Occupied by Arab Rage


What do President Bush’s endorsement of the Sharon Plan and ongoing Israeli strikes against Hamas leaders mean for Palestinians? The answer is complex, but media outlets are focusing overwhelmingly on one factor alone ? raw Arab rage. This week, accompanying pictures of angry Palestinians, were ubiquitous headlines such as:

Reuters: ‘Furious Palestinians Reject Bush Pledges’
The Scotsman: ‘Hamas Vows Bloody Revenge
Arizona Daily Star: ‘Arab World Seething over U.S.’
BBC: ‘…Wounded, Humiliated, Threatened

The subtext in these reports is that Palestinian/Arab emotions are of utmost significance, and that this Arab fury will likely result in a backlash of terrorism.

Sometimes this is explicitly stated ? the Washington Post rationalized a Palestinian rocket attack against Israeli civilians on Wednesday (Apr. 21) as motivated by ‘Palestinian rage against Israel and the United States [that] has escalated since the assassination of Rantisi and President Bush’s endorsement three days earlier of an Israeli plan.’ The Toronto Star editorialized that by killing terror leaders, Sharon is ‘more likely to radicalize people, set Arabs against America and Israel, and cost Israel more lives.’

But while the media are obsessed with Arab emotion, an entirely rational process has been taking place on the Arab street:

? The IDF anti-terror policy is working: Israel’s stepped-up campaign against terrorist leaders since early 2003 has resulted in a 50-percent decrease in the number of Israeli terror victims. Palestinian deaths have likewise decreased significantly.

? Terror groups are in disarray, their leaders in hiding: Senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh told a reporter this week, ‘Hamas might have a crisis on its hands after losing its leaders.’ Another terror leader said people are ‘unaware of the limitations and amount of pressure imposed against the Palestinian combatants.’ And as opposed to Rantisi‘s bravado (“I prefer to die by Apache”), Hamas’ new leader is afraid to reveal his identity or location.

? Palestinian leaders are getting the message: Yassir Arafat today expelled 21 Fatah fugitives from safe haven in his compound. And after the Yassin strike, 60 Palestinian leaders urged restraint in a prominent newspaper ad, arguing that the suicide bombings have backfired and calling for ‘a peaceful, wise intifada.’

It seems that the stereotype of Arabs as ‘rash’ and ’emotional’ ? as opposed to ‘calculating’ and ‘rational’ Westerners ? is coloring media coverage of this conflict. This is a variation on the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ that excuses the lack of Palestinian democracy by presuming Palestinians are incapable of reform.

In fact, there are plenty of indications that Palestinians and their leaders are thinking with their heads, not only their hearts. Daniel Pipes notes:

Mr. Sharon’s tough policies have established that terrorism damages Palestinian interests even more than it does Israeli ones. This has led some analysts deeply hostile to Israel to recognize that the “second intifada” was a grievous error. Violence “just went haywire,” says Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al-Quds University. An “unmitigated disaster,” journalist Graham Usher calls it. A “crime against the Palestinian people,” adds an Arab diplomat.

Ordinary Palestinians, too, are drawing the salutary conclusion that murdering Israelis brings them no benefits. “We wasted three years for nothing, this uprising didn’t accomplish anything,” says Mahar Tarhir, 25, an aluminum-store owner.

Moreover, the over-emphasis on Arab anger deters essential anti-terror efforts. An analysis by Craig Weiss in the Arizona Republic states:

The accepted worldview is that when fighting terror, one must avoid actions that are liable to enrage the Arab world, however effective and justified those actions might otherwise be. Under this principle, however, Muslim extremists have veto power over any effective counterterrorism policy.

To summarize, while it is accurate for news outlets to report on Palestinian anger, other concurrent trends are integral to this story, yet rarely covered ? Israel’s effectiveness in disabling terrorist groups and the growing Palestinian realization that three and half years of terror has been futile. HonestReporting encourages subscribers to contact local editors, requesting they include all aspects of this important issue.


Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.