At Vogue, the slick fashion magazine teeming with ads for cosmetics and
accessories, one-sided articles blaming Israelis and exonerating Palestinians
are apparently the new trend. In a December article about Medecins Sans
Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the West Bank and Gaza entitled
"Courage Without Borders," freelance writer Zia Jaffrey painted a
sharply skewed picture of Palestinians as innocent victims of Israeli-inflicted
violence. There was no suggestion that Palestinians had any responsibility for
the hardships that they suffer. Israel alone was blamed.
* ONE-SIDED COVERAGE
In this several-thousand-word story, focused on the psychological pain of
violent conflicts, there was barely a hint of Israeli suffering. With one
sentence, Jaffrey dismissed the bombing, mortars shells and shooting of Israeli
civilians. She wrote: "Of course, MSF recognizes that Israelis have also
been traumatized and suffered horrifying civilian casualties. But, according to
[Pierre] Salignon [head of MSF operations in Israel and the Palestinian
territories], the settlers, around who much of the conflict is focused, have
access to excellent doctors and psychologists and do not need the services of
MSF." Jaffrey failed to point out that this absurd justification is
contradicted by the fact that MSF has recently assisted other victims of terror
who surely had access to excellent doctors and psychologists. As Jaffrey
herself reported, "after September 11, New York: MSF provided support to
Safe Horizon, New York's leading victim-assistance agency, and advised it how
to cope with mass trauma." So, in the United States, where terrorist
victims who were citizens of the wealthiest country in the world and who
already had the assistance of a powerful aid organization, MSF stepped in with
additional help. Yet, with respect to Israeli victims of terror, MSF declined
to help on the very pretext that assistance is already available.
Jaffrey's fawning coverage of MSF conveniently overlooked other aspects of
the organization's bias. Open about its agenda to an extent, Jaffrey reported:
"Unlike most first-aid groups, which are neutral, it has an express
mission--to 'bear witness' to the conflicts that give rise to its medical
work." To that end, Jaffrey dutifully intertwined in this account snippets
of the conflict which gave rise to the medical treatment of symptoms like
bed-wetting and social withdrawal. For example, she described checkpoints,
separate roads for Palestinians, and settlements, among other Palestinian
grievances. She also quoted extensively from an MSF document entitled
"Palestinian Chronicle: Occupation, Violence and Daily Humiliation:"
"The violence of the Israeli occupation. . . and the disproportionate
measures being employed are all taking a heavy toll on the civilians involved.
The Israeli repression is beginning to look like collective punishment, and the
military means employed against civilians are those generally used in
situations of conventional war. . . The violence exercised against Palestinian
families and the climate of terror in which they live are causing severe
feelings of stress and fear which require constant care."
* SERIOUS OMISSIONS
Yet, Jaffrey fails to mention another major factor which has brought injury,
death, stress and trauma to children--the Palestinian Authority's role in
bringing children to the frontlines. She and MSF ignore entirely, for example,
the protest letter from the Tulkarm Women's Union, a group of Palestinian
mothers, to Yasser Arafat calling on his "police force to stop sending
innocent children to their death" (USA Today, Dec. 8, 2000). Nor does MSF
ever mention the pervasive anti-Israel/anti-Jewish incitement by the official
Palestinian Authority media which labeled parents who object to their children
being used as cannon fodder "a fifth column." (Al Haya-Al Jadida
editorial by editor-in-chief Hafez Bargutti, Oct. 27, 2000). In another
example, PA television aired a commercial urging children to "drop your
toys. Pick up rocks," and seek paradise like earlier martyrs.
Similarly, why does MSF fail to "bear witness" to the incitement
of the influential religious leaders who encourage young children to meet their
deaths? As Sheik Muhammad Ibrahim Al-Madhi said during a televised Friday
sermon: "We must educate our children on the love of Jihad for the sake of
Allah and the love of fighting for the sake of Allah" (June 6, 2001,
translated by MEMRI).
Does MSF not think that encouraging children to hate, kill, and commit
suicide is psychologically damaging?
* VAGUE/INCOMPLETE REPORTING
In many anecdotal stories of injured and traumatized Palestinians, Jaffrey
was vague, leaving out specific information essential in tracking down the
veracity of the circumstances of the case. For instance, she described a
13-year-old boy in Hebron allegedly beaten by settlers and soldiers while on
his way to empty the trash and a 5-year-old girl "who was attacked by
settler children on her way to kindergarten." No dates or other
identifying information was included.
Jaffrey went to such pains to avoid portraying Palestinians as responsible
for any violence that her statements sometimes are cryptic and incomplete. She
repeatedly refers to the dangerous roads in the West Bank and Gaza, yet Jaffrey
never states what or exactly who is posing this danger on the roads. In this
case, Palestinians are the danger; Scores of Israeli civilians have been
murdered by Palestinian terrorists while driving on these same roads. Indeed,
Jaffrey describes traveling "in a car with Israeli plates, on Israeli
roads," yet, she omits mentioning why this circumstance should be
threatening for her.
[In the original alert, action items were included here.]