U.S.-based journalism has “shifted away from objective news” and become more subjective, according to a May 2019 study by the RAND Corporation. And a May 21, 2019 Politico report proves it. The article, “Why some Palestinians are backing Trump’s peace push,” by reporter Nahal Toosi, offers a master class in omission, distortion and selective reporting.
Indeed, the misrepresentations begin with the report’s premise, which asserts “Some prominent Palestinian activists and politicians are quietly rooting for [Presidential adviser and son-in-law] Jared Kushner as he prepares to unveil the first part of his Middle East peace plan next month.” The reason, Politico claims, is “not because they think the plan will resolve their decades-long conflict with Israel,” but rather because “they hope it will hasten the onset of a ‘one-state’ solution they are coming to support.”
Yet, in nearly 1600 words, Politico doesn’t cite a single Palestinian who supports the still unreleased peace plan, the details of which haven’t been made public and which the outlet doesn’t discuss or seemingly have. But that is far from the only thing that is left out.
Palestinians are not “coming to support” a one-state solution, as Politico asserts. In fact, Palestinian leaders have never truly supported a two-state solution.
In 1937, the Arab community in British-ruled Mandate Palestine rejected the findings of the Peel Commission, which recommended the creation of an Arab state and a Jewish one from land that had been originally been set aside for the recreation of a Jewish homeland. In 1947, they joined Arab nations in rejecting the U.N. partition plan, which would have created a Palestinian Arab state out of portions of land originally provided for Jewish settlement, choosing instead to declare war on the fledgling Jewish nation.
Palestinian leaders have rejected U.S. and Israeli proposals for a two-state solution ever since, most recently in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. As the journalist Mark Lavie wrote in Tablet Magazine: “In September 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a map, a proposal that would give the Palestinians 93.7 percent of the West Bank, with Israeli territory to make up 5.8 percent, and a corridor to Gaza from the West Bank for the other 0.5 percent. Olmert insisted that Abbas initial the map before taking it. It was clear that this was Israel’s final offer. Abbas rejected it. He never met Olmert again.”
In both 2014 and 2016, the U.S. government submitted frameworks to restart negotiations based off of the 2008 offer. The Israeli government accepted these proposals and the Palestinian leadership rejected them outright.
Facing a recalcitrant Palestinian leadership that wouldn’t negotiate or cease terrorism, in 2005 the Israeli government unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip, providing an opportunity for Palestinians to build a state. Yet Palestinians responded by electing Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group whose charter approvingly cites Hitler and calls for the genocide of Jews. Incessant rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilians and using the cover of “human shields” have followed ever since.
Nor, contrary to popular perception, has the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the umbrella organization dominated by the Fatah movement, which rules the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) ever accepted Israel’s right to exist. As part of the 1990s Oslo peace process, then-Fatah leader and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat agreed to change the parts of the Palestinian Covenant that called for destroying Israel. However, as Middle East Analyst Shoshana Bryen of the Jewish Policy Center has noted, Arafat never actually did so and that portion of the PLO Charter has remained unchanged.
Politico, however, frames this history of Palestinian rejectionism as merely an Israeli claim, writing “Israeli leaders have long blamed the lack of progress in past peace talks on Palestinians, saying they’ve repeatedly refused generous offers that would have helped them create their own state while supporting violence against Israel.”
In fact, Palestinian leaders have acknowledged that they have rejected offers for peace and statehood. For example, as the Middle East Media Research Institute has documented, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, openly admitted in an March 27, 2009 interview on Al-Jazeera that both Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, rejected formal proposals in 2000 and 2008.
Nor is Palestinian support for anti-Jewish violence merely an “Israeli claim,” as Politico would have it. Hamas has continued to launch rockets and terror attacks at Israeli civilians. And the PLO and Fatah have encouraged attacks against Israelis via incitement in their official media, official statements praising terrorists and official laws that pay Palestinians and their families to commit atrocities. Abbas himself has refused U.S. and Israeli demands that his government, the Palestinian Authority (PA) end these policies, which violate the very terms of the Oslo Accords that created the Authority in the first place.
To bolster its massive omissions of key details and important history, Politico relies on questionable sources. Among them is Yousef Munayyer, an activist with the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which the German government, among others, has recently declared to be antisemitic. As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting has documented, Munayyer is so obsessed with bashing the Jewish state that he used an Oct. 2, 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas to attack Israel.
Rob Malley of the International Crisis Group is also cited—despite the fact that ICG’s chief analyst for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Tareq Baconi, who has also appeared in The Washington Post and Foreign Policy magazine, has claimed that Hamas is “demonized in media and policy debates” and is not “a terrorist group.” Indeed, after the most recent terror attacks by Hamas at the Israel-Gaza border, The Post absurdly sought “expert” commentary from Baconi, the author of a book a 2018 book entitled Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance.
Good journalism is about reporting facts—not omitting them to fit a preexisting narrative. But increasingly, as the RAND study reveals, good journalism is hard to come by. Politico offers a regrettable case in point.
(Note: A slightly different version of this article appeared in The Times of Israel on May 25, 2019)