CAMERA Op-Ed: Between Informing and Ranting

An article by Stephanie Guttman in the Weekly Standard’s January 2001 issue entitled “Lights, Camera, Intifada” focuses on the atmosphere of intimidation and physical threat that shadows journalists working in Palestinian Authority areas.

Guttman notes that while reporters have at times also suffered harassment at the hands of Israelis, there is little comparison to the lawlessness of the PA where, she writes, “self-interest and brute force rule,” citing the case of Jean Pierre Martin, a Belgian producer for a Luxembourg network who was assaulted along with members of his crew when they were spotted filming Palestinian men dispensing Molotov cocktails, to stone-throwing boys near Ramallah. The TV crew had its film seized and members were taken before a PA police chief, where they pledged that their tape of the “cocktail incident” had been erased. Subsequently Martin was tailed by the PA and his crew’s tape was seized again, a camera smashed, and he was apparently shot at by a Palestinian.

Guttman notes that the “fear of being seen as ‘allied with Israel’ seemed near phobic among the press people (she) observed on the job in Jerusalem.” Many of these journalists responded to the dangers associated with frank coverage of Palestinian activities by “not seeing things or by finding elaborate justifications for ignoring stories that would displease their hosts in the territories.”

The most dramatic example of such tensions involved the videotaping and televising of the two Israeli soldiers savagely lynched by Palestinian mobs in Ramallah on October 12. Although numerous media were at the scene of the killings, many were roughed up and prevented from recording the events. An Italian outfit succeeded, but afterwards, the frightened, servile behavior of TV producer Riccardo Cristiano made vividly clear the effects of PA intimidation. Cristiano’s network did not tape the murders; another Italian crew did. However, fearing the PA would blame his own team, Cristiano sent an obsequious letter of clarification and apology to the PA, which became public. In the end, both Italian crews fled the country fearing violence.

If readers should be encouraged to read the Guttman article, they should, for very different reasons, be advised to look at “The Palestinian Question,” in January’s Harper’s magazine. Authored by Alex and Stephen Shalom, the article is filled with distortion and omission. This is how the duo presents the 1947 Partition Plan:

More than half a century ago, the United Nations… recommended the partition of Palestine into Palestinian and Jewish states, with the Jewish minority to receive most of the fertile land, and an internationalized Jerusalem. A civil war and then a regional war ensued, and when the armistice agreements were signed there was Israel, the Jewish state, but no Palestinian state and no international Jerusalem, both of which were divided between Israel and Jordan.

The “regional war” that “ensued” was a full-scale invasion of Arab armies in combination with Palestinian militias after the Palestinian Arabs rejected the Partition Plan which the Jews had accepted and set out to destroy the nascent state. The Shaloms denounce Oslo for failing to cede sufficient land to Palestinians, for failing to permit the return of refugees from the 1948 War, for allowing building of bypass roads, for creating Palestinian “Bantustans.” The authors also make charges manifestly at odds with recent events. They denounce Yasser Arafat for “at one point in 1998, relinquishing the Palestinian claim to any part of Jerusalem by accepting the notion that neighboring Abu Dis would suffice as the capital of a future Palestinian state.” Arafat has never ceased demanding large parts of Jerusalem, as he does today.


Appeared in the Jerusalem Post on this date.

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