Monday, April 12, 2010


Shalom friends and family,

I'm sure that the name of Muhammad Zen Ismail Al-Farmawi is unknown to most (if not all) of you. He is the 15 year old boy that a few weeks ago was reported killed by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) during fighting in Gaza. Media outlets like the New York Times, CNN, UPI, BBC, and all of the Arab world's media reported that he was killed by Israeli soldiers, a charge that was denied by Israel. They all claimed that his body was not recovered due to intense fighting in the area. The Palestinian news agency, Ma'an, reported:

"Muawiya Hassanein, director of ambulance and emergency services in Gaza, said Muhammad Zen Ismail Al-Farmawi, 15, was shot dead near the southeasterly border by Israeli forces, while local sources who wished to remain anonymous said the death may have been an internal matter.

Hassanein said ambulances had been unable to retrieve the body because of ongoing clashes in the area, while an Israeli military spokesman said he had no knowledge of the incident."

Much to the surprise of everyone (except for Israelis, I guess), the "dead" boy miraculously showed up, returned from the dead. Again, the report from Ma'an:

"It turns out Al-Farmawi was among 17 Palestinians detained by Egyptian forces shortly after they infiltrated the Egyptian side of Rafah via one of Gaza's numerous underground smuggling tunnels. The detainees, among them 12 minors, were returned to security forces at the border on Friday. They had been questioned about tunnel locations, leading to at least three closures, Egyptian security sources said.

Relatives expressed "overwhelming happiness" that their son was unharmed during the violence, our correspondent reported from Rafah.

Muawiya Hassanein, Health Ministry director of ambulance and emergency services in Gaza, told Ma'an that after "huge efforts and contacts" to return the boy's body, officials found him among those who were detained. He was assumed to have died in the clashes Tuesday after a Palestinian ambulance crew was refused permission to access to the area following reports of deadly fire, Hassanein explained at th time.

In what would turn out to be a second erroneous explanation that day, local residents also told Ma'an at the time that while the boy was indeed killed, the Israeli military was not involved. The purported death was an "internal matter," locals said, insisting on anonymity."

While the Western media broadcast the story of his death, did anyone see a broadcast about his return to life? I didn't! And, you may ask, what happened to him in Egypt? Well, according to the Jerusalem Post, he was in an Egyptian prison where, for 3 days, he was beaten and tortured with clubs and electrical wires. Not just Al-Farmawi, but his friends as well -- all of whom were minors. Where's the outrage? Where is the story from the NY Times? the BBC? CNN? Al- Jazeera? Of course, there are none. Why isn't Egypt held to the standards of human rights that Israel is? Why isn't the Palestinian media outlet, Ma'an, held to the same standards as the Israeli media? Obviously, these questions are rhetorical in nature.

However, in a serious note, where did the Goldstone report get the majority of its facts and figures that it used to condemn Israel's actions during Operation Cast Lead last year in Gaza? Ma'an. Where did the world's media get their inflated figures for the so-called "massacre" in Jenin in 2002 that proved later to be a fabrication? Ma'an. Who routinely reports of the terrible things that Israeli soldiers do to innocent Palestinians without ever truly investigating the incident? That would be Ma'an again. And, as we have learned from independent sources about Muhammad al-Dura, the young boy who died in his father's arms that we all saw live in 2000 as the second Intifada was begun which was widely reported that the IDF murdered him in cold blood, this was also not the case as independent sources in Germany and France have proven in! court that much of the scene was staged and he was most likely killed by Palestinia fire. And where did we get the original "facts" in this case? You guessed it... Ma'an!

If the world is going to hold Israel to stringent media standards (which I believe that we should be held to), then the same must be applied to Ma'an, other Palestinian news sources, and the Arab world as well (not to mention the Western apologists like CNN, the NY Times, BBC, etc.). Whenever the "street" needs to be riled up, some Arab leader announces that Al-Aksa must be defended as the Israelis are preparing to assault and destroy the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aksa mosque. All of us in the west know that this is not the truth. Any right-thinking Arab know that this is not the truth. But, to get the "street" to rise up, they spout this nonsense and here we go again... sigh...

Bottom line -- responsibility and accountability. That's what is needed to help weed through the massive amount of information that is coming out of our region. However, there is neither responsibility nor accountability. While the original story is usually found on the front page of the newspaper, above the fold, the retraction is buried on page 34 at the bottom as it is not "sexy" enough of a story to peak a reader's interest. This attitude has to change for there to be a chance at peace -- but it's not going to change.

And remember, today is 1383 days that Gilad Shalit has been held in Palestinian captivity (if he is still alive) with no humanitarian visits -- where is the outrage? Where is the caring? On the plus side, when I was in Rome last month, there was a huge poster of him hanging on the City Hall with a caption demanding his release. However, when will the world put pressure on them? Why is aid pouring into Gaza? Why is the world demanding that Israel and Egypt lift their "blockade" of Gaza? sigh...

Keep fighting the good fight!

Much luck and love always,