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From AJR,   March 1994  issue

The "Electric" Handshake   


By Salma Ghanem
Salma Ghanem is a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin.      

While many newspapers described the handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yassir Arafat that sealed the peace accord between Israel and the PLO on September 13 as "historic" and left it at that, others jumped at the chance to dust off, as John O'Hara might have called it, their "lacy prose."

Electricity seemed to be

a metaphor of choice. The Sacramento Bee portrayed the handshake as "an electrifying moment," as did the Houston Chronicle. The Chicago Tribune took the metaphor further: "Rabin looked like he was gripping an electric eel."

Other reporters portrayed the event as theater. "The drama was made more real by the handshake," reported the Dallas Morning News. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said "the audience gave a cry of delight. The suspense was broken," while the Sacramento Bee said the handshake "seemed to force a collective gasp from the audience."

It was hard to get a consensus on the nature of the handshake itself. The Houston Chronicle said the men "shook hands vigorously"; the Minneapolis Star Tribune stuck with "businesslike"; USA Today considered it "hesitant"; the Sacramento Bee saw it as "one of history's most dramatic"; Newsday portrayed it as a "first grudging" clasp; and the Washington Times, in a literary mood, described it as "three seconds of human touch."