A GULF-war-style media campaign by the Israeli military in its
offensive against Hizbullah guerrillas in Lebanon has provided
Prime Minister Shimon Peres with a much-needed image makeover
before May 29 elections here.
But the Israeli public - largely supportive of Israel's nine-day
campaign to force a Hizbullah cease-fire - is beginning to question
the increasing number of Lebanese civilian casualties.
Yesterday, Israeli forces attacked the headquarters of the
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), killing about 70
Lebanese refugees and wounding more than 120 others, a UN spokesman
said. Earlier, Israeli planes rocketed a house near Nabatiyeh,
killing 11 people including a woman, her four-day-old daughter, and
six other children.
Just prior to the Israeli attacks, Hizbullah guerrillas had
launched rockets at Israel from about 400 yards away from the UN
headquarters, a UN spokesman said.
Israel's deputy defense minister, Ori Orr, said details were
sketchy, but said, "if innocent people were killed, we are very
sorry, and it is a very grave error."
Like American coverage of the Gulf war, the omnipresent coverage
here of Israel's military offensive on the two main state-owned
television channels has juxtaposed military target maps with video
replays of Israeli planes and artillery precision in hitting their
"This is the Gulf war, plus five years of technology," says Alon
Liel, a senior aide in Peres's office. "The combination of
unbelievable intelligence and pinpoint high-tech accuracy has
enabled the Israeli military to destroy one floor of a 10-story
building and then it is backed up with a film showing the hit."
The media have stressed that the artillery fire and bombing is
not directed at Lebanese civilians and that they have been
repeatedly warned to leave the south.
But Israeli viewers have seen little coverage of the hundreds of
thousands of fleeing Lebanese civilians.
Amnon Barkai, a producer at Israel's Channel 1 television - one
of the two state-owned channels - says the network had received
agency coverage of the attack on Nabatiyeh and would be using it in
its news broadcast last night.
But Mr. Barkai's channel did not use graphic coverage shown
internationally last week of Israeli planes rocketing an ambulance
carrying women and children in southern Lebanon.
Just like 'Desert Storm'
"We didn't show it because we don't put such awful things on
television in Israel," Barkai says. But the station frequently
shows gruesome details of Israeli victims of Islamic suicide