Second Draft has sent out several alerts and Breath of the Beast has posted two analyses of Ben Wedeman’s coverage for CNN of Israel’s crackdown on Hamas organizations in the West Bank, including schools and a shopping mall. Several blogs have taken up the call to publicize this (see below).
It’s actually rare that we get a look inside the workshop of a journalist and see what he makes his report from. In this case we know that the Israeli army gave Wedeman exclusive footage, expected that he would do something focusing on the kind of hate-mongering that goes on in Hamas-run organizations.
This tape would strike any normal, “cognitively-egocentric liberal” as disturbing to say the least. Kindergarteners, dressed up in Hamas uniforms (with black masks) storm the stage and “kill” two kids dressed as Israeli soldiers and drag them across the stage; then they prance around the stage to martial music for at least 10 minutes. For those familiar with the workings of Palestinian schools, where ceremonies that emphasize the bloodthirsty are common, however, this is hardly surprising.
A kindergarten girl shows her “bloody hands” at a graduation ceremony in Gaza. She is mimicking the behavior of one of the lynchers of two Israeli reservists, beaten to death in Ramallah on October 12, 2000.
The model. Note that while the Palestinians did everything to prevent this footage from getting out to the West, this had nothing to do with their being genuinely ashamed of this savage behavior.
What it does constitute, however, is a valuable entryway into perhaps the single most serious cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict: Palestinian hate-mongering. The reason why “Oslo” logic fails is not because the Israelis don’t concede enough, not because they continue to expand settlements (any “normal” foe, seeing the land it wants for a future nation being eaten up so, would hurry negotiations, especially when the “settler” government has agreed in advance to clear settlements), not because they don’t get enough “dignity” in the land deal, but because Palestinian leaders think only in zero-sum terms, dream only of destroying their neighbors, and teach their children well. And thereby, a father’s hell will surely go on.
Any normal, serious, journalist, uninfluenced by agendas, and concerned with informing his public about the situation in the Middle East, might have used this tape as a way to treat the issue of how the Palestinian leadership — from the highest politician, to the lowest teacher and preacher — poison their children from the earliest age with an implacable hatred of the Israelis and an ardent desire to destroy their neighbors at any cost. Anyone watching an adorable 10-year old girl respond to the question “What is better, peace and full rights for the Palestinian people or Shahada? [i.e., a suicide terrorist]?” answer, “Shahada,” and explain that “Shahada is a very beautiful thing. Everyone yearns for Shahada. What could be better than going to paradise?” while the interviewer nods his head in approval, knows just how sick Palestinian culture has become over the last decades.
Wedeman, like so many other journalists (e.g., the NYT’s finest from Willaim Orme to Steven Erlanger), goes in the opposite direction. Rather than inform his public about the staggering level of hatred, the constant use of anti-Semitic themes that would make the Nazis proud, the unmitigated child-abuse that constitutes the center of Palestinian education, religious and secular, they prefer to focus on how Israelis victimize a poor — and by implication — innocent people. Wedeman’s piece is a magnificent example of the kind of coverage so many MSM reporters give to the Arab-Israeli conflict: the Israeli Goliath crushing the Palestinian David.
So Wedeman starts with the Israeli crackdown. After showing scenes of ransacked rooms, he shows children innocently enjoying playground equipment, prevented from attending their final days of class because the Israelis shut down their schools. Then he cuts to a segment of an interview with an IDF spokeswoman who explains vaguely that Hamas profits from a series of charity operations which they want to shut down. Having given her a brief and unspecific say, he cuts to a school principal with the words,
But school principal Fida Ziyad has a different story,”We have nothing to do with any group or political party,” she insists.
Note that the Israelis allege, the Palestinians insist. Here is the obvious place to bring in the school tape which, although it’s from Ramallah and she’s working in Nablus, could certainly serve as an opportunity to question her on her school’s graduation ceremonies. The idea that an Islamic school has no political dimension is an absurdity; and presented with such a tape, Fida would probably break into a smile and explain that she doesn’t consider that “political.” So much for the refutation of what the IDF spokeswoman said.
But rather than help us Westerners — blessed with the division of church and state and cursed with an inability to understand how rare that separation is in the rest of the world — to understand the intimate relationship between Islam and politics, as well as the pervasive corruption of the minds of those sweet kids, Wedeman choses to switch topics entirely and move to a mall that the Israelis have announced they will shut down in a month. The explanation — the owner of the mall is a major figure in Hamas and all profits go to Hamas — never reaches the viewer. Rather we have a shop owner speak of the 270 families who will be affected by the closure.
At last, we get to the tape, introduced almost as a digression:
The Israeli army provided CNN with this video of a 2006 graduation ceremony picked up in a raid on a kindergarten in Ramallah. The children, dressed up as Hamas fighters, brandishing toy guns.
Even here, he manages to make the Israeli “raid on a kindergarten” sound more brutal than the footage we see. Having cut the initial seconds, in which the two children dressed as Israeli soldiers are killed, Wedeman makes no reference to their bodies being dragged across the stage, and with his closing line about “toy guns,” he makes the whole scene almost harmless.
Having largely driven Hamas underground in the West Bank, Israel is now taking its fight to another level, aiming at what it perceives as the group’s social and economic infrastructure. But officials from the rival Fatah faction which conrols the government in the West Bank and is egnaged in directs talks with Israel, worry the Israeli crackdown has gone too far, serving perhaps to underscore their impotence in the face of Israeli power.
So, the upshot of all this disruption is that Israel undermines their partners in “peace,” by making them seem impotent. One would not know that as far as some Palestinians are concerned, the Israelis are the nicest of the occupiers they’ve ever known, and that both Hamas and Fatah consider the other “worse than the Israelis.”
What would prompt a “disinterested” and fair-minded reporter to do this kind of hatchet job? Well, the first answer is that Wedeman is not anything remotely resembling a fair-minded and disinterested reporter. As he showed in an article I fisked here several months ago, he is an open and ardent advocate of Palestinian suffering caused by israeli oppression. In his “tour of the Palestinian territories” that he proposed to take President Bush on, he had no intention of showing him the hate factories, either in the schools or the mosques. What Palestinian leaders do to destroy their own people is most definitely not on the agenda.
So who are the losers in this process of advocacy journalism? They are many.
Obviously Israel, who appears as the thug determined to destroy the lives of their innocent neighbors.
Wedeman’s viewers, consumers of his “alleged” journalism, actually unsuspecting recipients of his propaganda, and therefore all the more likely to support “solutions” that will backfire.
CNN, whose claim that they are “the most trusted name in news” is on borrowed time.
But most and worst of all, the very Palestinians whom Wedeman thinks he is supporting. By allowing the very people who use and abuse their younger generation to have the dominant and sympathetic voice, Wedeman empowers the very people who most contribute to Palestinian suffering.
Does he care? Is he even aware?
I have written a number of times about the problem of Palestinian intimidation of the Western media. Wedeman does not seem to be a candidate for such a charge, given how open his advocacy. But consider the following: What would have happened to him had he aggressively questioned the school teacher about her statement? What would have happened had he portrayed the PA forces as brutal and cruel? What would have happened had he asked the shop owner how he feels about suicide bombing and then, when he responded that he approved, asked, “So why do you think Israelis are shutting down your shops?”? My guess is, that he’d find himself a persona non grata in the West Bank and even more so in the Gaza Strip.
So all told, we have to ask ourselves, to what extent is the media’s advocacy a way of convincing oneself that one is not a coward? This way, everything works just fine: the Palestinians (who are dangerous) love you; the Israelis (who are not), try and court you still more. Win-win for Ben and the Palestinian war-mongers. Lose-lose for everyone else.
I posted several years ago about the problem of black hearts and red spades, about the anomalies that should point out to us how wrong the “Israeli Goliath vs. Palestinian David” paradigm really is. Here again, we find a journalist, so determined to push his agenda onto an unsuspecting public, that nothing will get in his way. And in so doing, he embraces his “charity case,” the poor Palestinian people, with a black heart.
No wonder no people have received more support and done so poorly as a result.
“Oh they get by with a little help from their friends.”
Appendix: Earlier posts on this matter.
The findings of the Second Draft investigation have been on major blogs, both domestic and French.
Some of the blogs that have posted on the investigation thus far: