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Palestine, Israel See Opposite Media Views Of Iraq War

by Ferry Biedermann

War On Iraq Threatens Israel
(IPS) JERUSALEM -- The Israelis and the Palestinians were always going to see the war in Iraq differently. But it seems now they are literally seeing a different war.

Israelis talk of the war seen on CNN and BBC. Palestinians are seeing the war on Al Jazeera, and on some other Arab channels that have emerged.

Not surprisingly, the Israelis see great and rapid advances with only "pockets of resistance." And the Palestinians see Iraqis putting up a tough fight that the British and the Americans, and most others around the world, had not expected to see.

But the Israelis are beginning to register what they see as the shock of Iraqi resistance. Just as a news anchor on Israel's public television channel was saying that U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had asked the world media not to show the pictures of captured and killed American marines, the images came up.

It may have been a straight editorial decision, but the channel may also have felt an urge to assert a measure of independence. So far Israeli media has been the virtual cheerleader for the Americans.

The Palestinians see the war very differently. Big demonstrations were held on the Palestinian side after Friday prayers, and again on Saturday.

There is virtually complete condemnation of the war on Iraq. Newspapers in East Jerusalem and Ramallah do not lead with how many miles the "coalition forces" have travelled into Baghdad, but rather with news such as the severe civilian casualties in Basra.

The Al-Quds newspaper which has close ties with the Palestinian Authority had a large front-page photograph of Iraqi women in Baghdad holding up a child wounded in coalition air raids on the capital.

Palestinians feel outraged that a lot of Israeli TV reporters are operating out of Kuwait and with U.S. troops, and broadcasting in Hebrew.

The different war the two sides are seeing leads Israelis to be certain of U.S. victory, though many believe now it will not be as easy as they first thought. Some Palestinians on the other hand are even beginning to think that Saddam Hussein may remain undefeated.

"Did you see on Al-Jazeera, that they were shooting at an American pilot who was shot down over Baghdad," said a shopkeeper in East Jerusalem. "The Iraqis are fighting back, they can even bring down American planes. Maybe the Americans will not be able to capture Baghdad."

There is great concern over events in Iraq, but Israel remains as always focused on its own affairs. Fear of Iraqi missile attacks loaded with chemical or biological weapons does not go away. Over the last couple of days the fear of such attacks has varied, both among the public and at the official level.

Defense Minister Mofaz says "the threat is indeed low, but it has yet to be removed. Therefore, we will remain on high alert; the public must follow the instructions of the defense establishment to the letter."

Late Sunday night the Israeli Air Force lowered the level of alert, a clear indication they think a scud attack less likely now, despite Mofaz's comment.

The public seems largely to ignore such warnings. Instructions to carry gas masks are widely ignored.

Gas masks and chemical suits have started off a series of jokes. One comedian demonstrated the uses of a gas mask in chopping onions. Others wear them for doing silent shows.

Israel's sense of oneness with the U.S. and Britain in the war is complicated by its perceptions of a rise of anti-Semitism. The Israeli media has been reporting what it sees as a worrying rise in anti-Jewish rhetoric.

"The Government of Israel is closely monitoring expressions of anti-Semitism around the world and views them with the utmost seriousness," a government note says. "The Government calls on governments and world leaders to use all necessary means to prevent such phenomena and to take steps against those who break the law."

The Palestinians also remain focused on their own problems. They fear that Israel will use the diversion of world attention to Iraq in order to crack down upon them.

They are at least partly right. The Israeli army wants to include new Palestinian land on the Israeli side of a 'security fence' that is rapidly coming up.

And no one is considering the one thing that matters -- the so-called road map to peace that President George Bush had promised on the eve of the attack on Iraq. That seems held up at least until the end of the Iraq war -- whenever that might be.

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Albion Monitor March 23, 2003 (

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