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Middle East Issues





USA Today Report on Israelís Independence Day Hits and Misses


USA Today’s “One people’s creation another’s catastrophe” (May 16) by special correspondent Michele Chabin covered Israeli and Palestinian Arab commemorations of the May 14, 1948 establishment of Israel, but the reporting was mixed. Chabin quoted both Israeli and Palestinian Arab sources, noting that Arabs rejected peace and statehood, choosing instead to attack Israel at the moment of its rebirth. However, USA Today omitted the larger pattern of Palestinian rejectionism, failing to examine into incitement to anti-Jewish violence by Palestinian leaders.

Chabin reported that as Israelis celebrated their Independence Day, “Palestinians held their annual Nakba observance Sunday to mourn what they call ‘the Catastrophe.’” Chabin pointed out that this “catastrophe” was in fact the failure of invading Arab armies and Palestinian Arab terrorists to destroy Israel, after Arab rejection of the U.N. partition plan for two countries, one Arab, one Jewish, in British Mandatory Palestine. Chabin—in contrast to many in the news media—properly referred to territory which Palestinians consider “occupied,” as also disputed.

A self-imposed ‘catastrophe’

Yet, USA Today failed to report correctly some of the facts about the 1948 war and the Palestinians self-created “catastrophe.” The article wrongly claimed that 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were “displaced in the upheaval surrounding the creation of the Jewish state.” As CAMERA recently noted, although estimates vary, the actual number of Palestinians displaced during that war is likely closer to 600,000 (“Toronto Star Corrects Inflated Number of Palestinian Refugees,” May 15, 2016), with U.N. and Israeli estimates varying from 420,000 to 650,000. The article also fails to report, as historian Benny Morris (who is quoted in the article) detailed in his 2004 book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited,(Cambridge University Press), many Arabs, such as those in Haifa, were encouraged by Arab leaders to leave—spurning requests by Jewish officials to stay.

In addition to offering an inflated figure for Palestinian Arab refugees, the article quoted a lecturer at Bar Ilan University, Mordechai Kedar, as saying 750,000 Jews in Arab countries were forced to become refugees after being expelled from 1948 through the early 1970s. As a CAMERA Op-Ed pointed out (see, for example The Post erases nearly 1 million Jews from history,” Washington Jewish Week, Feb. 3, 2016), these Jewish refugees from Arab lands are often ignored by Western news media and policymakers, numbered approximately 840,000.

Chabin writes that the “issue of Palestinians’ right to return has long been a major point of contention…” However, as CAMERA has noted (see, for example “What you won’t hear about ‘Nakba Day,’” May 13, 2015), there is no such thing as a Palestinian “right of return.” Claims to such are based on the United Nations Resolution 194, passed on Dec. 11, 1948, which only recommends that refugees be permitted to return when “practicable” or accept resettlement in neighboring Arab states. Moreover, it requires that returnees first accept living “at peace with their neighbors.” In any case, as a General Assembly motion, U.N. Resolution 194 does not carry the force of law, partly because it did not establish a “right” of return, and its recommendations apply equally to Jewish refugees. What is more, the Arab states originally voted against Resolution 194.  

Many Palestinian Arabs, Chabin tells readers, “are losing hope that they will ever live to see the creation of their own independent state.” USA Today also says that “frustration” over their lack of a state has “helped fuel stabbings and other attacks Palestinian teens and young adults have carried out against Israelis since September.” CAMERA affiliate BBC Watch has noted (“Reviewing BBC compliance with PLO media guidance,” Dec. 8, 2015), that in November 2015 Palestinian leaders distributed talking points to journalists encouraging them to claim that “frustration” over the lack of a Palestinian state is the principle driver for violence. The assertion of “frustration” as a reason/excuse for anti-Jewish violence contradicts the words of Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, who declared: “This intifada is not the result of despair. This intifada is a jihad…(“Brookings’ ‘Takeway’ on the ‘Stabbing Intifada’ Leaves Little,” CAMERA, March 24, 2016).”

Contrary to USA Today’s article, Palestinian officials have encouraged attacks against Israelis. In a Sept. 16, 2015 speech on official PA TV, which preceded attacks against Israelis by Palestinians using rocks, cars, knives and guns, among other weapons, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas exhorted: “We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem.” Similarly, Fayez Abu Aita, the spokesman for Fatah, the movement that dominates the PA, called for Palestinian Arabs to “intensify and develop” attacks against Jews (“Where’s the Coverage? Palestinian Official Calls to ‘Intensify and Develop’ Anti-Israel Violence,” CAMERA, Feb. 9, 2016)

‘Favoring’ violence, rejecting statehood

The newspaper—citing an April 2016 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research—correctly noted that “a majority of Palestinians favor violence against Israel.” Yet, the encouragement by Palestinian officials, of that violence is omitted.

Palestinian officials’ incitement of anti-Jewish violence follows a pattern. So does Palestinian rejectionism—which USA Today failed to examine fully. Chabin interviewed an Arab living in eastern Jerusalem who claimed that “Israelis don’t want us here,” but who, the article noted, was unaware that Israel had accepted the U.N. partition plan’s recommendation of both Jewish and Arab in 1948.

Nevertheless, readers of the article still would be unaware of other instances in which Palestinian leaders rejected U.S. and Israeli offers for a “two-state solution” in exchange for peace with and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. For example, they refused such proposals in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis conference.

Similarly, readers are not told about PA rejection of U.S. Sec. of State John Kerry’s 2014 “framework” to restart negotiations or Abbas’ rejection of a similar initiative by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in March 2016. In none of these instances did Palestinian officials submit a counteroffer.

Instead of reminding readers of this train of Palestinian rejectionism, USA Today quoted Thabet Abu Ross, co-director of the non-profit organization Abraham Fund, who laments, “There is no peace process, no genuine attempt to solve the Palestinian question.”  

If—as the USA Today article said—Palestinian Arabs “are losing hope that they will ever live to see the creation of their own independent state,” blame for that should lie with their leaders. Due to the report’s omissions, that basic fact may escape readers.

USA Today’s reporting on Israel’s independence celebrations did include a bit of “the other side of the story” and noted Arab leaders’ culpability for choosing war over peace in 1948. Unfortunately, Palestinian rejectionism and incitement went missing.  

 

 

 


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