One of the great myths perpetrated by the media is that Israel is Goliath and the Arabs are King David with a slingshot. The media thrives on this flagrantly false narrative. It lives and breathes by it. It has caused tremendous harm and has prevented and impeded peace. Everyone loves the underdog. Unfortunately, reality is much more complex. How can Israel be considered Goliath when it is surrounded by 22 Arab countries that, for the most part, want it destroyed?
If the media would focus on all of the Arabs treated in Israel’s hospitals, including many from war-torn Syria, the picture would be vastly different. If the media would focus on the incredible economic benefits that Israel has provided its Arab population, the discussion would be totally different than it actually is. If the media would concentrate on all of the peace initiatives and concessions that Israel has made to its Arab inhabitants, then peace indeed might be possible.
Instead, the media loves to stir trouble, pick fights, and report inaccurately matters particularly pertaining to the Middle East. Israel is usually the one that suffers the most. It is truthfully an insidious form of Anti-Semitism that permeates almost every article and opinion piece involving Israel.
One story that the mainstream media has totally ignored is the plight of Issam Akel, a 53-year-old Arab resident of Jerusalem who holds both American citizenship and an Israeli Identification Card. This is a story of Jews helping Arabs. It is the second time in my life that I was asked to help free an Arab from a Ramallah jail. The first time was about 15 years ago, and the jailed Arab had relatives in Cleveland who were American citizens. This time around, we are talking about an Arab who is an American citizen. Issam Akel was abducted and jailed in Ramallah by Mahmoud Abbas’ henchmen on October 11 for allegedly helping Jews purchase a property in the Old City of Jerusalem. He has been tortured. In the first week after his abduction, his wife was frantic and sought help from Jewish friends of mine. We did not know if he was alive or not. Because of her outcry, an article in The Jerusalem Post by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, and work by Ambassador Friedman, Issam Akel was not outright murdered like Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi. However, he has been kept in jail in Ramallah despite his being an American citizen. A number of US Congressmen, including Lee Zeldin and Dan Donovan, have been trying to get him out.
US Ambassador David Friedman demanded that the PA release Mr. Akel, as reported in Breitbart on November 28. Jason Greenblatt, US envoy and special advisor to President Trump, reinforced the criticism leveled at the PA by Ambassador Friedman, as reported in Israel National News. Senator Ted Cruz issued a similar statement.
The media has an important responsibility here. If the plight of Issam Akel was finally told, there is a good chance that he will be freed. Who says Jews don’t help out their Arab cousins? What a novel idea! If the media would finally allow the truth to be told, peace might indeed be achieved. The Issam Akel story would be a great start.
Joseph M. Frager is a physician and lifelong activist.