Harvard’s Twisted Report on Israel’s Invasion of Lebanon

Qana, Lebanon.

First it was (and is) that would be tenure-denying, torture-justifying, Israeli occupation apologist, opponent smearing, Alan Dershowitz. I could deal with Alan.

But now it’s Marvin Kalb! A boyhood hero of mine!

When I spent a year at Harvard Law School, studying the Chinese Legal System a while back Dershowitz did not appear particularly out of control.

Neither did Marvin Kalb when we chatted at a Washington NBC function and who seemed reasonable enough as moderator of Meet the Press. So the problem for sure has got to be Harvard! Or maybe it’s just me!

Currently a Senior Fellow at Harvard’s, Joan Shorenstein Center, (no hard feelings that it’s paid for by Walter Shorestein-AIPAC’s favorite member and Californian fundraiser or that its DC office is very cozy with the nearby AIPAC office), Kalb recently published a ‘study’: The Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006: The Media as a Weapon in Asymmetrical Conflict. He was joined by Carol Saivetz. So far so good. I’m all for ‘academic studies.

The JTA news desk featured Kalb’s work on May 3, 2007 and AIPAC is now busy flooding Congress with this “academic study” as they attempt to intimidate the fourth estate with shrieks of “See we told you so! You guys are anti-Israel and maybe closet anti-Semites! We have Harvard scholarship to back it up!”

Some Harvard scholarship!

I won’t nick pit Kalb’s heavy duty sources for his tome: Fox News, Bill Kristol’s, Weekly Standard, Anderson Cooper’s ” Hezbollah is still a Secretive Organization”( I hope they are or I’m in trouble!) The Jewish Press’s Media Monitor, and as Kalb assures us “interviews with many Diplomats”, none of whom he names. Forget about the DC Madams phone records, I am more curious about Kalb’s secret ‘Diplomats” and my concern is about what Harvard publishes as ‘scholarship’ these days.

Kalb doesn’t tell us how much time he or his sources actually spent in Lebanon doing research during or since the July war, but there were many solid journalists here, and while they don’t need me to defend their work, I would offer Marvin a couple of fact-checks and an observation or two.

Kalb’s Abstract of his ‘research paper’ succinctly presents his thesis: During the Hezbollah-Israel “summertime war” (as in picnic, I guess) “the media moved from being objective to becoming “fiery advocates (of Hezbollah) and thus “a weapon of modern warfare”.

Kalb claims the media gave Hezbollah, which he calls “a closed sect” (that doesn’t sound too good) “total control of the daily message of journalism and propaganda” and this fact “victimized Israel” because the latter is ‘an open society” whereas Hezbollah is ” a closed society, that engages in ” undemocratic control of the media”, is militant, secretive, a religiously fundamentalist sect, a state within a state, subnational(not good)’Party of God”, , resisting ‘the infidel’ and seeking ‘divine victory’ and supported by Iran and Syria (!) )and, if that is not enough, is similar to the Madhi army. Kalb never mentions that Israel is supported by the US to the tune of 15.1 million dollars a day or 300 times more than the CIA claims Hezbollah gets in foreign aid each year and receives 83% of its weapons from the US.

Kalb’s first problem with the media focuses on the UN media website. His research reveals that the much maligned UNIFIL observers, who Israel have bombed and shelled 15 times in the past quarter century, posted on its media web site Israeli cross border incursions that took place each preceding day. The same job the UN has been tasked with doing since 1978, as it has documented more than 18,000 Israeli violations of Lebanese territory including its air and sea space. Remarkably Kalb’s ‘research’ in this respect is identical to that of AIPAC’s Lori Lowenthal Marcus,

“What Did You Do during the War, UNIFIL?” in The Weekly Standard of mid-august. Kalb and Marcus claim that Hezbollah fighters, if they had laptops with internet connections (there was no electricity in the south after the first few hours of Israel’s bombing) Hezbollah fighters learned something about where the Israelis were and hence got “a gift” from the UN which became an extremely valuable intelligence asset for Hezbollah, and Hezbollah exploited it.”

Fact check: Kalb and Harvard’s Shorenstein Center may want to know that Hezbollah fighters, organized in groups of two or three (sometimes five depending on the weapons used) know every inch of their assigned areas in South Lebanon, in fact, much better than the UN does. They were born in these villages, have fought the Israelis in this hilly terrain since the 1970’s and on July 12th knew exactly which 3 entry points (out of a possible 24) the IDF was going to use to invade Lebanon and they were waiting for them. Hezbollah also had a fairly good idea where every Israeli was at any given time during the conflict. Israel’s problem was that they could not find Hezbollah until they wanted to be found whether it was at Marun al Ras, Eita Chaab, Bint Jbeil, Yarun or anywhere along the ‘blue line’.

The Harvard study complains that the UN did not report on Hezbollah movements, thereby exhibiting anti-Israel bias.

Fact check: Excuse me Marvin but if the IDF with the latest US technology and night vision equipment, scores of cameras mounted on Israeli Heron, Searcher Mk II, or Hermes 450 drones, and close up satellite imaging could not find Hezbollah fighters the UN observers along the blue line dodging Israeli shells were unlikely to. (On July 26 Israel did bomb the UN post near Khaim killing four UN observers-Canadian, Chinese, and Finnish) Moreover, the UN mission is to report crossings of the ‘blue line’ (only Israel was doing that), not to survey what is going on inside Lebanon.

Moreover, blaming the UN for doing its job, which Israel has done for 25 years, and claiming Hezbollah fighters, under a blitz in a free fire zone, including an estimated 4.8 million cluster bombs, were running around with laptops and relied on the UN website for Israeli movements is patent nonsense. His conclusion that “the UN media gave Hezbollah an extremely valuable intelligence asset which they exploited” is fantasy. “Tink tank” ‘researchers’ really should to get out to the field more often and learn the lay of the land, so to speak.

Kalb is troubled by what his research revealed:

“They (the Israelis) couldn’t keep a secret. Hezbollah, on the other hand, controlled its message with an iron grip. It had one spokesman and no leaks. Hezbollah did not have to respond to criticism from bogglers, and it could always count on unashamedly sympathetic Arab reporters to blast Israel for its “disproportionate” military attack against LebanonDuring the 2006 summertime war in the Middle East, it was Israel versus Hezbollah, led by the charismatic Hassan Nasrallah, and because Israel did not win the war, it is judged to have lost.”

Fact check: Hezbollah operated an efficient press information office with several spokesmen and plenty of backgrounders and volunteer staff who answered every question they could and who did help the media. Nasrallah gave no interviews during the 33 day conflict but did issue statements. With virtually the whole Israeli military after him he was lying low.

Kalb’s research found that “the media showed too much destruction of Lebanon and in its reporting did not credit Israel’s argument that international law allowed Israel to bomb civilian areas if soldiers were hiding within these homes.” Israel used this same argument during its 1978, 1982, 1993, 1996, invasions, as it does in Palestine today. In the summer of 2006 it was very easy for the media to find evidence in Lebanon. 950,000 civilians were bombed out of their villages and the 32,000 homes destroyed and were crowded into public parks in Beirut and schools and all over north Lebanon and Syria. The media had lots of eye witness sources regarding the destruction of Lebanon and they properly reported what they learned.

Kalb cites Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni’s statement to the The New York Times, following the slaughter at Qana, “When you go to sleep with a missile, you might find yourself waking up to another kind of missile” as authority. Israel later admitted there were no missiles fired from Qana, and no Hezbollah in the area, but that it had made a mistake in killing those 28 civilians hiding in the shelter. Kalb might want to inform diplomat Livni that none of the 10 adults or 18 children had gone to sleep with a missile at Qana.

Fact check: Again, researcher Kalb seems not to understand how the war was being fought on the ground here in South Lebanon. Hezbollah was not hiding from Israeli forces among the civilians. Contrariwise, they were eager to engage Israel every chance they got. Typically Hezbollah fired their missiles from camouflaged areas such as banana groves, orchards, dense foliage, bunkers, holes in the ground, sides of rocky hills and valleys not from houses or towns. They knew very well that Israel would not hesitate to bomb civilian houses which they have been doing since the late 1960’s. After a particular mission, Hezbollah fighters would ditch their weapons and try to sleep. Only rarely making their way back to their villages to check on their families or property.

With respect to Israel’s admitted mistake of bombing the Qana shelter, according to NGO-Lebanon, Israel made 6,979 ‘mistakes’ in bombing during the 33 day July War. Maybe Kalb finds that statistic acceptable given that Israel launched more that 17,000 attacks at more than 8,000 targets, including 300,000 artillery shells and approximately 4.8 million cluster bombs. The juggernaut international Israeli press operation did. Most of the media did not.

Kalb’s research also finds it problematical that “not only diplomats but the media forgot about who started the war and focused on Israel’s “disproportionate response.” (Kalb’s quotation marks imply that his research found no disproportionate response which puts him at odds with virtually all the world’s media including Israel’s)). So they did and should have. The applicable principle of international law is simple enough. When one side trespasses, captures soldiers or commits a hostile act that does not allow the other side, in retaliation, to slaughter hundreds of civilians and destroy much of the country. The related principle of international law is the obligation to discriminate between civilian and military targets. Israel’s responsive killing of more than 1,250 civilians, nearly 1/4 of them children, many fleeing in convoys waving white flags, or following Israeli orders to flee, or hiding in cellars with no fighters in the area, was indeed disproportionate to the capturing of the two soldiers. The international media properly reported these war crimes.

Kalb’s research revealed that “Supporters of Israel’s position, (including scholars) tend to dismiss the proportionality/disproportional debate as misleading and foolish”. He may be right regarding the first group but he’s dead wrong regarding the second.

Kalb fails to mention the reams of available material on the subject of Israel’s illegal “disproportionate” bombing, which he denies occurred, including many testimonies from the Israeli military to the effect that Israel “lost it” early in the conflict, after being repeating ambushed and not being able to locate Hezbollah fighters and in a vengeful frenzy carpet bombed much of south Lebanon creating a free fire killing zone.

“What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombswe fired 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets” (IDF head of just one rocket unit quoted in Ha’aretz on 9/12/06)

“In the last 72 hours we fired all the munitions we had, all at the same spot, we didn’t even alter the directions of the gun. Friends of mine in the battalion told me they also fired everything in the last three days-ordinary shells, clusters, whatever they had.” (Israeli reservist in an artillery battalion, quoted in Ha’aretz on 9/8/06)

Kalb, admits that Israel has tough military censorship laws, which did not allow reporting, or example, of the weapons stores and bases in northern Israel that many of Hezbollah’s missiles were aiming at, rather than targeting civilians, but his media research criticized Hezbollah for restricting movement during Israel’s bombing in Lebanon. Hezbollah press aids did sometimes suggest, during intensive bombing that for safety reporters might want watch the action on Al Manar TV. The reason is that Hezbollah films most of its battles live because over the years Israel undercounts its causalities and over counts Hezbollah’s (Kalb uses Israel’s claim of 600 Hezbollah killed in the July war when the actual figure is 264).

Fact check: Al Manar viewership is often higher in Israel during conflicts than Israeli stations because Israelis have greater confidence in Al Manar for truthful reporting than their own government fed stations. Despite this well known fact, scholar Kalb, perhaps recalling his days as a reporter in the USSR, smears Al-Manar: “for reports and information about the war, Al-Manar was to Hezbollah what Pravda was to the Soviet Union.” Israeli TV viewers don’t agree.

Kalb finds a media ‘clash of civilizations’ problem when Newsweek did not run a gruesome photo and Arab media did. His research concludes: “Two value systems were clearly in collision: one didn’t go with the gruesome photo, one did go with it, in fact deliberately spread it far and wide, wanting nothing more than to use any and every weapon of “information” to defeat Israel”

Interestingly Kalb’s conclusion is nearly word for word, the one that appeared on AIPAC’s website, before Kalb completed his own ‘study’.

To paraphrase Alan Dershowitz’s statement on his website (“I like Carter”) re President Carter, just before he trashed him, I want to say: “I like Marvin Kalb”. And I won’t trash him. But if he’ll come to Lebanon I’ll show him around and help him with additional sources for the next printing of his ‘study’.

FRANKLIN LAMB’s just released book, The Price We Pay: A Quarter Century of Israel’s Use of American Weapons in Lebanon is available at Amazon.com.uk. His volume, Hezbollah: a Brief Guide for Beginners is due out in early summer, 2007. He can be reached at fplamb@gmail.com



Franklin Lamb volunteers with the Lebanon, France, and USA based Meals for Syrian Refugee Children Lebanon (MSRCL) which seeks to provide hot nutritional meals to Syrian and other refugee children in Lebanon. http://mealsforsyrianrefugeechildrenlebanon.com. He is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com.