The Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem is furious with the Israeli government for its campaign of harassment and intimidation. If it was up to the Israeli Government the members of the FPA would be reduced to Deborah Sontag and Conrad Black, who basically republish IDF press releases. In a classic article written for the Observer, “The First Casualty of War” (6/17/2001), a team of English journalists reported on the incredible pressure the Israeli government imposes on even award-winning correspondents, like the Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg, who have been “threatened with having their accreditation removed”.
The article, written by Peter Beaumont, Brian Whitaker and Edward Helmore paints a dismal picture of what the Israelis are prepared to do to control the coverage. In a recent gathering of the FPA in Jerusalem, the journalists assembled complained that “If journalists were facing any intimidation during the present Intifada, it was not from the Palestinians but from the Israeli army, which they accused of directing gunfire at them. Eight journalists in as many months had been wounded, some seriously, including AP photographer Yolah Monakhov, CNN bureau chief Ben Wedeman and French television correspondent Bertrand Aguirre. In each case the FPA had complained. In each case the Israeli authorities had declined to reply. That harassment, correspondents say, is not confined to physical threats. It is psychological as well, and from both official and unofficial sources. At its worst it has smacked of the tactics of the Soviet bloc countries during the Cold War.”
To give the reader a perspective on the nature and scale of the Israeli propaganda machine, it is worth quoting a bit more from this ‘classic’ about the nuts and bolts of Israeli dis-information campaigns: “In New York, with its large Jewish constituency, questioning Israeli policy in the press is considered close to, if not actually, anti-Semitism and all that entails. Thomas L Friedman, the celebrated New York Times columnist who writes regularly about the Middle East, is in no doubt why it has become such a difficult place to report. ‘This is a charged political environment,’ he says. ‘Everyone wants to own you, and if they can’t own you they want to destroy you. That applies just as much to the Arab world as it does to Israel. There is no middle ground. There is no time and no place that someone will put their arm around you and say, “Gosh, I really appreciate your fair and balanced reporting”.’
Gosh, Thomas, I really appreciate that last quote. It just demonstrates how the Israel Firsters are determined to influence even the rare ‘Middle East’ article about how they control every other ‘Middle East’ story with their spin. Gosh, Thomas, aren’t you one of the guys who, along with your colleagues at Sulzberger’s daily ruse, have worked diligently on the sanitation squad that laundered the criminal war record of Ariel Sharon? How balanced is that? How fair is that to Sharon’s victims in Qibya? Pray tell, Thomas, who exactly is responsible for the New York Times failing to report the recent law suits filed against Sharon in Belgium? If you must know, he is being charged with orchestrating the three-day orgy of murder at Sabra and Shatila that resulted in the hacking to death of nearly 2000 innocent Palestinian refugees. Maybe they just don’t get good BBC reception in New York, but I am sure they were well aware of the Panorama documentary, The Accused, which made a closed and shut case for indicting Sharon?
Gosh, I thought Thomas was a Sabra and Shatila expert. Just the other day he had this valuable insight “Believe it or not, Mr. Sharon is a man who cares deeply about his personal reputation. Remember, he sued Time magazine for libel over a story about his involvement in Lebanon. How many world leaders have done that?” (Cease-Fire Umpteen, NYT, 6/19/2001).
I don’t have an answer for Thomas because I haven’t kept count of how many world leaders face charges of ‘involvement’ in war crimes of the nature and magnitude of Sabra and Shatila and Qibya? Sure, there was Begin’s slaughter at Deir El Yassin. Begin is long dead, but his crimes against the Palestinians will never be divorced from his reputation. International law has evolved dramatically since Shamir was Prime Minister, and Sharon’s criminal record is extremely well documented. Now, I am trying to think of an Italian or Canadian Prime Minister or a Greek President or a major Scandinavian politician or a post-war German Chancellor who would have cause to sue Time magazine over war crime allegations. But my memory fails me and all I come up with are folks like Pinochet and Milosovic, who already has a court date at The Hague. Than there is Le Pen, of the right wing racist French fringe, who is involved in a lawsuit to defend himself against charges of using torture during Algeria’s war of independence.
Thomas Friedman is the kind of journalist who not only covers up for a war criminal but will market him as a ‘war hero’. He gained his status as a celebrated journalist in Sulzberger’s ethnic rag because of his fealty to La Causa Zionista. The publisher who owns Friedman also has in his stable one William Safire, a man who wants ‘Sharon to be Sharon’. They always go the extra mile for Israel at the New York Times where nothing is quite as cheap as a Palestinian life.
Sharon is described by Friedman as “the man Israelis elected prime minister precisely because they believed he would be merciless in retaliating for Palestinian violence.” This lack of mercy, which so endears Sharon to the Israel Firsters, has been demonstrated in numerous incidents of mass and indiscriminate violence against innocent civilian populations. Like all die-hard pro-Israeli journalists, Friedman never fails to portray every violent act by the Israeli military occupation troops as ‘retaliation’ against a native people who will not mind their manners in the presence of belligerent Jewish guns. Under international law, and among men of common decency, this kind of ‘retaliation’ is a war crime.
If Thomas Friedman wants appreciation for fair and balanced journalism, he should start by revealing to his readers what he knows about Sharon of Qibya fame and about Sharon of Sabra and Shatila. Because, believe it or not, Ariel Sharon is a war criminal.
Mr. Ahmed Amr is Editor of NileMedia.com in Seattle and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)