On the fourth day after the outbreak of fighting in Nahr al Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon, ‘Al-Jazeera’ started its evening bulletin by stating that the report about to be aired included exclusive footage from inside the Palestinian camp, which conveyed the magnitude of the killing and revealed the extent of “human suffering” experienced by its inhabitants.
The footage, which was aired after, showed images of Fatah al Islam fighters stationed in their positions and firing at targets that were clearly members of the Lebanese army.
The tape did not present any images that reflected the suffering of Palestinian civilians; instead, it showed the fighters hiding behind their arms while they chanted repeated phrases in overlapping voices, such as ‘idols’ and ‘infidels’. They were also seen exchanging information about the location of their ‘brothers’, their fellow comrades.
Once again, ‘Al-Jazeera’ channel displays no hesitation in playing the same role that it mastered in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine, namely, the official spokesman of fundamentalist groups.
It soon became clear that the Fatah al Islam fighters were dealing with a ‘friendly’ camera, not one that represented a neutral press. Immediately an ambiguous line appeared concerning the relationship between takfiri [Muslims holding other Muslims to be infidels] groups who’s profession is to engage in killing rampages, indiscriminate murder and blowing themselves up on the one hand, and a channel that has managed, ever since its inception, to ignite an Islamist following of growing influence.
From the first day of the eruption of battles in northern Lebanon, the Lebanese and Arab media has been divided into two camps when dealing with the situation; who is the victim: The army or Fatah al Islam!
This division formed an actual barrier for the objective coverage of events. The state of perplexity that afflicted some media outlets overshadowed and prevented an actual and truthful coverage of the tragedy in Palestinian refugee camps, and thus, the suffering experienced by thousands of people was overlooked in favor of a killing squad and heavy bombardment. And so it was that tackling the crisis of the refugees living in the camps became one in which some sympathy was expressed for Fatah al Islam while the Lebanese army’s resolve was discouraged.
‘Al-Jazeera’ channel realized this equation and thus was quick to focus on the suffering of the Palestinians – which is inevitably necessary. However, dealing with the tragedy experienced by these people was always accompanied by a tendency to transform them into a curtain that obscures the reality of the danger posed by this armed group. As such, the reasons for the eruption of the fighting were disregarded and the channel made no reference to the fact that group chose to massacre elements from the Lebanese army while they were sleeping. But more importantly, breaking news and news bulletin headlines that constantly referred to the army’s ongoing strikes did not make a single reference to Fatah al Islam’s fortification amongst the civilians and their bombing of relief convoys.
Neglecting or completely disregarding the suffering of the Palestinian civilians is a black mark in the records of all parties, and of media outlets, both Lebanese and Arab. However, more pertinently, raising the Fatah al Islam banner and forcibly associating it with civilians is a crime against Palestinian civilians before it is a crime against Lebanon.
The objectivity of the position that the media should employ in dealing with the situation necessitates the protection of the civilians and that it does not get drawn into the illusion of Fatah al Islam, both of which remain unfulfilled in our Arab media, which still implicates itself in the realms of politics, religion and security.