Terror in Israel, Real and Imagined - August 20, 2003

Times Watch for August 20, 2003

Terror in Israel, Real and Imagined

Ian Fisher finds a new twist on terror in Israel: Instead of downplaying terrorist attacks by Palestinians on Israelis (as the Times often does) Fisher focuses on hypothetical future Jewish attacks on Palestinian civilians. Talk about bad timing: That very day, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew up a busload of Israeli civilians.

Tuesdays front-page story, Israelis Worry About Terror, By Jews Against Palestinians, profiles the father of Shalhevet Pas, a 10-month-old Israeli girl shot to death in her stroller by a Palestinian sniper in Hebron. Fisher notes: Last month, her father, Yitzhak Pas, a settler who lives here, was arrested with almost 10 pounds of explosives in his car. Investigators have not publicly linked the two events, but the little they have said about Mr. Pas hints at something more than revenge against his daughter's killer. Rather, their remarks suggest, he and five others, including three arrested last week, are members of a Jewish underground group who were aiming to carry out attacks on Palestinians.

Fisher then blames radical right-wingers for fomenting attacks that havent yet happened: But at the faltering start of a peace effort opposed by many right-wing Israelis, worry about terror attacks by Jews is growing. In the last two years, a top Israeli security official said, at least 7 Palestinians have been killed and 19 wounded in unsolved shootings attributed to Israeli civilians in the West Bank. The major source of that concern, the official said recently, is dozens of hill people-radical Jewish settlers in the West Bank, like some of those who live here-who present a very serious situation for the democracy of Israel.

He makes a moral equivalency argument between Jewish settlers in Hebron being killed by Palestinians and Israeli Jews enforcing curfews and harassing Palestinians, describing streets now empty as a ghost town: empty of the Palestinians who fled curfews and harassment by settlers and the army that protects them; empty, too, of Israelis who fear to venture out and those who have been killed-some 20 soldiers and settlers, according to the settlers, since November alone.

Fishers main source is Shlomi Swisa, researcher for pro-Palestinian human rights group BTselem, which compares the Palestinian terrorists to an underground army. Swisa says Israelis don't need a Jewish underground. The army apparently does enough to protect them and does it very hard, for their taste.

Of course, Fishers diagnosis of the dangers toward Palestinian civilians looks rather out of date after Tuesdays bus bombing in Jerusalem that killed 18. Unlike Fishers dire warnings of carnage to come, James Bennets Wednesday story focuses on the innocent civilians who really are dying by the dozens in Jerusalem-Jews.

For the rest of Ian Fishers (obsolete) story on the dangers posed to Palestinians by Jews, click here.

Ian Fisher | Israel | Palestinians | Settlers | Terrorism

Bruni Bashes Berlusconi

In June the Times ran a murky Frank Bruni piece on Italys conservative prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, accusing him of slanting a question in a high school graduation exam to make it more anti-Communist. Bruni delivers more Berlusconi-bashing Wednesday in Italian Puzzle: The Land That Doesnt Seem to Fit.

Bruni writes: [Silvio Berlusconi] craves nothing more than to be taken seriously and to be viewed as the leader of a major power. But in many ways, he illustrates another of Italy's enduring problems: the porous, oddly fuzzy boundaries between the public and the private domain. With the exception of France in the past but not in the present, the intertwining of business and politics has been much, much greater in Italy than in any other country, said Stanley Crossick, the director of the European Policy Center, a research group in Brussels. Mr. Crossick was referring to Western democracies. There are few better examples than Mr. Berlusconi, whose commingling of public and private power is unrivaled in Europe and has prompted questions about whether democracy can truly flourish when one man dominates so much of a country.

After Bruni takes us through the laundry list of charges against Berlusconi made by left-wing critics, he notes: Italy's ascent into the European Union presidency gave Europeans an opportunity to express their misgivings. In the days before Italy and Mr. Berlusconi took over, Information, a Danish newspaper, asserted that Italy remained a country in which nepotism, corruption and dishonesty are incarnate in the political leader.

(France, of course, has no such problems and neither does Germany.)

Bruni uses the Danish criticism to bring up Berlusconis infamous July 2 appearance before the European Parliament, at the start of Italys six-month stint in charge of the European Union: That was the context for his inaugural appearance before the European Parliament in France, where a German representative questioned Mr. Berlusconi's ethics and the prime minister responded by comparing him to a concentration camp official.

If Bruni had wanted to provide genuine context, he could have noted the infantile and hostile reception given to Berlusconi by the European left, which reviles Berlusconi. The raucous session included anti-Berlusconi banners that read No Godfather for Europe. Likening an Italian to the Godfather? Charming.

The Iraq war goes unmentioned by Bruni, but could the Times obsession with Berlusconi revolve around him being the one European leader that stood foursquare behind Bush?

For the rest of Brunis Berlusconi-bashing, click here.

Silvio Berlusconi | Frank Bruni | European Union | Iraq War | Italy

This Story Rated G for Gaffe

Los Angeles-based Times reporter Bernard Weinraub has been covering Hollywood for the Times since 1991, but his story on the quest by major studios to get their blockbuster releases rated PG-13 has a flaw a teen-ager could pick out.

In This Story Is Not Rated R. Everybody Please Read It, Weinraub asserts: A PG-13 rating is now almost slavishly sought after, even by filmmakers who may have shunned it 20 or 30 years ago as too chaste.By all accounts, the wide release of Jaws, the 1975 film directed by Steven Spielberg, incited the hunger among studios for PG-13 films.

Wrong: It was controversy over the dark and violent tone of the 1984 release Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom that helped instigate the push for the PG-13 rating. As Sridhar Pappu notes in the New York Observer: While the Motion Picture Association of America created the original PG rating in 1970, PG-13 didnt come into existence until July 1984 (for those who dont do math: 19 years ago, and nine years after the release of Jaws).

For the rest of Weinraubs story on the quest for PG-13, click here.

Arts | Corrections | Movies | Ratings | Bernard Weinraub

Times Lets Dems Exploit Grief of Baghdad

Richard Stevenson covers President Bushs denunciation of the bombing of a United Nations headquarters in Baghdad but quickly gets into Campaign 2004 politics, letting two Democratic candidates take unopposed potshots at Bush.

In political terms, writes Stevenson, the bombing provided Democrats with a new opportunity to criticize Mr. Bush for failing to anticipate the perils and difficulties of occupying and rebuilding Iraq. Had the president pursued the war on terrorism prior to initiating military action against Saddam Hussein, as I advocated last year, it is likely that Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks would not have been able to take advantage of the chaos that now exists in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, Senator Bob Graham of Florida, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in a statement. Another Democratic candidate, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, said in a statement, It is becoming increasingly clear each day that the administration misread the situation on the ground in Iraq and lacks an adequate plan to win the peace and protect our troops.

To balance Sen. Grahams anti-Bush allegations, Stevenson could have mentioned that in Bushs view the Iraq war is in fact an extension of the war on terror. As for Sen. Kerrys critique, Stevenson could have pointed out (as Neil MacFarquhars story from Baghdad did) that the Bush administration tried to protect UN workers: After a bombing at the Jordanian Embassy last week, senior American officials warned that other soft targets might be next. But the United Nations deliberately avoided sealing itself off because it feared that such barriers would send the wrong message to Iraqis seeking help.

For more of Richard Stevensons report on Bushs reaction to the Baghdad bombing, click here.

Baghdad | George W. Bush | Campaign 2004 | Sen. Bob Graham | Iraq War | Sen. John Kerry | Richard Stevenson | Terrorism | United Nations