CAMERA Op-Ed: Nightline Sanitizes Roots of Terror

Terrorist savagery against Israeli civilians, often in the form of suicidal, bomb-strapped Palestinians, has yet to elicit from most journalists and major media anything close to honest coverage of the true causes of the onslaught. Instead, vacuous explanations, ones that essentially repeat Arab arguments, prevail.

Palestinians blow up Israelis, we are endlessly told, out of frustration, anger, humiliation and desperation.

Missing from nearly all news coverage is any mention of the deliberate and systematic Palestinian inculcation of hatred, violence and rejection of Israel´s very existence – an indoctrination that went on throughout the years of Oslo. This great, gaping omission renders virtually any account of the roots of Palestinian terrorism essentially false.

A November 21 ABC Nightline segment, for example, was devoted to comparing and contrasting Japanese Kamikaze pilots and Palestinian suicide bombers. The story headline signaled exactly where the piece was going: “Desperate Acts: Suicide Bombers.” Not “Harvest of Palestinian Incitement: Suicide Bombers.”

Host Ted Koppel first turned to the topic of Japanese Kamikaze pilots, rightly noting they aimed at military targets, not civilian ones. One guest speaker insisted these killers were nothing more than committed patriots, while another argued they were fanatics.

But regarding Palestinian terrorists blowing up Israelis, there were no contending views and no hint that fanaticism fuels the killing.

Koppel began with this muddled thought: “…the level of anger among many Palestinians against the Israeli military is so profound that there, too, suicide bombers are often elevated to heroic status.”

Framing the attacks as prompted by the Israeli military – and by implication the “occupation” – not only casts fault on Israel while ignoring the rejected Israeli offers to end the “occupation;” it also blurs the Palestinians´ fundamental responsibility for their malevolent deeds. Moreover, the suicide bombers have been “elevated to heroic status” not just for murdering “Israeli military”; their main targets have been Israeli toddlers eating ice cream, teenagers at a disco, school children on buses and mothers and retirees going about their normal lives.

And Palestinians seek out and slaughter Jewish children not only because they are unequipped to confront better-armed Israeli soldiers. They kill children because the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinian society more broadly, have demonized and dehumanized Jews.

Koppel could have reported this. The evidence is plentiful and available. Monitoring groups such as MEMRI, (Middle East Media Research Institute), and Palestinian Media Watch regularly translate Arabic articles and broadcasts attesting to the attitudes that enable Palestinians to view Jews, regardless of age and innocence, as deserving of death.

Typical of official Palestinian television fare well before the current violence was a February, 1998 broadcast on “The Children´s Club” that featured little girls singing of wanting to grow up to be suicide bombers in Jerusalem.

Palestinian Authority incitement since September, 2000, when Arafat launched the current mini-war, is exemplified by a November 1, 2002 airing on Palestinian television of a sermon by Dr. Mahmoud Mustafah Najem in a Gaza mosque. Najem demands that his adherents hate and defeat the Jews as a religious obligation commanded by Allah. His racist diatribe claims Allah described Jews “in his book” as being “characterized by conceit, pride, arrogance, disloyalty and treachery…” Jews, he says, are “monkeys and pigs.” Najem exhorts his audience: “…Servants of Allah, be you the ones by whom Allah tortures the Jews with harsh torment…” “Allah, render us victorious over the Jews and those who side with them!” “Allah, render victory upon Islam and Muslims.”

Instead of exposing the role of such odious incitement in driving the terrorist campaign, Nightline presents the ubiquitous Palestinian psychiatrist, Dr. Iyad Saraaj, who is interviewed at length explaining that suicide bombers are the result of Palestinian children having been “traumatized” by house demolitions, by “seeing people killed,” and by having their “landscape destroyed.”

Additional Palestinian speakers repeat the same theme of an aggrieved people acting in “the only way to respond.” Three times Palestinians are said to be “humiliated” by Israel and, evidently, thereby understandably driven to murder Jewish grandfathers and school children.

Of the Israelis interviewed, one is the father of a murdered teenage girl; he speaks only briefly, expressing incomprehension at what was done to his daughter. Another, a young woman, tells briefly of trepidation at returning to a cafe that had been blown apart.

The remaining three Israelis selected by Nightline include one who laments the “vicious cycle” of “responding to violence by violence,” and another who says he believes Palestinians hate Israelis because Israelis humiliate them “every day, every single day.” The third, Zeev Sternhell, an extreme leftist academic and commentator who has advised Palestinians to focus their violence on settlers, charges “Israeli society is going more to the right, more nationalist. Tougher. And the response is more repression.”

All in all, by selective emphasis and gross omission, Nightline told viewers that both Israelis and Palestinians see the slaughter of Israelis by Palestinians as the fault of – Israel. Thus, the drumbeat of hate indoctrination proceeds without exposure, and reality is turned on its head, thanks in no small part to the evasions of the Ted Koppels.


Originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post December 17, 2002

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