Vogue, the well-known fashion magazine, has established a new trend
but not in the latest styles in jewelry and apparel. Articles presenting
Israel as a ruthless occupier victimizing helpless Palestinians are apparently
now the "vogue" at the magazine published internationally by
In December, the American edition carried an article about Mèdecins
Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the West Bank and Gaza, in
which freelance writer Zia Jaffrey painted a one-sided picture of allegedly
Israeli-incited violence. There was no suggestion that Palestinians bore any
responsibility for their situation. Israel alone was faulted.
In the January British edition, excerpts from the personal journal of Emma
Williams about life in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provide
the only non-fashion, non-beauty, and non-shopping-related article. Williams is
a physician who, with her three children, accompanied her husband, a U.N.
employee, to the region. Under the title Caught in the Crossfire,
the article, in diary form, offers an ostensibly neutral look by Williams, a
third party observer, at the escalating conflict [that] unfolds around
their daily lives. The picture presented, however, is anything but
neutral. It is clear that Emma Williams' sympathies lie overwhelmingly with the
Palestinians among whom she lives. She conveys a one-sided, partisan look at
the conflict, labeling Israeli security actions as brutal, while
whitewashing or ignoring Palestinian provocations.
Take for example Williams' September 10 entry recording her experience of
being stopped at an Israeli checkpoint. This serves as a launching point for a
diatribe about the evils of checkpoints:
No-one allowed through. No-one
at all. Orders! was the Israeli soldier's story this morning when I was
prevented from taking medical supplies to Bethlehem...I am reminded that the
checkpoints' purpose is to humiliate and inconvenience. Anger is intrinsic to
Williams, irked at being inconvenienced, echoes the Palestinians' viewpoint
that checkpoints serve no other purpose than to humiliate them. She
conveniently omits mention of the significant events immediately preceding the
tightening of restrictions events crucial to understanding the
On the previous day, September 9, five Israeli civilians were murdered and
over 100 were wounded in three separate Palestinian terror attacks that had
rocked the nation. A driveby shooting that killed two Israeli schoolteachers
traveling to work in a minibus through the Jordan Valley was followed by a
suicide bombing carried out by an Israeli Arab at a Nahariya train station and
another on one of the busiest highways in Israel at the Beit Lid junction.
Israel accused the Palestinian Authority of having ignored intelligence
information that the Nahariya suicide bomber was planning an attack and
previous requests by Israel to arrest him. Also, the perpetrators of the
earlier driveby shooting had escaped into Palestinian-controlled territory.
Thus no one could have been in doubt as to why Israeli soldiers were following
strict security procedures at checkpoints.
With news bulletins and TV broadcasts reporting continuously on the events
of the day, it is inconceivable that Williams could have been unaware of the
deadly attacks perpetrated by Palestinians against Israeli civilians. Yet
Williams journal entry for September 9 completely ignores all of this!
The article's last entry on October 29 further highlights the author's
prejudiced standpoint. She refers to Palestinian terrorists as hardliners,
glossing over and excusing an act of violence, while focusing instead on
Israel's retaliation. She lodges unsubstantiated allegations against Israel,
describing unnamed Arab victims and citing no dates, thereby making
verification of her charges nigh impossible. She charges:
In revenge for the assassination of
their leader, a hardline Palestinian faction shot and killed an Israeli
minister on October 17. The Israeli retaliation has been brutal. Their army is
invading Palestinian cities in defiance of world reaction. The siege is
tightened; the bombardment and death tolls increase. Two mothers trying to
reach my chosen hospital went into labour at the wrong time. Both were denied
passage through checkpoints; both babies and one mother died.
On a personal level, Williams' characterizations of Palestinians are
effusively positive while those of Israeli Jews are invariably negative. She
devotes one long journal entry to extolling the warm hospitality of her
Palestinian friends, acknowledging the common ground she finds with them.
September 20: ...The local Palestinian
villagers are taking us out on their horses this evening. They always make a
great fuss of us whenever we have guests, but especially now that my mother is
here. To honour her presence, they appear with heaped plates of steaming rice,
roast chickens, piles of chopped herbs and tomatoes, meat stuffed with
vegetables and concoctions of nuts, sugar and honey. Every day I am ushered
into their immaculate homes for tiny cups of sweet coffee laced with cardamom.
Most speak sufficient English for me to get by, but some are fluent, and have
become good friends like my neighbour, Intisar, a Palestinian social worker.
She, too, is pregnant, so when we meet, the talk is about pregnancy matters as
well as the situation.
While there is obviously nothing wrong with her warm expressions about the
friendly hospitality of the Palestinians, these extensive descriptions sharply
contrast with her generalized derogatory comments about Israelis, including a
description of an incident where she apparently was not offered assistance by
passersby when she fell near a busy intersection apparently in Jerusalem.
September 11: ...No-one stopped even
to ask if I was OK, let alone help me up. Later, watching the children's
swimming lesson with other parents, I complained about a city that nurtured
such a lack of compassion...
To suggest on the basis of one incident that Israelis are indifferent to
the suffering of others is both false and offensive. Further, to state that the
city... nurtured...a lack of compassion seems to reveal an
ingrained prejudice. Such strident overgeneralizations should have been a red
flag to the editor that this freelance writer was not up to the task of writing
a fair or insightful article.
It is certainly understandable that a diary would reflect its author's
personal experiences, including erroneous impressions. However, these lopsided
views about a contentious subject of world significance should not be presented
in the only feature story of an international magazine. At the very least, the
article should be accurately identified as what it is -- a Palestinian
sympathizer's own, biased look at the conflict. In the interest of fairness, a
balancing perspective should be provided presenting an Israeli sympathizer's
[In the original alert, action items were listed here.]