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Media Watch

May 8, 2008 By:
John R. Cohn, M.D.
Posted In 
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While Jews around the world were preparing for Passover last month -- a holiday that commemorates the liberation of the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery, and their 3,000-plus-year connection to the Land of Israel -- former President Jimmy Carter was meeting with leaders of Hamas.

Article 11 of the Hamas charter declares, "The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine ... should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up." Lest readers sense any ambiguity, Hamas leaders have repeatedly declared they will not accept Israel's existence.

The Hamas charter goes on to state, "Peaceful solutions and international conferences are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement."

Hamas has been declared a terrorist organization by the United States. Hamas does not deny accusations of initiating violence against Israeli civilians. To the contrary, they take credit. Typical was the claim of "responsibility" for a Dimona suicide bombing in February of this year, which killed one Israeli and wounded 11 more.

Hamas-controlled Gaza became a platform for rocket attacks on Israel once all of Gaza's Jews had left.

So how did The Philadelphia Inquirer handle coverage of a former American president setting off on his own self-declared diplomatic mission over the objections of his own government?

Consider the story leads.

On April 19, the Inquirer story on Page A3 began, "Former President Carter defied U.S. and Israeli warnings ... "

The next day, the story began, "Defying U.S. and Israeli warnings, former President Jimmy Carter yesterday met again with the exiled leader of the militant Hamas group and his deputy."

On April 21, readers had to get to the second paragraph before learning that Carter was "defying U.S. and Israeli warnings."

Carter, according to the first story, "defended what he calls his personal peace mission. He says Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, must be engaged in order to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians."

Carter's critics argue that such behavior brings peace no closer. In contrast to Egypt and Israel, which began negotiations for their peace agreement with a clear understanding that both nations would persist after the agreement was completed, Hamas refuses to accept Israel's existence.

In that context, the visit by a former American president carries increased significance, offering legitimacy to a violent group that actively seeks Israel's destruction. Don't ask Israel's supporters if that is accurate; listen to Hamas.

One Hamas leader was moved by Carter's trip to declare, "Political isolation [of Hamas] by the American administration has begun to crumble."

Another Hamas leader in a Gaza speech proclaimed, "The meetings with Carter were proof that Hamas was not a terrorist group but a national liberation movement."

But Carter's visit was presented by the Inquirer as an act of courageous defiance in search of peace -- not an act of arrogant stupidity that also managed provide a veneer of legitimacy to a violent group.

Newspapers use "sidebars" to provide background when dealing with a complex story like this. The Inquirer ran a sidebar with its April 19 story.

That would have been a good opportunity to provide a history of Hamas' acts of violence, maybe a list of their victims, and even a review of Hamas statements rejecting any possibility of peace with Israel.

Not for the Inquirer.

The paper's sidebar addressed plans to build 100 new homes in two Israeli communities on the West Bank, in "territory sought by the Palestinians for their future state."

Of course, for Hamas, the territory they seek for their future state is all of Israel. But don't expect the Inquirer to point that out, either.

This column was written for the Israel Advocacy Task Force of the Israel Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

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