Mideast Media Myths

With today’s proliferation of media — ranging from the Internet to TV to cable and satellite, to magazines and newspapers — political pundits abound. And with it, media myths can take on a life of their own. HonestReporting has identified 4 current myths that badly need to be dispelled:

(1) The Iraq Myth
(2) The Intifada Myth
(3) The Popularity Myth
(4) The Reformation Myth

HonestReporting encourages members to monitor your local media to see how they are reporting these issues.

===== (1) THE IRAQ MYTH =====

Jonah Goldberg, writing in the National Review (“Same Old, Tiresome Arguments of War” – October 1), dispels the myth that the U.S. has to solve the Israel-Palestine problem before dealing with Iraq. Goldberg writes:

“It has been the nigh-upon-universal consensus in ‘enlightened’ European, Arab, and most American quarters that the top priority in the Middle East must be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Everyone from Kofi Annan to Bill Clinton to the entire Arab League has said that an invasion of Iraq should not even be considered until a solution to the Palestinian problem is achieved first. Some people, no doubt, sincerely believe this. But others, Saddam Hussein for example, subscribe to this view only because if a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a necessary precondition for any invasion of Iraq, Saddam can make sure that Iraq is never invaded.

“Say I told you that you could keep your lucrative job so long as the Hatfields and McCoys continued their feud, but that the moment that feud was over you could lose your job, go to jail, or be executed. Don’t you think you might leave a few burning bags of dog poop on the McCoys doorstep with a forged note from the Hatfields? Don’t you think you might keep whispering in the Hatfields’ ears that the McCoys put laxative in your apple brown betty? In other words, wouldn’t you have a keen interest in keeping the Hatfield-McCoy feud going as long as possible?

“Saddam bumped up the murder bonus for suicide bombers precisely for these reasons. Other Middle East states fund Hezbollah and Hamas for similar reasons, as countless experts have noted. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a means for Arab leaders to focus attention away from their own governments. Iraq foments trouble in Israel to keep the U.S. from toppling its government. But Iran and even Egypt foment trouble with Israel in order to keep their own “streets” from toppling their own governments.”

Read Goldberg’s entire article at:
http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg100102.asp

===== (2) THE INTIFADA MYTH =====

Who funds the Palestinian violence? Important background information comes from a CBS 60 Minutes segment, “The Arafat Papers” (September 29), as Lesley Stahl reports a startling expose of a Palestinian alliance with axis-of-evil states Iran and Iraq:

“Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, when the Israelis surrounded Yasser Arafat’s compound in Ramallah earlier this year to dismantle the Palestinian Authority and confiscate weapons, they also sent in intelligence collection teams to scoop up top secret files. What they were looking for was proof of Arafat’s personal involvement in terrorism, but that was the least of what they found. What they found, they told us, was a paper trail of terror leading from both Iran and Iraq.

“The Israelis claim that they now have proof that the supposedly homegrown Palestinian uprising, known as the intifada, is neither an uprising, nor homegrown. It is, they claim, violence planned, funded, and directed largely from Iran and Iraq, and they showed us some of the documents they’d seized to make their case…

“Israelis have caught and interrogated members of a Palestinian terrorist cell, who admit they were trained in Iraq by Iraqis this past June. Something else the Israelis say they discovered in the Arafat documents: that Saddam Hussein has been using the Palestinian Authority as a middle man in his illegal selling of oil.”

Program summary at:
http://cbsnews.com/stories/2002/09/27/60minutes/main523604.shtml

Comments to:
LesleyStahl@cbsnews.com

===== (3) THE POPULARITY MYTH =====

Various media outlets are reporting an upsurge in Arafat’s popularity, following the IDF siege of his compound in Ramallah.

HonestReporting recalls that the media reported a similar “popularity surge” in May during the previous siege. Yet the reality proved quite different when Arafat left his compound and had to cancel a scheduled appearance in Jenin — because the Palestinian street was so violently anti-Arafat.

To dispel the myth of Arafat’s popularity, William Safire writes in The New York Times:

“Demonstrators can always be turned out for cameras, but the majority is no mindless mob; most suffering Palestinians are well aware that corrupt Arafat’s fear of asserting authority over Hamas is no route to independence or a return to work.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/23/opinion/23SAFI.html

Indeed, the Jerusalem Post reports that many Palestinians in Ramallah are fed up with Arafat. One Palestinian man is quoted: “Since last April, our lives have become a nightmare. We are exhausted and we want this to finish one way or another.” And a Palestinian woman says: “This used to be a quiet and peaceful city. Look what Arafat and his people have done. They have turned Ramallah into West Beirut.”

===== (4) THE REFORMATION MYTH ====

Some media outlets are trying to claim that Israeli security actions inhibit Arafat’s ability to implement the reforms demanded by President Bush. But Paul Adams of the Toronto Globe and Mail reports that many in Arafat’s own cabinet doubt he can enforce reforms:

“It’s close to impossible with Arafat as leader,” said an aide to security minister Abdel Razak Yehiyeh, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He complained that Mr. Yehiyeh’s efforts to streamline the Palestinian armed forces and denounce the violence against Israeli citizens had been “undercut at every turn” by the Palestinian leader.
http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/PEstory/TGAM/20021001/UPALSN/International/international/internationalAfricaHeadline_temp/2/2/5/

As for reigning in Hamas, the Palestinian Authority shares complicity for the terror campaign of Muhammad Deif, who Israel tried to knock off last week. For years, U.S. President Clinton had demanded that the PA arrest Deif; he was finally taken into Palestinian detention in May 2000, but was freed with hundreds of other terrorists when the PA launched its war in October 2000.

Indeed, the Jerusalem Post quotes top PA security offic
ial Muhammad Masri as saying that the Palestinian Authority has the strength but not the will to smash terrorist groups and their support networks in the Gaza Strip. Masri, the head of the Political Security Department at the Palestinian General Intelligence Service, said the long-awaited crackdown on Hamas promised by former PA interior minister Abdel Razek Yahya will likely never happen.

Said Masri: “Capabilities and principle are two different things. Besides ending the occupation, our major goal is not to be labeled collaborators,” said Masri.

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