Al Jazeera Celebrates The Massacre of Puerto Ricans
Since its founding in 1996, Al Jazeera has emerged as one of the most visible global news conglomerates. In addition to its Arabic network, the news broadcaster also has a strong connection with a worldwide English-speaking audience through its sister network, Al Jazeera English. Though owed by the state of Qatar, a Gulf emirate not known for its respect of freedom of expression (a Qatari court recently sentenced a dissident poet to life imprisonment for “insulting” the nation’s Emir in one of his verses), through skillful management Al-Jazeera has achieved notable progress in building its brand as a source of objective and serious news coverage. During the recent outbreak of hostilities in Gaza between Israel and Hamas , unique for an Arab broadcaster, Al Jazeera provided coverage from the Israeli as well as the Palestinian viewpoint. A manifestation of Al Jazeera’s effort at objectivity in its coverage of that recent conflict was an on-air interview the news broadcaster conducted with Ali Abunimah, founder of The Electronic Intifada, who proceeded to denounce Al Jazeera for allegedly being biased in favor of the Israeli cause.
“Revolution United” is a laudatory exploration of members of an extremist fringe group of Japanese Marxists, known as the Japanese Red Army, who decided to join the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, for the purpose of conducting an operation against Israel. Though the documentary never defines what is meant by “operation,” the history of the PFLP makes clear that its operations were almost entirely directed against civilian targets in Israel and Europe, the objective being to slaughter as many non-combatant men, women and children as possible. The PFLP itself represented the Marxist faction within the Palestine Liberation Organization, at a time when the Palestinian movement was dominated by secular nationalists, as opposed to its current reality where Islamists are the increasingly dominant factor. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, extreme Marxist movements involved in terroristic activities worldwide viewed the Palestinian cause as an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist struggle, and the Japanese Red Army were by no means the only militant leftists who travelled to the Middle East to seek glory for the working class through attacks on Israeli civilians.
The crux of Al Jazeera’s documentary is what is referred to as the “Lod Operation.”
Lod was the name of Tel Aviv’s international airport in 1972. On May 30 of that year, three members of the Japanese Red Army, under instructions from the PFLP, arrived at Lod Airport, opened violin cases they retrieved from the luggage area, withdrew submachine-guns and grenades, and proceeded to attack the tourists in the arrival terminal. When it was over 26 human beings lay dead and another 79 were injured. However, watching Al-Jazeera’s documentary, one would not realize that the “Lod Operation” was a terrorist atrocity, designed to commit mass murder against international travelers at a civil airport. Instead, “Revolution United” portrays the killers as idealistic heroes, and their deed as an epic achievement. In Al Jazeera’s documentary, the victims of the massacre do not exist, except noting in passing that 26 people were killed, and that “some” of the slain were Puerto Rican Christian pilgrims.
In actuality, of the 26 tourists murdered by the Japanese Red Army on May 30, 1972, 8 were Israeli, one was Canadian and the remaining 17 victims were Puerto Ricans with U.S. citizenship. To this day, the event that occurred in Tel Aviv forty years ago is regarded in Puerto Rico as a great national tragedy. In 2006 the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico unanimously passed an initiative that will forever mark May 30 on the Island of Puerto Rico as “Lod Massacre Remembrance Day.” Even after the passage of four decades, the wounds inflicted on many Puerto Rican families remain raw.
Al Jazeera, precisely because of its strides towards objectivity in its newscasts, is disappointing in its decision to present a superficial, ideologically-scripted propaganda piece to its viewing audience, with the sole purpose of transforming mass murderers into heroes and presenting the atrocities and war crimes they committed as noble and epic “operations.” Al Jazeera owes it not only to its professed commitment towards journalistic integrity, but to all the victims of the Lod Massacre, in particular the still grieving people of Puerto Rico, the presentation of a truly objective documentary, one devoid of ideological bias in favor of those who would kill the innocent in pursuit of an extremist ideology.