Sunday, September 03, 2006


They say that the lowest rung on the legal fraternity's food chain is occupied by the "ambulance chasers", a contingent of low life lawyers who obtain clients by persuading accident victims to sue for damages. They get their name because they prey on ambulance victims and, as such, are looked upon as virtual outcasts by the legal community at large.

I believe the same thing can be said of certain elements that inhabit the media's lowest levels. There are those who, in their haste to find a grisly news story would believe almost anything and then write about it - especially in the context of the Middle East conflict and especially if the story happens to paint Israel in a poor light.

Recently, it appears that a whole swag of these folk fell hook, line and sinker for a number of the Hizbullah propaganda frauds perpetrated during the recent conflict in Lebanon. One of them was undoubtedly "The Red Cross Ambulance Incident."

Less than two weeks into the fighting in Lebanon, Megan Stack reported in the "fair and balanced" Melbourne Age on the tribulations of Lebanese medics whose ambulances came under deliberate attack from Israeli missiles. The article AGONIES ANEW FOR TEAM ON THE SIDE OF THE ANGELS appeared on July 26, 2006 and featured a photograph of a damaged red cross ambulance which was accompanied by the caption, "Under fire: missile damage on the clearly marked ambulances, hit while caring for injured in the town of Qana." The Australian’s Martin Chulov also reported from Tyre on the same day, CIVILIANS KILLED AS ISRAELIS TARGET AMBULANCES. Chulov praised the driver of one of the ambulances, a Mr. Qasin Shalin who escaped with "light injuries" as one of "the orange-clad men of Lebanon's Red Cross, who have come to be known as the country's bravest civil servants".

To me, the ambulance story just didn't look or feel right. Would the Israelis really attack civilian ambulances for target practice? Or was something else behind this story? After all, there have been many stories of how Palestinian terror groups have misused Red Cross ambulances to ferry suicide bombers and weapons around Gaza and the West Bank in recent years. Perhaps the Israelis had become aware that Hizbullah was moving munitons around in some of these ambulances or perhaps it simply wanted to achieve a propaganda advantage in the west - easily gained by the flashing visions of Israeli damage to a vehicle carrying the symbol of the red cross?

An internet blogger who analysed the incident then came up with a number of findings that suggest the whole story was a hoax, that it was legitimised by a media that was eager and willing to believe the lie without questioning any of its puzzling aspects and that the enemies of Israel used the "fallout" from the incident to apply diplomatic pressure on Israel and to alter the course of the war. THE RED CROSS AMBULANCE INCIDENT

The report concluded that the ambulance in the picture was not struck by a missile on or about 23 July 2006. The hole in the roof was more likely caused by the removal beforehand of the ambulance's siren, the rust around that hole is indicative of damage caused long ago, there is no evidence that the ambulance was damaged by fire and that the injury to a man who lost part of his leg was in not caused by a missile strike. The report added that the testimony of Red Cross workers in the area was not neutral but most likely inspired by a desire to push Hizbullah's propaganda cause.

I wondered at the time, whether any of the ambulance chasers in the media would examine the report and other evidence exposing some of the other false stories told during the war and whether they are prepared to admit that they were wrong. I knew of course that the Melbourne Age would give it short shrift and that I didn’t have to hold my breath wondering on that score but I was surprised at how The Australian dealt with the story …[To be continued]

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