Frontline World


Lebanon, PARTY OF GOD, May 2003



Read through archived FRONTLINE/World conversations around this story below, including responses from the reporters.

Anna Segur New York, New York
I felt that the journalism of this story was more characteristic of Fox news in that it was sensationalist-making it seem like on any corner in Lebanon you could run into a hijacker. I do not feel that it provided adequate context for the Hezbollah movement's foundation and continuation, particularly with respect to the history of the Israeli army. The program lacked an explanation of the brutality of the Israeli army tactics towards civilians in Palestine and in Lebanon during the occupation, as well as the resounding silence of the international community towards the Isreali army's continued human rights violations.

Reporter David Lewis responds:
I would have loved to have been given an hour to explain all the background and history that would have placed Hezbollah in context even more than I did. But the time available was twenty minutes and I tried very hard to put as much context as I could within those narrow parameters. I did say that 20,000 Lebanese died and that Israel's occupation was brutal. I also showed more detail about Hezbollah's social and political programs than has ever been shown on US television before.

As for the hijacker, it was something that happened and was not made up. Lebanon is a strange place and strange things happen.

Jim Monzer Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
I very much appreciated your devoting time to deal with this very important subject. I did not appreciate your taking conjecture, and misleading information and presenting it as fact. One example: The bombing in Buenos Aires: At no time has Hizbollah been found to have anything to do with this -- CIA assertions to the contrary. Hizbollah has never been involved in any terrorist attack. All their operations have been confined to the theatre of war: Lebanon and northern Israel. To the Lebanese who were invaded by Israel, who had to endure foreign occupation for 20 years, and who had to deal with close to 20,000 deaths at the hands of the Israelis, Hizbollah is comparable to the French Resistance against the Nazis and indeed to the Patriots who fought in the American Revolution.

Reporter David Lewis responds:
I never mentioned Buenos Aires... And if you truly believe Hezbollah has never been involved in a terrorist attack there's a used Pinto I'd like to sell you! Seriously: Hezbollah may or may not have a terrorist wing today. I don't know. They do have great popular support which I made clear. I also spelled out very clearly the Israeli invasion and the 20,000 that died at Israeli hands.

Daniel Consolatore, Washington, DC
Shame on you FRONTLINE/World. Your feature on Lebanon and Hizb'ullah this week was terribly one-sided, and very disappointing.

Is even PBS infected with the American nationalist disease, that treats and sees any Muslim as "the enemy?" The reporter was positively antagonistic toward his subject and his interviewees, dismissing their arguments as "propaganda," or introducing their points in tones dripping with disdain: "They *SAAAAAY* that ... " The reporter is clearly intent on exposing any and every inconsistency.

What's inconsistent, and very disappointing is the way PBS is little better than FOX News in focusing only on one side. Where is the vaunted balance? Where is the tough, hard-ball interview with Israeli government officials, the side-glancing expose of the hypocrisy of American nationalism?

If you can criticize Starbucks, you can examine American Orientalism and racism toward Muslims and Arabs. And you can stop waving the flag in the face of the "green menace." We count on PBS to see the humanity in everyone, and to show it.

Reporter David Lewis responds:
Well, Daniel, I have been soundly criticized for being a stooge of Hezbollah propaganda and blind to their terror attacks on Israel and support for suicide bombers... and I have also been attacked by folks with views such as yours for being a stooge of Israelis and the US government. So I must be doing something right if both sides of this debate -- where this is almost no middle ground -- saw something in the film to make them mad. I tried to show the good and the bad of Hezbollah. Their past, their present and their possible future. The viewers of this program who came to it with no pre-conceived opinions will hopefully have learned much more about this organization than they ever had before.

Anonymous - Boston, Massachusetts
Hezbollah is and always will be a terrorist organization. Do not think for a moment they have a legitimate political agenda. I remember the bombing of our troops as if it were yesterday, and I challenge anyone to tell one of their family memberts that Hezbollah is not a terrorist group. Once the United States pressures Iran and Syria to stop funding them you will see how they resort back to their terrorist ways to fight for donations from the Saudi charities that like to contribute to the most effective jihad groups like al-Queda. Hezbollah will always be a terrorist group as long as they continue to preach that all Jews should be driven into the sea, and they will prove to be the undoing of Lebanon and hopefully Syria. May our soldiers never be forgotten.

Mark Anderson - New York, New York
It is quite unfortunate a show like frontline has successfully managed to degrade itself to fox by broadcasting a low quality and partial view on Hezbollah. The show not only not only failed to tell a story comprehensively and objectively but also portrayed a biased and sensational show with no depth and critical analysis of these people and their believe.

Dick Moulding - Northampton, Massachusetts
You have to wonder if Hezbollah's Ministry of Silly Marches realizes that not only are they marching to the Monty Python theme, but also to John Phillips Sousa's quintessentially American, 1893 "Liberty Bell March"! Is this globalization, or what?

Sarine Makdessian - Montreal, Quebec, Canada
While I thoroughly enjoyed last night's Frontline/World segment on the Hezbollah group (and abhor their very existence in mainstream Lebanese society), I am, nonetheless, let down by your portrayal of Lebanon. It seems that you have portrayed that country to be just another Iran when the truth could not be any further. An uninformed outsider may come out of watching the program and possibly forming truths that are not all enveloping and certainly not representative of all Lebanese -- mainly Christians (be it Maronite or otherwise) and Armenians. Taken with a grain of salt, it was yet another wonderful PBS presentation.

Melanie Thomas Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Looking at this issue objectively, it is possible to draw comparisons between Hezbollah and the IRA/Sinn Fein in Ireland. Out of the terrorist organisation that was the Irish Republican Army grew the political arm, Sinn Fein. Ultimately, it was Sinn Fein who really held all of the power. No amount of military hardware can influence like rational politics, and it remains to be seen if this will be the case in Lebanon.

John Hopkins Cambria Heights, New York
I came away with an appreciation of the fact that people around the world have legitimate grievances. If they are not answered groups like Hezbollah fill the void. It is also important to know that the there is no one group that represents all Muslims and the information on Hezbollah helps clear up some of the confusion on the matter.

Anonymous - Katy, Texas
The Frontline piece gave a view of Hezbollah that is not seen in the popular American media. It appears these are people with a cause, and that violence has been the only way for them to realize the independence of their peoples. Too bad the U.S. has been unable to convince these peoples that it is not just a lackey of Israel.

Walter Reed - Haleiva, Hawaii
I am saddened, once again, that American media is so one-sided/dishonest in its depiction of the Arab world. Jews, with British help, and later American help, invaded Palestine in 1917 ... and the Arabs who fight against this immoral invasion you call "terrorists". These are poor people without high tech weapons fighting for their homeland like any invaded people would. You guys are so one-sided it really makes me sick because you perpetuate the fiction that the Zionists are somehow right and the Arabs are somehow wrong.

Mitch Mitchell - Toledo, Ohio
It was a great piece that shed light on this 'terrorist' organization. They are and continue to be a legitimate and crucial part of Lebanese society. And by the way, linking them with bombings in Argentina, just remember no one has been arrested from the Hizballah organization in connection with this. It is merely propaganda put out by the United State of Israel.

Gerald Blankenship - Riverside, California
I am sorry to hear that there is a diminution of the middle class in the newly revitalized Beirut. The presence of a large underclass just leads to more unrest and acts of desperation. On the other hand, coverage of progress that has been made and continues to be made at the American University would contribute a hopeful note to what might take place in a future Lebanon.