A cursory look at the British newspapers brings home the fact that the European press looks at the Middle East conflict with different glasses than most of the press across the Atlantic in the United States. A recent commentary by the respected English journalist Robert Fisk in the Daily Independent points out how most western journalists succumb to Israeli propaganda when covering the ongoing bloody conflict in the Middle East.
He draws a rather interesting parallel between the treatment of the Palestinians at the hands of Israelis and the brutalities committed by the white South African government against its black population. In the case of South Africa, the press called it as it saw it. In the case of the Middle East it is highly selective. The white South African leaders were called racists but the Israeli leaders are “hard-line warriors.” When the South African police gunned down 56 blacks in Sharpeville, it was called cold-blooded brutal murder and not a “security crack down.” When the South African police killed black children the press did not call it “child sacrifice by the parents” as it so shamelessly accused the Palestinian parents of doing. And did anybody call upon the “terrorist” African National Congress leadership to “control their own people”?
Why this journalistic dishonesty? Why is the same press, while eagerly exposing human rights violations and atrocities elsewhere, either silent or blatantly biased when it reports on the Middle East?
Because the journalists (and just about everyone else) are scared out of their wits to be tarred with the all-too-convenient brush of anti-Semitism. Any criticism of the Jewish state, no matter how mild, fair, or appropriate, is labeled anti-Semitic.
Earlier this year the Swedish president of the European Union mildly criticized Israel for selective killing of Palestinians and called it an obstacle to peace that could provoke new violence. She was accused of encouraging “anti-Jewish violence.” In a letter to the Swedish prime minister the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Paris compared her criticism of Israel with the allied argument during World War II that bombing the railways leading to Auschwitz would encourage anti-Semitism among the Germans. The letter went on to say that Sweden was making a unilateral attack against the state of the survivors of the Holocaust.
Or take the failed Camp David II and its aftermath. It was said that the Palestinians brought the misery upon themselves by rejecting what was offered to them. Hidden behind the “magnanimity” of Israel was the cold fact that the Palestinians were offered less than 21 percent of their land minus sovereignty over their holy places. What choice did the Palestinians have but to reject a truncated and moth-eaten state that is pocked with the ever-proliferating Jewish settlements?
Ariel Sharon is now being projected as a later-day De Gaulle. Conveniently forgotten is his long and consistent record of total opposition to any peace with the Arabs. For the record, he opposed peace with Egypt, was against the Madrid peace conference, and the Oslo and the Hebron agreements, and rejected peace with Jordan. Last year he condemned Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon.
A later-day De Gaulle? De Gaulle had the foresight to see the folly of French policy in Algeria and withdrew. Given his record, can we expect the same from Mr. Sharon? Instead he is poised, in total violation of international law and the stated policy of Israel's main benefactor, the United States, to spend $400 million for additional settlements on the Palestinian land.
While the spin maestros in Tel Aviv put a kinder, gentler mask on the brutal face of Israel, most journalists are all too happy to ignore that the emperor has no clothes.
Dr. S. Amjad Hussain is a Toledo surgeon whose column appears every other week in The Blade. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.