One of the major international stories of the past week has been the discovery of sophisticated tunnels constructed by Hezbollah, traversing underneath Lebanon’s southern border into Israel. Taking a leaf out of the Hamas playbook in Gaza, there seems little doubt that the goal of Hezbollah’s subterranean work is to attack or kidnap Israelis. The global media has reported the Israeli assessment that the tunnels are intended as a launching pad for attacks on civilian communities close to the border.
While journalists and editors should be commended for highlighting yet another Hezbollah plan to conduct terror attacks, they have manifestly failed to dig deeper into the story and expose the source of Hezbollah’s capabilities – Iran. Tehran’s extensive backing for Hezbollah is hardly a secret. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently candidly admitted that his loyalty to Iran’s Supreme Leader trumps his loyalty to Lebanon. In other words, Hezbollah takes its orders directly from Iran. For all intents and purposes, there are one and the same.
After all, who does the media think is behind the estimated 100,000 plus missile arsenal in Hezbollah’s possession? Some enterprising backyard engineers? Who pays for and supplies the advanced precision-guided missiles? And who provides the funds and expertise to construct attack tunnels? None of this is solely the work of an enterprising ‘grassroots’ movement as Hezbollah likes to present itself. And so surely Hezbollah’s partnership with Iran should be a significant factor when it comes to reporting Hezbollah’s tunnel activity?
Yet, time and again the global media glosses over the obvious. In the Washington Post, Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash reported Israel’s intention to destroy the Hezbollah tunnels. They placed it in a context of “deep concern about the buildup of Iranian proxies in Syria in recent years” and mentioned “allegations that a plane carrying Iranian weapons for Hezbollah, its most powerful proxy, had arrived at Beirut’s airport.” But the Iran connection remained reported as a distant concern. Similarly, Associated Press covered the Israeli discovery of a second Hezbollah tunnel. Iran’s role was reported as something of a footnote, with Israel’s Prime Minister quoted as he “vowed to continue efforts ‘to prevent the establishment of an Iranian presence in Syria and to act against Iranian and Hezbollah aggression.’” In his coverage, CNN’s Ian Lee mentioned in passing that Hezbollah is an “Iran-funded militant group and political party,” omitting to even refer to its terror activity. And in the UK’s Independent, Richard Hall and Bel Trew mention as an aside that “Israel views Hezbollah as an existential threat due to its close relationship with Iran, and has made repeated threats to invade Lebanon to tackle the group.” Hardly a damning indictment of Tehran.
The problem is not so much that the Iran-Hezbollah link is ignored entirely by the media. It isn’t. But it is not afforded its proper place. The fact that Tehran and Hezbollah work together hand-in-glove has been diluted into either a mere allegation or at best an annotated factual note. The damaging effect is to give the reader the false impression that the relationship is of little or no consequence. Nothing could be further from the truth. Especially at a time when debate continues to rage regarding US sanctions on Iran, at a moment when European countries appear to be considering their own restrictions on Tehran, it is of paramount importance to highlight Iran’s continuing sponsoring and masterminding of terror. If any reminder were required of Hezbollah’s particular brand of Iranian-supported terror, then the bus bomb in Bulgaria in 2012 which killed six people and the plot in Cyprus to carry out a similar attack on tourists in 2013, should serve as stark reminders that their murderous tentacles reach way beyond the Middle East.
While the global media continues to treat Tehran’s partnership with Hezbollah as an inconsequential issue, it is left to local publications in Israel, the intended target of the recent tunnels, to investigate further. In YNet, Giora Eiland this week made the case for Washington to target Hezbollah as a core tactic in the US campaign to restrict Iran’s armed capability. It would be foolish of the international media to continue underplaying Hezbollah-Iranian collaboration. Because you can be sure that the Bulgaria bombing and the Cyprus plot will not be the final Iranian attempt to use Hezbollah as cover to carry out international acts of terror. Maybe Israel should invite journalists and bloggers to tour the tunnels – They would enter in northern Israel and find daylight at the other end of the tunnel at the grand bazaar of Tehran.