Two Palestinian Deaths
Do these two names -- Arafat Jaradat and Ayman Samarah -- ring a bell? Well, they're both Palestinians. Both were arrested and put behind bars. And both died while in prison.
But this is where similarities end.
For one thing, Jaradat spent his last hours in an Israeli prison, while Samarah died in a Palestinian prison.
And for another thing, when it came to Jaradat's death, mainstream media, led by the New York Times and the Washington Post, went all out with a slew of articles -- Israel claiming it was probably a heart attack and Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority screaming "torture" even before the autopsy could be completed. Predictably, the Times and the Post also put more stock and gave greater prominence to Palestinian propaganda than to Israel's explanations and methodical autopsy.
But when it came to Samarah's death in a Jericho prison run by Abbas and the PA, there was no coverage at all in either the Post or the Times. Not a single word. Even though families of Palestinians detainees have held sit-in strikes at the Jericho prison, alleging torture of their kin. Sadly, this is all too familiar a pattern in Palestinian territories -- in the West Bank, under Abbas control, Hamas prisoners can expect brutal treatment, while in Gaza, run by Hamas, it's Fatah detainees who tend to complain of torture. But there's no media interest.
Another contrast: journalists in Israel were given names of prominent pathologists who are conducting the autopsy. A Palestinian pathologist also was invited for the procedure. In other words, a fully transparent event. But when Mustafa Khawaja, a journalist at Al-Aqsa TV in Jericho, tried to report torture allegations at the local jail, he was detained and prevented from covering the Samarah case.
Thus, the Times and the Post, while scouring for every bit of possible evidence to question treatment of Palestinians in Israeli jails, showed no such interest or curiosity about treatment of Palestinians in Abbas's jails. None at all.
This also is part of a wider journalistic pattern: While there are articles aplenty about Israeli flaws, real or imagined, the Post and the Times exercise self-censorship when it comes to questionable practices -- and they are legion -- on the Palestinian side. Evidence of torture in Palestinian jails is brushed out. Abbas's glorification of terrorist killers goes unreported. Hamas's declared intent to eliminate the Jewish state is soft-pedaled. And Abbas's denial of Jewish ties to Jerusalem gets the Samarah treatment -- not fit to print in the Post or the Times. Abbas in these newspapers is the Teflon man. Benjamin Netanyahu must feel he ought to be so lucky.
Two Palestinian prisoners die within a week -- one achieves media fame, while the other is consigned to oblivion. A glaring journalistic double standard. But not for the first time.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers