Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

How Did Palestinians React to the Attacks on the United States? Is a Picture Really Worth a Thousand Words?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

How Did Palestinians React to the Attacks on the United States? Is a Picture Really Worth a Thousand Words?

Article excerpt

HOW DID PALESTINIANS REACT TO THE ATTACKS ON THE UNITED STATES? Is a Picture Really Worth a Thousand Words?

Ray Hanania is a Palestinian-American author and writer. His email address is rayhanania@aol.com

American newspapers, television and radio stations are filled with reports that tried to cast the Palestinians as the evil force behind the attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The most damaging was based upon the least credible, a video of about 45 seconds or more that ostensibly showed Palestinians celebrating in the streets as word reached them of the bombing of New York's World Trade Center buildings.

Immediately after the attacks, Israeli officials went on the offensive, making two strategic public relations moves: First, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called for a day of mourning. The second was the full-court press by the Israeli media, with the Jerusalem Post leading the way, to elevate the perception of Palestinian support of the bombing.

Remember, in America, perception is reality. Once stated, it is accepted as fact.

The video was taken by an unknown British cameraman, yet it was broadcast on nearly every major American television station.

It shows an elderly Arab woman wearing a hijab and glasses dancing. Also shown were a few men laughing and waving, and a group of young children, boys, who were waving the Palestinian flags and laughing out loud.

On its face, the images of the 20 or so Palestinians could have reflected almost anything. No one was quoted. Yet, all the announcers insisted that the video showed "Palestinians celebrating" the bombing and handing out sweets, "a common Arab celebration custom."

These 20 or so "dancing Palestinians" and this one woman with glasses suddenly became the symbols of more than 3.5 million Palestinians who live either under Israeli occupation or in refugee camps.

The fact that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and more than two dozen Palestinian organizations in the West Bank and Gaza had denounced the bombings seemed inconsequential in the face of this short, unconfirmed video report.

The fact that nearly every major Arab country had denounced the bombing didn't matter either.

All that mattered was that it had been shown, and that pro-Israeli advocates who swarmed on the media in the hours after the bombing made reference to "the Palestinians who danced in the streets and handed out sweets to celebrate" the bombing in New York. …

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