When the Dead Are Israelis

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Kilings, killings, and more killings. Welcome to the Middle East.

Scarcely a day goes by when someone isn’t murdered. Scarcely a day goes by without media coverage. And with this unprecedented coverage comes a seemingly disturbing trend of giving emphasis to some lost lives, while others are brushed under the rug.

Pro-Israeli organizations are particularly miffed at the coverage. I am unsure as to why they are upset. Many respected journalists, like The Nation’s Eric Alterman, have even discussed the pro-Israeli slant in American media.

I decided to write my own perceptions as media coverage of Middle East events was taking place. Please note that the following names have been altered for “security reasons.” Also, some slightly exaggerated emotions are added to lighten the mood of this serious article. Otherwise, this analysis will likely ring familiar to many.

One particular day, I was watching TV when all of a sudden…

“We interrupt this show for this breaking news!” anchor Dan Brokaw announces. “We have just received word that a suicide bomber has killed himself and two Israelis at a Tel Aviv mall. Dozens are being reported injured. Here to give a second by second report is Jerold Hannah, standing live in Tel Aviv. Jerold?”

Immediately, a TV viewer can hear the sound of sirens blaring. People screaming. Young teens weeping.

“Dan, it has been a terrifying day in Tel Aviv. Parents with their children thought they were going to enjoy a sunny day . . . Oh, wait!”

Hannah runs past an ambulance. The camera picture is vigorously bouncing. Obviously, the cameraman and Hannah are running as fast as they can so as not to miss anything.

“Ma’am. Ma’am?! [Wheeze, puff] Can you describe the devastation that has struck your family?” Hannah asks hurriedly.

“It was terrible,” wails Leah Levy. “I am happy we are all alive, but why?????”

“Indeed, why has this happened?” Hannah asks. “This is the third bombing to strike the heart of Israel in less than a week. Many are asking whether Yessir Arafat can control the bombings. And is he even willing to? We go now to the Israeli Ministry. Geraldo Matthews is standing by.”

Matthews thanks Hannah and says, “Once again, a suicide bombing has ripped through Tel Aviv. We talked to Ministry spokesman, Menachem Netanyahu, to find out what Israel plans to do next.”

A clip of an angry Netanyahu is shown: “We are disappointed in the Palestinian Authority, again. Arafat is proving that he is incapable of being a leader and doesn’t want peace. The Ministry will be meeting shortly to decide what actions to take.”

“Thank you, thank you, Mr. Netanyahu. We know this is a difficult time, and we appreciate you could take this time to talk to us!” Matthews gushes.

“Clearly, Israel, will be taking measures, but we just don’t know what they will be,” Matthews tells the TV camera matter-of-factly. “But we are expecting a strong response to this horrific suicide bombing. Back to you, Jerold”

“Thank you, Geraldo, for that brazen report. [Puff] I am now talking to Sephi Dayan, ambulance driver for one of the wounded,” wheezes Hannah.

“Mr. Dayan [puff, puff], what did you first see when you arrived at the scene?”

Dayan, covered with the blood of one of the wounded, has tears in his eyes. “I saw body parts all over the place. It has been another terrible day here in Israel.”

Camera pans on bodies lying on the ground, blood on the pavement, and broken glass.

“Thank you, Mr. Dayan,” Hannah responds sadly.

“It has truly been an extraordinary day. Again two Israelis killed, dozens wounded in yet another abominable suicide bombing. Dan, I understand that President Mush is about to issue a condemnation through his press secretary, Scari Fleischer.”

“Yes, Jerold. And thank you for that report,” Brokaw tells Hannah.

“Again, two Israelis killed, dozens wounded in the latest bombing. We now go to the White House, where Scari Fleischer is speaking for the President.”

“The President is strongly deploring the latest homicide bombing. He is deeply disappointed in Yessir Arafat, and demands that Arafat do more to stop the violence. Arafat is clearly letting the Palestinian people down. Any questions?” Fleischer asks.

Helen St. Thomas raises her hand. Fleischer brushes her off, “We already know how you feel about this issue, Helen. Next, please.”

“Yes, Prit,” Fleischer decides.

“Scari, it’s being reported that Israel may be planning more incursions in retaliation for this suic . . .er . . . homicide bombing. How does the President view these potential incursions?” asks Prit Lume.

“Israel has the right to defend herself. Arafat needs to do more to stop the violence. That’s all I’m going to say,” says Fleischer.

Fleischer steps off the podium.

Camera breaks away to shot of Brokaw.

“We just heard Scari Fleischer discuss the President’s disgust with Yessir Arafat, and condemn the latest bombing in the strongest terms. We now have with us Dore Silver of the Israeli Consulate. Thank you, Mr. Silver, for being with us at such late notice.”

Silver nods. “Thanks for this opportunity, Dan.”

“Mr. Silver, the latest bombing has clearly dealt a blow to MidEast peace. What will it take to get the situation back on track?”

“Look, Dan, the Palestinians are not interested in peace. We need a change of leadership. And quite frankly, the Palestinians have to stop this nonsense about some made-up Israeli Occupation. It is DISPUTED territory. When the Palestinians change their leadership and stop this terror, everything will be hunky-dory . . . no pun intended, Dan.”

“Thank you so much, Mr. Silver. Again, two Israelis killed, dozens wounded in another despicable bombing in Tel Aviv. We will have more details later this evening. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled programming.”

What a comprehensive report I thought é just the way it should be. Yet, only days earlier, I had been watching the evening news.

A bored Dan Brokaw stated, “A Palestinian mother and her two toddlers are dead today. From Jerusalem, here’s Jerold Hannah. Jerold?”

“Dan, a Palestinian mother and her two children died today in what Palestinians call cold-blooded murder. The IDF vehemently denies the allegations. According to Shaul Ben-Eliezer, how could the IDF be expected to predict the presence of civilians in an area well known for harboring terrorists? Apparently, the IDF had heard an explosion and were concerned about terrorists.

“Back to you, Dan.”

“That’ll be it for tonight’s evening news. I’m Dan Brokaw. Good night.”

Good night, indeed, Dan.

No footage was shown. Neither were there any interviews. Nor any evidence of any journalistic excitement. Not even a future a follow-up when the IDF’s own investigation showed there was, in fact, no such explosion. A Palestinian mother and her two children were wiped off the face of the earth; the IDF even showed that their soldiers lied about the events leading up to the killings . . . but no follow-up by any American media.

As to other Israeli killings of Palestinians?

In fact, I have never seen any breaking news reports about Israeli killings of Palestinians. And there had been many — more than 1,500 Palestinian killed, as well as more than 20,000 wounded. The fact that American media will run to a scene to cover an Israeli tragedy and not do the same for Palestinians speaks volumes.

The American media can claim that Israeli soldiers have prevented past coverage of Palestinian events, such as in Jenin, but it is disturbing that the same American media will give ample time for Israeli explanations as to why these hindrances have taken place — as if Israel’s infringement on the freedom of the press is somehow justified. Israeli soldiers have even shot at journalists, but I guess this sits well with the media too. Interestingly, there is no such hindrance of coverage for Israeli tragedies.

FYI to major media outlets, ALL innocent life is precious, be it Palestinian or Israeli. It’s unfortunate that most of our media doesn’t seem to get that point, because media coverage obviously affects public opinion. And any media person who claims there is no bias in the media industry ought to consider some of the points aforementioned, as well as the public opinion polls on American support for Palestinians versus Israelis.

Despite the lop-sided coverage, pro-Israeli organizations are still organizing boycotts of media outlets. It seems that minimal coverage of anything happening to the Palestinians is enough to spark fierce outcries among pro-Israeli media watchdogs. If it is truth they seek, they will have no greater supporters than pro-Palestinians. Sadly, however, the agenda seems to be one of completely squashing the truth.

And as the battle for public opinion wages on, indications point to a media that is a guilty partner in crime.

Sherri Muzher, who holds a Jurist Doctor in International and Comparative Law, is a Palestinian-American activist and free lance journalist.

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