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Arab Journalist ‘Lobbyist’ at State Department Press Briefings

Said Arikat is not just a journalist, he acts more like a lobbyist for the Palestinian Arab cause in daily press briefings at the State Department.
Said Arikat, Washington-based reporter for Al Quds newspaper

Said Arikat, Washington-based reporter for Al Quds newspaper
Photo Credit: video.state.gov

Said Arikat is the Washington, D.C. bureau reporter for Al Quds Daily newspaper, which is based in Jerusalem. He is a constant figure at the U.S. State Department daily press briefings. Regular observers of those press briefings will note that Arikat continuously badgers whichever state department press spokesperson is presiding to adopt the Palestinian Arab narrative of events, and to reject Israel as ever doing anything other than committing war crimes.

The State Department press briefing on Thursday, July 31, provides a perfect example of Arikat’s hectoring the spokesperson to adopt the narrative he is always promoting.

Marie Harf, the Deputy Spokesperson was at the podium on Thursday, and, as is the case so often, but especially when there is a war going on between Israel and any Arab entity, Arikat was relentless. As, indeed, were several other reporters, but Arikat is uniquely dogged.

First, Arikat took issue with the statement that there were rockets stored in UNRWA facilities, which might conceivably justify Israel’s shelling of any such buildings.

QUESTION: Are you saying Hamas is storing rockets at UN facilities?

QUESTION: Let – sorry.

MS. HARF: We have seen – yes, Said. We have seen –

QUESTION: What? Where is it?

MS. HARF: We have seen Hamas storing rockets in UN schools.

QUESTION: At UN facilities?

MS. HARF: Yes, we have. We’ve talked a couple times about UNRWA finding the –

QUESTION: Well, I’ve never heard of rockets being stored at UN facilities, but (inaudible).

MS. HARF: Said – Said, UNRWA came out twice in the past two weeks and said they had found caches of Hamas rockets in their schools. We talked –

QUESTION: Right. But they’re not rocketing them.

MS. HARF: They are storing rockets in them.

QUESTION: Okay. So that’s a different (inaudible).

Really? Is it possible that someone who is constantly present at State Department briefings and who writes for a newspaper based in the region in which the fighting is taking place is not aware that the U.N. itself has admitted to finding Hamas rockets in its facilities, and has made public photographs of the rockets stored in UN schools?

Arikat gives up relatively quickly on this point, but he remains ever vigilant to press the point of Israel bad, Palestinian Arabs good, poor victims of Israeli aggression.

In the following exchange, Arikat tries to lull Harf into acknowledging that because the numbers of casualties is so lopsided between Israel and Gaza, it must mean Israel is not listening to the United States which has told the Israelis to be more careful about avoiding harm to civilians.

MS. HARF: Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Marie, on the issue of condemnation, you’re not backtracking? You’re not walking back from using the word “condemn?” Because yesterday –

MS. HARF: I think I actually went further today, Said.

QUESTION: No, I understand. I just want to understand you clearly, because yesterday, you did not assign blame. Today, you seem to be certain as to who is responsible.

MS. HARF: There is not a lot of doubt, yes.

QUESTION: So you condemn Israel for shelling that school, correct?

MS. HARF: I just made very clear at the beginning that we condemn the shelling of the school and that there’s not a lot of doubt about whose artillery it was.

QUESTION: Okay. And now you also said that Israel is doing all it can or it’s doing all it can – yes, that’s – I think that’s what you said.

MS. HARF: That’s not what I said.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I said they could do more.

QUESTION: Israel –

MS. HARF: It’s the opposite of what I said, actually.

QUESTION: Okay. Israel is doing something to minimize civilian casualties –

MS. HARF: They are, but we believe they could do more.

QUESTION: – while the – while on the other side, those who are firing rockets are not taking that into consideration. Do you know how many civilian – Israeli civilians were killed by these rockets versus how many civilians were killed by artillery and bombing of Israel?

MS. HARF: I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me, but I do know they are fairly lopsided, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. They’re fairly lopsided, so Israel is not really taking your counseling or your – for them to take caution or to –

MS. HARF: We believe they should take more steps.

QUESTION: – as indicated the school –

MS. HARF: We believe they should take more steps.

QUESTION: – because they were warned 17 times.

MS. HARF: And we will keep telling them –

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: – they should take more steps, Said.

QUESTION: All right. Let me just quickly follow up on –

MS. HARF: Yep. And then Elise, you’re next.

QUESTION: – the issue of the humanitarian issue. UNRWA is saying that Gaza is on the verge of collapse. There is no power. There is no water. The hospitals are not working, or working on a very minimal power supply. Everything is falling apart. Are you concerned that we are maybe on the verge of a huge human catastrophe there?

MS. HARF: Well, I certainly believe that there is a huge humanitarian issue in Gaza right now. This is exactly why we want a humanitarian cease-fire in place, so we can get medicine, we can get supplies, but also so we can have some time and space to negotiate a longer-term, more lasting cease-fire, like we’ve talked about, which will the thing that ultimately helps the most with the humanitarian situation –

QUESTION: At the present time –

MS. HARF: – if we could stop the fighting.

It is absolutely galling to read and watch the video of the press briefings every day and see how several of the reporters - Arikat being the most consistent, and usually the most brazen - attempt to force words condemning Israel into the State Department’s mouth.

Arikat is also is the ringleader who regularly attempts to paint Israel as the sole player in need of reprimand and harsh punishment by the United States. And then, of course, he and the reporters jump on their computers, tap out lopsided news stories about Israel and Gaza, and they just got to create the news, report the news and convert the “news” into truth.

No wonder Israel consistently looks terrible in the media.

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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