CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl, the tale is told, put together an
unflattering piece on former US president Ronald Reagan in 1984, during the heat
of that year’s election campaign, trying to show the contradictions between what
Reagan had promised during his first years in office, and what he
Stahl, who wrote about the incident in her 1999 book Reporting
Live, said she knew the nearly six-minute segment would have an impact, and
thought that the White House would be furious.
After the piece – which
showed favorable footage of Reagan over negative commentary – aired, Stahl did
indeed receive a call from White House advisor Dick Darman. But he called to
praise, not berate, her.
“Way to go, kiddo. What a great piece. We love
it,” he told the correspondent.
Stahl, confused because her piece was
highly critical, asked, “Didn’t you hear what I said?” To which Darman replied,
“Nobody heard what you said. You guys in Televisionland haven’t figured it out,
have you? When the pictures are powerful and emotional, they override if not
completely drown out the sound. I mean it, Lesley. Nobody heard you.”
same might be said of the government panel that on Sunday issued its conclusions
that the IDF did not kill 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura in 2000. Were Palestinian
leaders to phone the members of the panel, they probably would say that the
al-Dura image is so powerful, it is drowning out all the committee’s
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, upon receiving the report on
Sunday, said, “It is important to focus on this incident – which has slandered
Israel’s reputation. This is a manifestation of the ongoing, mendacious
campaign to delegitimize Israel. There is only one way to counter lies, and that
is through the truth. Only the truth can prevail over lies.”
indeed a noble sentiment, one that Netanyahu repeats often.
problem is that the panel, as convincing as it might be, did not
incontrovertibly demonstrate the truth. Rather, it put out – 13 years after the
event – a strongly argued Israeli version of those events.
For those who
despise Israel, all the learned arguments in the world are not going to convince
them that Israel did not shoot the 12- year-old Gazan boy in cold blood. To
those who truly know Israel, they do not need this document to know that IDF
soldiers do not intentionally target children hiding behind their
And those in the middle – well, they have probably long
forgotten the story, inasmuch as it took place in September 2000.
now. Now the image is once again on television.
Now that picture is again
in the newspapers. Now those in the middle are reminded about it again and
A strong argument can be made that by arguing forcefully against
the accepted version of events in this case, by punching holes in the accepted
narrative, by demonstrating how events can be edited and manipulated, the
government is weakening overall Palestinian credibility and making it easier
down the line to knock down fabricated Palestinian stories about Israeli
“atrocities” (Think “Jenin Massacre”).
But still. Israel, by releasing
this report 13 years on, has put this picture back into people’s minds, and it
is not entirely clear whose interests are served by resurrecting this potent
Or, as Darman told Stahl, “When the pictures are powerful and
emotional, they override if not completely drown out the sound.”