News coverage of the status quo in the Holy Land: The Overlooked Facts

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Ever since the bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa took place this past weekend, which claimed the lives of about two dozen Israelis and injured about 200 others, North Americans have witnessed a remarkable shift in media focus to the developing events in the Holy Land. Alas, though, fairness and objectiveness in covering the events have, for the most part, been missing, insomuch as that pro-Israeli propagandists have already incorporated the terms “Israel strikes back” and “Israel’s war on terrorism” into the North American public discourse. This parallelism, however, is grossly unjust.

Pro-Israeli bias in the mainstream media has become evident, not in the reporting of the recent bombing attacks per se, inasmuch as in what it reveals of what was, right until this incident, an apparent disinterest and disregard to the casualties, loses and suffering of the Palestinian victims of the conflict.

All in all, reporting pertaining to the Palestine-Israeli conflict has been prejudiced, from day one. Sometimes by simply marginalizing the magnitude of Palestinian casualties vis-é-vis the Israelis; other times by using Israeli terminologies, euphemisms and official Israeli lines and, often enough, by omitting the underlying historical context relevant to the reported events.

Take for example, the recent death of 5 Gazan schoolboys (on November 22) by an Israeli booby trap, planted on purpose, in what a recent Jerusalem Post editorial (11/25/2001) described as “a classic anti-guerrilla tactic” -meaning it was meant to trap Palestinian gunmen who frequent the area. The five children were walking to their nearby UN elementary school in the Khan Yunis refugee camp, in the occupied Gaza strip, when the bomb detonated scattering their bodies into thin air. Had I not been scrupulously looking for the recent news coming from the Mideast that day (as I have been doing since the intifada began), I would, probably, still be unaware of this incident till now -and here is the rub. Yet, behind every dead Palestinian child killed, there lies a family that weeps in grieve.

In the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks against Israelis in the Holy Land, this Palestinian finds it imperative to point out a few of the pertinent overlooked facts that will shed some light on the context in which these events occurred; the drive behind the ever deteriorating security conditions in the Holy Land. This, though, in no way is an attempt to justify the terrorist attacks. And, while I have deep concern for the wellbeing of several of my family members back in Palestine, becoming unfortunate victims of ‘collateral damage’ during Israel’s ‘surgical retaliatory operations’ (ongoing as I write these words), I will refrain from rhetorical and emotional talk and stick to the hard facts.

Since the current Intifada erupted, last September, against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, and according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, 838 Palestinians have been killed and 16,685 injured -thousands of them maimed or crippled for life. About 30% of these killed are children under 18 (mainly stone-throwers); 80% of them are civilians. In comparison, about 200 Israeli civilians have been killed and several hundreds injured. The numbers speak for themselves. The world has already condemned Israel’s use of ‘disproportionate force.’

The Israelis claim that they only ‘retaliate’ to ‘Palestinian terror.’ This is exactly what the Palestinians claim, too.

Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Ariel Sharon, knows too well that each and every time he kills a Palestinian leader of Hamas, Jihad, Popular Front, PLO, etc, the Palestinians retaliate -mostly by killing civilians. Well, they don’t have Apachis and F-16s to conduct ‘retaliatory surgical operations’.

On November 24th, the Israeli forces assassinated Hamas leader Mahmoud Abu Hanoud (who died along with two other members of his group when an Israeli helicopter gunship fired a missile at their car near the West Bank town of Nablus). Hamas’ bloody retaliation came over this past weekend.

It is really simple: violence begets violence.

The same scenario has been happening ever since the Israelis adopted their extra-juridical assassination policies -killing over 50 Palestinian leaders so far. It is not inaccurate to claim that Mr. Ariel Sharon himself is responsible for the death of the Israeli civilians -notwithstanding the Palestinian civilians.

In retrospect, the Israeli military might (which was as every bit as brutal) was not able to stop the first Intifada, back in 1987, when it had total control over all of Palestine. How logical is it to expect Chairman Arafat, who has very limited control over his disconnected patches of land, controlled by endless army checkpoints, to be able to halt the present intifada?

As it stands, Israel has two choices, either commit a holocaust against the Palestinians, or implement the relevant UN resolutions, Geneva Conventions and peace accords it has signed with the Palestinians.

In November 1967, the UN Security Council Resolution 242 was issued, calling for Israel’s withdrawal from what was termed the ‘Occupied Territories,’ i.e. the West Bank -including East Jerusalem- and Gaza strip (to pre-June 5, 1967 lines). It unequivocally emphasized “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war…” It must be noted here that Security Council Resolution 242 refers to only 20% of historic Palestine. The PNA has already dropped the demand for implementing Resolution 181 (the so-called ‘partition plan’ -which both parties rejected at its time of issuance), that would give not 20% but 45% of historic Palestine to the Palestinians.

Geneva Convention (IV) (Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949), to which Israel is a signatory, states that “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

Before that, in December 1948 the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 was issued and affirmed that “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practical date.”

Do these resolutions mean anything to the Israeli leaders? Apparently not.

Oslo II Interim Accord (signed on Sept 28 1995 between Israeli and Palestinian leaders) called “for a transitional period not exceeding five years from the date of signing the Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area on May 4, 1994, leading to a permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338…Permanent status negotiations will commence as soon as possible, but not later than May 4, 1996, between the Parties. It is understood that these negotiations shall cover remaining issues, including: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements…and other issues of common interest.”

Well, May 4 1999 passed and Palestine was not born, because the Israelis could not bring themselves to accept “Palestine”, or accept relevant UN resolutions. It was not because Palestinians did not want independence. (In fact, Chairman Arafat was pressured at the time, by the whole international community, to refrain from declaring statehood.)

At no time did Israel ever accept to halt its settlement expansions and land confiscation policies. Even during the ‘Oslo years’, when the Palestinians started building a civil society in the West Bank and Gaza hoping for an eventual independence and freedom after 53 years of Israeli military occupation, the settlement expansions continued unabated, to the extent that now, it, literally, renders the Palestinian territories into scattered disconnected Bantustans (one glance at the UN map of the territories will testify to that http://www.un.org/Depts/dpa/qpal/maps/m3070r17.gif).

During former US President Bill Clinton’s last days in the White House, he marathoned a meeting between then Prime Minister of Israel Barak and Chairman Arafat, to reach a blueprint agreement on the final status. The rally failed, as we all know. A lot of talk keeps surfacing about how Israel “offered” 94% (or 95% or 96% or 97% or 98% or 99% or even 100% -depending how generous the narrator is) of the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinians, but the Palestinians, well, they “don’t miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” and so, they rejected the “offer”. This is no more than laying blame on ‘the other’. In fact what was “offered” at Camp David was another form of occupation, no less. Israel would have retained the illegal settlements, and, in fact, annexed more land in the heart of Palestinian populated territories (swapped for desert land).

Three points must be made here: 1) The offer was for land the UN considered ‘occupied’ to begin with, i.e. there were no ‘generous concessions’ made; 2) Clearly, a geography that produces a non-viable state and ; 3) It was a ‘take it or leave it’ non-negotiable ‘offer.’

No nation would ever consider its race to be inferior to another, only the opposite is sometimes true. Fanatical Jews perceive themselves as divinely privileged “the chosen ones”; have a God-given right in the Holy Land, even if it means dispossessing and displacing goyims. This is the problem. It is called racism. To imagine how deplorable this policy is, just imagine the Palestinians demanding an Islamic state in Palestine (vis-é-vis a Jewish state) in which no Christian is allowed to buy or sell land. The truth is, the Israeli regime is as far away from democracy and Western values as the Saudi regime is.

Mr. Sharon holds firmly to his demand for a complete 7 day cease fire period before peace negotiations can commence. How realistic is this? How serious is he? It follows that if any shootings happen, the 7-day-hourglass will be turned again. When the concerned parties decided to establish peace in South Africa, no such demands were made. Mr. Sharon wants the Palestinians to ‘stop the violence’, first. His policy of “targeted killing,” however, does not count as breach. His unabated settlement expansion policies also don’t count.

Attempting to draw parallelism between what happened in the US on September 11 and what is happening now in the Occupied Territories is nothing short of deceit and insult to our intelligence; a PR capitalization on the American tragedy. The US has not been militarily occupying Afghanistan; uprooting, displacing, dispossessing, humiliating, dehumanizing, jailing, torturing, killing and denying the very heritage of the Afghani citizens for the past 53 years.

Mr. Baha Abushaqra is a Media Activist with Palestine Media Watch.

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