RALEIGH – Always, always be a good media consumer. Think critically and withhold judgment. Look for alternative viewpoints. And consider the past accuracy of a source of information.
These are lessons that were drilled into me by a series of brilliant teachers, starting with my high-school civics teacher Wade Carpenter in Charlotte and continuing with the better of my journalism professors in college. I try to heed them, though I don’t always succeed. Every now and then, though, there is an episode in public life that proves their wisdom.
Consider what is happening right now in the West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli incursion, we are led to believe, has generated massive destruction and civilian casualties. Commentators generally friendly to Israel have expressed concern about this while arguing that war is a messy business, etc. Israel’s foes – and may I say that they are sounding increasingly fascistic – say that Ariel Sharon is a war criminal, Jews don’t care about Arab children, etc.
But what are Palestinians saying in the Arab-language media? Here’s where an organization called MEMRI (Middle Eastern Media Research Institute) has proven to be invaluable. MEMRI is essentially a stable of translators who read Arab-language newspapers, web sites, and radio and television transcripts and then translate them into English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Hebrew, and Turkish. Jay Nordlinger has a timely piece in the new issue of National Review explaining the history and effectiveness of MEMRI, which is admittedly pro-Israeli but also promotes the views of true Arab moderates and whose translations have never been shown to be inaccurate.
On MEMRI’s web site, you can read its latest missive summarizing coverage of the battle between Israelis and Palestinians in the town of Jenin (see here). Arab leaders are labeling the event a “massacre” for the foreign-language media. But in the Arab media, a totally different picture emerges. Palestinians boast that Jenin was prepared as a trap for Israeli soldiers, that they used women and children as human bombs and set their defenses in ways that would invite Israeli fire into buildings that could then be portrayed as “heartlessly” bulldozed by an invading force.
It’s eye-opening and, frankly, turns one’s stomach. Of course, one could maintain one’s skepticism by believing that Palestinians are only talking big to their Arab allies to save face, and that they are just victims of imperialist oppression. The more likely explanation, I am afraid, is that these Palestinian militants are modern-day Nazi bastards who will do whatever it takes – lie, murder, shove their children into a firefight strapped with explosives – to wipe out Israel and the Western civilization it represents.