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Media Analyses





Munayyer Tries to Hijack CNN Interview on Gaza


CNN morning news anchor Kate Bolduan followed a relatively informative exchange with the network’s Wolf Blitzer, on July 14 with dust-tossing by Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Jerusalem Fund. Blitzer reported from Sderot, Israel near the Gaza Strip; Bolduan spoke with Munayyer in the studio.
 
Bolduan started with a simple (she posited a exchange of rocket fire without identifying an aggressor) but well-intentioned question—why was Hamas urging residents of northern Gaza to stay put after Israel warned them to flee for their own safety? She then struggled to keep her guest somewhere near the truth.
 
Munayyer essentially hijacked CNN’s (Cable News Network) microphone and camera for several minutes of erroneous Palestinian propaganda. 
 
Bolduan says, “let's talk about the situation on the ground [in the Gaza Strip during Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge”]. Every day brings another barrage of rockets, one side to the other. We also know of leaflets being dropped by Israel in northern Gaza, alerting citizens to—alerting residents to get out, to seek shelter. We're also hearing that Hamas is urging the same residents to remain at home. Why is that?”
 
Munayyer bolts from reality, taking any viewers who are uniformed about Arab-Israeli matters with him. Bolduan tries to rein him in, but he won’t have it.
 
Out-of-context context
 
Munayyer says, “let's keep in mind the context at play here. You have to remember the Gaza Strip is a very small territory that is teeming with people. It is [an] extremely densely populated area and the reason for that is because the vast majority of people there are refugees from towns and villages inside of Israel where they had homes razed to the ground. So, that refugee crisis that is a human rights crisis, not just humanitarian crisis, plays into the ongoing humanitarian crisis that we see today and have seen for several decades.
 
“And so, there is a tremendous trauma among the population of Gaza and having already experienced depopulation, the destruction of your homes. And so you can understand why so many of them are absolutely terrified at the prospect of becoming refugees once again ….”
Munayyer’s reaction might have been informative if Bolduan had challenged him over the reality that the majority of Gazans are not refugees themselves but second, third and fourth generation descendants of Arab refugees who fled what became Israel after Palestinian ‘irregulars’ and five Arab armies rejected the U.N. partition plan for Palestine and instead attacked the new Jewish state.

Pointing out that no other group bequeaths refugee status to subsequent generations—not the millions of Germans forced out of Poland and Czechoslovakia after World War II, not the millions of Muslims who fled India for Pakistan or millions of Hindus who went the other way, and not the more than 800,000 Jews expelled from Arab countries during and after 1948—might have been bad for Munayyer’s blood pressure but instructive for viewers.

Likewise, Bolduan might have inquired whether Munayyer thought there would be a “humanitarian crisis” in the Strip if a) Hamas and its allies weren’t firing hundreds of rockets at Israel, intentionally provoking Israeli counter-attacks (see, for example, “Is Hamas Trying to Get Gazans Killed?, by Jeffrey Goldberg, Bloomberg News, July 11) and b) if instead of steering the hundreds of millions of dollars in Western aid to non-governmental groups (NGOs) in Gaza, plus spending subsidies from Iran and other Muslim states, to entrench its Islamist rule and expand its arsenals and fortifications, Hamas had used the money to develop the area. Small and populated it may be, Gaza—which began to boom during the early Oslo “peace process” years—managed by focusing on hostility to Israel instead of development to avoid becoming the Palestinian Singapore or Hong Kong, two much more prosperous and densely-populated states.

What would Munayyer have said if Bolduan had asked about the hundreds of truckloads of food, medicine and other humanitarian assistance Israel allows into Gaza every day, the electricity it continues to supply despite Palestinian aggression? The Palestinian spokesman’s “context” is selective to the point of unreality.
 
Slippery, yes; convincing, no

Bolduan tries to get back to her question, but Munayyer proves evasive. She says “but with all of this context, why then if Israel is trying to alert citizens and civilians there that they need to get out to keep them safe, why is Hamas telling them to stay at home?”

Munayyer simply lies: “Unfortunately, we have seen on many occasions in the past where Palestinians have complied with all different kinds of messages from the Israeli military and still have been bombarded in what was supposed to be safe areas, most notoriously perhaps was the event in the Israeli Operation Cast Lead in 2008, 2009, where they bombed a school filled with refugees, a United Nations school filled with refugees and killed scores of people there.”
Hardly. As U.N. officials acknowledged and TIME magazine eventually corrected, Israel targeted Hamas terrorists launching mortars at Israel from near a U.N. school in January, 2009. Nine terrorists and three civilians were killed.
 
Munayyer then intones the “open air prison” mantra Palestinian propagandists favor in talking about the Gaza Strip and West Bank to Western journalists, anti-Israel activists and the uninformed: “So, people are literally trapped inside this large open air prison and being told to effectively move to a different corner of the prison cell. That's really not in benefit of protecting civilians in any way.”

Except that Gaza also has a frontier with Egypt and the West Bank has one with Jordan. Egypt’s military rulers view Hamas, which had close ties to the country’s ousted Muslim Brotherhood leaders and, reportedly, al-Qaeda inspired extremists in the Sinai, with suspicion. Israel retains control of Jordan River crossings in part because the West Bank’s Fatah-led Palestinian Authority so far has refused to negotiate a peace agreement with the Israelis that includes a satisfactory Jordan Valley security arrangement. One “Gazastan,” Munayyer notwithstanding, is one too many.

Too bad a CNN researcher apparently had not done the math and supplied it to Bolduan ahead of the interview. If one had, she would have known that in the first week of Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 1,300 airstrikes—in response to 800 rockets fired by Hamas and its fellow terrorists at Israeli population centers, in violation of international law—had killed 166 Gazans. Many of the dead were terrorists or family members. But even if all had been civilians, that’s 1.25 fatalities resulting from every 10 airstrikes, strongly suggesting Israel was attempting to minimize casualties.
 
Reality upside down? No problem
 
Bolduan still wanted to pin Munayyer down while treating him with respect his answers have not earned. She said, “the Israeli prime minister pointed out, he also kind of suggests that Hamas is trapping them in this open air prison as well as you just said. I mean, they're accusing Hamas of deliberately putting civilians in the line of fire. The prime minister saying this, and this really stuck with me—we, the prime minister saying, we’re using missile defense to protect our civilians and they’re using civilians to protect their missiles. Are they?”

Munayyer again tries to get away with condescending to Bolduan and CNN viewers. He claims “again, you're missing the fundamental point here that you have a …

Bolduan challenges him: “What am I missing?”

Munayyer: “I'm attempting to explain to you. You have a massive state-backed military against a non-state actor, operating within what is a civilian population because they simply do not have a state-backed army. You cannot, as the Israelis do, deny a people statehood for years and years on end and then wonder why they do not resist as a state. It is simply not going to happen that way. It doesn't happen in any similar context like this.

“So I think, you know, the talking points that the Israelis put forward is the rhetoric, you know, they may be catchy for sound bites and so on, but there is also another reality here, and that's that the Israelis are using their weapons to perpetuate an occupation and a siege in the Gaza Strip for decades now, where as Palestinians, some of them, are using weapons to resist that.”

There certainly is a reality other than the one Munayyer attempts to foist on CNN’s audience. The “non-state actor operating within a civilian population” he refers to is Hamas and its partners in anti-Israel terrorism like Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They have committed twined war crimes by operating among civilians, those of the Gaza Strip, and launching hundreds of indiscriminate, unprovoked attacks against a second civilian population, that of Israel.

Munayyer is like the child who had the chutzpah to ask the judge for mercy since, having murdered his parents he was now an orphan. He says Israel shouldn’t complain about Hamas rockets since it has denied Palestinian Arabs a state for years so how else are they supposed to behave, except as terrorists? Except that Israeli-U.S. offers of a West Bank and Gaza Strip state, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, were rejected by the Palestinian Authority (Fatah) in 2000 and 2001, and an Israeli only proposal in 2008, partly because Hamas would not accept peace with a Jewish state in any boundaries.

Except that Israel unilaterally evacuated the Gaza Strip in 2005, removing 21 Jewish communities and all its military presence. Munayyer should have been made to answer just what “occupation” Hamas is “resisting” by firing mortars and rockets and attempting to dig tunnels into Israel from the Gaza Strip.  

Television news generally being limited in time and tied to eye-catching images, it might be too much to have hoped that CNN would have identified Munayyer, his Jerusalem Fund and its Palestine Center a little more specifically. The Jerusalem Fund, which Munayyer represents, was founded by the late Georgetown University Prof. Hisham Sharabi. Sharabi endorsed anti-Israel terrorism as “national struggle” and “self-sacrifice. This led him to back what more moderate American Muslims called “extremist” groups.

Munayyer himself supports the BDS (boycott, sanction and divestment) movement, whose goal is not to reach a Palestinian-Israeli “two-state solution” but rather to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state. The fund posts the genocidally anti-Jewish Hamas charter on its Web site. Munayyer, it would seem, is a mouthpiece quite ready to lie in support of extremism. His CNN appearance should have carried a warning label.


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