I've taken a few pot shots recently at Age reporter Sarah Smiles so I want to give her some credit for a recent article of hers entitled What now, Lebanon? Stresses and strains show in a country divided which appeared in the Melbourne Age at the weekend.
Smiles describes the desperation and strain on some of the various peoples who make up the Lebanese nation. Without doubt many of them - particularly the non-Shia majority - have suffered greatly from the recent war. It's clear also that not all of them are prepared to blame Israel alone for their suffering. In fact, most of them understand that Israel's bombing campaign was directed primarily at Hizbullah's strongholds in the Shi'ite areas and that their real problem now is to withstand the threats, intimidation and thuggery of Hizbullah which continues to hold their nation to ransom after instigating its war on the people of Israel in July 2006 and which promises to put an end to their Cedar Revolution.
Smiles' article is most welcome but it would have been even more welcome if the Age accompanied it with a look at the stresses and strains which Hizbullah's war imposed on its other victim - Israel which had to endure 34 days of non stop firing of missiles targeting its civilian population in the north. In most circles, this is regarded as a crime against humanity but the Age has seemed extremely reluctant to tell its readers about it!
Indeed, one of the precious few articles published in the Age which viewed the war from the Israeli side was an opinion piece from Ted Lapkin which appeared in the Sunday Age on 3 September, 2006 entitled Hezbollah's new battle at home.
Its inclusion was refreshing because the Age narrative has consistently highlighted the suffering of the Lebanese people including negative claims made about Israel's conduct of the war, many of which emanated from dubious sources and were later proven to be fabrications. It was refreshing therefore to read a clear and cogent assessment of the fall out from the war from a different source - for once!
This didn't prevent a couple of Brunswick boofheads (I won't bother to give these obnoxious fools the credit of a link) from repeating and inventing their own unsubstantiated slanders against Israel while objecting in this week's Sunday Age letter's section to the Lapkin article.
One even asked "why on earth did you publish it?" and accusing Israel's response to Hizbullah's actions (which are clearly war crimes) as "barbaric".
It bears repeating that never in recent history has there been a war like this. For almost seven weeks Hizbullah fired constantly on civilian targets and its leader Hassan Nasrallah uttered racist threats against the Jews of Israel. There is no question at all that his behaviour is barbaric and constitutes a crime against humanity and yet the question is asked why the Age published an opinion piece that contained a balanced assessment of the fall out from the war in Lebanon.
Perhaps it was done to inform readers of a different viewpoint on the Middle East which is more than the boofheads could do to explain as to why they objected to the newspaper publishing an opinion that differed with theirs.