Nicholas Blanford, the Beirut correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor was recently arrested and detained on suspicion of being a spy in a Lebanese village near the Syrian border (emphasis mine):
We ended up at a nearby house in Yahfoufa where we were offered cups of Turkish coffee. Soon, more Hizbullah men arrived and we were escorted to an office in the village of Nabi Sheet. Ali and I handed over our cellphones, wallets, and my small backpack of journalistic gear for their perusal. That didn’t help the situation.
In the eyes of our captors, my GPS device and a satellite phone – intended to aid our trip to remote Toufeil – only marked us as spies. Still, I was not unduly worried. I had been detained by Hizbullah before. It usually meant sitting with them for two or three hours while they verified my identity. I reeled off a list of names of top Hizbullah officials whom they could contact.
However, the Hizbullah men of the Bekaa are a tough, suspicious breed and unused to foreigners tramping around their areas.
Furthermore, Hizbullah has grown more wary of foreign journalists since the recent revelation that two Israeli correspondents had entered Lebanon on foreign passports and reported from the party’s strongholds in Beirut and the south, an act that has made life more difficult and potentially dangerous for Western journalists operating here.
I recently wrote about my exchange with Lisa Goldman, one of the Israeli journalists who came here, and she recently tried to defend her lack of journalistic ethics on CNN in a debate with a local professor of journalism from the Lebanese American University. In this interview and on her blog she keeps mentioning all of the positive feedback she’s gotten from Lebanon. Strangely missing from her blog comments is much negative feedback, which would lead one to believe that the only Lebanese responses she’s gotten have been positive.
I know this to be patently false. For example, she refused to validate my comments on her blog as well as those of a Lebanese NGO worker who does projects on conflict resolution. So if those two comments aren’t on her blog, I presume that she’s been filtering many of the comments she doesn’t agree with as well. For someone who claims to be writing about Lebanon in order to bridge the gap between Israelis and the Lebanese, it seems ironic that she would reject comments by those with a different opinion than hers.
On her blog, she dismisses the charges leveled by a foreign correspondent based in Beirut that she has “caused alot of problems for legitimate professional reporters who report from Lebanon (and who actually try and make an effort to understand the situation.)” Nicholas Blanford’s recent jail time should put to rest any doubts that anyone had about this one. (Obviously, Hezbollah is at fault for being so paranoid and not allowing journalists free reign, but the stunts of Goldman and her Brazilian/Israeli friend have only made a bad situation worse.)
She then says that western reporters are doing a bad job of covering Lebanon since Israelis seem to know little of the current situation there:
As for the “countless foreign correspondents who work tirelessly” in Lebanon to “try and bring an accurate and fair picture to the world” – well, perhaps you should try harder to be accurate and fair. Because given that most non-Lebanese people seem to have the impression that the majority of Lebanese are either homeless, impoverished victims of the summer war, or militants running around with rocket launchers on their shoulders, it seems that you are not doing a very good job at all in presenting an accurate and fair picture of Lebanon.
Of course, this is absolutely ridiculous for several reasons. First, as anyone with access to Google can easily see, there are plenty of accounts of Beirut nightlife. A Lexis Nexis search for articles in the North American press in the last three years with the words “Lebanon” and “nightlife,” for example, come up with 40 articles. The same search for English-language European sources yields 83 results. If Israelis don’t know what normal life in Beirut is like, it’s because they don’t want to know, not because the information isn’t out there.
So when Goldman says ”I had a lot of knowledge of Lebanon from the internet,” I can’t help but wonder if she knows how to use the internet at all. In any case, it seems clear that as far as Lebanon goes, Lisa Goldman does not, in fact, know Shi’ite from shinola.