Catholic news agency Agenzia Fides misleads readers

Why did the Catholic news agency Agenzia Fides consistently downplay the aggression of the Hezbollah invaders? It at first called them “protesters” and “demonstrators” instead of “jihadists” or “terrorists” as it ought to have done, for what the Hezbollah marchers were intent on doing was precisely to “strike terror in the hearts” (cf. Qur’an 8:60) of the Christians, by invading their neighborhoods, scaring the inhabitants with their display of automatic weapons and RPGs, and beating up those Christians who had not managed to get out of their way in time. Writes Hugh Fitzgerald

On October 14, Hezbollah fighters, armed with automatic weapons and rocket launchers, entered the Christian neighborhood of Tayyouneh-Ain al-Remmaneh in Beirut. They had gone there, in a show of armed force, to intimidate the Christians and to noisily demand that Tarek Bitar, the intrepid judge investigating the Beirut blast of Aug. 4, 2020, be discharged because – no one needed to say it – he was coming uncomfortably close to finding Hezbollah responsible for the catastrophic explosion that resulted n 220 deaths, 7,000 wounded, and $15 billion in property damage. But the Christians were not to be intimidated, not even after Hezbollah goons began beating them up and then firing wildly; some of them retrieved their own weapons from their homes, and from their apartment houses, on high, returned the fire of the menacing Hezbollah operatives below, killing seven.

A report by CAMERA’s Dexter Van Zile on how this violent encounter between members of a Shi’ite terror group and Christians, defending their home neighborhood, was described by the Christian news agency Fides, can be found here: “Catholic News Outlet Misinforms Readers on the Middle East,” by Dexter Van Zile, Algemeiner, November 2, 2021:

Since when do Hezbollah fighters armed with machine guns and rocket launchers trying to intimidate Christians in Beirut qualify as “Shiite demonstrators?”

Apparently, since October 27, 2021.

That’s when Fides News Agency [a Christian news outlet] described a group of Hezbollah gunmen who entered the Christian neighborhood of Tayyouneh-Ain al Remmaneh in Beirut — and beat up a few Christians — as “Shiite demonstrators.” The outlet used this innocent moniker in an article highlighting the efforts of Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï, Patriarch of the Maronite Church, to calm tensions in Lebanon.

These weren’t mere “demonstrators.” “Demonstrators” don’t come armed with machine guns and rocket launchers; nor do they deliberately invade the neighborhoods where those deemed hostile to the marchers reside. Nor do “demonstrators” start to beat up people in those neighborhoods, as happened in Ain el-Rummaneh.

Yes, it’s absolutely necessary to highlight the work of the Patriarch to promote peace in Lebanon, especially after Christian gunmen killed seven of these so-called protesters.[the other word used by Fides, along with “demonstrators,” to describe these Hezbollah fighters] But it’s also absolutely necessary to give an honest description of what happened before these “protesters” were fired upon in the first place.

The Fides News Agency left two important facts out of its summary of the incident. First, the protesters it discusses were actually armed gunmen from Hezbollah. Second, the gunmen entered Tayyouneh-Ain al Remmaneh as part of a larger effort to stymie the investigation into the 2020 blast in Beirut that killed more than 200 people, injuring another 7,000. This explosion caused more than $10 billion in damages, [most estimates suggest $15 billion in damages] , according to Zvi Mazel writing for Geopolitical Intelligence Services in July. It’s pretty clear that Hezbollah does not want an honest and independent investigation into the blast, telling the judge in charge of the inquiry, “we will remove you,” as Reuters reported in September.

Fides News Agency, the news arm of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith headquartered in the Vatican, reported that Patriarch Rai was promoting an institutional compromise to “overcome the crisis following the tragic events of Thursday October 14th, when seven Shiite demonstrators in Beirut were killed by snipers on the roofs of the Christian neighborhood of Tayyouneh-Ain al Remmaneh.”

In its coverage of the October 14 firefight, The Jerusalem Post reported that both Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army declared that the first round of shooting targeted the “protesters,” but that when “the shooting began, Hezbollah and Amal supporters could be seen firing toward buildings in the areas with automatic weapons and RPGs,[rocket-propelled grenades] raising questions whether the supporters who had claimed to be peaceful had come to the protest armed.

Of course the Hezbollah fighters were not “peaceful”; of course they came “armed.” The Hezbollah marchers were not mere “demonstrators” or “protesters,” as the Fides News Agency insisted on calling them in its first and last reports about the fighting. They came armed to the teeth — not with mere guns or rifles, but with machine-guns and RPGs — and in beating up Christians they encountered, started what then became a fierce firefight between Hezbollah firing from street level up at Christian gunmen shooting down from their apartments.

The Jerusalem Post did initially use the word “protesters” to describe the Hezbollah gunmen, but then, unlike the Fides News Agency, revealed that these protesters were “armed.” Hezbollah claims it was fired on first; the Christians say it was they who were first assaulted physically and only then went to retrieve their weapons; though each side blames the other for beginnig to use weapons, it appears that the firing began simultaneously from both sides.

The Jerusalem Post also reported that sources told the newspaper that “Hezbollah operatives were clearly seen in many videos entering safe neighborhoods with automatic weapons, and stated that the shooting was an attempt to use violence and intimidation to overthrow the investigation into the port explosion.” The same article reports that eyewitnesses “questioned why, if the protest was meant to be peaceful, the protesters had hundreds of weapons on hand, including RPGs. The eyewitnesses also claimed that the Hezbollah supporters deliberately entered the Ain El Rummaneh area to cause a provocation, comparing the incident to the May 7 violence that nearly sparked a civil war in 2008”.

The Jerusalem Post report made clear that the Hezbollah operatives were armed with automatic weapons and that eyewitnesses described them as entering the Christian neighborhood looking to terrorize, the Christians. They started the fighting by beating up a few Christians encountered on the streets, before then starting to fire their weapons menacingly into the air. Then the Christians from their apartment buildings, having retrieved their own guns, returned fire directly at Hezbollah fighters, and the long firefight began.

The Fides News Agency did report accurately on the Maronite Patriarch’s support for the Christians in Ain el-Rumanneh who, in taking up the arms they had in their houses, were only trying to defend themselves from the heavily armed and aggressive Hezbollah operatives who had invaded their neighborhood and started by beating up Christians and then continued by firing at them.

On October 25, Fides described Hezbollah gunmen as “militants,” (when in fact “terrorists” or “jihadists” would be better descriptors). But then on October 27, the same outlet portrayed these “militants” as “protesters.” Is the news agency submitting to Hezbollah intimidation?

Why did the Catholic news agency Fides consistently downplay the aggression of the Hezbollah invaders? It at first called them “protesters” and “demonstrators” instead of “jihadists” or “terrorists” as it ought to have done, for what the Hezbollah marchers were intent on doing was precisely to “strike terror in the hearts” of the Christians, by invading their neighborhoods, scaring the inhabitants with their display of automatic weapons and RPGs, and beating up those Christians who had not managed to get out of their way in time. Why did the news agency finally allow itself, eleven days after the event, on Oct. 25, to describe the Hezbollah operatives as “militants,” which is somewhat more accurate than “protesters” or “demonstrators,” but still insufficient to convey their gun-toting attempt at terrifying the Infidels? And having done that, why did it just two days later revert to calling the Hezbollah fighters “protesters,” as it had when it first reported on the firefight? Had someone high up in the Vatican requested that change?

From the very beginning of its coverage of the firefight between Hezbollah and the Christians who had been peacefully living in their own neighborhood of Ain el-Rummaneh, the Catholic news agency Fides misreported and downplayed the event. First, it never noted that those Hezbollah operatives had come bearing both automatic weapons and RPGs, intended at least to intimidate and, if they deemed the situation warranted, to be used against those Christians – which indeed is what happened.

There was no mention by Fides that Hezbollah fighters had started the fighting by beating up Christians they came across.

There was no mention by Fides that Hezbollah, according to eyewitnesses, had started to use its weapons first, shooting wildly at the houses of Christians. Some of those Christians, having rushed into their houses for safety when Hezbollah arrived, found their own weapons, and from their apartments returned fire. In fact, in killing seven members of Hezbollah without any Christians being killed, the people of Ain el-Rummane inflicted a humiliating defeat on those who had planned to humiliate and intimidate them.

Why did the Fides News Agency so studiously refrain from conveying the truth of that day?

Van Zile wonders what was in the minds of those Christians who run the Fides News Agency that caused them to so misreport that attempt by armed Muslims to invade a Beirut neighborhood in order to terrorize its Christian – i.e., Infidel — inhabitants. He writes:

It’s a sad thing when a Catholic news outlet misinforms its supporters about events in the Middle East, particularly by downplaying the role that jihadists play in causing conflict and death in the region. Maybe it’s done to promote “peace,” or maybe it’s done out of fear of offending moderate and reform-minded Muslims in the region and the rest of the world, but in the long run, it helps no one.

Ignoring or downplaying jihadist violence in places like Lebanon and Israel puts Christians and Jews at risk, and sends a message of abandonment and indifference to peaceful and anti-jihadist Muslims who are intent on sidelining the extremists in their societies….

In addition to what Van Zile suggests, there is another possible explanation for the misreporting by the Fides News Agency. The Christian community in Lebanon is split. Some of the Christians are willing collaborators of Hezbollah and do its bidding; among them are the Maronite President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law Bassem Gibril. Hezbollah, in turn protects these and other collaborating Christians, helps them to stay in office, despite their corruption and mismanagement, by suppressing street protests held against them and the other members of Lebanon’s permanent ruling elite. Perhaps Fides News Agency shares the views of these Christian collaborators, and thinks it makes sense to minimize, for its own Catholic audience, the true extent of Hezbollah’s violent aggression against those Christians who refuse to submit to the Shi’ite terror group. The Fides News Agency is run by, and for, Catholics; its offices are in the Vatican. Its employees know full well that Pope Francis has insisted that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence.” Why should the Fides News Agency report on the armed-to-the-teeth Hezbollah fighters who invaded a Christian neighborhood to terrify its inhabitants? That would suggest — horribile dictu — that Pope Francis, though infallible in certain matters, on the matter of Islam is very, very wrong.

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