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Truth in the Middle East
by mef
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Truth and Lies

To the outsider, the conflict in Israel may seem simple. Israel is "occupying Palestinian land" (what does that mean anyway? - are Canadians and Americans not occupying the Native land?) and the Palestinians want control over themselves, and have put up an armed struggle to end the 'occupation'. However, things are not this simple - there are a lot of lies out there, perpetuated by casual followers and most of the press. Please read the following for a taste of the truth.

The Palestinian Constitution, straight from the website of Yasser Arafat's Fateh movement, this document shows the unwillingness of the Palestinians do have fair peace talks with the Israelis. Please make sure you see Articles 12 and 19.

The Tragedy of Errors, by James Parkes, is an excellent synopsis of the history of "Palestine" and Israel, up to 1961. David Elazar describes James Parkes as being a "British Theologian whose post years travels brought him to the British Mandate of Palestine." An excellent read. A link on Mr. Elazar's website describes the history of Jerusalem in detail.

Jews in Arab countries: Before and after 1948 is a commentary on the treatment of Jews in pre-Israel Arab countries.

Arafat is making fools of everyone is and Op-Ed from the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz describing the cynical attitude of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.

Peace or Piece-by-Piece is written by Dr. Zvi Shkedi in 1996 - interestingly, not much has changed since then, many years ago.  Included in the article are a number of quotes from Arafat and other Arab leaders, indicating their plans to destroy Israel, piece-by-piece.  Will we let this happen???

Myths and Facts is a compilation of articles by Aish Hatorah, outlining a series of lies being told and travesties of justice that are occurring about Israel today. This page, also on the Aish website, contains a link to an article written by a Muslim cleric, explaining why Jerusalem should be the eternal and undivided capital of Israel and the Jewish people.

Daniel Pipes is an authoritative commentator on the Middle East and the director of the Middle East Forum, and organization that works to define and promote American interests in the Middle East. The Forum believes the U.S. should have strong ties with Israel, Turkey, and other democracies (not dictatorships that are found in virtually all Arab countries) as they emerge; work for human rights throughout the region; seek a stable supply and a low price of oil; and promote the peaceful settlement of regional and international disputes. You can also see his article about The 'Lebanonization of the Palestinians'.

Palestinian Media Watch regularly monitors the Palestinian (i.e. PA controlled!) media for signs of anti-Israel incitement. UnitedJerusalem is similar, but it's a bit busy.

HonestReporting is a fast-action website dedicated to ensuring that Israel receives fair media coverage from sources around the world. They scrutinize the media for anti-Israel bias, and then mobilize subscribers to complain directly to the news agency concerned.

Joseph Farah, editor of the WorldNetDaily, is an American of Arab descent who has made a mission of dispelling the lies and deceit of the Arab leadership in the Israel/Palestine battle. They call their site "A free press for a free people". Here are a number of articles from him and others at the site (more will be added):

By Joseph Farah:

Arafat and the Big Lie

Myths of the Middle East

More myths of the Middle East

By another author at WorldNetDaily:

Who killed Mohammed al-Dura?

Myths and Facts (Mitchell G. Bard - Ed.)

"Press coverage of Israel is proportional to its importance in world affairs."


It is hard to justify the amount of news coverage given to Israel based on that nation's importance in world affairs or American national interests. How is it that a country the size of New Jersey routinely merits top billing over seemingly more newsworthy nations like Russia, China, Great Britain?

Israel probably has the highest per capita fame quotient in the world. Americans know more about Israeli politics than that of any other foreign country. Most of Israel's leaders, for example, are more familiar in the United States than those of America's neighbors in Canada or Mexico. In addition, a high percentage of Americans are conversant on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

One reason Americans are so knowledgeable about Israel is the extent of coverage. American news organizations usually have more correspondents in Israel than in any country except Great Britain.


"Israel receives so much attention because it is the only country in the Middle East that affects U.S. interests."


The Middle East is important to the United States (and the Western world) primarily because of its oil resources. Events that might threaten the production and supply of oil therefore affect vital U.S. interests. The United States also has an interest in supporting friendly regimes in the region. Attention is warranted because the Middle East is the scene of repeated conflagrations that directly or indirectly affect American interests. Almost every border in the
Middle East, from Libya to Pakistan, from Turkey to Yemen, is either ill-defined or in dispute. Events in countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Iran have required the intervention of U.S. troops and nothing focuses the attention of the public like American lives being endangered abroad. The United States has been deeply involved in each of the Arab-Israeli wars, but has also had its own independent battles, most notably the Gulf War with Iraq.

On the other hand, Americans are not typically interested in the fratricidal wars of people in distant lands when the fighting does not appear to have any bearing on U.S. interests. This is true in Africa, Latin America, and even the Balkans. Similarly, inter-Arab wars have not generated the kind of interest that Israel's problems have. However, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute -- two people fighting over one land -- is a particularly compelling story. It is made all the more so by the fact that it is centered in the Holy Land.

Another explanation for the disproportionate coverage Israel receives relative to Arab countries is that few correspondents have a background in Middle East history or speak the regional languages. Journalists are more familiar with the largely Western culture in Israel than the more alien Muslim societies.

Israel is the one Middle East country where a correspondent can find a girl friend.-- S. Abdallah Schleifer1


"Western media coverage of the Arab world is equal to that of Israel."


The journalistic community regards the Arab/Islamic world as the "arc of silence."2 The media in those countries is strictly controlled by totalitarian governments. By contrast, Israel is a democracy with one of the most freewheeling press corps in the world.

The limited access is often used as an excuse for the media's failure to cover news in the region. This was the case, for example, during the Iran-Iraq war -- one of the bloodiest conflicts in the last four decades. Still, given the resourcefulness of American journalists, it is shocking that so little coverage is given to even the most
authoritarian of regimes.


"Media coverage of the Arab world is objective."


When journalists are allowed to pierce the veil of secrecy, the price of access to dictators and terrorists is often steep. Reporters are sometimes intimidated or blackmailed. In Lebanon during the 1980s, for example, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had reporters doing their bidding as the price for obtaining interviews and
protection. This is not just the case for Western journalists. During the "al-Aksa intifada" Israeli journalists were warned against going to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and some received telephone threats after publishing articles critical of the PA leadership.3

In Arab countries, journalists are usually escorted to see what the dictator wants them to see or they are followed. Citizens are warned by security agencies, sometimes directly, sometimes more subtly, that they should be careful what they say to visitors.

In the case of coverage of the PA, the Western media relies heavily on Palestinian assistants to escort correspondents in the territories. In addition, Palestinians often provide the news that is sent out around the world. "By my own estimate," Ehud Ya'ari wrote, "over 95 percent of the TV pictures going out on satellite every evening to the various foreign and Israeli channels are supplied by Palestinian film crews. The two principle agencies in the video news market, APTN and Reuters TV, run a whole network of Palestinian stringers, freelancers and fixers all over the territories to provide instant footage of the events. These crews obviously identify emotionally and politically with the intifada and, in the `best' case, they simply don't dare film anything that could embarrass the Palestinian Authority. So the cameras are angled to show a tainted view of the Israeli army's actions, never focus on the Palestinian gunmen and diligently produce a very specific kind of close-up of the situation on the ground."4

A particularly egregious incident occurred in October 2000 when two non-combatant Israeli reservists were lynched in Ramallah by a Palestinian mob. According to reporters on the scene, the Palestinian police tried to prevent foreign journalists from filming the incident. One Italian television crew managed to film parts of the attack and these shocking images ultimately made headlines around the world. A competing Italian news agency took a different tack, placing an advertisement in the PA's main newspaper, Al Hayat-Al-Jadidah, explaining that it had nothing to do with filming the incident:

My dear friends in Palestine. We congratulate you and think that it is our duty to put you in the picture (of the events) of what happened on October 12 in Ramallah. One of the private television stations which competes with us (and not the official Italian television station RTI) filmed the events; that station filmed the events. Afterwards Israeli Television broadcast he pictures, as taken from one of the Italian stations, and thus the public impression was created as if we (RTI) took these pictures.

We emphasize to all of you that the events did not happen this way, because we always respect (will continue to respect) the journalistic procedures with the Palestinian Authority for (journalistic) work in Palestine and we are credible in our precise work.

We thank you for your trust, and you can be sure that this is not our way of acting (note: meaning we do not work like the other television stations). We do not (and will not) do such a thing.

Please accept our blessings.

Ricardo Christiano
Representative of the official Italian station in Palestine5

If a news organization strays from the pro-Palestinian line, they come under immediate attack. In November 2000, for example, the Palestinian Journalist's Union complained that the Associated Press was presenting a false impression of the al-Aksa intifada. The Union called AP's coverage a conscious crime against the Palestinian people and serving the Israeli position. The Union threatened to adopt all necessary measures against AP staffers as well as against AP bureaus located in the PA if the agency continued to harm Palestinian interests.6


"Journalists covering the Middle East are driven by the search for the truth."


It will come as no surprise to learn that journalists in the Middle East share an interest in sensationalism with their colleagues covering domestic issues. The most egregious examples come from television reporters whose emphasis on visuals over substance encourages facile treatment of the issues. For example, when NBC's correspondent in Israel was asked why reporters turned up at Palestinian demonstrations in the West Bank they knew were being staged, he said, "We play along because we need the pictures."7 The networks can't get newsworthy pictures from countries like Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Libya.

"We were filming the beginning of the demonstration. Suddenly, a van pulled in hurriedly. Inside, there were Fatah militants. They gave their orders and even distributed Molotov cocktails. We were filming. But these images, you will never see. In a few seconds, all those youngsters surrounded us, threatened us, and then took us away to the police station. There, we identified ourselves but we were compelled to delete the controversial pictures. The Palestinian Police calmed the situation but censored our pictures. We now have the proof that those riots are no longer spontaneous. All the orders came from the Palestinian hierarchy." -- Jean Pierre Martin8


"The media lets Israel get away with more because of its alliance with the U.S."


Americans tend to have a double-standard about the Jews, expecting more from them than other peoples. This is in part due to the Jews' own high expectations and goal of being a "light unto the nations." Thus, when Israelis do something bad, it often attracts attention, whereas Arabs are usually held to a lower standard. For example, when Israel expelled four Palestinians, it generated banner headlines, but when Kuwait deported hundreds of thousands, it was a nonevent. Similarly, the death of one Palestinian in the West Bank received far more coverage than thousands of Arabs killed in Algeria. Rightly or wrongly, the attitude of the public and press is that Jews should behave differently.


"Israel doesn't warrant so much attention because it is not one of America's allies."


Israel enjoys a unique relationship with the United States dating back to the early part of the century when the Congress endorsed the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine. Harry Truman is generally considered the midwife in the birth of the new state, and U.S. economic, diplomatic, and military support has been crucial to Israel's development and survival.

Americans feel a kinship to Israelis because of the values we share -- democracy, love of freedom, a commitment to education -- that translates into a broad range of people to people and government to
government relationships. People are fascinated by this people of the Book, who wandered from country to country through the centuries, suffered great persecution, returned to their homeland, built a thriving high-tech society, and have fought and defeated enemies with overwhelming superiority. Americans admire the pioneering spirit of the Jews who first settled in Palestine and created kibbutzim in part because it mirrors their own history. They also like underdogs, which the Jews continue to be even as Israel has grown to be a military power.

As Israel has grown more militarily powerful, it has also become a strategic ally that enjoys the special status of Major Non-NATO Ally.


"Israel gets favorable coverage because American Jews control the media and have disproportionate political influence."


If Jews controlled the media, it's not likely you'd hear Jews complaining so much about the anti-Israel bias of the press. It is true that the amount of attention Israel receives is related to the fact that the largest Jewish population in the world is in the United States and that Israel greatly concerns American Jews. Large numbers of Jews do hold significant positions in the media (though by no means "control" the press as anti-Semites maintain) and the Jewish population is concentrated in major media markets like New York and Los Angeles, so it is not surprising the spotlight would be directed at Israel. Politically, Jews wield disproportionate power in the United States and use it to advocate policies that strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship; however, there is no evidence this has translated into favorable press coverage for Israel. It is possible to argue that pro-Arab forces, such as the petrochemical industry, have as much or more influence on the media and encourage an anti-Israel bias.


"Arab officials tell Western journalists the same thing they tell their own people."


Arab officials often express their views differently in English than in Arabic. They express their true feelings and positions to their constituents in their native language. For external consumption, however, Arab officials have learned to speak in moderate tones and often relate very different views when speaking in English to Western audiences. Long ago, Arab propagandists became more sophisticated about how to make their case and now routinely appear on American television news broadcasts and are quoted in the print media and come across as reasonable people with legitimate grievances. If one sees what many of these same people say in Arabic, however, it is often clear that their views are far less moderate or reasonable. Since Israelis can readily translate what is said in Arabic they are well aware of the views of their enemies. Americans and other English-speakers, however, can easily be fooled by the slick presentation of an Arab propagandist.

To give just one example, Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat is frequently quoted by the Western media. After the brutal murder of two Israeli teenagers on May 9, 2001, he was asked for a reaction. The Washington Post reported his response:

Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian official, said in English at a news conference that "killing civilians is a crime, whether on the Palestinian or the Israeli side." The comment was not reported in Arabic-language Palestinian media.9

The unusual aspect of this story was that the Post reported the fact that Erekat's comment was ignored by the Palestinian press.


"Journalists are well-versed in Middle East history and therefore can place current events in proper context."


One cause of misunderstanding about the Middle East and bias in media reporting is the ignorance of journalists about the region. Few reporters speak Hebrew or Arabic, so they have little or no access to primary resources. They frequently regurgitate stories they read in English language publications from the region rather than report independently. When they do attempt to place events in historical context, they often get the facts wrong and create an inaccurate or misleading impression. To cite one example, during a recitation of the history of the holy sites in Jerusalem, CNN's Garrick Utley reported that Jews could pray at the Western Wall during Jordan's rule from 1948 to 1967.10 In fact, Jews were prevented from visiting their holiest shrine. This is a critical historical point that helps explain Israel's position toward Jerusalem.


1Daniel Pipes, The Long Shadow: Culture and Politics in the Middle East, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1990, p. 278
2Pipes, p. 278.
3Jerusalem Report, (May 7, 1991).
5Al Hayat-Al-Jadidah, (October 16, 2001)
6Al Hayat-Al-Jadidah (November 2, 2001)
7Near East Report, (August 5, 1991).
8Report filed by Jean Pierre Martin on October 5, 2000, a day after
his Belgian television team from RTL-TV1 was filming in the area of
9Washington Post, (May 10, 2001)
10CNN, (Octbober, 10, 2000).


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