By Ray Hanania
Ron Grossman is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune who has built his name not just on writing long features, but on exploring his Jewish identity and love for Israel.
The Middle East conflict is a longstanding war between Palestinian Arabs and Jews from Europe, the Middle East and even the United States.
Can a Jewish journalist with deep passions not only for his religion but also Israel write objectively about a case so nuanced as the political persecution of Mohammed Salah?
When you read Grossman’s lengthy perspective on the Salah case, the answer is "No."
This isn’t about being Jewish. It is about whether a journalist can be objective when the topic he writes about is so tainted by his personal biases. Can you imagine the uproar in the highly unlikely event that the CHicago Tribune would have allowed a Palestinian journalist to write on the same topic?
Yet Grossman penned an exhaustive report on Salah dripping with subtle pro-Israel references that not even a supporter of Salah could recognize him as being the obvious victim of Israeli torture who survived the Israeli Gulag only to face trumped up charges that will land him in the American prison Gulag.
First among Grossman’s flaws is his reporting that Salah was arrested by Israel and accused of supporting Hamas, an organization Grossman casually notes was designated by the United States as a terrorist organization too.
Of course, Grossman fails to point out that the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization did not come until almost three years later. In fact, that designation took place in 1995 and then officially detailed in a State Department report in 1997, partly in response to Hamas's resistance to the Olso Peace Accords. It was a political move. (Read 1997 designation story?) (Read 2003 supplemental report?)
But that's not all.
The fact is that Hamas did not turn to Suicide bombing as a weapon of resistance against Israel’s oppressive military occupation until May 1994, more than one year after Salah was illegally detained and made into a political prisoner when he was arrested by Israel’s secret service in January 1993.
The suicide bombing that took place in Afula was the direct result of the terrorism that took place a months before in Hebron when a prominent Jewish Chicagoan who maybe Grossman knew, walked into a Mosque in Hebron and gunned down 29 Palestinians while they were in prayer.
OUT OF ISRAELI PROPAGANDA
Most disgusting is Grossman’s gross attempt to whitewash Israel’s role in persecuting Palestinians and undermining Salah’s only hope for acquittal in the Federal prosecution now pending before him.
Grossman writes two passages at the very end that pack a powerful biased punch that read as if they came right out of a Shin Bet torture handbook to counter Palestinian claims they are victims of Israeli persecution, illegal imprisonment, prison torture, military abuse and even murder.
Grossman fires an Israeli dart through the heart of Salah’s defense, his only chance at acquittal in the biased, anti-Arab American courtroom:
To deprecate Salah’s defense that he was the victim of torture or that he was supporting a legitimate effort to cast off Israel’s brutal occupation, Grossman speculates that Salah’s defense attorney is basically arguing that might Salah’s case can be compared to the fight Americans waged against the British during the Revolutionary War.
And then Grossman stabs the argument in the back, writing in the very last paragraph of the Tribune magazine feature:
"So Mr. Salah," he [Salah’s defense attorney] might ask. "Do you mean to tell these jurors there’s no difference between Patrick Henry and a suicide bomber?"Grossman’s writing here is a disgusting revelation into a hatred of the Palestinians. His feature in the Sunday magazine of the Chicago Tribune is an undisguised effort to smear Salah’s case.
Yes, if Salah was a foot soldier against Israel he had every right to fight the occupation as a resistor. He had every right to defend himself against Israeli military terrorism that has been documented by Amnesty International and many other Israeli and Arab and European agencies.
Yes, if Salah was some high-up member of Hamas, an organization that traces its roots back to Israel’s political efforts to create an alternative to the PLO. Israel did everything it could to help Sheik Ahmad Yassin found the Islamic Association in the 1970s in the Gaza Strip believing that a religious movement that put religion about Palestinian nationality might help to undermine the PLO and its leader Yasser Arafet.
Grossman acknowledges this fact in a wimpy passage that downplays the fact that if Hamas is a monster terrorist organization that Israel claims, it is Israel’s Frankenstein. Hamas and Hamas terrorism is the result of Israel’s making, caused by Israel’s terrorism against the Palestinians for more than half a century.
Ironically, an American-made Israel fighter jet fired a missile and killed Yassin as he was leaving prayers at a Gaza Mosque in his wheelchair. The murder of the paraplegic didn’t move Grossman to lambaste Israeli terrorism, even though that killing also took the lives of about nine civilians who happened to be standing nearby when Yassin was murdered.
And, when rereading much of what Grossman has penned lovingly about Israel, jadedly about Palestinians, you find that he heaped praise on the author of a book that celebrated the life of Barney Ross, a Jewish American boxer who, after serving in World War II sought to run guns and enlist from his U.S. Marine colleagues a resistance to fight in Palestine against the British and the Palestinian Arabs.
Ah, but Barney Ross is Jewish and he therefore has a right to run guns and resist British occupation.
Salah, on the otherhand, is a Palestinian Muslim and he has no right to resist occupation and help his people’s cause for justice and liberation.
ISRAELI AND AMERICAN GULAG
Salah has argued to all who would listen – objectively – that he was imprisoned by the Israelis simply because he was stopped with money in his possession. Not hundreds of thousands as has been inaccurately reported but with about $97,000.
Every Palestinian knows that Israel will not allow Palestinians outside of the territories they occupy illegally to funnel money to their family friends and even their organizations, most of which were founded to build up activism against Israel’s occupation.
Occupations just don’t go away. They have to be pushed out. And that "pushing" can often be described by the oppressors – Israel – as "terrorism."
Almost every point Grossman tries to make is skewered towards strengthening Israel’s argument while underming Salah’s argument.
Another pathetic reference is made to Judith Miller, the lying cheating reporter who was exposed at the New York Times. Miller was brought in by the Israeli Shin Bet when Salah was being tortured to document his comments so she could then use the information, distort it into pro-Israel propaganda, and then use it in her campaign to undermine the Palestinians in the United States.
As it turns out, Miller’s reputation as an unethical journalist was exposed in the case involving the CIA wife of a White House aide who exposed President Bush’s lies about Iraq. Valery Plame’s cover was later blown intentionally by Bush’s underlings as punishment and Miller found herself neck deep in the journalism scandal.
Yet Grossman references Miller as if she were the champion of justice that too many American journalists, including Grossman, fail to be when the focus of their writing happens to be Israel.
Ron Grossman’s article on Salah is political. Rather than being an insightful look into a complicated case, it is clearly an effort to tilt the case towards Israel’s claims. Grossman even dilutes the accusations that Salah was the victim of torture.
If what happened to Salah was done to American soldiers imprisoned by any other country, we would be screaming that the harassment, sleep depravation for more than 53 days and more. He was placed in a cell with other hardcore members of Hamas who suspected he was a plant and naturally, one might want them to believe they were Hamas supporters in the struggle against Israel.
Muhammad Salah is a political prisoner who was tossed around for five years after he was forced to confess to being a Hamas supporter in the Israeli Military prison Gulag, where Palestinians are routinely tortured and forced to sign confessions that in any other court of law would be tossed out as worthless.
Now, he sits under the hail of lies and faces more time in the American prison Gulag as his case is distorted and twisted in a pro-Israel judicial system that has little concern about laws and more concern for political outcome.
Salah will never get a fair trial in our judicial system.
But I am most disappointed, but not surprised, that Salah can’t get a fair trial in the pro-Israel American news media.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning journalist and author. He can be reached at www.hanania.com.)