Tuesday, July 30, 2013

30-Jul-13: TIME to look away from the murderers and at their victims

The carefully composed, somewhat tragic and evocative photo of a woman in the TIME Magazine article on the right of this page depicts a mother embracing her grandson. With its warm and gentle shades, paint-peeling wall background, a woman's eyes raised heavenward, it conveys the opposite of hostility and threat. In fact, once you read the caption and see that this is a granny who has just gotten some welcome news, the finer details don't really mean that much.

Karl Vick's text doesn't deal with her as much as with the larger phenomenon of a prisoner/convicted murderer release. The photo caption helps his message along. It was written not by the TIME people but by the photo editors at Reuters and it says:
The mother of Palestinian [we choose to delete the name], who has been held prisoner by Israel for 20 years, reacts as she is hugged by her grandson after hearing news on the possible release of her son, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip July 28, 2013. [Reuters]
The photo was snapped by Ibraheem Abu Mustafa. He has been furnishing newsagencies with imagery sympathetic to the Palestinian Arabs from his Gaza base for some years (examples here). The photo above is featured today in dozens, probably hundreds, of news outlets, almost always accompanied by the same text. The caption says Granny's son has been "held prisoner" for two decades. Why, you ask? That would be anyone's guess since it does not say. Neither Karl Vick nor any of the other mainstream news channels that are running this photo are giving it away.

Over at CIFwatch, they're less shy. In a sharp piece entitled "What does the mother of a ‘pre-Oslo’ monster look like?" they provide some of the undisclosed background to the joy/agony of the woman with that "held prisoner" son.

Granny exults at the good news: This image with its caption
is online today in hundreds of locations thanks to Reuters
and many compliant editors
It has to do with a man who, just like two of the grandparents of our own children, survived the destruction of the Jews of Europe at the hands of the German Nazis and their many helpers.

Like our children's grandparents, Isaac Rotenberg, a Jew, was born in Poland in the 1920s. Following the invasion by the Nazi forces in 1939 when he was just 12, he was sent to a labor camp along with other able-bodied Jewish Poles. Most of his family's other members (exactly like our children's unarmed and innocent great-grandparents and great-aunts and great-uncles and cousins) were then shot, bludgeoned or gassed to death by the Germans as part of a grand scheme of savagery we now know as the Final Solution. At some point, Isaac escaped into the Polish forests and survived there in primitive conditions until 1945. Then as a Displaced Person, he managed with thousands of other DPs to get to Palestine in 1947 when it was still a colonial outpost of the British government and despite British efforts to prevent Jewish refugees from landing there.

He was quickly recruited into the tiny army of the Jews of Palestine, officially the army of Israel once the UN decision to create Israel took effect in April 1948. That rag-tag army fended off the forces of every Arab military in the Middle East. And not only the armies but also the Arabs of Palestine, whipped into a frenzy of looting and killing by the dominant political leader of the time, a kinsman of Arafat called Husseini who had spent the war years in Germany as a protected guests of Hitler. Those Arab forces made no secret of their intentions to destroy the tiny state of Israel at its birth. This meant completing the genocidal process that the Nazis had started.

The Arabs failed totally in that undertaking. They call it Naqba, catastrophe. But it was not a complete failure because the number of dead they inflicted on Palestine/Israel's  600,000 Jews amounted to a half percent of its total population, a deadly harvest of hatred almost without parallel in the history of war. The Arabs continued that informal war after the armistice of 1949, and have managed to kill thousands of Jewish Israelis since then.

Isaac married and fathered two children, and worked as a plasterer. On March 29, 1994, during the festive Passover week, he was on his knees, fixing a floor in his workplace in Petah Tikva, when two Arab laborers who worked with him, one of them being the son of granny in the photo above, struck him on the back of the head with axes. His injuries were critical and after being in a coma for two days, he succumbed and died. Isaac Rotenberg, who survived the Holocaust and planted a family in the Jewish homeland, was 67 when the two men with the axes attacked him from behind. They were apprehended in the Israeli city of Lod where they were being hidden by Israeli Arab accomplices, and were sentenced to life imprisonment. The court was told the murder was part of an initiation rite connected with joining a terrorist group.

Karl Vick's piece today for TIME says nothing about Isaac Rotenberg of the lives of any other Israeli victims of the convicted terrorists. They're dead, out of the picture, bereft of grandmothers and parents and loving, grieving families.

Instead Vick focuses on the "nightmares and a return to bed-wetting" of the people arrested. He acknowledges that "for Israelis, the prisoners represent a violent history...", making clear that for Vermonters or Coloradans, the prisoners stand for something different, something perhaps inspiring, uplifting, transcendental.
On the Palestinian side, the return of any prisoner — even a routine release — is cause for public celebration. Horns honk, cars careen through the streets trailing streamers. It’s like a wedding. The celebration will be particularly enthusiastic in coming days, as the first of the 104 are expected to appear on the streets of the West Bank during the holiday that marks the close of Ramadan, the month of sacrifice and fasting currently being observed by devout Muslims... Time in an Israeli prison is viewed as a rite of passage for many Palestinian males... [Karl Vick on the soon-to-be-released convicted murderers]
Vick and TIME want readers to understand, really understand, the killers and their grannies. They want us to feel the swell of pride in the chest as 100+ killers walk free in compliance with Mahmoud Abbas' pre-negotiation conditions for sitting down at the peace table. Far less urgent is the need to explain to news consumers how you can call a laborer who murdered his unarmed work colleague with an axe from behind as a "captive" who plays "a crucial rallying role in Palestinian struggle for nationhood". Those are Vick's words.

When TIME publishes color photos, in warm, sentimental hues, of Israelis murdered by the ideological axe-wielders, boulder-hurlers and bomb planters of the ongoing Palestinian Arab war to kill Jews and Israelis, we will know that there are signs of a peace process, with all the painful compromise that this entails, on the way.

When Vick and other correspondents like him, with the formidable research resources and journalistic talents at their disposal, learn to write sympathetically and contextually about the lives of the victims of these savages, and of the pain of a society struggling with life after the sudden loss of loved ones, then - and only then - can we again respect their reportial objectivity and absence of bias.

Until that happens, can we invite you to take a look at the list compiled by CAMERA of the victims of the thugs who are about to go free? It's here.

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