The Stain on the Press

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Go on America, Give it up for the new Prime Minister of the State of Israel. A rousing welcome is in order for the new and improved Ariel Sharon. This ain’t your dad’s Ariel Sharon. This one has been taken to the mega media Laundromat and the stain is gone. Vanished. How do they do it? How exactly do you take a war criminal with a half a century of well-documented atrocities and turn him into Grandpa Arik whose only sin is having the hots for Condoleeza Rice? Roll them clips with his grand kids a few hundred times and no worries.

Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner must be breaking out the champagne. They have once again demonstrated the awesome cleansing power of the mass media. If the need arises for toxins, they also have a warehouse full of poison for any job, large or small. The media titans can demonize a saint or canonize a mass murderer. Sanitizing Sharon has been has been one hell of a joint operation. Every major American media outlet pitched in to make their contribution.

But once again the prize goes to the lads at the New York Times. They sounded like triumphant Likudniks. William Orme Jr. wrote of Sharon “Throughout his long military and political career, Ariel Sharon has been nothing if not tenacious. His stubborn single-mindedness as an infantry commander earned him the life long loyalty of his troops and an unrivaled record of battlefield victories from the 1950s to the 70s.” (NYT, 2/6/2001) So, according to Orme, the carnage at Qibya in 1953 was just a battlefield victory of a career soldier. Who is William Orme Jr. and what exactly is his agenda? Who exactly trained this ‘journalist’ to do that New York mind warp? Is there a special in-house program at the New York Times to churn the ethics out of their journalists? Does the Mossad come in and give a pep talk before a Times reporter puts pencil to paper?

With 350 Palestinians already killed and thousands wounded by unrestrained Israeli occupation soldiers, Orme expresses concern that Sharon’s election will “provoke the Arabs to new heights of violence”. It is strange that Spain never has any complaints about ‘violent’ Arabs, neither does Greece or tiny Malta. Orme would have you believe that the Palestinians are just acting up and that Israel just seems to reap all this unwanted attention for no good reason. Or is this what Orme is required to write to keep a job at the New York Times? Talk about loading the dice, Orme goes on with his little spiel about Sharon and how “many peers considered him the best field commander of his generation.”

More from Orme “Though Sharon was a decorated young platoon leader in the 1948 war of independence, it was the years when he led an elite commando unit in the early 50’s that brought him national recognition. He also earned a lasting reputation among Arabs as an implacable enemy.” Orme must be looking for a bonus from Sulzberger. Or he might just be satisfied with the prospect of Sharon doing some heavy duty Arab bashing. Is there an honest journalist left in Sulzberger’s publishing company? Do they let honest journalist past the front door?

War crimes? What war crimes? Orme’s version of the 1953 massacre at Qibya is that “Mr. Sharon’s “101” antiterrorist squad killed 69 villagers, many of them women and children. He later expressed regret.” What is this? a 9th grade essay about “my summer at Sharon’s kibbutz.”?

The truth is that Sharon’s squad blew the village houses with the screaming victims inside. Expressions of regret might sit well with William Orme, but they do not absolve war crimes. The two-month siege of Beirut is not mentioned, the collective crimes he committed in Gaza are not mentioned, and Orme emphasizes that the Israeli commission of inquiry found Sharon only “indirectly” responsible for the massacre at Sabra and Shatila. Following the standard New York Times “spin”, he neglects to inform the reader that the Israeli commission was appointed by another war criminal, Menachem Begin. One war criminal providing cover for another war criminal. Orme also neglects to reveal that much of the findings by the commission are still in secret documents that have yet to be released to the public.

Sharon is not the first war criminal to be elected to Israel’s highest office. Shamir and Begin had similar baggage. Maybe it is a qualification of the job. Shamir and Begin’s crime were not recorded on tape, but every major American media outlet has ample footage of Sharon’s two month siege of Beirut. They could easily have reminded the world of Sharon’s grisly deeds at Sabra and Shatila. But we wouldn’t want them to be sensationalist. Besides, they had a hot tip on an OJ Simpson road rage story.

To cap off a day of propaganda, Benjamin Netanyahu was invited as a guest editorialist to lash out at both Barak and the Palestinians. In the lead editorial, the New York Times wrote of Sharon’s “customary toughness” and “conservative credentials”. A few days later Sharon was already talking of a Vietnam style “pacification” campaign.

In a more perfect world, the attempts to sanitize Sharon’s criminal history should themselves be considered a crime of aiding and abetting a war criminal after the fact. The value of the lives of Sharon’s victims has been discounted to almost zero. That might be acceptable to some sleaze ball New York Times reporter out to carry favor with Sulzberger. It is abundantly obvious that Murdoch and Turner have no qualms about repackaging and marketing Sharon as just another Israeli General with old war stories. But it will not sit right with many people in America. And it will not be the final word in Europe and the Middle East.

Can it be that Sharon’s war crimes can be so easily buried by men like Murdoch, who has already made deals to soften the coverage of China in exchange for access to the Chinese market? Is it possible that Murdoch and Turner have been given the authority to pardon war crimes?

Almost every American is outraged by Clinton’s pardon of Mark Rich, who is charged with tax dodging, illicit trading and evading justice. Where is the outrage about media titans giving pardons to war criminals? One only has to recall the fuss these journalists made about the missing 18 minutes of conversation on the Nixon Tapes. Well, the Sabra and Shatila tapes are not missing. They are available to all five major networks. Why is the public prevented from taking a look at past footage of Sharon’s siege of Beirut and the aftermath of the Sabra and Shatila massacres? What happened to our right to know?

So, this Israeli mass murderer, every bit as vile as Timothy McVeigh and Osama Bin Laden, is in for a royal treatment by the lords of the press. News Corps has already wined and dined him back in November and The New York Times reporters are taking turns bouncing on Arik’s knees.

The vast majority of American journalists have decided to take a pass on prowling through Ariel Sharon’s dark past. One day, they will collectively have to answer for this black stain on the American Press. How did it happen? Who were the movers and shakers behind the campaign to sanitize Sharon? Was the deception done on the initiative of individual reporter or was there coercion from publishers and the media tycoons? Was it AIPAC? Did the government enter into the fray to tone down the coverage? How many journalists who covered Waldheim and Haider kept their mouths shut about Sharon? Why? Where was the plot hatched, in New York or in Tel Aviv? Inquiring minds will find it all out, sooner and later.

If these ‘journalists’ are willing to go to this extreme in covering up the well-documented record of a foreign Prime Minister, what kinds of domestic crimes and scandals are they willing to bury? Americans need to do some serious worrying about the news we get and the news we don’t get. It is time we ceased to place our trust in mega media moguls like Murdoch and Turner and Sulzberger. The New York Times, CNN and FOX News are media conglomerates that are institutionally incapable of providing truth in content. For the sake of our democracy, we need to search for the means to bust the media trusts. It is the only way to get the stain off the press.

Mr. Ahmed Amr is Editor of NileMedia.com in Seattle and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)

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