By Iqbal Tamimi
One of today’s main articles on the Guardian reads ‘Israel exchanges Lebanese murderer for bodies of two captured soldiers’.
When anyone in the English reading world sees this title and what follows in the article, he or she would immediately think that one of the persons mentioned is a vicious murderer while the others are innocent persons. This is a good example of media manipulation and steering of the public views, aiming to charge the public to hate one side and to sympathize with the other.
The story is about the swap of the oldest Lebanese prisoner in Israel, Samir Kuntar, in return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who died inside the Lebanese territories while on a military mission.
What were the two soldiers doing on another sovereign country’s land, and why did they sneak there? Of course describing them as soldiers, one would think they were working inside the borders of their own country when they died, defending their soil. Calling someone a soldier is something totally different of calling him a fighter or a criminal, or even a militant.
These double standards are all over the press each and every day. Such titles even strip the reader of his own point of view: he is told from the very beginning who he should think of as a killer and who should be remembered with dignity even before reading the article.
The newspapers are practicing guardianship over the readers, regardless of their ages or knowledge. The newspaper has made up its mind that Kuntar is a murderer, but two Israeli persons, fully armed inside the borders of another country are not, and that what we are supposed to believe.
The Israeli soldiers mentioned were trespassing on the same land that witnessed in the 80s the Sabra and Chatilla massacre by the same Israeli army among many other massacres and attacks done by ‘soldiers’. And it is the same country that the IDF commander has admitted firing more than a million cluster bombs within it.
The Guardian even mentioned the ages of the two dead Israeli soldiers to gain more feelings of sympathy for them, by getting the reader to come closer to their human side. ‘The soldiers Eldad Regev 27, and Ehud Goldwasser 32’, was the text that they had chosen.
Such method of writing is to drive the readers to sympathize with these particular individuals, yet, the writer never cared to touch the human side of Kuntar, who has spent 30 years in Israeli jails. As a matter of fact, he was imprisoned at the age of 16. Which means he was a child. He might have been driven by the same anger of any teenager who witnesses a group of people massacring his own, he was not as responsible as the adult Israeli soldiers who knew exactly what they were doing.
The Guardian then says, ‘Israel was due last night to pardon the Lebanese prisoner, Samir Kuntar’…how very thoughtful of Israel. One would hear the word Pardon and think of goodness and forgiveness, such idea is far from true. Imprisoning a 16 year old for 30 years and going through years of negotiations should not be described with a word like ‘pardon’.
The Guardian never forgot to describe in detail what Kuntar might have done to deserve the prison sentence, but it did not mention any of the Israeli soldiers’ atrocities against the Lebanese and the Palestinians. Such method of writing is to charge the readers with hate against one side, while adding a peaceful innocent victim mask on the other.
Another interesting sprinkle of sympathy is inserted within the article mentioning that Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, who is supposed to sign the ‘pardon’, has said, “It’s not a happy choice. On one hand; we have the most terrible murderer. On the other hand, we have our commitment to our ‘boys’ who were ‘sent’ to ‘fight for their country’.”
So, Kuntar is a terrible murderer, but the Israeli soldiers are not. They were ‘boys’ even though they were on a military mission by the ages of 27 and 32. While Kuntar, who was 16 when he went for his own individual mission, was described as a ruthless murderer.
Peres says, ‘they were sent to fight for their country’. For God’s sake, don’t they feel ashamed even of mentioning that? The soldiers were sent to attack inside the borders of a sovereign country, and still they say they are sent to fight for their country. Fight who? The Israeli attack on Lebanon was witnessed by millions of people all over the world. It was an attack on families, children, women, and old people … all civilians. It seems that the Guardian reporters has lost touch with their human and professional side when they have forgotten to mention millions of cluster bombs used by Israeli soldiers aimed at the Lebanese children.
Of course the emphasis on the human side continues in the Guardian report, it says that Isaac Herzog, a cabinet minister, said, “Clearly we opted for a resolution that fulfils our prime rule since the creation of the state of Israel, and this is to bring our sons home, despite the toll.” … So… the matter is ‘bringing sons home’ – how very touching. Of course nothing was mentioned about Kuntar in this tone, it seems he was a cabbage kid, no one is eager to bring him back home, and he is no son of anyone.
The article is an example of a biased portrait as usual; there are lots of words I would classify as sneaked in, deliberately to make of one side a villain and the other an angel or a victim. This is an example of how the press can steer people’s emotions.
People usually scan the titles of newspapers, not many read the rest of the article. And after a few headlines of this kind, you can’t help but to swallow a ready canned lie, and consider one side guilty and the other innocent. One wonders whether the ethics of journalism has disappeared, or just lost its way.
– Iqbal Tamimi is a Palestinian journalist and poet from Hebron. She is currently the Press Freedom Desk Officer at Exiled Journalists’ Network in the UK. (Originally published in PalestineThinkTank.com. Republished in PalestineChronicle.com with permission.)