Michael Widlanski is an expert in the Arab media who is now completing his PHD on the subject of the Palestinian Authority Broadcasting system. He also lectures at the Rothberg School of the Hebrew University.
IMRA interviewed Widlanski, in English, on 11 November:
IMRA: Israel Television Channel One’s Arab Affairs Correspondent Oded Granot reported on Mabat tonight that the PA was against the murderous attack at Kibbutz Metzer. In contrast, Channel Two Arab Affairs Correspondent Ehud Ya’ ari, ridiculed Arafat’s announcement of an investigation – noting that he did not call for the arrest of the perpetrators – or even their being barred from his Fatah. How do you see the situation?
Widlanski: This morning we got proof again that Arafat has basically reverted to the pre-Oslo model of Yasser Arafat. His Voice of Palestine radio station – his official radio station – opened up its news this morning with two items: First the heroic martyrdom of two citizens who were blown up in their car North of Tulkarem. The occupation forces claim that they were about to carry out an operation.”
Pay attention to that first item. It refers to the “heroic martyrdom of two citizens” and “they were about to carry out an operation.”
In other words people who were about to carry out a suicide attack inside Israel are referred to as “citizens” and “they were heroically martyred”.
The second item is the Kibbutz Metzer item: “The Brigades of the Martyrs of Al Aqsa kill five Israelis in an armed attacked on the colony of Metzer.”
The “colony”. The term they use in Arabic is “musta’amara”, which is a very very denigrating term. It is a term that is even worse than the term “musteltanau” which means settlement. It is a term that is not used commonly in Arab parlance.
This announcement was read by the senior anchor of Voice of Palestine himself, Nizar al-Ghul, opening up the morning news.
This is a very significant fact. It comes less than a week after the attack on Kfar Sava – also inside the Green Line. Then also there was no condemnation. Instead, Arafat’s personal spokesman, Nabil Abu Rodeina, was on radio and he said “all of this is the fault of the Israelis”.
There was not a word of condemnation. Not a word of restraint. Not a word of disapproval. It wasn’t even termed “counterproductive”.
Now later in this morning’s news show, at 7:40 in the morning, Nizar al-Ghul continued with a commentary and this is what he said:
“Well, dear listeners, according to Israeli sources the infiltration operation occurred Sunday night in the village of Awanea, what the Israelis call Kibbutz Metzer, leaving five people dead. According to Israeli sources, the operation took place at around 11:00 p.m. as two armed men infiltrated into the kibbutz. After the event the spokesman for the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade which belongs to the Fatah movement took responsibility for the operation which left five dead and eleven wounded – three of them in critical condition.”
IMRA: That’s to say that in their own broadcast they made the connection between the Al Aqsa Brigade and Fatah clear.
Widlanski: Absolutely. They were practically bragging about it.
Listen to the last line: “Those who carried out the operation made good their escape.”
In other words, they were listing the Israeli casualties – even more than really occurred – and they were counting them as a real operation.
Now what’s interesting about this is the woman reading the 10 minute news summary on the 8 a.m. newsreel (that is the big news of the day -remember we are in the middle of Ramadan now so the big news program is at 8 a.m. rather than 7 a.m.) uses the identical language as the previous reports.
She refers to the “operation” (not “terrorist attack” – nothing like that) “at the Metzer colony”. She also refers to it as “hujoum musaleh” – “armed attack”.
The language they are using is the language of what the Palestinians have always called the armed struggle.
Basically Arafat has gone beyond, through his people in Voice of Palestine (and they couldn’t be doing this on their own), even what so-called “moderate” Hani al Hassan said recently when he declared that attacking Jews beyond the Green Line was fine.
In fact, in the 8 a.m. report they said that five “amustamaline” – five “colonists” were killed. That is to say that if you are killed you are ipso facto a devil.
This is basically a return to pre-1993 rhetoric and it should give a lot of people cause to worry because it is showing an inverse reaction because as Israel and the United States loosen the restraints on Arafat and actually give him money he actually gets worse.
IMRA: What kind of control is there on Voice of Palestine Broadcasts?
Widlanski: Very tight. Arafat controls all the vetting of the people in the station. If there is any doubt about how to cover something they ignore it for a while and wait for official instruction.