After PMW exposed demonization
of US Envoy Greenblatt as “mongoloid,”
PA daily “clarifies” its op-ed policy
By Itamar Marcus and Maurice Hirsch
This week, Palestinian Media Watch exposed an op-ed in the official Palestinian Authority daily, in which the author called US President Trump’s Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt, a “mongoloid,” “retarded,” and acting as if he has Down Syndrome. The op-ed drew immediate widespread condemnation, both from political figures as well as organizations focused on rights of people with disabilities.
This made the official PA daily print a press release it called a “clarification,” which was in fact more a justification.
Reactions to PMW’s story on the op-ed were immediate and outraged. US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said he was “disgusted, - not for Jason (he’s got broad shoulders) - but by this utter disregard for the value of every human life.”
US Congressman Ted Deutch (Dem.) stated that “It is an outrageously offensive attack to level on anyone, anywhere.”
AIPAC also voiced criticism: “This is an outrageous personal attack on a distinguished U.S. official and an insult to basic human dignity.”
Greenblatt himself responded, saying: “The comments of Omar Hilmi Al-Ghoul are disgusting & demonstrate a complete disregard for the dignity of every human life. Terms like “mongoloid” & ‘retarded” have no place in a civilized world. Persons with Downs Syndrome deserve our utmost respect & love. Shame on you Omar!”
The Ruderman Family Foundation with its focus on “inclusion of children and adults with disabilities as a social justice imperative,” likewise responded to the PA op-ed:
“It is unacceptable to use disability as a slur as it perpetuates stigmas that have been used to denigrate people with disabilities... People with disabilities represent hundreds of millions of people around the world of every race, religion and ethnicity.”
[Jay Ruderman, president Ruderman Family Foundation,
in Jewish Press, March 5, 2019]
This article demonizing a US official was not written in a vacuum. The official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida is owned and controlled by the PA, its journalists represent the official PA line, and PA leaders and the newspaper itself have demonized US President Trump and individuals in his administration on numerous occasions.
In addition, the PA in general does not allow freedom of expression and Palestinians have been arrested for a wide range of “crimes” such as publishing statements on Facebook that Yasser Arafat was not a Martyr. Accordingly, anything in the official PA daily almost certainly represents the official PA line. However, in the wake of the widespread criticism, the PA daily attempted to justify the publication of the op-ed, maintaining they allow “freedom of opinion and expression,” which they claim is a pillar of the Palestinian “democratic state”:
“In response to US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s criticism of an article by one of the columnists, which was published in the [official PA] daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida and in which the writer commented on American Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt’s statements, it is important to the daily to clarify that it respects freedom of opinion and expression, which is anchored in Palestinian basic law, and is committed to it, and that this freedom is not banned or subjected to censorship. Since we are a democratic state, freedom of opinion and expression remains one of the pillars of [the] political system, and one of its means of struggle for freedom and independence.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 5, 2019]
The PA daily added, “the op-eds in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida only express the opinions of their writers, while only Al-Hayat Al-Jadida editorials, which are written by the editor in chief, express the daily’s worldview and opinion on the matters it deals with.”
In addition to the strange claim to be a “democratic state” - general elections have been held only twice in 25 years; its President just entered the 15th year of a four year term; the popularly elected Hamas was deposed and replaced with a technocrat government; its President just dissolved the Palestinian parliament after twelve years in which it did not function; and its official media is completely controlled and dominated by the PA - the daily’s clarification was the equivalent of a newspaper publishing an op-ed by a white supremacist demonizing Dr. Martin Luther King with the “N” word, and then distancing itself saying we are democratic and allow freedom of expression and are not responsible for the content of the articles we publish.
In the daily’s ”clarification”, there was neither a condemnation of the writer nor an apology. Indeed, the long explanation about the “democratic” PA makes the piece more a justification for calling Greenblatt a “mongoloid” rather than a retraction.
In contrast to the PA and its daily, veteran Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab tweeted Greenblatt saying: “The Palestinian Disability coalition calls for holding central council member Omar Ghoul accountable for his description of [Greenblatt] as a mongolid with down syndrome.”
The following is a longer excerpt of the “clarification” in the official PA daily:
Headline: “Press release”
“In response to US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s criticism of an article by one of the columnists, which was published in the [official PA] daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida and in which the writer commented on American Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt’s statements, it is important to the daily to clarify that it respects freedom of opinion and expression, which is anchored in Palestinian basic law, and is committed to it, and that this freedom is not banned or subjected to censorship. Since we are a democratic state, freedom of opinion and expression remains one of the pillars of [the state’s] political system, and one of its means of struggle for freedom and independence.
At the same time, we emphasize that we will continue to stand against the political differences of opinion being made personal, and against personal harm to the sides in the disagreement. For this reason, and out of a commitment to this moral and professional position, we do not agree that freedom of opinion be used for personal harm against someone who has a different opinion through expressions and descriptions that our tolerant religion and moral, national, and humane culture oppose.
However, we must take this opportunity to note that the op-eds in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida only express the opinions of their writers, while only Al-Hayat Al-Jadida editorials, which are written by the editor in chief, express the daily’s worldview and opinion on the matters it deals with.
As for regard for human life, our commitment to which [US Ambassador to Israel] Friedman cast doubt upon, Palestinian civil law has recognized the human value of this life in all of its conditions that require any treatment, defense, and regard.
It remains for us to emphasize that this regard, in the general human moral system, requires the fair treatment of the just affairs of the peoples - whoever they are - for the sake of authenticity. For this reason we condemn Friedman and Greenblatt’s positions and the hostile policy that the American administration is implementing against our national cause and its legitimate and sole representative - the PLO - due to it being a policy that does not attribute importance to the Palestinian people, while acting against their just aspirations and legitimate rights.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 5, 2019]
The following was from the original article:
"Anyone who follows the prattle of Jason Greenblatt, President Trump's envoy in the matter of the deal of the century, sees that his condition is very similar to Down Syndrome... Anyone who looks at the American envoy [Greenblatt] discovers that he has external and inner characteristics similar to those suffering from Down Syndrome: He is short, his eyes are similar to Mongoloid eyes, he prattles unrestrainedly, and is politically retarded... The ill Greenblatt is not the only one who has Down Syndrome, for it strikes all the components of the American administration. Anyone who examines the general genes of the components of the Trump administration sees that it is a politically crippled creature... Mongoloid Greenblatt, together with President Trump, his son-in-law [Senior Advisor to the President of the United States] Jared Kushner, and Zionist [US] Ambassador [to Israel David] Friedman - can prattle on as much as they wish about the ominous [US proposed peace] deal.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 3, 2019]