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Media Analyses





Revealing Rerun


The Washington Post's Molly Moore is at it again. Her “Watching the War; To Young Palestinians, Images of Suffering Are All Too Familiar,” (April 3) is the latest one-sided portrayal of Palestinians as victims of Israel. She uncritically interviews several West Bankers who claim to identify with televised images of Iraqi civilians frisked at U.S. checkpoints or “children bloodied by shrapnel from missile strikes.” Moore is a Jerusalem-based correspondent for the Post, but at least this offering did not make the hard news “A” section. Editors ran it in “Style,” home to fashion, fads and celebrities.

RAPID RESPONSE

As a CAMERA member wrote after reading Moore's article:

1) What about the Israeli suffering that these Arab students Moore interviewed don't seem concerned about? What about the Israelis who will never walk, see or simply exist due to the terrorist war Yasser Arafat launched rather than make peace 30 months ago?

2) What about all those anti-U.S. demonstrations and sermons in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the United States attacked Saddam Hussein's regime two weeks ago?

3) What about the fact there could have been a new Palestinian state and the growth of a Palestinian economy had Arafat not aligned with Saddam Hussein, not taken his money for the families of suicide bombers, not — Saddam-like put his own corrupt Palestinian Authority over the legitimate needs of the people it controlled?

4) What about the Palestinian Arabs refusal to admit they've been victimized by their own leaders, that their ugly circumstances are largely of their own making? What about acknowledging that improvement requires them to take responsibility for their own actions and those of their leaders?

Moore's one-sided, superficial feature answers none of those basic questions.

USEFUL NEVERTHELESS

Moore's report does something useful, perhaps in spite of itself. It reminds readers that real Middle East “linkage” connects not the United States and Israel in an alleged conspiracy to subjugate the Middle East, but joins Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat.

“ ‘We are suffering exactly like the Iraqi people are suffering,’ [Maysa Samarah] said, waiting for the screams of the [Israeli] jets to subside. ‘We identify with them.’ ”

Inadvertently, Moore reinforces why a solid majority of Americans continue to tell pollsters they support Israel over the Palestinians, just like they support U.S. troops over Iraqi Republican Guards. Moore, rather than asking hard questions, instead of trying to get her interviewees to confront cause-and-effect, acts as enabler.

THE PARTY LINE

One of her subjects claims that “many” of the nearly 2,000 Palestinians killed in the past 30 months “were civilians killed by jumpy Israeli soldiers at checkpoints or by Israeli missiles fired from tanks or AH-64 Apache helicopters into crowded urban neighborhoods.” Moore fails to add any context to this misleading characterization.

CAMERA letter-writers and staff have pointed out to Post editors repeatedly that the majority of Palestinian Arabs killed by Israelis since the former launched the current warfare have been combatants. The vast majority of Israelis murdered (78 percent) by Palestinian terrorists have been civilians.

Israeli soldiers, like Americans in Iraq, have reason to be “jumpy” at checkpoints; terrorists disguised as civilians may well stage attacks. As for firing missiles into crowded urban neighborhoods, Israel like the United States follows restrictive rules of engagement. It has, on occasion, fired at terrorists and their leaders who illegally and callously base themselves in civilian areas.

AGENDA-DRIVEN

Moore files essentially the same Palestinians-as-victims dispatch over and over, with new sources and quotes to fit the latest news peg. Each is unsubtle, unbalanced and factually skewed.

The article appears below.

Washington Post, April 3, 2003
To Young Palestinians, Images Of Suffering Are All Too Familiar
By Molly Moore


One in a series on how people around the world are perceiving the war in Iraq through their local media.

ABU DIS, West Bank, April 2 — Maysa Samarah, the 21-year-old daughter of a Palestinian nut vendor, spends three hours every weekend crossing the five Israeli military checkpoints between her university and her West Bank home town just nine miles away.

So when Samarah watches the daily images of American soldiers frisking Iraqis at roadblocks, or tanks clanking through city streets, or children bloodied by shrapnel from missile strikes, she does not see a foreign war.

She sees her own war.

A pair of F-16 fighter jets sliced through a cerulean sky. They were not on TV. The Israeli planes roared above Al-Quds University, which sprawls on a high plateau just a few hundred yards inside the West Bank from the Green Line, the border of pre-1967 Israel.

"We are suffering exactly like the Iraqi people are suffering," she said, waiting for the screams of the jets to subside. "We identify with them."

For Samarah and many Palestinians, the war in Iraq has become inextricably intertwined with their own war. There are perhaps no people in the world, she believes, who empathize more with the Iraqis or fear the outcome of this war more than her people.

Nearly 2,000 Palestinians have died in the uprising of the past 2 1/2 years. Many of them, she points out, were civilians killed by jumpy Israeli soldiers at checkpoints or by Israeli missiles fired from tanks or AH-64 Apache helicopters into crowded urban neighborhoods.

During the same period, slightly more than 725 Israelis have been killed, many by Palestinian suicide bombers who drove up to military checkpoints, hopped onto commuter buses or strode into crowded cafes and restaurants.

It is against this backdrop that knots of students gathered today in front of three televisions -- all tuned in to the Arab satellite channel al-Jazeera -- in the campus student union.

In one report, the camera focused tightly on the face of an Iraqi man hospitalized after a U.S. attack. His eyes were swathed in white gauze. The lower half of his face was covered in hundreds of crude stitches so thick the skin was barely visible. The effect was more Frankenstein than human. The camera jockeyed for a closer look. A nurse poked a tube through a hole in his neck. It was a scene not likely to be broadcast on U.S. television networks.

Rafat Haladi, a 20-year-old student studying computer engineering, has little tolerance for Western squeamishness. He, like many of those clustered around the television sets, disdained what he considers the antiseptic version of the war offered by the Western networks he occasionally watches -- CNN, BBC and Fox.

"We know these are painful images," he said. "No one likes to see blood. But the whole world must see the reality of war. If they don't see what's going on and just hear numbers, they cannot form an opinion of the war."

"Unfortunately, we've gotten used to scenes of blood and people killed, on real life and on TV," offered Rasha Thalji, a 19-year-old Jerusalem resident studying computer programming. "We are getting killed."

"This happens in our towns on a daily basis, but it's not that we get used to it," contradicted Samarah, an English major, her face wrapped in a traditional navy blue head scarf, her legs covered by stylish bell-bottom jeans. "It broke our hearts to see the [U.S.] tank kill the car of civilians at the roadblock."

Samarah, who expresses her passion as much with her hands as her voice, said she doesn't cheer when U.S. or British soldiers are killed, however.

"We feel sad for the soldiers killed," she said. "We know they have families. We know how it feels to lose a dear one."

At the end of each newscast, al-Jazeera plays a montage of video war scenes, much like its Western counterparts -- with some major differences. The faces of the Americans who were taken prisoner in the opening days of the war flash across the screen. The next frame is a close-up of Iraqi prisoners. The camera pulls back to show the Iraqis sitting on the sand inside a corral of concertina wire.

The students say U.S. officials are being duplicitous in complaining that airing footage of the American prisoners is a violation of international conventions.

"They show footage of Iraqi war prisoners," said Jumana Abu Sneineh, a 19-year-old physical therapy student wearing a gauzy tan head scarf. "Do Iraqis look better than Americans?"

The roadblock pictures are a recurring theme on the fuzzy television screens: Men with arms raised, women scurrying past, eyes downcast and grasping the hands of frightened children.

There's not a student watching who doesn't register recognition. Some of the campuses of their university have been shut because curfews, roadblocks and checkpoints prevent students from reaching them. At the Abu Dis campus, on the southeastern edge of Jerusalem, students who live only a few miles away are forced to reside in campus dormitories because the trip home has become too arduous.

Today, some of the students moved out of the cavernous student union to escape the pall of cigarette smoke and the high decibel level of hundreds of chattering, coffee-sipping students.

Outside, at a table beneath pine trees overlooking a picturesque Arab town on the next hillside, the discussion turned to Saddam Hussein. His image appears frequently on al-Jazeera.

"People used to hate Saddam because they know he's a cruel leader," said Niveen Abu Khalaf, 18, who is studying physical therapy. "Now they've started liking him after the U.S. attack because he showed us he would stand up against the U.S."

Standing up to the United States is a virtue among most of these students, all the more so because they equate the leaders of the United States and Israel. They are unanimous in believing the United States does the bidding of their enemy.

For that reason, none said they see any benefit for Palestinians if the United States ousts Saddam Hussein.

"Not only will they kick [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat out, they'll redraw the whole map of the region and get rid of all the Arab leaders that disagree with them," said Haim Saffal, a 22-year-old political science student. "They've already started bullying Syria."

"In the end, Iraq is going to be occupied and forgotten," said Abu Sneineh, the physical therapy student. "Just like the Palestinians."


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