The media wolves were in full feeding frenzy ten years ago this month as Israel, after dozens of Palestinian suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks, mounted its largest military operation in the West Bank in decades.
To see, hear and read some of the more apocalyptic dispatches from Israel and the Palestinian-controlled areas in April 2002 was to come away with the impression that the homicidal war criminal Ariel Sharon had unleashed the crushing might of his brutal army on the ramshackle refugee camps housing hordes of helpless, peace-craving Palestinian women and children.
As then-Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz noted, “focusing mainly on Israeli retaliation tends to leave out the horrible Palestinian provocations – the suicide bombers that have killed Israeli civilians – that prompted the response in the first place. It would be like showing U.S. warplanes hitting Afghan towns without mentioning that there was this episode called Sept. 11.”
Such reasoning was lost on the likes of Geraldo Rivera, longtime sleazefest host working on a new career as a globetrotting correspondent for Fox News.
“When you use tanks and F-16s…against thickly populated civilian towns and cities, that’s not fighting terrorism,” intoned Geraldo, referring to Israel’s attacks on Palestinian targets. “That is inflicting terrorism.”
After describing himself as “a Zionist my entire life,” Geraldo said that “watching the suffering of the Palestinian people…I’ve also become a Palestinianist, in a sense.” Asked by Fox’s Brit Hume whether he thought Israel was intentionally killing civilians, Geraldo insisted he would never suggest such a thing. That disclaimer out of the way, Geraldo was off to the races:
“But the tactics [the Israelis are] employing, the prime minister, Ariel Sharon…. You can’t do these things. You can’t, for example, round up Palestinian young men and put numbers on their arms to make it easier to identify them in the future. What in the world does that remind the world of? That reminds the world…of what Hitler and those Nazi pigs inflicted on the Jewish race during the Second World War.
“Maybe the comparison is not precise. Maybe it’s not exactly parallel, but the echoes of it are unmistakable. It is indefensible….”
Ladies and gentlemen, the “Palestinianist” Geraldo Rivera, ever the noxious gasbag. Over at ABC, the late Peter Jennings was in his glory, opening his April 4 broadcast by declaring that “the Israelis continue their assault against the Palestinians” – not the Palestinian Authority, not Palestinian terrorists, but “the Palestinians.”
Jennings also showed videotape of a small group of protesters in Israel and supplied the voice-over: “Just to make the point…there’s no one single opinion on either side. In Tel Aviv today, police fought with demonstrators outside the U.S. embassy. Several hundred Israelis, both Jews and Palestinian Arabs, or Israeli Arabs rather, were protesting U.S. support for Israel’s military campaign…”
It happens that at the very time Jennings was making his “no one single opinion on either side” comment, polls in Israel put support for the incursion at close to 75 percent. And of course Jennings failed to supply a single example of heterodox opinion on the Palestinian side.
And then there was the columnist Jimmy Breslin, whose well-cultivated public image for most of his career had been that of a grossly overweight, slovenly bar hound. By 2002 Breslin was trimmer and not nearly as unkempt, but he remained a slob – a moral slob, as evidenced by his inability to differentiate between terrorists who attack civilians and the soldiers who pursue them and their ringleaders.
One example of Breslin’s obtuseness, taken from his April 5 column on the siege of the Church of the Nativity, where Palestinian terrorists had taken refuge from Israeli troops: “The pope of my church should point his finger and tell the world in direct language that Sharon and Arafat should be defied and scorned by all the decent people in the world for their high sin of desecrating the site of the birth of a religion about which they could care less.”
Rivera, Jennings and Breslin were just a few of the many media voices castigating Israel for finally striking back after a year and a half of bloody provocation. It was a decade ago, but it might as well have been last week.