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America's Voices (abridged)

Frank Luntz, Host: Is the economy headed for new heights, or not? Is the stock market rise for real, or not? Are today’s politicians ethical, or not? And should the United States pursue a balanced approach to Israel and the Palestinians, or not? Lots of questions. Stick around for the answers.

Luntz: When we come back we’ll take a look at the Middle East. How does it look from here? And how different does it look from over there? You won’t want to miss this.
George W. Bush, President of the United States: The United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure.
Luntz: Welcome back to America’s Voices. American opinion on Israelis and Palestinians is obviously sharply divided. We are going to address that division later in the show. But first want to ask the question what do Israelis and Palestinians think of each other? My guest is Itamar Marcus, who is the director of the Palestinian Media Watch, an organization that analyzes the culture of Palestinian Authority and documents the differences between the images that Palestinians present to the English-speaking world, and the images that they present to their own people.
Welcome to America’s Voices. Is it fair for the Palestinian leaders to say one thing to their people and something different to the English-speaking world?
Itamar Marcus, Dir., Palestinian Media Watch: Well, it is very problematic for the English-speaking world, because we don’t get, in English, a fair sense, an honest sense of what is happening in the Palestinian society. I will just give you one simple example. This summer, during the height of the road map, the height of the cease-fire, when the Palestinians, in English, were telling the world that they wanted - they were promoting peace and that they were in a long-term cease-fire. At that very time they were naming summer camps for their children after people like a person like Ayyat al Akhras. Now, Ayyat al Akhras was a 17-year-old girl who walked into a supermarket in Jerusalem and blew herself up killing a number of people. Now, during the summer when there’s a peace process going on, they named a summer camp for teenaged Palestinian children the Ayyat al Akhras Summer Camp. Now that is role-modelling for terrorism.
Luntz: But isn’t it fair that there’s a lot of frustration, there is a lot of anger, there is a lot of hostility there. Because these people are just trying to get a country?
Marcus: These people are angry and they’re frustrated unfortunately because their own leadership didn’t accept the country that Israel offered them. Three years ago Israel offered them an independent state. There was a small degree of difference between Israel’s opinions and the Palestinian’s opinions. We could have continued negotiations and reached a peaceful settlement. Instead the Palestinian Authority chose to go to war and these people are suffering - not because of Israel, because their own people didn’t take the state.
Luntz: Go ahead, Sean.
Unidentified Male: And I think that you are probably right, but I think the Bush administration clearly said, See you later, to whatever Clinton was doing, stopped the peace process, walked away from the peace process. And that is exactly what they did. Now Bush is stuck with the Middle East. He’s stuck with the attempting to go into Iraq and he’s not being even handed.
Unidentified Male: The Middle East, the Clintons left him - when Clinton said I will do anything to get a peace plan even if not a solid one that will last. And, therefore, I’m bringing you here to make it look like we have a final offer even though the offer is not one that both sides will accept. And we are going to force Barak to make so many concessions that his own people are going get him thrown out for the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)…
Unidentified Male: At least Clinton tried. And that’s something that Bush walked away from.
Unidentified Male: And then Bush decided to call Sharon a man of peace.
Unidentified Male: The violence was caused by Sharon going to the Wailing Wall…
Unidentified Male: With the permission he had from Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to visit Israeli territory. I don’t think the fact that there are no rocks…
Unidentified Male: The way he did it, doesn’t matter.
Unidentified Male: There are no rocks. If you have ever visited the Dome Of the Rock — there are no rocks. They keep that place pristine clean, yet somehow when Sharon made his planned, pre-approved visit there were rocks there to throw at Israelis.
Luntz: Quickly, go ahead.
Marcus: I would like to make a statement on this blaming this three years of war because of Sharon’s visit. Now, that spot is holy to Jews and Muslims. Why do the Muslims there have a right to say if you come here we are going to have three years of war. We’re going to kill a thousand Israelis because you visit a Jewish holy site. It is holy to Jews; it’s holy to Muslims. Jews say Muslims can visit there. Why do they tell Israelis you can’t visit a site that is holy to you?
Unidentified Female: Excuse me, I would like to know if any religious…
Unidentified Female: Excuse me. I would like to know how any religious organization can own Jerusalem? It is holy to the Christians, the Jews and the Muslims.
Unidentified Female: Exactly.
Unidentified Female: It should be under UN control or some sort of independent control.
Unidentified Male: That was the proposal in ’47.
Unidentified Female: And everyone should have access to it.
Unidentified Male: …turned down that offer.
Luntz: Jim, hold on one second. I want to show a tape and I - it is pretty alarming. You will have to describe where it came from. But this is what is going on now with Palestinian children. This is how they are articulating how they feel about their current situation. Let’s look.
Unidentified Female Child (subtitles): Shahada is a very beautiful thing. Everyone yearns for Shahada. What could be better than going to Paradise?
Unidentified Male (subtitles): What is better; peace and full rights for the Palestinian people or Shahada?
Unidentified Female Child (subtitles): Shahada. I will achieve my rights after becoming a Shahid. We won’t stay children forever.
Unidentified Male (subtitles): OK, Yussra, would you agree with that?
Unidentified Female Child (subtitles): Of course, Shahada is a good (sweet) thing. We don’t’ want this world, we want the Afterlife.
Unidentified Male: Oh?
Unidentified Female Child (subtitles): We benefit not from this life but from the Afterlife. All young Palestinians, not like other youth, are hot tempered. They choose Shahada since they are Palestinian.
Unidentified Male (subtitles): Do you actually love death?
Unidentified Female Child (subtitles): Death is not Shahada.
Luntz: I ask you first, what is Shahada? What is it?
Marcus: Shahada is dying for Allah, but it’s called generally martyrdom.
Luntz: Where did you get that tape?
Marcus: This is from Palestinian television.
Luntz: How do we know that that is an accurate translation?
Marcus: We have shown this in many, many contexts. The translations done by the Palestinian Media Watch is - are all experts and this has been document and no one is questioning it.
Luntz: How do you know that that representative of what is on Palestinian television?
Marcus: We have three different polls taken by the Palestinian Authority that have appeared in Palestinian newspapers. All of them talk about between 70 to 80 percent of Palestinian children aspiring to the Shahada, aspiring to die for Allah as martyrs.
Luntz: What is your reaction?
Unidentified Male: The actual definition of Shahada is to bear witness that there is not god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger. It is not martyrdom. And one of the kids on that translation actually said that Shahada is not death, so I just wanted to dispute that claim.
Marcus: OK, the original meaning of the word “Shahada” is absolutely correct, what you are saying. In the usage today, the Shahada, as you say has to do with testimony, the person, the martyr’s death is witnessed that he died for Allah and that is the context that they’re using it today.
Marcus: So, these children are talking about dying for Allah, whether you call it Shahada or not.
Unidentified Male: I think it is tragic. I think it is absolutely tragic that the kids are doing that. The United States went through a similar experience when we went through the civil rights movement. Children don’t grow up angry and hating other people. They grow up because they are taught it. And there is a reason why they’re taught it. Maybe their parents are angry. The bottom line is if we see this, you can focus in and say these kids are doing this, oh my god, it’s terrible. It seems to me that the responsibility lies with the adults on both sides, not with the children. You can’t get on a show and demonize the kids and say oh, my god this flood is going come, when you then…
Marcus: Excuse me, I wasn’t demonizing…
Marcus: Excuse me, I wasn’t criticizing these children. These children are victims. They are very terrible victims. But you have to understand what they are victims of.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They’re not demonizing the children. How can you blame the children for what they have learned? What you need to do is focus on the people that are brainwashing these children into thinking that this is a good thing to want to die for your god.
Luntz: Paul, your reaction?
Unidentified Male: It is taught in the schools there. As you said, you know, during the civil rights movement, yes, you had angry parents. This is a completely different situation. You have the schools ingraining it every day.
Luntz: Hold on. We will continue this conversation. You are all going to get a chance to speak. We’re going to continue this if you’ll stay through one more segment. Clearly it is a complex issue and America plays a key role in the equation. When we come back we’ll look at how people here view what is going on over there. Are our perceptions accurate? You may be surprised. Stick around.
Luntz: Welcome back. What Americans think of Israeli and Palestinians, do we only think of terrorism and violence? We have been talking about the differences between the two peoples as they see it. Now I want to bring in another angle. How do Americans see the conflict? Let’s go right to the panel. Jeff, describe to me this Israeli-Palestinian-American triangle.
Unidentified Male: I think the triangle is that that Americans, and President Bush in specific, have not been as active as we could have been in making this peace happen.
Luntz: So, what should we have done?
Unidentified Male: I think President Bush should have given us better leadership in the Middle East.
Luntz: What do you mean by better leadership? That is a sound byte. What is better leadership?
Unidentified Male: Well, better leadership is giving a real representative like Condoleezza Rice, sticking her down there in the Middle East…
Luntz: She can do better than anybody else there?
Unidentified Male: She can do better than the people he has been sending so far.
Luntz: Maria?
Unidentified Female: I just think it is a very sad situation all the way around and I think that at this point it is a no-win situation. If you look at it historically, both the Palestinians and the Israelis have a right to that land. And the situation we have now is that they have got to figure out a way to co-exist.
Unidentified Male: I totally agree. It is just the whole thing is based on a deep viciousness and willingness to hate. What do you gain from finger pointing? There’s such a desperate need for venturing a positive solution, you are sitting there talking about, Oh, they’re so vicious. As if the Israelis are just a whole troop of Ghandis, you know?
Luntz: Well, let’s try not to finger point. Itamar Marcus, director of the Palestinian Media Watch remains with us. And it is my pleasure to introduce John Zogby, president of Zogby International and one of the most respected pollsters in America today. What do you know about how Americans view Israelis and Palestinians? You have done a lot of research on this. You have probably done more than anybody else. Describe it.
John Zogby, Pres. & CEO, Zogby International: Essentially, they see Israelis as people just like us, because they know prominent people in the Jewish community, they know people who speak English. Many Israelis are Americans, in fact. So, they also have grown up and been inculcated in what is known as the Judeo-Christian ethic and so on. They tend to see Palestinians as people that they don’t know but, rather, as either in a dichotomous sort of situation. They see them either as victims or as perpetrators, but not as people. And the element that is missing for Palestinians is that they are not perceived as grandfathers and grandmothers and parents getting kids off to school, so there isn’t that bond. So, I think that Americans sort of get it, when we ask political questions. As many people say I blame both sides, many more people say I blame both sides than blame one side or the other. But the bottom line is an element is missing.
Luntz: Go ahead.
Unidentified Female: Everything we see is so one-sided though. The clip we saw earlier showed a Palestinian child having negative thoughts and statements, whether they were learned or not, about Israelis. I’m sure that the other - that there are the same kinds of things happening the other way.
Luntz: That is a fair comment.
Unidentified Female: We are not getting a fair - here in America we don’t really get both sides of it.
Luntz: React.
Unidentified Female: And a lot of people don’t know the context of it.
Luntz: OK, now let him react.
Marcus: We studied all the Palestinian schoolbooks and we found a lot of hatred and we have publicized it here Washington as well. We then studied the Israelis schoolbooks, 400 schoolbooks, and we found a tremendous degree of very positive peace education. I want to give you an example of peace education in the second grade Israeli schoolbook. There is a story about a young Israeli child who goes out to the water and falls into the water and he is drowning…
Marcus: Wait, let me finish. He is drowning - and that is it. He has no one to save him. And in a rowboat comes an Arab wearing a keffiyeh and there is this illustration in this Israeli schoolbook, of an Arab bending into the water and saving this Israeli child.
Unidentified Male: And is that typical?
Luntz: Is that typical? Wait.
Unidentified Male: The leadership are not reading those books.
Marcus: This is typical of Israeli peace education for children, even though we are in a conflict with the Palestinians. We see it as temporary. We don’t see it as long term.
Luntz: Hold on. Thank you. How many of you have a positive opinion of Ariel Sharon? Raise your hands? One, two, three people. That’s it. Why is it if Israel has this policy is their prime minister so disliked by people that might otherwise have a favorable opinion of Israel?
Marcus: The media plays a tremendous role in determining public opinion. And…
Luntz: So, we see a - is he a touchy feely guy?
Marcus: I don’t want to necessarily even express my opinions about Sharon and his policies because Sharon is a general. And Sharon has been fighting wars defending Israel for many years. I would just say one thing though, definitely in defense of Sharon, he has not initiated any conflict, including this current conflict. Every action that Israel has been doing has been in self-defense. If he has overkilled it is part…
Luntz: Sean? Sean?
Unidentified Male: He went to Temple Mount. He went to Temple Mount and he did that. But I think Mr. Zogby had a good point. I think the Israelis, and I think the Arabs, we look at the Arabs, the Palestinians as “them” and we look as Israelis as “us.” And it comes back to how we look at Muslims and it looks back to the general that has been in the news these days with his anti-Muslim characteristics in church, that he’s giving speeches.
Luntz: Go ahead.
Unidentified Female: I am tremendously disappointed when I look at Israel and again, I was raised in the Judeo-Christian thing. My grandfather read the Bible in Hebrew. But now I see Israel causing tremendous collateral damage. It is like, oh, well we had a raid. Oh, we killed a few schoolboys. Oh, well, no problem.
Luntz: Very quickly.
Unidentified Male: I just want to know that the Palestinians cannot import people from other places, but Israel tells everyone that is Jewish, it is your birthright, come on over. They send kids over there from college for free. The American agitators that are over there in the settlements. I mean, they’re very Zionist.
Unidentified Male: There are not Saudi agitators?
Luntz: Hold on. Does this sound like the American people to you?
Luntz: This sounds like your polling?
Zogby: There is a fundamental fairness in the American people. Regardless of your media watch, the fact of the matter is that Palestinians are not portrayed as people. They’re portrayed as news generators. So, either victims or as perpetrators. And the bottom line there is that the American people still are able to cut through and say I blame both sides. Or I understand that the ultimate violence is cautioned by an occupation and people are responding to an occupation. Remember, that is how America got started.
Luntz: You have a positive view of Ariel Sharon, why?
Unidentified Male It is more of a feeling that I - as far as feeling about Sharon, I think that he has the best intentions. And I think that the whole point here about blaming one side versus the other is not the answer here. All I see is a chronicle of error in making positive steps forward and then - one step forward, two steps back, constantly with this debate.
Luntz: You are in the minority. You also feel positively about Sharon. Why?
Unidentified Male: I have a very liberal family, former school teachers and professors living in Israel who voted for him because he says what he means, as opposed to a lot of previous Israeli prime ministers, who would get up and try make the best deal they could because the Americans told them to. Whereas Sharon will say, this feels good. This feels bad, I will not accept a bad deal. I will accept a good deal.
Luntz: Will there ever be peace?
Unidentified Female: Oh, oh, geeze, I don’t know. I don’t think so. I’m not very hopeful.
Luntz: You do think so.
Unidentified Male: I do think so. As soon as this generation dies. As soon as the Sharons and Arafats and that whole generation pass off their leadership to the next generation…
Unidentified Male: You mean the generation we saw on television saying they want to kill themselves?
Luntz: Itamar, Itamar, will there ever be peace?
Marcus: There can be peace. And in fact, we were on the verge of peace three years ago when Barak make an offer. We can have peace if the other side will come.
Luntz: Can America play a constructive role in the Middle East?
Zogby: Not right now. But it certainly can and it must. Let me tell you something. There is relative peace and calm this Lebanon. You go to Beirut, you see Muslim kids and Christian kids smoking narghilla together. Walking down the street hand in hand. A structure for peace was created and now into a new generation kids are living in a new structure than they were before.
Luntz: So, there’s hope?
Zogby: There’s hope.
Luntz: OK. I want to thank John Zogby. I want to thank Itamar Marcus for sharing their expertise with America’s Voices. It is clear that there are no easy answers. We will see a lot of suffering in the weeks and months ahead. Stay tuned. There is more from America’s Voices to come.