Al-Manar: Beacon of Hate
by Asaf Romirowsky
Tech Central Station
August 18, 2006
[N.B.: The following reflects what the author submitted, and not exactly what was published. To obtain the precise text of what was published, please check the original place of publication.]
Hezbollah has long used the satellite broadcaster Al-Manar as a medium for winning the hearts and minds of their supporters inside Lebanon and throughout the Muslim world. Avi Jorisch in his groundbreaking study Beacon of Hatred: Inside Hizballah's Al-Manar Television unearths how al-Manar has become the official mouthpiece for Hezbollah. This beacon is best known for airing propaganda against Israel, not least of which include reports of "heroic" and "successful" operations by Hezbollah fighters against the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
More significantly, Al-Manar programming consists of children's shows that glorify homicide bombers. Anti-American and anti-Semitic material -- including the infamous "blood libel" which fallaciously accuses Jews of slaughtering Christian children to make Matza for the Passover holiday -- is the normal fare. Post 9/11, the station worked tirelessly to promote the perception that the Israeli Mossad was the one responsible for the attacks. And indeed, many Arabic speakers in London, Paris, Madrid, Brussels, Berlin absorb Hezbollah's messages of hate and incitement via al Manar.
Clearly Al-Manar has become an integral part of the Party of God's psychological warfare toolkit. It was the first channel to announce the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers on the Lebanese border. Currently, the station currently enjoys top ratings around the Arab world. These ratings result in no small part from Hassan Nasrallah's skills as an orator, whereby he manages to woo crowds using superb Arabic woven together with colloquial Lebanese expressions. Nasrallah also plays on the fears of the Israeli public to drive messages of fear, and rebroadcasts Israeli news reports about public uncertainty in Israel regarding the war. All of this is possible due to the relatively sophisticated technology al-Manar uses, which does not fall far behind the standards of other high-tech TV stations.
Recently, in a brilliant cyber-attack, the IDF intelligence unit managed to hack an al-Manar broadcast and plant a caricature of Nasrallah captioned ‘your days are numbered.' Additionally, they managed to place an image of a dead guerrilla fighter flash on their screens saying that this is the corpse of one of the members of Hezbollah's Special Forces and that "Hassan Nasrallah lies." Consequently, al-Manar's PR director Ibrahim Farhat reported that "the Israelis had succeeded in creating static and other signal interruptions at least 10 times on TV broadcasts since the start of the war." He added that despite the circumstances the station is in "terrific" shape. But this admission from the station that sees itself as the "station of resistance" was a huge success for the IDF. Still, the broadcasts continue.
The situation is now intensifying on the northern border of Israel. Al-Manar was the first to report the preparations for a possible attack like Nasrallah promised, "if our capital Beirut -- is attacked, we will attack their capital -- Tel Aviv, " If nothing else, such proves the aggressive nature of the psychological warfare he is waging on Israel. After all, Nasrallah often means what he says. Moreover, with the so called "cease-fire" it was al Manar that featured Nasrallah saying, "we are at the brink of a great victory; a strategic and historic one.., that Hezbollah fighters brought about this great triumph." And now is not that time to lay down our arms this illustrates how nothing has really changed despite the supposed "cease-fire" and as long as al Manar aka Nasrallah says so you can be sure that it is indeed so.
The IDF's psychological unit follows Nasrallah's speeches very carefully and analyzes the way he expresses himself. They believe his inaccuracies stem from both his instability and uncertainty; hence he never discloses the true number of loses Hezbollah suffers from IDF attacks -- demonstrated to have been quite large. There is no doubt, given the criticism he is receiving of late from disparate Lebanese sources, that he is trying to boost his public image through such spectacles.
We have also witnessed over the past three years how the governments of France, Spain, and Holland have determined that al-Manar violated European law due to its anti-Semitic/Western and racist programming. This has led to a domino effect among other countries such as Hong Kong, Australia, Barbados, and Brazil who have also decided to remove al-Manar from local airwaves.
This is a good start but it is not enough. The basic problem is that al-Manar is not a news network serving freedom of speech, but the propaganda and incitement arm of a terrorist organization. We should therefore applaud the IDF attacks on military targets and as well as Hezbollah's media organs. Islamism is not just an epidemic that spreads in the ranks of jihadists but also through the airwaves. America and Europe should thank Israel if they managed to find a cure for the disease.
Asaf Romirowsky is a Campus Watch Associate Fellow for the Middle East Forum and the Manager of Israel & Middle East Affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
Related Topics: Lebanon, Media, Radical Islam | Asaf Romirowsky
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