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Language of the Middle East

Many Americans are confused and misled about the facts of the Middle East because they don't understand the language of Israeli propaganda.

A terrorist is any Palestinian who wants to end the Israeli occupation. A militant is anyone the Israelis kill. If they shoot you, you are, by definition, a militant, even if you're only 6 months old or 10 years old or 80 years old. The Israelis never kill anybody but militants, so all of the more than 70 Palestinian children 15 and younger shot dead by Israeli soldiers are militants. Most civilized countries don't think militancy is a capital offense.

Unfortunately, members of the press often adopt the language of propaganda. They report that the Israelis have killed 20 militants. In fact, they don't know that. They themselves have never seen the 20 dead people. For all they know, they might be Palestinian nuns or pacifists. A good reporter will just report what he knows: The Israelis say they have killed 20 Palestinians.

Recently, one of the Fox Network's foxy blondes belligerently demanded of a Palestinian spokesman why Yasser Arafat had not made a speech in Arabic demanding an end to terror. When the Palestinian finally got a chance to talk, he told her what everybody who follows the Middle East already knows: Arafat has condemned terrorism in speeches made in Arabic. The spokesman even gave the blond cutie two specific dates and occasions.

But what's important to us, as consumers of this bilge on television, is this: I think it is a most safe assumption that the lady, ordinarily quite pleasant and giggly, does not speak Arabic, does not understand spoken Arabic and does not monitor radio and television broadcasts in Arabic. So the question is, how would she know whether Arafat had ever made a speech in Arabic on any subject? The answer is that she doesn't, yet she adamantly and obnoxiously asserted that he had not condemned suicide bombings in Arabic. Where did she get that information? From Israeli propaganda.

It could be that these younger folks who are in-studio types are just naive. Perhaps I can help them. All governments lie. Some governments lie on some occasions, some lie on many occasions and some lie on all occasions. The Israeli government is a world-class liar. You can count on almost anything it says as being all false, or partly true and partly false, or true but out of context.

The members of the Israeli government are also the most self-centered people on earth. To them it is unacceptable for any Israeli to die, but perfectly OK if any number of Palestinians die. How little value they place on Palestinian life is illustrated by a sentence an Israeli court gave a Jewish settler. His sentence was a fine and community service.

What was his crime? He had knocked down a 10-year-old Palestinian boy, put his booted foot on the child's neck and beaten him to death with the butt of his military pistol. But as one of the right-wing rabbis is now saying openly, a Jewish life is more valuable than a gentile life. 

President Bush, perhaps the most naive American, wants everyone to call suicide bombers murderers. I won't. They are martyrs. Those young Palestinians have done exactly the same thing so many young Americans have done -- willingly sacrificed their lives for their country's freedom. If they are murderers because they kill civilians during a war, then Mr. Bush's own father is a mass murderer. His war and his embargo have murdered tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children in Iraq. Young Bush is apparently planning to murder more. To paraphrase the killer in the movie "Unforgiven," "We are all murderers, kid."

The irony is that while Bush keeps yapping at Arafat to stop the violence, Bush himself refuses to stop the much greater violence inflicted on the Palestinian people by Israel. In case he hasn't noticed, there are, to use his favorite phrase, innocent men, women and children dying in the occupied territories because of Israeli state terrorism practically every day.

Instead of playing self-righteous semantic games, Bush should devote his energy to stopping the killing by everybody, including us. He should strongly support freedom for the Palestinians. That's the only way the Israelis will ever have security. And he should abandon the idea that the way to stop killing is to kill.

Charley Reese

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