The recent conflict in Lebanon has shown to what extent is public opinion in Malta influenced in a biased way against Israel, Philip Beattie, an executive council member of the Republican National Alliance (ANR), said yesterday.

It also showed how far members of the political establishment and non-governmental organisations were ready to go to appease both the Arab world and the locally growing Muslim community without any regard to the possibility of fuelling radical Islam and anti-semitic sentiments in Malta.

The European media was predominantly controlled by left-wing and centre-left interests, more often than not grossly biased against Israel, he said.

At a local level, politicians, opinion makers and the media ignored the fact that Israel had a right to self-defence against terrorist attacks by Hizbollah, which Mr Beattie insisted was a terrorist organisation, and that many Israeli civilians also died during the conflict.

Whereas Israeli attacks were aimed at Hizbollah targets - which operated from residential zones - and accidentally killed civilians, Hizbollah rocket attacks were all practically aimed at Israeli urban areas, he said.

Mr Beattie said that while ANR was not against anti-war activities, it regretted that the recently organised marches in Valletta and Sliema were anti-semitic protests and a magnet for a number of Islamic fundamentalists who used them to further their political agendas.

It was a shame that Maltese politicians and NGOs had associated themselves with such fundamentalists, he added.

"Where were these same people following the September 11 events? And after the Madrid and London bombings? Where was the local Muslim community when protesters in London promised a second holocaust and many forms of horrible death after the Danish cartoon controversy," he asked.

ANR chief spokesman Martin Degiorgio said a woman in the Valletta anti-war march was captured in a photograph holding the flag of Hizbollah and a man shamelessly associated Israel with Nazism.

Media coverage of the Sliema event included a photograph of a woman wearing a t-shirt with the image of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Hizbollah.

One of the organisers had also been wearing a t-shirt with the image of Che Guevara, an infamous communist international mass murderer and terrorist, Mr Degiorgio said.

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