Freedom of the press is one of the liberties one must truly cherish as an American. In many other democracies, the right to put pen to paper requires a license or other governmental intrusions. There are many countries in the world where the state retains a monopoly on the press.
Controlling or ‘managing’ press coverage has become as powerful an instrument of power as controlling the Police. In China, initial reports about recent explosion at a public school correctly reported that the teachers were running an elaborate Chinese fireworks factory that included productivity quotas for the students. The reports were quickly amended to deny these allegations and suppress the story. Predictably, the journalists covering the story were quick to comply with official denials.
Philip Pan of the Washington Post reported that “For a week, officials have been denying that the third-graders in Fanglin village had been forced to make firecrackers for poor teachers seeking extra cash”. He also noted that the Chinese Prime Minister, Zhu Rongji, had attempted to blame the explosion on a suicidal villager armed with explosives. A few days later Zhu was apologizing to the Chinese and promising to make amends. He was quoted as saying that he wanted to “emphasize that no one can cover up historical facts”.
Now imagine what it must be like to be one of the “journalists” who initially reported the truth and then quickly reversed the account due to governmental coercion and then had to turn around and report the undeniable truth and wisdom of the Prime Minister. Phillip Pan’s analysis of this event is worth mentioning. “Zhu’s statements underscored the power of China’s increasingly independent news media and the government’s inability to control information in a society with access to the Internet. China has covered up disasters involving tens of thousands of deaths in the past, but news of the explosion and children making fire-works spread quickly on Internet sites and through local newspapers. When the government issued its official account, many Chinese viewed it with skepticism and even scorn.”
Which brings me to a disturbing incident in another elementary school yard in another country. That same week, In Hebron, Palestinian school kids demonstrating against Israeli army repression where assaulted with stun grenades, injuring six students. Imagine the New York Times reporter given the task of reporting this incident in a manner that would not cause readers alarm about Israeli tactics in confronting Palestinian children.
In five months of reporting on the Palestinian uprising, Deborah Sontag has perfected the art of the cover-up. Next time the Chinese want to bury a story, they should send their press releases directly to Deborah. All the New York Times would need to do is to accord Prime Minister Zhu the same printing privileges granted to Ariel Sharon’s occupation army. The Sulzberger clan, on 43rd street, specializes in tampering with historical facts.
If the Prime Minister is interested in Sontag’s peculiar “spin” talents, here is a sample (NYT, March 16, 2001):
“The army sees the removal of children from the circle of violence as extremely important,” an army statement said. The army “will continue to act against anyone trying to compromise the security of Israeli citizens”. Sontag’s whole report is attributed to “Israeli officials” and the “Israeli Army” and “Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office” and “news reports”.
It never occurred to Sontag to interview one of the kids who was wounded in the demonstration. In her estimate, that would be giving aid and comfort to the enemy. From her account it appears that she spent the day in the company the Israeli Army who escorted her to the Prime Minister’s office for a daily briefing and an obligatory bounce on Arik’s knees and then got the rest of her story by listening to Israeli Army Radio. As always Security is something that is deemed important for Israelis, whereas Palestinians are
Unworthy of protection and the right of self-defense against a land-thieving occupying army.
The suffocating siege around Palestinian towns and villages intensifies with each passing day taking its toll on the three million civilians who must daily endure the institutional violence of the Israeli occupation regime. Israelis have elected a notorious war criminal as their Prime Minister. Overtly racist politicians who advocate the expulsion of Palestinians from their ancestral homes sit in comfortable cabinet seats in the ruling Israeli coalition government. The death of hundreds of Palestinians resisting Israel’s strangulation policies is something New York Times reporters and editors are trained to fix, ignore, or challenge. Indeed American Jewish and Christian Zionist zealots have once again demonstrated their ability to paint the Israeli canvas with Teflon. They seem quite satisfied that a recent poll they commissioned has shown that their intensive campaign has succeeded in minimizing any public sympathy for the Palestinians.
Let us give this much credit to the Chinese journalists who flip flopped on the disaster at a fireworks factory that moonlighted as a school house. At least they were initially inclined to tell the truth. Before they flopped, they delivered an honest account. The power of coercion of the Chinese government should not be under estimated. Like the criminal school teachers, these journalists had mouths to feed.
At the New York Times the lack of veracity is much more sinister. It is an attempt at coercing the state, our Federal government, into extending an indefinite carte blanche to each and every Israeli policy, regardless of the degree of repression that government is willing to mete out to the Palestinians. Sulzberger and his crew set the standard for how to conduct Israel’s public relations campaigns.
For the last six decades, successive Polish governments have managed to blame the slaughter of 1600 Jews at Jedwabne on the Nazis. Today, Poland is being forced to deal with the reality of what really happened in 1941; Poles killed their Jewish Neighbors. Adam Michnik, reflecting on the revelation that Poles would commit such a crime, wrote these words in another NYT article (Poles and the Jews: How Deep the Guilt, NYT, March 17, 2001).
“I do not feel guilty for those murdered, but I do feel responsible. Not that they were murdered é I could not have stopped that. I feel guilty that after they died they were murdered again, denied a decent burial, denied tears, denied truth about this hideous crime, and that for decades a lie was repeated. This is my fault. For lack of imagination or time, for convenience and spiritual laziness, I did not ask myself certain questions and did not look for answers. Why? After all, I was among those who actively pushed to reveal the truth about the Katy massacre of Polish soldiers, I worked to tell the truth about the Stalinist trials in Poland, about the victims of communist repression. Why then did I not look for the truth about the murdered Jews of Jedwabne?”
Mr. Michnik’s noble sentiments were published in the midst of a campaign to actively cover up Ariel Sharon’s participation of the massacre of Palestinians in 1982. The slaughter of Jews at Jedwabne in 1941 is different from the events at Sabra and Shatila only in that Ariel Sharon has received a full dispensation from Deborah Sontag and her colleagues at the New York Times and other American media outlets. The stain of Qibya will never be erased from Sharon’s record, regardless of what influential American Jewish journalists report.
While Adam Michnik makes a plausible denial of any prior knowledge of the cover-up of Jedwabne, there is no denying the activists in the American Jewish community who incessantly and shamelessly advocate the continued repression of the Palestinians. No other American ethnic community would openly flout their bonds with a war criminal and try to pass him off as just another “conservative” politician.
There is no denying American Jewish political clout. A review of the list of 400 largest donors in campaign 2000 (available at www.motherjones.com), reveals that the Democratic Party is virtually financed by the Israeli lobby. American Jews will never be able to deny that they have a strong influence on the behavior of both the American and the Israeli government. Charles Schumer, the senior US Senator from New York, had this to say about the Israeli policy of laying siege to Palestinian towns and villages: “Israel has every right to fight terrorism aimed at its citizens. Temporary sealing off Ramallah in order to capture members of a cell planning major terrorist attacks against Israel seems both reasonable and rational. Such policies should continue until the Palestinians choose to end the tragic spiral of violence.” (NYT, 3/16/2001) There you have it, an American Jewish Senator, who poses as a civil libertarian on this side of the pond, advocating a policy of collective punishment against the native people of Palestine. What better platform for that kind of view than his hometown paper, the New York Times, the daily ruse. Next time we have an incident in Harlem, threatening the Jewish citizens of Manhattan, I am sure Schumer will advocate setting up the barricades at 110th street.
This overt racist and Hillary Rodham Clinton, a bigot for pay, represent the strange state of New York. These politicians and the Media industry that backs them cannot retreat from their belligerent attacks on the Palestinians. There is simply too much to deny. The short answer to Raimondo’s question is the American press will continue to deliver the goods for Israel till the last dog dies. I hope that dog is terminally ill.
Mr. Ahmed Amr is Editor of NileMedia.com in Seattle and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)