OPINION

Is Greek press coverage of the Israeli war on Lebanon tainted by prejudice?

The questions posed by Paschos Mandravelis in the commentary «Our selective rage at the warmongers» (August 1) are very valid and timely. Anyone following American coverage with astonishment at the largely one-sided take on events in the Levant will not be disappointed by the similar approach followed in Greece. In this sense Greece – far from distinguishing itself from the US – has become its mirror image. Where in the US the label «terrorist» is casually thrown around to depict anyone coming into armed conflict with its interests, the same is occurring in Greece where the term «foniades» (killers) is routinely used to depict the Israelis (and, by extension, the Americans). Both countries are alike in thinking that since they are consumption-oriented societies they somehow have the exclusive moral rights to outrage, as if this were any other commodity. Although there are certain individuals in both countries claiming to depict the truth, they are in fact only depicting a part of it. There can be no doubt that the Greek press coverage and protests are aimed at giving voice to the real pain and suffering caused to the people of Lebanon and Gaza. In the same vein, their American counterparts are correct in pointing to Hezbollah’s role in initiating this crisis and its own intentional targeting of Israeli civilians. But both sides fail to see the possibility of other valid points of views existing. There is significant danger in this and especially to Greece which, in trying to differentiate itself from the US, is becoming more and more like it every day. Although this may sound like an exaggeration, there is of course – as Mr Mandravelis points out – the small matter of the hypocrisy involved. In addition to the lack of protests when Muslims were being slaughtered in the former Yugoslavia, there is also the prickly issue of the Greek Muslim minority in Thrace. In light of the furor that broke out in view of forthcoming elections (an ethnic Muslim MP was nominated by PASOK to run for the Muslim-dominated prefectures of Drama-Kavala-Xanthi), can anyone argue that Muslims are fully integrated members of the Greek community whose treatment is identical to that of other citizens? Indeed, what of the Muslim community in Athens and its quest, for decades now, for a simple place to worship? Where are the protests in solidarity with them? The anti-racist credentials of the left may well be solid but there is still a danger of the seeds of hate being sown. The constant use of the one-sided coverage stigmatizes and affects public perception in the same manner as the constant use of the term «terrorist.» All should reflect deeply at this time on the effect that hate has not only in this conflict but also locally. Indeed, when one hears criticism regarding the creation of the state of Israel itself, one needs to consider the role that hate played in the early 20th century, whether it be the Dreyfus trial in France, the Russian pogroms or its Teutonic culmination and the effect that all of this had on the creation of this state. CONSTANTINE NEZIS, Pangrati, Athens. Newspapers throughout the world carried the terrible pictures of the green-helmeted man in a flak jacket carrying the lifeless gray body of a child. What we know today is that this man carried the child’s body this way for over three hours parading it before the AP, Reuters and all the news agencies’ press photographers. The war Israel has totally lost is the public relations one. But I would have thought that Antonis Karkayiannis, in his commentary «What are the limits of self-defense» (August 2), would have reminded his readers that, without a single exception, every one of the thousands of Katusha rockets that Hezbollah fired into Israel was aimed at the very same civilian populations that the papers showed suffering in Lebanon. It seems that Mr Karkayiannis would have felt better about Israel’s actions had Hezbollah’s Katushas succeeded in killing more Israelis. If Mr Karkayiannis thinks that Israel deliberately targets civilians then he is just parading his ignorance of Hezbollah’s tactics of using the Lebanese civilians and their homes as shields. This «mighty and arrogant military organization» is just Israel’s way of telling the world that things have changed. If it is your intention now to spill Jewish blood, it will come at a price. And reminding his readers that he did say that Israel had a right to exist is no less arrogant. Does Israel’s existence need or depend on Mr Karkayiannis’s opinion on this matter? Does Greece need anyone to tell the world that Greece has a right to exist?   When Greece will live comfortably with 15,000 long- and short-range rockets in Turkey aimed at any of the Greek islands, then, and only then, would this very skewed and, yes, arrogant, commentary have a grain of legitimacy in asking about the limits of self-defense. ARNOLD HOLTZMAN, Yehud, Israel.