The Not-So-Magic Kingdom
09/24/99
Staff Writer

 

A few weeks ago, as the latest post-Wye agreement was being signed, a pair of car bombs blew up in Israel. Of course, journalists have been trained to understand its significance: Terrorists, once again, are trying to destroy the peace. It was a front-page story the next morning.But what happens when Israelís heart ó Jerusalem ó is undermined in a much more painful way, not by crank terrorists, easily dismissed, but by kings and presidents in the Arab world that most Israelis and Americans think of as ìthe good guys?î If such helpful Arab states as Morocco, Egypt and Jordan are denigrating even Israelís claim to the Western Wall, and support an economic war against Disney and others for the crime of friendly corporate dealings with Israel, is that a news story?Apparently not. The Arab Leagueís bitterness with Disney over an Epcot exhibit referring to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was not reported in The New York Times until Sept. 18 ó 35 days after the story appeared in the Orlando Sentinel. Other major papers were late, as well, and The Boston Globe (Sept. 17) ran the Disney story on the business pages, as if this were just about money.The Times was openly snide, writing that Israelís Ariel Sharon ìattempted to drag President Clintonî into the boycott matter, even though Sharon was a participant in the Wye Conference, and Clinton has been a guarantor of Oslo, which deals with such things as boycotts, gratuitous denigration and propaganda by one side against the other.Haaretz (Sept. 14) quoted ìofficial Israeli sources,î saying ìJerusalem was never meant to be presented as Israelís capital.î That, despite a Los Angeles Times story (Sept. 16) that ìA media packet offered at a news conference last month noted that Israel and Disney had agreed that the display would ëgive expression to the centralityí of Jerusalem as Israelís capital.îA reader could get dizzy from all the spin control. On Sept. 18, both Reuters and the Associated Press wrote ìIsrael claims victoryî but Disney ìbowed to Arab and Muslim pressure to alter a controversial Israeli exhibit...î Well, it canít be both.The Boston Globe (Sept. 17) pointed out that the Arab campaigns against both Disney and Burger King ìwere waged largely over the Internet,î with one Arab effort organizing ì30,000 e-mailsî to ìmajor media organizations, a network of activists, and prominent Muslim businessmen. The group gave people talking points and encouraged them to call the corporations. In one day, Disney and Burger King were flooded with hundreds of calls.îReuters (Sept. 15) said American Jewish leaders were ìtaken by surprise.îSurprise, or something worse? An editorial in the Jerusalem Post (Sep. 15) pointed out that ìefforts to project Jerusalem internationally as an eternal Jewish city have been dogged by incompetence, poor planning, and pathetic internal political or religious squabbling. There is little need to recall the fiascoes surrounding Jerusalem 3000 and particularly Jubilee Bells ó supposed celebrations of the city...îWhatís curious about U.S. coverage of the new Arab boycott is the lack of scrutiny given to three supposed advocates of the peace process ó Morocco, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority ó that participated in the Arab Leagueís anti-Disney meeting. Despite the optimistic, if not adulatory coverage of the new Moroccan and Jordanian kings, these kings have not only supported the boycott, but Haaretz (Sept. 14) reports that Morocco rejected a request from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to stop over there on a recent flight. None of the U.S. media outlets covered the snub.The Cairo press reported, but the U.S. press ignored, Yasir Arafatís Arab League speech in which he sent ìpersonal greetings to our beloved President Saddam Hussein.î Yes, the same beloved Saddam whoís a pariah in the civilized world. Egyptís Al-Ahram (Sept. 22) saw ìthe hand of Iraqî at the militant meeting.Reuters (Sept. 21) reports ìArab newspapers ... urged their governments to move swiftlyî against Disney. Egyptís official Radio and Television Union said it would join the boycott. Jordanís media even attacked Yitzchak Rabin, usually depicted as the saintly pursuer of peace, noting in the Jordan Times (Sept. 18) that Rabin ìviolated both the spirit and letter of all the agreements.îJordanís Daily Star (Sept. 17) raised the pre-Oslo question: ìDo Israelis and Palestinians have equal right to live here in sovereign states?î The article went on to answer that ìcolonialismî and ìimperialismî apply to not only modern Zionists but to biblical-era Jews who engaged in ìgenocide.îThe Daily Star added, ìthe poor Amalekites had the worst end of the deal, for God ordered the Israelites to totally wipe them off the face of the earth and blot out their memory forever.îIt is not surprising that Central Florida should be the new Ground Zero. It is not only home to Disneyís theme parks, but the most recent issue of Morocco Today says that in the 15 years since a major Moroccan exhibit opened at Epcot, more than 15,000 Moroccans moved to Central Florida, many to work at Epcot; two new mosques have been built in the Orlando area, as well as an Islamic Center.The Orlando Sentinel is rather anti-Israel. Its first Disney story (Aug. 14) featured quotes from a half-dozen Arab-Americans and Arab leaders and not one from a Jew. During NATOís bombing of Serbia, a columnist in the Orlando Sentinel urged the same criteria applied to Serbia be applied to Israel, and that ìbombs fall on Tel Aviv,î if Israel doesnít make amends for its ìethnic cleansingî of Palestinians in 1948 and 1967.

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