Sunday, July 30, 2006

How much damage in Beirut? (Stuart Elliott)

Stuart Elliott, in his progressive pro-labor New Appeal to Reason blog, tries to offer a small but useful corrective to the current media frenzy on this subject. When media images are being used as part of a propaganda war, it's often not a good idea to treat them naively and unreflectively. As always, Elliott's discussion is reasonable, humane, and factually careful (here is a previous example)... so people ought to read it before reacting with a knee-jerk ideological reflex in one direction or another.

For people interested in doing something practical to help out, Elliott concludes:
Even though, the media may not be doing a stellar job putting the damage into perspective, there is tremendous human suffering in Lebanon and Israel. Please take a look at my previous post on some ways to help. And, then help.
--Jeff Weintraub
Stuart Elliott (New Appeal to Reason)
Saturday, July 19, 2006
How much damage in Beirut?

A letter to the Wichita Eagle earlier this week complained that there had been previous letters backing Israel and said that all that was needed was to see the pictures of Lebanon on television.

I know the writer. He's a decent guy, which might be too much to say of some other letter writers.

Tonight after work, some errands, book store shopping, and supper at the Church's chicken buffet, I turned on the tube and, not finding any entertainment worth watching I took a look at the cable news stations. Imagine my surprise when I saw Michael Young, editor of the Daily Star being interviewed against a Beirut skyscape. Nary a bomb crater or demolished building in sight.

According to Deborah Gordon, one of Wichita's leading Israel's bashers, Israel is bombing Lebanon back into the stone age.

Some stone age!

From what I've caught of TV news coverage, it has done a very poor job of putting the bombing in proper perspective. I've seen lots of pictures of bombed buildings, but I've not seen a single map of Beirut showing the areas that have been bombed, nor an aerial survey of the city. Admittedly, I'm not a cable news junkie, so I might have missed it.

But Israeli pharmacist Shimon Zachary Klein, who blogs on the Israel-Palestinian conflict has located a very helpful map. (Hat tip: Jeff Weintraub

Klein writes:
The actual damage is only confined to those areas where the Hisbollah terrorist organization is active: command, military, and logistics locations used for weapons transport....
[The media goal seems to be] to convey the idea that the entire city has been destroyed when 99% is untouched.
Only Hizbollah command and weapons centers and weapons transport sites have been attacked. [This is] Less than 1% of the entire city.
I've come across reports in recent days that tend to confirm Klein's analysis.
  • In a radio interview retired Canadian General Lewis MacKenzie said that only a 15 block square area of Beirut had been bombed. Now in my hometown of Winfield, Kansas (population 12,000) that would be an enormous area. In New York city, or Beirut, Lebanon, not so huge. (I'll try to track down the link to the interview.)
  • A NPR report noted that the new conflict had put a halt to the building boom in Beirut. Many buildings and areas had still not been rehabbed from the civil war twenty years ago.
  • A CNN reporter has revealed that he and others are able only to visit and photograph what Hezbollah wants them to.
  • J. Michael Kennedy of the LA Times wrote an article which put things in perspective.
Swaths of the southern suburbs are in ruins after 11 days of Israeli attacks. The main road from the south is bombed out and impassable. The main road to Damascus is knocked out. Hotels have emptied. Electric power comes and goes.

But the main shopping street of Hamra in west Beirut was jammed with cars Saturday morning. Stores were open, at least for a few hours - even clothing shops that sold no clothes.

"Now is not the time to be buying clothes. Now is the time to buy food," said Fouad Naim, manager of the Antonio Baldan men's store. "But some who have been wearing the same thing for the last 10 days have come to get something new. You can smell them when they come in."

The newly built center of the city, with its fashionable shops and banking center, was eerily empty, save for a smattering of people in what few cafes were open. The tourists who made it one of the busiest parts of the city have long since gone, either by sea or overland to Syria or Jordan.

But on the main highway going north up the coast, more stores and restaurants were open, including fast-food standbys such as Hardee's, KFC, Subway and Burger King.

On Saturday afternoon, the road was jammed with cars as it passed the port and headed north, past modern shopping malls and other developments that are a part of the rebuilt Beirut. A turnoff to the right leads to the mountains above. Virtually all of this territory is home to the Christians of Lebanon, who allied themselves with the Israelis during the invasion of the country in 1982.

In Bikfayya, the roads were more crowded than usual, because this is one of the routes to the Syrian border now that the main highway has been knocked out by Israeli jets.

Even with that, the scene was almost pastoral, with a neat town square surrounded by small, well-kept shops. At her fruit and vegetable stand, Lena Bochebel said that the trauma of the city below was a world away.

"Here there is no war, and all people are happy because we all get along," she said. "We're taking care of people. We are all Lebanese people."

She pointed to the street leading off to the right, where the high school was perched on a hill overlooking the valley below. She said the school, the church and the local hotels were filled, many with people who had fled from the south.
Even though, the media may not be doing a stellar job putting the damage into perspective, there is tremendous human suffering in Lebanon and Israel. Please take a look at my previous post on some ways to help. And, then help.

// posted by Stuart @ 11:17 PM