Arafat coverage

Stories in wake of Palestinian leader's death misleading and morally bankrupt

Nov. 13, 2004

by David Kopel

Imagine if the Denver papers had written an obituary of Adolf Hitler that read like this: "Hitler was loved by millions for his lifelong commitment to the German people, but he was also reviled for his ties to anti-Semitism. Peace eluded his final years; in 1939 a war broke out, which led to the deaths of nearly 400,000 English, and over 7 million Germans."

Such an obituary would have been factually accurate, but the euphemistic phrasing about who Hitler was and what he really did would have been extremely misleading. Many of the Rocky Mountain Newsand The Denver Postobituary stories of the man who, in Charles Kraut- hammer's phrase, murdered more Jews than anyone since Hitler ("Arafat's Legacy," The Washington Post,Nov. 15) were misleading and morally bankrupt.

"Peace eluded Arafat, despite Nobel Prize," read a Newsheadline (Nov. 11). The headline was as absurd as "Police eluded bank robbers."

It was not that Arafat searched for peace and could not find it; rather, Arafat worked hard all his life to ensure that there would be no peace.

The article concluded "After the Arabs' defeat by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967, the PLO thrust itself on the world's front pages by sending gunmen out to hijack airplanes, machine gun airports and seize Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics." Actually, Arafat's terrorists did more than "seize" the Israeli athletes; they murdered 11.

Another Newsarticle that same day (from the Associated Press) explained that "The peace effort fell apart in 2000, and a new round of violence broke out killing about 4,000 people, three-quarters of them Palestinian." The article described the violence as if it were a flu epidemic, which just "broke out." To the contrary, the violence "broke out" because Arafat's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades started a war.

The statistic about Palestinian and Israeli death left out the fact that most of the Israelis killed have been innocent civilians (because that is whom Arafat and other terrorists targeted), whereas most of the Palestinians killed have been terrorists (because that is whom the Israelis targeted).

The Nov. 11 front page of the Newssaid that Arafat "was reviled for his ties to terrorism." This is like saying that Mike Shanahan "has ties to the Denver Broncos." Arafat was more than "tied to" terrorism; he was for four-and-half decades a terrorist mastermind who directed the murders of thousands of people.

One name that should have appeared in the Arafat coverage, but did not, was Cleo Noel. Noel was the U.S. ambassador to the Sudan who was kidnapped in 1973 at Arafat's orders, and then murdered when the U.S. refused Arafat's demand to release Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian who had assassinated Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.

But the most glaring omission, in both Denver papers, involved Arafat's unachieved goal for a Palestinian state. An uninformed reader might assume that Arafat's goal was for a state comprising the West Bank and Gaza. To the contrary, Arafat's goal was always exterminating Israel, and replacing it with a "Palestine" to be ruled by himself. As he told an Arab audience in 1996, "We plan to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state." Never did Arafat comply with his promise in the 1994 Oslo Accords to remove the clause in the Palestinian National Charter calling for the destruction of Israel.

In the news sections of the Denver papers, the only hint of Arafat's goal was in a boxed item in the Nov. 12 Post.Describing various Palestinian groups, the Postnoted that Arafat founded the Fatah organization in 1957 "to reclaim Palestinian lands from Israel."

At the time, the only so-called "Palestinian lands" that were held by Israel were the nation of Israel itself, under its 1948 boundaries. The so-called Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank were under Arab control, belonging to Egypt and Jordan, who lost those territories when Egypt provoked a war with Israel in 1967, and then Jordan joined the war on the losing side.

The Posttext box accurately described the group Islamic Jihad as committed to "destruction of Israel." In contrast, the Postelided Arafat's identical goal.

The News(Nov. 12) mentioned the plausible medical theory that Arafat may have died of AIDS. The Post,which has not shied away from running front-page articles on local sex clubs, apparently found the theory that Arafat was a promiscuous bisexual despot too upsetting to print.

Reporting on the campaign against Arlen Specter becoming chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Newswrote on Nov. 11: "Conservative evangelical bloggers say the Senate should 'Bork' Specter - a reference to 1987, when a Democrat-dominated Senate Judiciary Committee blocked the nomination of conservative Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork." The Newsomitted the most relevant fact: that Specter himself voted against Bork's confirmation. And it was incorrect to claim that the Judiciary Committee "blocked" Bork's confirmation. Although the committee dealt Bork a serious blow by voting 9-5 against recommending him, Bork was given a vote on the floor of the Senate, which he lost 58-42.

[Web edition note: The writer in the above story did mention Specter's vote against Bork. The error was made by the editor who deleted this important fact.]

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