Sunday, December 21, 2008

21-Dec-08: "Confront the depths of evil"

One of this blog's two authors has an op-ed piece on Yediot Aharonot/YNet's website today.

Confront the depths of evil
Despite critics’ advice, media coverage must not downplay horrors of terror
Frimet Roth
Published: 12.21.08, 11:07 / Israel Opinion

"Ignore them dear, and they will stop bothering you."

Haven't we all trotted out that line when our children have come sobbing about school-yard bullies?

But is it sage advice for us – the targets of terror?

Some Israeli pundits seem to think so. Columnist Guy Bechor wrote recently on Ynetnews: "The more the media covers terror attacks, the more we encourage them…we must restrain the coverage, its sensationalism and its horrors."

He was responding to Hamas' 21st anniversary rally. With characteristic sadism, the event included a skit performed by a terrorist pretending to be Gilad Shalit in an IDF uniform. Kneeling on stage before some 300,000 celebrating Gazans he moaned twice in Hebrew: "I miss my Mom and my Dad."

The call for self-censorship was echoed that evening by former Mossad chief, Ephraim Halevi, who accused Israeli television news producers of impropriety by broadcasting the Hamas anniversary performance. He insisted that Israel plays into the hands of its enemies by disseminating such attempts at emotional blackmail. They know how bound every Israeli is not only to his own, but to all Jewish children, especially those in uniform who risk their lives to defend the nation.

Not long ago, the Israeli reporters Ben Caspit and Yigal Ravid expressed related, though far more superficial sentiments. They lamented all the precious media time that was spent on terrorism reportage during the second Intifada. Yet they didn't voice any concern about its impact on terrorists. Presumably, it was just the tiresome repetition of it all - terror attack after terror attack - that irked them.

Bechor maintains that self-censorship was exercised in the 1990s in the wake of suicide bombings. "This neutralized some of the horror and achievements of terror," he asserts.

He provides no sources for this brash claim and it doesn't ring terribly true. For one thing, in the ‘90s, the threat from terrorism was only a distant cousin of the tentacled monster that we now call Islamist Terror. There were simply fewer such attacks then. Media attention or not.

Second, it is a fact of life that terrorism, by its very nature, instills horror, regardless of whether or not that is the terrorists' aim.

Nevertheless, nobody can accuse Israelis of letting that horror paralyze them. On the contrary, we are consistently praised for our determined adherence to normality even under extreme conditions. Bechor's absurd call to "establish an international media convention… to minimize the achievements of Islamic terror…" sounds pointless.

Not only haven't Israelis succumbed to fear, on the contrary, many have grown worryingly apathetic. A sizable portion of the public and its leaders are eager to engage with our most threatening neighbors in unconditional dialogue, to grant them concessions and to refrain from logical military responses to their actions.

Finally, the depraved Hamas performance last week is nothing new. It is reminiscent of earlier theatrics designed at once to "entertain," to emotionally torment and to incite Palestinians to fresh murders. Here is just one example:

In August 2001, a Hamas terrorist massacred 15 Jewish men, women and children in Jerusalem's Sbarro restaurant. My fifteen-year old daughter, Malki was among the victims.

In September 2001, Hamas set out to commemorate one year since the start of the Second Intifada. Toward that end, students at al-Najah University in Nablus erected a tent-replica of a Sbarro restaurant. Inside they displayed a grisly re-enactment of the August bombing, including fake body parts and pizza slices strewn on the floor. An Associated Press photograph of Palestinian students walking under the mock Sbarro shop-sign appeared in most international media services. Nobody argued then that the students' hateful handiwork ought to be concealed.

Confronting the depths of Hamas' evil can be painful. And burying your head in the sand can be awfully tempting.

But we are all grown up now. If the terrorism of our neighbors is downplayed, widespread complaisance will set in. How can any government garner support for crucial deterrent and responsive strategies from a tranquilized public?

Journalists and editors, do your job. Report all current events, however heart-wrenching they may be.


Frimet Roth is a freelance writer in Jerusalem. She and her husband founded the Malki Foundation in their daughter's memory, which provides support for Israeli families of all faiths who care at home for a special-needs child.