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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

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Jewish World Review August 22, 2006 / 28 Menachem-Av, 5766

A War of Images

By Stella Jatras

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Will the same weapon that defeated the Serbs also defeat Israel?


They say that truth is always the first victim in war. Such is the case in the Israeli/Hezbollah war.


It appears that Hezbollah has taken a page out of the Bosnian Muslim playbook: Win the PR battle, and you win the war. What better example of media disinformation than the Bosnian War, where images of civilians "slaughtered" at Sarajevo's Markale market place, allegedly by Serb forces, were so instrumental? If it worked for the Bosnian Muslims, why not for Hezbollah? Will Qana, Lebanon, become Israel's Markale market place?


Yossef Bodansky, author of Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America, wrote the following in his 1995 book Offensive in the Balkans:


"Phase Three started with the self-inflicted major terrorist provocation. On Friday 5, 1994, a major explosion rocked the Markale -- Sarajevo's main market place -- causing heavy casualties. What was immediately described as the ubiquitous 'Serb mortar shell' was actually a special charge designed and built with help from HizbAllah experts and then most likely dropped from a nearby rooftop onto the crowd of shoppers. Video cameras at the ready recorded this expertly-staged spectacle of gore, while dozens of corpses of Bosnian Muslim troops killed in action (exchanged the day before in a 'body swap' with the Serbs) were paraded in front of cameras to raise the casualty counts.


"This callous self-killing was designed to shock the West especially sentimental and gullible Washington, in order to raise the level of Western sympathy to the Bosnian Muslims and further demonize the Serbs so that Western governments would be more supportive of Sarajevo's forthcoming aggressive moves, and perhaps even finally intervene militarily." (Emphasis added)


Some headlines that Americans never saw were "Muslims 'slaughter their own people'," The [London] Independent, 22 Aug. 1992, and "Serbs 'not guilty' of massacre," The Sunday [London] Times, 1 Oct. 1995.


In 1992, Peter Maher, Professor Emeritus of Linquistics, visited Dubrovnik, Croatia, to see for himself the truth about the war. He wrote, "A few months earlier, the press was filled with stories that the Pearl of the Adriatic had been reduced to rubble. The stories were fakes." Professor Maher goes on to explain just how it happened: "The dramatic 'Dubrovnik burning' pictures were shot with long lenses. . . .But the smoke was from the fuel tanks of two pleasure boats burning in the Old Harbor ... Dubrovnik's Old City never burned and was never even targteted by the federal forces.....The only building in the Old City of Ragusa to be gutted by explosives and fire was the library and treasure of the Serbian Orthodox church, which housed a priceless collection of medieval manuscripts and icons. It was not navy guns that did the damage, but plastic and incendiary devices planted on the spot by Croatian forces."


Who can forget the horrific pictures that were repeatedly shown on CNN of the two dead Muslim babies on a bus in Bosnia, allegedly killed by a Serb sniper? I would never have known the truth if I had not been watching France 2 TV, which showed the funeral of these innocent babies. Officiating was a Serbian Orthodox priest. These were not Muslim babies; they were Serbian babies, but for American consumption, the Serbian Orthodox priest was cropped from the film so that the American people would continue to believe that the babies were Muslim. This kind of reporting is not just yellow journalism. It goes beyond the pale, the same kind of "journalism" that Israel is experiencing today -- manipulation, distortion, staging, forgery and the doctoring of photos by anti-Israeli media. Welcome to the club!


Hopefully, in the current Israeli/Hezbollah conflict, the media distortions will not sell. At the beginning of the Balkan conflict we did not have the Internet and bloggers to expose CNN and its ilk. Today is different. Almost immediately after photos of damage from an Israeli air strike on Beirut were posted, outrage from bloggers who recognized that the photos were doctored forced Reuters to admit that two or more photos were altered. The company stated, "A Reuters photograph of smoke rising from buildings in Beirut has been withdrawn after coming under attack by American web blogs. The blogs accused Reuters of distorting the photograph to include more smoke and damage." Was this simply one person's mistake, or is a pattern being exposed in the present Israeli/Hezbollah war of the biased or even co-belligerent media that was at work in the war against the Serbs?


Israel is accused of indiscriminately killing civilians, as in the Qana incident. It is difficult to find any suggestion in all of the articles on the subject that Qana was staged. Questions should have been raised. For instance, how is it that the IDF air attack was between midnight and 1:00 AM, but when the building blew up (or collapsed) at 8:00 AM there were approximately 50 women and children (reported numbers vary) sleeping in the building? Why is no one asking what was in that building that caused it to blow up seven or eight hours after the air strike? Why is no one in the mainstream media asking why those people were still in the building or why there were only women and children?


While western democracies try to keep civilians, especially their own, safe from ongoing hostilities, Islamic forces have a history of using their own civilians as human shields. Israel claims that Hezbollah deliberately puts its weapons and fighters in civilian neighborhoods, keeping residents hostage and not caring if they are killed or not. One interesting fact can be found in the book by Lord David Owen, titled Balkan Odyssey, in which he writes, "In Sarajevo it became ever clearer that there were in fact two sieges of the city: one by the Bosnian Serb army, with shells, sniper fire and blockades, and the other by the Bosnian government army, with internal blockades and red tape bureaucracy which kept their own people from leaving. In a radio broadcast the army -- not the government -- said that able bodied men aged 18-65 years and women aged 18-60 years were forbidden to leave because they were needed for the city's defence; but their main reason was different. In the propaganda war, the Serbian siege aroused the sympathy of the world, and for this they needed the elderly and the children to stay. It was their most emotive propaganda weapon for bringing the Americans in to fight the war, and they never wanted it to be weakened."


For those who think accusing Muslims of deliberately killing their own civilians or putting them where they are sure to be "collateral casualties" is farfetched, I would ask, why is that any more unthinkable than encouraging one's own child to be a suicide bomber?


One noticeable difference between the reporting in the Israeli/Hezbollah war and the Balkan war is balance. Although the media coverage is primarily one-sided in the Israeli/Hezbollah conflict, nearly four to one showing civilian casualties in Lebanon vs. those in Israel, the Balkan war news of Serbian casualties and suffering was almost non-existent.


In 1995, the journal World Affairs published the following quote from John Ranz, U.S. chairman of Survivors of Buchenwald Concentration Camp: "The gigantic campaign to brainwash America by our media against the Serbian people is just incredible, with its daily dose of one-sided information and outright lies....What is today's reality? The murderers of Jews, Serbs and Gypsies are back [in Croatia] from the U.S., Canada, Argentina where they fled after World War II. The Serbs fought the Nazis, they paid a terrible price for standing at the side of the allies against Hitler. Humanity owes them a debt of gratitude."


Yohanan Ramati, Director of the Jerusalem Institute for Western Defense, seconded the notion: "This organized anti-Serb and pro-Muslim propaganda should cause anyone believing in democracy and free speech serious concerns. It recalls Hitler's propaganda against the allies in World War II. Facts are twisted and, when convenient, disregarded."


Most disturbing is a 1992 observation by Gregory Copley, who wrote in his Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy report, "Pictures of dead or wounded (or raped) Serbs often fill the screens of the world's television and print media, only to be re-labeled as dead or wounded or raped Croats or Muslims. Many Serbian victims -- and the bulk of the victims of the conflict, contrary to popular reports, have been Serbs either from Bosnia and Herzegovina or from Croatia -- not only suffer the indignity of defeat in death; they also are used in death as models in the macabre image manipulation operation of the Croatians and the Muslim Bosnians. If the Vietnam War was lost to the United States by the negative television images of its own reporters, then the Balkan war against the Serbs are being won by Ustashi Croatia and the Muslim Bosnians by an active, planned manipulation of international television."


Like any sovereign nation, Israel has the right to defend itself against Muslim terrorists.The Serbian people should have had the right to defend their sovereignty against the same Muslim terrorists whom we are fighting today.

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As a career military officer's wife, Stella Jatras has traveled widely and has lived in many foreign countries where she not only learned about other cultures but also became very knowledgeable regarding world affairs and world politics. With the advent of the war in Bosnia, Mrs. Jatras immediately recognized the bias of the Western media and the Clinton administration's flawed foreign policy in the Balkans and began her efforts to present to the American people a more accurate view of that tragic situation. Her letters and articles have been published in The Washington Times, The Washington Post, The Arizona Republic, The Patriot- News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), Chronicles, The Stars and Stripes, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as a number of magazines and periodicals. In addition her writings have had worldwide distribution via the Internet such as Citizen Soldier and Jihad Watch. Stella Jatras lived in Moscow for two years (where her husband, George, was the Senior Air Attaché), and while there, worked in the Political Section of the US Embassy. Stella has also lived in Germany, Greece and Saudi Arabia. Her travels took her to over twenty countries.

© 2006, Stella Jatras

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