How truth is the second casualty of war
Published 07/04/2002 | 00:11
The Irish media's coverage of the conflict has stirred the spectre of anti-Israeli feeling, writes Declan McCormack.
NOW for some good news from the Middle East from whence the original Good News came. A Palestinian woman called Aisha Abu Said from the Jerusalem suburb of Shuafat has just been the lucky recipient of a new kidney. Amidst all the 'carnage/massacres/invasions' of the past week this has got to be good news.
However it may surprise Irish and British readers and viewers to learn that any Palestinian woman was still alive in the Middle East.
You may be forgiven for believing that every Palestinian woman was either dead or left for dead while callous Israeli troops blocked Red Crescent ambulances. One may also be surprised to learn that Aisha received her kidney from an Israeli Jew, the late Zeev Vidor. And you might be a little taken aback to discover that Zeev Vidor was one of the 26 Jewish victims of the Passover Massacre in Netanya, the suicide bombing which was carried out to provoke the maximum retaliation from Israel.
You might indeed be surprised that Zeev's grieving family were happy to donate his kidney to a Palestinian woman. You would certainly be surprised if you have been following our print and electronic media's coverage of Israel's counter-terrorist response to the wave of suicide bombs.
The Israelis called it Operation Protective Wall. The Irish media called it "the brutal gratuitous Israeli invasion of the PLA territory and vicious ransacking of the refugee camps" (to condense and paraphrase).
You might indeed be surprised to learn about Zeev and his family because it would appear that apart from a few nice Israelis (the Peace Now people, the army refusniks, the anti-occupation protesters) they are a bunch of nasty Zionists who support war criminal Sharon's invasion of the Palestine territories. After reading and seeing all the reports in the Western media of this "savage invasion" I am not one bit surprised at the torching of synagogues in France, Belgium and Germany. Apart from being stirred up by the inflammatory 'reporting' in the Western liberal media, the Arab populations of these countries receive constant feeds of virulent anti-Israel propaganda from Arab satellite TV stations such as bin Laden's favourite al Jazeera or al Manar in Lebanon and al Mustaqbal in Hebron, stations which are directly affiliated to Hamas and Hezbollah.
You don't get much in the line of fair reporting or journalistic integrity from these stations. What you do get is the same pernicious demonising of Jews and Israelis a la the recent charming article in the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh in which Dr Umayma Ahmad al-Jalahma informed her Arab readers that Jews she actually wrote "the Jewish vampires" use the blood of Christian and Muslim children under the age of 10 to make Purim pastries and Passover matzos and thus reactivated the ancient libel against Jews which has been used as the baseless pretext for centuries of persecution culminating in the killing of six million Jews in the Holocaust.
With reason we expect better from the Western liberal media today especially the European media. But then Europe doesn't really like Israel, regarding it in the eloquently revealing words of the French ambassador to England as "that shitty little country".
But Europeans in general don't like Israel. Even in politically placid Finland there were bomb threats against Jewish schools last week.
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Europe is of course a major sponsor of the PLA and funds much of the PLA's infrastructure. Of course not the PLA's 'infrastructure of terrorism' which Operation Protective Wall is designed to destroy. Still as our European envoys Pique and Solana hastened to Jerusalem last week to have a confab with Yasser, having told off Sharon, how our European media chaps cheered them on. The message was clear 'Israel get out, Yasser stay put and we'll look after your infrastructure'. Yes the Europeans don't like the Israelis. Besides don't we let them play in our European cups and sing in our Eurovision. What more do they want our blood for their matzos?
But just in case we didn't hate the Israelis enough, our print and electronic media worked assiduously last week to suggest: 1. That the reoccupation was a gratuitous invasion which has scuppered the excellent Abdullah Peace plan.
In fact the 'invasion' occurred after the Netanya massacre which was designed to scupper the Saudi peace initiative and was a response to over 50 suicide bombings and the death of over 140 Israelis.
2. That Yasser Arafat is a nice loveable chap and former Nobel Prize winner who entertains nice Irish peace people in his compound.
In fact Arafat has been the leader of the murdering PLO since 1968, has spurned peace deal after peace deal, is in the words of the PLA delegate general to Ireland "totally in control of the suicide bombers" and only last week vowed that he would send one million 'martyrs'/suicide bombers to Jerusalem.
Mr Arafat also receives 20 minute calls from Bertie Ahern who didn't however see fit to phone Mr Sharon to express Irish disgust at the Natanya massacre.
3. That Mr Bush has finally told the Israelis to back off and stop maltreating the poor downtrodden Palestinians though Mr Bush also said that the suicide bombers were terrorists. He also said in another context that 'you are either with the terrorists or against them'. Instead of lauding Mr Bush's 'U-turn' it might be more in the media's line to ask him to explain why he ruthlessly extirpates one set of terrorists and pussyfoots around with another.
The Irish public weren't slow to pick up the anti-Israel vibes from the airwaves. There were impassioned calls on various talk shows to expel the Israeli ambassador and boycott Israeli goods. (No fear of ever hearing calls to boycott the import of Arab oil or the export of cattle to Arab markets). It wasn't really surprising given that our national radio networks had decided to appoint some humanitarian supporters of Yasser Arafat as their chief reporters from the 'reoccupied territories'.
Thus we had Pulitzer-winning reports by the likes of Caoimhe Butterly, Rev Desmond Sinnamon Rector of Taney and Dundrum and sometimes Bethlehem, Mary Kelly, Adam Shapiro, Jackie Wolfe and several others.
The ability of these peace-loving Palestinian supporters to report authoritatively from inside the Ramallah compound or from some side street off Manger Square on every Israeli 'massacre' was quite staggering.
The Rev Sinnamon was very good on 'the plague' which was the Israeli occupation. He wasn't quite as good on the suicide bombers about whom he rather tetchily said "so much is said".
Little wonder then that the listening Irish public doesn't really want to hear the Israeli side. When Today FM's Last Word finally allowed an Israeli spokesman on air on Thursday for six minutes the lines were hopping with people. Dunphy apologised at the end of the show to those who had criticised the interview and promised "to do better in future".
It thus came as little wonder that an Israeli female living in Ireland speaking on The Gerry Ryan Show last Thursday admitted that she was afraid now to go 'to any place that's Israeli-orientated at the moment'. She also expressed exasperation at how pro-Arab the media is. But most people don't notice that. They just lap up the anti-Israeli propaganda and nourish their prejudices. As James Thurber once observed: "You can fool too many of the people too much of the time."