Ahmad Al-Rab'i, a columnist for the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, recently apologized to his readersfor reporting the Palestinian Authority's (PA) version of the Karine A weapons ship affair. Al-Rab'i called on hisreaders not to believe the PA's declarations any longer. Following are excerpts:
"When Israel announced that it had seized the [Karine A] weapons ship, I doubted the Israeli account and espoused the PA'sclaim – that the whole thing was a fabrication. I did this out of a sense of obligation to support our Palestinian brothers, and outof trust in the veracity of their account. But it seems that the [Palestinian] leadership deceived us with its account, and we, inturn, unintentionally deceived our readers."
"I remember when my colleague Abd al Rahman Al-Rashed, editor [of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat] criticized the Palestinianversion [of the incident]. All the conspiracy theory 'bulldozers' rose up against him; they charged him with 'serving' theenemy…"
"Now, not only is Arafat confessing to the [Israeli] account, but he goes further still, and has sent [a letter] to the Americansecretary of state [from] which it can be interpreted that he takes responsibility for this incident."
"Therefore, I take responsibility before my readers; I and my readers were victims of our obligation to and trust in thePalestinian leadership. I assure the readers that since Arafat has confessed his responsibility to Colin Powell, I will no longertake the Palestinian leadership's declarations seriously."
"A journalist in our Arab world is confused, [caught] between his respect for himself and his readers and the Arab attitudetowards the news. Fearing that he will be denied, the journalist misses the opportunity to analyze important news.
If hewrites about it [anyway], he... is stricken with anxiety, lest his commentary be published in the same issue that carries the denialof what he reports."
"The [guiding] principle [in the Arab world] is not to treat the public with candor and transparency, but to concealinformation [from it], such that if [the news] is picked up by the foreign press, we can deny it. Sometimes we are forced toconfirm an item after we have denied it, because it has turned out to be a proven fact."
"When we defended the [Palestinian] National Authority in the weapons ship incident, we faced two problems:
"First, some commentators and Palestinian leaders denied the story, claiming that it was a fabrication, a show, and anattempt to divert public opinion from the peace issue."
"Second, smuggling weapons in this way is [in itself] a naive act attesting to ignorance – primarily because these weaponswill not shift the military balance in favor of the Palestinians. Likewise, smuggling weapons on a route controlled by the Israelinavy is an escapade no reasonable person would attempt."
"[However,] what matters here is that the PA 'bestowed' upon us lies, and we, on our part, pressed our readers to supportthe PA. We, and our readers, were victims of our commitment [to the Palestinians] and of the trust we placed in it – which isnow lost."