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Bursting the Fourth Estate By: Alyssa A. Lappen
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, April 29, 2003


Leave it to Thomas Friedman to declare that with war in Iraq, Americans have burst "a stock market bubble, a corporate ethics bubble and a terrorism bubble."

He forgets the most important bubble.

In the The New York Times last week, Eason Jordan revealed that in Iraq, CNN committed serial lying. No price was too high to protect corporate interests and stay in Baghdad, not even dealing with the devil. Thus, rather than close CNN’s bureau or risk his reporters’ lives, Jordan was mum on Hussein’s plans to commit several assassinations. He traded others’ murders to protect his own and lied to the public.

For several decades, most media outlets in the Middle East have apparently placed public interests last on the list of parties due their protection. Responding to the universal outcry over Jordan’s professional conduct, former Middle East correspondent Ethan Bronner explains that getting a visa to Iran, Syria, Sudan or Libya is "monumentally frustrating." Some countries ask whether reporters have "ever visited ‘Occupied Palestine,’ meaning Israel." They assign minders, and suppress dissent. But Bronner only indicts Jordan and the general press: As a block, Arab nations apply huge pressure on journalists to toe their anti-Israel line, and the press willingly submits to their rules.

For the record, ladies and gentlemen, the U.S. Constitution protects the Fourth Estate to serve the public trust. An incompletely or improperly informed public cannot maintain democracy or reasonable policies for long.

Journalists like myself have watched the Western press corps in the Middle East with growing alarm. They excuse madmen, suppress news--and mildly term terrorists "activists" and "militants." Reuters, AP and every other major news organization: guilty as charged.

Few if any major Western news outlets have yet accurately reflected the number of attacks that Israel has sustained or averted since Arafat planned his terrorist war in July 2000. In fact, few if any major mainstream media have yet reported that this war was planned during the Camp David II talks.

Just how bad is the news blackout? In the first few days of Passover this spring, Israel’s Defense Force prevented 10 suicide terror attacks and acted on another 63 credible reports of planned terror. Outside Jerusalem, where has that terror been reported?

The mainstream press, remarkably, also neglects to compare the nature of Israeli and Palestinian deaths. From 1993 to September 2000, terrorists murdered 256. Afterwards, they murdered 776 and maimed 5,248 Israelis in more than 17,000 attacks (not including stone-throwing, which not-so-harmlessly has also killed.)

These were mostly civilians, of course, but mainstream media endlessly compare the raw number of Palestinians killed to the number of Israeli deaths since 2000--omitting attacks and murders committed from 1993 to 2000, of course. Consequently, the analysis needed to honestly interpret events never appears: Relatively fewer Israeli casualties don’t render Israel the aggressor. Consider graphs 2.9 and 2.10 in "An Engineered Strategy." Nearly 70% of Israeli fatalities were noncombatants. Some 55% of Palestinian fatalities (probably more) were combatants.

Underlying this war are the goals clearly outlined by every major Palestinian organization, including Arafat’s PLO, Fateh military wing and Hamas. But mainstream media apparently consider their genocidal intentions unimportant. They never report them either.

Reporters also obscure their uniformity of purpose with false "humanitarian" portraits of terror groups. Take the February New York Times piece in which James Bennet claimed that Aksa Martyrs Brigades won’t meet Palestinian Authority or Hamas members, and more ridiculously, that some so-called "fighters" really care about their Israeli victims. Did he ask why, then, they continue to attack? No. He never challenged these "fighters." He reported their comments verbatim, without criticism or question. This amounts to taking dangerous notes in a dangerous place, providing readers with zero value.

Major wire services are just as bad. They present organizations like the International Solidarity Movement as "peace activists." But three of ISM’s "activists" were hurt in the last month working by, for and with terrorists. There’s something especially sinister in mainstream reporters who don’t investigate "peace activists" that coincidentally carry guns, shield assailants or hide Kalishnikovs.

Readers can’t govern language. Editors incredibly seem to think they can’t govern language either. Just after Palestinians began the current war, former Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld claimed in an email to me that the paper could not "weigh each day's report for the impression it leaves." Reporters and editors tried "to be chroniclers of fact." But large volumes of relevant facts--which would explain Israel’s position at least as sympathetically as that of Palestinians--never make the news.

Yasser Arafat runs this terrorist war on many fronts. One is a public relations front. The assailants’ objective is to appear as victims. Arafat’s forces are clearly losing the ground war. But Palestinians are winning in the press, no credit to pressmen whose job is to challenge all accounts of everything, not only to challenge Israelis. In The High Cost of Peace, Yossef Bodansky reports, Arafat’s envoys learned how to manipulate them from North Vietnam in the early 1970s.

On Moscow’s advice, Arafat sent to Hanoi a diplomatic delegation headed by Black September architect Salah Khalaf (aka Abu Iyad)--who led the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. A Politburo team including General Vo Nguyen Giap advised him that North Vietnam had successfully manipulated the Western media to defeat the U.S. war with the Vietcong. In Palestinian without a Motherland, Abu Iyad related the North Vietnamese advice: Repackage the PLO’s message to appear "flexible and moderate," without changing its substance.

Consequently, the PLO adopted its Phased Plan in Cairo on June 19, 1974. It therein recommitted to the ultimate objective--"the establishment of a unified democratic state in the entire Palestine"--but agreed to make near-term sacrifices to gain a PR advantage. But its seeming subsequent agreement to divide Israel into two independent states was mere subterfuge. The PLO never relinquished its primary goal, which even now, as the Fateh Constitution insists, is "Complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence." A fact the mainstream press never reports.

The Western press has enacted its expected role overly well. Should the public expect, for example, substantive reports on the rabid diet of hatred fed to Palestinian children or to the faithful in PA mosques? Why no. Hate propaganda, engineered to grease the long-term war, goes unreported. Responding to this point in October 2000, New York Times desk editor Bill Borders claimed such hatred is "not pivotal," an apparently universal view, judging from general news silence on this subject. Except in opinion pages, American newspapers don’t mention the incessant, lethally effective institutions or content fueling Palestinian terrorists. In Europe, even opinion columnists don’t mention it.

Should reporters dig to determine who funds the Palestinian war? Forget it, although that data too is easy to find. Shouldn’t news agencies report these basic facts? Let’s return to Mr. Friedman. As Jeff Jacoby reminded us recently in The Boston Globe, he was one of the originators of the deception.

In 1989, From Beirut to Jerusalem described reporting in Beirut when Yasser Arafat's terrorist PLO and Syrian Palestinian loyalists dominated. A "major reporting constraint" then faced journalists: "physical intimidation." Arafat's henchmen summoned Friedman to a meeting. He worried all night that someone would break into his room and splatter his brains on the wall. With good reason: Syrian agents had already pumped a bullet into one journalist’s head and symbolically mutilated his right (writing) hand.

Friedman claimed no "major breaking" news story was suppressed.

Yet shamefully, "There were . . . stories which were deliberately ignored out of fear. Here I will be the first to say ‘mea culpa’." Virtually no reporting emerged from Beirut "about the well-known corruption in the PLO leadership…." In fact, "the Western press coddled the PLO. . . For any Beirut-based correspondent, the name of the game was keeping on good terms with the PLO…."

Which is how The New York Times and most other major media outlets seemingly continue to work in the Middle East.

The hardest task in reporting comes in challenging subjects hardest to challenge. That needs research. It requires contrasting a man’s current claims with his past behavior and words--and printing the discrepancies.

Despite relentless terrorism, however, reporters continue suck up to its perpetrators and neglect even the most elementary comparisons. They regularly slam Israel for fighting murderers. It’s easy, after all. "Israel is a democracy," explained one TV news executive whom I questioned last year on the general failure to report Sudanese slavery and other Arab atrocities.

In short, the media rewards terrorists, whose bubble Friedman now admits "has come to threaten open societies and all they value." Yet Friedman concludes, "We are all now in a post-bubble world."

Not quite. Before we arrive, a fourth bubble must burst--the Fourth Estate Bubble. The world will be a hell of a lot safer when it does.


Alyssa A. Lappen is a former Senior Fellow of the American Center for Democracy, former Senior Editor of Institutional Investor, Working Woman and Corporate Finance, and former Associate Editor of Forbes. Her website is www.AlyssaaLappen.org.





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