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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

September 03, 2002

PBS Propaganda?
As part of their programming surrounding the September 11th anniversary, PBS is airing a documentary this week, the topic of which is following "the lives of three diverse Arab Americans living in New York City as they struggle to negotiate life in a changed America." The three are a NYC police officer, a Lutheran minister and a U.N. official. This N.Y. Sun article says that the PBS documentary website is anti-Israel and anti-Jewish.

The city’s largest public television station is marking September 11 with a documentary whose Web site is being lambasted by Israelis and American Jewish groups for offering an inaccurate and one-sided history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Web site includes a map portraying all of Israel as “Palestine,” a time line that blames Ariel Sharon for provoking the recent wave of violence by Palestinian Arabs, and links to Web sites of Arab American organizations that have defended groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, which the American government considers terrorist organizations.

Thirteen WNET, the New York City station that is airing the documentary, “Caught in the Crossfire: Arab-Americans in Wartime,” listed it as one of the “programs that offer analysis, comfort, and opportunities to reflect on September 11.”


The documentary, a look at the lives of three Arab-Americans, is scheduled to air tomorrow at 10 p.m.


While Channel 13 is airing the documentary and promoting it in New York, the program and Web site were produced by the Independent Television Service, an arm of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The CPB gets about $342 million a year from the federal government.

The executive producer of “Caught in the Crossfire,” Calvin Skaggs, said the Web site was produced by the Independent Television Service, not by the producers of the film. “There was no offense meant here,” Mr. Skaggs said. He said that the two directors of the documentary are Jewish, and he said the filmmakers had asked the Web site makers to consult with some mainstream Jewish organizations and try to make the history on the site “as accurate as possible.”


The Israelis and Jewish leaders said they had no objection to a documentary on Arab Americans, but said they were taken aback by the history and resources presented on the Web site. The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, called the Web site “a serious hatchet job.”


A few of the many aspects of the Web site criticized by the Israelis and American Jewish groups:

• The site makes it sound like Jordan did not participate in the 1948 Arab attack on Israel. As Mr. Safian of CAMERA put it: “That would be news to the defenders of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, and those of the Etzion Block — especially the ones executed after they surrendered to the Jordanian Legion. How exactly do the producers think Jordan came to occupy the so-called West Bank?”

• The Web site lists the election of Mr. Netanyahu and the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin as setbacks to peace negotiations in the 1990s, but makes no mention of terrorist bombings by Hamas against Israeli civilians.

• The site includes a timeline with an entry for when Mr. Sharon “provokes al-Aqsa intifada.” In fact, Palestinian Arab officials, including Mr. Arafat’s justice minister and communications minister, have acknowledged that the violence was planned by the Arabs weeks before Mr. Sharon’s visit.

I visited the PBS website and took a look around. The page that summarizes the history of Palestine looks like it could have been written by the PLO themselves. Let's just say it reads a bit skewed to me.

The U.N. proposed partitioning Palestine into two independent states, one Arab and the other Jewish, with Jerusalem internationalized. Zig-zagged borders that cut off portions of Arab and Jewish populations from each other proved impractical. Antagonism between Arabs and Jews quickly escalated into a cycle of violence characterized by gunfights, bombings, riots and sabotage.


...By the end of the war in 1949 Israel had expanded to occupy 77 percent of the total territory defined in the UN's resolution. Over half the Palestinian Arab population fled or were expelled. Jordan and Egypt occupied the other parts of the territory assigned by the partition resolution to the Palestinian Arab state that never came into being.

In 1967, after a period of increasing hostilities between Israel and its Arab neighbors, Israel launched a strike against Egypt, sparking a full-scale war with Egypt, Jordan and Syria. After six days Israel occupied the remaining territory of Palestine - the West Bank and the Gaza Strip-which had been under Jordanian and Egyptian control, respectively. This included East Jerusalem and the Old City, which Israel annexed. Five hundred thousand Palestinians left.

As soon as you see "cycle of violence", you should be alerted to carefully filter what you're readying. "A period of increasing hostilities" is an understatement. How about mentioning that there were troops massing to invade Israel? They make is sound like Israel woke up in a grouchy mood one day and decided to start a war.

In this period, Yasir Arafat of the Fatah Party became chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and leader of the movement for a Palestinian state...

In 1987 a popular uprising, the intifada, brought international attention to the Palestinian cause, but resulted in a heavy loss of life among the civilian Palestinian population...

Apparently, no Jews were killed during this intifada. The Palestinians were just killing each other???

Former military leader Ehud Barak was elected Israeli Prime minister in 1999. His withdrawal from the Security Zone in southern Lebanon, where Israeli troops and Hezbollah guerillas had been fighting, raised hopes for a final peace settlement that would establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel. An agreement was nearly reached at Camp David, but broke down over two issues: the status of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, and a proposed Palestinian right-of-return. In February 2001, Israelis elected as prime minister right-wing politician Ariel Sharon, who had inflamed Palestinians eight months earlier by visiting the temple mount in Jerusalem, which is also the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque holy to Muslims. This marked the beginning of the second intifada.

Notice how they don't characterize Arafat as anything other than a leader, but they call Barak a "former military leader" and Sharon a "right-wing politician". Which wing does Arafat belong to, the psychiatric perhaps?

Since then, the area has suffered the worst violence in decades. Palestinian suicide bombers have killed and wounded many Israeli civilians. Many Palestinian civilians have also been killed by Israeli troops, who have intermittently occupied most of the West Bank in military attacks they claim are meant to hunt down militants and damage terrorist infrastructures.

With political opinion on both sides increasingly polarized, there is no end in sight to the historic and ongoing struggle over this land.

That's rich. The Israelis "claim" that the military "attacks" are meant to hunt down terrorists, but we don't really buy that around here. No siree, we think they just do it for sport.

There's this little gem in a paragraph about religion for Arab-Americans.

Religious practices that direct personal behavior--including the five-times-daily prayers, month-long fast at Ramadan, beards for men and the wearing of the hijab (headcover) for women make Muslims more visible than most religious minorities and thus more vulnerable to bigotry.

Here in the U.S., we have those roaming gangs of thugs on the lookout for long beards and head scarves, just itching to deliver a beating.

And this one in the paragraph about ethnicity.

The U.S. Census classifies Arabs as white along with the European majority, although a number of Arab Americans believe they are treated more like other ethnic minorities than European Americans. are an ethnic minority. Look at the numbers. I'm not even sure how to treat that sentence without inferring a whole lot of racist crap that I'm sure they didn't actually mean. *wink, wink*

And, of course, an entire paragraph on stereotypes & racial profiling.

Fueled by foreign policy and public ignorance about the Arab American population, negative stereotypes of Arab Americans have blossomed in American pop culture since the 1970s. The Arab characters in movies are often seen as the "bad guys" or terrorists, greedy sheiks or barbarians.

Puhleeze. We've all taken our turns at having "bad guy" characters who shared our ancestry. They are all portrayed as greedy and/or barbaric. That's what makes the audience think they're bad guys. Every ethnicity has had it's turn. Bad guys have been German, Russian, Columbian, Mexican, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, British, you name it. I don't see "mob" movies or drug movies going away any time soon - get over it.

After 9/11, anti-terrorism policies of airline passenger profiling have disproportionately affected Arabs and Muslims. Some have been taken off planes or not allowed to board because of their ethnicity. Anti-terrorist programs and policies that single out people of Arab descent have also contributed to creating negative bias in the public eye, not to mention fear of the police and hesitation to report hate crimes among Arab Americans.

Hmmmm....why do you think that is? Maybe because the most recent attacks were executed by those of Arab ethnicity? We were suspicious of Germans and Japanese, and we were suspicious of Russians and Communists in turn. Isn't it funny how that works? You tend to be a little cautious around people who share the same characteristics of those who have declared that they want to kill you.

There's even a special page on this site just for documenting stories of discrimination or hate crimes related to September 11th, with a few "warm fuzzy" anecdotes thrown in for balance. For your education, there is also a resources and source materials page, which will give you a clear idea of where this information came from.

Overall, the site seems to have been written from the perspecitve of the far Left - does that really surprise anyone? It's a disgrace, but a well-illustrated one. Read it and use it educate yourself about the thought processes we're up against. Remember, these are our U.S. tax dollars at work.

UPDATE 9/4: Parts of the PBS website have been edited since yesterday. Certain pages have been removed altogether, and others have been revised slightly.