I am a 55-year-old white, middle-class American woman; wife, mother, grandmother. I am one of the loyal fans who have made Oprah Winfrey the queen of American television, and a successful magazine magnate. I am special in only one respect: I have lived in Jerusalem for the past 35 years, and only narrowly escaped the Passover Massacre together with my family in 2002.
During the killing spree that was known as the Intifada, we Israelis found nothing more infuriating than the insidious line taken in interview after predictable interview by BBC and CNN that terrorists were motivated by hopelessness or poverty, brought about by the victims.
With 9/11, sympathy for terrorists waned, as well as belief in the theory that terrorist victims had it coming.
David France’s recent article on Yusra Abdu, a Nablus teenager who confessed to volunteering to enact a suicide bombing inside Israel, was shocking on several counts. First, its subject matter: the “love” story between the head of the Marxist terrorist group, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) which rejected Oslo and all peace initiatives, and the 17-year-old girl who sought him out and attempted to win his heart by batting her “velvety eyes” at him and declaring her willingness to be a suicide bomber.
The second count is the venue: How did this inaccurate and obviously politically biased piece of bad journalism find its way into O magazine among the diet tips and $195 Prada sunglasses? Among the tips for living a better, kinder, more involved life?
As a fan of Oprah’s and a subscriber to her magazine, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Part of a commendable Women and Girls at Risk series exposing dangers to women in other countries, the Yusra Abdu piece would have fit right in except for one huge problem: the writer, who falls all over himself trying not to figure out who and what has put Abdu and other Palestinian women at risk.
France attempts to go the route of hopelessness and poverty. But he is stymied.
Her parents describe Yusra as a “wonderfully frivolous” teenager. And he has no choice but to admit that her closets are overflowing with clothes, and her walls full of posters of pop stars. A “happy girl with an optimistic smile.” All this, of course, happened under Israeli occupation. But readers would never know it.
From the context of France’s piece, the trouble began with the withdrawal of Israeli troops after Oslo, who were replaced by Arafat’s security police. According to Israeli security, Nablus has provided more homicide bombers than any other Palestinian city.
Terrorist groups ran rampant, so that a well-known killer like 24-year-old Hani Akad, bomb expert and Nablus head of the DFLP – which once blew up Arab students in the Old City and set off a bomb next door to a nursery school in Talpiot – was left to ply his trade unhindered.
According to France’s own report, Yusra went to him offering herself as a suicide bomber. France tells us it was her way of flirting. And then France says something else which is really revealing. “They didn’t date. Hani couldn’t date.”
What he doesn’t tell American women is why, which perhaps more than anything else is the crux of this story: Because a date would have compromised Yusra’s honor and she might have found herself getting her throat slit by her brother or father. Is it any wonder that, as France himself writes, she confessed to Israeli security police that the real reason she wanted to blow herself up was “boredom?”
Glaringly, France ignores completely the constant and unrelenting incitement to terror by the religious, cultural and educational systems in place in the Palestinian Authority. Like a spanking new sixth-grade text book called Reading the Koran which selectively quotes from the Koran such gems as: ” Oh you who are Jews if you think you are favored by Allah then pray for death.”
France goes another route, seeking to explain the desire for terror by describing the brutality of the Israeli army. Paraphrasing a report by Amnesty International, he makes the outrageous charge that “both sides target minors.”
Amnesty, which has had a true credibility gap in the past few years concerning its coverage of human rights abuses by Palestinians, makes the following statement in its 2004 report, which is not judged worthy of inclusion by France: “Palestinian terror groups have repeatedly shown total disregard for the most fundamental of human rights notably the right to life, by deliberately targeting Israeli civilians and by using children who are susceptible to recruitment.”
Trying to turn the story of Yusra and Hani into a love story, France encounters numerous obstacles. He can think of no explanation, for example, why after accepting Hani’s proposal, Yusra approaches Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades and offers once again to blow herself up. Not very complimentary to her “freedom fighter” with the M-16 and the “fiery glance and dimpled cheeks.”
Also, in his attempt to paint Hani the terrorist in heroic colors by revealing how he tried to talk his fiancée out of “taking revenge on Israelis,” France omits one very pertinent fact: Hours after Hani was killed, two female Palestinian students, Aadala Goavra, 21, and Lina Goavra, 22, gave themselves up to Israeli security forces. The pair had been recruited and equipped by Hani, a specialist in explosion devices passed on to operatives, to blow themselves up in Tel Aviv.
What a guy! What a story!
And what, in heaven’s name, is Oprah Winfrey thinking?
Champion of the underdog, patron saint of the downtrodden and depressed and overweight, why has she allowed her reputation and her magazine’s to be sullied by this sordid attempt at terrorist white-washing?
Millions of American women who get their information about vital subjects like terrorism that affect us all, are now all women at risk.