Special Report Talks to The Experts

This partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, August 13, 2001, was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.

BRIT HUME, HOST:  One of the striking features of the reporting that comes from the Mideast is that Western journalists, despite the support for Israel that is so strong at home, especially in this country, nearly always end up with growing sympathy for the Palestinians. Israel, after all, has a democratically elected government. It is a dependable American ally. Palestinian leaders are unelected, and some of them sanction, indeed, even glorify terrorist attacks in which innocent civilians are the intended targets. But they tend to be treated as moral equals in the Western media.

To find out why, we turn to Keith Graves, now the U.S. correspondent of our sister network in Britain, Sky News, a man who has spent many years covering the Mideast not just for Sky but for much of his 25-year career with the BBC.

Keith, welcome. Now, I see reporters go over there and are stationed in Jerusalem and they either are vague about their view of the issue or they're sort of pro-Israel, in the way much of America is pro-Israel.

KEITH GRAVES, SKY NEWS U.S. CORRESPONDENT: Most reporters are when they go there.

HUME: Right. And it changes over time. Why?

GRAVES: The Israelis have a very, very good public relations machine, and they've got a lot to work on, of course, when you look at how the state came into being. It came into being out of the Holocaust, one of the greatest human tragedies certainly of the last century. And they have this very, very good PR machine, which gives people the impression that here you've got a tiny nation -- it is a small nation -- that is beset by enemies. It is surrounded by enemies. The vast Arab hordes are just waiting to descend upon Israel.

Other guests and topics for August 13, 2001 included:
• Jim Angle's report on the president's activities in Crawford
• Greg Palkot's report on Middle East violence
• Rita Cosby's report on the FBI's Wen Ho Lee report
• Carl Cameron's report on Al Gore's return to the political scene
• Brian Wilson's report on Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's trip to Russia
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When you get to Israel, you realize that that's not quite true. The - - Israel is a very, very powerful military nation. It's a very arrogant nation, as well. They are very arrogant people, to my mind, and to most journalists who go. And then you start looking at the facts, and you realize...

HUME: Is it the Israeli people or is it the government officials that you deal with?

GRAVES: I've been accused of being a racist for saying this, but it is the Israeli people. Now, I've got a lot of Israeli friends. I know that's a silly thing because I've got a lot of Israeli friends. I lived in Jerusalem for very many years. And yet a lot of Israelis would admit to you that they're very arrogant. They believe that they are superior to their Arab neighbors.

Technologically, they are. Militarily, they are. But the flaunt that, and it's very easy, when you go there and you start looking at the facts on the ground, when you see how superior the Israelis are, and then when you visit Palestinians living in poverty in their refugee camps, some of them on the West Bank under Israeli occupation still -- when you stay to the Israelis, "How can you -- how can you treat people like this? Look how you've been treated down the centuries. Look how you were treated during the Holocaust. How can you treat people like this? How can you trample on people's human rights like this?"

HUME: When you say trample on their...

GRAVES: And it's a very arrogant attitude that...

HUME: Well, when you say...

GRAVES: ... the Israelis...

HUME: ... they're trampling on their human rights -- of course, Israelis would deny they're doing that.

GRAVES: Well, they take Arab land. They've taken -- let me give you an example. And I could give you lots of them. I could take you to an Arab, a Palestinian village in the south of the occupied territory, the south of the West Bank, a small village. It may have had one or two militant kids come out of it, but it's not a village -- it's so small and remote that it's never been involved in the troubles at all, going about its normal business, very, very poor subsistence existence.

About two years ago, religious Jews decided that they would build a settlement on a hilltop nearby, within sight of this village. They cut off the water supply, the one well, which this village needed to survive. The pumped the water up to their hilltop settlement. They now have sprinklers which give them green lawns. They have a swimming pool for their kids. They're surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. The Arab villagers who've been living on that land for certainly hundreds of years have no water.

HUME: They have to buy it?

GRAVES: They have to buy it from the Israelis. Now, that's one example, but there are hundreds of examples like that, of Israeli arrogance.

HUME: How does that -- how does that feed into the coverage of an exchange like what we seem to be having now, in which you have these terrorist attacks, clearly are terrorist attacks...

GRAVES: Absolutely, terrorist attacks.

HUME: ... in which civilians...


HUME: ... doesn't matter if they're infants, children, whatever, are...

GRAVES: Absolutely.

HUME: ... are the intended targets.

GRAVES: Absolutely.

HUME: The Israeli response, although certainly civilians are killed, clearly seems to be military. And yet you have a certain equivalency in the way these two sides are treated. It's called a "cycle of violence"...


HUME: ... a "spiral of violence," as if the two sides are equal, at least on some moral terms.

GRAVES: Yeah. The -- you know, another reason that journalists criticize the Israelis -- no journalist would condone, no Western journalist, no journalist in his right mind would condone what these Palestinian suicide bombers are doing. You might well want to ask what drives them to that, but that's another argument, what drives them to it.

And yet the Israelis condemn them and say this is Arafat's responsibility. You do get Israeli acts of terrorism against Palestinians.


GRAVES: Oh, it happens. I'm thinking back to the shooting by an Israeli settler in the mosque in Hebron, 28 Palestinians were killed. That was an act of terrorism. An Israeli civilian ran in with a M-16. He killed 28 people.

HUME: Sanctioned by Israeli leaders?

GRAVES: Absolutely not. I would say absolutely not. I'm not suggesting that. What I'm saying is that whenever there is an act of violence by Palestinians, even fringe groups like Hamas, the Israelis blame Arafat. Now, I'm not sure that Arafat is responsible directly. I'm not sure that Arafat can control these people. When you get an act of terrorism by Israelis, settlers shooting, a settler shoots, as happened -- a Jewish settler shot a Jew, and his response when he was -- "Why did you do this?" He said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought it was an Arab." When you get acts like that, of callous terrorism, if you like, these Israeli government doesn't take responsibility for it. And yet it expects...

HUME: But do they prosecute...

GRAVES: ... Arafat...

HUME: But do they prosecute these people?

GRAVES: They prosecute. And then what normally happens is -- and it's happened quite recently as that -- they get a relatively minor sentence, a few years in prison, and then it's commuted and they're freed. If it's -- this is another reason why people go there and say, "What about the inequalities here?" If an Arab carries out an act of terrorism against a Jew, he could go to prison for the rest of his life. If it's the other way 'round, it's a relatively minor sentence. And that is a fact that the Israelis can't argue against. That's the reason that a lot of Western journalists say, "Well, what is going on here?"

You know, this -- this is a democratic society. Nobody can deny it. But it's not an equal society.

HUME: Keith Graves, great insights. Thanks very much. Glad to have you. Hope you'll come again.


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