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Leave It to Oprah to Glorify Stories of the Downtrodden - Not!

June 16, 2005 By:
Naomi Ragen
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I am a 55-year-old, white, middle-class American woman. I am one of the loyal fans who have made Oprah Winfrey the queen of American television, and a successful magazine magnate.

I am special in only one respect: I have lived in Jerusalem for the past 35 years, and only narrowly escaped the Passover massacre together with my family in 2002.

Writer David France's article in the June issue of O (The Oprah magazine), on Yusra Abdu, a Nablus teenager who confessed to volunteering to enact a suicide bombing inside Israel, was shocking on several counts.

First is its subject matter: the "love" story between the head of the Marxist terrorist group called the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine - which rejected Oslo and all peace initiatives - and a 17-year-old girl who sought him out declaring her willingness to be a suicide bomber.

The second count is the venue: How did this inaccurate and obviously politically biased piece of bad journalism find its way into O among the diet tips and $195 Prada sunglasses?

As a fan of Oprah's - and a subscriber to her magazine - I couldn't believe my eyes. Part of a commendable "Women and Girls at Risk" series exposing dangers to women in other countries, the Yusra Abdu piece would have fit right in except for one huge problem: the writer, who falls all over himself trying not to figure out who and what has put Abdu and other Palestinian women at risk.

France attempts to go the route of hopelessness and poverty. But he is stymied. He has no choice but to admit that her closets are overflowing with clothes, and her walls full of posters of pop stars. She's described as a "happy girl with an optimistic smile." All this, of course, happened under Israeli occupation. But readers would never know it.

The trouble began with the withdrawal of Israeli troops after Oslo, who were replaced by Arafat's police. Since then, Nablus has provided more homicide bombers than any other Palestinian city. Terrorist groups ran rampant, so that a well-known killer like 24-year-old Hani Akad, bomb expert and Nablus head of the DFLP - which once blew up Arab students in the Old City and set off a bomb next door to a nursery school in Talpiot - was left to ply his trade unhindered.

According to France's own report, Yusra went to Akad offering herself as a suicide bomber. France tells us it was her way of flirting. And then France says something else which is really revealing: "They didn't date. Hani couldn't date."

What he doesn't tell American women is why, which perhaps more than anything else is the crux of this story: Because a date would have compromised Yusra honor, and she might have found herself getting her throat slit by her brother or father in an "honor killing." Is it any wonder that, as France himself writes, she confessed to Israeli security police that the real reason she wanted to blow herself up was "boredom?"

Glaringly, France ignores completely the constant and unrelenting incitement to terror by the religious, cultural and educational systems in place in the Palestinian Authority.

France goes another route, seeking to explain the desire for terror by describing the brutality of the Israeli army. Paraphrasing a report by Amnesty International, he makes the outrageous charge that "both sides target minors."

Trying to turn the story of Yusra and Hani into a love story, France encounters numerous obstacles. He can think of no explanation, for example, why after accepting Hani's proposal, Yusra also approaches the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades and offers once again to blow herself up. Not very complimentary to her "freedom fighter" with the M-16 and the "fiery glance and dimpled cheeks."

Also, in his attempt to paint Hani the terrorist in heroic colors by revealing how he tried to talk his fiancée out of "taking revenge on Israelis," France omits one very pertinent fact: Hours after Hani was killed, two female Palestinian students gave themselves up to Israeli security forces. The pair had been recruited and equipped by Hani, a specialist in explosive devices passed on to operatives, to blow themselves up in Tel Aviv.

What a guy! What a story!

And what, in heaven's name, is Oprah Winfrey thinking?

Patron saint of the downtrodden and depressed and overweight, why has she allowed her reputation and her magazine's to be sullied by this sordid attempt at terrorist white-washing?

Naomi Ragen is a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

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