Itamar Marcus does not recognize the Yasser Arafat that most Israelis know from their television sets. As the head of the Palestine Media Review, a relatively new nonprofit media outfit that monitors the official Palestine Authority television network, Marcus gets a very different picture of the Palestinian leader.
"There are two Arafats," he says, playing a video his group has assembled from the Palestinian Broadcasting Company (PBC) to prove his point. It shows a collection of incitement speeches made by Arafat and other Palestinian leaders. In many of them Arafat calls for the crowd to spill their blood in order to liberate Palestine, assuring them a place in paradise. Banging his fist on the podium and shouting for emphasis, Arafat reveals a face that is rarely, if ever, seen in the West. By showing these clips to the public, Marcus hopes to unveil what he sees as the PLOís true intentions.
During the early years of the Oslo peace process, Marcus says, the public constantly heard from Rabin and Peres that Arafat was a trustworthy partner. In particular, they made a distinction between Arafat, who, they claimed, was fighting for peace, and Hamas, who was fighting against it. Last year, before the Israeli elections, Arafat appeared on PBC praising the leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, referring to him as "our beloved Sheikh." Arafat was also televised at the funeral of Hamas terrorist Abu Ayash, where he proclaimed him to be a "holy martyr." Marcus believes that this and other examples, such as the PLOís failure to change the Covenant, helped shape the election results, causing people to seriously question whether the other side was bargaining in good faith.
Besides influencing public opinion, Marcus also hopes to affect decision-makers. One subject that he has recently brought to their attention is the Palestiniansí continuing use of the map of Palestine, which encompasses the entire state of Israel. In one PBC clip, a map of Israel hangs on the wall of a kindergarten classroom. In the top left-hand corner is a Palestinian flag. The tape has numerous other examples, from the Fatah emblem, which shows two interlocking rifles on top of the state of Israel, to the Hebron Liberation Celebration in which dancers perform in front of a conspicuous map of Israel.
Marcus noted that in many scenes the cameraman purposely focuses on the map for several seconds. This emphasis gives the viewers the impression that they are going to receive all of Israel, not just the areas outside the "Green Line", creating unrealistic expectations. Arafat has thus made it almost impossible to compromise, Marcus said, making it difficult to make future progress in the peace process. In order to foster a situation in which a final settlement can be reached that is acceptable to both sides, he sent to Knesset members a petition along with a copy of the tape, asking them to request Arafat to stop displaying the map of Israel as the future Palestine.
Amazingly, few people, even in Israel, monitor the Palestinian airwaves. Marcus attributes this partly to the politics of the Israeli media, which prefers to show clips of Arafat seemingly calling for peace instead of war. The practice of turning a blind eye towards what Arafat says to his own people produces a distortion in understanding the unfolding of events. An example of this is the commonly held assumption that the riots of last September were spontaneous, a boiling over of public outrage due to the opening of a tunnel alongside the Temple Mount. A segment of the tapes disputes this, showing that days before violence erupted Arafat issued a particularly vociferous speech in Arabic, inciting Palestinians to violence in Israel.
For the most part both the Israeli and American press pay little if any attention to Arafatís proclamations in Arabic. Some journalists, however, have made use of Marcusís work, such as George Will, who questioned Dennis Ross about a picture he received from Marcus with Ross sitting in Arafatís office, a map of Israel hanging behind them. Ross ignored the question. Recently Marcus has sent copies to the U.S. House International Relations and U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committees, hoping they will exhibit more concern over images of crowds chanting before Arafat, "The soul and the blood weíll give for thee, Palestine." Perhaps if members of Congress start asking similar questions, Clinton administration officials will find it increasingly difficult not to answer.
Fighting Speed ... and
Speaking before a concerned audience at the Beit Agron Press Center on May 6, 1997, Dr. Eli Richter, a board member of the Center for Driver Research and Injury Prevention, condemned the number of road casualties as a "blot on our lives," calling for citizens to take action against a transportation ministry which has failed to stem the rising tide of casualties that occur on Israelís hazardous roads.
Israel is the only Western country that has witnessed a rise in road deaths over the past six years.
Citing the success and subsequent cancellation of last year's project in Netanya, in which on-line roadside electronic enforcement was coupled with a widespread publicity campaign to reduce the speed on the roads, Richter, accompanied by two scientists, Prof. Gerry Ben-David and Zvi Weinberger, accused the Israel Ministry of Transportation of canceling the project just as it was beginning to prove its effectiveness.
The Netanya project, carried out between March and July 1996, was based on the premise that speed is the leading cause of deaths and serious injuries on the road. Richter said that studies all over the world have supported this claim, and that countries which have instituted programs aimed at lowering the speed on the roads have seen a reduction in fatalities of as high as fifty percent.
During the six months of the project, the number of citations rose from 80 during the same period in the previous year to more than 2500, witnessing a corresponding drop in the average speed, which fell between ten and twenty percent. Traffic casualties dropped from 328 to 248. These numbers are even more dramatic when one compares them to the rest of the country, which saw a rise in casualties over the same period.
The speakers claimed that a country-wide implementation of the Netanya project could save 200 lives annually. The Ministry of Transportation canceled it after six months, claiming it had failed. Prof. Ben-David attributed this in part to special interests, including oil companies and commercial trucking, which make more money when people drive at high speeds. Insurance companies, which in Israel operate as a cartel, also increase their profits when road crashes increase. Dr. Richter accused the scientists who criticized the Netanya project of having offered their services to these "special interests", drawing a comparison between them and scientists who for years denied the harmful effects of smoking while receiving money from the tobacco industry.
The rest of the meeting dealt with methods of community organization, so that citizens could bring pressure on seemingly ineffective government officials. "Itís time to let other people try," said Weinberger, exhorting the crowd to "throw the rascals out."
A Program That Could Be Applied Anywhere in Israel to Reduce Speed, Death and Injury
The Center for Driver Research and Injury Prevention
Back to the home page.