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The Black Boot Award for Journalism

In the last few months since Arafat left the negotiating table and started murdering Israeli civilians, I have been pondering why he keeps most foreign correspondents so sympathetic to his cause.

Today, I finally figured out the reason. We Jews just don’t show our appreciation for the fine job journalists do given this difficult and often dangerous situation in the Middle East. Most of them are far away from home, don’t speak Hebrew or Arabic, don’t really know the country’s history very well. They are lonely. Unhappy. All they can really look forward to from this assignment is that it will earn them those distinguished award citations that journalists get from covering such thankless assignments in war zones.

To my chagrin, the Hamas understood this long before we Jews did. They gave out their awards, honoring the BBC correspondent with his little bronze plaque.

But all this is about to change. There is not only a new award, but a short list and a winner. The Black Boot Award for Creative Journalism (after the great German master of media manipulation who shall go unnamed…).

To qualify, a journalist must have written a series of articles sympathetic to genocidal regimes and/or child sacrifice, and the deliberate targeting of unarmed civilians. To be considered, the articles must be completely one-sided. For example, if houses are bulldozed, a journalist cannot mention why, but simply show the terrible suffering of the now homeless, wailing women with their one pot and bag of flour. To point out the possible use of such homes as cover for mortar fire, for example, would unfortunately lead to automatic disqualification.

Language is also of the utmost importance. The pejorative adjectives must routinely be applied to the non-genocidal regime: hard-liner, excessive force, illegal settlements. Sympathy for those calling for all out holy war must be clear-cut and not open to misunderstanding. Heartrending sympathy for the brave little suicide bombers and their lovely families, for example, would be a prerequisite, and basically mandatory in light of the spirit of what our award hopes to honor.

As you who have been reading your newspapers and watching your television sets have probably now realized, this was a very, very tough decision. There were so many qualified entries, and so many really deserving recipients. However, as with any award, there are those who are excellent, and then those that because of their absolute consistency simply blow away the competition and one can only bow one’s head in admiration for a job superbly done that cries out for recognition.

Before we announce the winner, I’d like to say who made the short- list.

Mike Hanna, of CNN, my personal favorite for a long time, to my regret (sorry Mike) just didn’t make the grade. It’s a shame. I remember with nostalgia that memorable CNN quote regarding the suicide bomber in the Netanya mall : “Israel says its bombing of Palestinian targets has been in response to what it calls terrorist attacks.” A suicide bomber in a mall, after all, could be called a dissatisfied shopper too. Takes Mike to think of that one.

Unfortunately of late, Mike’s reporting has lost the verve and bite of his early reports, when Sharon was always called “hard-liner” and Sheikh Yassin ” the spiritual leader of a fundamentalist group.” Maybe Rick Davis, his boss, is to blame.

In any case, the Americans really can’t hold a candle to the British. The selection was enormous. Sam Kiley of the Times of London was frontrunner a long time. Honestly, I thought he was unbeatable. With such articles as “Palestinians driven out by Israeli Apartheid” about cave-dwellers in Hebron (!) subject to Israeli “racial cleansing.” Or such classics as “the bearded man in a green hat pressed his cheek against the barbed wire and wept” in describing the fence that separates Lebanon, and the Hizbollah terrorists from Israeli settlements, and the poor souls that can’t infiltrate at will.

Of course, Phil Reeves of the Independent of London with his heartrending description of Hizbollah terrorists as “snowy-haired detainees…freed from brutal hell-holes” in a South Lebanese prison : “They smashed down doors. They shattered windows. They chanted ‘Long live Nasrallah.’ ” Well. You’ll admit. Hard to top.

Nevertheless, that’s just what our winner has succeeded in doing. Her name: Suzanne Goldenberg, correspondent for the Guardian. Suzanne is by far, the person who more than any other journalist, deserves this award. Her articles have broken new ground, in fact, going places that no other journalist employed by a news organization not currently banned for travel in the United States has reached.

Take her “A Museum Fit for Martyrs” extolling the Palestinian exhibition of the belongings of little suicide bombers and rock-throwing “shaheeds.” Or her loving description of little eight year-old Alaa abu Shamala who copied out “with impressive neatness” a note to her mother: “I want to go now to the Zionist checkpoint. I will carry my knife with me. I will be a martyr.” This, Suzanne tells us helpfully, only a few hours before twenty Israeli teenagers were blown to bits outside a Tel Aviv disco.

Makes you all teary-eyed for the little sweetie, doesn’t it? The mother laughed, the article tells us, until the little dear ran off with a kitchen knife.

In another piece of real investigative reporting, she comes up with this: Israel Bus Stop Killer was on Medication. “Far from being the calculated aim of a dedicated terrorist” the murder of eight civilians and off-duty soldiers at a bus stop by Gazan bus driver Khalil Abu Olbeh was just a case of drowsiness caused by –- yes, you got it straight from Suzanne and absolutely no one else! -– “anti histamines and antibiotics” added to his medication for depression.

And then there is the little classic she calls “War on Thought” in which she calls that well-known hotbed of racial-hatred and terrorism 101 Bir Zeit University “the oldest and reputedly the best university in the West Bank and Gaza, “whose “prominent alumnae” include “Marwan Barghouti, leader of the Fatah militias in the West Bank.”

Suzanne, what can I say? You blew away all competition. I congratulate you, and your wonderful newspaper, the Guardian. Please accept the “Black Boot Award” with our best wishes.

And may I say, that we are so much looking forward to delivering it to you personally.

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