US soldiers beat, inhumanely detain, expel independent journalists.
March 29, 2003 2:28 PM   Subscribe

US soldiers beat, inhumanely detain, expel independent journalists. One of the dirty secrets of this war is Kuwaiti anti-semitism against journalists. Boaz Bizmuth and Dan Scemama are two such Israelis who faced that discrimination. When the war started, they took off in a jeep with Luis Castro and Victor Silva, two Portuguese journalists, following US troops. Somewhere around An Najaf, they were told that at least one of the Israeli journalists had problems with their papers and needed to be accredited by the Kuwaitis. They slept for the night, only to be woken at gunpoint by US military police. They were accused of being spies and detained for 12 hours without food. When one of the Portuguese journalists asked to use the phone, both were beaten, and one was knocked to the ground and kicked, breaking several ribs. They were detained without contact for another 36 hours, before being flown back to Kuwait.
CNN Germany is covering this story ... so why isn't CNN?
posted by insomnia_lj (27 comments total)
CNN Germany is covering this story ... so why isn't CNN?

A massive government conspiracy.
posted by yerfatma at 2:31 PM on March 29, 2003

um, what does our soldiers harassing unembedded journos have to do with kuwaiti anti-semitism? just because two of said journos happened to be israeli? kuwaiti prejudice and our government's hamfisted spin control policies are valid topics of conversation and discussion, but what's the correlation?
posted by donkeyschlong at 2:34 PM on March 29, 2003

"What does our soldiers harassing unembedded journos have to do with kuwaiti anti-semitism?"

It's part of the same story.

Israeli journalists can't get credentials from the Kuwaitis. US military seemingly tolerates this anti-semitism, to the point where even when the US military gives permission for the reporters to be embedded (as mentioned in the links for the post), they are asked to return to Kuwait, or, in this case, starved, beaten, treated inhumanely, and asked to return to Kuwait.

The US military would rather get rid of independent journalists under any pretense possible, rather than protect their right to do their job without discrimination.
posted by insomnia_lj at 2:46 PM on March 29, 2003

non-embedded reporters giveing away positions to the enemy:

In the interview, Smucker told CNN's Carol Costello: "We're about 100 miles south on the main highway. It's an unfinished highway. It goes between the Tigris and Euphrates River in the direction of Baghdad."

Smucker continued to provide more geographic details about the Army and Marine forces, prompting Costello to interrupt him:

"Well, don't be too specific," she said. "We don't want exact specifics."

"Okay," said Smucker, who gave a similar description yesterday to National Public Radio.
posted by stbalbach at 3:20 PM on March 29, 2003

non-embedded reporters giveing away positions to the enemy

Gosh. I now understand the military's position fully: clearly the way to prevent this sort of thing is to first give them credentials, then lock them up and kick in their rib cages.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:38 PM on March 29, 2003

It's not a "dirty secret of the war", it's another example of rampant racism in the Middle East.
Meaning, this isn't happening just because of the war, it happened before, and it's still happening, war or no war.

Those articles conflict in the details of abuse and 'starvation'.

Remember that supply lines are stretched thin and the troops don't necessarily have enough food for themselves, let alone prisoners.

and obviously, with war plans and weather it takes time to schedule a helicopter to come out and pick them up.

You could also spin this:
Israeli reporters snub coalition reporting procedures and attempt to tag along with US troops and are surprised to find that it gets them into trouble.

It's unfortunate that they/he were/was abused.
But for all the troops knew, they WERE spies.
posted by cinderful at 3:59 PM on March 29, 2003

Do they have any evidence of these actions? Or, do we only have their one side of the story?
posted by mischief at 4:02 PM on March 29, 2003

Cinderful: I am not sure why you would want to spin anything in this. Read the Jerusalem Post piece by Glick, a well-know writer, and you will see that she was made to sign papers in Kuwait about what she could not post to any Israeli paper. Her harrasment was not because she was perhaps a spy in Iraq with American troops but that she was a Jew in Kuwait. Copnfirmation? note what the other journalist told her.

America has long accomodated the wishes of Arab countries, so that America Jews were not allowed in Saudi Arabia. What if anything has changed I am unable to say.
Glick's final point a perceptive one: all of this is the need for Arab nations to continue to rid the area of the State of Israel.
posted by Postroad at 4:16 PM on March 29, 2003

Remember that supply lines are stretched thin and the troops don't necessarily have enough food for themselves, let alone prisoners.

Even if they where short on food, was it necessary to kick their ribs in? It's not like it's the kind of treatment that is normally used to decrease a persons need for nourishment, after all.

But I'd have to agree with mischief: Evidence, please.
posted by spazzm at 4:16 PM on March 29, 2003

A massive government conspiracy.

Please, use the correct word: "War".
posted by spazzm at 4:20 PM on March 29, 2003

I'm confused. I know one veteran reporter from a major network who's Jewish and currently in Kuwait City. Granted, he isn't Israeli and doesn't report to Israeli news outlets, but he's still Jewish. Is it that the Kuwaitis running the major hotels don't know he's Jewish, or is it that only Israelis are really hated?
posted by swerve at 4:43 PM on March 29, 2003

A good question is, what kind of evidence do you need to confirm this story? Four different reporters all told the same story, and the reports of them requiring medical treatment in Kuwait were also verified.

As for verifying the anti-semitism, it is mentioned in the arabnews article that at least one of the Israeli reporters had obtained Kuwaiti credentials -- albeit by having to lie and say he wasn't Jewish. That story was published *before* the reporters were detained by US troops, and Ms. Glick (who, incidentally, was the reporter who stumbled upon the previously reported Iraqi chemical plant) also verified the antisemitism!

Both Portuguese reporters had credentials which weren't in doubt. Language barriers weren't really the issue either, as Dan Scemama speaks English. Frankly, as reporters, they probably all spoke English to some extent.

It's hard to believe it, but I actually agree with Postroad for once. There was clear anti-semitism here, and US soldiers, rather than protecting the rights of innocents and defending American values, added insult to injury injury to insult.

As for justifying not feeding reporters, shouldn't they have at least been treated like a prisoner of war should? Food, no humiliation, no beatings... really f*cking obvious things that we would hope all of our soldiers would not only know, but respect.

While we're at it, it should be mentioned what these reporters witnessed with the treatment of Iraqi POWs. Here is a translation from the CNN Germay article of what Dan Scemama witnessed.

"What particularly upset me was the behavior of the numerous American soldiers. Not far from us, around 100 Iraqi prisoners were held. The US soldiers never stopped insulting the prisoners. And, if the Iraqis went into the desert to relieve themselves, the American soldiers laughed out loud and photographed them. This was a terrible degradation for them. I justifiably identified my plight with that of the Iraqi prisoners."

I'm sorry, but these are crimes that are more heinous to me than allowing the press to take pictures or interview POWs. Is this how we'll win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people?

For better or for worse, U.S. soldiers represent their country. When they fail to offer even the most basic protections to members of the press and to prisoners of war, they should be court marshaled.
posted by insomnia_lj at 5:11 PM on March 29, 2003

"Is it that the Kuwaitis running the major hotels don't know he's Jewish, or is it that only Israelis are really hated?"

They probably do know that he is Jewish, but he probably doesn't have a record of reporting for the Israelis, so he is tolerated.

This policy, however, isn't designed to just single out Israelis, but to single out Jews too. Ms. Glick was travelling as an American on a US visa, covering the war for the Chicago Sun-Times, a paper owned by the same company as that of the Jerusalem Post. She herself didn't decide in which paper her articles were placed -- her bosses did. And yet, her boss had to get US senators and congressmen to get her permission just to freely report inside Iraq -- she couldn't report inside Kuwait.

Frankly, she was fortunate. Other reporters didn't have this "special treatment".
posted by insomnia_lj at 5:25 PM on March 29, 2003

Or courtmartialed, even.

After all this is over, and the soldier is back home showing his family all the pictures he took in Iraq, and a picture of some poor Iraqi fertilizing the desert comes up, I hope his mom smacks him. Hard.
posted by groundhog at 5:32 PM on March 29, 2003

Arabs and Jews are both Semites, thus I find it hard to believe that there is any widespread anti-semitism in Kuwait. Anti-Israelism perhaps, but not anti-semitism.
posted by cx at 5:43 PM on March 29, 2003

It's not a "dirty secret of the war", it's another example of rampant racism in the Middle East. Meaning, this isn't happening just because of the war, it happened before, and it's still happening, war or no war.

Exactly; and it happens all the time. Which, in the long run, is a damn pity, for all concerned, especially those getting shot/blown up, and those trying to tell the story.
posted by carter at 5:54 PM on March 29, 2003

non-embedded reporters giveing away positions to the enemy

stbalbach, there's another side to that story:

we have read the transcript of the CNN interview and it does not appear to us that he disclosed anything that wasn't already widely available in maps and in US and British radio, newspaper, and television reports in that same news cycle. --Paul Van Slambrouck, editor, Christian Science Monitor
posted by Vidiot at 6:07 PM on March 29, 2003

great point, carter. (pay attention, postroad.)
posted by donkeyschlong at 6:07 PM on March 29, 2003

The Jerusalem Post author's pretend naïveté about Kuwaiti anti-semitism is a pretty stupid rhetorical device.
posted by Zurishaddai at 8:28 PM on March 29, 2003

quick question: Were American Jewish journalists disbarred from entry into Kuwait? or were only israeli reporters?

because if it were only israeli. it wouldnt be anti semite but political given the current palestinian conflict.
posted by nanothan at 12:41 AM on March 30, 2003

Arabs and Jews are both Semites, thus I find it hard to believe that there is any widespread anti-semitism in Kuwait. Anti-Israelism perhaps, but not anti-semitism.

Please, don't trot out that pathetically uninformed chestnut again. Words often stand alone from other facts, and often from history, outside of any naive tendency toward literal thinking. If we used all words only in their original senses, then what a very different language it would be. Dialed a telephone lately? Seen all those Caucasians in the US? Know any teamsters who don't drive horses?

Yes, Wilhelm Marr coined a misnomer with "anti-semitism." But it stuck, and what it means today as it did when he coined it, no matter how you personally want to parse it into its component parts, or revise its history, or impose other logic upon it, is "hatred or dislike of or against Jewish people."

The Oxford English Dictionary entry:

“[f. ANTI-1 7 + SEMITISM.]

“Theory, action, or practice directed against the Jews. Hence anti-'Semite, one who is hostile or opposed to the Jews; anti-Se'mitic a.

“1881 Athenæum 3 Sept. 305/2 The author, apparently an anti-Semite. Ibid., Anti-Semitic literature is very prosperous in Germany. 1882 Athenæum 11 Feb. 184/1 In these days of anti-Semitism. 1935 Economist 24 Aug. 366/1 The Nazi Party stalwarts..have all been leading an anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-Protestant..crusade. 1941 J. S. HUXLEY Uniqueness of Man ii. 50 Germanic nationalism on the one hand and anti-Semitism on the other.”

Also from the OED, first definition of semitism, sense b:

“In recent use, Jewish ideas or Jewish influence in politics and society.

“1885 Guardian 6 May 697/3 The rivalry which exists with Catholicism and Semitism. 1886 W. J. TUCKER E. Europe 198 The Church of Rome will never countenance semitic innovations of any sort. The Catholic party must be propped up by staunch opponents to semitism.”

Worth reading: Wilhelm Marr: The Patriarch of Anti-Semitism, by Moshe Zimmerman.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:20 AM on March 30, 2003

Just curious, everybody accepts that almost any US Citizen overseas might be a CIA agent. Lots of other countries have prominent international espionage agencies with thousands of agents snooping all over the world. Not too long ago, the US busted a huge Israeli espionage ring, so how come everybody assumes that Israelis be-bopping about Iraq are just ordinary journalists?

I'm not condemning Israel for having spies, like everybody else, but what's the big deal about admitting it? Since Israelis can have dual citizenship with the US, why shouldn't their agents claim to be Americans, if it helps them do what they do?

Is there still a collective groan from suggesting that the late Richard Pearl might have been an Israeli spy? Was he any the less brutally murdered if he was a spy then if he was a journalist doing spy-like stuff? Would it have been wrong for him to be both a journalist and a spy?
posted by kablam at 9:39 AM on March 30, 2003

Um, do you mean Daniel Pearl?

So your question is "what's wrong with just assuming that Israeli journalists are really spies?" I think that there are plenty of people in the mideast who are very eager to assume precisely that. Such people are fond of using their boots and their rifle butts and making their victims dig their own graves. So what are you pushing for here? For more people to believe that as a default assumption, without evidence, Israeli journalists are spies? Why would you want that, exactly?
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:39 AM on March 30, 2003

Mo, I'm perfectly aware of the dictionary definitions. No need to empty the library. I was picking nits, I admit, and as a foreigner I have no business correcting whom native speakers use their language. I basically agree with you, but nonetheless I think people use the word as they do, because they are unaware of its proper meaning, leading to the unfortunate conclusion that all Semites are Jews when in fact it's the opposite.

I don't suppose there are many geographically Caucasians in the U.S. (and I don't believe "Caucasian" is used to describe skin color ourside the U.S.?). Thus, this word and the verb "dial" seldom gives any cause for misintrepetation.

In this case the use of the word is absurd, though. Describing Semites' antagonism towards Israeli as antisemitism just exposes the imprecise use of the word and that was what prompted my comment. If it was used in any other context, I'd probably hadn't found any reason to comment, yet there it was.

And as you wrote yourself - the meaning of words change, so there is no obligation to accept how a word is used, especially if it gives rise to misconceptions about the extent of the Semite ethnicity. And since there is no lack of proper replacements, e.g. anti-Judaism or anti-Zionism.
posted by cx at 2:21 PM on March 30, 2003

So as far as I can tell with this thread, we're all in agreement that this was A Very Bad Thing.


So? What can be done about it? Anti-Semitism has been around for as long as ..Semitism..? Semites? Jews? It's been going on for millenia. General prejudice and utter stupidity. I don't even think the people in the Middle East who hate each other remember precisely why.

As far as I can see, both the muslims and the jews are in the wrong, and with this recent insurrection on Iraq, the Christians have proven themselves to be wrong too. I mean these modern disagreements in current events try very hard it seems to avoid talk about religion, but ultimately I can't see any other reason why this is really happening. Okay fine. Oil. Land. Politics and economics. The devil's in the details and generalizing does nothing but cause people to bog themselves down in the propaganda and misinformation, looking for facts.

Ultimately though, when you boil away all the crap, they don't want to get along because they disagree with one another's philosophies and life choices. Intolerance is the real cause for all this bloodshed and injustice. It's unresolvable. It's easier to get lions and hyenas to stop killing each other.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:44 PM on March 30, 2003

Come on, I am Jewish and have always known that while it's OK for some folks to travel almost anywhere, Saudi Arabia, for example, does not wish to have people with my surname entering their country. So I don't go. Theoretically, I can travel to Syria, which my friends have visited and rave about, except that I am more likely to be eyed as an Israeli agent. As a journalist I have covered Neo-Nazi rallies, interviewed raging right wing wierdos, and been hassled by Turkish secret police, but at least I knew the bounds. And I know that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia don't want me there, so I am not going to pursue my paycheck there.

I know two journalists in Iraq right now, but also one who is freelancing his way past checkpoints hoping for the best. It is a career move, just as the war in Bosnia (one I turned down) was the big career move for a lot of the present generation of warfront journalists.

It's a nasty, mean, unfair world, but it ain't new. But the reported mistreatment of the journalists is outrageous. Expect more.
posted by zaelic at 3:15 PM on March 30, 2003

I should mention that the previous link on Nick Denton's site is not from Denton himself!
posted by zaelic at 3:28 PM on March 30, 2003

« Older Ontological anarchy   |   Saddam was once given key to Detroit. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments