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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Kampeas is wrong on one topic, right on another

JTA's Ron Kampeas writes:
I'm ancient enough to remember the younger Benjamin Netanyahu warning audiences to pay attention to what Yasser Arafat says in Arabic, as opposed to his relatively moderate pronouncements in English.

Such warnings are passe, with the onset of the Internet and a multilingual, wired world -- if a leader says something provocative/embarrassing/saber-rattling in his or her native language, it'll be out there in English, guaranteed, within minutes.
I wish this were true.

However, I've been using Google Translate for years now to see what Arabic sites are saying, and the vast majority of the things I uncovered were never reported in the mainstream media, or even by MEMRI or Palestinian Media Watch.

There is just too much stuff out there. MEMRI and PMW focus on the worst incidents, the stuff that can make headlines, the songs sung by little kids about killing Jews, anti-semitic cartoons andsimilar items. But the causal hate that pervades the Arabic media is not something that you can appreciate from just reading a couple of cherry-picked examples a day. If people knew how Hamas, day in and day out, praises terror attacks - even attacks from years ago - they would never believe the stupidity pushed by some that Hamas is moderating, or willing to be at peace with Israel, or willing to accept a two state solution.

But it is not reported.

A couple of weeks ago I searched for every mention of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion on Arabic news sites from the previous 30 days. While a couple of sites did refer to them as forgeries, most mentioned them - in asides - as if their veracity is unquestioned among the readership. This is a story that is current - but no media covered it besides me.

Also, what you will not see in Arabic sites is the complete absence of the other side of the story. We take it for granted that Jewish and Zionist media, like JTA, will have a variety of viewpoints on the subject of Israel and the Arabs. But that multiplicity of views is missing in Arabic media. Arabs are simply not exposed to anything besides anti-Israel propaganda, day in and day out. Tehy don't even have Arabic-language access to the truth. This is a story that is ignored - and it shouldn't be.

When reading the Arabic news sites, on first glance, it appears that they are similar to Western media. There are news items along with special interest stories, sports, ads, odd stories and so forth. It takes time to realize that most news sites have a sponsor and they faithfully report only one viewpoint. To see the truth about Fatah, you must read Islamic Jihad and Hamas sites (along with a very few maverick websites;) to see the truth about Hamas you must read the Fatah sites. Different Egyptian papers will cover different stories and ignore the ones that embarrass their sponsors.

None of this is obvious and practically none of it is reported. And that is a shame, because it is impossible to truly understand how Arabs think without reading their own words - about everything.

But Kampeas is right about one thing:
Bringing us back to Bibi and his two totally different Independence Day messages, one geared to Israelis and one to Americans. In the former he looks forward to hanging around the "mangal" or barbecue grill tomorrow, and he lists priorities for next year: A fence separating Israel and the Egypt, expanding Iron Dome, free education for kids from age 3 and reducing the cost of living (in that order.) He extols Israel's advances in high-tech.

For Americans and other English speakers, his cast is "Israel is unique." He emphasizes "restoring sovereignty" for a powerless people, and also becoming a "global technological power" (although here he qualifies that with a "despite threats"). He extols a "vibrant liberal democracy" where women are equal and says Israel is especially unique for the "tens of millions" of supporters it has, Jewish and non Jewish.

Nothing at all wrong with this: Two different constituencies, two different messages. Happens everywhere.

What throws me off, though, are the cat and the parrot singing "Hineh mah tov" at the end of the Hebrew version (which features Arabic subtitles). The cat is miserable, and apparently paw-cuffed; the parrot appears ready to hop into the blender standing alongside it.

What message are these unhappy creatures meant to convey?

Why are Israelis guided, unprepared, into this 20-second nightmare?
Indeed - that cartoon is creepy and bizarre, and I cannot come up with a single rational reason it was tacked onto the end of Bibi's Hebrew address.