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January 23, 2002
Matthews Dances to Netanyahu's Beat

By Firas Al-Atraqchi


It's become a comic routine making up for NBC's 'Must Ignore TV' ratings: Chris Matthews, our favorite intellectual munchkin, and former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pair up for their dance on MSNBC. No, no, they don't tear off their clothes but they do strip television of any deceny, credulity, and unbiased journalistic appeal.

The scenario is simple enough and Act I goes something like this:

Israeli civilians are killed inside Israel. Chris Matthews calls up Netanyahu and asks for his opinion. Netanyahu delivers his "I am not surprised" speech and lambasts Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, blaming him for every 'act of violence' the Palestinian people exhibit towards their benevolent oppressors and persecutors. Missing is the fact that Israeli tanks surround Arafat's headquarters and domicile grounding his effectiveness as a leader to null. Missing is the fact that Israel broke what North American media so graciously termed 'a lull in violence' by assassinating Raed Karmi, a local leader of the Al Aqsa Brigades with a car bomb on January 14.

Hold the presses! Just what does a lull in violence mean? According to our mainstream media, a lull in violence means 'no Israelis have been killed during this period, thank you ,some Palestinians may have been killed and some of their houses destroyed, but that's no biggie, want a piece of wholesome apple pie?"

During this so-called lull in violence, "Jerusalem Municipality bulldozers demolished nine buildings, some newly built homes, in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiya yesterday. The municipality's actions come as Israel continues to face criticism locally and abroad over the demolition of 21 buildings in Rafah last week, which the Palestinians claim left scores of families homeless" (Ha'aretz, January 14, 2002).

Baby-faced Matthews would have the international community believe that house demolitions and razing of farms and fields do not constitute violence. CNN also reported last week, that while investigation of the controversial seizure of the Karine A. (a boat allegedly running arms to the Palestinians) was ongoing, "Israeli missiles fired from the sea hit Palestinian naval targets near Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's office in Gaza City; one boat capsized and another was badly damaged, and a fuel deposit exploded and burned". The report also cited that an Israeli tank shell hit one house, injuring four people.

(According to the Jerusalem Post (January 7), Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher said "The story [of the seized Karine A.] sounds so foolish and damaging that I have difficulty believing it is true".)

Of course, we are led to believe this is not violence.

However, according to Ann Kristin Brunborg, field director for the United Nations Association International Service, "The idea is to depopulate areas the Israelis see as zones they would like to control". "Ms. Brunborg, author of a study last year for the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group on army shooting practices, says Israel has deliberately displaced tens of thousands of Palestinians through "systematic" gunfire at their neighborhoods and destruction of their houses" (Demolitions Not Simply Revenge, Christian Science Monitor, January 15).
- End of Act I. -

Act II goes something like this:

Netanyahu begins to assert links between Hamas, Arafat's Fatah, Iran and Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah. Matthews foams at the mouth about this new perspective and trys to hammer it into the viewing audience's brains by asking "What links are there between Palestinian terrorism and the war on global terrorism?" Netanyahu seems at the edge of his seat as he explains how Arafat is tied in to Iran, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Bin Laden, Afghanistan and every other group that holds Israel accountable for the innumberable atrocities and devastation inflicted on the Palestinian people.

At this point, Netanyahu begins to draw parallels between razing Afghanistan to get at Bin Laden's fumbling Al-Qaeda network and going after the Palestinian Authority.

Besmirched by his repugnant arrogance, Netanyahu declares on CNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews (January 19) that Arafat has to be taken out. Does that mean assassinating an elected official?

- Cut to commercial -

With munchkins like these, the Wizard of Oz will simply never be the same again.

- Firas Al-Atraqchi is a Canadian journalist living on the Pacific Coast.