THE ISRAEL REPORTSeptember/October 2000
A photograph in Saturday's New York Times (at right) summed up the conventional view of the recent riots in Israel: It showed a shouting Israeli policeman, holding a truncheon, standing over a bloodied youth. The caption read: "An Israeli policeman and a Palestinian on the Temple Mount."
Photos never lie, but captions do. As the Times acknowledged in a tiny correction yesterday, the bloodied youth was not Palestinian, and he was not on the Temple Mount. He was a Jewish exchange student from the United States who had been pulled out of a taxi by a lynch mob in an Arab neighbourhood, beaten and stabbed. The policeman had shown up just in time to save his life.
We assume the Times error was unwitting, but doubt the paper would have published the picture if it had known its true background; the reality does not mesh with the dominant, approved view of what is going on in Israel.
During 2000 years of exile, Jews were often the victims of violence. The world permitted the modern State of Israel to be born in the atmosphere of guilt and pity after the Holocaust. That sympathetic view of Jews continued until 1967, when Israel smashed the Arab armies in the Six Day War. Then, David became Goliath, and ever since, Israel has been portrayed as the abuser of innocent Palestinians. But as this photograph reveals, the stereotype is not always accurate. Most media continue to blame Israel for the current violence, and treat the riots as a legitimate response to the peaceful, if provocative, walk by a Jewish politician on the Temple Mount.
But equating Ariel Sharon's brief and legal walk with the ensuing intifada implies moral equivalence, which aside from anything else demeans Palestinians as reflexively violent. This is not true. The riots are not spontaneous but orchestrated by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority. His official TV station has been running incitements to riot for days. And he is busy educating new supplies of cannon fodder with a new approved school text for Palestinian 12-year-olds that teaches "there is no alternative but to destroy Israel."
Jibril Rajoub, Mr. Arafat's security minister, reportedly assured Mr. Sharon his visit to the Temple Mount would be received peacefully so long as the Likud leader did not enter a mosque. Mr Sharon kept his side of the agreement, but Mr. Rajoub's police then unleashed the riots -- and, in some cases, participated in them. Yet somehow, Mr. Sharon and the Israeli army are presented worldwide as aggressors. Whether they are trying to negotiate a peace deal with their duplicitous foe, or warning desperately against such a deal, Israel's leaders deserve the West's support and sympathy, not its ignorant and sometimes mendacious vitriol.
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