It’s been two years now since the current violence started. Although some prefer to count it by the Hebrew calendar, the date usually given for the outbreak of the hostilities is September 29, several days after Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, where riots took place. It’s worth taking a look at some Web sites that focus on this intifada from various points of view, some of which are new, some of which we visited last year. (Please note: separate columns during the year have focused on memorial sites and sites devoted to fallen and missing Israeli soldiers.) The Palestinian Authority’s Web site at http://www.pna.org is under construction.
Supposedly you can click on several Web pages that are currently available on such topics as its Education Ministry, Labor Ministry, etc. but most were not in working order the two times I tried the site (what a surprise; it would be interesting to know who was accountable for the budget for Web site design and maintenance). The only two sections I saw were the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, which you can also check out directly at http://www.pcbs.org, and the Bethlehem 2000 project, the details of which are still posted. The Bureau of Statistics has the results of a recent study on employment, which was done according to what is referred to as a “relaxed definition.” This definition, unfortunately, is not given. The overall gist is that unemployment in the West Bank is on the high side. There is also a section listing employees of the bureau and their relatives who have been killed in the violence.
What a difference a year can make. Last year, Fatah.net at http://www.fatah.net was barely more than a logo of swords bared. Now, it takes you to Ummah.com, the “Muslim Online Directory.” This is a big, jazzy site, filled with advertising for matchmaking services and products (CDs of the Koran at Simply Islam), with all kinds of sections: politics and news, of course, but also religion, social life, science, chat and business. The site’s main story on a recent day, “Who’s afraid of Iraq?” was not a hysterical attack on Israel but a well-written (whether you agree with it or not) defense of Iraq by a Tufts University professor, who pointed out that even if Saddam Hussein were to be replaced by a democratically elected government, there might still be nuclear weapons in Iraq. While the focus of this site is very much against Israel, it is much milder in tone than you might expect.
The Hizbullah site in English at http://www.hizbollah.org/english/frames/index_eg.htm takes forever to load. If you decide you’re up for the wait, you’ll get more of a typical political propaganda site - logos and slogans and photos of funerals and bloody corpses and fighters waving guns. If you expect to learn something new here about Hizbullah, you’ll be disappointed.
There are many sites out there that give a Palestinian perspective of the news, but one of the most elaborate is the Electronic Intifada at http://electronicintifada.net/introduction/ Many other URLs for Web sites that no longer exist, such as the Palestinian Authority’s old Web site at http://www.pna.net, now take you directly to this site. EI, as it calls itself, is very professional, user-friendly and well written. It is mainly a compilation of news from publications all over the Internet, aimed at combating the pro-Israeli, pro-American spin the EI creators feel is generally found in press accounts. (While many of The Jerusalem Post readers may feel that the American and international media tend to display a pro-Palestinian bias, apparently Palestinians are also alarmed by what they read.) It does collect news from a wide variety of sources, including (although not usually) the Post. It is adorned by photos, such as a picture of a lone, small Palestinian boy aiming a stone at an Israeli tank.
For a more straightforward Palestinian version of the news, try the WAFA site at http://www.wafa.pna.net. If the Electronic Intifada is the Palestinian CNN, then this is their AP. You can read the news here in Hebrew, Arabic, English or French. It has a section devoted to what the Israelis have done in the past 24 hours, even cataloging trees burned and vendors’ food destroyed.
THIS SITE doesn’t really relate directly to the current situation, but did you know that the city of Ramallah has a Web site, at http://www.ramallah-city.org. It rather optimistically characterizes the city as a harmonious and lovely place to live and work, but then, I suppose, it’s just as easy to make fun of our own tourism- targeted Web sites that don’t mention any of our recent dangers or difficulties. Still, it’s hard to read the lines “The late Mr. E Grant who lived in Ramallah from 1901 to 1904 says in his book that the people of Ramallah are energetic, organized and intelligent and quickly put a stranger at ease” with an entirely straight face.
ONE OF the best Israeli sites is still the Women in Green site at http://www. womeningreen.org. Its liveliest features are galleries of recent posters and signs from Women in Green demonstrations.
The most comprehensive site from the peace camp remains the B’Tselem site at http://www.btselem.org. B’Tselem, the Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, once had a section on the current intifada, but now devotes essentially its entire site to the current situation, and the site is now in three languages, English, Hebrew and Arabic. There are articles and tallies of deaths by statistics: Israelis killed by Palestinians, Palestinians killed by Israelis, where the killings occurred, etc.
The Israeli government’s official site, http://www.israel.org or http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/home.asp, is a frequently updated news site and good for checking out the chronology of the current intifada. It also has an informative section on the trial of Marwan Barghouti.
Right now, one of my fondest wishes for this new year is that next year I won’t be revisiting these sites and searching for new ones on this topic for a third time.
©2002 The Jerusalem Post