NYT chooses Israeli journo Ronen Bergman – who has never been to Lebanon – to unpack a crime in Lebanon for readers: No wonder so many errors in classic piece of “selective journalism”
It’s not worth it to go through in full and point out serious gaps, errors in fact etc of this piece of analysis by Ronen Bergman here. What is exasperating – and unfortunate for folks back home – is how the venerable NY Times calls on a writer who is a citizen of a state technically at war with the state in question – who has NEVER traveled here…has no direct engagement with the issues here or the accused or the victim, or discourses and research here critical of the STL etc., – in order to unpack a very complex assassination case (and one with deep implications for international law, terrorism efforts etc) in the very state for which he has no direct understanding or familiarity.
Partially as a result of this incredibly bad judgement, we get terrible nuggets of insight from Bergmen like [just a few]:
“…To understand the assassination of Rafik Hariri, you must begin decades earlier, in 1975, when a civil war originally between Maronite Christians and Palestinians threatened to tear Lebanon apart…The struggle eventually swept up Christians, Druse, Palestinian refugees, Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims — a five-way war of constantly shifting allegiances — and left at least 120,000 people dead, with hundreds of thousands more wounded or homeless…”
— Well of course all of these communities were intimately involved at the beginning of the conflict…. and no mention of the Leftist side of the conflict at its beginning of course – it was only the problematic Palestinians…and certainly hardly any mention of the major, indeed one could argue, decisive role Israel played in stoking and manipulating the conflict, to disasterous ends it turns out for nearly everyone, including Israel.
— Then, in a breathtaking omission, Bergemen TOTALLY omits the Israeli invasion of 1978! And of course UNSCR 425 which called for the total unconditional and immediate withdrawal of the Israelis at the time [fulfilled 22 years late].... he says in the next phrase, only: “...In 1982, Israel began an invasion across its northern border, seeking to root out elements of the Palestine Liberation Organization…”
— Of course the invasion was designed to do MUCH more than that – i.e. support a right-wing/mostly maronite takeover of the country which would lead to the (later abrogated) 1983 peace treaty with Israel.
— He adds: “…Realizing he couldn’t win a conventional war against the Israelis, Assad, an Alawite Muslim, took a different and somewhat surprising tack: He withdrew his opposition to a plan, proposed by clerics loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran, to establish a Shiite political party in Lebanon.”
— Is Bergman unaware of the “shiite” Amal party which long pre-dated this period? Is he unaware that the IRGC was in the Bekaa BEFORE the Israeli invasion of 1982?
Let’s not bother with the facts and the jumbling of this story. The key point is this:
Bergman talks and analyses about a subject he has no direct contact with – WHY, of all the people who could write this story does the New York Times decide to choose such a writer?
Ok just a few more lapses:
— He writes: “The Syrian Army continued to occupy Lebanon from the north, and Hezbollah’s battles with Israel to the south did little to help most of the Lebanese people.” Syria occupies… Israel… does battle… even though it was in violation of UN resolution 425.
— He writes: “He wanted to make Beirut the financial capital of the Middle East, as it had once been, and Lebanon a liberal, Western-oriented country. Assad sought to maintain the status quo, with Syria in control of Lebanon and Hezbollah its most powerful military force.” Bergman has no background apparently about the well documented corrupt nexus between Hariri and the Assads/regime…. So we get this silly binary distinction.
— He writes: “Hariri was losing the parliamentary vote on the Lahoud amendment in any case, and several Syria-backed ministers threatened to resign, taking the government down with them, unless Hariri himself stepped down. In early September, shortly before a ceremony in which he received a prize from the United Nations for rebuilding Lebanon, Hariri announced his resignation.” Bergman apparently does not feel it’s necessary to add that Hariri voted FOR the extension.
— WRONG LOCATION-please use google next time: He writes: “The next day, Jan. 25, 2008, as Eid and his bodyguard were driving on a freeway in East Lebanon, a car bomb exploded, killing him, the bodyguard and two other people who happened to be out driving that day. Eid was only 31.” Apparently for Bergman, the Chevrolet area just on the edge of Beirut, below Hazmieh is now the Bekaa Valley…
— “According to a report years later by CBC News, the operative confirmed that some of the phones did belong to members of Hezbollah, but he claimed that they were using them to investigate an Israeli conspiracy.” Typical reverse engineering in reporting. Bergman omits that the famous CBC report was.. apparently leaked (as with so many leaks) by UN investigation staff! So he uses a media org report to buttress the UN investigation.. but it was based on a leak from… the UN side!
— Bergman of course omits any mention of the actual criminal conspiracy of Israeli spies in the Lebanese telecom sector (not that this proves anything in the case– and it really does not prove anything but it is nevertheless material) at both cell companies… this has been one of the most widespread cases of the lebanese state finding and prosecuting Israeli spies… a track record that made the Israelis very upset over the last few years because a lot of their folks – according to published reports on the cases – were busted using recently donated US spy/coms equipment. No mention from a journo who is dedicated to spy thirllers? How could that be? He loves that stuff.
— Bergman has apparently not read the WPost or Newsweek accounts of the primary US role palyed in killing mughniyeah, as he writes: “After the Mossad assassinated Mughniyeh in 2008, Badreddine took over most of his duties.” A funny omission since the story broke last week!
— Bergman met with PM Salam… this is something which our Lebanese friends know is illegal and which some have been investigated for and prosecuted. Did the PM know who he was talking too? Bergman writes, “(Early this month, I saw the current prime minister of Lebanon, Tammam Salam, at a security conference in Munich. He told me that the work of the Hariri tribunal was “important and serious” and that his government was following it closely, but he also declined to say anything more specific.)”
— Bergman honestly thinks that Hariri is the “most important politician Lebanon has ever produced.” He writes, “In the long term, Hezbollah’s standing inside Lebanon has been compromised by the allegations. Since its inception, the group has depicted itself as caring for the welfare of all Lebanese, not just Shiites. But now the tribunal is producing overwhelming, albeit circumstantial, evidence that Hezbollah murdered the most important politician Lebanon had ever produced, and indiscriminately slaughtered many others in the process.” There really is not much to say about this closing bit of poetry.
In the end Bergman’s piece is a fine polemical tract that should be published in Israel. But for the NYT to choose him of all people to inform their readers about this critical issue – an issue/case that will go down in history as a major inflection point in the cause of international justice, perhaps its miscarriage (we will see)… and certainly the landmark decision (for better or worse) to try the murder of one man essentially on terrorism charges (also for the first time in international law), well it’s just too bad for NYT readers who will have less of a critical grasp of the subject than if they had just ignored the piece (trust your intuitions rather than get derailed by selective journalism, in this case).