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Alan Johnston, Emad Ghanem: A Third Dimension - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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As the BBC reporter Alan Johnston was giving his news conference and gracefully pointing out that had he been a Palestinian reporter no one would have worked for his release, the Israel occupying forces were perpetrating a horrid crime in Gaza against the Palestinian camera man Emad Ghanem who was trying to record on camera one of the massacres perpetrated by the Israelis in Gaza in which 11 innocent Palestinian civilians were killed in cold blood. After the Israeli plane targeted Emad Ghanem with a missile amputating both his legs, soldiers on the ground rained his body with bullets preventing anyone from trying to save him, and making sure he is killed in a scene that is very reminiscent of the killing of the Palestinian child Muhamad Al-Durra in October 2000. For anyone who may think that this all happened by mistake – although it was obviously a deliberate terrorist act – an Israeli military source declared that “Israel does not consider the Palestinian camera man who works for Hamas a journalist” and the real meaning of this statement is that “Israel dose not consider the life of any Palestinian equal to a human life”. The same thing applies to the case Aljazeera camera man, Sami Al Haj, who has been arrested in prison in Guantanamo Bay for many years without any charge.

Perhaps I should have stressed at the outset that kidnapping Alan Johnston was against everything we cherish and his release filled us with happiness because we want all media men to feel safe to convey the news to us, and their lives and freedoms should be secured beyond any possible harm. But the question is why the huge difference in attitude between reporters who have western nationalities and Arab reporters? The reason could be that Arab governments or unions or NGOs do not make enough noise in defense of Arab reporters. But the more important reason that started to crystallize after 9/11 is the slight with which an Arab life is treated and the total negligence of their human suffering and the absolute failure to relate their stories in the media as human stories. ] The Nation’s Report is the latest evidence that the Arabs are deliberately treated as sub-humans[.

According to current Western policy towards the Middle East, the Arabs are made up of two categories: Either they are agents to the West who engage in promoting western superiority over their own values and hence they are supported and applauded, or they are “terrorists” and hence they deserve to be tortured and killed. It was certainly in this frame of mind that President Bush said in his press conference on July 12 that if he withdraws his forces from Iraq, al-Qaeda will prevail; he said: “to begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region and for the United States. It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al-Qaeda”. Thus President Bush summed up the matter for the Iraqis: either the American occupying forces or al-Qaeda, which was not present in Iraq prior to the American occupation as American and Pentagon sources have emphasized. This testifies that the Iraqi people who are being killed, maimed and forced to flee their country do not count at all in President Bush’s dictionary. In fact, over the tragic years he caused to Iraqi people, President Bush has systematically failed to acknowledge the pain and the suffering his illegal war has inflicted on the Iraqi people. Following the speeches of president Bush and the statements of his Secretary of State, one may imagine that this region is only a war zone in which Western forces are fighting extremists, as if there is no huge third party]hundreds of millions[ who are against occupation and extremism and who are resisting humiliation, violence, death and destruction and who are trying to live in their countries in freedom and dignity away from foreign hegemony and from terrorism and extremism as well. This third party which constitutes the majority of Arab and Muslim people, both in their countries and abroad, find no room in Western media to express themselves or explain their case. Their lives, destiny and issues are never raised to an international status and never awarded the attention or respect they deserve. That is why the pain of these peoples is not viewed as human pain because they are the marginalized third dimension, as they are neither “agents” who deserve praise, nor terrorists who should be killed, and there is no third category for these people in Western dictionary to be worthy of space and attention.

The irony is that after messing up the lives of millions of people in Arab countries, the same sources appoint Tony Blair, who was a partner in bringing catastrophe to Iraq ad Palestine, to help the Quartet devise policies and decide the course of events without consulting even with Arab “allies”.

Presenting the Arab world to Western audiences as a place that needs western armies to fight extremists is a virtual death sentence on Arab people and a flagrant justification of a continued military occupation. This is true of Iraq and Palestine and to a large extent Afghanistan. In the Herald Tribune of July 11, 2007 I read “Nato didn’t lose Afghanistan”, no, but the Afghan people did. This applies to Iraq. “Bush didn’t lose Iraq” but the Iraqi people did with one million killed, and one million Iraqis maimed, and six million Iraqis displaced while president Bush did not have to miss his shower or his tea and of course not his sleep over such a matter. This third dimension which constitutes the majority of Arab people in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and all other Arab countries, unfortunately is not known to president Bush and the European leaders who claim to be busy addressing the problems and the situation in the Middle East.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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