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Media Analyses





Washington Post Word Choice Tilted ‘Balance’ to Palestinian Self-Justifications


On first reading The Washington Post's “Israel knocks peace initiative; Despite chilly reception, France says planning for conference will continue (May 16, 2016 print edition, online May 15) seems balanced. But only on first reading.

The dispatch said France will push for an Israeli-Palestinian “peace conference” despite hearing bluntly “that Israel doesn't really like the idea.” Post Jerusalem Bureau Chief William Booth reported the Obama administration “declared that it would not be making any major move to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.” But the newspaper didn't say why.

In fact, President Obama has said the gulf between the two sides is too wide to be bridged now.

The Post reported “the Palestinians want a sovereign state with established borders based on 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as their capital and a right of return for refugees.” Yes, Palestinian Arab leadership sometimes says it wants a state “on the '67 lines,” implying acceptance of a West Bank and Gaza Strip “Palestine” alongside Israel. But demanding “a right of return” for several million descendants of Arab refugees from 1948 (relatively few original refugees remain) means a 23rd Arab state in place of Israel.

The newspaper said talks between Israel and Palestinian leaders “imploded” in 2014, but did not explain why. That omission avoided highlighting Arab responsibility. However, the Palestinian side “imploded” those talks, as well as two-state offers in 2000, 2001 and 2008, as former chief U.S. Arab-Israeli envoy Amb. Dennis Ross has noted (“Stop Giving Palestinians a Pass,” New York Times, Jan. 4, 2015).
 
So it went. Official Israeli comments lent ostensible balance; but statements of Palestinian claims repeated uncritically left the whole misleadingly off-center. Problems included:
*President Obama, recognizing “such a deep distrust between the two peoples right now,” said in March during a visit to Argentina that “it's been 60 years; it's [Israeli-Palestinian peace] not going to happen in the next 9 months.” He added when it comes to making peace, “we can't do it for them” (“Obama: No Israeli-Palestinian peace deal in my presidency,” Times of Israel, March 24).
 
Promised, or pointed out?
 
That is, Washington—never mind Paris—cannot span the chasm between the sides now. But by “explaining” Palestinian positions, anonymously quoting a Palestinian source and incompletely paraphrasing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, The Post implied Israel was the obstacle to Palestinian peace desires.
 
*The newspaper told readers “Netanyahu in the past has said he supports a two-state solution, but he also promised [emphasis added] voters in the most recent election that it would not happen on his watch.” Netanyahu did not so much “promise” as point out why: A West Bank and Gaza Strip “Palestine” would need to be demilitarized, and Israel's 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, leading to repeated conflicts with the Hamas- run terrorist enclave cast doubt on that possibility. So did the potential for spillover Arab world upheaval from Syria and elsewhere into the West Bank.
 
For a variety of reasons, Zionist Union opposition leader Isaac Herzog also had said conditions block movement toward a two-state agreement (“Israeli opposition leader: ‘Peace will have to wait,'” Al-Monitor, Jan. 22, 2016). The Post mentioned this, in part: Netanyahu “has warned that any future state for Palestinians would quickly be taken over by Islamist radicals bent on Israel's destruction.” But it did not report that Palestinian representatives, including from PA President Abbas' ruling Fatah movement, also routinely call for Israel's destruction. (See, for one example of many, “Where's the Coverage? Fatah Leader Calls for Israel's Eradication,” CAMERA, April 30, 2014
 
Also ruling out a two-state deal at the time of the French Initiative were repeated Palestinian refusals to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accept a two-state pact as an end to the conflict.
 
*The Post said “the Palestinian want … a right of return for their refugees,” but does not remind readers that such a “return” of several million Arab descendants of the small number of remaining Arab-perpetuated refugees from 1948 would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state. Nor did it note that no such “right” exists in U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 (1948), often cited by Palestinian advocates, or in related Resolutions 393 (1950), 394 (1950) or 513 (1952) (“Backgrounder: The Palestinian Claim to a ‘Right of Return,'” CAMERA, Sept. 1, 2000).
 
*The Post implied Netanyahu insisted the Palestinian side recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” as a condition “for talks to move forward.” In fact, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon listed the need for Israel to be recognized as a Jewish state in both introductory and final settlement agreements as a reservation to the 2003 U.S., Russian, U.N. and E.U. “roadmap.” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asserted, in connection with the 2007 Annapolis conference and before his own 2008 two-state offer (rejected by Abbas), that a final agreement must include Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
 
Funny, but no joke
 
Netanyahu has said he makes no preconditions to resume Israeli-Palestinian talks, but that the Arab side's recognition of Israel as a Jewish state would be part of any successful conclusion (“Why Israel Insists on Palestinian Recognition as a Jewish State,” CAMERA, Mar. 25, 2014). By the time The Post quoted the prime minister to this effect, it did so against its partial paraphrase of him.
 
*What knowledgeable readers found a laugher might have escaped average news consumers. The paper reported, “Netanyahu is always looking for excuses not to talk, said a Palestinian diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity. … [A]dding that the Palestinian support the French Initiative because U.S. efforts to broker a deal have failed.”
 
As Amb. Ross, among others, has pointed out (see above), it has been the Palestinian side that repeatedly has rejected two-state offers, refused to make counter-proposals, and undermined U.S. diplomacy. Post failure to note this inversion implicitly endorsed it.
 
The newspaper reported the French Initiative “seeks to bring global attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and find consensus among the international community on how to move forward with a two-state solution.” This was a laugh line with a riddle: Is there a conflict to which more excessive attention has been given than the Palestinian refusal to make peace with Israel? How can the “international community” spur a “two-state solution” Palestinian leadership has rejected formally three times since 2000 and spurned renewed direct talks about it on two other occasions since then?
 
The Post gave the conclusion to Dore Gold, directory-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. He said peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan were reached via direct negotiations, not multilaterally. But by then, readers might have concluded the Palestinian side was right to welcome the “French Initiative” around implied Israeli obstruction.
 
The Post's “Israel knocks peace initiative” contained a lot of journalism's who, what, when and where. But why and how often were AWOL.

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