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April 10, 2005

Frontline's 'Israel's Next War?'

On April 5th, PBS's Frontline aired a one hour documentary, "Israel's Next War?" which focused on a small group of Jewish terrorists. The film did state that the group's actions are condemned by the vast majority of secular and religious Israelis, and that the Israeli government has consistently and firmly worked to stop them. The documentary also made clear Israel has arrested and convicted individuals where there was sufficient evidence and noted that authorities have kept other suspects under surveillance.

However, the broadcast blurred the line between the terrorists and people who may share their ideological viewpoint but would never support or engage in violence. The result was a vague and misleading implication of many more potential violent participants than is the case. The film included mention that the communities in which the terrorists lived condemned the attempted terror attack on the Arab girls' school and even showed a father of one of the terrorists expressing his outrage over his son's actions. But, again, the film never clearly explained just how tiny the terror group was and it never made clear that even those who support Meir Kahane's ideas about the transfer of Arabs out of Israel and the territories don't necessarily support terrorist violence against Arabs. Executive producer Zvi Dor-Ner acknowedged the difference in an online "chat," but failed to make it clear in the film.

Wrongly implying

Wrongly implying large numbers of Jewish terrorists is especially problematic given the reality that on the Palestinian side there are, in fact, substantial numbers advocating and enacting terror and the terrorists are generally admired and accepted in mainstream Palestinian society -- as martyrs. Viewer comment posted on Frontline's Web site after the broadcast indicates some people readily took the program's message to mean there is little difference between the two sides.

The related Frontline Web site "background information" is much more problematic than the actual film. The "chronology" page frames the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict as related to Israel's settlements and in one of the related links depicts violence as a "cycle" and strongly implies a moral equivalence between Arab terror attacks against civilians and Israel's military strikes against terrorists.

Producer Dan Setton adds further distortion to both the discussion board and an online interview. He responds to questions/comments about how small the group of Jewish terrorists is by inaccurately writing: "They [the Jewish terrorists] are a small minority, but it only takes a few to change the course of history. We saw what happened when one man assassinated Prime Minister Rabin [Yigal Amir]. It stopped the peace process, changed its course. It took a while until it was resumed again." [emphasis added]

As most people are aware, it was Palestinian terrorism that "stopped the peace process," not Rabin's death. Rabin was succeeded by Shimon Peres, a dovish and concession-oriented prime minister who handed over West Bank towns ahead of schedule, pushing the peace process at full speed until unprecedented terrorism in February/March 1996 compelled him to slow the pace. He was defeated in May 1996 because of the magnitude of violence Israelis were experiencing.

If you didn't see the Frontline film, you can watch it online. We encourage you to add your comments to the discussion board on Frontline's web site for the documentary. Frontline should be encouraged to devote an entire program to the ideology of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and their genocidal goals.

Posted by LG at April 10, 2005 01:53 PM