- What Happened?
Here is the very first report about the event as carried
"(CNN) -- A visit by Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon
to the site known as the Temple Mount by Jews sparked a clash on Thursday between
stone-throwing Palestinians and Israeli troops, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets into
the crowd." [September 28, 2000 Web posted at: 9:28 a.m. EDT (1328 GMT)]
See how benign it is? Ariel Sharon is not the terrorist,
extremist, and the mastermind of Sabra and Shatilla massacres that he is, he is just a
respectable Israeli politician. And what did he do? He visited a site known as Temple
Mount. Not Al-Aqsa, not the third holiest site in Islam, not Haram Ash-Shareef. Temple
Mount. Above all, he just visited. He did not take any army of thousand plus soldiers and
entered a Muslim holy site. How can any reasonable person find fault with an Israeli
leader visiting a Jewish holy site? To him the protesters would appear to be unfair or
This was representative of things to come. Most media
reports did not use the name Al-Aqsa. The following statement from BBC was the most
generous: "Hundreds of people have been injured in the clashes, which began on
Thursday after a visit by the right-wing Israeli politician Ariel Sharon to the holy site
in Jerusalem which is revered by both Muslims and Jews." Thus the place was firmly
established as a Jewish site or, at most, as a Jewish site contested by Muslims as well.
Is it that these multi-million dollar media establishments
did not know the name Al-Aqsa or had no way of finding about it? If you believe that then
you might also believe that the British leaders who were laying the foundation of this
trouble in 1917 did not know that Muslims lived in Palestine. For, that is how that
infamous Balfour Declaration went: "His Majesty's Government views with favor the
establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their
best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood
that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of
non-Jewish communities in Palestine
". While the reference to the civil and
religious rights was just a window dressing, never meant to mean anything, it is important
to note that even here they were careful not to name Muslims, who are mentioned
anonymously as "non-Jewish populations." At that time Muslims were 92% of the
population of Palestine! Robbing their identity was the first step toward robbing their
land. And robbing the identity and history of Al-Aqsa is the propaganda machine's method
of paving the way for converting it into Temple Mount!
This treatment also implies that the Muslim and Jewish
claims are on equal footing. Little would their audiences realize that Al-Aqsa mosque has
been there for the last fourteen centuries. Or that the Jewish claim, based on ancient
history, is unprecedented in the history of land claims. For if the underlying principle
is accepted, then, long before this claim is addressed, Americans will have to vacate all
of their land and give it back to the children of local Indians from whom it was
Further it is important to remember that the entire Haram
complex is internationally recognized as an Islamic Waqf property. In 1930 during the
Al-Buraq Wall (now commonly mentioned as the Wailing Wall) riots, the British mandate
forces appointed a committee to investigate and decide the ownership of the wall. The
committee carried out several investigations resulting in the Islamic identity of the
Wall, which was considered as a part of the Islamic property "Awqaf", including
the pavement and Al Magharbeh area, as charitable possessions. It is this
internationally recognized Islamic Waqf property and the third holiest site in Islam (that
has been standing there for the past fourteen centuries), and not an obscure and
controversial site that was violated by Sharon and Israeli troops. Sharon had
desecrated Al-Aqsa, not visited Temple Mount!
- Previous Warning
A crucial fact related to Sharon's provocation
was that it had been previously announced and that Palestinian leaders had warned about
its consequences a day in advance. The Israeli government decided to ignore these warnings
and provide the military escort for this adventure anyway. While this warning was
mentioned by AP on 27 September, it was never referred to again. Why? Because if a person
has been warned about the provocative nature of his act and he still carries it out, then
it is obviously an intentional provocation. But that is not the truth that the media
machine wanted to let out.
Equally clever was the depiction of the protests as
"fighting." This legitimized Israeli brutality, as in fighting people do get
killed and wounded. Imagine what would have been the impact if the propaganda machine had
referred to that over-publicized event as Tiananmen Square fighting. Why that was a
massacre and this is fighting? Because the propaganda machine chooses its words very
The depiction of protest as fighting has another
beneficial result: it allows presenting the barbarity and brutality as a sign of strength
and bravery. In fact, at least one callous radio commentators in the US made fun of the
poor fighting skills of the Palestinians.
This distortion was further reinforced through the
repeated use of such terms as "cease-fire" and appeals to both parties to
One example of this myth of proportionality was a report
in the LA Times (14 Oct 2000) that purported to be balanced, and objective. But it is a
strange way of achieving balance: "As helicopters circle overhead and the two sides
hurl rocks at each other on the ground, the veneer of civility is being stripped
away." The two sides hurling rocks at each other? Since when did the tear gas shells,
the lethal steel bullets, the live ammunitions, and the missiles metamorphosize into
Looking the Other Way
Propaganda consists in exaggerating some facts,
distorting others, and hiding or minimizing still others. All of these techniques have
been employed in this case. Israel's use of banned dum-dum bullets was not mentioned. The
lethal steel bullets, with a thin rubber coating, were mentioned as rubber bullets. The
new savage practice of targeting the eyes of protesters, thereby blinding dozens of young
people, was never reported. All hell would have broken loose if a fraction of these acts
had been performed by the other side.
As Mobs of armed Jewish settlers rampaged through
Palestinian homes, shouting "Death to Arabs" and looting, burning, killing,
torturing, and lynching in the name of their God given rights, the media machine just
looked the other way. There were more important things to report. Like the admonitions of
Kofi Annan to Palestinians.
When, occasionally, and much later, these acts were
mentioned, it was done as complaints from Palestinians (who the audiences had already been
prepared not to trust) and not as reporter's own observations. Of course, the use of a
term like Jewish terrorism, would be clearly unthinkable. So would be features analyzing
the hatred and animosity in the hearts of those who carried out such despicable acts in
the name of God. So would be the reports depicting true nature of Zionist occupation and
the virtual slavery into which the Palestinians are being forced in the name of peace.
While reporters normally try to be intelligent
creatures who ask questions and provide relevant contradictory information where
appropriate, they also know their limits. The most ludicrous Israeli statements are always
reproduced with a flat face, even with supporting statement whenever possible. Case in
point: the disingenuous statement by Sharon that he meant no provocation was carried
without the slightest suggestion that there was something blatantly wrong with it.
In the tons of reports and commentaries regarding this
latest crisis, one item was conspicuously absent: references to the International
Community. Search through 150 pages of news and commentary from major media outlets found
only three occurrences of the phrase: an op-ed article on a BBC web site complaining about
the failure of international community to provide an honest broker for the Middle East
conflict, and two statements by Saudi Crown Prince and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat
asking the elusive "international community" to protect the Palestinians.
Contrast this with, say, East Timor, where the
"international community" was in the news daily. It could not stand the
bloodshed, it had to take action, and before you knew it did take action. Contrast this
with the US-Iraq war of a decade ago in which every step was taken in the name of the
"international community." Contrast this with the Bosnian holocaust at the hands
of the Serbians, where a handicapped international community was in the news everyday. It
shed its tears, it felt very bad, it displayed its helplessness, and it continued to
enforce an arms embargo that would ensure the slaughter of Bosnians, while deeply thinking
of ways to help them!
Actually there is no contradiction here. The
"international community" was simply performing its assigned role in each case.
Of course there are many countries in the world and they follow their interests, but the
entity referred as the "international community" above is solely a creation of
the propaganda machine. The masters of the propaganda machine are also the masters of the
"international community." They use it when needed and discard it when that
suits them. The fools, on the other hand think and act as if it is real. They are always
seeking its pleasure and petitioning it for help. How tragic that those who should be
seeking Allah's pleasure and praying to Him for help, should be turning to this false god
In case of Israel, the "international community"
did have a limited but essential role. It was used to legitimize its existence in 1948.
That is when the UN affirmed the Balfour Declaration and through its partition plan
granted 56% of the land of Palestine to Israel when the Jews owned only 5.7% of the land.
Who gave them the right to award land like this, no body has ever answered.
Since then the role of the UN has been simply to
occasionally pass resolutions that may make some Palestinians feel good, without
delivering anything. The latest Security Council resolution is an example. It was a vague,
watered down, resolution, that aimed to deliver nothing. Yet, for whatever little it did
say by deploring "excessive use of force," (massacres are excessive use of
force?) Israelis were quick to reject it without fear that they would be accused of
defying the will of international community or thumbing their nose at it. "It
happened that we survived the harsh language of the U.N. many times in the past,'' said
Avraham Burg, the speaker of the Israeli parliament. "If they want to continue with
their rhetoric, it's beautiful, it's no problem, but at some point it will become
We are living under the New World Order where might is
right and the propaganda machine creates the truths and facts to serve the cause of that
right. It is incessantly entertaining, but it is also deadly. The least we can do is to
realize the nature of that machine and open our eyes.