Every war is in part a propaganda war, with each side trying to influence their own people, the people on the other side, and global opinion. In the current war between Hezbollah and Israel, efforts to persuade the outside world have been particularly intense.
A large part of the propaganda war is to portray the suffering of one’s own civilians in the most dire and dramatic light. As George Orwell– a wartime BBC propagandist himself– wrote in 1944, “[I]t is only in propaganda pamphlets that every bomb drops on a school or an orphanage.” But while Israel, unlike Hezbollah, is not directly targeting civilians, the suffering in war-torn areas of Lebanon is real enough.
The Los Angeles Times has a heart-rending account of the terrible hardhsip the war is causing innocent Lebanese. Putting aside for a moment the question of responsibility, in sheer magnitude it dwarfs the suffering of Israelis– although that too is real enough. Obviously Lebanese authorities and Hezbollah officials are pleased to provide easy access for journalists to the areas of worst suffering. (I suppose if the same journalists tried to track down Hezbollah missile storage sites, underground bunkers or kidnapped Israeli soldiers, the results would be much different.)
Israel of course fights the propaganda war too, though often in a puzzlingly inept way. For instance, the photo of children in Kiryat Shmona writing on missiles– whoever encouraged them– sent a misleading message of Israeli insensitivity to Lebanese suffering. (Especially on the internet, the propaganda war is often a battle of photographs.) And why didn’t Israel rush to provide an explanation for the bombing of a Lebanese milk factory? Was it intentional? If so, why was it considered a vital target at a time of growing food shortages in the country? Is there some way Israel can help assure minimal supplies of food, medicine and other necessities to Lebanon’s most vulnerable while continuing the fight against Hezbollah? Easy for me to say, I know. But for Israel the most humane approach possible is also the best propaganda.
I second Gene’s comments. Fighting the ‘wrong’ sort of war is not just immoral, it’s stupid. I went to the IDF site this evening to see what was written there about targeting of sites in Lebanon. I came across this:
Warning leaflets were airdropped this evening over the villages of Al Bazurya and Avasya in southern Lebanon to advise residents of coming IDF strikes on missile launch sites and cautioning that anyone near the sites is there at significant risk to his or her life.
Likewise, the warnings advised that any vans or trucks moving south of Litani will be considered suspect in the transport of rockets and terror equipment and subject to attack by IDF. This decision results from the daily rocket attacks and terror activity in these areas against the State of Israel.
Hezbollah terrorists have turned southern Lebanon into a war zone and are operating near population centers there, using civilians as human shields. Civilians in southern Lebanon are not considered enemies and IDF does not wish to harm them, but the attack operations in southern Lebanon will continue until the quiet and security of the State of Israel are reestablished.
A state impervious to the suffering of civilians doesn’t warn them in advance of attacks in the area or advise them to stay off the roads in specific locations.
The abduction of two Israeli soldiers from their own country may have been the catalyst, but it is not the reason.