Tuesday, August 05, 2008

5-Aug-08: Refugees?

We've never quite understood how it is that so many bashers-of-Israel refuse to see the malevolence and fratricidal character that infects Arab society in general, and especially Palestinian-Arab society. It stares them in the face. But they'll turn it on its head time and again if that's what it takes to blame "the Zionists".

As bitter as their endless complaints are against Israel, against the Jews, against the west, against the weather, Israel's enemies suffer far more from their own brothers, from their own leaders and from the deep problems of their own societies than from any external cause.

Khaled Abu Toameh, a Palestinian who writes for the Jerusalem Post, consistently sees and reports things that almost no one else does. Trouble is, these things are so embarrassing to the Palestinian Arabs and their fellow-travelers, that Abu Toameh's stories get a tiny fraction of the media exposure they deserve.

He wrote this week on the strange refusal of the Palestinian Authority to receive and shelter the Fatah 'activists' who fled Gaza on Saturday with Hamas bullets and mortars whizzing past their heads. No aspect of this, the insightful journalist says, came as a surprise to many Palestinians.

The PA's inner circle in Ramallah turned to Israel on Sunday to ask that Fatah men fleeing for their lives from the Gaza Strip be sent right back home. Abu Toameh says that, though this is "tantamount to a death sentence", it "did not stop the PA from asking the men to return" to Gaza.

After reciting some of the plainly dishonest reasons given by the Abu Mazen clique to justify their stand, Abu Toameh says:
"The last thing Abbas needs is another 180 bitter Fatah thugs from the Gaza Strip patrolling the streets of Ramallah, Bethlehem and Nablus and imposing a reign of terror on the local population... The Palestinians in the West Bank have never been enthusiastic about the presence of their brethren from the Gaza Strip among them... Arafat deployed dozens of policemen from the Gaza Strip [back in 1994] in a number of West Bank cities. This resulted in an "intifada" by the residents of these cities, many of whom openly rejected the presence of the Gazans in their communities... West Bank families refused to rent out apartments to the "undesirables" from the Gaza Strip. The experience was repeated in June 2007 when hundreds of Fatah members fled the Gaza Strip following Hamas's violent takeover of the area. Most of those who arrived in Ramallah are still finding it impossible to rent apartments in the city... Even the 150 Fatah men who fled to Egypt following the Hamas takeover have not been welcome there or in any other Arab country. In a recent letter to Abbas, the Fatah men, all former residents of the Gaza Strip, complained that they were being held in "military bases" belonging to the Egyptian army and were being treated as criminals rather than political refugees."
The always-on-the-mark British columnist Melanie Phillips, writing this week in The Statesman, says the events of the last few days
have given a new meaning to the term ‘Palestinian refugees’... 11 people died and dozens more were wounded, [resulting] in 180 Fatah refugees fleeing from what they called a ‘war of genocide’ by Hamas against Fatah supporters. And where did they flee to? Why, to Israel, of course -- which allowed them in and proceeded to treat 23 of them (some of whom were wounded by the Israeli army after they approached the crossing into Israel) in Israeli hospitals. These refugees say they cannot return to Gaza because they will be killed.
She lays out the logic for anyyone wanting to try to figure it out:
Palestinians committed to the destruction of Israel fled from other Palestinians committed to the destruction of Israel into Israel, which is providing them with sanctuary and medical treatment, while the president of their putative state who bases his claim against Israel on its alleged refusal to admit Palestinian ‘refugees’ refused to allow actual Palestinian refugees fleeing Palestinian violence access to that same putative state, while Israel agonises over whether to grant them permanent asylum.
And did we mention that at least 12 of those who were wounded in Saturday's fighting were under the age of 15?

For those of us completely fed up to the back teeth with the agenda-driven and less-than-honest reporting and editing of non-objective writers, photographers and headline-crafters, it remains only to quote Melanie Phillips again:
What is that unfamiliar sound emanating from all those who routinely scream that Israel kills Palestinian children? It is called silence.
For those of our readers connected to ISM, AFP, BBC and especially UNRWA - you're invited to send us clippings and links to show how we've missed the mark. We'll be waiting.

Monday, August 04, 2008

4-Aug-08: On Al-Jazeera and professorial mindsets

Two days ago, a newspaper called "The National", published in one of the Gulf states, carried a serious analytical piece critical of Al-Jazeera. In particular, it focused on the way Al-Jazeera covered the release of Samir Kuntar, the convicted terrorist murderer of a four year old Jewish child whose head he bashed to pieces. (We wrote about this sickening individual two weeks ago - see "22-Jul-08: The once and future child murderer".)

The critical article was penned by someone called Sultan Al-Qassemi, a man whose home is in the United Arab Emirates and who is chairman of Young Arab Leaders. The fact that we know about it is due to the excellent work of MEMRI , the Middle East Media Research Institute. It's an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East, and publishes some of what it finds. No one else comes close to the range and quality of the work they put out. Without them, we would be exposed to a mere fraction of the news and analysis that's published in the Arabic-speaking world. More power to MEMRI.

Sultan Al-Qassemi quotes a revealing statistic. A Jordanian poll says 98 percent of political science and media professors in the Arab world claim to watch at least three hours of Al-Jazeera daily, labeling it as the 'the most respected news agency.'

He says:
"What is frightening about that number isn't that 98 percent of Arab
political science professors admit to watching three hours of television a day,
but that they watch three hours of the same television each day. The problem
with watching Al-Jazeera in Arabic isn't just that the channel gives ample airtime to militants and terrorists to share their 'perspective,' but because its conspiracy theories and controversies give the station so much influence
on the easily swayed Arab mindset. "
He refers to Al-Jazeera's 'Code of Ethics' posted on its website. "The very first pledge by the Qatar-based channel" he says "includes 'giving no priority to political considerations over professional ones.'

An example of what nonsense this is can be seen from what how Al-Jazeera dealt with Kuntar's release from an Israeli prison:
"The station not only repeatedly interviewed 'the hero' but brazenly threw
Kuntar, live on international television, a surprise birthday party to celebrate
the occasion. The party, organized by Al-Jazeera came complete with fireworks, a
full band, and a giant birthday cake along with the picture of the Hizbullah
leader Hassan Nassrallah. "The channel's Beirut bureau chief, Ghassan
Bin Jiddou, sporting a pink tie for the occasion, repeatedly addressed the
terrorist as 'my brother' saying: 'You deserve even more than this.'
Reflecting on whether Qatar, Al-Jazeera's sponsor, comprehends the dangers that come from associating with events like a birthday party for a convicted child murderer, Sultan Al-Qassemi suggests that
"All Arabs should re-examine their understanding of what characterizes a hero;
take a look at your own child and imagine just how frightened the four-year-old
[murdered Jewish child] must have been... Although we may never know what
psychological pressures Kuntar endured during his incarceration in Israel's
prisons, we do know that he was allowed to marry and to graduate from Israel's
Open University with a degree in political science, rendering him an ideal
Al-Jazeera viewer... The privileged treatment that Kuntar received courtesy of
Al-Jazeera was the coup de grace to their claims of neutrality... Which
brings to mind a friend of mine's adaptation of the famous Joseph Goebbels'
dictum that characterized so much of Nazi Germany's propaganda: 'When you
want to get away with a lie,'
he said, 'you must repeat it many times
over and believe it to be the truth. Only then will others believe
.' "It certainly works for Al-Jazeera. Just ask 98 percent of Arab
political science professors."
Sultan Al-Qassemi's incisive comments are timely. Later this week, we mark the seventh anniversary of a terrorist massacre in a Jerusalem pizza restaurant that ended the beautiful life of our fifteen year-old daughter and her best friend and 13 other innocent people. What's the right way to honour their memories and violent deaths?

We don't expect the show-business giants of Al-Jazeera to understand this. Nor do we think that "98 percent of Arab political science professors" will comprehend the following: As they have done each year for the past seven years, the teen leadership of the EZRA youth organization here in Jerusalem's northern suburbs will hold a public charity bazaar on the afternoon of Monday 11th August. All proceeds - from the sale of arts and crafts, back-to-school equipment, music disks, fast food, a pet-the-animal corner and other similar attractions - will be given to charity, including to Keren Malki, the foundation we created in our daughter's memory. (Please point your friends to the Keren Malki website.) Visitors to the bazaar can also donate blood.

Did we mention that the annual bazaar is to honour the memory of our daughter Malki Roth and her friend Michal Raziel? (The simple brochure, in Hebrew, is here.)

For those of us who don't operate global news networks or teach politics in Arab universities, this is just another reminder of how different our society and its values are compared with theirs.

Can you imagine Al-Jazeera trying to make sense of a society that commemorates the victims of a terrorist massacre this way?