The United States may be the world's most
powerful nation, but I think Americans might be afraid of Israel. I
know many of the politicians are.
the recent case of Jared Malsin, a Jew with US citizenship who covers
the Palestinian territories from Bethlehem at the Palestinian news
. Malsin took a trip to Prague last week and upon
his return, was arrested and taken into custody by Israeli authorities
at Ben-Gurion Airport. He was deported to New York yesterday.
During his interrogation and week-long detention, Israeli
police took time to look him up on the Internet and read through his
writings, which were largely critical of Israel. It's a fascinating
story whenever a journalist is detained and jailed by any government.
But did anyone in the US care or come to his defense?
Why would they, you might ask?
last year, freelance American journalist Roxana Saberi was arrested by
Iranian officials and charged with espionage. There wasn't one
politician, candidate or elected official in the US who didn't come to
her defense and demand her release.
Months later in March, two Asian-American journalists, Laura
Ling and Euna Lee, were arrested and charged with espionage by the
North Korean government. The response from the US was powerful and
loud. Everyone, including President Barack Obama and Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton, issued statements denouncing the arrests and demanding
the release of the journalists.
In both cases, the mainstream American news media reported on their status almost daily, sometimes as their lead stories.
SO WHY the near-total silence from American leaders and muted
coverage in the American press now over the arrest and detention of
It is a testament to the confidence of Israel's media that
they, more than anyone else, have written and followed the Malsin
story. In fact, if it wasn't for the Israeli media and the Maan News
Agency, few others would be covering the story.
The Palestinian press is much like any media, including
Israel's. Some, like the Maan News Agency, are professional
journalists. Others, who I will leave unnamed, are not. The issue isn't
Malsin's arrest as a journalist by a government, but rather that issues
like these are frequently turned into political tools to bash Israel.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Israeli government was
wrong in detaining Malsin, keeping him in custody for a week and then
deporting him. His rights were seriously restricted.
Malsin is the victim of bad government policy. His arrest
undermines principles of freedom and justice Israel claims it
represents, though most Israeli media uphold journalistic principles by
reporting on the incident.
It's the American mainstream media and its government officials
who disappoint me the most, however. While the Israeli media sees this
as a story about a government agency violating free speech, the
American media and the elected officials in the US view it as a reason
to bash Israel.
In a way, that puts the mainstream American press and American
politicians in the same boat with those Palestinian and Arab media
which see the issue not as one of principle but as an opportunity to
Malsin's arrest and deportation is not about whether Israel is
a good or bad country. It's not about whether or not the Israeli
government is fair or unjust when it comes to Palestinian rights. It
is, though, about a government agency that has violated a journalist's
rights and in so doing, compromised Israel's image as a free nation.
One of Malsin's colleagues told me that while there are
restrictions that keep most Israeli journalists from entering and
covering the West Bank, and most Palestinian journalists from entering
and covering Israel, for the most part, Malsin was allowed to travel
almost everywhere to get his story, until this incident.
You may not agree with his views, or maybe you do. That isn't nor should it be the issue.
But there is one thing for sure. Most of the Israeli and
Palestinian media did a better job of covering his case than the
mainstream news media in America, the country that claims to set the
bar for the rest of the world when it comes to free speech.
Have the mainstream American media and American officials
failed in doing their jobs, or are they just afraid to get on Israel's
Whatever the reason, many in the Israeli and Palestinian press
are keeping the story on the front burner in a way that helps guarantee
that Malsin's journalistic rights will eventually be protected, while
putting the "free media" in America to shame.
The writer is a Palestinian American columnist, Chicago
radio talk show host and coordinator of the National Arab American