October 18, 2011 · 0 Comments
By Max Blumenthal:
By now, Gilad Shalit is back in Israel, while around 1000 Palestinian prisoners will eventually be released from Israeli jails, then scattered to various locations from Jerusalem to Egypt to Syria, where many will live in permanent exile. While some Israelis doubt the wisdom of the prisoner swap, there can be little doubt that the state of Israel has scored a public relations victory in the United States. American coverage of the prisoner exchange has focused almost exclusively on Shalit, his family, and Jewish Israeli society’s “bittersweet” reaction to the deal.
Reports on the exchange generally did not mention the identities of the Palestinian prisoners, and if they did, they tended to only name those who had committed violence against Israelis. It is of course newsworthy that perpetrators of lethal violence against Israeli civilians are being freed, and that many Israelis are outraged about it, but the American media made no effort to contextualize the conflict propelling the violence — the word “occupation” was not mentioned once in today’s reports on the exchange. Nor was there been any description of disproportionate Israeli violence against Palestinian civilians, including by Shalit’s tank unit, or Israel’s routine kidnapping of Palestinians without charges. In reporting the first major Israel-Palestine news event since the Mavi Marmara massacre in 2010, the American media produced an entirely Shalit-centric barrage of coverage that even the Israeli Foreign Ministry could not have matched.
Here is a wrap-up of breaking and recent reports:
The New York Times’ scandal plagued Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner attempted to channel the mood of Jewish Israeli society in an October 15 report on Shalit’s scheduled release. Bronner, whose own son served in the Israeli military, wrote, “When Israelis say they view the seized soldier, Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit, as their own son, they mean it.” Throughout Bronner’s article, he upheld the national campaign for Shalit’s release as an example of the higher value Israel places on human life, while dismissing those who think otherwise as “Palestinians and some critics of Israel.”
Today, Bronner relied on help from reporters Stephen Farrell and Fares Akram in Gaza to cover the prisoner exchange. The article mentioned the identities of exactly zero Palestinian prisoners, only describing the preparations for their return to Gaza. Similarly, the Washington Post’s coverage of the swap focused entirely on Shalit, with no mention of individual Palestinian prisoners.
CNN International’s Richard Allen Greene did not interview any Palestinians about the prisoner deal. Instead, he quoted leaders of Jewish American organizations and Israel’s ambassador to London, who claimed that “everyone [in Israel] has been touched by terrorism.” On Twitter, former CNN correspondent and current ABC “This Week” host Christiane Amampour referred to 400 of the Palestinian prisoners released in the deal as “hardcore Hamas activists.”
The Associated Press devoted a whole graf to a quote by the mother of Palestinian prisoner Abdel Latif Shkair, focusing on Shalit and his family throughout the rest of the article. Reuters did not detail the backgrounds of Palestinian prisoners in its report on the exchange, noting only that “many…going free were convicted in deadly attacks.” How many? Reuters did not say.
CBS News’s Mark Phillips named a few Palestinian prisoners, but only those who had been involved in deadly attacks on Israelis. Reporting from Tel Aviv, Philips stood next to a monument to the victims of a terror attack and declared, “Israeli cities have many — too many — monuments like the one marking a spot where 21 young people were killed by a terrorist bomb 10 years ago. The instigator of that attack is about to be set free… Some of the most hardened high-profile terrorists are not being released, and many of those who are will be sent into exile. But with a score of 1,027 to 1, the price of terror just went up.”
One prisoner left out of the swap was Ahmad Saadat, the PFLP leader abducted by Israeli forces and sentenced in a military court to thirty years in prison for belonging to an outlawed organization after the Israeli Attorney General decided the state had insufficient evidence to try Saadat in a civilian court. Saadat, who has spent the last two years in solitary confinement without family visits — punishment for his leadership of a prisoners’ rights movement — initiated a mass hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners to demand more humane conditions in Israeli jails. Yesterday, he was transfered to a hospital due to complications from twenty days without food.
For his part, Shalit reportedly told an Egyptian interviewer today, “Hamas treated me well.”