The terrorist attacks by Palestinian suicide bombers in Jerusalem and Haifa have prompted coverage marred in many cases by a jarring lack of context in the commentary and questions of journalists. Almost entirely omitted is even minimal reference to key information, such as the Palestinian Authority's role and responsibility in indoctrinating its youth to hate and kill Israelis, the PA arresting terrorist suspects only to release them when the media spotlight subsides, or the no-win situation of the Palestinian Authority being either unwilling or unable to contain the terrorism.
On cable networks such as CNN and MSNBC, which have given the terrorist attacks lengthy coverage, some desk anchors (Leon Harris has been an admirable exception at CNN) and reporters based in Israel have failed to raise such issues in interviews with Palestinian spokespeople or to remind viewers of past conduct by Arafat and the PA. (Once again, Fox News displays more depth and consistency in providing background and context.)
In the midst of the Jerusalem attack, against the backdrop of images of stunned and traumatized Israelis attending to the dead and wounded, MSNBC, for example, interviewed Palestinian Ziyad Abu Ziyad. The MSNBC anchorwoman permitted him to focus overwhelmingly on Palestinian grievances - as though to suggest the carnage being seen on camera was a necessary result of Israel's allegedly brutal policies. So inordinately long was the interview that Ziyad himself actually protested that he could not continue to be on the phone all night with them.
• CNN's Jerrold Kessel, a veteran correspondent in the region, offered rote references to the potential impact of the carnage on the mission of the recently-arrived US envoy, but did not remind viewers that Arafat himself stokes anti-Israel hatred and violence. He stated:
The Palestinians say that they have done what they have needed to do in terms of controlling the militants. And this evening a very strong statement of condemnation from Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority of this terror outrage in Jerusalem, not only expressing condolences and regret at the loss of life and of the civilian casualties, but also in the terms of that statement, making it plain that they Palestinian Authority believes this is really counter to Palestinian interest, this kind of terror attack in the heart of Jerusalem.
Kessel does not remind viewers about Arafat's actions last June at the time of the Dolphinarium terrorist murders of 21 in Tel Aviv. Though Arafat supposedly condemned that attack too - in English - he later sent a letter of condolence and congratulation in Arabic via the Palestinian Embassy in Jordan to the Palestinian family of the bomber. He termed the Dolphinarium bomber "heroic" and a "model of manhood." When the letter (see below) came to light on German television, the PA called it a forgery, but offered no evidence to substantiate these forgery claims and did not discipline those in its Jordanian embassy allegedly responsible for perpetrating the forgery. Unfortunately, few in the media gave any attention to this instance of Arafat's manipulation and double-speak.
• Arafat's personal role in defaming Israel, engendering hatred and promoting violence has also included frequent calls for Jihad and incendiary, false charges of Israeli brutality. On May 26, 2001 in Doha, Qatar, Arafat addressed the Organization of the Islamic Conference, charging that Israel uses "depleted uranium, poison gases and radioactive material" against Palestinians. He said Israelis "try by all means to obliterate and destroy our Islamic and Christian holy places, and Judaize our Holy Jerusalem."
• Many interviewers also give the Palestinians a free pass when they speak of "occupation" and "Israeli state sponsored terrorism." A frequent comment by Palestinian spokespersons regarding Palestinian terrorist attacks is to say that Israelis perpetrate daily terrorist attacks against Palestinians, killing children and destroying homes...
Just as US and allied forces are targetting terrorists and their infrastructure in Afghanistan, so too are the Israeli soldiers targetting terrorists and their infrastructure in the Palestinian territories. Although tragically sometimes civilians are hit, the US and Israel are not aiming at civilians - in sharp contrast to the Palestinian terrorists who target Israeli civilians. Responding to terrorists is not "state terrorism," as the Palestinans so frequently allege.
• Another frequent talking point for the Palestinian spokespersons is that Israeli security checkpoints at borders lead to Palestinian suffering and cause terrorism. The vast majority of roadblocks and security checkpoints were only put into place AFTER terrorist attacks to enhance security. It was terror against Israelis which led to the roadblocks, not the other way around.
In response to terrorist threats, America too has increased its security along the Canadian and Mexican borders. The increased security has inconvenienced millions of Canadians, Mexicans and Americans, disrupting business and social life, but North Americans understand and appreciate the added security; they do not respond to the inconvenience with terrorist attacks against Americans.
• Palestinians claim that the "occupation" causes terrorism. However, more than 96% of Palestinians live under the rule of the Palestinian Authority - not Israel. This can hardly be called "occupation." Israelis do not occupy on an ongoing basis any large Palestinian population centers. Israel has temporarily re-entered some Palestinian towns after terrorist attacks to round up terrorist suspects (after Arafat refused to do the job), but this has only been very recently and very temporarily.
• And finally, nothing excuses terrorism. It is unseemly to allow Palestinian spokespersons to speak at length about their excuses for terrorism at the very time when Israelis are gathering the scattered body parts of their teenagers. Questions should focus on how the Palestinians can stop the terrorism or on what actions they have (or have not) taken in the past - not on their "grievances."
1) E-mail or call news organizations to urge interviewers to respond to Palestinian spokespeople appropriately.
2) Write a letter about one or more of the above issues to news programs that read letters on the air.
Here are E-mails and phone numbers for some major TV and radio news organizations that read letters on the air:
firstname.lastname@example.org (CNN) 404-827-1500 404-827-1519
LKL@turner.com (CNN's Larry King Live)
email@example.com(Brian Williams) NBC
firstname.lastname@example.org (MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Mathews)
email@example.com (NPR's All Things Considered)
firstname.lastname@example.org(NPR's Morning Edition)
email@example.com (NPR's Talk of the Nation)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Newshour with Jim Lehrer)
More background info appears below.
Just as Americans have come to understand the dangerous role of the "madrassas" - the Taliban schools - in grooming hate-filled young men to kill Americans, the PA is itself virtually a madrassa in its training of young people to hate and seek to destroy Israel. This is inculcated via school textbooks, glorification of "martyrs" at schools and universities, PA media, clerical exhortations and official PA pronouncements. For example, below is information about the condolence letter from Arafat to the parents of a suicide bomber.
July 8, 2001 report from MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute): Arafat's Condolences to Dolphinarium Bomber's Family: "The Heroic Martyrdom Operation"... "A Model of Manhood and Sacrifice for Allah and the Homeland"
On June 24, 2001, the German TV network, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) aired in its weekly program, "Weltspiegl" a news special titled "The Father of the Terrorist." The program briefly focused on the life of the Tel-Aviv disco suicide bomber and his family and friends reaction to his martyrdom in which 21 mostly teenagers were killed and over 100 injured. In one segment of the report the sister of the bomber is seen flipping through a scrapbook which includes pictures, news clippings, and letters regarding her dead brother's suicide attack. Among the letters included is one from Yasser Arafat sent by the Palestinian Embassy in Jordan, praising his heroism. The German TV narrator said about Arafat's letter the following:
The album, a telltale collection of condolence letters. This one here from the Hamas. But much more surprising for us, there is also a letter from Arafat. It was a heroic deed, he lets his embassy in Jordan write to the family. To turn one's body into a bomb is the best example of willingness to make a sacrifice. Signed Yasser Arafat.
[NARRATOR]: [Is] the assassin, the great role model for the President of Palestine, as well?"
Segments from the text of the letter as visible from the German TV report:
Embassy of the State of Palestine The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Amman
The emblem of the embassy with the Al-Aqsa Mosque and a map of Palestine [including what is now Israel]
To the brothers, the family of Al-Hotary and the Noble People of Qalqilya,
With hearts that believe in Allah's will and predetermination, we have received the news about the martyrdom of the martyr.... Al-Hotary, the son of Palestine, whose noble soul ascended to.... in order to rest in Allah's Kingdom, together with the Prophets, the men of virtue, and the martyrs. The heroic martyrdom operation ....who turned his body into bombs.... the model of manhood and sacrifice for the sake of Allah and the homeland.... [Unclear lines] that the martyr be... in Allah's mercy and will... Allah's grace and satisfaction... will inspire all members of his family... The best of condolences. To Allah we belong and to him we return back [Koran]
Yasser Arafat, the President of the State of Palestine Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO Chairman of the Palestinian National Authority [Stamp Emblem]
*The German television cassette, the script (and its English translation) and copies of captions from the video containing images of the letter, are available upon request from MEMRI.
The Palestinian media recently reported other such instances as well. For example:
On June 8, 2001, a funeral was held in the town of Tulkarm for an activist of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ashraf Al-Bardawil, who died while preparing an explosive devise for another terrorist act. In his eulogy, the PA Governor of Tulkarm, 'Izz Al-Din Al-Sharif, delivered the condolences of Yasser Arafat to the family.
The Islamic Jihad Weekly, Al-Istiqlal, praised many terrorist attacks Al-Bardawil participated in, including placing a car bomb in Netanya [Israel].
Source: Al-Quds, June 9, 2001.
In late April, Hassan Muhhamad Al-Qadhi, the murderer of the 16-year-old Israeli who was tempted through the internet to come to the PA territory - was himself killed while preparing explosives for another terrorist operation.
On May 5, 2001, his family put an ad in the PA paper Al-Ayyam thanking Yasser Arafat, "The father of all martyrs" for extending condolences to the family of the martyr and the whole clan of Al-Qadhi "for the martyr of the revolution and the homeland."
Source: Al-Ayyam, PA, May 5, 2001.
 The PA daily Al-Ayyam, reported on June 24, 01 that on June 23, 2001 Yasser Arafat's bureau in Ramallah, denied the claims of the German TV station according to which they have a letter by Arafat praising the Martyrdom operation that caused the death of 21 Israeli youth. Arafat's bureau said that the letter is a forgery. No action has been taken by the PLO to prove that it is a forgery and no disciplinary action has been taken by Arafat's bureau against the PLO embassy in Jordan who sent the letter to the family on Arafat's behalf.