Monday, January 26, 2009

AP's Sympathy For the Devil

"Headline: ‘Lebanon benefits from trade’; Intro: ‘Poor Israel’

by DetainThis

In a news report titled “Lebanon army gets boost from Russian jets,” you’d probably expect the opening paragraph to begin and maintain a focus on, say, the Lebanese army and Russian jets.

But then, you probably didn’t bargain for The Associated Press.

Slightly delivering on what the headline promised, the January 21 report opens as an Israeli foreign-policy strategist might begin a lecture:

With Israel in a fragile cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza to the south, the army of this tiny country bordering Israel’s north is for the first time getting some serious military muscle, including its first fighter jets in decades.

The influx of hardware begins with Russia, which is trying to increase its influence again in the Mideast.

Moscow’s decision last month to provide Lebanon with 10 MiG-29 fighter jets comes at a sensitive time, with Israel just out of its second major armed confrontation in two years against neighboring militant groups. [1]

Entity count (in the order they appear): Paragraph 1 - Israel, Hamas, Gaza, this tiny country, Israel’s north; Paragraph 2 - Russia, Mideast; Paragraph 3 - Moscow’s decision, Lebanon, Israel, militant groups.

That aside, the above analysis seems reasonable. The “militant” modifier is always troublesome (e.g, armed-to-the-teeth Israelis may have to be quite militant themselves, as they invade Gaza, demolishing homes and orchards while battling those ”militant groups”). But the “influence” part is fair: maybe Russia needs trade and wants political or militaristic “influence.” After all, Russia is a warfare state, just like Israel and the rest. And the Lebanese-Russian deal might just be a major strategic concern for Israel. So, ultimately, it’s fine that the editor wants to provide some corollary context along those lines.

The question is this: why do it all in the first three paragraphs, to the exclusion of the subject in the headline? There is the whole rest of the report for that type of editorializing.

Which, unfortunately, is exactly what the AP editor did, extrapolating from the Lebanese army’s acquisition of the Russian jets several strategic dichotomies — Israel & USA v. Hezbollah & Palestinian ”militants”; Lebanon & Israel v. Hezbollah & Palestinian “militants”; and Russian “influence” in Lebanon v. U.S. ”commitment” to Lebanon — zeroed out at Israeli and U.S. positions and complemented by quotes from individuals who are far removed from the actual business transaction. Here are the sources that, combined with the editor’s own understanding,* produce AP analysis on the Lebanese-Russian commerce (in the order they appear):

1. A U.S. official.
2. A retired Lebanese general.
3. A “pro-Syrian” Lebanese newspaper publisher who is ex-military.
4. An Israeli political strategist.
5. An Israeli official.

The report does mention Israeli aggression against Lebanon (paragraph 14: “Israel routinely flies reconnaissance missions over Lebanon unchallenged”), but it is semantically (romantically?) sterilized and elicits no mention of the laws it violates. Don’t hold your breath on a future Hezbollah “reconnaissance mission” into Northern Israel that isn’t parroted by an AP editor as a plausible cause for the next aggressive Israeli war on Lebanon. As it is, any mention of the Lebanese militia’s armament within its own borders elicits every Israeli concern in the book. In fact, the last commentator in the report — Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor — gets the last word, bemoaning the arms of Hezbollah, ”who under U.N. resolutions need to be disarmed.” Of course, the report makes zero mention of Israel’s habitual violations of the same “UN resolutions” and other international laws.

But this all goes to the deepest level in the struggle for liberty: individuals v. states. Voluntary (or “grass-roots”) militias, comprised of well armed and well trained individuals, are the states’ and empires’ nemeses. Recall the success of American militias against the British empire (1773–6) and Hezbollah v. Israel (2000 and 2006). This is why U.N. “peace-keeping” measures aim to disarm the individuals, militias, and states chosen, by the U.N.’s five veto-wielding states, to be disarmed in any given territory (Hezbollah in Lebanon, for instance, under UNSC Res. 1701).

Do you ever wonder why Hezbollah serves and protects its constituents with unusual proficiency? It has mostly to do with its not being dependent upon the central state and its would-be overlords to tell it where, how, and with whom to conduct trade. Israeli and U.S. statists — including corporate-media editors, publishers, and CEOs who benefit from U.S. and Israeli policies — are, for economic, philosophical, and ideological reasons, opposed to this. Which is why they tacitly endorse and virtually glorify the empire-states’ military and economic wars against individuals, voluntary groups, and other states.

Though the stakes in the Levant are real and precious for all involved, they don’t get any more secure with this type of “news reporting.” It would have been nice to have replaced much of the report’s speculative Israeli- and U.S.-centric brinkmanship with analysis on how Lebanon arrived at this point economically and politically. (But then, that might have obligated the editor to give partial credit to another nemesis of the state: peacetime.)

A more honest, more fitting title for the AP report would’ve been “Impact on Israel after Lebanon gets Russian jets.”

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* - What would that “understanding” entail? For one, the reality that no AP report gets out of Israel without passing the Israeli military’s sniff-test; as a result, almost no report reaches the wire without being at least slightly Israeli-centric. Perceivably objective stories and those carrying hard truths are okay from time to time, just so the legal implications are either negligible or omitted. And consider this: AP’s Middle East hub, the W. Jerusalem bureau, sits in the middle of Israeli-occupied Palestinian land, affording the rogue occupier-state an absolute power (censorship) position.