Ahmed Bouzid is president of “Palestine Media Watch,” which, according to its mission statement, is “a grassroots organization that promotes fair and objective coverage by the U.S. media of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
Last month, Mr. Bouzid published an opinion piece called "Harsh words trample Palestinians' hopes” on Sunspot.net. (Since it's now archived, the direct link has expired, but here's another, from Bouzid's site itself.) It’s a collection of provocative anecdotes that, Bouzid implies, reflect the attitudes of Israelis and American Jews toward Palestinians. He wants to know what Palestinians should think, and I thought his questions required some answers.
So here are some of my thoughts, as one of the “supporters of Israel” he addresses at the end of his essay.
--Mr. Bouzid asks what Palestinians should think about an article that appeared in Yediot Achronot, a major Israeli newspaper, in which it was reported that Israeli schoolchildren send letters to soldiers in which they write things like “Please kill a lot of Arabs” and "I pray for you that you return home safely, and kill at least 10 for me."
Mr. Bouzid, they really shouldn’t be too shocked. When a country is at war to defend its very existence, some of its schoolchildren are bound to see the conflict in pretty simplistic terms, especially when their friends, classmates and relatives are getting shot at or blown to bits. Of course, you neglect to mention that the soldiers were so horrified by those particular letters that they took immediate action to alert the authorities. Would that be the reaction, do you suppose, of a Palestinian “freedom fighter” if he received a letter from a child asking him to “please kill lots of Jews?”
I notice, by the way, that you’ve posted what purports to be an English translation of the Yediot Achronot article on your website. Those who have read the original in Hebrew report that your “translation” is neither accurate nor complete. Tal G. and Stefan Sharkansky have pointed out some of your omissions and their implications. So Palestinians (and everyone else) should check out their analyses before they decide what to think about this issue.
--Mr. Bouzid asks what Palestianians should think about comments such as these by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Israel’s Shas party:
The Lord shall return the Arabs' deeds on their own heads, waste their seed and exterminate them, devastate them and banish them from this world. ... It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable.
They should think that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is one of many spiritual leaders in the Middle East who unwisely choose to use hate speech to make political points in their sermons. They should realize that, taken in context, Rabbi Yosef’s invective was directed solely toward Arabs who murder innocent people. And they should pay attention to the fact that the sermon was nevertheless condemned by Israeli government representatives across the political spectrum. If we’re anteing up incidents of hate speech by spiritual leaders, though, I’ll call your Ovadia Yosef and raise you a dozen imams or shaykhs any day.
--Mr. Bouzid asks what Palestinians should think about New York Times reporter Chris Hedges’ “Gaza Diary” in Harper’s magazine, wherein he claims that Israeli soldiers taunt Palestinian children and then “shoot them for sport.” He wonders why “no one else in the media is interested enough to investigate, let alone express outrage and indignation over the criminal practice.”
They should think that Chris Hedges, who has apparently decided to make a second career out of vilifying the Israeli Defense Forces, is a good listener and an even better storyteller. His tale is pretty gruesome. Too bad it doesn’t jibe with any other account of the incident. In fact, he relates two versions of the same story in his own account. Well, here’s CNN’s version:
The Palestine Red Crescent Society said an 11-year-old Palestinian child, Ali Abu Shaweesh, was killed by a live bullet in the chest fired by the Israeli army in Khan Yunis in Gaza, near a Jewish settlement.
The Israeli army said dozens of young Palestinian men had gathered in Gaza along the border fence that separates Khan Yunis from settlements in Gush Katif. The Palestinians threw stones and Molotov cocktails, damaging the fence, the army said.
In response, Israeli soldiers started shooting tear gas and, when that failed to disperse the crowd, fired at the legs of the participants and hit at least one Palestinian youngster, the army said.
In another incident, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy died overnight after Palestinian gunmen opened fire on Israeli soldiers. Palestinian sources said the boy may have been the victim of friendly fire, and the Israelis are not being blamed for that shooting.
Doesn’t exactly match Hedges’ description, does it? Oh, and did you notice, by any chance, that Media Watch International (whose mission statement sounds a lot like yours) awarded a “dishonorable mention” to Mr. Hedges for this particular diatribe, calling it uncorroborated, unverified “slander”? Hmmm. Maybe that’s why there’s been no investigation, outrage or indignation.
--Mr. Bouzid asks what Palestinians should think about Dick Armey’s recent interview on CNBC’s “Hardball,” in which he is quoted [out of context, naturally], as saying “I'm content to have Israel grab the entire West Bank."
They should think that Dick Armey is a little behind the times, because Israel already “grabbed” the entire West Bank back in 1967. Remember? Israel “grabbed” the West Bank from Jordan, as part of a military victory in a war that was supposed to end in Israel’s annihilation. Just as Jordan had “grabbed” it as part of a military defeat back in 1948 in another war that was supposed to end in Israel’s annihilation. So let’s be clear. The issue today isn’t about Israel “grabbing” the West Bank, it’s about whether Israel should hand over the West Bank to the people who said they wouldn’t accept a state there under any circumstances as long as it had a Jewish state for a neighbor. If Dick Armey has a problem with that, well, then Dick Armey is making sense, for a change.
--Mr. Bouzid asks:
What should Palestinians think when they read that one of America's most respected lawyers and a self-proclaimed defender of civil rights and human rights, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, proposed that in response to a terrorist attack on Israel, residents of an Arab village "would be given 24 hours to leave, and then troops will come in and bulldoze all of the buildings"?
They should think: Good hatchet job, Ahmed. We especially like the way you left out that it isn’t just any Arab village that Mr. Dershowitz suggests bulldozing, it’s a village “which has been used as a base for terrorist operations.” And they will probably also think you were clever to omit the detail that Mr. D. recommends this bulldozing only if the terrorist attack occurred after a 5-day moratorium during which Palestinians would have carte blanche to kill as many Jews as they can without retaliation! They shouldn’t think (but probably will): We’ll take the 5-day moratorium, Alan, but we’ll pass on the bulldozers, ‘cause it’s just not fair that we Palestinians should ever have to suffer any consequences for our own complicity in these horrific massacres of innocent men, women and children.
--Mr. Bouzid asks what Palestinians should think about this excerpt from an article by Nathan Lewin, a prominent Jewish lawyer and jurist, current vice president of the Othodox Union and a candidate for the federal bench: “If executing some suicide-bomber families saves the lives of even an equal number of potential civilian victims, the exchange is, I believe, ethically permissible.”
They should think that they've pushed some of us too far. They should think that we can only go on burying our dead, comforting our mourners and treating our wounded for so long before someone, somewhere, starts to advocate a more radical solution to this murderous rampage. They should know that every time one of their own blows himself up trying to kill a few more Jews or shoots a child asleep in her bed, he guarantees that a few more people will probably join the fringe that advocates such unthinkable responses. And they should consider this: a five year old girl gets blown to bits on her way to school, and the family of her executioner hands out candy. A woman loses both her infant daughter and her own mother in an explosion and the murderer’s family thanks Allah and throws a party. The family dances in the street. The family gives out joyful interviews about how proud they are and how many Jews they want to see crying and bleeding and dying. Tell me, Mr. Bouzid, what are Israelis supposed to think about that?
--Mr. Bouzid asks what Palestinians should think about reports that “tens of thousands of Jewish-Americans” attending the Israel Solidarity Rally in Washington D.C. booed U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary (and Israel supporter) Paul Wolfowitz “for simply suggesting that innocent Palestinians hurt in the current conflict also deserve some sympathy.”
They should think that maybe that wasn’t what those people came all that way to hear on that particular day. To put it in the eloquent words of Meryl Yourish, who was there:
It isn't just the way the "boos" were blown out of proportion, or the way they were taken so out of context, and made to look as if the crowd cared nothing for the death of innocents. What bothers me most is that the impression is wrong. American Jews care greatly that innocents--on both sides--are dying. But the rally was the Israel Solidarity Rally--not the Israeli and Innocent Palestinian Civilians Solidarity Rally. We went to Washington to make our points--not listen to theirs. We went to hear speakers talk of the innocent Israeli civilians who are dying--murdered by Palestinian "martyrs"--whose comrades hide in the midst of innocent Palestinian civilians.
--Mr. Bouzid asks what the Palestinians should think when U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is quoted as saying “Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you.”
They should think that maybe John Ashcroft has been reading their papers and listening to their imams again. Doesn’t he have anything better to do than eavesdrop on public Arab incitement?
--Mr. Bouzid asks what Palestinians should think about these comments by Israel's “most ‘dovish’ prime minister, Ehud Barak,” in his recent interview with Benny Morris:
They [the Palestinians] are the product of a culture in which to tell a lie ... creates no dissonance. They don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category. There is only that which serves your purpose and that which doesn't.
They should think that Barak actually gets it, even if he wasn’t exactly diplomatic in his choice of words. This quote has, of course, royally rankled many among the PC crowd (and, ok, even some among the not-so-PC), but there is certainly evidence to back up Ehud’s observations on this point. This could be an interesting topic for future discussion.
--Mr. Bouzid asks what Palestinians should think about the fact that the platform of Israel’s Likud party, of which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is a member, still “retains language that asserts that there should be ‘no Palestinian state west of the Jordan river’.”
Yes, and the Palestinian National Charter still (yes, still) retains language that asserts that there should be no Jewish state east of the Mediterranean coast. So what’s your point? What I’d like to know is why Palestinians have casually abandoned all claim to the 75% of “Palestine” (look it up) that’s east of the Jordan river, all of which is currently "occupied" by Hashemite Arabians with absolutely no historical or religious ties to the land who, incidentally, have consistently treated the Palestinian Arabs in their midst like dirt.
--Mr. Bouzid asks what Palestinians should think when President Bush calls Ariel Sharon “a man of peace.” Sharon, after all,
is the same man responsible for what Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called the "war crimes of Jenin" and the very man found by an Israeli court indirectly responsible for the massacre of more than 800 Palestinian civilians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in 1982.
They should try real hard to remember that the “war crimes of Jenin” story has been so discredited that it’s really not playing anywhere any more except at their local neighborhood pity parties. And they should also try to understand that the little word “indirectly” packs quite a punch when you read it in context. Try it some time.
--Finally, Mr. Bouzid asks:
Should Palestinians think that Israel and its supporters truly mean to co-exist with them, or should they suspect that their aim is to conquer and destroy them?
Why don’t they ask us? And most of us will tell them, truthfully, that once they’re ready to do us the great honor of acknowledging our right to exist, we’ll be more than happy to co-exist with them. Conquering and destroying isn’t our thing, you see, regardless of what you see and hear and read in the very fair and objective Arab media. Why don’t they try, just for once, co-existing with us. They would find us to be very willing partners if they did.
Note: This post has been updated to repair broken links.