In Israel we are used to watching the international news channels and being left with an open mouth at the half-truths, lazy reporting and bias we see emanating from our screens. Two nights ago this was taken to a new low level.
Mahmoud al-Zahar, the top Hamas official in Gaza, appeared on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" hosted by Wolf Blitzer. The interview was full of evasion and half-truths which obviously let the world know that Hamas was a reasonable organisation and if Israel was not so belligerent then all would be peaceful in the Middle East. The usual terrorism=resistance and an offer of a truce if Israel basically gave up everything was the expected and received fare from this spokesman for terrorism.
The biggest problem I had with this interview went far beyond the usual shoddy kow-towing to murderous organisations for a decent interview. During the interview Al-Zahar listed Hamas' conditions to allowing a truce, the condition that sat apart from the usual was the demand that Israel change its flag. Al-Zahar explained "Israel must remove the two blue stripes from its national flag. The stripes on the flag are symbols of occupation. They signify Israel's borders stretching from the Euphrates River to the Nile River."
The most amazing thing about this part of the interview is that these statements went completely unchallenged by Blitzer. (For those who aren't aware, the blue stripes on the Israeli flag were inspired by the stripes on the Tallit (Jewish prayer shawl). Blitzer must have known that what Al-Zahar said was blatantly false, Blitzer has spent almost 20 years working in Israel or working for an Israeli newspaper abroad.
Why did Blitzer not correct a statement he knew was blatantly false? Blitzer has regular columns in Israeli newspapers and has written a book about Israel, surely he knew one of the most basic facts of Israel. I think we have to summise that he did and he just let the comment stand. Even if Blitzer would have corrected Al-Zahar and explained the true reason and the Hamas spokesman denied it, at least another explanation would have been out there for viewers to hear. Left unchallenged the average international viewer is left with the impression that Israel is expansionist and is the true source of the problem, reflected in its national symbol.
Interestingly, in the CNN internet version of the interview, this segment is completely left out. I can only conclude that CNN were so embarrassed by these statements and the lack of decent interviewing standards that they left it out.
International media networks try so hard to get interviews with leaders like Al-Zahar, sometimes taking a lot of meetings, time and bribes. The networks will do anything not to jeopardise the interview, heaven forbid they should interrupt or correct him. They let these murderous people talk and postulate almost completely unchallenged. Compare this with how the international media press Israeli spokesman. They are interrupted and cajoled until the interviewer makes his or her point. This could be construed as good journalism, but why we ask do we have one rule for terrorists and one rule for spokespeople of a democratic state? Wolf Blitzer should hang his head in shame as he broke every rule of decent journalism as he allowed Al-Zahar to incite to murder, racism and homophobia all in the name of getting the story first.