|Israel Resource Review
||4th October, 2002
UN Accused Of Complicity In
Murder Of Israelis
Senior Correspondent, CNSNews. com
The United Nations was accused Wednesday of allegedly helping Lebanon's Hezbollah terrorist forces ambush three Israeli soldiers and abduct an Israeli citizen traveling in Europe.
The accusations were made by the mother of one of the Israeli soldiers and the chairwoman of the House subcommittee conducting a hearing on the fate of the Israelis.
According to press reports at the time, on October 7, 2000, Omar Suaed, Beni Avrham and Adi Avitan were in an Israeli army jeep when Hezbollah forces allegedly ambushed it near the Israeli-Lebanese border.
Disguised as United Nations peacekeepers, the Hezbollah guerrillas allegedly lured the soldiers close to the border fence, blew open the gate and opened fire on the soldiers in the proximity of the real U.N. peacekeepers operating along the Lebanese border.
Within minutes the Israelis had been bundled away across the border, but at the time of the incident, United Nations officials denied their peacekeepers had aided the Hezbollah guerillas.
Zipora Avitan, the mother of Adi Avitan, told the House Middle East subcommittee she believes the United Nations was complicit in her son's death.
"We are ordinary people, not politicians, and our hearts ache at the way the U.N. treated us, at its deception. Slowly, as details of the incident became known, we started forming a clear picture of what happened. It was discovered that the terrorists used U.N. uniforms and vehicles, with the knowledge and consent of U.N. personnel," she said, during her subcommittee testimony.
Sheik Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, later issued a statement saying his forces had indeed captured the Israeli soldiers.
Zipora Avitan said her persistent digging, and that done by the other families of the missing soldiers, helped reveal that the U.N. had information and even tapes from the day of the ambush.
"Furthermore, we felt that, instead of acting properly as representatives of an objective, apolitical body, they were covering up for the terrorists. Even today, there are many unanswered questions," she said.
On October 16, Hezbollah allegedly captured Elchanan Tannenbaum, another Israeli citizen, while he was on a business trip to Europe. Tannenbaum, an Israeli Army reserve colonel, is still missing.
On October 29, 2000, the Israeli Defense Forces issued a statement indicating that the three soldiers were probably dead. The statement said nothing about the fate of Tannenbaum.
House Middle East Subcommittee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) blamed the United Nations Wednesday for not taking "any punitive action" against Hezbollah.
"The ensuing years have been filled with delays and confusion, all stemming from the United Nations," she said. "Time and time again, the Israeli government requested information available to the United Nations."
"If there is one thing the U.S. has learned from its own experiences with prisoners of war and those missing in action is that until all the evidence is reviewed, all sources of information are exhausted and there is no stone left unturned and their bodies are recovered, we must not lose hope that they have survived this terrible ordeal," Ros-Lehtinen said.
Ros-Lehtinen had requested that a U.N. representative testify before her subcommittee Wednesday, but the U.N. declined. "We are unable to send a representative," said Catherine O'Neill, a United Nations official, in a letter to Ros-Lehtinen.
"In this particular case," O'Neill continued, "the United Nations has shared with the government of Israel and the families, all information in its possession that could have shed light on the condition of the missing soldiers."
"The secretary-general (Kofi Annan) has been in touch with the government of Israel at the highest levels and has also met with the families of the three abducted soldiers," O'Neill said.
Ros-Lehtinen scoffed at that, saying "U.N. efforts regarding these cases also lead to questions about overall United Nations behavior toward the plight of the Israeli people and the State of Israel."
After the hearing, Ros-Lehtinen said the subcommittee was gathering information to use in drafting future resolutions and possible legislation regarding the fate of the four Israelis.
This piece ran on the cnsnews.com wire on October 3, 2002
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Israel's War for Standing in
have won all the battles. We had all the good songs"
Tom Lehrer, That Was The Year That Was - 1966.
"When you promote our cause, never say that it is a military struggle to
liberate Palestine. Say that it we are a movement designed to achieve the
human rights and civil liberties of the Palestinian people" -
Huwaida Araf, a trainer in a training session for Palestinian activists provided in September, 2001 by PASSIA, The Palestine Association for the Study of International Affairs in Jerusalem, in a course sponsored by the US AID, the United States Agency for International Development, which
reports directly to the White House.
It would be an understatement to say that any cause or movement that
defines itself and projects itself as a civil liberties or human rights
movement will earn an obvious edge in its fight for media sympathy, if it
is pitted against the image of a highly mechanized and professional army,
The media professionals of the PLO began to adjust the way in which they
market themselves to the world press during the time of the Lebanese war in
1982, when the Red Crescent, under the direction of Dr. Fatchi Arafat,
Yassir's brother, issued daily situation reports from the field. Even if
the claims of casualties seemed wildly out of proportion ("10,000 dead,
600,000 made homeless during the first week of the war"), the very
couching of such a report in the context of a humanitarian organization
made all the difference.
In 1984, a Palestinian Arab media professional, Ramonda Tawill, who six
years later would become Yassir Arafat's mother-in-law, pioneered the
concept of a Palestinian Press Service, based in Jerusalem and working in
coordination with the other organization founded by Tawill, the Palestine
Human Rights Information Center. Tawill began to slowly change the image if
not the reality of the PLO, from a catchy "liberation" movement in the
1960's and 1970's to that of a human rights concern. Everything would now
be couched in terms of human rights, and the media would be targeted for
Meanwhile, Arafat's trusted assistant, Abu Iyad, spent a year in Hanoi
learning the lessons of the Vietnam conflict from the victorious General
Giap, where Abu Iyad studied how the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese had
transformed their movement in the eyes of the west and particularly in the
eyes of American public opinion from that of a terror group to that of a
heroic and popular movement. "It is all a matter of working well with the
media", was how the Vietnamese summarized their training sessions with Abu
Iyad, who managed to coordinate his Arafat's media efforts in Tunis with
Tawill in Jerusalem
One of the first successful training projects that Tawill pulled off was
the way in which she handled the freed prisoners from the Jibril exchange
in May, 1985, when Israel freed more than 1100 convicted PLO terrorists in
exchange for seven IDF troops held by PLO operative Achmed Jibril. 600 of
these freed convicts returned to their homes in the west bank and Gaza, and
Tawill conducted a training course for them to learn how to market
themselves to the media, by discussing their allegations of Israeli torture
in Israeli jails, so as to distract reporters from asking about their
crimes. Tawill's trainees also learned the art of media relations, and many
of them assumed key roles in the organization of the PLO rebellion, known
as the Intifada, which broke out in December,. 1987.
It would be hard to say that the PLO commitment to civil liberties and
human rights would represent a pure approach to human rights and civil
Perception is everything, however. When a Palestinian by the name of Dr.
Mubarak Awad opened the Center for the Study of Non-Violence in the
mid-1980's, he was received with adulation by the media and by western
diplomats alike. However, Dr. Awad , whose office was decorated with
pictures of Dr, Martin Luther King and Dr Muhatma Ghandi, told me in a
taped interview in January, 1988 that he favored a coalition of violent
and non violent organizations that would advocate the Palestinian cause.
When Dr Awad was asked how his approach differed from the pure approach of
non-violence advocated by King and Ghandi, Awad responded that he was "more
pragmatic than they were". Awad, an American Palestinian, and often
described as the tactical leader of the Intifada, was deported from Israel
in June, 1988.
This interview with Dr. Mubarak Awad was commissioned by Tikun magazine
in the US. The above questions were left out of the March 1988 published interview.
The editor of Tikun told me on the telephone that "this was not the Awad we
The second PLO Intifada, which broke out out in September, 2000 was also
well orchestrated with the media.
John Burns, visiting correspondent for the New York Times, witnessed the
preparations for that war in a front page story that he filed for the Times on August 3, 2000.
Burns desribed how the PLO's Palestinian Authority had
dispatched 25,000 Palestinian children to summer camps to "learn
the art of war" and to acquire skills such as the preparation
and explosion of molotov cocktails and combat with Israeli
troops, in the war that was going to break out following the
collapse of the Camp David summit.
The article that Burns wrote was unique, since most Israeli and foreign
news stories continued to relate to the PA as a peace partner that had
abandoned the path of violence ever since the Rabin-Arafat handshake on the
White House Lawn in September, 1993. That perception of the PLO embarking
on a new path to peace was reinforced by the policies of the Israeli
government at the time, which strongly disapproved of any news reportage
which reflected a PA or PLO message of war in Arabic
Indeed, when the Institute for Peace Education Ltd began to produce videos
of Arafat's speeches which continued to support Jihad holy war and the
continuation of violence, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres implored the Israel TV (there was
only one channel then ) to not air any of Arafat's speeches in the Arabic
In September, 1995, before The US House Committee of International
Relations held hearings in which committee members watched videos of Arafat
urging his people to war during the height of the Oslo peace process,
Israeli ambassador Itamar Rabinovitch implored the congressional committee
to cancel its hearing.
The reluctance to share Arafat's message of war in the Arabic language
continued during the Netanyahu administration, 1996-1999, despite the Likud
ties of Mr. Netanyahu. And during the Barak administration, the clause that
required a cessation of incitement was dropped in the accord that was
brokered between Arafat and Barak by US Secretary of State Madalyn Albright
on September 4, 1999.
In other words, key Israeli and US decision-makers chose to ignore the
consistent message of the PA in its daily calls on official PBC radio and
PBC TV which carried a daily message of a renewed war against Israel.
The PLO was not sitting on its hands, however.
The PA organized an intricate media operation from the time of its
inception in 1994, in anticipation of a full scale conflict with Israel.
That network included:
1. The aforementioned PASSIA, working on a 1.034 million dollar grant per
annum from the US, which covered more than 80% of its working budget. In
2001 alone, PASSIA shows that it was able to run 16 courses for
Palestinians to learn the art of lobbying the media and elected officials
abroad. (Passia can be found on the net at: www.passia.org). No counterpart
yet exists on the Israeli side.
2. The JMCC, the Jersualem Media and Communications Center, run by Arafat
intimate Dr Ghassan Khatib, and funded through grants from the Ford
Foundation and the western European governments that comprise the European
Union, the EU. The JMCC coordinates press services for the hundreds of
visiting correspondents who visit Jerusalem, selling them daily press
bulletins, Stringers and tours of Jerusalem and the areas under the control of the PA.
There are altogether more that 100 Palestinian stringers who
provide per diem services to the media. No counterpart to JMCC
yet exists on the Israeli side.
3. Union of Palestine Medical Relief Committees, run by Dr. Mustafa
Bargouti, whose public relations department, funded with a US AID grant of
close to $300,000. The UPMRC, in coordination with the Red Crescent, whose
pr department if also funded through US AID, issues consistently wild
reports concerning medical neglect and torture. The UPMRC is the
organization responsible for spreading the rumored news item that Israel
has developed special poisonous tear gas for use against Arab children, and
that Israel has developed special methodologies of dumping waste in Arab
villages so as to cause Arab villagers to come down with mass dysentery.
No counterpart yet exists on the Israeli side to contradict the claims
Israel Resource News Agency assigned its student interns to the courses
provided by Mrs. Tawill and later to the courses provided by PASSIA and the
JMCC . One of the themes of the courses was the instruction to constantly
repeat the terms that connote occupation, illegal settlements, human
rights abuses, right to go home, while teaching them to emulate the leaders
of the twentieth century who came to power through acts of violence
The fact that the PLO provides the media with stringers and cameramen
through the good offices of the JMCC, in addition to minibuses and vans,
has helped the PLO to form the reporting environment for the hundreds of
foreign reporters who come to cover the middle east crisis.
The PLO is generally not heavy handed with the media, except in a few
glaring instances such as the instance on October 12, 2000 when an Italian TV
crew had to provide the PLO with a written promise that they would never
again dispatch footage that was not first approved by Palestinian
authorities, following their coverage of the lynching of two Israeli
soldiers at the PA police station in Ramallah.
The PLO has developed a successful working relationship with the media arm
of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the organization
that actually runs the Palestinian Arab refugee camp, charged by UN
resolution #194 with the task to operate the "temporary shelters" of the
Palestinian Arab refugees, under the premise and the promise of the
"inalienable right" of Palestinian Arab refugees to return to the homes
and villages that they left in 1948. While the architect of the Oslo
process. Dr Yose Beilin, declared in December 1993 that the first act of
the PA would be to absorb these refugees, the PA decided in its opening
session in May 1994 that all Palestinian refugees must remain in their
camps until they are repatriated to their homes and villages.
UNRWA, which now maintains a news service and Television agency, has
cooperated with the media services of the PLO and with the PBC, the
Palestine Broadcasting Corporation, to provide the visiting
Press with any and all services that present the plight of the refugees who
wallow in their squalor.
Awaiting their return to their homeland. It did not surprise the PLO or
UNRWA when President Clinton made his speech of July 1, 1999 which indeed
endorsed the Palestinian right to "return to their homeland", since the US covers $90 million of the $400 million per annum budget of the UNRWA camps.
As a result, The PLO media professionals coordinate their work with human
rights organizations that operate in the areas under the control of the PA.
These human rights groups rely on "eyewitness" testimony that confirm human
rights abuses. Some of these human rights groups are actually Israeli based
organizations, such as "Btselem". The news story that accompanies this
article concerning Btselem will speak for itself
The PA does everything possible to stage events. Their attempt to project
the image of a massacre after the fact at the UNRWA refugee camp in Jenin
simply did not work. The IDF filmed PLO media professionals bringing dead
carcasses of animals to the scenes where reporters and UN officials were
likely to visit the camp. The IDF also filmed a staged funeral where the
"body" actually fell off of the stretcher and jumped back on en route to
Other "flashpoint" events worked however. The most famous event which was
shown around the world was that of a boy, age 11, named Muhammad Dura, who
was seemingly shot dead while his father hovered over him at a road junction near Gaza. Dura became the martyr of the first stage
of the PLO rebellion, even though a German TV crew would later prove that
all the firing that came in the direction of the little boy was from the Palestinian side. Yet there is even a more macabre side to this, and that is that the Palestinian TV crew that actually did the filming of the incident has made the out takes of the not shown b-roll, which conveyed yet another message. The film shows two Palestinian journalists laughing as they arrange for the same Palestinian ambulance with the same
license number to come to the scene of the riot to pick up the same wounded
people each time, at three minute intervals, which would not have been enough time to take the "wounded" to the Shifa hospital in Gaza. And the barrel where Muhamad Dura and his father were supposedly fired upon for 40 minutes is shown to have only one or two bullet holes. In other words, the Muhammad Dura death was also staged
Dr. Mike Cohen, a Jerusalem based strategic communications analyst who
serves in the IDF reserves with the rank of captain the IDF Spokesman's
office, believes that it is the PLO's ability to manipulate
The images for reporters that is proving to be the crucial factor, much
more so than any innate Bias that the journalist might have. In the words of Dr. Cohen: " I do not believe that the media is anti-israel or anti-semitic or pro-palestinian. From my experience, with many in the international media I would unscientifically rank the reasons as thus:
|50%||lack of background and knowledge of the entire picture on the part of
the reporters and editors and lack of time and desire to take a deep look at
|25%||fear of losing access if coverage was truthful|
|15%||fear of loss of revenue if coverage was balanced|
|5%||anger at the Israeli pr establishment|
|2%||rooting for the underdog|
|1% or less||built in bias|
Yet in the view of senior American journalists who are permanently based in
Israel. The Jewish State has not really lost the PR war
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one senior
American journalist made the following observation:
"The numbers show that Israel has won the war hands down. Support for Israel in the US is overwhelming, and it's about the same
it's always been in Europe, which is to say, not very
good. We tend to home in on the negative articles, but
there are papers full of positive ones, and even the
papers we believe have a bias also run articles
explaining our side.
'When it comes to hasbara, Israelis are
clobbering the Palestinians. Israeli spokespeople are
good, clear, concise (some of them) and most of all,
available. I trip over them. I practically have to
have a receptionist to keep them lined up and orderly
outside the office. It's true, whenever I need a
Palestinian to comment on something, I can get a senior
official easily, but this government has matched that
and made its people much more available for TV. Where
Israel is falling down is in the inevitable TV image
conflict and by making stupid decisions like keeping
reporters out of places. Had reporters been in the
Jenin camp, the world would have read, heard about and
seen a battle, and rumors of a massacre would never
have taken hold. They also would have seen some nasty
things in Ramallah, because Israel did some nasty things.
But in the end of the day, the pictures of destroyed
buildings and wailing Palestinians (they do that so
well) overwhelm any attempt to explain why. Of course,
it would have been nice if the army had provided or
allowed a cover shot to show that only a small corner
of the Jenin camp was destroyed . . . It took them two weeks
to get around to that".
And not all journalists based in Israel thing that the PA
ultimately controls information and images that emanate from
areas under the control of the PA.
Another reporter made the following observation:
"I think it's crucial to understand that Israel is the
one that ''controls'' (read bans) information and
images coming from the territories. There have been a
few incidents of Palestinian police confiscating video
and film and intimidating reporters, but the IDF
closed the whole West Bank to reporters during
Defensive Shield and left the area wide open to wild
rumors, planted skillfully by Palestinian spokesmen
taking advantage of this horrible Israeli mistake. We
had no way to check out the rumors (massacre, human
shield, etc etc), and so many of us had to report it
in a he-said, she-said format. And, of course, when TV
networks put Palestinian spokesmen on live to make
their charges, then it's out there and we have to deal
To say that Israel could do better with its media relations is the
understatement of Zionism.
As this article is being prepared, at least five different aspects of
Israeli officialdom meet with the media independently of one another - the IDF, the foreign ministry, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office and the Defence Ministry.
Everyone gives a different message.
No one provides any real creativity in their Respective approaches to the media
Since the Israeli government is doomed to continue in its dysfunctional way
of dealing with the press, the time has come for private enterprise to take the reigns of Israel's public relations -
To provide systematic bus tours, seminars with experts, interviews with the
families of terror victims and independent news investigations that will
help provide Israel with a chance of conveying its message to the media.
The following ten questions, developed by Jerusalem radio journalist Yoram
Getzler, could easily form the basis of a quiz show that could
which could counter some current popular assumptions that have
seeped into the consciousness of the media and public opinion,
in Israel and abroad:
1) What is the percentage of Palestinians living under Palestinian autonomy
and sovereignty since the withdrawal of the IDF from Arab populated areas of in the West Bank & Gaza in 1995
Answer: - 95%, according to Dr. Kalil Shikaki, director of the
Palestinian Center for Policy and Research (Berzeit University)
2) Did The Oslo "peace process" (1993) halt Palestinian terror attacks on
Answer: In 1994 '95 '96 & 1997 while Israel was implementing the Oslo
agreement & withdrawing from the occupied territories - 134 Israelis were
murdered by Palestinian terrorists.
3) What did the Israel Defense Forces destroy in retaliation for the
lynching of two of its IDF troops who had wandered into Ramallah?
Answer: one; the police station in which the lynching took place, after the
IDF warned the Palestinians that it was going to attack so that it could
evacuate the building.
4) Ariel Sharon declared a unilateral cease-fire how many days before the
June 1 2001 suicide bombing at the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium.
Answer: 12 days, (from May 20 2001)
4b) What did the IDF destroy after for the murder of 20 young people in the
suicide bombing of the Dolphierioum Disco in Tel Aviv
Answer: five buildings of the PA security services in Gaza
5) Who first offered the "Saudi Proposal" (exchanging all land captured in
1967 for peace)for ending the Israel / Arab conflict?
Answer: Israel, one month after the 1967 war
7) What was the official response of the Arab League to the Israeli 1967
proposal to exchange all the land occupied in the 1967 war for peace - in
Khartoum, Sudan on November 22, 1967
Answer: No recognition (of Israel)
No negotiations (with Israel)
No peace ( with Israel)
8) What did Israeli government confiscate from the
Palestinian Authority in response to the bombing of the Sabarro Pizza parlor
in which 16 Israelis were murdered?
Answer: The Orient House, which was the de facto PLO headquarters in Jerusalem
9) How many Israels were murdered by terrorists between the signing of Oslo
accords, September 13 1993, to September 2000 (outbreak of current violence)
10) In 1967, was the West Bank conquered by IDF Army from the Palestinians?
Answer: The West Bank was captured from the Hashamite Kingdom of Jordan
which had ruled there since 1948 - Gaza was captured from the Egyptians.
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