August 22, 2006

"The Sixth War"

Most American and English-speaking viewers do not watch the Arabic-language Al-Jazeera channel. Its coverage of the July-August war between Israel and Hizballah was about what you would expect. Israel was referred to as al-'adu (the enemy), and the coverage highlighted the "success" of the Hizballah rocket strikes on Israeli civilian populations. When dealing with Israeli operations in Lebanon, coverage was focused on civilian casualties, damage to the Lebanese infrastructure and popular support for Hizballah.

Almost all coverage was "slugged" as The Sixth War (al-harb as-sadis). Slugs are the labels on the lower third of the television screen, much like what we see on American news networks as Mideast Crisis, War on Terror, Terror in the Sky, etc. The only times Al-Jazeera did not slug the war as The Sixth War was the immediate aftermath of the Qana airstrike in which 29 people were killed - coverage for a few days was slugged After Qana. After the ceasefire, the slug changed to The Consequences of the War.

I have been asked how Al-Jazeera arrived at the number six for this war. Good question. There are several ways to look at this. Most analysts list these:
1948 - Israel War of Independence
1956 - Suez Crisis
1967 - Six Day War
1973 - Yom Kippur War
1982 - Operation Peace for Galilee
2006 - Israel-Hizballah War, or "The Sixth War"

However, Lebanon was not involved in all these conflicts. They participated in a limited manner in 1948, and did not participate in 1956, 1967 or 1973. The list also does not include:
1978 - Operation Litani, in which Israeli forces invaded Lebanon and drove the Palestinian Liberation Organization north of the Litani River;
1993 - Operation Accountability, Israeli operations in southern Lebanon to crush opposition to the ongoing Israeli occupation;
1996 - Operation Grapes of Wrath, more Israeli operations in southern Lebanon against opposition to the ongoing Israeli occupation.

I guess you could make the case for 1948, 1978, 1982, 1993, 1996 and 2006.