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Gilad Shalit in the Arab media
By Ali Younes — Every time I read and watch how Arab media outlets cover the story of prisoner’s exchange of the Israeli solider Gilad Shalit and hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, I come to think how Arab media have fallen victims to Israeli PR machine (propaganda). There are several issues at play here when covering this story. Note that Gilad Shalit is always mentioned by name, I know his name, you do, and maybe my grandmother knows his name too!
Why, because the Israeli government has made sure that the whole world, and even my grandmother knows this soldier name. Every effort to release him ( note its always about him ) was made specifically for him, the Egyptians, the Germans, the Americans, even some Palestinians care more about him than their own.
How many Palestinian prisoners’ names do we know? We know that there are 12000 of them in captivity I might know Marwan Barghouthi, whose only image I know is him in chains and handcuffs waving them off. Maybe few others and that’s about it. The rest I just see them without actually see them in Israeli busses or cages, or jail cells. Or, we might see a crying wife, a saddened son, or an ailing mother clinging to a picture of her imprisoned son. But I don’t know who he is, or how, when and why did the Israeli army arrest him. We don’t even know if those prisoners have children or if they are married even.
Moreover, I watched an Arab media outlet over the weekend looping a report as part of a show on the possibility of prisoner’s exchange, where the Israeli soldier was shown with his “boyish looks” smile around, eating, and joking like any other normal person. But this should be anything but normal.
The Palestinian movements did not capture him out of his bedroom or out of his school yard. He was manning a tank and military position that was laying siege against Palestinians, shooting at the Palestinians and God knows how many Palestinians he/they kill.
Yet Arab media fall into an Israeli trap and present “normal” image of one its soldiers who was trained to kill Palestinian men, women and children.
If imagery is not enough, let’s talk about the words. Almost every time an Israeli official talk about “the Exchange” we notice that Israeli is “in pain” at releasing “Palestinians with bloods on their hands” One Arab TV anchor repeated those words, with the disclaimer that those were an Israeli allegations. This is true, but in the world of media and PR, the disclaimer matters not once you utter the crucial words that Israeli PR machine wants you to say.
Does the Israeli soldier have blood on his hands; no one says anything about it. What we know about Gilad Shalit-note I always mention him by name, whereas I don’t mention any Palestinian by name, because as an Arab consumer of television and news, I have been spoon-fed news reports and imagery about this one Israeli solider and that no one bothered, at least to the best of knowledge to mention that he was a killing machine part of even larger killing machine called the Israeli Army.
Israel has humanized its solider making him a celebrity around the world and in the heart of the Arab world. Hamas, the Palestinians in general obviously for the lack of experience and host of other problems have yet to match the Israeli PR sophistication and prowess.
When was the last time the Haaretz or any Israeli newspaper or television or Fox news, or CNN run a true objective story that humanizes the Palestinian victims? It’s almost never.
The only time Palestinians were dealt with as human beings, really, was that when treating them like “animals” would cause a “hiccup” in the conscious of Israelis. That’s about it.
Ali Younes is a journalist and Middle East analyst in Washington D.C
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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