In a talk at New York City's Barnard College the night the Hamas-Israeli prisoner exchange was announced, Noam Chomsky anticipated the one-sided media coverage of the exchange.
He charged the media with treating Israeli Jews as people, while dismissing Palestinians as "unpeople."
Chomsky, who is Jewish, brings credentials to this issue as both an acclaimed linguistic scholar, and a strong advocate of Palestinian human rights.
To illustrate his point at Barnard, Chomsky described a front-page New York Times story, dated October 12, with the headline: "Deal with Hamas Will Free Israeli Held Since 2006
The Israeli, of course, is Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held by Hamas for five years after he was captured June 25, 2006. Shalit, an Israeli army corporal, was on a patrol along the Israeli-Gaza border when he was captured.
Next to the Times story, Chomsky says, is a picture of four [Israeli] women, who are "kind of agonized over the fate of Gilad Shalit."
The picture caption reads, he tells his audience, "Friends and supporters of the family of Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit received word of the deal at the family's protest tent in Jerusalem."
Well, that's understandable, actually. I think he should have been released a long time ago. But there's something missing from this whole story. So, like, there's no pictures of Palestinian women, and no discussion, in fact, in the story of -- what about the Palestinian prisoners being released? Where do they come from?
We finally have pictures of Palestinian men and women released from Israeli prisons, What we do not have are the names of most of them. And we still do not know where most of them "come from."
The woman in the picture above, shown with a man we must presume is her father, was taken at the Mukataa (headquarters) close by Yasir Arafat's tomb in Ramallah and adjacent to what was once the headquarters in which Arafat spent his final months.
The photo caption does not explain the meaning of Mukataa for non-Arabic readers. It also does not provide the name of the woman. ... The picture, taken by Ilia Yefimovich for Getty Images, is available worldwide, but so far as I have been able to ascertain, it has not appeared in any American media outlet.
The initial CBS News story on the exchange focused on Shalit, the only Israeli involved, as a significant figure. They covered the Palestinian prisoners as a vague group, or as Noam Chomsky says, as "unpeople."
"An intense media campaign to free Schalit made him a national symbol in Israel, and all local radio and TV stations held special live broadcasts Tuesday, following every step of the exchange. The voices of Israeli broadcasters cracked with emotion as news of his return became clear."
CBS also reported that when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heard the news of the exchange, she said the US was pleased the ordeal was over.