CNN Tilts Sharon, Arafat Profiles

In celebration of CNN’s first 25 years, the network collaborated with Time magazine to broadcast a special throughout May  highlighting “the top 25 most fascinating people” of the last two and a half decades. Ranking numbers 15 and 10 are Middle East leaders Ariel Sharon and Yasir Arafat, respectively.

CNN’s treatment of the two leaders is itself fascinating–CNN dedicates 11 sentences, or more than half of the Sharon profile, to the Israeli leader’s “indirect responsibility” for the massacre of Palestinians perpetrated by Christian Phalangists in Sabra and Shatila, plus distortions about Sharon from Palestinian propagandist Hanan Ashrawi. In contrast, the much briefer profile of Arafat distills the Palestinian leader’s lifetime of terrorism to just two sentences, and does not include any critical comment from an Israeli.

The relevant excerpt of the Sharon feature follows:

CNN Correspondent John Vause: But for Arabs, he is the butcher of Beirut. As defense minister, he was the architect of Israel’s ill-fated invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

David Horowitz, political analyst: This was a misadventure and an ill-fated invasion and Sharon was trying to play a superpower here and rearrange the region in a way that he thought would better help Israel.

Vause: An Israeli commission found him indirectly responsible for the murder of hundreds of Palestinians at a Lebanese refugee camp. The killing was done by a Christian militia, Israel’s allies at the time. Sharon was accused of doing nothing to stop it and banned from ever being defense minister again.

Ranaan Gissin, Sharon advisor: He felt betrayed. He felt betrayed by the government.

Vause: To Palestinians, Sharon is a bully and a brute, determined to deny them an independent state.

Ashrawi: Sharon is the bloodiest of Israeli leaders. Force troopers [sic], no compunction, killing people, men, women, children, destroying homes, destroying trees and crops, stealing land.

In contrast, Yasir Arafat’s career in terrorism, which included hundreds of bombings, hijackings, assassinations and other attacks, such as the 1973 murder of American diplomats and the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship, was summed up in just two sentences:

His nickname, Yasir, means “easy-going” in Arabic. Yet, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat’s often volatile actions hardly lived up to that moniker. Elected chairman of the PLO in 1969, he began a legacy of violence that included the attack that left 11 Israeli athletes dead at the ’72 Munich Olympics.

Even the minimal information that is provided about Arafat’s terror background is not correct. Contrary to CNN’s report, Arafat’s legacy of violence began before his election as PLO chairman in 1969. As early as the late 1950s, Arafat cofounded Fatah, which on Jan. 1, 1965 attempted its first attack within Israel, the bombing of the National Water Carrier. Also, on July 5, 1965, A Fatah cell planted explosives at Mitzpe Massua, near Beit Guvrin; and on the railroad tracks to Jerusalem near Kafr Battir. From 1965 to 1967, numerous Fatah bomb attacks targeted Israeli villages, water pipes, railroads, destroying homes and killing Israelis.

Disparity in Language
Sharon is described as “a fighter,” “a warrior,” “a bulldozer,” “a butcher,” “a bully,” “a brute,” the “bloodiest of Israeli leaders.” While CNN vilifies Sharon with a string of labels,  for Arafat–truly among the bloodiest of world leaders–the network suffices with just one disparaging label: “terrorist.” (And, signficantly, CNN couples “terrorist” with “peacemaker,” introducing the segment about “a man who is both terrorist and peacemaker.”)

Whitewashing Arafat
The remainder of host Bill Hemmer’s report about Arafat goes on to emphasize the leader’s “peacemaking efforts”:

Later, he endorsed U.N. Resolution 242, seeking compromise between Palestinians and Israel, a separate state for each. For his peacemaking efforts, he won the Nobel Prize in 1994, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.

In fact, U.N. Resolution 242 has nothing to say about establishing a Palestinian state. The report continues with comment from Romesh Ratnesar, a senior editor at Time Magazine:

His legacy will be one of putting the issue of the Palestinians on the table, forcing the world to pay attention.

And just like that, Arafat’s four decade long legacy of bombings, shootings, hijackings, etc., is erased. Hemmer concludes the profile:

Confined to his West Bank compound during his final years, Arafat died on Nov. 11, 2004, leaving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict unresolved.

Israel confined Arafat to his compound because he was intimately involved in inciting, funding and approving terror attacks, as well as harboring terrorists at his headquarters. The terrorists remained there until Mahmoud Abbas, the new Palestinian leader, agreed to eject them on March 31 of this year, after Arafat’s death.

In addition, Hemmer falsely implies that the failure to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is simply a matter of unfinished business, or time running out due to Arafat’s untimely death. In fact, Arafat actively prevented resolution to the conflict, responding to unprecedented Israeli offers during the Camp David and Taba talks by unleashing the Intifadah and by funding Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, responsible for countless deadly terror attacks.

Indeed, as former Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross wrote in the July/August 2002 issue of Foreign Policy magazine: “Is there any sign that Arafat has changed and is ready to make historic decisions for peace? I see no indication of it.” Unfortunately, CNN producers left that fascinating material on the cutting room floor.

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