When was the last time you saw Khaled Abu Toameh interviewed on BBC or CNN?

January 04, 2006

* Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh: “Three years ago I began writing daily for The Jerusalem Post. The irony is that, as an Arab Muslim, I feel freer to write for this Jewish paper than I do for any Arab newspaper. I have no problem writing for any Arab newspaper if it will provide me with a free platform and not censor my writing. My editors at The Jerusalem Post do not interfere with my writing.”

 


CONTENTS

1. Khaled Abu Toameh: How the western media coddled up to Arafat
2. “Jewish occupation was better than the Palestinian Authority”
3. Under Abu Mazen, the Palestinian media “represents the official line all the time”
4. “As long as there is no rule of law, you can’t have democracy”
5. “Arab regime” mentality
6. Kate Burton and the Stockholm syndrome
7. “Kafka’s Britain” (By Melanie Phillips, Jan. 2, 2006)
8. “The continuing struggle of Palestinian journalists for freedom of the press in the Palestinian Authority” (By Khaled Abu Toameh, Jan. 2, 2006)



[Notes below by Tom Gross]

KHALED ABU TOAMEH: HOW THE WESTERN MEDIA CODDLED UP TO ARAFAT

Khaled Abu Toameh, a Muslim Palestinian journalist born in Tulkarem in the West Bank, is currently “Palestinian affairs correspondent” for the Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post. Before that he wrote for fourteen years for “Kol Yerushalayim” a local Jerusalem newspaper owned by Yediot Ahronot, and he has also worked for NBC News and produced documentaries for German and Australian TV. Attached below is a transcript of a talk Abu Toameh (who is also a subscriber to this email list) gave at The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs last month.

Abu Toameh says: “The first thing the PLO did when they arrived [in Gaza in 1994 at the invitation of the Israeli left, the Clinton administration and the EU] was to order an immediate crackdown, not on Hamas or Islamic Jihad but on the Palestinian media. The result was that many local Palestinian journalists – including those who were working with Reuters, AP, those who had independent press offices – had their offices torched. Some of them were arrested, some were beaten, some had their equipment confiscated.”

 

“JEWISH OCCUPATION WAS BETTER THAN THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY”

Until now, Abu Toameh says, “many of my foreign colleagues have tended to ignore the voice of the [Palestinian] man in the street. It is not enough to interview this or that official. To understand what the Palestinians are really thinking, you need to sit in the cafes. There were days when I would go to Nablus, for example, and I would hear Palestinians telling me, ‘You know what? We really hope the Jews will come back and reoccupy Nablus. It’s not because we love Israel, but because we’re fed-up with the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian corruption.’”

He adds: “The foreign media did not pay enough attention to stories about corruption in the Palestinian areas, or to stories about abuse of human rights, to all that was really happening under the Palestinian Authority. They did not want to pay attention to the growing frustration on the Palestinian street as a result of mismanagement, as a result of the abuse of power, as a result of monopolizing of power by the PLO.”

Previous dispatches which also deal with this subject, which you may wish to read on the website archive, include

(1): AFP, AP, CNN: Where the reporting stops (Jan. 24, 2005). This dispatch provides examples of Palestinian reporters working for two of the largest wire services – Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Associated Press (AP) – who have also received paychecks from the Palestinian Authority, thereby raising serious questions as to their impartiality.

(2) How Arafat intimidates Palestinian journalists and deludes Western ones (June 11, 2004), which included an article by Abu Toameh on “Telling the truth about the Palestinians.” In that dispatch I raised a question which is still relevant today: when was the last time you saw Khaled Abu Toameh invited for interview on BBC or CNN?

 

UNDER ABU MAZEN, THE PALESTINIAN MEDIA “REPRESENTS THE OFFICIAL LINE ALL THE TIME”

Abu Toameh reports that little has changed within the Palestinian Authority since Mahmoud Abbas (known widely by his nom de guerre Abu Mazen) assumed power in 2004. The Palestinian media “represents the official line all the time.”

“In the three major newspapers you used to see Yasser Arafat’s picture on the front page and now you see Abu Mazen’s, but you don’t see a change in the content. You don’t feel that the Palestinian journalists are really free to write what they want…

“Under Abu Mazen there is a written order issued by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate that forbids Palestinian journalists from reporting on internal clashes. Under Abu Mazen there is a written directive that says cameramen are not allowed to take pictures of masked gunmen marching with their guns in the streets…

“A hundred and fifty gunmen can surround a house and snatch a general from his home in his pajamas and shoot him [dead] in the street just outside Abu Mazen’s office, and no one saw anything and there is not even one eyewitness.”

(For more on the case cited above by Abu Toameh, please see the dispatch Muslims ransack Christian village in West Bank (& Arafat cousin killed in street), Sept. 9, 2005.)

 

“AS LONG AS THERE IS NO RULE OF LAW, YOU CAN’T HAVE DEMOCRACY”

Abu Toameh saves some of his harshest words for Abbas: “Abu Mazen ran on a platform that clearly said: ‘I am going to fight corruption, anarchy, and lawlessness.’ One year later, the situation has not changed.”

He concludes by saying: “The Palestinians in general are a people who want freedom and democracy. They have been exposed both to the Israeli democratic system and to the Western democratic system. Democracy might happen, but not in the near future. As long as you have armed gangs in the streets and as long as the Palestinian security forces are not real security forces and as long as there is no rule of law, you can’t have democracy.”

For more on Abu Mazen, please see the dispatch Yasser Abbas (December 22, 2005).

 

“ARAB REGIME” MENTALITY

While the official Palestinian and Arab media continue to broadcast and print a diet of lies, many influencing gullible western correspondents, some individual journalists and bloggers are questioning conventional wisdom. This, for example, comes from an Egyptian blogger on Dec. 29:

“The Holocaust contradictions

Zainab Al Suwaij wrote an excellent article called “Accepting contradictions as a means of survival” about how Muslims and Arabs cope with the world. The best contradiction in beliefs, and also the most classic one, is the way the Arabs talk about the Holocaust. If you live in an Arab country, you know you heard those 3 statements before and sometimes from the same person:

1) The Holocaust never happened.
2) Hitler is a great man for killing the Jews.
3) Sharon is as bad as Hitler.

You figure out how someone can have those 3 statements in their heads and feel utterly comfortable with believing them despite their glaring contradictions, and you will figure out how the mind of the average conspiracy-theory-obsessed Jew-hating Arab works.

Confused? Can’t find a way to make those 3 statements work together or exist in the same reality? Imagine how I feel!”

 

KATE BURTON AND THE STOCKHOLM SYNDROME

Khaled Abu Toameh describes Gaza today as “controlled by armed militias. The Palestinian Authority pays the salaries, but the gunmen control the streets. You don’t know who’s hiding behind the mask in Gaza.”

Examples this week include the burning down of the UN club in Gaza on New Year’s Day, the kidnapping of British political activist Kate Burton and her parents, and the kidnapping of an Italian working for the European parliament.

Following her release, Burton told the British media about how “kind” the kidnappers were and how one of the (heavily armed, masked) Palestinian kidnappers had a “sensitive side”.

Burton has been described by international media as a “human rights activist” even though the group she works for takes extremist positions and cares nothing for Israeli humans targeted by suicide bombers. It comes as little surprise that Burton is a recent graduate of SOAS, the premier UK school of Middle East studies. As pointed out previously on this list, SOAS has become a den of anti-Jewish and anti-Western prejudice that the authorities at London University (of which SOAS is a part) have done nothing to stop.

For more on SOAS, please see the dispatch An evening to celebrate the life of Yasser Arafat: Dec 7, 2004 (& SOAS) (Nov. 29, 2004).

Attached below is a summary of an article by British journalist Melanie Phillips on her website. She draws attention to “these liberal, tolerant, well-educated, well-spoken, well-mannered, internationalist-minded folk… (who) side with people who happen to have a murderous hatred of Israel and the Jews.”

-- Tom Gross



MELANIE PHILLIPS ON KATE BURTON

Kafka’s Britain (summary only)
By Melanie Phillips
January 2, 2006

www.melaniephillips.com/diary/archives/001528.html

The British press carries reports today of the fury and exasperation of British officials who rescued Kate Burton and her parents from their Palestinian kidnappers only to find that she refused to co-operate with them and would not be debriefed, thus potentially putting other innocent people in danger from similar activities. The Daily Mail reports that she astonished officials by refusing to answer questions…

Her attitude is not surprising. It has been suggested that she is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, the term used to describe the unaccountable sympathy felt by the victim of a kidnapping for the kidnappers. In this case, however, the kidnap victim’s unaccountable sympathy with manipulative violence predated the kidnapping. With their customary cirumlocution and moral obfuscation, the British media have described al Mezan, the organisation Burton worked for in Gaza, as a ‘human rights’ charity’. It would be more accurate to describe it as a ‘human wrongs’ charity.

Its website reveals that it promulgates the usual vile libels and distortions, presenting Israel – the victim of Palestinian violence – as the aggressor and oppressor in terms guaranteed to incite hatred and violence against it. Thus it accuses Israel of killing Palestinian children, making no mention of the use by Palestinians of their own children as human bombs or human shields, pushed into harm’s way to blackmail Israel into paralysis or, worse still, to milk any subsequent casualties to provoke the outrage of people like Burton. It makes no mention, of course, of the Palestinians’ incitement of their children to mass murder, the hate-filled textbooks which teach them to detest Jews, or the pride of their parents when they are turned into human bombs. The abuse by Palestinians of their own children is of course the real abuse of human rights going on in Gaza and the West Bank…

Having signed up to such mind-twisting moral inversion, it is not surprising that Burton appears unable to view her kidnappers as evil people. On the contrary, her family talks of the pleasant way they treated the Burtons in captivity, their charm and so forth.

From what has been published, the Burton family appears to furnish a perfect example of the truly shattering nature of Britain’s twisted mindset. For this is a nice family: decent, idealistic, given to Christian charitable good works…

…The moment you meet one of these liberal, tolerant, well-educated, well-spoken, well-mannered, internationalist-minded folk for whom the third world is a synonym for global injustice, you know that they are going to despise or hate Israel and bestow their compassion on the promoters of genocide. One constantly meets such people who have compassion for the vulnerable and want to do good in the world: pillars of the community, admirable and delightful in every way – except that they side with people who happen to have a murderous hatred of Israel and the Jews.

 

“I FEEL FREER TO WRITE FOR THIS JEWISH PAPER THAN I DO FOR ANY ARAB NEWSPAPER”

The Continuing Struggle of Palestinian Journalists for Freedom of the Press in the Palestinian Authority
By Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Jerusalem Issue Brief
January 2, 2006

www.jcpa.org/brief/brief005-14.htm

* When Arafat arrived in Gaza in 1994, there was a lot of hope that now the Palestinians would have a free media. However, the first thing the PLO did was to order an immediate crackdown on the Palestinian media. Many local journalists had their offices torched. Some were arrested, beaten, or had their equipment confiscated.

* Those who came with Arafat from Tunis came with what can be called an “Arab regime” mentality, the mentality of Gamal Abdul Nasser, the mentality of Arab dictatorships. They wanted to make sure that the Palestinian media was 100 percent under control. They secured control by appointing editors, by closing down newspapers, and by funding competing newspapers.

* What is the difference between the young guard and the old guard? Abu Mazen believes in the political track, that the only way to achieve something is through negotiations. The young guard believes there should be a two-track policy: negotiations and “resistance.” The young guard is not prepared to give up the military option. So a victory for the young guard is not necessarily a victory for moderate voices.

* The Palestinians in general are a people who want freedom and democracy. They have been exposed both to the Israeli democratic system and to the Western democratic system. Democracy might happen, but not in the near future. As long as you have armed gangs in the streets and as long as the Palestinian security forces are not real security forces and as long as there is no rule of law, you can’t have democracy.

Three years ago I began writing a daily report for the Jerusalem Post. The irony is that, as an Arab Muslim, I feel freer to write for this Jewish paper than I do for any Arab newspaper. I have no problem writing for any Arab newspaper if it will provide me with a free platform and not censor my writing. My editors at the Jerusalem Post do not interfere with my writing.

When Arafat arrived in Gaza in 1994, there was a lot of hope that now Palestinians would have a free media like the Jews have. Unfortunately, the first thing the PLO did when they arrived was to order an immediate crackdown, not on Hamas or Islamic Jihad but on the Palestinian media. The result was that many local Palestinian journalists – including those who were working with Reuters, AP, those who had independent press offices – had their offices torched. Some of them were arrested, some were beaten, some had their equipment confiscated. It was even sadder to see how the foreign media did not really cover the story.

The “Arab Regime” Mentality of the PLO Media

Why was there a crackdown? Because those who came with Arafat from Tunis came with a different mentality. They did not live here. Most of them had never spoken to an Israeli Jew in their lives. As such, they came with what could be called an “Arab regime” mentality, the mentality of Gamal Abdul Nasser, the mentality of Arab dictatorships. They wanted to make sure that the Palestinian media was 100 percent under control. They secured control by appointing editors, by closing down newspapers, and by funding competing newspapers.

Jibril Rajoub, for example, ordered a crackdown on the pro-Jordanian An-Nahar newspaper in Jerusalem and closed it down. Another newspaper, edited by the Khatib family, which had been operating with an Israeli license between 1967 and 1994, had its offices burnt down, and the publisher fled to London.

Today there are three major Palestinian newspapers: Al-Quds, which is privately owned, and Al-Hayam and Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, which are funded by the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians also have an official TV station, which for many years was no different from the rest of the media under Arab dictatorships, a media that represents the official line all the time.

Palestinians are sick and tired of turning on Palestinian TV and watching what their president did and what their prime minister did that day. They open a Palestinian newspaper to find a major story on the front page about how “his excellency the president, may God protect him and prolong his life, today received a cable of support from the deputy chairman of the students’ union in the southern province of Sudan.” This can’t really be a major story.

In 1995, under Arafat, AFP sent a photographer out into the streets of Gaza to take a picture of ordinary life, and he came back with a picture of children playing with a donkey on the beach. When the picture was published, the photographer was arrested the same day and beaten up. PA officials told him: “Are you trying to represent us as a donkey?” In another incident, an editor was arrested for failing to publish a story about Arafat on page one.

There have been some positive changes towards a freer Palestinian media because there are many good and professional journalists out there. Not all Palestinian journalists see themselves as foot soldiers serving the revolution or the leadership. In fact, most of the journalists I know have no role in the Arab media, but instead work in the foreign media.

Reporting from the Palestinian Street

Many of my foreign colleagues have tended to ignore the voice of the man in the street, but it is not enough to interview this or that official. To understand what the Palestinians are really thinking, you need to sit in the cafes. There were days when I would go to Nablus, for example, and I would hear Palestinians telling me, “You know what? We really hope the Jews will come back and reoccupy Nablus. It’s not because we love Israel, but because we’re fed-up with the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian corruption.”

The foreign media did not pay enough attention to stories about corruption in the Palestinian areas, or to stories about abuse of human rights, to all that was really happening under the Palestinian Authority. They did not want to pay attention to the growing frustration on the Palestinian street as a result of mismanagement, as a result of the abuse of power, as a result of monopolizing of power by the PLO.

An Intifada Against the Palestinian Authority?

The intifada that began in September 2000 did not break out because there was a real threat to the Al-Aksa mosque. This intifada was supposed to be directed first and foremost toward the Palestinian Authority, and that’s where things were heading. If you look at the weeks before the intifada, for the first time we were beginning to see signs of mutiny. Palestinians began attacking Palestinian Authority security installations in Nablus, Ramallah, Tulkarm, and Jenin. For the first time you would see Palestinians talking on TV about corruption in the Palestinian Authority. So I think Arafat began to feel the heat under his feet and saw an opportunity to divert all this frustration and anger toward someone else.

When President Bush announced his boycott of Arafat in 2001, suddenly you saw more and more Palestinians speaking out. Suddenly the talk about corruption was no longer taboo and suddenly demands for reforms and democracy and a free media were everywhere.

The PA Media Under Abu Mazen

Have things now changed with regard to the media under a Palestinian Authority led by Abu Mazen? Unfortunately, no. In the three major newspapers you used to see Yasser Arafat’s picture on the front page and now you see Abu Mazen’s, but you don’t see a change in the content. You don’t feel that the Palestinian journalists are really free to write what they want.

Many Palestinians hope for better times, but I don’t see real changes. In fact, I see very worrying signs. Under Abu Mazen there was a written order issued by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate that forbids Palestinian journalists from reporting on internal clashes. Under Abu Mazen there is a written directive that says cameramen are not allowed to take pictures of masked gunmen marching with their guns in the streets.

Law and Order in Gaza

Gaza today is controlled by armed militias. The Palestinian Authority pays the salaries, but the gunmen control the streets. You don’t know who’s hiding behind the mask in Gaza. A hundred and fifty gunmen can surround a house and snatch a general from his home in his pajamas and shoot him in the street just outside Abu Mazen’s office, and no one saw anything and there is not even one eyewitness. It’s a very dangerous situation. Abu Mazen has not done anything – and I don’t even think he can – to stop this phenomenon. Almost every second person in Gaza has a gun, and this has created a very frightening situation.

The worsening chaos and lawlessness also prevents potential investors from putting their money into Gaza. Palestinian businessmen abroad will not put money into an area where there is no rule of law. In my view, this is the number one issue on the Palestinian agenda these days. Abu Mazen ran on a platform that clearly said: “I am going to fight corruption, anarchy, and lawlessness.” One year later, the situation has not changed.

Young Guard vs. Old Guard

Abu Mazen can no longer ignore the young guard who are now openly challenging him, but what is the difference between the young guard and the old guard? What is the difference between Barghouti and Abu Mazen? Abu Mazen believes in the political track, that the only way to achieve something is through negotiations. The young guard believes there should be a two-track policy: negotiations and “resistance,” or what Israelis call “terrorism.” The young guard is not prepared to give up the military option. So a victory for the young guard is not necessarily a victory for moderate voices. Who won the Fatah primaries in Nablus and Jenin? The commanders of the Aksa Martyrs Brigade, the guys who are carrying the weapons.

The young guard is rushing to take over. Many members of the old guard are leaving the country, moving to Arab states, because they are afraid of the young guard. Abu Mazen is sending signals of weakness. His policy is based on trying to appease everyone – Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah, the old guard, the young guard, Israel, America, the Arab states – and that’s impossible. It’s not going to work.

Fatah and the Palestinian security forces are first and foremost responsible for the anarchy and lawlessness. The Palestinian security forces were never real security forces; they were, and some of them still are, functioning as private militias. According to figures released by the Palestinian Interior Ministry, Fatah and the Palestinian security forces were involved in most of the incidents of violence in the Gaza Strip in the first nine months of 2005.

I believe that the Palestinians in general are a people who want democracy. The Palestinians are among the most educated in the Arab world and they have been exposed both to the Israeli democratic system and to the Western democratic system. Unlike many of the Arab countries, there is an open debate today in Palestinian society. I believe democracy might happen, but not in the near future. As long as you have armed gangs in the streets and as long as the Palestinian security forces are not real security forces and as long as there is no rule of law, you can’t have democracy.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.