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Losing Public Opinion - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In protest against the report by the commander of the Multi National Forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, who supported the US President George W. Bush and the policy of his administration in Iraq, the US liberal MoveOn.org earlier this week published a full-page advertisement in the New York Times, in which it condemned the General and accused him of deception and favoring the White House.

The advertisement raised a storm between Democrats and Republicans, who mainly differ on the US role in Iraq. David Petraeus’ report only widened the gap between the two parties and complicated the intensity of the US predicament in the Middle East. The differences between the two American parties on the report didn’t prevent its publication and debate over it by US public opinion. It is reminiscent of another report. A few weeks ago, an attack was launched against the Human Rights Watch, which prepared two reports on last summer’s war in Lebanon. It announced that it would hold a press conference in Beirut to publish a report on Hezbollah’s performance during the war and followed it up with a similar conference in Israel a few days after that.

The local political circumstance in Lebanon led the organization to cancel its press conference in Beirut under pressure and threatened. The patriotism of the Lebanese government is permanently called into question and accused by Hezbollah and its media. This prompted the government to attack the organization more so than Hezbollah and prevented it from holding its press conference under the pretense that the international organization treated the executioner and the victim as equals in its condemnation against Hezbollah and that its report was biased.

As for Hezbollah, through its ideological media and empathetic national and leftist media, it launched a vehement campaign against the organization because it condemned the party’s attacks that targeted civilians, completely ignoring the harsh content of the report towards Israel. The storm that unraveled against the Human Rights Watch in Lebanon has prevented any media follow-up with respect to the Organization’s report published in Israel and regarded by the Israeli press as the fiercest condemnation of the practices of the Israeli army during last summer’s war from an international organization that advocates the rights of civilians.

The report by the Human Rights Watch embodied the essence of records and professional work that started from the day that the battles erupted until today. We should not and will not forget that this organization was the first to announce that Israel had dropped cluster bombs on Lebanon.

The report concluded that Israel should be held responsible for the human and material disaster that was inflicted upon Lebanon. Furthermore, the organization refuted Israel’s frequent declaration that Hezbollah had used civilians as human shields. But the immense controversy that was raised in Lebanon by the Human Rights Watch report prevented shedding light on the importance of this report. This caused Lebanon to miss out on a priceless opportunity to benefit from the report in any attempt to prosecute Israel internationally for its crimes. Of course, there are many people who mock the idea of resorting to international courts and benefiting from reports by organizations such as the Human Rights Watch, so it is easy to make such attempts absurd and play down the importance of winning over international public opinion of our issues. But no matter how we disagree on missiles and weapons and their role in restoring a seized right and protecting violated land, these missiles will win us the international public opinion that we need despite of any claims that state the contrary.

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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