By Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts
When the Israelis bombed Lebanon, trying to neutralize the Hezbollah guerrillas, one of their first targets was a complex of towers that transmitted television and cell phone signals.
“It’s important to understand why the attack was carried out,” explained Capt. Jacob Dallal, an Israeli army spokesman. “This will disrupt their ability to communicate.” Cell phones, he added, were a “key communication link” for Hezbollah.
The Israeli assault vividly demonstrates how modern communications have made the battle against terrorism immeasurably more difficult. Cell phones are easy to hide and hard to trace. They are as important to Hezbollah’s military success as any grenade or land mine.
But there was another, largely unspoken reason for Israel’s focus on the transmission towers. Propaganda is also a critical weapon on the Lebanese battlefield, and Israel wanted to limit the images of civilian casualties rocketing around the world. One way of doing that: destroy Al-Manar, Hezbollah’s TV station, which has been banned in the United States and Europe as an agent of terrorism.
Israel has made plenty of mistakes. Rockets have misfired. Pilots have attacked the wrong targets, including two ambulances. But let’s be clear: the main blame for civilian deaths in Lebanon rests squarely with Hezbollah.