Sunday, October 05, 2003

The Press that Saw Nothing

Just 8 months ago, CNN touted Haifa as the triumph of tolerance over Arab-Israeli suspicion:

HAIFA, Israel (CNN) -- Billboards in Arabic say: "I Love Haifa," posters advertise "Co-existence Works," there is an Arab-Jewish Center, and the city is serious about community relations. Resident Dr. Mordechai Peri says Haifa follows its mayor, Amram Mitzna's, lead. "He knows how to deal with minorities, he knows that equality is the most important thing between Arab and Jews," the doctor said. Another resident Dr. Butrus Abu-Manneh agrees, adding Mitzna has given three top city jobs to Arabs. Jews come to the Arab quarter, to mingle, drink coffee, go shopping and get along. Mitzna says he can do for Israel what he's done for Haifa.

Some of the gloss came off that prospect today as a huge bomb ripped through a popular Haifa restaurant:

At least 19 people were killed today when a suspected Palestinian suicide bomber set off an explosion inside a landmark beachfront restaurant packed with a lunch crowd at the start of a long holiday weekend, according to Israeli police, who said they believe the bomber was a woman.

The victims included children and at least four Arabs. Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav said, "This restaurant was a microcosm of Haifa society -- Jews, Christians and Arabs worked together in this restaurant for many years. The suicide bomber tried to jeopardize the co-existence we've worked so hard to build up." He left out one element of the microcosm: Islamic terrorism. That name remained unmentioned in Reuters account, which cast the suspicions, if anything, on the lack of Jewish tolerance in Haifa as the root cause of the tragedy.

"Arabs, who make up 12 percent of Haifa's population, became citizens of Israel when the Jewish state was created in 1948 in parts of what had been British-mandate Palestine. Many complain of institutionalized discrimination by the Jewish majority, and three years of fighting between their Palestinian brethren and Israel has driven a wedge of suspicion between the country's Arabs and Jews.  Though several suicide bombings in buses and cafes have shaken the Haifa's confidence in itself as a rare example of coexistence, residents still believe harmony can be preserved. 'I can't hear the words Arab and Jew,' Tony Matar, one of the Arab owners, said at Haifa's Rambam hospital where injured relatives and employees were taken."

Tony Matar's sentiments are laudable. But those who wish to utter the words 'Arab' and 'Jew' in the same sentence must first learn to intone 'Arafat', 'Hamas' and 'Al-Aqsa'. One of the great myths of the liberal project was that it was possible to speak of good without mentioning evil; that universal brotherhood was attainable without abolishing slavery. The Roadmap to Peace leads nowhere in large part because the press has made murderers and terrorists out as 'militants' and 'activists', turning them into invisible men, not only without guilt, but also without existence. Only the victims in Israel have names.