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PRIMER Response to Between the Lines

This is the text of the PRIMER response to a WPKN Between the Lines interview with Hussein Ibish, communications director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

The interview with Ibish was aired September 26, 2003. PRIMER's response was sent to WPKN in mid-October and was aired at the very end of Scott Harris' Counterpoint program November 17.

The audio may be heard by clicking HERE. The audio includes introductory remarks by Scott Harris along with Harris' remarks following the response. Those remarks themselves misrepresented PRIMER and its work.

The text of the PRIMER response:

The acronym PRIMER stands for Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting. Responsible journalism requires intelligent and critical questioning during interviews.

The September 26 Between the Lines interview of Hussein Ibish by Scott Harris fell embarrassingly short of this requirement.

The questions were leading, softball questions.

Inaccuracies and distortions in responses were accepted without question.

And even the introduction contained false statements, such as:

"The cease-fire fell apart soon after Israel targeted leaders of the militant Islamic group Hamas for assassination, which in turn triggered a series of Palestinian suicide bombings, killing Israeli civilians in buses and restaurants."

WPKN should know better.

Its listeners deserve better; its listeners deserve the truth.

The truth is that terrorist attacks never ceased during the so-called cease-fire. It was those terrorist attacks which triggered the Israeli responses.

Consider a small sample of statements from Ibish that cried for probing questions from any responsible journalist.

Referring to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Ibish said:

"He was able to engineer, against all conceivable odds, this cease fire, unilateral cease fire, which held for almost three months."

Nobody but Ibish even pretends that the hudna held for more than half that long. And the Arab terrorists never stopped attacking Israelis, attempting roughly 30 attacks a day.

But Harris never said anything about Ibish's blatant lie.

Regarding Israeli deliberations about neutralizing Yasser Arafat's orchestration of Palestinian Arab terrorsm, Ibish ignored indisputable fact and said:

"It's not just that the Sharon government understands that this would be a collossal escalation ... but also the parties involving, by bringing the mainstream PLO, the mainstream Fatah, the mainstream Palestinian Authority, into the war that has generally speaking been going on between the Israeli government and the Islamicists."

This is patently false.

The terrorist onslaught was launched at the direction of Yasser Arafat himself. Most of the Israeli casualties have been inflicted by the Tanzim and Al-Aksa Martyrs, which are part of Yasser Arafat's own Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization and are relatively secular.

Ibish followed that up by responding to a leading question with language appealing to the bigots who look for a Jewish conspiracy everywhere.

"I think the questions about Israel generally speaking ... are not foreign policy questions in the American political scene; I think they're domestic political questions because the motivating driving force is not American national interest but primarily it's principally the wishes and opinions and moods of an incredibly powerful set of special interests ... "

That should have brought a sharp rebuke from the interviewer. In one broad stroke, Ibish impugned the patriotism of Americans from a range of political and religious groups, both liberals and conservatives, Christians and clearly most of all Jews.

One could easily find a dozen more items any responsible interviewer--even one sympathetic to Ibish's perspective--would have sharply questioned.

One would never suspect from WPKN's interview of Hussein Ibish that Israel longs for peace and has, time and time again, demonstrated a willingness to make painful concessions in pursuit of peace.

Israel shares with America our most treasured values. Unfortunately, we also share many of the same enemies.

This is exemplified by a recent event which attracted surprisingly little notice here in America.

Last November, a terrorist infiltrated Kibbutz Metzer and murdered five people, including two young children and their mother as she was reading them a bedtime story.

The terrorist, incidentally, was not a member of one of what Ibish calls the "Islamicist" groups; he was a member of the Tanzim, from Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction of the PLO. He also escaped, back into the bosom of the Palestinian Authority.

None of this is very unusual. But what's instructive is the name of the terrorist: Sirhan Sirhan.

Americans remember the Palestinian Arab of the same name who assassinated Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

It's no accident this terrorist had the same name. He was a cousin, proudly named by his parents after RFK's assassin.

The two Sirhan Sirhan's are symbolic of both the values America and Israel share and the enemies we share.

There is nothing wrong with providing an avenue for those who, like Ibish, contest those shared values. It is irresponsible, however, to interview someone and not only not question his opinions but not question statements which are clearly false.

PRIMER exists to promote responsiblity in Middle East reporting. We hope WPKN will begin exhibiting more responsibility in its reporting in the future.




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