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Israeli organisation accuses Ma'an of using "hate language"

April 4, 2008 3:18 P.M. (Updated: April 4, 2008 3:18 P.M.)
Jerusalem - Ma'an - An Israeli organization that claims to be a watchdog for Palestinian media is to release a report accusing Ma'an News Agency of "glorifying terrorists" and using "hate language."

An article published in Friday's English-language Israeli daily newspaper The Jerusalem Post reveals that Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) is leveling a number of accusations at Ma'an, including that Ma'an "repeatedly honored murderers as 'martyrs' and referred to areas of pre-1967 Israel as 'occupied Palestine.'"

Extract from the PMW report

The following is an extract from the PMW report, written by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook -

"Ma'an has glorified the recent Palestinian murderer of eight Israeli yeshiva students, the Dimona suicide terrorist, the killers of the two Israeli hikers and the terrorists who attacked a boys' high school with the very highest Islamic status attainable, elevating them to the status of "Shahids" or "Martyrs of Allah." According to the accepted Palestinian interpretation of Islam, there is no higher status that a Muslim can achieve today than that of Shahid. In defining terrorist murders as "Shahids," Ma'an is by definition sending its readers a straightforward message of honor for the killers, and approval for the many murders. Negative or dishonorable actions could not elevate an individual to Shahid status.

In its English version of these reports, Ma'an did not honor the terrorists either as "Shahids" nor use the similar English term "Martyrs."Note, for example, the difference in Ma'an reporting on the murder of the two hikers:

Ma'an Arabic News - Two of the operatives died as Shahids

Ma'an English News - Two Israelis, two Palestinians killed by gunfire near Hebron

The explanation for this and all other discrepancies between Ma'an's English and Arabic reporting is that Ma'an certainly recognizes that this terminology, together with the examples of Ma'an's use of hate-language, readily expose Ma'an's lack of professionalism and messages of approval of terror. In addition, it must be assumed that the governments of The Netherlands and Denmark would be outraged to know they are funding terror glorification and hate journalism."

Another extract from the report reads -

"Ma'an news releases promote the hate message that Israel has no right to exist, calling Israel "Occupied Palestine" or territories occupied after 1948," Israel's government the "Occupation Authority" and its soldiers the "Occupation forces." Note also when Israel is mentioned it is often put within quotation marks - a common linguistic method to express non-recognition."

Ma'an's response

Ma'an was asked by Jerusalem Post journalist Gil Hoffman to write a response to PMW's accusations. The following is that response, reproduced in full.

"The PMW report cites two main discrepancies between Ma'an's English and Arabic coverage: the use of the terms Shahid/Istishhadi and the characterization of some Israeli forces/areas/actions as being occupation.

The term Shahid, as translated in the Hans Wehr Dictionary of modern Arabic (page 572), may refer to one killed in action or a martyr. Istishhad is given to heroes or martyrs. The second term implies intent - one who engages in battle, for instance, rather than one who is simply victimized by it. In the Palestinian cultural/religious tradition, the martyrdom aspect is significantly different from the Judeo-Christian understanding. Those who die as martyrs may be defending their wives or their property, not necessarily engaging in the Western notion of a holy crusade. The PMW interpretation, while undoubtedly held by some religious individuals is not necessarily the general interpretation of these terms.

Our use of the occupation concept stems from international law and internationally-recognized boundaries. In simple terms, Israeli forces operating in Tel Aviv may be considered Israeli security forces, while those in Bethlehem are occupying forces. Tel Aviv falls on the Israeli side of the "Green Line". Bethlehem does not. That distinction is the crux of our decision-making.

The example cited from February 29, 2008, uses the terms "occupation authorities", "occupation municipality", "residents of ...the territories occupied since 1948" and " 'Israeli' identity cards. Taken out of context, these certainly sound like biased and offensive terms. When looked at more closely, however, they are terms that reflect both the uneasy ethnic distinctions of Israeli society and Israel's status, under international law, as an occupation force. The article refers to crackdowns on access to the Al-Aqsa compound, an area in the Old City of East Jerusalem. Annexed following the 1967 war, East Jerusalem fell on the Palestinian side of the 1949 armistice line, the "Green Line". Since 1967 the international community has considered it occupied territory, as do Palestinians. Ma'an's Arabic terminology reflects the internationally-recognized reality that the current Jerusalem municipal boundaries include Palestinian territory. In fact, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are eligible to vote in Palestinian national elections, a right not accorded to ethnic Palestinians in Israel proper. The US did not move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for this very reason.

Moreover, describing Palestinians who live in Israel or Arab Israelis as residents of territories occupied since 1948 is perhaps the most accurate way of describing people whose citizenship is a matter of legal default rather than national identity. They do not have the same citizenship obligations, such as mandatory military service, that Jewish Israelis do, and the Israeli national anthem hardly reflects their hope. The construction, though awkward, reflects their uncomfortable position as residents of areas on which Israeli national identity has been superimposed. Meanwhile use of the word Israeli in quotation marks simply reflects common usage of "Israeli identity cards" to refer to the blue id cards possessed residents of Jerusalem or Israel and "Palestinian identity cards" to reflect the green id cards held by residents of the West Bank and Gaza. Had we been referring to the green id cards, we likely would have said green "Palestinian" identity cards.

In the 2 hours that the Jerusalem Post gave us to issue a formal response, we were not able to track down each cited article from our archives. Hyperlinks to the articles mentioned as hate speech would have been helpful. Interestingly, the only hyperlink included in the PMW's report was the one leading to their donation page.

Finally, our funding is issued through the Dutch and the Danish representative offices in Ramallah, who employ local, native Arabic speakers to assist in coordinating projects. We are fairly certain that they monitor our Arabic site in addition to our English one. Culturally-appropriate differences in terminology are, therefore, merely that and not an attempt to hoodwink our generous donors."

The Jerusalem Post article can be found at:

Palestinian Media Watch can be found at:

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