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

April 10, 2003

"TARGETED STRIKES"


from HonestReporting:

As Baghdad falls and the U.S. begins efforts to structure an interim Iraqi
government, one key question remains: Where is Saddam Hussein? Did the
U.S. Air Force seal his fate under a residential building earlier this
week?

While the suspense lingers, the action begs comparison with the Israeli
front. HonestReporting has recently exposed double standards in media
coverage of suicide bombings and checkpoint accidents; this time, it's
aerial strikes against terrorist masterminds.

The parallel events:

-- On Monday, acting upon intelligence indicating Saddam Hussein's
whereabouts, a U.S. B1-B aircraft dropped four 2,000 lb. bombs on a West
Baghdad building. While Saddam's status remains unknown, at least 10
civilians died under four collapsed structures.

-- On Tuesday, acting upon intelligence indicating the whereabouts of
Hamas terror leader Sa'id Arabid, the Israeli Air Force struck Arabid's
car with missiles, leaving Arabid, his Hamas partner and four others dead.
Arabid was Hamas' replacement for Salah Shehadeh, who was killed in his
Gaza apartment by an Israeli F-16 last July; 14 others died in that
strike.

The media spin:

-- In Iraq, the major media almost uniformly highlighted the remarkable
intelligence gathered by the CIA, the swiftness of the B1-B's call to
duty, and a U.S. spokesman's proud declaration that "a leadership target
was hit very hard." The civilian death toll was typically relegated to the
end of reports, if mentioned at all.

See, for example, this Reuters article.

-- In the Shehadeh incident, however, Israel was censured by the Western
press from London to California for the "atrocity" (BBC and Hartford
Courant), an "indefensible and indiscriminate attack" (Milwaukee
Journal-Sentinel) that itself constituted "unspeakable terror" (San Jose
Mercury News).

See the original HonestReporting critique.

At the time, White House spokesman Ari Fleisher condemned the Israeli
strike as a "heavy-handed action that is not consistent with dedication to
peace in the Middle East." When pointedly asked to justify the difference
between Israel's Gaza action and U.S. Afghanistan efforts (seaborne
Tomahawk missiles fired at terror-leader compounds), Fleisher stated: "It
is inaccurate to compare the two. And the crucial difference here being
that in this instance, in Gaza, this was a deliberate attack against a
building in which civilians were known to be located. And that does
separate it from the [American] activities taken."

See Fleisher's widely quoted statements.


* * *

In the wake of 9/11, a Western consensus emerged that the evil of
terrorism threatens entire democratic populations. In response, both the
Israeli and U.S. governments reached the operative conclusion that
terrorism must be fought with military means. Civilians, used
contemptuously by terrorists as human shields, often pay the unfortunate
price of these military efforts.

Given this important common ground, why does the media apply two standards
-- the Israel-standard and the U.S. coalition-standard -- when covering
military strikes against terror leaders? When it comes to reporting armed
defense against terror, does Israel form a black hole, warping the media's
moral compass?

HonestReporting was established on the intuitive belief that Israel does
not receive fair media coverage, but until now we lacked a solid benchmark
to confirm the bias. The Iraq war provides that benchmark, confirming the
contention that it was not specific tactics that the media objected to,
but rather that Israel was using them.

HonestReporting encourages members to monitor your local media to see how
they are reporting targeted strikes against terror leaders, and the
collateral civilian deaths.

HONESTREPORTING INFO SHEET to print out, post on bulletin boards,
photocopy and distribute. Get the word out to schools, places of worship,
community centers.

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