‘Mosaic’ Deceptions

Link TV, a satellite channel describing itself as “the first national network…presenting viewpoints seldom covered in the U.S. media,” is currently trying to expand its distribution on campuses and in communities throughout the United States by promoting its programming to cable and satellite television consumers. Its flagship program is “Mosaic: World News from the Middle East,” a daily compendium of selected clips from Middle East news broadcasts, including Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV, state-run Arabic networks such as United Arab Emirates’ Abu Dhabi TV, Egyptian Nile TV, Syrian satellite TV, and, occasionally, Israel Broadcasting Authority TV. In addition, “Mosaic” airs “specials” on issues like the “road map,” the Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal sponsored by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

“Mosaic” is described by its producers as “a raw material show” without editorial input. Viewers tune in to hear suicide bombings within Israel described as “martydom operations” carried out by Palestinian “resistance groups” meant to avenge “aggression and massacres committed by the occupation forces.” The producers maintain that the news broadcasts represent the stories and programming that millions of Middle East viewers see on their television sets every day.

While such exposure offers a window to the region for Americans, “Mosaic” fails to contribute to greater understanding of the Arab world because it presents news clips without context and without full disclosure of whose perspectives the broadcasters are presenting. For example, someone consulting the “Mosaic” Web site to find out who is behind Lebanon’s Al Manar TV would learn that it “is controlled by the Shiite fundamentalist movement Hezbollah…which holds a number of elected positions in the Lebanese government” and that its mission is “to preserve the Islamic values and to enhance the civilized role of the Arab and Islamic community.” What is not mentioned is that Hezbollah is on the U.S. State Department’s list of designated foreign terrorist organizations and that, until Sept. 11, 2001, it held the record for murdering more Americans than any other terror group.

Sponsored by Iran and Syria, Hezbollah is responsible for numerous deadly assaults against Americans, Israelis and other Westerners, including a series of kidnappings in the 1980s, the 1983 bombing of U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon which killed 241, the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847, and attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina in the 1990s resulting in 124 deaths. More recently, Hezbollah has been implicated in the kidnapping and murder of Israelis and in funding and assisting Palestinian terrorist groups.

Neither does “Mosaic” disclose that Al Manar TV is Hezbollah’s main propaganda engine, whose admitted mission is to “wage psychological warfare against the Zionist enemy.” Al Manar producers boast of creating programming to recruit Palestinian suicide bombers. Recently, its rhetoric has expanded to include anti-Americanism and blatant anti-Semitism. Shiite scholar Amal Saad-Ghorayeb contends that anti-Judaism, in addition to anti-Zionism, is integral to Hezbollah ideology. And, in an interview with the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Ibrahim Mussawi, director of English-language news for Al Manar, labeled Jews “a lesion on the forehead of history.” The question is why “Mosaic” producers are obscuring Al Manar’s extremist agenda.

In contrast, Washington, D.C.-based MEMRI, Middle East Media Research Institute (www.memri.org), introduces its translations of the Arabic press with objective background information and produces analyses of political, ideological, cultural, and religious trends in the Middle East. Unlike MEMRI’s news consumer, “Mosaic” viewers may well have difficulty distinguishing truth from propaganda.

“Mosaic” is similarly deceptive in its special about the Quartet’s “road map,” which purports to “provide a current snapshot of the ongoing process…through a mixture of balanced discussion, perspective, and unfiltered videotaped segments from the leading broadcasters in the Middle East.” The co-producers of “Mosaic,” Palestinian Jamal Dajani and Israeli David Michaelis, are joined as panelists in the special by Diana Buttu, legal advisor to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and Hebrew University professor Moshe Maoz, signatory to a controversial petition sponsored by the far-left Gush Shalom organization.

Contrary to the promotional claims, the videotape footage is hardly “unfiltered,” nor are the self-appointed arbiters of “road map” progress “balanced.” The video segments reflect a primarily Palestinian perspective and the panel discussion is dominated by Buttu, who remains unchallenged as she builds arguments upon outright falsehoods. For example, she supports her claim that Palestinian suicide bombings are a direct result of Israeli military measures by emphatically declaring that "if you look at the period of 1996 until the year 2000, during the period of the Oslo peace process, from the year 1997 until the year 2000, not a single Israeli died of a suicide bombing inside Israel, not a single one…"

In fact, 59 Israelis were killed by Palestinian suicide bombers in 1996 alone. And 24 more were killed within Israel in six separate Palestinian suicide bombings in the period of time Buttu describes. It is striking that neither the moderator nor the other panelists challenge Buttu.

Elsewhere, Buttu asserts that 6000 Palestinian prisoners are jailed in Israel “not because they’ve committed crimes but simply because they are Palestinian.” She ignores the thousands of members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups incarcerated in Israeli prisons for involvement in violent attacks against Israelis. Again, no one challenges Buttu’s outright lie.

Absent from this program are any mainstream Israeli perspectives. Instead “Mosaic” co-producer Michaelis suggests that building the security barrier is a “lose-lose situation” and that Israeli settlers are a powerful extremist group whose opponents risk being murdered. Likewise, Maoz frequently agrees with Buttu. Rather than “balancing” her dubious charges against Israel with factual rebuttals, he repeatedly expresses shame at Israel’s alleged wrongdoing. Palestinian “Mosaic” co-producer Jamal Dajani professes support for a bi-national state with an unlimited right of return for Palestinians; that is, for the dismantling of Israel as a Jewish state.

With all the panelists unified in their condemnation of Israel, one can hardly consider this a balanced presentation of facts or views.

“Mosaic” is a project of Internews, an international non-profit organization and co-founder of World Link TV. The organization’s other Middle East activities include a program for training journalists as stringers for Arab media, and AMIN (Arab Media Internet Network), described as a watchdog for harassment of the press. A quick glance at AMIN’s Web site (www.amin.org) reveals one-sided, distorted articles with such partisan titles as “Israel’s Security Wall: Another Land Grab” (December 2003), “Israel’s Mass Robbery of Palestine” (Feb. 17, 2004), and “13 Innocent Palestinian Civilians and 6 Children Killed in a Series of War Crimes Committed by Israeli Forces in Nablus” (Jan. 13, 2004). It is difficult to see how this site protects against harassment of the press. Its articles can more accurately be construed as incitement against Israel. Yet Internews claims to “reduce conflict within and between countries.”

Internews, “Mosaic,” and Link TV are interconnected, sharing some of the same directors and producers professing similar lofty goals. As long as they continue to misrepresent the nature of the materials they disseminate and to offer a distorted picture of the Middle East, they raise serious questions about their use of the media and their true mission.

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