Following an interesting exchange in the comments to the previous post, here's a little bit more on the thinking behind it (this is essentially an expanded version of my comment there). Rest assured, I've not joined the "I love Hezbollah" club.
As an aside, here's something for those who are. This video contains scenes which some may find disturbing. It's called "Green Helmet acting as cynical movie director in Qana" and that's a fairly accurate description of what it shows. It does not in any way alleviate the moral responsibility of those who killed the innocent child shown. Clearly, this video is being used as part of a coordinated effort to distract and deflect attention from what Israel is actually doing to Lebanon. (I found it through giyus.)
It does, however, show how Hezbollah have cynically exploited these deaths for propaganda purposes. Keeping a sense of proportion, it is clear that killing children is in a different league morally to this sort of thing. Nevertheless, the use of a dead child as a prop is sickening. There is no "right" side to be on in this bloody mess.
Anyway, back to the point. In the previous post, I pointed out that Israel imposes reporting restrictions on all journalists covering the conflict. My intention was not to suggest that there are no valid military reasons for these restrictions. What I really wanted to highlight was that this policy also has other consequences and that journalists have a duty to make clear what these consequences are.
The key here is Israel's claim that Hezbollah are deliberately targeting civilians in an attempt to kill as many as possible. This, they say, makes what Hezbollah does different from what the IDF has been doing in Lebanon. The Israelis essentially rely on the theory of Double Effect (via) to absolve themselves of responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of Lebanese civilians. I'd recommend reading that post to get a good grasp on the concept but in essence, Double Effect relates to intentions.
Israel say they do not want to kill hundreds of Lebanese civilians, that it isn't their intention, but that it is been an unavoidable consequence of their war against Hezbollah. Intentions are an integral part of moral judgement and their lack of intent, they argue, means that their actions cannot be morally equivalent to Hezbollah's deliberate targeting and killing of civilians.
It seems to me, however, that the restrictions imposed on reporting make it very difficult to establish whether Hezbollah really is deliberately targeting civilians in the way that the Israeli government claims. When a rocket lands in northern Israel we're never told whether there was an obvious military target nearby. There might very well be genuine military reasons for this but it nevertheless distorts the accuracy of the information which is fed into our living room. We are left in the position where it is very dificult to assess Israeli claims regarding Hezbollah's intentions.
In fact, if you look at the Israeli civilian/soldier casualty ratio caused by Hezbollah's military activities, it strongly suggests that Hezbollah are primarily aiming for soldiers, not civilians. This means, in effect, that they too could use the Double Effect theory to justify Israeli civilian deaths. If they are aiming at military targets and the civilian deaths are a foreseen but unintended consequence, this makes a difference morally.
For this reason, journalists reporting from Israel should make clear that they are not able to divulge details of Israeli military postions which may have been the target of Hezbollah rocket attacks. The Israeli claim that Hezbollah is deliberately attempting to kill as many civilians as possible is given greater credibility by the reporting restrictions which they impose on reporters in the field. This might be an unintended consequence but journalists are surely under an obligation to inform their audience that they are unable to provide all of the facts necessary to make a judgement on Hezbollah's military intentions.
Having said all that, I do agree with the linked post above. Double Effect relies on the fact that there are a limited number of options. Neither Israel nor Hezbollah can realistically claim that to be the case here.
In fact, it seems to me to be highly unlikely that either side is deliberately attempting to kill large numbers of civilians. But, both have adopted indiscriminate tactics which reveal a callous disregard for the lives of civilians on the "other side".
Tags: News, Politics, Israel, Lebanon