The anatomy of bias: A CNN in-depth report from Israel and Lebanon unveiled the full extent of bias at work behind the global news network’s coverage of the Israel – Hizbullah war.
Scant attention is paid to Israeli civilians, while a long report featuring images and interviews of Lebanese civilians followed. The report’s startling lack of representation of the suffering experienced by so many Israeli civilians stood in stark contrast to the interviews and video footage taken of Lebanese children and scenes of wreckage shown from across Lebanon.
The report began with an account of Haifa by a CNN correspondent female correspondent. During the report, there is a single, brief image of Israeli civilians, sitting at a café in Haifa. The picture remains on the screen for a number of seconds, before the journalist is seen being interviewed by the CNN anchor.
“Well some Arab Israelis were very upset when rockets struck their homes and three people died, and all of them were Arab Israelis, and they were complaining that they have hadn’t been built bunkers like Israeli Jews in this city,” said the journalist, answering a question about relations between Jews and Arabs in Haifa. She later said the answer depended on “who you asked.”
The report did not mention any Israeli casualties, and no interviews with Israeli civilians were conducted.
There were no interviews from Israeli hospitals, and no mention made of the million Israelis who had been living in bomb shelters for almost a month. Also glaringly absent were images of destroyed homes and buildings across northern Israel.
A report then followed by CNN’s Paul Hancocks, focusing exclusively on Israeli domestic politics. “The military battle for Israel’s prime minister is over for the time being. The political battle has just begun. Critics claimed Olmert has gone to war hastily and ill prepared,” said Hancocks, before film of Olmert’s Knesset speech was shown. The report showed internal Knesset wrangling and the ejection of two Knesset members.
By the time CNN’s correspondents had completed their coverage from Israel, it became clear that CNN had little interest in placing individual faces and names to the suffering on the Israeli side, let alone mentioning the extent and scope of the war damage.
The second half of the report, by CNN’s Ben Wiederman, was dramatically different.
The report was saturated with images of Lebanese children playing in ruins, blood stains, destroyed buildings, and personal accounts of Lebanese families attempting to head back to south Lebanon.
It was introduced by CNN’s anchor, who said: “Nasrallah also acknowledged the deaths and the destruction of the Lebanese homes, but he said Hizbullah would be ready to help rebuild.”
“It was a morning like so many other recent mornings in Tyre. And then there was silence. The ceasefire went into effect at 8 AM local time. And with the prospect of calm, it didn’t take long for many of Lebanon’s refugees, estimated at more than a million, to pack their belongings, and head south towards home,” Wiederman said.
“Beirut’s Sinara park has become a temporary refuge. But Monday morning some decided it was to go back. To what, they weren’t sure,” he added.
Beginning one of a number of interviews with Lebanese civilians, the report continued: “‘We’re returning to our village but we’re not sure if we’ll be able to get there,’ said this man from a village outside Tyre.”
Suggesting that Israel would target Lebanese civilians heading back to Lebanon, Wiederman said: “Last week Israel warned that it would target any car south of the Litani river. The warning remains in effect. But few seem to heed it. Rather they chose to savor the thought that Hizbullah has emerged from this war in their opinion victorious.”
“The 33 day conflict has left the Lebanese economy in ruins. Thousands of homes have been destroyed by Israeli land air and sea bombardment, and over a thousand Lebanese, mostly civilians, have been killed during the fighting,” Wiederman continued, as images of Lebanese children and wrecked debris flashed across the screen.
During earlier coverage on Sunday, CNN chose the word “resistance” to describe Hizbullah’s actions in Lebanon – a term used by Hizbullah – as well as Hamas – to describe their own attacks – implicitly presuming that armed jihad organizations are ‘resisting’ and defending against aggression, rather than initiating it.
A succession of images followed, showing a Lebanese woman alone among ruins, followed immediately by a photograph of smiling Israeli soldiers with guns raised in the air. No context or explanations of when and where the photos were taken are provided.