Robert Fisk: The lies, the threats, the hypocrisy...

Does one sigh with weariness or rage at such dishonesty?

The Independent

Published: 02 September 2006

After the war comes the hypocrisy, the mendacity, the threats, the sheer brazen lies. Let's start with the man with the burning eyes, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Hizbollah guerrilla movement which gave the Israelis a thrashing in Lebanon at the cost of - well, the destruction of much of Lebanon.

It was Nasrallah's men who crossed the Israeli border on 12 July, captured two Israeli soldiers, killed three others and thus unleashed the entirely predictable savagery of the Israeli air force and army against the largely civilian population of Lebanon.

Now get this from Sayed Nasrallah. "If I knew that the capture of the soldiers would have led to a war on such a scale, had Hizbollah had known even 1 per cent, we definitely would have not carried it out." This, folks, is what I call a whopper. If the Hizbollah had no idea what Israel was going to do to Lebanon - and they are intelligent, disciplined people who knew full well Ehud Olmert's political situation at the time (it is certainly worse now due to his army's failure in Lebanon), then why did Hizbollah build all those concrete bunkers in caves and rocks and hillsides for years before the war?

Why did they bring thousands of missiles into the south of Lebanon? Why did they prepare to fire at an Israeli warship - which they did, and almost sunk it after hitting the vessel amidships - and prepare so successfully for the tiny ground offensive that Israel subsequently mounted?

Are we supposed to believe that they held out under intense Israeli air attack - which killed more than 1,000 civilians as they must have known it would - without any planning? Or that the Hizbollah men who hit the Israeli warship got up in the morning, ate their cheese manouche sandwiches, and said: "Hey, let's shoot at an Israeli warship today!" No, that attack - a perfectly justifiable military target in view of Israel's aggression - was also very carefully planned. According to Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker, Israel's attack had also been carefully planned - and given the "green light" by the Bush administration as part of its campaign to humble Iran.

I think Hersh is right. But I think both sides planned this, and a hint came in another part of Nasrallah's breathtakingly hypocritical address. "In any case," he said, "Israel was going to launch a war at the start of this autumn and the degree of destruction then would have been even greater." Well, thanks for telling me, Hassan.

So you can see how Hizbollah are planning their post-war narrative. They never intended the Lebanese to suffer, but they were anyway going to suffer later and, besides, Hizbollah won. And now, the Hizbollah leadership formally announces that it intends to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 1701 - which calls for disarmament - but that they are not actually going to disarm. Phew. So it's peace in our time yet again. Until the next war.

But equally pernicious is the utterly false narrative which the Israelis and their supporters are now preparing for the world, one which includes all the old lies about the anti-Semitism of reporters and the involvement of the Red Cross in terrorism. Take, for example, an outrageous article in the French newspaper Libération on Thursday by Shmuel Trigano, entitled "War, Lies and Videotape". This posits some usual but deliberately misleading themes, the most obnoxious of which states that, by showing the children slaughtered by the Israeli air force in Qana, the press was trying to "reactivate a very ancient anti-Semitic idea: that Jews kill children. In antiquity, they (the Jews) were accused of cannibalism, in the Middle Ages - and still today in the Arab world - of ritual crimes."

And of course, I get the message. We should not have shown those pictures of the innocents of Qana blasted to death by Israeli bombs (even worse it would be, no doubt, if we said "American-made" Israeli bombs) and we should never have pointed out that a decade ago, Israeli artillery men killed another 106 innocents in Qana, more than half of them children, and in fact we should show no dead Arab children at all - unless we want to be libelled as medieval anti-Semites.

Shmuel then comes up with an Israeli narrative almost as objectionable which I am now hearing from Israel's spokesmen: that because one part-time Lebanese photographer pasted two extra plumes of smoke on to a bomb-site photo and sold the falsified picture to Reuters - an act of mendacity that rightly earned him the sack - all photographs from Beirut were probably doctored and fake. This, of course, is nonsense, although the moment I heard about the false photo I predicted to a friend that Israel's friends would now cast doubt on all images from Lebanon. The lies against the press by Israel's friends are as predictable as they are vile.

Next comes the accusation that we reporters all worked in southern Lebanon under the "control" of the Hizbollah - and that our colleagues in Gaza all work under the "control" of Hamas. "All journalists," according to Shmuel, know that they work "under the authorisation of the powers that be which exert their authority over the pictures and give accreditations to journalist" to work there. Forgive me, Shmuel, but this is the kind of material that comes from the rear end of a bull. We carry no "authorisation from Hizbollah"; in fact those of us who tried to interview Hizbollah during the war couldn't find them - any more than the Israeli air force could find them. But no, we journalists, according to this tract, believe it is "just" that Israeli civilians should suffer. We focus only on the "victims" of Israelis - and this is "anti-Semitism 'by default'."

Being an old hand at Lebanon's dirty wars, I have to say that this is exactly the same lie that was told about us during Israel's bombardment of 1978 and its invasion of 1982 and its bombardment of civilians in 1993 and its bombardment of civilians in 1996 - and here it is again. Do Israel's friends, I often ask myself, attack decent, honourable reporters as anti-Semitic because they want anti-Semitism to be respectable?

Does one sigh with weariness or rage at such dishonesty? Well, I'll tell you one thing. When it comes to dishonesty, Nasrallah is up there with the rest. But he's still got a lot to learn from the Israelis.