Our "Free" Press?
By Amro Gamal, Ottawa, Ontario
I feel sad to admit that the Western liberal democracy had failed me. While living in the Middle East, the way I understood democracy was that it is a political system that includes freedom of speech, freedom of choice, and freedom of press among many other noble features.

After living in Canada for about four years, I realized that although people here have the right to speak up, no one actually listens to you if your opinion is a bit different than theirs. I also found out that:

1. money talks, and
2. the media plays an important role in shaping public opinion.

But a fair judge to me, is the one who listens to a story from both sides. Let's take what is happening in the Middle East as an example, and how the "free" American and Canadian media have managed to sell it to the public.
Here is a media story, as reported on the National Post web site:

"Last Thursday's one-hour walk through the Temple Mount in Jerusalem by Ariel Sharon, chairman of the opposition Likud party in Israel, is being excoriated as the cause of escalating violence in the region, which has killed more than 40 people."
I would like to draw your attention to two issues I found manipulative in the above paragraph:

1. In North America, the media always refer to the holy site of Jerusalem as "The Temple Mount." The Temple Mount is internationally known and called "Al-Haram Al-Sharif." The UN Security Council resolution (1322) that condemned Israel's excessive use of force called this place Al-Haram Al-Sharif, not Temple Mount. I would assume that the reason behind calling it Temple Mount is to imply to the reader that it's an Israeli site.

2. The end of the paragraph says that 40 "people" were killed. It didn't specify who those people were -- Israelis or Palestinians?

But the full story, the one our "free" media do not want to highlight is as follows:
1.Israeli forces captured Jerusalem in 1967 and the international community, including USA and Canada, considers it, to this very moment, an occupied territory.

2. Israel was asked to withdraw from its occupied territories by the UN Security Council on November 22, 1967. Today, 33 years later, these territories are still held by the Israeli army (now ironically called Israel Defense Forces) and 4 million Palestinians who used to live there have been living for 33 years in refugee camps. A whole generation of Palestinians has been born there. For them home means a tent.

3. Over those 33 years of occupation, Israel had built hundreds and maybe thousands of "settlement" homes on these occupied territories and encouraged hundreds of thousands of Jews to occupy them.

4. While the new Israeli policy publicly supports peace, more and more settlements are being built or enlarged on occupied territories.
5. Al-Haram Al-Sharif is a sacred place for more than one billion Muslims around the world.

6. Israel claims that the Temple of King Solomon temple once existed on the same site more than 2000 years ago.

7. Some readers may assume that Muslims tore down the temple and built the mosque instead, but in fact the Romans demolished the temple. It was many centuries later that Muslims erected their mosque on what was practically a dump-site.

8. Ariel Sharon, leader of the opposition (Israeli Likud party), visited the holy site of Al-Haram Al-Sharif, which is still under the Israeli occupation, accompanied by 1000 armed soldiers.

9. Like any other religious group, Jews are welcome to visit Al-Haram Al-Sharif. But if you go to visit a friend, do you take 1000 soldiers with you?

10. Who is Ariel Sharon? In October 1953, he led a force of Israeli commandos who blew up 42 houses in the West Bank village of Kibye. Sixty-nine civilians, including women and children, were killed. In 1982, Israeli troops commanded by Ariel Sharon surrounded the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila near Beirut.  Then Maronite militiamen went from house to house killing everyone. The killing lasted for three days. At night, Israeli troops provided illuminating flares, so the militiamen could see what they were doing.

11. Palestinians were enraged by the visit and demonstrated by throwing rocks at the occupation forces.

12. Israeli soldiers responded by firing live bullets, rather than using the usual tear gas or water hoses.

13. Now, our "free" media are trying to convince the public that the way out of this mess is to stop these demonstrations, and they blame the Palestinian Authority for not controlling the situation.
14. It might be a surprise for you to know that when the demonstration first erupted at Al-Haram Al-Sharif after Sharon's visit, Israeli soldiers -- with all the power they have -- couldn't do anything. It was the Palestinian police who managed to clear the holy site.

15. Palestinians have no army. Israel, on the other hand, is the most powerful military force in the Middle East.

16. Palestinians have been victims of Israeli occupation for more than 50 years. If you are trying to be fair here, which one should be blamed, the occupying military forces or the occupied civilians?

Someone might ask, how can we make peace in the Middle East? The answer, from my point of view, is very simple. Israeli forces should return Palestine to Palestinians.

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