Selective Memories: Anti-U.S. Incitement and Prior Murders Omitted

Most major U.S. newspapers put coverage of the October 15, 2003 terrorist bombing that killed three Americans guarding U.S. diplomats in the Gaza Strip on their front pages the next day. And most omitted important context. For example:

USA Today’s Arieh O’Sullivan claimed that “the killings reflected a potentially dangerous new escalation in a conflict that for the past half-century has largely treated U.S. officials as bystanders. Terrorist Palestinian groups have generally avoided attacks on U.S. officials.”

The New York Times’ John F. Burns reported that “the bombing was the first fatal attack on an official American target since the current Palestinian uprising began three years ago …. In decades of conflict, attacks on American officials in Israel and the Palestinian territories have been almost unknown, notwithstanding Palestinian militants’anger at American support for Israel.”

Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, and Washington Times’ coverage was similar.

Distortion by Omission

Although the October 15 murders, apparently committed by Palestinian Arab terrorists, were the first targeted attack of U.S. officials in Israel or the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the past three years, they were not the first such crimes, nor did they demonstrate a shift in Palestinian Arab attitudes.

On March 3, 1973, “Black September Organization” gunmen acting for Yasir Arafat’s Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization kidnapped and later murdered U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Cleo A. Noel Jr., U.S. diplomat George C. Moore, and a Belgian colleague. Some reports state that National Security Administration communication intercepts show that Arafat approved the kidnapping and the murders (Inside the PLO by Livingstone and Halevy, p. 280; Wall Street Journal, Ion Mihai Pacepa, Jan. 10, 2002)

On Jan. 1, 1977, gunmen reportedly part of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, another P.L.O. faction, kidnapped and murdered U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Frances E. Meloy and U.S. diplomat Robert O. Waring in Beirut.

In addition to U.S. officials, approximately 103 American citizens have been killed, 119 wounded, by Palestinian terrorists in Israel and the disputed territories since 1968. At least 39 have been murdered since the Palestinians rejected the U.S.-Israeli offer of a West Bank and Gaza Strip state and launched the current terror war three years ago. Although many of these victims were not targeted for being Americans, reports stating that the three security guards murdered on October 15 are the first Americans killed by Palestinian terrorists, either following September 29, 2000, or before, are simply wrong.

A Little Review

1) During the Cold War, Arafat and various PLO factions maintained ideological, financial, training and other links to the Soviet bloc and worked against U.S. as well as Israeli interests. Before Israel expelled the PLO from Beirut in 1982, Yasir Arafat maintained a close relationship with the Soviet ambassador there; the PLO, in turn, trained “revolutionaries” and terrorists from Ireland, Italy, Japan, Germany, Spain, Iran, and other Asian, African, and Latin American countries. While campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980, former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director George H. W. Bush, described the PLO to this writer as “a KGB [Soviet secret service] subsidiary.” Following the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Palestinian terrorist groups – including Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement), Islamic Jihad, al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade of Fatah, and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – have maintained links with anti-American as well as anti-Israeli regimes in Syria and Iran.

2) Incitement by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade and official Palestinian Authority communications media is often anti-American as well as anti-Israeli. Palestinian Media Watch documents a pattern of Palestinian Authority officials eschewing anti-American propaganda in English while espousing it in Arabic. For example, during major combat in Iraq this spring, PA Television repeatedly broadcast a music video, “Be Strong Baghdad,” in support of Saddam Hussein’s regime; The Feb. 21, 2003 PA TV sermon by Ibrahim Madiras termed the United States “the foremost enemy of Muslims.” On Dec. 19, 2002, the official PA daily newspaper Al Hayat Al Jadida stressed that Iraq would “be a graveyard for the American soldiers.”

On Oct. 13, 2000, Palestinian TV broadcast an incendiary sermon by Sheik Ahmad Abu Halabiya given at a Gaza mosque. Halabiya’s sermon included exhortations to kill Americans and Jews:

…Wherever you are, kill those Jews and those Americans who are like them and those who stand by them; they are all in one trench, against the Arabs and the Muslims because they established Israel here, in the beating heart of the Arab world, in Palestine. They created it to be the outpost of their civilization and the vanguard of their army, and to be the sword of the West and the crusaders, hanging over the necks of the monotheists, the Muslims in these lands. They wanted the Jews to be their spearhead… (October 13, 2000, translation by MEMRI. For full translation go to

Reporting the October 15, 2003 bombing in the Gaza Strip with little or no reference to this history falsely implies that the bombing represents something new in Palestinian attitudes. Terrorism against Americans is the inevitable result of years of anti-American incitement in the Palestinian media and mosques.

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