Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Religious Confrontation and the Mass Media -- Notes from the 'fixed point' observations of Palestine
HIRAYAMA Kentaro / Former NHK commentator

July 21, 2005
In mid-April 2005, when I was staying in Jerusalem, a small group of Israeli extreme rightists caused a commotion, trying to break into the Islamic holy area where the Dome of the Rock and al Aqsa mosque stand. As the group had been advocating the reconstruction of the Jewish temple destroyed by the Roman Empire in the same area (demolishing the mosques), the leaders of the group were apprehended at the gate of the Old City adjacent to the sanctuary in question by the Israeli authorities who feared new political troubles with the Muslims. The arrested men were taken along, proudly showing to the cameras the yellow Star of David badge that the Jews had been forced to wear in Nazi Germany. It seems that their actions were aimed at some sort of vindication with an emphasis on their perception of history like the Holocaust, taking advantage of the timing of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of concentration camps in such places in Germany as Buchenwald and Mauthausen. The scenes related to the event were repeatedly broadcast by various TV stations in Europe and the United States almost everyday.

When the dust settled toward the middle of May, the Palestinian side "counterattacked" in a pretty awkward fashion. The TV station under the direct management of the Palestinian Authority, in a program on the anniversary of the founding of Israel ("Naqba" a "Great Disaster" from the Palestinian point of view), had an Islamic sheikh maintain that the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis was "a rightful defensive action on the part of the Germans against the Jewish conspiracy to take over the country." "The British efforts to create a Jewish state in Palestine were also to get rid of the Jews who had posed a threat to Great Britain," he also said. The sheikh further declared that the unbelievers around the world, such as Christians, would eventually be converted, by the great will of Allah, to Islam and the Jews "exterminated." All this program was recorded by a pro-Israeli American NGO, which was watching Palestinian broadcast around the clock and transmitted it to the political circles and mass media in the United States. It would provide the Israeli hawks with a chance of a lifetime for their campaign to impress that "it is the Palestinians that reject coexistence."

According to a public opinion poll conducted by a local university, the media considered to be the most trustworthy source of information for the general public in Palestine is al-Jazeerae (76%). Among the foreign media actively working in the Israel/Palestine area, the station has the largest staff of 46 journalists, even surpassing that of the BBC, and its objective reporting has won the confidence of the viewers. In contrast, the viewers of the Palestine TV as a main source of information account for only about 1.5% of the pollees. Wouldn't it be too foolish to invite political turmoil by broadcasting masturbatory programs?

I cannot help thinking about the difficulty the media face in reporting on the political conflict mixed with religion. One such example is the confusion caused by an erroneous (?) report by the Newsweek that the Koran had been flushed down a toilet in the Guantanamo military base.

P.S.: The Palestinian Authority informed the Waqf (the Islamic Foundation) of their decision to bar the Gaza sheikh from giving the Friday worship sermon.

(The writer is former NHK commentator)
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

平山健太郎 / 元NHK解説委員

2005年 7月 21日





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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Religious Confrontation and the Mass Media -- Notes from the 'fixed point' observations of Palestine