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Media Analyses





CAMERA ALERT: Vogue Magazine and Doctors Without Borders Side Against Israel


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.]


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