Lebanese soldiers guard the border as Israeli shells continue to strike inside Lebanon.

It has been a hot, quiet day in the Beqaa Valley today – not so much in the Lebanese South. While I spent several hours waiting on work-related email replies, the village of Adeisseh witnessed clashes between the Lebanese and Israeli armies. I found out right before lunch, which naturally made for some strange conversation.

An Israeli cherrypicker reaching over the border fence into Lebanese territory.

Already the violence on the ground is being superseded by the battle over narrative; the Lebanese claim that their sovereignty was completely violated, while the Israelis insist that its forces were conducting “routine activity.” There is, of course, photographic evidence of an Israeli cherry-picker reaching comically over the border fence to start uprooting some conifers it viewed as blocking the sacred Israeli line of site. For those of you who have seen The Lemon Tree, this is not overly surprising, but just as patently ridiculous.

Reports fly everywhere. Aljazeera is finally covering it, the BBC has an alright article; other sources are already analyzing the potential for the issue to inflate. But it’s the New York Times whose insistence on protecting the Israeli image in the media war that once again struck me as typical.

While lengthy, the Times report refused to allot any blame to the Israelis. Rather than acknowledge that its own photo (taken from the Associated Press) proves that the Israelis entered Lebanese territory, it takes care to use language making it perfectly natural that the Israelis bombed a Lebanese military outpost using artillery and helicopters, and continued shelling two hours after the UN peacekeepers came to calm everyone down. More significantly (in my eyes) is one photo in the slideshow on the site’s front page, showing Israeli soldiers “looking through the sites of their weapons.” Anyone who knows a little about guns can see that those are not typical assault rifles, they are sniper rifles, which they were using to continue shooting at Lebanese soldiers and others from across the border. The caption, however, makes it sound as if they were standing ready, waiting for some sort of Lebanese aggression.

It’s a bit nitpicky, but this is what the image battle is all about. Media documentation is the real aim, and the role of social media is almost considered key in this process today – this post from Beirut Spring. The New York Times isn’t helping with its shoddy, gray-area reporting. It can’t keep the Israelis hands clean forever, but it’s certainly trying.

Now, concerning the tree they were uprooting, it seems odd to me that they should choose now to test the Lebanese army, given the increasingly tense situation in the region: rockets in Eilat/Aqaba, the STL, Hassan Nasrallah’s speech tonight. You could keep on listing.

The more I contemplate, the more it seems like a deliberate provocation on behalf of the Israeli army to continue destabilizing Lebanon. The closer the country gets to anarchy, the more opportunity for Israel to invade and uproot Hezbollah. Except that they continue to forget that when they operate in Lebanon in recent history, they have always united the Lebanese, rather than driven them apart. Will they ever learn? Also, the US gov’t has been oddly silent. Where is its condemnation?

So the Lebanese state has to safeguard its sovereignty from Hezbollah – but not Israel?