Covering Israel: World Press
December 8, 2001
BROOKE GLADSTONE: From WNYC in New York this is NPR's On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. This week the headlines were dominated by suicide bombings in Israel. In a few minutes we'll consider how the American media handled the story, but first we'll look at the coverage in the Middle Eastern press, and to guide us we turn yet again to the indefatigable Martin Walker, chief international correspondent for United Press International. Martin, welcome back.
MARTIN WALKER: Hello there.
BOB GARFIELD: The U.S. press seems to have taken a hawkish turn towards the Palestinians. Have you noticed a change in the Arab papers have covered this latest round of violence?
MARTIN WALKER: Well yes, I, I was very struck by the way that, that some of the Arab world press -- for example, the, the Jordan Times in, in Jordan is really warning that the whole suicide attack tactics as used by some of the extremists has, has begun to be a total disaster. It says that: "Resorting to suicide attacks that have mainly targeted civilians has been harmful to the cause itself by feeding an already active and hostile propaganda campaign linking the Palestinian struggle to the very brand of international terrorism that the whole world stands united to fight." So I must say that is fairly an isolated view, even in Kuwait which on the whole tends to be more responsive to Western positions. I noticed the independent paper there, Al Anwar which is normally quite centrist saying: "Suicide bombings are what is left for the Palestinians, and our whole Arab nation to confront Israel's stubbornness. Anyone who argues otherwise must first provide an alternative."
BOB GARFIELD:Hm. Is there anything in what you're reading to suggest that the Arab press is aware that some historical watershed is in the offing?
MARTIN WALKER: Well, well yes, the, the English-language Gulf Times for the Emirates which is a, on the whole a pretty moderate paper by Arab terms was saying that, that: "The latest American statements have really been a green light for an all-out war, because missing from the official U.S. statement was any acknowledgement that the Palestinian security forces had detained more than a hundred Hamas and Jihad activists. Another thing lacking in the White House statement was how to make Sharon stop storming at Palestinian cities stop building settlements and abandon his policy of assassinating Israel's political opponents. The policies Sharon pursues today is goading Palestinians by the thousands to become members of extremist factions." Saudi Arabia's Saudi Gazette: "The American leadership is blind when it comes to who is the real criminal and who is the real victim. This is tragic, because the coordinated Israeli/U.S. policy has sounded a death knell to the recent Antony Zini mission. In reality, the latest American peace mission has been doomed before it could start, and this raises another question -- as the tides of war loom higher, is Bush really interested in Middle Eastern peace?"
BOB GARFIELD:Martin, tell me about Israel. There has been some indication from the left that Sharon's hawkishness could bring an end to the coalition government. The left is very uneasy. But in general how is the press reacting to the latest developments?
MARTIN WALKER: Well in, in a fairly predictable left/right kind of way. I mean I, I was looking at the liberal-- Israeli daily Ha'aratz who, who said that: "Arafat must be granted the week that he is asking for in order to prove that he is serious this time, not because he deserves it, but because he perhaps understands he no longer has maneuvering space. Should Arafat again play into Hamas and Islamic Jihad's hands, his regime would fall." By contrast the conservative independent Jerusalem Post was almost triumphant about the way in which America's reacted. "This is the abandonment of U.S. even-handedness for which Israel has been waiting for over fourteen months. No more yammering about the responsibility of both sides, the cycle of violence and other counter-productive attempts to avoid distinguishing between terrorists and their victims. America is coming to terms with the idea that terrorism is an existential threat to its own way of life."
BOB GARFIELD: All right. Martin Walker, once again, thank you very much.
MARTIN WALKER: Thank you.
BOB GARFIELD: Martin Walker, the chief international correspondent for United Press International joins us from Washington.