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Media Watch   
ADL Survey: U.S. Newspapers Overwhelming Critical of Arafat RULE

Posted: November 30, 2004

In an effort to gauge where major U.S. newspapers stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) periodically assesses editorials in major U.S. newspapers surrounding a breaking news issue in the region.

The following survey, conducted November 10 - 12, 2004, scanned the nation's 50 top-circulation newspapers for editorials on the death of longtime Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and the implications for Israel, the Palestinians and U.S. policy in the Middle East.

All of the newspapers surveyed featured at least one editorial on the Palestinian leader's death or in anticipation of his demise. The survey found that an overwhelming majority of these U.S. newspapers was strongly critical of Arafat, his life and his legacy.

In addition, ADL surveyed 33 editorial cartoons published in daily circulation newspapers across the U.S. during the same timeframe. All but three of the editorial cartoons were condemnatory of Arafat, presenting him as a terrorist, murderer and corrupt leader.

Criticism of Arafat and His Record

Thirty-nine of the papers (78 percent) expressed criticism of Arafat, his life and his legacy. For example, The Wall Street Journal called him "one of the 20th-century's great killers." The Boston Herald called him "a tyrant and a thug." The San Antonio Express-News called him a "symbol of modern terrorism." The Detroit News said he "invented modern-day terrorism" and the Louisville Courier-Journal called him "the architect of modern terrorism." The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called him "a murderer." The Rocky Mountain News said the world "should not mourn the passing of this petty tyrant." Both the New York Daily News and the New York Post called Arafat a terrorist and said "good riddance" to him.

Nine of the papers (18 percent) presented a mixed view of Arafat, his life and his legacy. The Cleveland Plain Dealer called him "a revolutionary and terrorist" but said that, "for all his flaws, he remains the father of his nation." Long Island's Newsday pictured him as the "symbol of Palestinian nationalism" and said that his failure to attain statehood for the Palestinians "will be as much a part of his legacy as the genuine historical significance of his leadership of the Palestinian struggle for independence." ,The Sacramento Bee said that the final judgment on Arafat "remains a question mark."

Two newspapers - The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times - presented no criticism of Arafat but rather focused on the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a subsidiary theme relating to Arafat's legacy, 19 newspapers (38 percent) characterized Arafat as a corrupt leader who headed corrupt institutions rife with cronyism. These included USA Today, The Washington Post, the Kansas City Star, the Boston Globe, the Charlotte Observer, The Miami Herald and the Seattle Times.

In another subsidiary theme relating to Arafat's legacy, 15 newspapers (30 percent) described Arafat as a man who left no clear successor, let no other real leadership emerge, and left bitter divisions. These included the Detroit Free Press, the St. Petersburg Times, the Columbus Dispatch, the Buffalo News, the Tampa Tribune and the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Opportunity for Peace

In a major theme, 34 newspapers (68 percent) expressed hope that with Arafat's demise the opportunity now presents itself for Israel and the Palestinians to move toward a peaceful settlement of the issues dividing them. The Wall Street Journal, for example, said that the prospects for Middle East peace "are better than any time since Oslo." The Philadelphia Inquirer said that Arafat's death was an "invaluable chance to revive the peace process." The Star-Ledger of Newark said the present time is an opportunity "to make the trade-offs" necessary for peace. The Sacramento Bee said that now "there may be ground for hope." The South Florida Sun-Sentinel said the present situation is "an opportunity that must not be squandered."

U.S. Policy and Pressure

In a subsidiary theme, eight newspapers (16 percent) said that the U.S. should apply pressure on Israel as well as the Palestinians, while three papers said that applying pressure is wrong and one paper said that the U.S. should stand by Israel.

The Dallas Morning News, for example, said: "If rationality prevails, if the Palestinians demonstrate with actions, nor words, that they want peace and progress, the White House will have to lean as hard on Israel as it does on them to forge a lasting solution." The Columbus Dispatch said that "The United States could renew pressure on both sides to come up with a peace accord." The South Florida Sun-Sentinel said: "The Bush administration should apply pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to stop expanding Jewish settlements and at least take symbolic steps to begin dismantling them."

Of the three newspapers saying that the application of U.S. pressure was wrong, the Chicago Sun-Times, for example, said that putting pressure on Israel is a "bad idea" and the Orange County Register said that the best course is to "be patient and keep hands off." The Daily Oklahoman, on the other hand, said that "The U.S. should stand by Israel, to guarantee its security and a fair, viable negotiation once succession to Arafat is settled."

Palestinian Elections and Possible Power Struggles

In a subsidiary theme, five newspapers called on the U.S. to support Palestinian national elections. They were the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Orlando Sentinel, the San Jose Mercury News and the San Francisco Chronicle.

In another subsidiary theme, eight newspapers expressed concern about a post-Arafat Palestinian power struggle, even a civil war. These included The Denver Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and The Wall Street Journal. The latter, for example, said: "The scenarios range from civil war - Hamas against PLO, various PLO factions against each other, local clans against the 'Tunisians' (the Fatah members who came with Arafat from Tunisia) - to a relatively smooth transition…."

Criticism of Israel

Five newspapers called for Israel to freeze or remove Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They were The New York Times, Newsday, The Arizona Republic, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

In another subsidiary theme, four newspapers expressed criticism of Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon over perceived excuses for not dealing with the Palestinians. They were The New York Times, the Baltimore Sun, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and The Los Angeles Times. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, for example, said that "Bush should make it clear that Prime Minister Sharon can no longer use the lack of a Palestinian negotiating partner as an excuse for unilateral Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories." The New York Times said: "Now Mr. Arafat is gone, and so are the excuses."

ADL Resources
Media Watch
ADL monitors electronic and print media reports about the Middle East
Newspapers overwhelmingly condemned Arafat as a terrorist, murderer and corrupt leader. (AP)
 
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