Time Magazine’s One-Sided Feature on Palestinians

In its August 19, 2002 edition, Time magazine published a one-sided portrait of Palestinian grievances (Print edition: “The Palestinians: An Inside Look at Life in an Embattled Society” Web edition: “The Palestinians, Close Up”) that omit crucial context. In photographs by James Nachtwey, whose full photo essay is viewable on Time’s website (http://www.time.com), and an article by Matt Rees reporting from Beit Jala, Time focused exclusively on Palestinian perspectives of the current Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

While Rees alludes to the Palestinians bearing some responsibility for the their plight (“Like most Palestinians, Sarasra sees only Israel’s part in the destruction of Palestinian property and aspirations; he cannot or will not examine the role his people have played in laying waste to their community…”), Rees for the most part casts Israelis as the villains and Palestinians as their victims.

***Rees indicts Israel for demolishing homes of suicide bombers, emotively detailing the Palestinian loss of a house “born in hope” while glossing over the context for Israel’s actions. Rees’ one-sided presentation is amplified by editorial comments he injects, which again give no details about how Palestinians “hurt” Israelis :

“Destroying the homes of Palestinian assailants is Israel’s latest contribution to the escalating battle between the two sides over who can hurt whom more.”

Israel’s goal is not to “hurt” the Palestinians, but to deter terrorists.  Rees’ sarcastic comment about “Israel’s latest contribution” also implies the house demolitions are ineffective, an insinuation that runs counter to the facts. Israel has reported repeated instances in which demolishing the houses of suicide bombers spurred other parents to prevent their children from strapping bombs on themselves and blowing up innocent Israelis. Would Rees argue that sparing a house takes precedence over saving lives?

*** The reporter’s partisanship and indifference to historical realities are apparent in his characterization of Palestinianaspirations when he writes:  

For the Palestinians, even before Oslo, there was at least the faith that if they stayed true to their cause, if they refused to bend to Israel’s dictate, they would one day have the elemental right to rule themselves.

The Palestinian “cause” had been “even before Oslo” the destruction of Israel. Refusing to “bend to Israel’s dictate” — to stop violent aggression against Israel — has meant continuing to pursue that same goal of Israel’s annihilation instead of accepting the legitimacy and permanence of the Jewish state. Moreover, the “elemental right to rule themselves” has repeatedly been cast aside by the Palestinians themselves when Israel has offered substantial concessions and opportunity for viable self-government.

***Even Palestinian suicide bombings are understood and explained:  

Abu Shouqra believes he knows what made his son die so desperately. It was his faith in God, who, the father says, “rewards martyrs in paradise,” and his craving for revenge after so much killing… But there is something more: the feeling that’s growing among Palestinian children…that they must be responsible for their own protection, if not that of the whole community.

Rees supports his theory that suicide bombers arise due to the impotence of Palestinian fathers to protect their children by mentioning that:

early in the fighting, Palestinian children watched countless reruns of news footage that captured the death of Mohammed al-Durra, 12, even as his father used his own body to try to shield the boy from a barrage of bullets.
Rees fails to mention, however, the Palestinian TV advertisements for “martyrdom”  that exploited al-Dura’s death with re-enacted scenes of children being called upon to drop their toys and pick up rocks so they can follow Mohammed al-Dura to the hereafter, with paradise portrayed as a green, sunlit meadow where young children meet and play.

In fact, Rees refers only in a few phrases to the role of Palestinian mosques, schools and television which teach children that they are honor-bound to destroy Israel. ( “…faced with relentless television images of Israeli violence…”; “They have listened to Sheik Abdel Aziz Rantisi, 55, one of the most powerful and radical leaders of Hamas. Rantisi told them, ‘My beloved ones, you will continue your resistance to the day of victory.’ ” ; “A cult of death has appropriated a Palestinian generation…”  )

There is no reference to the inculcation of the value of “martyrdom” which begins at a young age in Palestinian society. Young Palestinian children routinely are taught to sing and recite poems in praise of martyrdom and jihad.

Nor does Rees talk of  the glory or financial payments granted families of suicide bombers by Palestinian and Iraqi government officials. He does not mention parades in the street with Palestinian children dressed up as suicide bombers nor the religious sermons broadcast live on Palestinian TV on Fridays which often include calls to martydom, nor the gruesome university exhibits celebrating violence against Israel. Rees instead talks only of a “hopeless defiance [that] has grown in the Palestinians during the intifadeh,” and blames Israel for Palestinian “poverty, death and despair.” 

*** While he includes several unsubstantiated allegations against Israel by Palestinians, including that of torture, Rees does not quote even one Israeli Jew or government official.

In this feature, the longest and most in-depth that Time magazine has provided about victims of the current Israeli-Palestinian crisis, 3400 words are devoted exclusively to Palestinian suffering, viewpoints and accusations. The photos/website photo essay also focused solely on Palestinian victims and anguish, presenting a one-sided view of the conflict. The only Israelis depicted are in military uniforms and a false moral equivalence is drawn between Palestinian suicide bombers bent on destroying Israel and Israeli military actions aimed at protecting Israel.

Time magazine has provided no similar human interest articles about only Israeli victims or suffering.   Over the past several months while hundreds of Israelis were brutally killed and maimed by Palestinian terrorists, Time Magazine’s in-depth articles about Israelis included those about their military actions — a TIME investigation into Israeli actions in Jenin (May 13, 2002); “the inside story of how Israel imprisoned Arafat — and why the rage keeps burning” (April 8, 2002); Israel’s attempt to “build a controversial and costly wall around the West Bank” (June 27, 2002); “Sharon’s campaign to stop the attacks” (July 1, 2002) — but none focused exclusive ly on Israeli suffering.

“Two Families Under the Gun” (April 1, 2002) drew a parallel between two families, one Palestinian, the other Israeli coping to survive under difficult conditions; and another article described “mothers on both sides struggle to keep their families and themselves intact in the face of the grief and hatred” (April 29, 2002).  Thus, if Israeli victims are written about, they are always balanced with Palestinian grievances or victims.   But articles and photos of Palestinian suffering are allowed to stand on their own.  Time’s overall coverage, therefore, is heavily weighted toward portraying Palestinian distress and blaming Israel.

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