Internet and satellite allow truth to surface in Israeli dominated media
In addition to having the upper hand militarily over the Palestinians, Israel has always done a more effective job of getting its message out to the public.
Israel's version of events always seems to hit the streets long before the Palestinians ever get their act together. And in the battle for the media and public perception, the "first impression" has a lasting impact that is difficult to undo.
This disparity has resulted in a skewered image of Israel justifying nearly every act of its aggression. And, by getting its message out first before the Palestinians, the deaths of the nearly 10 Israelis killed so far have been given much higher profile play in the media around the world, while the killings of more than 149 Palestinians continues to remain as little more than mounting statistics.
When you finally examine the real facts, you get a true picture of what is happening. And although both sides are responsible for some horrendous deeds, Israel is far from the little angel its skilled publicists have made it out to be.
Arabs have been forced to turn to alternative sources of information that have helped to counter this one-sided media coverage, using the Internet and satellite television reports and broadcasts of unedited video clips of the battles.
Take the very incident that sparked this conflict, for example. When Ariel Sharon first stepped foot onto the Haram Al-Ash-Sharif (or the Temple Mount to Israelis), Israelis insisted that he was "just a Jew" visiting a "Jewish Shrine."
His visit sparked a rock-throwing response from Palestinians that escalated to a full scale military response from Israel, and that also spread throughout Israel and the Palestinian areas.
Yet, it took three weeks for truth of Sharon's visit to surface. Sharon was accompanied by nearly 3,000 fully armed Israeli soldiers. If that wasn't bad enough, Sharon's own words declaring the area will forever remain under Israeli sovereignty turned this so-called religious pilgrimage into an intentional provocation.
But that was just the cause of the conflict, with Israel doing a masterful job of easily shifting the blame to the Palestinians.
Subsequent examples are more gruesome.
Take the contrasting images of the murder of Mohammad Al-Dura's by snipers in the Gaza Strip, recorded live by a French TV camera-crew, and the mob killing of two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah several days later.
In the instance of Al-Dura, here was a unarmed 12 year old boy crying and frantically clutching the arms of his equally frightened father as bullets flew all around them. Frames from the video clip showing the boy's last moments before his death were printed in many newspapers the next day.
Israel went right to work to counter the expected criticism. They asserted that Al-Dura and his father were "victims" of a cross-fire gun fight between Palestinians on the left of the screen and Israelis on the right. And, to add gloss to the accusation, they also argued that the Palestinians were pushing their children to the front lines to confront the heavily armed Israeli soldiers.
Conclusion: the Palestinians deserved part of the blame.
However, in the days and weeks that followed, the videotape of the killings were made public. It turns out that 12 year old boy and his father crouched at the side of the building crying for help for more than 45 minutes. And, not surprisingly, nearly every shot fired came from the right side of the screen.
In other words, the Israeli snipers from the nearby Jewish settlement were intentionally trying to kill the boy. And they did.
Not willing to allow the truth to come out, the Israelis have launched a campaign to use the fact that the cameraman on the French crew was Palestinian, and they will assert that the Al-Dura murder was a "set-up gone wrong."
But there are other examples.
Now, let's go to Ramallah where, according to the Israelis, a "mob lynched" two Israeli reservists who strayed by "accident" into the hands of Palestinian police. Newspapers carried the stunning image of a Palestinians holding his bloodied hands in the air from the second floor window after the bodies had been thrown outside to the ground below. Extensive details of the conversations that occurred were also published, and the branding by the Israelis of this event as a "lynching" evoked horrendous images from unrelated past events.
The conclusion was plain for all to see: The Palestinians are the ruthless killers and thereby responsible for al the bloodshed, justifying Israel's tough military responses.
Yet, it wasn't until many weeks later than the real facts of this killing were disclosed. Rather than having been innocent "Israeli reservists" who "accidentally strayed" into Palestinian police hands, the two Israelis were undercover, probably Mossad or Shin Bet agents carrying detailed information on the whereabouts of several prominent Palestinian leaders. They also had satchels of explosives.
Certainly, the killings are not justified, but this latter explanation casts some of the responsibility on the Israelis themselves.
The images of the killings of the two Israelis are as chilling as the video clip of Al-Dura's murder. But this incident received far more coverage than even the Al-Dura murder. In fact, the murder of an Israeli in this unfortunate crisis always seems to get more sympathetic coverage than the murder of the Palestinians. Afterall, more than 149 Palestinians have been killed in the five week conflict, while only 10 Israelis have died.
Another example of how the Israelis have dominated media coverage at the expense of accuracy involves the contrasting battles between Palestinians in Jerusalem and Israelis in Bethlehem.
When a car bomb went off killing two Israelis in a Jerusalem marketplace, the explosion attracted international headlines, sparking public denunciations from Israel's allies. The headlines read, "Terrorist bombing in Jerusalem."
Yet, the image of Israeli helicopters hovering over the Manger Square, firing missiles into the homes of Bethlehem residents was reported in passing by many media as "more violence in the Middle East."
Unreported is the fact that nearly one-third of the Palestinians killed during the past five weeks are Christian Arabs, a sensitive issue that could swing many Christians to the Arab side.
Israel's military has launched numerous attacks against Christian strongholds, including Bethlehem, and neighboring Beit Sahour and Beit Jala. To the Palestinians, the use of helicopter gunships, tanks and heavy armor in these icons to the Christian world are themselves acts of terrorism, even if the media does not report them that way.
Israel may have the upperhand in the media battle, but technology is allowing many to sidestep this advantage through Internet access and also through satellite television reporting.
Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American author. His columns are archived on the Internet at www.hanania.com.
Topics: Ariel Sharon, Occupation, Palestine