Having recently seen a programme on CNN on the doctoring of photos by Lebanese bloggers and other Arab media, one wonders why the Lebanese side is the only one to be scrutinized on that score. While it is probably true that some photos were doctored to exaggerate the damage done by Israeli bombardment of Lebanon, is it not possible that the same was done on the Israeli side, which, by the admission of all sides concerned, suffered but a fraction of the death and destruction sustained on the Lebanese side? The issue of doctoring treated on your programme made no mention of possible Israeli manipulation of the media, to which much evidence bears witness, both during the latest conflict and indeed since before the inception of the State of Israel in 1948. For example, it was revealed that the Israeli government was actually paying Israeli web surfers to monitor Lebanese blogs and write responses favorable to Israel. That strikes one as reminiscent of the Soviet Union's system of having CPSU commissars to spread party propaganda, or of banana republic dictatorships (including Arab ones) that bribe or blackmail writers and reporters to tow the government line, as we are constantly reminded by such Western news stations as CNN. This is not, of course to condone in anyway the corrupt and ossified regimes that plague the peoples of the Arab World. There have been countless cases in which Israel manipulated the media to its advantage. For example, in 1996 Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said that Palestinian Policemen's firing at Israeli soldiers was "a central breach of the Oslo Accord". He conveniently omitted to mention the fact that it was Israel that had first breached the Oslo Accord by re-occupying territories that it had previously handed over to the PA under the terms of the Oslo Accord signed by the previous Labor government in 1993. Further back in time, in 1967 the Israelis hit an American surveillance ship (the USS Liberty) off the coast of Sinai, claiming they had believed it to be an Egyptian vessel, although they had undertaken several reconnaissance flights and could hardly have been misled. The repertoire of Israeli stratagems in the domain of media manipulation is too vast to be fully documented here, as it might well fill volumes. The upshot of all this is that while media manipulation should not be condoned on either side, the most that can be said about the Arabs is that they have caught on, becoming more astute and media conscious, a fact pointed out by Beirut Bureau Chief Brent Sadler. It has always been one of the Israelis' greatest fears that the Arabs should become equally educated and savvy, an apprehension well illustrated in statements by a number of former Israeli Prime Ministers, including Netanyahu, Shimon Peres, and Golda Meir. If a self-respecting station like CNN wishes to report on Arab Media manipulation it must also report on Israeli media manipulation, for if it does otherwise it jeopardizes its reputation for journalistic objectivity and integrity. The ossified media of the west must know that the joke has worn thin.
Amer R. Saidi