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October 28, 2011
NY Times humanizes terrorist killer released by Israel
In its Oct. 28 edition, the New York Times runs an article by correspondent Stephen Farrell about recently freed Palestinian prisoners basking in the lap of luxurious surroundings in Gaza -- without, however, specifying the terrorist atrocities for which they were convicted and sentenced to long terms in Israeli jails ("Making the Uneasy Transition From Prisoner to Celebrity" page A7).
As the celebrity poster for these former prisoners exiled to Gaza, Farrell focuses on Mohammed Musa Taqatqa, whom he interviews in a five-star hotel, which has become his news home, and at a welcome ceremony at the Islamic University of Gaza.
"Freshly barbered and wearing a shirt so new its creases still showed," Taqatqa accepts a "garland of white flowers" as he contemplates his new life, having to deal not only with his new-won freedom, but also with "unfamiliar trappings of cell phones and laptop computer," Farrell writes.
While delving in great detail into Taqatqa's transition from an Israeli prison into Gaza's version of the life of Riley, Farrell is much more circumspect in informing Times readers about the reasons why he was imprisoned by the Israelis.
At the end of the fourth paragraph, Farrell briefly mentions that Taqatqa "served 18 years of a life sentence, with a lot of time spent in solitary." Did this punishment fit his crimes?
We can't tell because Farrell shies from laying out Taqatqa's entire rap sheet.
Farrell is a bit more forthcoming in the ninth paragraph when he acknowledges that Taqatqa had been sentenced for "murder by terror operation, military training, attempted murder and membership in an unregistered organization." But again, he fails to flesh out the full extent of Taqatqa's terrorist record, how many Israelis he killed or injured, and the circumstances in which Taqatqa engaged in his terrorist crimes.
Farrell easily could have provided these details from Israeli prison records, but he's singularly uninterested in pursuing any such line of inquiry. Yet, it's common knowledge that Taqatqa was deemed to belong to the most blood-soaked prisoners freed by Israel in exchange for the freedom of Sgt. Gilad Shalit. Under the prisoner exchange deal, some of the worst Palestinian offenders were not allowed back to their hometowns in the West Bank, but instead exiled to Gaza to minimize the danger threats they still might pose.
In Taqatqa's case, he was barred from return to his home in Bethlehem. He belongs in this most repellent category. But again, none of this interests Farrell as much as Taqata's "freshly barbered" face and the "garland of white flowers" given to him by grateful Hamas officials.
In his own interview with Taqatqa, Farrell takes great pains not to badger him with any questions that might sully his reputation -- "He admits to having been a member of Hamas's military wing and to having shot at Israelis." Did he hit his targets? Don't ask.
Further sanitizing Taqatqa, Farrell writes that he "seems distinctly uncomfortable with being paraded around after spending nearly half of his life in an Israeli jail. He now wants to pursue a new path." And when it comes to Taqatqa's comfort level, Farrell readily obliges by again not getting too curious about his past.
Instead, Farrell ends his piece with a bow to a supposedly changed Taqatqa - "Mr. Taqatqa says he knows what Israelis think of him and laments the frozen view that each side has of the other. 'They look at us as terrorists, and it is impossible for them to look at us in a different way. I hate the occupier and hate what he does to our nation. If this struggle is over, we could live as good neighbors.'"
Since Taqatqa is a card-carrying member of Hamas, would this good-neighbor policy also entail achieving a Palestinian nation from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean sea, with Israelis at best reduced to dhimmi status in an Islamic caliphate? It seems an obvious question Farrell might have posted to Taqatqa.
But Farrell, in his zeal to sanitize Palestinian terrorism, is not about to pose any such questions.
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