Media Culpa

Israelis don't want to hear truth about Lebanon war

- Ha'aretz

JERUSALEM (9 August 2006) - "I couldn't work in a newspaper whose editor-in-chief wrote he had no problem with killing innocent people in Lebanon," said journalist Faiz Abbas in his first interview after quitting Yedioth Ahronoth.

"I cannot condone killing or wounding innocent people, whether they're in Beirut, Haifa or Kfar Giladi. It's Rafi Ginat's right to write whatever he likes. After all, I'm nobody and he's the editor of Israel's biggest newspaper. I can only protest, say thank you very much for the beautiful

time I spent here and leave," he continued.

The article that angered Abbas was published recently in Yedioth Ahronoth's weekend edition. "I have no problem being less moral in my own eyes if it saves the life of one child in Golani," Ginat wrote. "For him I'm willing to wash Hezbollah's terrorists, their assistants, the collaborators and those who turn a blind eye in boiling fire -- and to let innocent people on their side die instead of innocent people on our side."

A few days after the article was published, Abbas tendered his resignation, ending, at least temporarily, his long career in journalism. Abbas, 53, worked 10 years for Hadashot as a reporter covering the northern region and more than 10 years as a reporter on Arab affairs for Yedioth Ahronoth. "I didn't ask to speak to Ginat," he says. "I didn't think it was important to him or to me."

After resigning, Abbas feels free to criticize not only Ginat's article, but the way other Hebrew newspapers have been covering the war.

"When you read the newspaper in the morning you get the feeling that the IDF has already conquered Lebanon, eliminated all the infrastructures and is on the verge of delivering a handcuffed Nasrallah to Tel Aviv. But as

you know, that is hardly the case."

What distinguishes foreign media from the Israeli media?

"There's a huge difference. It's like night and day. Take, for example, Al-Jazeera. Nobody could call it pro-Zionist, yet it shows the picture from both sides of the border. A few days ago, I saw its report on a soldier who was killed: 'Israel brings its victims to rest.' In the Israeli media, nobody would describe the killed Lebanese people in such a way."

But aren't there media outlets in Israel that do call the Lebanese dead "victims"?

"I have never heard or read the word 'victims' in any of the Israeli media in connection to killed Lebanese citizens in the war. But what bothers me more is that the Israeli public doesn't want to hear the truth about this bloody war, and there are public opinion polls proving it. The news media

in Israel prefers to reflect the prevalent public opinion and therefore provides inaccurate information with lots of frills and irrelevant statements."

Abbas is especially infuriated by television commentators on Arab affairs. "All the commentators, except perhaps Zvi Bar'el on Channel 10, describe mainly their hearts' desires. When Nasrallah gave his last speech, they explained that he was begging the Arab world to save him, while anyone who understands what's going on knows that the opposite is true -- Nasrallah is threatening the Arab leaders and they are afraid of him. Ehud Yaari and Oded Granot remind me of Ahmed Said, the mythological demagogue analyst of Egypt Radio in 1976, who said all the Jews had been thrown into the sea, even while the Egyptian soldiers were fleeing barefoot from Sinai... Do you know what the late journalist Lutfi Mashour, the editor of the Arabic newspaper Al- Sinara, called the commentators on Arab affairs? He called them storytellers."

Abbas, married with five children, does not know what he will do next. "I don't think that in the prevailing atmosphere I could work for a Jewish news medium. They're all in a consensus over the war in Lebanon and I can't be a part of that. I am against all wars in principle."

Why doesn't he seek a position with an Arab newspaper?

"I worked for a short time in Al-Sinara, but I preferred to write in Hebrew. When you write 50 words in Yedioth you get 500 phone calls. That doesn't happen in the Arab press; it's very difficult to make a difference writing in the Arab media."

*This article was edited and abridged

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