Dr. Khaled Batarfi
Sunday, 10, September, 2006
What is the difference between a report and an Op-Ed piece? A reporter should cover all sides in his/her news story or analysis. A column, on the other hand, is meant to express a writer’s own opinion. At least this is my understanding. Obviously my American friend does not subscribe to this view or he does not recognize this vital difference. Hence his suggestion that I should be “fairer” in my articles about the Lebanon war. A journalist, he says, should represent all sides of a conflict, regardless of his or her own views.
I explained to him that I am not writing as a journalist, but as an opinion writer. Besides, Israel and company have powerful media forums whereas Arabs have very few. It is not fair to share the little space we have with Israeli apologists. Readers have greater access to the other side, so they won’t have a problem getting the Zionist message.
My friend insisted that at least I be logical, sensible and credible. For my opinion to be heard and respected by all sides, he argued, it has to show restraint, factuality and reason.
I agree. I must not lie or twist facts to support my stand or to convince my readers. Like a lawyer arguing a case, I could highlight certain facts and ignore others, knowing my opponent would focus on them, but abusing the truth is not permissible.
I should also be moral. For example, I must not preach hate, support injustice or advocate violence and terrorism. No moral writer can be anti-Semite, support Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Lebanon or Palestine, or apologize for Al-Qaeda targeting civilians.
However, as long as I adhere to standard ethic rules, I am free to take any stand I feel right.
Anger, my friend contented, blurs reason. I should not write when I can’t control my emotions. He noted that my articles after the cease-fire in Lebanon were more like me than the ones I wrote during the war.
I told him that in the heat of conflict, sense and sensibility takes a back seat to anger, obstinacy and revenge. It is just hard for people under fire to think kindly of the shooters, or find excuses for their behavior. Shouts and war cries silence any fair reasoning and logical review. We are but humans.
However, after the battle storm dies down, sanity should rule. Now that Lebanon is on the road to recovery, we could afford to breath easier, think logical, and be fair even to our enemy.
We expected this from the world’s only superpower and leader, USA, soon after 9/11. Wounds were supposed to start healing, and forward, positive, scientific and constructive thinking was expected to take over. Emotional responses were the last thing anyone predicted. Yet, that is exactly what happened and still happening five years after the event.
Adventures like Iraq invasion justified with lies and truth-twisting backfired on the perpetrators. Supporting other criminal adventures like “bombing Lebanon to the Stone Age” and destroying Palestinian towns and villages drained whatever left of world sympathy toward America after 9/11, as international polls show.
In Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon, mostly innocent people and their homes and towns were destroyed. The bad guys are still at large, regrouping and attacking with the support of large portions of their societies. Victims are turned into avengers. Angry fellow brethren all over the Muslim world became a huge pool of potential jihadists against the occupiers. If only half a percentage of some 1.5 billion Muslims went down that road there would be multimillion fighters.
From Spain and UK to Indonesia and the Philippines, and from Morocco and Egypt to Saudi Arabia and Iraq, the terrorist attacks have increased many folds. Against all security preparations, terrorists managed to deal blow after blow to all of us. Evidently, the world is less safe today than it was before the war on terror.
Instead of stopping the bleeding, more blood, American included, was spilled all over, and enormous economic costs slowed the development of a better world. Worse, fear, hate and mistrust ruled a globe that was starting to be interconnected with instant and affordable communication, trade and education — a world that was starting to establish a new order based on the rule of law, justice and human rights.
Within months of 9/11, the dream we nurtured for half a century since the end of World War II evaporated with the first B52 bombing of villages and farms in poor Afghanistan. Instead of healing the wounds and uniting the world against preachers of hate and manufacturers of death, the theories of “The Clash of Civilization” and “The End of History” are now becoming more and more a reality.
In five years, we witnessed how the leaders and builders of the emerging free, peaceful world gradually turned into its jailers and destroyers. We deserved better!