In the aftermath of the suicide bombings in Jerusalem, CNN and other major
North American networks were inundated with several Israeli public relations
icons placing blame squarely on the head of Palestinian National Authority
President Yasser Arafat. Amusingly so, some even called for his head on a
Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner repeatedly blamed the Palestinians,
not exclusively Islamic Jihad or Hamas. Pazner repeated his belief that
Arafat was the mastermind behind the attacks and that this was a blatant
attempt on the part of the Palestinians to scuttle the peace process. When
pressed by CNN’s Jerrold Kessel concerning Palestinian claims that Israel’s
earlier assassination of a Hamas leader was timed to torpedo retired U.S.
Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni’s peace mission, Pazner simply ignored the
question. He made no reference to the fact that Israeli soldiers had shot
dead two Palestinian children near Jenin mere hours earlier. Or that five
other Palestinian children were killed a week earlier by Israeli booby
traps. Skilled at the blame game, the IDF had blamed the latter on
Palestinians shelling their own people.
Maybe Pazner forgot these facts.
Maybe, just maybe, so did former Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.
"I think he's squarely responsible," Netanyahu told CNN. "I think it's time
to unmask this fraud and tell Arafat what you (the United States) are
telling the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
Israelis have been desperately trying to achieve a mutated moral equivalency
of the September 11th travesty and the events in Israel and the Occupied
Territories by stating that Arafat is Osama bin Laden and the Palestinians
There can be no moral equivalency when one considers that the Palestinians
are an occupied people. That is not to condone suicide attacks in any shape
or form. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not the legitimate representatives of
the Palestinian people. They are not diplomats. They are not politicians,
bureaucrats, or nation-builders. They are misguided in the belief that
suicide bombings against civilian targets will liberate their people or
persuade Israel and the rest of the world that the Palestinians deserve a
Nevertheless, and irrespective of how grossly inhuman a suicide attack is,
the Palestinians are under siege and face the most brutal form of apartheid
occupation the world has seen in modern history. Yes, they are an occupied
people. Let’s repeat it again just in case it was missed the first time. Or
the second time. Or maybe, it was missed in the past 34 years.
This point seems to have been entirely disregarded and strategically ignored
by CNN. Even though U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell used the word
‘occupation’ in his speech less than two weeks ago, CNN has seen to it that
the word is completely stripped from any formal discussion of the Middle
East. Instead, CNN volunteered to nickname the current spat of conflict as
“Israel Strikes Back”, ominously similar to “America Strikes Back”. Is CNN
trying to force the issue of moral equivalency?
The issue of equating Arafat to bin Laden is a veiled attempt to demonize
the man and to call him a terrorist in lesser terms. By calling him a
terrorist, Israel is coercing an immediate alliance with the U.S. in its
global war against terrorism. By calling the Palestinians the ideological
mirror images of the Taliban, Israel is seeking to unleash the fury of its
military superiority and get full backing from the Bush Administration. Is
this the moral equivalency CNN is pining for?
This is not a new phenomenon. In August, the BBC ordered its reporters to
use the phrase "targeted killings'' for Israel's assassination of
Palestinians. This was quickly followed by CNN; its journalists stopped
referring to Gilo as a "Jewish settlement'' opting instead for “Jewish
The Independent’s Robert Fisk believes this to be strategic word play:
“However, by censoring the word "settlement" for Gilo, CNN is perpetrating a
lie. Gilo was illegally annexed by Israel after the 1967 war not just
"occupied" as CNN wishes its viewers to believe and far from being a
"neighbourhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem", it was built on land which
Israel again illegally used to extend the boundaries of Jerusalem.”
Not surprisingly, this trend continued into events in Afghanistan. Quoth
“Infinitely more shameful – and unethical – were the disgraceful words of
Walter Isaacson, the chairman of CNN, to his staff. Showing the misery of
Afghanistan ran the risk of promoting enemy propaganda, he said. "It seems
perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan ...
we must talk about how the Taliban are using civilian shields and how the
Taliban have harboured the terrorists responsible for killing close up to
5,000 innocent people." Mr Isaacson was an unimaginative boss of Time
magazine but these latest words will do more to damage the supposed
impartiality of CNN than anything on the air in recent years.”
The current crisis in the Middle East proves that journalism is dead...at
least in it’s purest form. As journalists, it is our responsibility to be
objective, to ensure that governments function properly, to allow citizens
their democratic freedoms to access information for the purpose of
functioning responsibly in society. To ensure that quest is untarnished,
journalists are committed to fairness and relaying all sides of the story.
Journalism is not the realm of political motivation, sensationalism, rumor,
gossip and hearsay.
CNN, it seems, has a different understanding.
Firas Al-Atraqchi is a Muslim Canadian journalist living on the Pacific