‘BARBARIC’ read the bold red headline greeting Middle Eastern subscribers to the The Gulf News on the morning of the 20th day of ‘Israel’s war on Lebanon’ (31 July 2006). To prove the point, the report was accompanied by a picture of a child – a young body in rigor mortis covered in dust from the devastation left by Israel’s 30 July bombing of the village of Qana in southern Lebanon. Pictures like this, depicting the death of innocents, have provoked outrage across the Arab world and put Israeli sympathizers on the defensive. They have also drawn claims of media manipulation – for instance that ‘the green helmet guy’ paraded a different child’s body around in Qana and posed with it for photographers.
But these claims cannot mask the fact that dozens of Lebanese children were killed early that July morning. A total of 60 Qana civilians – 37 of them children – were pulled dead from under the rubble according to Arab sources.1 A total of four Israeli children died in Hizbullah rocket attacks in the course of the war. This is the second time in just over a decade that Qana has been devastated. In April 1996, 121 of its civilians were killed by Israel’s missiles. In both attacks, Israel claimed its bombing of civilians was aimed at wiping out Hizbullah. In both, international outrage forced a precarious ceasefire within weeks. In both, Hizbullah has been strengthened, not weakened, by the killings. Aid is pouring into Lebanon from around the Arab world and elsewhere, and Hizbullah has laid aside its arms to help reconstruct the country, further enhancing its popularity. The question now is whether the people of Qana will be able to rebuild their homes and their lives free from further mass funerals.
- The Gulf News 31 July 2006