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The Western Media Distort The Mideast Picture



By Garry Kasparov, special to the Wall Street Journal, April 9, 2001

Here, in a nutshell, is how the Western media presents what has
happened in the Middle East in the past few months: The troubles all
started with Ariel Sharon's infamous visit to the Temple Mount. The
Palestinians rose spontaneously against this affront, and Israeli
security forces overreacted by violently dispersing the unarmed
protesters. Israel's rigid response could only have had one sad
result: the continuous bloody clashes we see today, which make further
negotiations useless.

The result of this carefully drafted narrative is that the Jewish
state has already hit new lows at the United Nations, where it has
never enjoyed much support. This is the same world body, let's not
forget, that passed a resolution condemning Israel for destroying
Saddam Hussein's French-built key nuclear reactor, thus denying him an
opportunity to have an atomic weapon prior to the Gulf War. In Europe,
meanwhile, there is only mourning for "missed opportunities."
Underpinning this view of Israel as the heedless aggressor seems to be
the assumption that Yasser Arafat and his henchmen are interested in
peace with Israel.

But are they? Does peace with Israel really suit the political agenda
of the Palestinian Authority and neighboring Arab countries? To avoid
further mistakes in dealing with this explosive situation, it is
crucial that we understand whether there was ever a real chance for an
Arab-Israeli settlement, or whether it was all only a mass
hallucination created by our wishful thinking. An objective historical
overview of the conflict suggests that there was never a chance for
peace.

The populations of developed, democratic countries are reluctant to
rely on military solutions that cost lives. In poor countries with
authoritarian leaders, the opposite is usually the case; propaganda
inciting war or racial or religious hatred is often an integral part
of government tactics.

Israel today is a success story, and not only by the modest standards
of the region. Its very existence is a nagging, constant reminder to
neighboring Arab despots that they keep their own people in miserable
conditions. For men like Yasser Arafat, Bashar Assad, the leaders of
Hezbollah and others of their ilk, permanent confrontation with Israel
has always been their only claim on legitimacy.

If the region were appeased with respect to Israel, would Arab masses
tolerate the squalor in which their leaders have plunged them? If the
"blood-thirsty Jews" were not identified as responsible for all that's
wrong, the man on the street in Cairo, Amman, Damascus or Gaza would
look at the vineyards of the Golan Heights, at the fast-growing
Silicon Valley of Haifa and at the bustling thoroughfares of Tel-Aviv
-- all erected from scratch in the middle of the desert -- and would
turn his anger where it belongs, against his corrupt and ineffective
government.

The "permanent crisis" and endless "peace process" have proved to be
efficient revenue sources for the Arab oligarchies. Humanitarian aid
from the U.N. and other international organizations and sizable
financial donations from Gulf states and the West guarantee a life of
comfort for those in charge of distribution. An enduring peace
agreement would kill the chicken that lays the golden egg.

Meanwhile, the desperate atmosphere of the refugee camps ensures a
readily available human inventory for terrorist organizations, which
call the shots in many parts of the Middle East. The little matter of
accountability gets no attention when the European Union allocates
hundreds of millions of dollars for Arab countries to counterbalance
U.S. support for Israel. In practice, taxpayers across Europe are
indirectly financing violent anti-Israeli activities.

For example, the European public remains unaware that the "irrigation"
project in South Lebanon is controlled by Hezbollah terrorists, and
that the project aims to cut the supply of water from the Hasbani
River to the Sea of Galilee. If the plan succeeds, Israel will lack a
sufficient supply of fresh water. Undoubtedly, if worst came to worst,
the Israeli government would not hesitate to use a full-scale military
operation to stop this "agricultural initiative." At which point, of
course, the whole vicious circle would repeat itself: an Arab outcry,
more demonstrations, U.N. discussions leading to a resolution, stopped
only by a U.S. veto. And all of it on CNN.

The refugees also play an important political role by adding pressure
on Israel during negotiations. In Europe, this issue is of prime
importance. Reports by the BBC, for example, always imply a double
standard: all Jews have a "right of return" to Israel, but not
Palestinians. Why shouldn't Arabs thrown out of their houses by
"brutal aggressors" not enjoy the same right?

Palestinians began to leave the country as a result of the Arabs' own
enmity for Israel. The first Palestinian exodus occurred in the
aftermath of the Arab-Israeli war of 1947-48. The war resulted from
the refusal of Arab states -- with the full encouragement of the
British government -- to accept the U.N.-determined partition of
Palestine into Jewish and Arab sectors. The newly born state of Israel
miraculously survived this onslaught, giving the world's Jews the
chance to build a future on a patch of land with scant natural
resources.

Would the BBC also in this way promote a right of return for Germans
who were brutally expelled from Czechoslovakia, Poland and Russia at
the end of World War II? After all, they were forced to leave behind
not huts and withering fields, but cultivated land and sophisticated
infrastructure, even though most of them had nothing to do with the
Nazis' crimes.

There are too many examples of bias to cite them all, of course, but
one of the most egregious came last November. On a report for the
widely watched and pace-setting show News Night, the BBC Israel
correspondent Hillary Anderson juxtaposed the killing of Palestinian
children demonstrators with the Biblical story of King Herod's killing
of all children under two, the "massacre of the innocents."

Why doesn't anyone point out the cowardice in the sustained policy of
sending children out to battle antiriot police? Since the express
intention of the Palestinian Authority's rulers in this is to gain
world sympathy for the young victims, the journalists who play into
their hands become complicit in the process.

CNN is also contributing to this cause. In a report on what President
Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak were prepared to offer Arafat, the network
said that the offer included "95% of the West Bank and all of Gaza as
well as control over Haram al-Sharif -- known to Jews as Temple Mount
-- a disputed holy site in traditionally Arab east Jerusalem." But
since when has this area been referred to in the English language by
its Arabic equivalent and, incidentally, in whose tradition is it
mostly Arab?

For three generations, citizens of Israel have fought for their
survival but have dreamt of the day when the Jewish state would be
strong enough to offer a fair final deal to its Arab neighbors. I'm
not a fan of the Israeli left, but I recognize their good-faith
efforts to get to that day. Alas, the brave attempts of Labor leaders
like Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak to bring about reconciliation with
their Arab counterparts ended up going nowhere. There was no real
partner for peace on the other side of the table. While most Israelis
have tried to meet their Arab neighbors halfway, they have found to
their bitter disappointment that the overwhelming majority of Arabs
still cling to the desire to see the ultimate destruction of the state
of Israel.

Undeniably, the dialogue of the 1990s didn't bring the expected
results. There has been no real breakthrough since the historic Camp
David treaty of 1978 between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat.

Unwittingly perhaps, the international press is stirring anti-Semitism
with its one-sided reports on Israel. By presenting the sequence of
events that have led to Israel's present daily violence in
David-and-Goliath form, with Israel cast as the ruthless giant, the
world's journalists are doing a disservice to the Jewish state, but
also to the truth.

The fact is that the state of Israel remains under siege, a lone,
struggling outpost of democracy and capitalism in a region that has so
far rejected Western values. Hard work and the pride of a new nation
have turned this patch of desert into the promised land in half a
century. The day of peaceful co-existence with its neighbors will
arrive, but before then, Israel deserves, if not sympathy, than at
least understanding from the journalists who serve as the world's eyes
in the region.

Mr. Kasparov, a Wall Street Journal contributing editor, is currently
the world's top-ranked chess player.

© 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.