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Media Analyses





Still Over-Emphasizing the Palestinian Arabs


Headlines over news articles in the April 28 print edition of The Washington Post about the "greater Middle East," included:

* "Afghan air force officer kills 9 Americans",

* "Pakistan urging shift away from U.S., Afghans say",

* "Reports hint at cracks in Syria regime",

* "At least 10 protesters killed in Yemen",

* "Blast in Egypt cuts gas supply to Israel, Jordan" and

* "U.N. officials quiz Libyan regime on rights violations".

But The Post featured none of those on its front page. Editors played as the second most important news story, after only "Panetta picked to replace Gates at the Pentagon; Petraeus Chosen For CIA" and a picture of damage from deadly tornadoes in the United States, "Palestinian factions reach a unity accord; But Fatah-Hamas truce is seen as an obstacle to peace with Israel."

The dispatch was written by Joel Greenberg, recently promoted by The Post from special correspondent to Middle East correspondent and interim Jerusalem bureau chief. The lead paragraph noted that the rival Palestinian movements initialed an agreement to end their four-year rift.

A Fatah-Hamas government would be formed for both the West Bank (now ruled by Fatah) and the Gaza Strip (under Hamas). The government "would prepare for elections a year from the signature of their accord." But before that happens, "details of the agreement … remain to be worked out," Greenberg noted. And the reporter quoted a former U.S. diplomat who "cautioned that it was too early to judge the significance of an agreement between two factions that rarely have been able to get along."

Given the conditions and chronology -- the agreement was only initialed, not signed; it promised elections a year after the formal signatures; the two parties, Fatah and Hamas, have a history of short-lived agreements and violence; and that edition of The Post carried more urgent news -- why was  "Palestinian factions reach unity accord on page one?
 
CAMERA has criticized The Post over many years for forcing Arab-Israeli news through a Palestinian filter. Page one placement and two color photographs accompanying the jump for "Palestinian factions reach a unity accord" reflected such skewing.

The subhead, "But Fatah-Hamas truce is seen as an obstacle to peace with Israel," may help explain the prominence The Post awarded the initialing of this agreement. The newspaper’s foreign news coverage historically has assumed that Fatah — the relatively secular, putatively moderate counter to Hamas’ Islamic extremism and open antisemitism — seeks a West Bank and Gaza Strip state in exchange for peace with Israel.

The Post has shown little interest in examining the possibility that this is not the case. Yet Palestinian actions under Fatah leadership give reasons for doubt. These actions include non-compliance with the 1993 Oslo accords and subsequent agreements, and rejection of Israeli-U.S. offers of a "two-state solution" in 2000 and 2001 and an Israeli-only proposal of such a deal in 2008.

Greenberg writes "a healing of the rift between Fatah and Hamas was widely seen by many Palestinians as an imperative precondition to any move toward independence and ending Israeli occupation." But "moving toward independence and ending Israeli occupation" could have been achieved by Palestinian fulfillment of the Oslo process or acceptance of any one of the 2000, 2001 or 2008 offers.

CAMERA obtained a correction in 2004 to a Greenberg article in The Chicago Tribune that had asserted Hamas generally meant the West Bank and Gaza Strip when referring to "Israeli occupation." In a 2006 Tribune report, Greenberg quoted two Hamas officials who made clear they meant Israel itself when using the term "Israeli occupation."

Israeli historian Benny Morris, an early advocate of a two-state Israeli-Palestinian settlement, argues at The National Interest Web site ("Palestinians Dupe West," April 25, 2011 ) that Palestinian strategy, including seeking U.N. General Assembly recognition of "statehood" this September, aims at achieving a West Bank and Gaza Strip country "unfettered by any international obligations like a peace treaty …." Under such circumstances, "the Palestinians will be free to continue their struggle against Israeli, its complete demise being their ultimate target."

Post news reporting, filtered through the Palestinian narrative — more accurately, the narrative Western media chronically impute to the Palestinian Arabs — virtually never acknowledges this possibility. But a Fatah accord with an unreformed Hamas comports with Morris’ interpretation.

"Palestinian factions" reports that "Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu put Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on notice that reconciliation with Hamas would doom the peace process. ‘The Palestinian Authority must choose between peace with Israel or peace with Hamas,’ Netanyahu said …. ‘Peace with both of them is impossible, because Hamas aspires to destroy the state of Israel and says so openly. It fires missiles on our cities. It fires anti-tank missiles at our children [referring to recent attacks] ....’"

The article also says that a Hamas leader maintained that international conditions requiring it to end violence, recognize Israel’s legitimacy and uphold previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements were not part of the reconciliation with Fatah. The Post quoted a State Department official who pointed out that the United States regards Hamas as "a terrorist organization which targets civilians."

The Post (like The New York Times in its coverage of the Fatah-Hamas accord) implied an equivalence between the anti-dictatorship, anti-corruption demonstrations and rebellions that have shaken many Arab countries this spring and smaller Palestinian Arab rallies calling for Fatah-Hamas unity. Yet corruption among Fatah members has been widely reported, Hamas increasingly imposes theocratic rule in Gaza and both movements forcibly suppress critics. The two leading Palestinian movements resemble the autocratic regimes demonstrators have opposed more than they reflect protesters in the streets.

Greenberg also (again like New York Times’ reporters Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner) wrote that in referring to "Judea and Samaria," Netanyahu was "using the biblical names for the West Bank." Judea and Samaria (Yehuda and Shomron in Hebrew) are in common use by many Israelis and have been used by previous prime ministers including Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon. On April 28, Israeli President Shimon Peres criticized Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, saying it could lead to a "terror organization ruling both Gaza and Judea and Samaria and the triumph of Hamas’ policies."

"The West Bank" is a Jordanian substitute for Judea and Samaria, which were in general use in British Mandatory Palestine as well. The Post does not interject into news articles that Jerusalem (Yerushalayim) is "the biblical term" for Israel’s capital, nor point out that other current, common Hebrew place names like Galilee, Negev and Beersheva also are "biblical." The Post’s gratuitous addendum on Judea and Samaria reads like an editorial comment upholding the Palestinian line.


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