Joel Mowbray returns

Joel Mowbray (email: [email protected]) has returned to the United States from his trip to Israel. We filed seven dispatches by Joel from Israel. Today Joel reports on his return:

Before arriving in South Florida this weekend, I had heard from several friends in the area that the Miami Herald was providing slanted coverage of the war in the Middle East. I had visited the web site, but that was largely a collection of wire stories.

Then I saw Saturday’s paper. The most prominent headline on the front page, in the center, above-the-fold, was “The human cost of war.” Immediately below was surprisingly brazen bias. Before I describe more, look for yourself; click to enlarge:

Notice a few things:

1) the women are clearly distraught, and even more clearly Muslim;

2) not only are they civilians, but they are older, almost helpless looking;

3) the photo of the mourning Lebanese women is above the fold, whereas the photo of the Israeli is below and half the size;

4) the Israeli photo is of a solider, and his weapon is clearly visible;

5) the captions could easily have been written by the folks at al-Manar, the Hezbollah TV network. The photo of elderly Lebanese women is captioned, “Overwhelmed by Loss.” For the Israeli soldier, his photo simply receives, “Farewell.”

It’s more than a tad disconcerting that I even needed to write all of the above. Simply showing the scan of the front page should be enough, but it’s not. We’ve become so inured to relentless bias that heavy-handed contrivances often escape serious scrutiny.

Though more flagrant than most, the Herald’s gross distortions are not a dramatic outlier in mainstream media coverage. The photo of grieving Lebanese women was distributed by Agence France Press, and in fact, it received wide circulation. The Miami Herald merely made matters worse with the page layout and captions.

Palestinians have for years masterfully manipulated the media coverage, most powerfully through choreographed imagery. With this photo, Hezbollah has ripped a page from the Palestinian playbook.

Could one imagine a more staged performance? Why are the caskets lined up like that, side-by-side? Why are numbers spray-painted on the wall? And why are the women in the very narrow gap between the caskets and the wall, as opposed to being in the far more natural position of standing facing both the caskets and the wall directly behind them?

Though anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Palestinian propaganda machine would have a gut sense that the photo was staged, anyone with a basic knowledge of Arabic would know so. Why? Look at the numbers. Those are not Arabic numerals. According to Brigitte Gabriel of American Congress for the Truth, who was born and raised in Lebanon, numbers written in Lebanese shops or newspapers would be Arabic numerals. (Click here to see a modern Arabic phone keypad, with Arabic & Western numerals side-by-side.) Those numbers, in other words, were written purely for Western consumption.

There’s no question that ordinary Lebanese are suffering because of the serious damage done to their civilian infrastructure. But were there no scenes of actual suffering that the photographer could have captured? Or was the real thing just not as gripping?

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