by Joe Shea
American Reporter Editor-in-Chief
March 29, 2002
'STRANGE AND TWISTED MUSIC' FROM THE MIDDLE EAST
HOLLYWOOD, March 29 -- If Middle Eastern terrorists launched deadly attacks against U.S. cities this very afternoon, who would we blame? Would it be al-Qaida? Palestinians? Israel? Iraq? Who would we crucify on this Good Friday?
That question is highly apropos at this instant. I have just finished watching a half-hour of Islamic clerics via Internet tv (http://wwitv.com/tv.htm) and I am now well enough informed to tell you that big trouble is heading our way. The Middle East has boiled over. It is beyond the brink.
If someone in an airplane flew into the Pentagon or the White House this afternoon, I would unequivocally blame the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, even before anyone really knew the facts. In truth, a dozen Islamic hardliners just finished explaining the facts to their congregations in as many cities on Al Manar, an Internet-enabled Arabic television station in Lebanon.
As speaker after speaker raised his fist and demanded jihad, the station unrolled scene after scene of Palestinian youngsters, some barely of school age, facing Israeli tanks with rocks somewhere in Ramallah, Gaza City, Hebron and other areas of the Palestinian Authority. These scenes are accompanied by prayers for Palestinian soldiers crouched low in the night, for widows keening over their husbands, for mothers holding dead and wounded infants in bloody hands.
In mid-afternoon on Good Friday, as CBS shows "Entertainment Tonight" and NBC shows "The Weakest Link," ABC's "Oprah" talks of a miracle baby and Fox's "Inside Edition" babbles on about Britney Spears, Al Manar is organizing World War III. If you were watching, it would not surprise you at all if a suicide bomber walked into Macy's down at the mall and blew himself up.
Jumping from imam to imam, Al Manar offers in many different voices the outrage and anger of the Islamic world now that Israel has invaded the Palestinian Authority's equivalent of the White House. Yasser Arafat now sits there in the dark with a machine gun in front of him holding a cell phone in a windowless room, as Israeli soldiers control the floors above and below his office.
As tanks gut his building, the Chairman of the Palestinian Auhtority prays out loud for the honor of martyrdom and calls around the Arabic world seeking help. Israel has blamed him for the Hamas bombing that took 22 lives at a Passover Seder in Netanya, even though he is clearly not calling the shots for that organization; he seems barely to be able to control Fatah; no U.S. news station ever bothers to say that. Meanwhile, his own organization's violent partner, the Al Aqsa Brigades, is also killing Israelis. What is said by the leaders doesn't matter any more; on the ground, it's hate vs. hate.
There is no commercial break in the Arabic-language television coverage of this crisis; at Al Maran's rival, Al Jazeera, the servers in nearby Qatar are so jammed with viewers it can't be accessed via the Net. Night and day the drumbeat of war, having reached its fatal rhythm, measures out the hours until a new revenge is exacted, a new attack occurs, another city is invaded, another Palestinian or Israeli is killed.
What a strange and twisted music we hear, far across the planet from these ancient, blood-gorged enemies. We watch ads for Clorox as a new army of fanatics is summoned to fight Israel and destrioy America. Israel has blamed everything on Arafat and tried to get the world to see its point of view even as it mounts reprisals against whole communities, knocking their homes down with tanks to even a score that is already lopsided with Palestinian dead. Now, they seem like Nazis, while the Palestinians merely seem insane.
This is not to say that Palestinians are blameless; how can wild-eyed, ignorant, illiterate fanatics be innocent of anything? They don't even know what innocence is beyond the life of a child they can exploit for sympathy. But when their dead fall in the nameless places that are hit by tank and rocket fire, the aftermath isn't news on television for days on end; they're just more Palestinian dead. Meanwhile, with no ads and no sitcoms and no talk shows, stations like Al Manar and al-Jazeera stir the pot that has begun to tip over its boiling blood on the rest of the world.
Now the opportunity for martyrdom and immortality await Arafat.
With Israelis all around him, if he is killed by one of his colleagues the Israelis will be blamed; if the Israelis kill him, they'll blame Arafat.
But neither lies nor truth will still a moment of the storm that will then unfold upon the world.
Now is the time for a leader with real courage and inherent authority to speak for the worried world that these two peoples so gravely threaten with their hatred; that person must summon the spirit of peace from its secret hiding place, and stop this awful music before it ends.