]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]       ISRAEL, THE MASS MEDIA,    [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[
          AND THE STATE DEPARTMENT HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT   (3/15/1989)
                           Hon. Tom Lantos
                            of California 
                 in the House of Representatives 
                    Thursday, February 23, 1989
        (CONGRESSIONAL RECORD vol. 135, no. 17, 2.23.1989)

     Mr. LANTOS.  Mr. Speaker, the State Department recently released 
its annual country reports on human rights to the Congress of the 
United States.  As the Washington Post commented editorially, "The 
State Department's country-by-country judgments have a value in 
focusing attention on things that need to be done, or done better, or 
not done."  As the Democratic cochairman of the Congressional Human 
Rights Caucus, I welcome the continued scrutiny of human rights 
conditions in 166 countries around the globe.  The issue of human 
rights is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue--it is an 
American issue.  It is a unique American contribution to international 
relations.
     While I welcomed the report, I was shocked and appalled by the 
media coverage given that comprehensive 1,500-page document.  Media 
attention was focused on only one country--Israel.  These 15 pages of 
the State Department report received substantially more media coverage 
than the rest of the entire report combined.  I can only describe the 
media's obsession with Israel--to the exclusion of the remaining 165 
countries--as a pathological preoccupation.
     Mr. Speaker, it would be naive for anyone to argue that Israel's 
human rights record is without blemish.  But at the same time, during 
the last year Israel has been forced to cope with a violent internal 
uprising, a civil insurrection, while facing the constant threat of 
internal and external terrorism.  Israel has had to take a number of 
restrictive actions in order to maintain its international security 
and domestic tranquility.  But, in spite of its problems, as the 
Washington Post appropriately noted, "Israel, being democratic, offers 
its citizens basic rights and supports a process of law by which they 
can claim them" and "Israel is at heart a democratic country."
     In large part because of Israel's democracy and press freedom,
its problems in facing the challenge of civil insurrection are on the 
front pages of American newspapers and on our television screens each 
night.  In many other countries, where far more serious human rights 
violations have occurred, there is no freedom of the press or access 
for foreign journalists to document these abuses.  This State 
Department report provides a balanced review of human rights in 166 
countries, but again the media ignores the complete picture and 
attacks Israel.
     The media have seized on the small section of the report dealing 
with the West Bank and Gaza--virtually disregarding the remaining 99 
percent of the report, virtually ignoring some of the most outrageous 
human rights violations noted by the State Department since the annual 
reports began.
     Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of my colleagues who may not have 
had the time or opportunity to read the full 1,500-page text of the 
report, I would like to mention only a few of the most deplorable 
items from the reports that the media did not deem worthy of mention.
     What shocked me most in the report is the widespread use of 
poison gas and nerve gas by the Government of Iraq against its own 
civilian population.  But since Iraq is a ruthless, totalitarian 
dictatorship, access to the places where these crimes against humanity 
were committed was completely restricted.  Thus, the report can only 
estimate that about 8,000 innocent children, women, and men were 
killed by poison gas by the Iraqi regime.  Furthermore, more than half 
a million Kurds in Iraq were forcibly transferred from their homes and 
their villages were bulldozed in Iraq's campaign to suppress Kurdish 
efforts to win political autonomy.
     I also find it intriguing that the media has not paid the 
slightest attention so far to the fact that in 2 days last October--in 
just 2 short days--the Government of Algeria machinegunned 
approximately 800 of its own civilian population while attempting to 
put down food riots.
     Another country with serious human rights violations--again 
ignored by the media--was Sudan.  Countless bits of corroborating 
evidence confirm that between 100,000 and 250,000 Sudanese died as a 
result of the unwillingness of both the Government and the rebel 
forces to allow food to reach starving people.
     The State Department report also discusses--but again the media 
ignored--Syria, where there is a "pervasive denial of human rights, 
including widespread torture and denial of freedoms of speech, press, 
association, and the right of citizens to change their government."  
The media also said nothing about Saudi Arabia, a feudal kingdom where 
amputation is a standard form of criminal punishment, where the 
practice of Christianity is outlawed, and where conversion from Islam 
is punishable by death.
     Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to examine the full country 
reports with great care, because the extensive media coverage hardly 
gives an accurate, balanced view of this comprehensive report.

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