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Middle East Issues





Truthful Media, U.N.-Style


The United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) just wrapped up a two-day international media seminar in Cairo under the lofty and lengthy name: “Reinvigorating the Peace Process: The Role of International and Regional Actors in Facilitating a Comprehensive, Just and Lasting Peace in the Middle East.” According to a June 9 U.N. press release, “the seminar will provide a forum for media representatives and international experts to present their perspectives on international and regional involvement in pursuing a peaceful solution to the conflict and the prospects for peace in the region, and to discuss the role of the media in preventing or exacerbating the conflict.”

Similarly, Ahmad Fawzi, Director of the News and Media Division at the DPI, reportedly said at the conference, “the role of the media was to promote the truth factually without fear or censorship.”

But just like the U.N.’s 2001 Durban Conference Against Racism itself became a racist anti-Israel hate fest, the U.N.’s media seminar this week supposedly promoting sober, factual journalism about the conflict turned into a platform for anti-Israel distortions and incitement.

Organized by Saleem Fahmai, Chief of the Palestine, Decolonization and Human Rights Section of the Strategic Communications Division of the DPI, the event was predictably weighted towards–and entirely sympathetic of–the Palestinian cause. As first noted by the blog Mediacrity, which has issued numerous updates on the U.N. confab, even the Israeli delegation did not represent Israel’s interests. Thus, the June 9 press release boasts that the Israeli contingent consists of Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Katz, fringe former members of Knesset, as well as no less than Ilan Pappe, the Haifa University lecturer who became a cause celebre for the British Association of University Teacher anti-Israel boycotters. Pappe, who defended the fabricated research of PhD candidate Teddy Katz, once admitted he is motivated by a political and ideological agenda, and less interested in what actually happened in the past than in “how people see what’s happened.”

As for Aloni, as Mediacrity points out, the Morocco Times reports:

Shulamit Aloni, former member of the Israeli Knesset and professor of political science in Israel, urged the international community to pay attention to the Israeli systematic policy of genocide against the Palestinian people.

Israel Accused of Massacres, Genocide
Indeed, according to an extensive summary of the event posted June 14 on the DIP web site, allegations of Israeli massacres and, wanton trampling of human rights and life in general, was a common theme. The summary paraphrases one unnamed speaker:

A speaker said that Israel was not peace loving. It lived on blood and it wanted to suck the blood of the Arabs. It had taken Palestine by force. The "Road Map" and the Quartet had not been able to force Israel to respect the peace process, stop its assassinations and closures, or allow the Palestinian economy to be revived. No Arab could forget the massacres in Jenin, Sabra and Chatilla and Deer Yassin. Israel wanted blood, and it was supported by the United States.

Nobody paused to contest, for example, the so-called “Jenin massacre,” United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan himself debunked in an Aug. 1, 2002 report.

Not only did panelist Gideon Levy, a journalist for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz not challenge the Jenin libel, he seemed to accept it by stating: “Israel should take account that what was happening and actions like those in Jenin had very deep consequences.”

So, in an event supposedly dedicated to truthful journalism, Levy, an Israeli journalist who last year printed a bogus quote which he falsely attributed to Golda Meir–“After what the Nazis did to us, we can do whatever we want”–propagating the thoroughly discredited “Jenin massacre” myth.

Praise for Levy

For this, Levy is repeatedly praised and thanked. As the DIP summary states: “Another speaker thanked Mr. Levy for his courage and for highlighting the situation in Israel. She had no respect for Israelis, but now she could respect one Israelis. Mr. Levy said the media should focus on the facts.” Later, he opined: “His job was to tell Israelis the truth.”

The Facts on U.N. Resolution 242
But the Orwellian nature of the event, as well as the total disregard for the facts to which Levy so hypocritically professes commitment–was again evident in the statements of two speakers discussing U.N. Resolutions. First, the release paraphrases Hisham Kassem, vice-chairman of Al-Massry Al Yaum of Egypt as saying:

As a publisher, he always set clear terms of reference concerning any newspaper he was involved with, that were [sic] the resolution 242 and the withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders. These were the terms of reference for the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Second, Pierre Luc Brassard, Radio Canada Correspondent in Cairo, reportedly said the following:

When he wrote about the conflict, he went back to the basics, to international law and the United Nations resolutions. He recalled to the listener that these were the occupied territories, and that all settlements were illegal. He asked if Israeli law was stronger than international law. . . . A solution had to be a Palestinian State including all the territories taken after 1967.

At a U.N. organized conference ostensibly promoting factual reporting, nobody challenged the total distortion of resolutions passed by that very same international body. Contrary to the claims of these speakers, U.N. Resolution 242 does not call for Israel to withdraw to pre-1967 lines, but to “secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” Nor are those lines borders; rather the Green Line is an armistice line, established April 3, 1949 by Article III of the Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement. In addition, nor it is a fact–despite Brassard’s protestations otherwise–that all settlements were illegal under international law. For example, the last legal sovereignty over the territories was that of the League of Nations Palestine Mandate, which stipulated the right of the Jewish people to settle in the whole of the Mandated territory. (The League of Nations is the predecessor to the United Naitons.) According to Article 6 of the Mandate, “close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands not required for public use” was to be encouraged. (Article 25 allowed the League Council to temporarily postpone the Jewish right to settle in what is now Jordan, if conditions were not amenable.) Article 80 of the U.N. Charter preserved this Jewish right to settlement by specifying that:

nothing in the [U.N. Charter's chapter on the administration of Mandate territory] shall be construed ... to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or peoples or the terms of existing international instruments. (This updated version of the quote corrects an earlier typographical error.)

For more on the position that settlements are not illegal under international law, click here.

Of Reality and Dehumanization

The speakers repeatedly praise the Palestinian media and condemn the “dehumanizing” Israeli media. For instance, Khaleel Shaheen, deputy editor-in-chief of Al Ayyam of Ramallah, states:

The Palestinian media was paving the way for an independent State and it would affect the whole process. The Israeli media had witnessed some changes. The Palestinian media reflected a realistic image of what was taking place, the barricades, the destructions, the shootings, the settlers uprooting land and destroying houses and the imprisonment of thousands. There could be no peace with occupation. The Palestinian media was presenting the struggle and how it could shape the realities on the ground and how it could lead to a constructive process. The Palestinian media needed more than anything to be able to drive the struggle for the restoration of Palestinian freedom. The Palestinian media was endeavouring to do all it could to reflect a democratic role but there were efforts being made to uproot it. It was not possible for the Palestinian media to flourish except under democracy and the rule of law.

About the Israeli media, Levy states:

The Israeli reader’s whole political thinking was manipulated towards terrorism and terror. This was a dehumanisation of the Palestinians and it was the biggest crime of the Israeli media. . . . The media was responsible for convincing the majority of Israelis that Palestinians were different from Israelis, not human. . . . The media only wrote about the violent Palestinians, never about the human aspects of Palestinian society since this would damage the main message of the occupiers. . . . The way that the Palestinians’ agony was ignored by the Israeli press was criminal land [sic] served to target the dehumanization of the Palestinians.

Shashi Tharoor, UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, also emphasis Israeli “dehumanizing” of Palestinians, and plays down the very real problem of Palestinian incitement against Jews and Israel:

The dehumanizing of the Palestinians by the Israeli media was a message that had come through. This should not happen, but it should not happen either concerning Israelis in the Palestinian media.

Tharoor’s one sentence was the only discussion or condemnation of the longstanding and dangerous problem of Palestinian media incitement at a conference supposedly examining media and peace.

For examples of incitement in the Palestinian media last month, including in Khaleel Shaheen’s Al Ayyam, see Palestinian Media Watch’s report, “Visual Messages in the PA Media–May 2005.”


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