A dangerous big lie about the current violent crisis in Israel and the Palestinian areas is the endlessly repeated media mantra that “clashes erupted” — without reference to who actually started the shooting, stoning, and fire-bombing — and who can stop it.
Only one party launched and perpetuates the bloodletting: the Palestinians. The blurring of this truth and the credulous amplifying of Palestinian claims of blamelessness is tacit protection of Palestinian aggression and encouragement of more.
No snapshot of the media’s reluctance to present these essentials candidly is more telling than an August 12 CNN “special” titled “Conflict in the Middle East.” Coming days after this month’s suicide bombing in Jerusalem’s Sbarro pizzeria that blew apart Israeli women and babies, killing 15 and maiming scores more, the half-hour program minimized Palestinian culpability. After brief reference to the terrorist atrocity, CNN focused on the grief of the mother and father of the suicide bomber and a litany of grievances against Israel. Islamic Jihad spokesman Sheikh Abdullah Shami denounced Israel and its “occupation,” with not a challenging question from CNN’s Mike Hanna or a hint offered about the virulent hatred and violence fomented by the organization.
CNN did not ask how the “occupation” can be the motive for suicide bombers when more than 95 percent of Palestinians live under Palestinian Authority rule. Nor did Hanna note that one year ago Israel offered to cede virtually all the West Bank and Gaza — and Yasser Arafat rejected the concessions without so much as a counter-offer.
Amazingly, in the segment devoted to suicide bombers there is not a word about the Palestinian Authority’s saturation indoctrination of its populace to join the ranks of such killers. Rather, their emergence is treated as a spontaneous response to discontent. No mention is made of the years of official Palestinian television programming urging children to admire and emulate the “martyrs” who “drench the ground” with their own blood, and to join others who have already gone to “paradise.” Nor did Palestinian psychiatrist Eyad Sarraj, interviewed at length about the psychic traumas of the Palestinians, make reference to the emotional effects of such indoctrination. An unasked question for the mental health doctor was whether children might experience terrible stress being urged by influential parts of their society to end their own lives.
But Saraj’s diagnosis of the cause of bombers’ actions was “despair,” and Hanna promptly added that “poverty” similarly brought new suicide recruits.
In addition, this “despair” and “poverty” is implicitly blamed on Israel, with not the slightest hint offered of Arafat’s responsibility in his peoples’ misery. His misappropriating funds and otherwise contributing to Palestinian economic distress are ignored entirely.
The CNN special did include sympathetic interviews with Israeli residents of a Gaza settlement, but the choice of these particular Israelis is notable — after a bombing in Jerusalem preceded by an earlier devastating attack in Tel Aviv. Many survivors of these attacks inside Israel, and family members of those lost, could have been interviewed.
The preference for featuring settlers reflects again CNN’s promoting Palestinian perspectives. “One of the greatest sticking points in reaching a permanent peace agreement — Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory,” is how the program host introduced the segment. Yet Israelis widely disagree; they consider one of “the greatest sticking points” to be continuing Arab rejection of Israeli legitimacy. Focusing on settlers is deceptive and omits the core issues as Israel sees them.
Moreover, again, CNN ignores the fact that Israel offered a year ago to relinquish most of the settlements in the context of a peace agreement — and Arafat rejected the offer.
Proof that journalists can ask serious questions about the violent assault on Israel was an August 16 report on Fox News about the tensions between the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo and the Arab town of Beit Jala. Noting that the mostly Christian town has been used as a firing base by Muslim Palestinians, the Fox News correspondent said, “They choose their locations carefully, hiding between these buildings, using civilian homes for cover, so they’re safe, but the people of Beit Jala aren’t.” The reporter added, “Some say Arafat allows the gunmen to shoot from Beit Jala because he wants to win the Vatican’s support in sending monitors to protect Christians being shelled by Israel.”
Then she asked an Arab resident: “Do these Israelis ever shoot first?” He answered, “I don’t think so.” The reporter continued, “So, if there were no Palestinian gunmen shooting from here, you probably would have quiet, wouldn’t you?” The answer: “Sure.” The reporter continued, “Are you saying that Yasser Arafat could stop the gunmen if he wanted to?” The answer: “I think so. He can do that.”
Perhaps CNN, with its layoffs and declining market share should heed the admirable journalism of its ascendant competitor and consider chucking its biased reporting in favor of accurate and complete accounts of what’s actually happening.
Appeared in the Jerusalem Post on this date.