s possible that Kershner indeed believes, as she indicates, that the story she was peddled could prevent the next war. But it’s as hard to imagine Hezbollah retreating from southern Lebanon as it is to believe it will proactively seek to add an Israeli front to its Syrian morass. It’s much easier to imagine a simmering buildup of tensions, a mounting of cross-border incidents, and, heaven help us, another bloodbath. Followed by a ceasefire. Repeat. Just like Gaza. Kershner doesn’t address or even allude to the wisdom of another military campaign – one that is, again, sure to end up empowering the Lebanese group, and one that all signs indicate it doesn’t want.

It certainly seems that Israel learned the wrong lesson from the most recent Gaza war. Instead of reexamining its rules of engagement, which turn civilians into fair game, it has chosen the tack of trying to preempt criticism of future carnage. “We told you this would happen,” they’ll be able to say.

With Israel’s war drums only getting steadier, that’s not so surprising. But is it the job of a New York Times journalist to give them her platform?

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    1. mt noise

      So Israel isn’t allowed to use the same rules that the US is using in its bombing of Syria/Iraq? That is, be careful but not lose sleep if civilians are caught in the crossfire or are human shields.

      Reply to Comment
      • sh

        The diff is that Syria and Iraq are very far from the US, which makes it easier for America not to lose sleep over civilian casualties resulting from their actions. I’ll leave you to work out the rest.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ginger Eis

          Indeed, Sh. Just imagine what the United States would do if it had Hezbollah at its borders lobbing thousands of missiles into US civilian populations, killing US citizens and rendering them wheelchair bound for life, etc. I will leave you to work out the rest. Pls., in “working it out”, do not forget to factor in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, etc. that do not even share border with the US; do also not forget Pakistan and other places where the US is currently using drones to root out its enemies and killing hundreds of innocent civilians in the process. What an excellent power of thought you have, “Sh”!

          Reply to Comment
          • Yeah, Right

            Ginger: “Just imagine what the United States would do if it had Hezbollah at its borders lobbing thousands of missiles into US civilian populations, killing US citizens and rendering them wheelchair bound for life, etc.”

            Ginger, Hezbollah are doing none of those things to Israel.

            Not. A. One.

            And even though Hezbollah are doing none of those things to Israel it appears that the IDF is determined to attack Lebanon, and sooner rather than later.

            Not because of what Hezbollah are doing (it’s doing nothing) but because of what Hezbollah *could* do if it decided to do something. Which it hasn’t.

            That’s the very definition of a war-monger.

            Reply to Comment
          • sh

            Ginger Eis threw the thousands of bombs and stuff in to make readers forget the 18 years Israel’s army spent in Lebanon and what it did there that led to the formation of Hezbollah, but the Lebanese probably remember very well. The reason Israel went into Lebanon in 1982 was not Hezbollah, which didn’t even exist at the time, it was Palestinian guerrillas who were attacking Israel from Shi’a territory, the most defenceless, poverty-stricken and despised part of Lebanon at the time.

            She conjectures about the countries on the US’s borders and how the US would deal with them if…. A relatively newly independent US annexed bits of Mexico which had just gotten rid of its Spanish occupiers and was trying to be free. And it recently built a very high wall between the prosperous former and chaotic latter. It blockaded and boycotted Cuba for several decades but has recently opened its arms (ahem) to it. From WWII to the present it’s mostly been really busy fighting wars in distant lands – minimises US civilian casualties no end. I don’t recall the US following its withdrawal from one of them by plowing them flat a few years later, leaving pretty cluster gadgets behind as souvenirs for their innocent to maim and kill themselves on to this very day.

            To get back to the subject in hand, after last summer’s devastation of Gaza, we’re tuning up again to clobber Hezbollah (who are Lebanese nationals, note, with representatives in the country’s parliament) on the pretext that that will remind Iran not to get uppity with the nuclear reactors. Or something.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            Sh, regardless of why Israel went into Lebanon and whether or not it was justified, we both agree on this key facts:

            1. Israel is not occupying an inch of Lebanon today and does not want to go back into Lebanon;

            2. Israel wants normalization with Lebanon (like she has with Egypt and Jordan), but Lebanon has till date said ‘no’ to us;

            3. Israel has wholly and utterly nothing to gain from any war with anyone in Lebanon. On the contrary, Israel will lose tens of her best and finest in the IDF and civilians and suffer damage to infrastructure, wide spread international criticism as a result of civilian deaths on the Lebanese side and rise in anti-Semitism in Europe, while wasting billions of dollars in financing a war for totally nothing.

            These indisputable facts defeat the whole theme of this article by Noa. All we want from Lebanon is to be friends and trade-partners. Nothing more. Nothing less. Bearing in mind what I said above, why would we want to fight war a OF CHOICE in Lebanon? Pls. give me one good reason.

            Reply to Comment
          • sh

            We don’t. Your key facts are not indisputable:
            1: Ghajar, “Har Dov”. (Don’t bother quibbling with me about whether they are Syrian or Lebanese, that’s up to them to decide, not us).

            2. With the bits of Lebanon that suit it. Neither Egypt nor Jordan ever suffered the devastation to infrastructure, the political interference, or the lengthy occupation that Lebanon did.

            3. Gas, water, maritime jurisdictions.

            So what was Defense Minister Bogie Ya’alon talking about the other day if not future civilian casualties in another war with Lebanon? And in front of a large room full of people and press, as well. Sure, he blamed civilian casualties squarely on the human shields thing as usual, but, as we all know, we too are human shields and people who live in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones. Noa Yachot’s article was a reaction to an article published in the New York Times, not village hearsay.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            1. Sh, we will discuss all the points you raised one-after-the-other and see if they can withstand simple tests. Let’s begin with the first point you raised which is this:

            “Ghajar, “Har Dov”. (Don’t bother quibbling with me about whether they are Syrian or Lebanese, that’s up to them to decide, not us)”.

            2. To that I reply as follows:

            “After consultations throughout the weekend, the Security Council this afternoon endorsed the work done by the United Nations as mandated by the Security Council, including the Secretary-Generals conclusion that, as of 16 June, Israel had withdrawn its forces from Lebanon in accordance with Security Council resolution 425 (1978)”.

            http://www.un.org/press/en/2000/20000618.sc6878.doc.html

            3. Question

            Is it your position, Sh, that NOT the UNSC, but rather Hezbollah that determines whether or not Israel has completely withdrawn from Lebanese territory? Is that is not your position, then surely, Sh, both of us indeed agree that Israel has indeed withdrawn from Lebanon as required by International law, no?

            (re-post. Ignore the earlier ones I sent since yesterday if they miraculously show up)

            Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            1. Sh, we will discuss all the points you raised one-after-the-other and see if they can withstand simple tests. Let’s begin with the first point you raised which is this:

            “Ghajar, “Har Dov”. (Don’t bother quibbling with me about whether they are Syrian or Lebanese, that’s up to them to decide, not us)”.

            2. To that I reply as follows:

            “After consultations throughout the weekend, the Security Council this afternoon endorsed the work done by the United Nations as mandated by the Security Council, including the Secretary-Generals conclusion that, as of 16 June, Israel had withdrawn its forces from Lebanon in accordance with Security Council resolution 425 (1978)”.

            http://www.un.org/press/en/2000/20000618.sc6878.doc.html

            3. Question

            Is it your position, Sh, that NOT the UNSC, but rather Hezbollah that determines whether or not Israel has completely withdrawn from Lebanese territory? Is that is not your position, then surely, Sh, both of us indeed agree that Israel has indeed withdrawn from Lebanon as required by International law, no?

            (yet another re-post. First post was sent more than a day ago and is still missing. You are a +972mag insider, aren’t you?)

            Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, Right

        I think that the article itself is questioning the “facts” that you are using to underpin your “logic”.

        As in: Israel **says** that Hezbollah are preparing to use civilians as human shields, but the NY Times reporter did not verify that what Israel **says** is true is actually, you know, true.

        What if it isn’t true, Mt Noise?

        What if the IDF has decided that its tactic in the next war is to deliberately target civilians, and the NY Times is simply being used as a propaganda rag.

        What then, sunshine?

        Reply to Comment
      • RudyM

        That the U.S. should serve as any kind of model of the prosecution of wars is laughable.

        I’m American and I deplore U.S. war crimes as much as I deplore Israeli war crimes. However, I do wish Hezbollah all success in retaliating against Israel if Israel attacks Lebanon again on a large scale.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Cheema Khaled

      I thought Israel would have started the fourth attack on Gaza by now to target practice on Palestinian civilians living in the rubble. — Or does Israel stick to a 2 year cycle of “Mowing the Lawn” in Gaza??

      Reply to Comment
    3. Whiplash

      “If Israel is paving the way for another war, shouldn’t its claims be thoroughly, painstakingly investigated” By whom the UN? The UN allowed Hezbollah to rearm. The UN does not operate in Shiite villages. The Lebanese army does not interfere with Hezbollah operations. UN peace keepers avoid confrontations with Hezbollah to protect their own rear ends. The international community has done nothing to prevent Hezbollah from establishing it military bases and continuing to threaten Israel.

      Israel has decades of surveillance on Lebanon to know what Hezbollah is doing. The context is Hezbollah, which Lebanon and the UN were to prevent from rearming in southern Lebanon, has heavily rearmed and has done so by placing their military infrastructure within Lebanese Shiite villages in Southern Lebanon. Israel does not have the luxury of ignoring the Hezbollah buildup next to its border. The Times reports on this build up:

      “Muhaybib looks like a typical southern Lebanese village — a cluster of about 90 houses and buildings punctuated by the minaret of a mosque and surrounded by fields.

      But when the Israeli military trains its lens on that hilltop Shiite village close to the border, it sees nine arms depots, five rocket-launching sites, four infantry positions, signs of three underground tunnels, three antitank positions and, in the very center of the village, a Hezbollah command post.
      ….
      Maps and aerial photography provided to The New York Times by Israeli military officials this week illustrate, they say, that Hezbollah has moved most of its military infrastructure into the Shiite villages of southern Lebanon and around their perimeters. Israel says this amounts to using the civilians as a human shield.
      ….
      The Israeli military says that a few miles northwest of Muhaybib, in the larger village of Shaqra, with a population of about 4,000, it has identified about 400 military sites and facilities belonging to Hezbollah, which Israel says has been armed by Iran and Syria.

      Zooming out over a wider section of southern Lebanon, the Israeli military says the number of potential targets for Israel in and around villages runs into the thousands.”

      The fact is that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization with military fire power which threatens Israel. Hezbollah has no right to hold arms or to make war. Yet it has made war on Israel. It is helping Assad kill Syrians in Syria. It has for many years been rearming itself and preparing for its next war with Israel.

      Israel has warned. If war comes, many civilians living within Hezbollah bases in Southern Lebanon will die. If the international community wants to avoid this situation it should disarm Hezbollah, by force if necessary, or evacuate the civilians now. However, the international community will do nothing to prevent Hezbollah’s ability to wage war and then complain about Israeli actions in defence of its civilian population.

      Reply to Comment
      • David T.

        “and has done so by placing their military infrastructure within Lebanese Shiite villages in Southern Lebanon.”

        Like Israel did near Arab villages?
        http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2007-12-31/israeli-war-tactics-criticised/

        “Israel has warned. If war comes, many civilians living within Hezbollah bases in Southern Lebanon will die.”

        Because Israel reacts disproportionate and indiscriminate. It’s implemented Dahiya doctrine is all about increasing the suffering of civilians.

        So who are you trying to fool with your war crimes apology?

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          Israel has nothing to apologize for. It does not locate active firing positions within Arab cities in Israel. Unlike Hezbollah it does not place missile firing positions within civilian homes. Israel does not have missile firing bases in any Arab town or village in Israel. Israel does have bases outside of both Jewish and Arab cities, towns and villages but does not conduct firing of missiles or rockets from them. Hezbollah has built its military positions in the heart of Shiite villages in Southern Lebanon.

          Israel is relocating bases in the Negev away from built up areas, while Hezbollah is doing the opposite. It is building its military infrastructure inside of Lebanese villages without any legal authority.

          Hezbollah is a terrorist organization which has no right to bear arms within or without any village in Lebanon. Israel as a sovereign nation has the right to bear arms to protect itself.

          Reply to Comment
          • David T.

            Israel’s Dahiya doctrine = state terrorism

            Of course nothing to apologize for, if someone supports terrorism.

            Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, Right

        “By whom the UN?”

        No, by Isabel Kershner, New York Times reporter.

        NYTimes: “The Israeli claims could not be independently verified,”

        Then maybe, juuuuuust maybe, Kershner should have held off publishing that article until she had that independent verification.

        Or, at the very least, publish under a more accurate headline: the IDF is already planning to kill lottsa’ civilians, but intends to blame Hezbollah.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Dr,Joji Cherian

      Times did not “bite” it. It is the co conspirator or coauthor of the project.It may even be the originator of the project

      Reply to Comment
    5. Miguel

      Good article, but it was The New York Times, not The Times, as the headline says. Different newspapers.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Danny

      Yaacov Amidror is a known war criminal, whose “career” has included the justification and planning of several mass killings of civilians. If Israel goes on another “adventure” in Lebanon that ends up with the mass killing of thousands of civilians, Amidror should have an international arrest warrant issued against him.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Bar

      I like how the author casually pretends the IDF’s rules of engagement are something he can speak of thanks to a link that connects to a story about Breaking the Silence’s “report.” Kids, the BTS report does not have any credibility, unless, of course, you like your information to be needlessly anonymous and without any corroborating evidence whatsoever.

      Reply to Comment
        • BigCat

          Here is the deal Brian/”Ben”/”David T.”: present the facts from Bts/Shaul Yehuda as you see them and see how you will be demolished.

          If I am not mistaken, English is your first language. I may therefore assume that you can present arguments and engage in a debate in writing instead of posting links and asking others to debate with the link, moron.

          Let the duel start, Brian. Let us put the credibility of the Bts report to a test. What is your case, based on your link?

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            It’s ok, Yehuda Shaul says (see posted video) he knows how angry he makes people like you and that’s ok. It is upsetting news he’s bringing you. He knows that. That’s his job. He’s ok with your anger. So am I. He also says it’s not his job to tell people what to do with the documentaries he publishes, that’s their job. Good luck.

            Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            Facts, moron, facts!

            Present the facts as you see fit/according to Bts and lets debate their credibility. Stop looking for a face saving way out with your usual gibberish, Brian alias “Ben” alias “David T”.

            Present the facts….

            We are STILL waiting…..

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            What a waste of time that would be. You’ve proven that. Actions have consequences. Sorry. Adults realize that.

            Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            Brian Ben David T. Dekkers (lol), so you can’t present a single fact from the BTS-report you rant and ramble about? What a very credible report that must be!

            I rest my case.

            Reply to Comment
    8. Ginger Eis

      1. Ms. Noa Yachot acknowledges the following key facts:
      a. Hezbollah is preparing for- and will initiate the next war with Israel;
      b. Hezbollah has increased its capabilities in southern Lebanon;
      c. Hezbollah has embedded its military arsenal within villages in southern Lebanon;
      d. The residents of southern Lebanon are thus being used as human shields by Hezbollah, something that is a war crime under International law;

      2. The above – Ms. Noa Yachot, is not “a pretence to war”, but rather ‘justification for war’ under International law! Given the same circumstances, the United States Of America, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, etc. would have gone to war and rooted out the deadly threat to their civilian populations once and for all. But Israel has chosen to wait until thousands of missiles begins to fall on- and start killing and maiming her civilian population. Why does Israel not act like her Western counterparts, you ask (thank you for asking)? Because Israel does not want war and will do everything necessary to avoid war. But if and when war breaks out, the civilians in Lebanon will be given enough time to pack their stuff and get out. Anyone who remains behind will have him-/herself , the government of Lebanon and Hezbollah to blame – not Israel. That is International law.

      3. If y’all care about peace and human rights as y’all pretend to, now is the time to call out Islamic Hezbollah on the war-crimes it is perpetrating by building up its military arsenal amongst civilians and preparing to fight a war from behind their wives and children. Start now, hypocrites!

      another re-post. Ignore if the original miraculously emerges).

      Reply to Comment
      • David T.

        “Because Israel does not want war and will do everything necessary to avoid war.”

        Really? How did it ever acquire its territory? Occupation is war.

        “… the civilians in Lebanon will be given enough time to pack their stuff and get out. Anyone who remains behind will have him-/herself , the government of Lebanon and Hezbollah to blame – not Israel. That is International law.”

        No, that’s Zionist intranational law and Hasbara nonsense. Israel’s Dahiya doctrine tries to increase the suffering of civilians. That’s a war crime aimed to terrorize.

        Reply to Comment
    9. Joel

      “Israel killed more than 1,000 Lebanese during the 2006 Second Lebanese War. “Forty-four Israel civilians were killed in that war, along with 119 soldiers.”

      How come the article distinguishes Israel civilians from soldiers, but doesn’t distinguish Lebanese civilians from soldiers?

      Why?

      Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, Right

        “How come the article distinguishes Israel civilians from soldiers, but doesn’t distinguish Lebanese civilians from soldiers?”

        Probably because the IDF deliberately obfuscates the difference between Lebanese civilians and soldiers, while it does care about the distinction between Israeli civilians and soldiers.

        Reply to Comment
    10. Yeah, Right

      Isabel Kershner: ” “The civilians are living in a military compound,” a senior Israeli military official said at military headquarters in Tel Aviv,”

      At. Military. Headquarters. In. Tel. Aviv.

      Mull that quote again, and ask yourself if there is a Hebrew word for “irony”.

      Apparently there isn’t.

      Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, Right

        Isabel Kershner’s son also serves in the IDF (though, to be fair, she’s not Bureau Chief).

        Heck, for all we know it was her son who told her what to write: “Hey, Mom, I’ve been asked to show you this…..”.

        Reply to Comment
        • BigCat

          Why is it that you like to talk about other people’s “mother” all the time?

          It seems you have info on the personal life of Isabel Kershner and her children?! Lets hope nothing happens to them.

          Reply to Comment
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