Hezbollah reports becoming less and less believable
If Hezbollah-run media are to be believed, then 35 Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed or wounded in Aita Shaab, militants downed an Israeli helicopter and destroyed a house in which IDF soldiers were hiding, and IDF troops are always hit in the back because they are running away.
All these statements are baseless because - despite the impression Hezbollah has made for straight talk - credibility is not its strong suit.
Hezbollah's reports have become less and less believable in recent days. On Monday, Al-Manar television - the central component of Hezbollah's well-oiled media empire - reported that the organization had destroyed an Israeli ship off the coast of Tyre, which had some 50 sailors aboard - a charge the IDF dismissed completely.
It's not clear what incident, if any, the report was referring to, and the Arab world has been asking questions. Al-Arabiya television asked Mahmoud Kamati, a member of the Hezbollah political bureau, about the Hezbollah claim and he repeated that an Israeli ship had been hit, but said no pictures were broadcast because visibility was poor.
Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, is a superb tool for the propaganda machine. Nasrallah, 46, is one of the most impressive speakers in the entire Middle East. He is a virtuoso of the Arabic language, although he doesn't forget to spice his comments with a few words in the Lebanese dialect. It nearly always seems as though he is speaking about the most important matters in an offhand way, but he is really getting his listeners to follow his thought process.
"I sometimes take the tape of his comments and watch it, for pleasure," said a Haifa resident who has been forced to go down to the nearest bomb shelter every few hours over the last few weeks. "He is simply an excellent speaker."
Hezbollah's media empire - which includes the Al-Nur radio station and the Web site moqawama.net - has been an inseparable part of the psychological war. Sometimes, Hezbollah also transmits its messages through other media, such as the Iranian television station Al-Alam. The crown jewel of the empire, Al-Manar, is broadcast in Lebanon and throughout the Arab world, by satellite.
Al-Manar, all the time
At every stage of the fighting, Al-Manar was the station that broadcast Hezbollah's messages. Its role in the war began the morning of July 12, when Hezbollah abducted IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Al-Manar was the first station to report the kidnapping, about two hours after it took place. Since the fighting began, the pronouncements of Al-Manar have had a major influence on other media.
"Al-Manar has had an enormous impact on all the Arab press, and in effect on the Hebrew press as well," said Amir Levy from Satlink Communications, which monitors Arab-language media.
Although there were a few slight technical glitches in Al-Manar's broadcasting after its south Beirut offices were destroyed, overall it continued broadcasting normally and showcasing its high technical standards. "It is very high-quality work," said Levy.
"They always broadcast new clips, update the subtitles in real time, broadcast from the field via satellites. It's a very impressive broadcasting quality."