Skip to comments.Eye On The Media: Jerusalem, 8:48 a.m.
Posted on 01/29/2004 5:11:35 PM PST by dinok
I have no particular wisdom to offer in this column. In fact, I had no intention this week of writing a column at all. I only decided to do it late afternoon yesterday, as the impressions of Thursday morning accumulated in my brain and it seemed to me that some purpose might be served by putting them down on paper.
At 8:48 a.m. yesterday, I was with my wife, Corinna, and our seven-week old daughter in the bedroom of our Jerusalem flat when we heard a loud boom. Corinna happened to be looking northward when it happened; through the window, she saw a large, flat, rectangular scrap of metal fly up above the rooftops of three-story houses and tall palm trees. That was followed by a plume of black smoke. It was immediately clear to us both what had happened. I dressed, went downstairs and walked down the street in the direction of the smoke.
It was a beautiful morning, cloudless and warm for the season. A man and a young girl were walking toward me on the pavement opposite. The man did not appear to look anxious, and it occurred to me that what I thought was a suicide bombing might have been something else the collapse of a construction crane, or maybe a bad car accident.
The other thing I noticed was the quiet, which was unusual even in a city that has a way of going quiet. But this was not Shabbat, it was not a High Holiday, and rush hour was not yet over. By the time I got down the block to the bus, perhaps three minutes had elapsed since the blast.
Survivors lay on the pavement. One elderly man had flecks of human tissue on the back of his coat and scalp, but otherwise he seemed uninjured. Another man was bleeding from his ear, which had been sliced in half. A woman held her face in her hands, and everything was covered in blood.
It was still very quiet, or at least it seemed that way to me. I don't remember any police there, although surely there must have been some. The ground was covered in glass; every window of the bus had been blasted. Inside the wreckage, I could see three very still corpses and one body that rocked back and forth convulsively. Outside the bus, another three corpses were strewn on the ground, one face-up, two face-down. There was a large piece of torso ripped from its body, which I guessed was the suicide bomber's. Elsewhere on the ground, more chunks of human flesh: a leg, an arm, smaller bits, pools of blood.
NOW THE police and ambulances began to arrive in great numbers. How much time had elapsed I do not know. They began herding non-official personnel to the sidelines. My secretary called to tell me there had been a suicide bombing. I said: I know, I'm there. Also, she said, Independent Radio wanted to speak to me, would that be alright? Why not? I was patched through to a studio in London. It took me two or three minutes to describe the scene. "That'll do nicely," said the voice on the other end. "Cheers."
It had become much noisier. A young policeman with a rifle and a panicky expression ordered me to move back. I retreated a bit. An older officer screamed at me to retreat a bit farther. I did so again. Crowds of onlookers had gathered behind the police lines, and TV networks were setting up their cameras. I spotted one colleague, then another. Practically half The Jerusalem Post's editorial staff lives within a short walking distance of the blast site.
A reporter from the Voice of America overheard me telling a colleague that I'd been one of the first on the scene. He wanted an interview. Why not? I did the same for Germany's RTL television, The New York Times, an Italian channel, a Japanese reporter. The German wanted to know whether I thought the timing of the bombing was meant to coincide with the prisoner exchange. I doubted a connection. The Italian speculated about the location of the bombing, only some 150 meters from the prime minister's residence. I doubted the coincidence. The Japanese wanted to know whether I thought this attack justified targeted assassinations. "Yes, and the security fence, too," I said.
The thought ran through my mind that in five minutes flat I had become a media whore.Corinna rang. "Come home soon," she said. "I'm coming right now." I got home. The office rang. Erik Schechter, one of our military correspondents, was among the wounded. How had I missed seeing him there? We left immediately for the hospital. Erik's wounds were described as "moderate." What that meant was that his knee-cap had been shattered and that he had sustained shrapnel wounds and vascular damage. He will spend between three and six months in recovery.
We left the hospital in the early afternoon, to visit a friend who's just given birth. Afterwards, we went to an outdoor cafe for lunch. I had promised myself a day off and I was determined to take it. There have been 28 previous suicide bombings in Jerusalem. The 29th was not going to make me change the way I live my life. It was not going to prevent me from taking my day off although I am writing this column.
Another thought occurs. I think of Thursday's bombing as a death event. The absolute stillness that followed the bombing, that amazing and horrifying quiet that was the quiet of 10 murdered souls. Only later, when the ambulance sirens began to wail and reporters answered the call of their beepers, did it become a news event. There is a very great distance between a death event and a news event, I think. At best, a death event invites description, and even then description can hardly capture the nature of the thing. But a news event demands speculation, analysis. Was the attack deliberately timed? Did the bomber choose to detonate himself so near the PM's home? What do I think of targeted assassinations? What about the security fence? And so on.
I doubt many reporters have actually witnessed a suicide bombing up close indeed, not many Israelis have. After today, I know there is a basic difference between what one sees in the first five or ten minutes and what one sees in the next 20 or 30 minutes. Most of the reporters who "covered" the bombing did not actually see the corpses on the ground. They do not know about the body convulsing in the bus. What they saw was a bus blown to smithereens, which is awful enough, while the rest was left to their imaginations. But if you haven't seen it before, you cannot imagine it. You don't have a clue. If I learned one thing today, it is this.
WE MOVE too quickly from death events to news events. Nobody should see the scene I witnessed this morning, while the quiet still hung in the air. Then again, maybe everyone should see it, at least everyone in the news media. They should switch off their cameras and mobile phones and close their notepads. They should observe the silence, first of all by being silent.
This is what I wanted to say.
(Excerpt) Read more at jpost.com ...
Releasing hundreds of terrorists for the remains of a few victims, hardly seems like a pragmatic action by Government officials who are sworn to maintain the defense of the population.
Sometimes I find such decisions to be as irrational as the terror acts themselves. I guess that I do not have the temperment or wisdom to ever be a diplomat or a politician.
I concede that.
I have learned a lot myself about certain issues during the last few years. My real beef is with the media and the sensationalizing of these type of events without actually focusing on the nature of the terrorist groups, and their agenda which is widely professed in Arab speaking societies.
The journalists of today have largely abandoned any semblance of objectivity, or responsible reporting. The terrorists get a lot of free passes by the biased media, and the Israelis are often treated as if they were somehow perpetuating the escalation of the perverse violence against civilians.
I am going to FReepmail you a personal short note.
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