Last week, after that terrible suicide bombing of a Jerusalem bus that killed at least 21, including six children, there was media talk about the resumption of "the cycle of violence."
That's now a cliché for the bloodshed in the Middle East, suggesting that the killing is totally tit-for-tat, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.
In between, all is calm, all is bright.
This, of course, is nonsense.
Typically, the media remark on only the bloodiest spectacles, such as this week's Israeli helicopter missile strike at the car of a wanted Hamas militant. It killed an elderly street vendor and wounded more than two dozen bystanders while the real target managed to escape. That botched mission came on the heels of the killings of other Hamas members last Thursday.
It's getting tough to keep track of all the hands for hands, feet for feet.
Now I am not the only one offended by "cycle of violence'' — both the phrase and what it represents.
Richard L. Benkin, writing for Israel Insider, a daily online magazine, finds it equally repugnant, although for different reasons: "The press and other talking heads," he notes, "have it all wrong. Their cycle of violence allegedly goes from Arab to Israeli violence and back again. The real cycle of violence, however, goes from one Arab act of terror to another.''
That's one man's interpretation — and no doubt it will be circulated online between and among those who agree with it.
That's how it is with the Middle East debate: Every day my inbox is filled with e-missives from both sides, taking hard-line, black-and-white views of the situation, with no shades of gray, no compromise and no room for negotiation. They are mostly speaking to the converted, but for the odd journalist trying to muddle her way to the heart of the matter.
Anyway, this "cycle of violence'' is no such thing.
This was made clear last Friday by yet another e-mail, one from the New York-based Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (http://www.fair.org).
Titled Journalists Find `Calm' When Only Palestinians Die, it cites statistics from the Palestine Red Crescent Society showing that during the recent six-week period of supposed calm and quiet, "some 17 Palestinians were killed and at least 59 injured by Israeli occupation soldiers and settlers. The toll included a 4-year-old boy "who was sitting in the back seat of a jeep with his family at a checkpoint when an Israeli soldier shot him dead.''
Now some will argue that the Red Crescent Society, the Muslim version of the Red Cross, is not to be credited, that it's a front, that it aids and abets terrorism, etc. etc. I've heard that one, and often, although there's never been any good evidence of that. But, purely for argument's sake, let's say it's true. Who does that leave to bear independent witness for the Palestinian people, who already have plenty of nothing, thanks to their own leadership?
This brings us to Al-Jazeera, the Arabic news network that Canadian cable companies, most of them hiding for safety behind the skirts of their lobby group, have applied to bring here. Hearings could come this fall.
Many Jewish groups are fighting Al-Jazeera's entry on the basis of some repugnantly anti-Semitic outbursts the channel has presented. Indeed, in its intervention, the Canadian Jewish Congress makes a good case that those outbursts violate Canada's hate laws.
But are those few instances enough to block Al-Jazeera, which has been praised by many for delivering the straight goods about the Middle East? As Gwynne Dyer noted the other day from Cairo, the world gets a very distorted view from most of the Western media. The picture we paint is one of unrelenting hate, violence and terrorism, as if one-fifth of the planet's people spend their entire lives taking those of others.
Can this be right? Shouldn't Al-Jazeera be allowed in to balance the record?
Yesterday, even the National Post, whose owner Izzy Asper recently fulminated against the network in the paper's pages, supported the channel in an editorial, saying that Quebec's Videotron, the only major cable company not crouching behind the Canadian Cable Television Association, should be legally held responsible for any hate speech Al-Jazeera disseminates on our airwaves.
And so it should be: If the cable industry wants to make a buck here, it ought to be accountable.
Al-Jazeera should be let in.
Perhaps the best way to end the cycle of violence is by starting with the cycle of ignorance.
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