Saturday, March 18, 2006

Always doubting Israel



by Robert Fulford
from National Post (Toronto)


By well-established tradition, most journalism in Europe and North America considers Israel guilty until proven innocent.

On Wednesday the headline over a front-page Globe and Mail story from Jericho said, “Israeli siege of prison ignites violence,” conveying in just six words a universe of misunderstanding. It implied that Israel had caused grief and chaos by destroying a Palestinian prison and seizing certain prisoners. As a result, Palestinians were setting fires, vandalizing offices, and briefly kidnapping foreigners chosen at random. They seized a Korean journalist, for instance — an eccentric way to punish Israel but well within the inscrutable mindset of enraged Palestinians.On Thursday the Globe had another story, under another one-sided heading, with a text written almost entirely from the Palestinian side. The BBC reported that the Israeli raid “brings a dangerous new tension to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” leaving the impression that the region would be peaceful if only the Israelis had left the prison alone. Reuters and Agence France-Presse picked up comments from European politicians: Josep Borrell of Spain, President of the European parliament, said storming the prison was useless and unfair, and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the Greens, said Israel had sacrificed “the future of this region.”

Why in the world would Israel do such a thing? Aljazeera.com insisted it was to help Kadima win the March 28 election, which is what we would expect from Aljazeera.com. It was a little more surprising to see the New York Times editorial on Thursday speculating that the motive was “election-season muscle-flexing.”

That charge can’t be proven either way, but there’s a serious case to be made that the raid was an understandable, even inevitable response to circumstances. Since 2001, Israel has wanted to try Ahmed Saadat for planning the assassination of the Israeli tourism minister, Rehavam Zeevi — a not unreasonable desire, considering that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility and Saadat heads the Popular Front.

Before the Israelis could arrest him, Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority took Sadaat into protective custody. He and his confederates were kept safe in Arafat’s Ramallah compound, which Israel then blockaded. (The Palestinians put four men on trial for the assassination, not including Saadat; they were convicted and given mild sentences.)

In May, 2002, the Americans and the British brokered a deal: Israel would lift the siege of Ramallah if Saadat and the others were imprisoned under American and British supervision. Sent to the Jericho prison, they remained there, apparently in exceptional comfort, until Hamas won the Palestinian election in January. Hamas, the terrorist party dedicated to Israel’s destruction, now promises to release Saadat and friends. In a moment of madness, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, endorsed that idea.

Inside the prison, the atmosphere was poisoned. The soon-to-be-freed prisoners took charge and the British and American monitors no longer felt safe. They several times threatened to leave, and this week they did. Since their departure voided the 2002 agreement, Israel sent the army.

It’s hard to see what other course Israel could have followed, given that the principal killer of a Cabinet minister was about to be given his liberty. Meanwhile, the news services have quietly upgraded Saadat. For years no one questioned his guilt, but this week Reuters, the BBC, etc. began calling him merely “accused”; CNN says he “allegedly” ordered the killing.

The journalistic handling of these events demonstrated once more the bitter anti-Israel feeling that colours most coverage in the West. When a controversial issue arises, Israel never gets the benefit of the doubt. Israel’s enemies, who are often also the West’s enemies, are offered much more tolerance. Hamas (with help from Abbas) created this week’s current mess but much of the world now probably believes otherwise.

On Wednesday newspapers and TV carried pictures of Palestinian prisoners surrendering in their underwear. Immediately, this became another Israeli crime. As the New York Times said, “Israeli Army officials ordered inmates to strip to their underwear, which many did, marching out with clothing on their heads, an embarrassing and completely unnecessary provocation that trampled the dignity of any Palestinian watching that spectacle.”


That could only have been written by a journalist who perversely chose to ignore the dangerous life of Israelis. Many of the prisoners were terrorists and having them take off their clothes ensured that they couldn’t explode a bomb in the midst of Israeli soldiers. The soldiers would have been foolish to handle it any other way, But their ordinary common sense made them, once more, a target for the wilfully uninformed.

© National Post 2006

Shamelessly lifted from Israpundit

1 comment:

Rachel said...

I hope more people shamelessly lift this excellent article. It emphasizes the shameful double standard of so many of the media.
Indeed, just about anything Israel does to defend herself makes her 'a target for the wilfully uninformed.'