Silence of the media lambs in Israel

Category: World Affairs Topics: Occupation Views: 880
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The current upheaval in Israel and the Occupied Territories once again rips the scab off a festering wound that has no easy cure. The rhetoric arrays developed countries against developing countries, Christian countries against Muslim countries. Hatred is described as "centuries-old"; stereotypes are created, causing greater bigotries principally against Arabs, Muslims and Islam.

Events such as the ones occurring in Israel and Palestine should not be used as an excuse to fan the flames of bigotry against either Jews or Christians or Muslims. It is our obligation to recognize that neither Israel nor Palestine has the monopoly on good or evil. It is also our duty not to sit quietly and allow others to distort and to shape the news so it makes one side entirely evil as is being done these days against the Christian and Muslim Arabs in Palestine.

Israel's excesses are glossed-over by trite but effective phrases which the media gulp down as fast as they are provided. Regardless of the atrocity committed by Israel's Army and other security forces, the fault is placed on Arafat who can supposedly turn the violence on and off like a tap. The U.S. administration encourages abusive bigotry when the only condemnations it can make are directed against the Arabs. This abuse of Muslims is growing fast, even editors are making editorial comparisons of Muslims from being an evil, violent culture (Washington Times, Oct.20, 2000) to "pieces of s---" (MSN Slate,) to "Allah be damned and Mohammed too" (Calgary Sun, Oct.26, 2000).

It is chilling that the very detractors of Muslims and Islam seem to be largely Jews who appear to have forgotten similar comparisons made against them ranging from "Jesus killers" and shylocks to TB bacilli within living memory. Creating or feeding bigotry against another group is not a good way to counter bigotry towards one's own group.

The propaganda from developed countries of the West is winning because the media is Western. The public is generally unwilling to accept that the side they are rooting for can be anything but benign and embattled. This makes it that much easier for interested parties to influence minds and win hearts. The aim of the Western countries largely led by the United States, is to gain sympathy for Israel no matter what the cost. The speculative eye among the politicians, is always on the next elections and the next fund-raiser. Since the extreme pro-Israel lobby can help them win, that is where the politicians will go. The media appear glad to acquiesce.

We see pictures of Palestinians throwing rocks at the Israelis who defend themselves by shooting and killing the Palestinians. Consider the two faces of Israel in the actions taken and the spin on the words when comes Arab or Jew. On the eve of Yom Kippur, when Israeli Arab member of Parliament Azmi Bishara's home was attacked by Israeli Jews, all the police did was to try to persuade the Jewish protestors to go away and the media reported it as "stoning" of the home.

Israeli security forces have shot and killed at least 24 Israeli Arabs in Israel for "rock-throwing". Most of the pictures and reportage we get are self-selected by most of the media; the Palestinian side is usually given brief coverage if any while the Israeli side gets headlines and front page treatment for days. On October 9, Jewish settlers kidnapped a 47-year old olive farmer from his property, beat him up, set fire to his body and dumped it by the roadside where other Palestinians looking for him found it. Earlier when a mosque was burnt inside Israel in a village, all the local Jewish mayor could say was that he could understand how people could do such a thing after all that's happening in the Occupied Territories.

Men from the Israeli security forces who look like Arabs infiltrate almost every Palestinian gathering. These undercover agents are authorized to seize or execute anybody they identify as a threat to Israeli security. Most of the executions are carried out during the gathering or demonstration using guns with silencers. The two Israeli soldiers whose deaths on October 12, were extensively covered by world media were in just such a gathering. Reportedly a group of four, they were disguised as Arabs right down to wearing Kufiyehs, the traditional Arab headgear and they were heavily armed when discovered by the Palestinians (see BBC coverage at http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/newsid_969000/969139.stm ).

Small wonder that the Palestinians vented their wrath at them. There is no reasonable explanation as to how the two soldiers got "lost" or, were allowed past not only a Palestinian checkpoint but an Israeli one too. Normally, even a rat cannot get past an Israeli checkpoint. Most of the media regurgitated Israel's version of the story "two off-duty soldiers who took the wrong turn, got lost and were brutally murdered by the Palestinians".

These days Palestinian demonstrators often fall over unnoticed; there is no explosive sound, nothing. Israel has resorted to another terror tactic; snipers with silencers. The use of snipers would imply that only the most dangerous Palestinians are being "picked off". Far from this, Israel has given a carte blanche to their snipers who shoot to kill anyone they wish. Most of these people are youths and children who happen to fall in the sniper's field of vision at the time. Thus, many children killed were actually spectators at the edges of the action.

Israel's response? The children were variously "leading the attack", hit by stray bullets or, caught in the crossfire. How far can a rock be thrown and how much damage can it cause? What crossfire? Most of the rock-throwing children have never even handled a gun.

Take for example the now-famous case of the father and child shot by Israeli snipers. It is noteworthy that Israeli Army tried very hard to avoid responsibility for the shooting and the son's death until forced to admit it because of the TV footage. "The situation was too chaotic and visibility was too poor to identify the targets", they finally said. Why use snipers in a place where they cannot know who they are shooting at unless it does not matter? In their attempts to minimize the tragedy and to make it look like the fault still lay with the Palestinians, the Israeli Cabinet Secretary Yitzhak Herzog said, "If the Palestinian Policemen wanted to save the child, they could have walked into the square...and rescued the kid". This would be a surprise to the ambulance driver who was coming to help the father and son. He was shot and killed; the statement would also surprise the driver of the second ambulance who was shot and injured, this would also be news to the Palestinian Policeman who tried to help and was shot for his efforts.

Nobody asked why any of these people had to be shot. We are not given many details nor are deeper questions asked; why are the Israeli Forces shooting rock-throwers? Why are Israeli snipers deployed at high points to kill Palestinians? Most of the Western media evaded any responsibility for omitting the second half of this story.

The use of "rubber" bullets is another red herring. These bullets are actually steel projectiles coated with a thin layer of hard polymer and they must be shot at the lower extremities. In reality, the snipers aim for the heads and upper-bodies of the Palestinians as is evident from the fact that almost all the maimed and dead Palestinians suffer head, chest or stomach injuries. When the "rubber" bullets enter the body, they have little or no spin so they tumble, causing a blender-like effect inside, leaving permanent injuries.

One of the more popular bullets the Israelis are using against the Palestinians is an "exploding" bullet. These are like the better-known "dum-dum" bullets, as soon as they enter the body they break into pieces, going in different directions and causing irreparable damage. Most of them do not exit the body. A conventional real bullet would be far more merciful. But Israel is not there to show mercy. Judging from the actions Israel is taking and the locations of the injuries, the desire appears to be to cause permanent, debilitating injuries or to kill. Both, Amnesty International and Physicians for Human Rights, have reported these facts but these reports are too sensitive for coverage by our media.

As the violence escalates, Israel is using tanks and helicopter gun ships, to "send a message" to Arafat and to "respond" to the Palestinians. Israel's idea of moral behavior is to warn the residents by firing machine gun volleys into the Palestinian houses followed shortly afterwards by firing rockets and shells into homes and neighborhoods.

Israel and Palestine, Arab and Jew are two halves of one whole. If there is to be lasting peace, prosperity and security for Israel, it must be shared by both. This can only be achieved if Israel opens dialogue with Hamas as well as with Fatah and not just with the despotic, inept and corrupt Arafat regime. The strategy must move from Palestinian leadership as approved by Israel, to Palestinian leadership as approved by the Palestinians via open and unfettered elections.

Palestinians can only be expected to co-operate peacefully with Israelis when the Palestinians can see that Israeli settlers are being disarmed with the same sincerity that Palestinians are; when they see that the residence requirements for Jews in Jerusalem and in the Occupied Territories are just as tough as for Arabs and when the punishments meted out to the Palestinians are not harsher than to the Jews of Israel.

The choices for co-existence are not easy nor are the sacrifices involved, but the alternative is to have regular battles in which dozens if not hundreds of people are killed and maimed again and again and again, ad infintum.

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Jeff Siddiqui is an American Muslim living in Lynnwood, Washington. You can e-mail him at [email protected].


  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Occupation
Views: 880

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