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Plus ca Change...
Last uploaded : Tuesday 18th Jun 2002 at 15:58
Contributed by : Andrea Levin


A 1939 account of Arab terror against the Jews of Mandate Palestine, and of Western journalists' largely credulous endorsement of Arab self-justification, stunningly echoes events of today. In his book, 'Days of Our Years,' Dutch-Canadian journalist Pierre Van Passen described the
violence ruthlessly incited by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini --- an ally of Hitler --- and his agents:

"The Arab Higher Committee, the Mufti's political creation, sent out its bands of terrorists to ravage the land. This campaign of organized
violence and destruction, which started in 1936, and which went on almost uninterruptedly for two years, was declared to be a spontaneous emanation of an exasperated Arabic national sentiment. Murderers and bandits who threw bombs into Jewish hospitals and orphan asylums, who killed from ambush and tore up young orange plantations in the night, were elevated to the rank of national heroes.

"Commentators compared the wave of Arab terrorism in Palestine with the civil-disobedience movement in India, and the criminal Mufti of Jerusalem was put on a level with the holy personality of Ghandi, as if the Mahatma had not always insisted on nonviolence as an essential condition in passive resistance.

"A section of the British and of the American press began to speak of 'an Arabic general strike conducted with an amazing display of discipline.' Liberal journals of opinion hinted that no other result could have been expected from the Jewish policy of usurpation in the Holy Land, but it was left to the Communists to utter the weird absurdity that the wave of banditry was 'a struggle on the part of the Arab people for full democratic freedom.' When in the course of history
has a class of feudalist landlords fought for democracy?"

Then, as now, unprovoked Arab violence against the Jews was transmuted by much of the media and other commentators into understandable and
spontaneous expressions of Arab frustration.

ABC's Peter Jennings would have felt at home among the chorus blaming the Jews, just as today he routinely omits, inverts and minimizes terrorism against Israelis while giving sympathetic coverage to such Palestinian suicide killers as Wafa Idris.

CNN's Sheila MacVicar, the New York Times' Joel Greenberg and National Public Radio's Linda Gradstein are only a few others who share the same
mindless journalistic tendency, deplored by Van Passen, to amplify Arab grievances with little or no reference to Arab responsibility.

Striking as well in the Van Passen memoir is the challenge to Western journalists in penetrating the deceptions and lies proffered by some Arab speakers. Like the best of today's interviewers, he confronted lies directly, as in an exchange in which al-Husseini tearfully lamented that
Palestinian Arabs had just "shaken off the Turkish yoke and turned up the road of freedom."

When the reporter asked, "Did your eminence not serve as a volunteer in the Turkish army?" Husseini got up and left the room.

So, too, journalists in 2002 have the sometimes difficult role of confronting lies and liars.

Should reporters not make clear, as they interview Palestinian spokespersons, that although Arafat has pleaded innocent to involvement in the bloodbath against Israelis his signature appears on documents allocating payment to terrorists, and that truckloads of documentation seized by Israel implicate his regime in the wholesale promotion of

Should reporters not consider, as they interview Palestinian spokespersons, that Arafat and the Palestinian Authority denied --- until they could no longer dodge the truth --- any connection with the Karine A, the arms-smuggling ship commissioned and captained by Palestinians?

Should reporters not note as they interview Arafat that he has charged, ludicrously, that Israel uses depleted uranium against Palestinians?

Should reporters not remind the public as they interview Palestinian spokespersons such as Saeb Erakat, Yasser Abed Rabbo and Nabil Shaath
that these officials loudly insisted there had been a "massacre" of at least 500 Palestinians in Jenin --- until they could no longer sustain
this invention?

Should reporters not remember as they interview Palestinian spokespersons that official PA statements are often totally false --- such
as the recent claim that Israelis murdered two TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron) observers who were, in fact, shot to death in their car by a uniformed Palestinian policeman? Although a Turkish survivor described the attack in detail, WAFA, the official Palestinian News Agency, claimed on March 27 that "Israeli occupation troops" killed the observers.

Should reporters not remember similarly that every vehicle of Palestinian indoctrination --- television, radio, newspapers, mosques, rallies --- has been employed to slander Israel and the Jewish people?

The fabricated charges purveyed are as terrible today as they were when Pierre Van Passen revealed the Mufti's distribution of bogus photographs of the Mosque of Omar showing the Muslim shrine on Jerusalem's Temple Mount supposedly in ruins, destroyed by the Jews. They are as much a fraud and abomination as the Mufti's dissemination of photographs of
slaughtered Jews in Hebron in 1929 with the claim that the dead were Arabs killed by Jews.

Yet, it must also be said that Pierre Van Passen, a courageous and independent-minded journalist, does have modern counterparts in the voices of many American columnists and commentators who have exposed the calumnies against Israel and brought honor to their profession.
We are grateful to CAMERA for permission to reprint this article on our site.

Andrea Levin is Executive Director of CAMERA


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