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MEDIA MANIPULATION

Who can forget the heartrending video clip of young Hadil Ghalia running over the Gaza sands, looking for her family? There are many parallels between this and the photos of 12-year-old Mohammed al-Durah, caught between Israeli and Palestinian gunfire. Yet, there are so many inconsistencies in both scenarios that we should at least stop to question the genuineness of what we are being shown.

Whether or not Hadil lost her family as the result of a stray Israeli shell, or the explosion of a Palestinian device or mine, is of little consequence. She lost her family, as young al-Durah lost his life, because she is living in a war zone. She has become a media legend, playing the starring role in a masterfully directed video clip that has been widely broadcast in the world media - pushing aside even the ubiquitous football for a few minutes. As a result, some bewildered Israelis even began to parrot a popular Israeli columnist, who noisily confessed "his shame" in Israel's most widely-read daily. Yet the facts, both for al-Durah and for the Ghalia family, tragic as they may be, remain inconclusive. That is sometimes the nature of warfare.

Why does a terrorist cell, with a missile on board, drive through the most crowded area of Gaza - and why doesn't anyone lift a finger to stop them? If the Palestinians mined the beach (which they admit), and if the beach is being used as a base from which to launch missiles against Israel, then why did the Palestinian authorities allow their population free access to this same beach? How is it that the photographers so conveniently happen, always, to be at the right place at the right time? These are just a few of the pertinent questions. (We could also ask, of course, why the world media doesn't broadcast pictures from Israel's southern town of Sderot, whose children have been traumatized and injured by over a thousand (1000) rocket attacks in the past month - all launched from inside the Gaza Strip. But that is the famous double standard at work.)

The Israeli army is renowned for its integrity and "purity of arms". I do not, for one moment, believe that the IDF would deliberately target innocent individuals. In a war zone, of course, accidents do happen, and civilians are sometimes injured. The Palestinians themselves rely on Israeli restraint, while simultaneously provoking Israeli reaction. Is it perhaps even within the realm of possibility that some of the scenarios are carefully staged, directed and filmed for international consumption, maybe even without a real shot being fired? It is a win-win situation for Palestinian propaganda, because - either way - the world will see innocent Palestinian Arabs under attack. Yet who now is to gainsay Israel's blame? The headlines have been made, and the newspapers sold. Israel's "hasbara" is still sadly lacking.

Since their arrival on the world scene as a "quasi-national" entity in 1948, the Palestinian Arabs have been cynically exploited by their own brethren. The best public relations mechanism that money can buy has turned the theme of the "underdog" into a deliberate operational strategy. This well-oiled and well-funded propaganda machine has turned the tables, and transformed tiny, beleaguered Israel, surrounded by millions of hostile Arabs, into an apparently belligerent and ugly Goliath. As Charles Krauthammer wrote, in his excellent article in "The Washington Post" of June 16, 2006, "the Palestinians prefer victimhood to statehood": http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/15/AR2006061501794.html

My heart truly goes out to the Palestinian Arabs living in the Gaza Strip - spurned by the Egyptians and the Arab world from 1948 until 1967, living under Israeli occupation from 1967, and now forced to live in a war zone by their incompetent leaders. They live in squalor and poverty. They have no jobs to go to, and no food to put on the table. They deserve better. Ironically, their quality of life was considerably better under the Israeli occupation. Now they have nothing. Their hatred and bitterness is nourished by their leaders, and directed against Israel. But who is ultimately to blame for their plight?

In one of our first presentations, "History in a Nutshell", we wrote that if the Arabs had accepted the United Nations' Partition Plan, they would already have celebrated the 58th year of Arab Palestine as an independent state. But it seems that nothing has changed in their mentality. There are now no Israeli soldiers or military facilities inside Gaza. There are no Israeli settlers in Gaza. In fact, since the disengagement last summer, Gaza IS the first independent Palestinian Arab state. Instead of laying the foundations for a new and vibrant nation, Gaza has become an area of rampant anarchy, a launching-ground for missiles against Israeli civilians well inside the Green Line, with rival terrorist factions chaotically fighting each other inside Gaza at the same time as they continue hostilities against Israel.

We wonder if the Palestinian Arabs are even capable of living in a democracy. They certainly have no role models in the Arab world to learn from. As Abba Eben once said, "the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity". Perhaps, yet again, they are not missing the opportunity. Maybe they just don't know how to take the chance.

Mal