Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of November 19, 1999
EYE ON THE MEDIA:
THE MEDIA, MRS. CLINTON
AND THE TRUTH
By David Bar-Illan
Hillary Rodham Clinton's failure to react to Suha Arafat's speech in Ramallah last week should not have surprised anyone. Clinton has been an enthusiastic supporter of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian "revolution" ever since she entered public life. Like many of her political associates in the US and their Peace Now [i.e. Peace Criminal -- See below] counterparts in Israel, she perceives the PLO not as a vanguard in the war against Israel's existence but as a true liberation movement. Serving as chairwoman of the New World Foundation in the 1980s, Clinton directed contributions to PLO-affiliated groups. In the White House, she entertained pro-Hamas American-Moslem groups, received gifts from them and spoke at their functions. Her advocacy of a Palestinian state in May 1998 was surprising only because it exposed the administration's true sympathies and undermined its position as honest broker.
Nor is Clinton alone in her pro-Palestinian "tilt." Many in the American media, and practically all mainstream Israeli journalists, not to mention the trendy "new historians," are her kindred souls. Even former Labor hawks now feel, like her, more comfortable with the corrupt, despotic and ruthless leadership of the PA than with the "settlers" or the haredim. Only against this background can one understand the Ramallah incident and the dismal failure of the media to fathom its meaning. THE COLD facts were plain enough. Clinton went to Ramallah to avoid making the impression that the trip was aimed at pandering to the New York Jewish vote. The visit, billed as "official" and subsidized by the American taxpayer, had to be balanced.
Mrs. Arafat greeted her with a speech prepared by Yasser Arafat's office. It contained vicious, baseless and irrational charges against Israel that amounted to a blood libel. Suha Arafat said Israel used poison gas against the Palestinian population, which caused the death of women and children from cancer and other horrible diseases, and that Israel poisoned 80% of the water used by Palestinians. Clinton had her earphones on, listening to the simultaneous translation. As Arafat began reciting Israel's genocidal crimes, Clinton nodded in approval. Then her face froze into a polite smile. When Arafat finished, she hugged and kissed her, uttering not one word of criticism. Only after the White House alerted her to the unfavorable reaction to her conduct did she issue a statement. It did not refer to Suha Arafat but commended President Clinton's plea to all sides (including the US!) to refrain from provocative statements.
Clinton later explained the delay by stating that the simultaneous translation was "unclear" and "incomplete." But most of the journalists present listened to the same translation, and they all heard Arafat's charges. Reuters correspondent Deborah Camiel was particularly accurate in her report, but most other reporters, too, seemed to have no trouble with the translation. Correspondents for CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New York Post, Knight Ridder and others got it right. TO BE SURE, some reporters tried to help Arafat by explaining that she probably meant tear gas, and others tried to help Clinton by reporting that she sharply rebuked Arafat when in fact she never referred to her by name.
If there was any serious distortion, it appeared in newspapers that drastically edited the wire service reports to suit their politics. The International Herald Tribune, for example, published a drastically curtailed AP story which described Clinton's statement from Petra the next morning not as a response to the Arafat speech but as criticism of "Palestinian officials" for "pushing the issue of statehood into the spotlight." The first reference to the speech came only in the fourth paragraph: "Suha Arafat ... used a speech introducing Mrs. Clinton to criticize environmental and health damage that, she asserted, had been caused by tear gas and other means to control crowds during Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands." The story even distorted the Israeli reaction, describing it merely as "saying such issues should be placed on the negotiating table." It ignored the government's statement that such comments have "no connection to reality" and that they "poison the public atmosphere." Saeb Erekat could not have given it a better spin.
But while the distortion and omission of facts was minimal, most reporters tried to control the damage by giving Arafat's remarks an environmental spin. After all, almost everyone is guilty of pollution: from smokers who disregard the health hazard they pose to others, to industrial plants that contaminate rivers.
In turning this spin, foreign journalists were helped by Ha'aretz, which headlined its front-page story "Suha Arafat: Israel polluted air and ground in the territories." Environment Minister Dalia Itzik unintentionally reinforced this impression by inviting Suha Arafat to inspect the incalculable environmental damage caused not by Israelis but by the reckless and anarchic practices of the Palestinian Authority.
Only a few in the media realized that what Arafat said had nothing to do with environmental pollution. Among them were The New York Post, Washington Post columnist George Will (appearing on ABC-TV's This Week on Sunday), New York Daily News columnist Sidney Zion, and Washington Times columnist Cal Thomas. Unlike most other journalists, they understood that Suha Arafat's speech was just the latest installment in a systematic, calculated campaign of blood libels. The Zionist Organization of America has compiled a litany of these libels. Following are a few examples:
* On March 16, 1997, Yasser Arafat's representative to the UN in Geneva, Nabil Ramlawi, lodged a formal complaint accusing "the Israeli authorities" of injecting 300 Palestinian children with the HIV virus.
* In June of that year, Abdel Hamid al-Qudsi, deputy minister of the PLO's Palestinian Authority Ministry of Supplies, declared: "Israel is distributing food containing material that causes cancer and hormones that harm male virility and also spoiled food products in the Palestinian Authority's territories in order to poison and harm the Palestinian population.
* "We absolutely feel that it is an organized plan and conspiracy which is under the auspices of the Israel Defense Forces. This is a planned and initiated war against the Palestinian people."
* Six months later, Maher al-Dasouqi, director of the Palestinian Authority's Committee for Consumer Protection, declared in Arafat's official newspaper, Al- Hayat Al-Jadida:"Citizens must be vigilant regarding chocolate from England, especially Cadbury's, which is very popular in Palestinian markets, since the milk used in the production of all types of chocolate was infected with mad-cow disease.
"The sale of this chocolate is forbidden in England, but it was smuggled into the Palestinian regions by Israeli merchants ..."
* Last year, the same paper quoted Arafat's consumer-protection chief: "Israel floods our markets with hundreds of thousands of food products unfit for human consumption ...the purpose of which is to spread disease, debility and slow death in the Palestinian body ... Children are the main target of this plan."
* Earlier this month, on November 9, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida charged that "Israeli chemical companies are using the Palestinians and their land for experiments ...deciding according to the results if these chemicals should be marketed in Israel."
* And commenting on Suha Arafat's speech in Al Hayat last week (November 15), columnist Fuad Abu Hadjla wrote: "We understand the American position ... in defending Israel and its right to oppress our people and murder them with poison gas, since these gases and most of the murderous Zionist technologies originate in American industry."
* To pinpoint the progenitor of these blood libels, it would be necessary to go back to the Middle Ages, when Jews were accused of causing the Black Death by poisoning the wells.
But the media have deliberately ignored this campaign of anti-Semitic incitement. The charitable explanation is that they have sacrificed truth and professional integrity for the sake of the peace process. It is probably also the excuse for failing to put the Suha Arafat story in context. The media have even failed to notice that the PA, refusing to apologize to Israel, proffered an apology only to Hillary Clinton - not for the anti-Semitic calumny, but for any embarrassment the speech might have caused her.
The press is not alone in this obtuseness. Neither the Israeli government nor the administration seems willing to recognize that the only governments that propagate and encourage antisemitism today are the Arab regimes. For some unfathomable reason, these regimes are never criticized, let alone censured, for a crime deemed totally unacceptable by civilized society. Is there a racist double standard at play? Are Arab regimes expected to act as if they are living in the Middle Ages? Are they too immature to be held responsible for their actions? To answer these questions all one has to do is imagine the reaction in Israel and abroad had Suha Arafat's words been uttered by, say, Joerg Haider or Pat Buchanan.