The Digital Journalist
Lebanon Conflict 2006
October 2007

Photos and Introduction by Paolo Pellegrin
Diary Account by Scott Anderson

In science "double blind" refers to a testing system in which neither the subject nor the administrator can predict the outcome because crucial information has been withheld from them. It seems an apt metaphor for the war in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. In its aftermath, Sheikh Hassan Nassrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, admitted to being totally surprised by Israel's military offensive. In turn, Israel was surely just as surprised by Hezbollah's fierce resistance to their air and ground campaign.

But "double blind" also rather encapsulates what it was like to experience that war firsthand, a war unlike any we've ever experienced – and perhaps a harbinger of the "modern" wars to come. As journalists, we were traveling a battlescape where all the traditional realities of the frontline had disappeared and where it was impossible to know how or where things were happening, or what might be about to happen next. It was, in many respects, an invisible war – until suddenly, it wasn't.

The Israeli air force was a constant problem in the skies. We knew they were there because of the humming noise of the unseen drones flying above night and day, and because houses, cars and people would explode around us in apparently random fashion. But Hezbollah was just as omnipresent, just as invisible. A popular militia in its truest sense, they hid and existed within the local population, were all around and in between us at all times, but rarely seen. Maybe the guy who served you coffee one moment would be the one to send rockets across the border into Israel the next, and you'd never see it coming.

These conditions, this double blind, made one feel quite vulnerable – helpless even. It also made it extremely difficult to cover the war; we were part of the experiment of course, but on a landscape where our usual instincts in such situations – to gauge danger, to make judgments of what to do or where to go – mattered little. And this notion of blindness, I think, must also apply to the main actors in this conflict – the Israelis and Lebanese Shia – and their inability to "see" each other with anything close to objectivity. It seems that decades of war, loss and suffering, together with dueling propaganda machines, have created a situation where both sides are invisible to the other except in the demonic form of the other's creation. This blindness, of course, helps feed the cycle of conflict, ensuring that it will perpetuate and repeat itself.

View The "Double Blind" Gallery

Paolo Pellegrin was born in Rome, Italy, in 1964. He became a full member of Magnum Photos in 2005 and has been a Newsweek contract photographer since 2000. He is the recent recipient of this year's Robert Capa Gold Medal and the prestigious W. Eugene Smith Award in 2006. His images of the AIDS epidemic in Uganda won him the World Press Photo first prize in 1995, and the Vis D'Or in Perpignan the following year. Since then he has continued to win world awards, including the prestigious Hasselblad Grant, first prize in People in the News by World Press Photo in 2000 for his work on Kosovo, the Leica Medal of Excellence in 2001 and the Overseas Press Club Award 2004. "Double Blind" is Paolo Pellegrin's fifth book. He lives in Rome and New York.

Paolo Pellegrin can be contacted through Magnum Photos:

Scott Anderson is a veteran war reporter and novelist. He lives and works in New York.