Many major Western news outlets are accused—often correctly—of bias against Israel. Yet, this does not mean that their coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict can be described as “pro-Palestinian.” In fact, many in the media—and the policymakers and pundits that they influence—tend to ignore internal Palestinian issues when Israel can’t be blamed. And recent events prove it.
Since the beginning of June 2018, hundreds of Palestinians in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) have taken to the streets in protest of their government’s policies toward the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority, dominated by the Fatah movement, rules the West Bank. Under PA President and Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas, the authority has enacted punitive measures towards Gaza in an attempt to apply pressure on Hamas, Fatah’s rival that rules the Strip. Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group with a fiercely antisemitic ideology, has controlled Gaza since besting Fatah in a short but bloody civil war in 2007.
Abbas has attempted to regain control of the coastal enclave ever since.
Among other actions, the PA has cut salaries to its employees living in Gaza, suspended social assistance to hundreds of families residing there, forced the retirement of thousands of civil servants, and reinstated the collection of taxes from previously exempt Gazans. The PA also quit paying Israel for the electricity and fuel that it provides to the Strip—resulting in severe power shortages for Gazans.
For its part, the misery endured by the average Gazan—misery that is not shared by their leaders, many of who live in luxury in Qatar —is a frequent media topic. Many journalists, however, blame Israel’s security blockade for Gaza’s troubles, often failing to note that it exists only because Hamas expends international aid and resources on rockets and terror tunnels to attack the Jewish state.
Hundreds of Palestinians in Ramallah, the center of PA and Fatah power, have been demonstrating for an end to the authority’s Gaza policies. Some carried banners saying “12-20 hours daily with no electricity, lift sanctions,” and shouted “The longest technical mistake in history”—alluding to a May 2018 claim by Abbas that a technical glitch was responsible for delaying salaries to PA workers residing in Gaza.
The PA responded with an iron fist. Palestinians shouting, “Freedom, freedom,” were met with “stun grenades and physical force,” according to The Jerusalem Post, which added: “Those who attended said the protest was peaceful until riot police and plainclothes officers were sent to break it up.” The left-leaning Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that “dozens” were beaten and arrested by PA Security Forces—including “foreign journalists.”
Among those arbitrarily detained and reportedly beaten was Laith Abu Zayed, an Amnesty International employee. In a press release, the NGO said that not only was Zayed “severely beaten,” but also “he recalled seeing 18 other fellow detainees receive the same treatment.” Demanding a “full, independent investigation,” Amnesty said Zayed’s “plight is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the mass show of excessive force and torture unleashed by the Palestinian security forces.”
Although the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate condemned the assaults, many of their Western counterparts couldn’t be troubled with filing a report. The Washington Post’s Jerusalem bureau failed to offer original reporting on the incident—although the bureau did cover protests in farther away Jordan earlier in the month. The Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times similarly ignored the incident, and the paper merely reprinted a six-sentence Associated Press brief that even acknowledged that the protests were “rare.”
In a March 16, 2016 interview with the German media outlet Deutsche Welle, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah admitted “torture happens” in authority-run prisons. Hamdallah’s admission received zero coverage in the U.S. press—although the PA is a significant beneficiary of U.S. aid. In late 2015, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms accused PA security forces of using “violent means” against journalists and the Independent Commission for Human Rights, a Palestinian NGO, reported a “surge” in complaints about torture in PA and Hamas-run prisons. On June 11, 2018, the Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh noted that the PA security commander for the city of Hebron had been “dismissed from his job for beating a Palestinian judge”—possibly with assistance from six PA policeman. All of these incidents went unreported by major news outlets.
When Walid Al-Duheini of Rafah dared post on Facebook that Hamas was both stealing from and using the Palestinian people, operatives of the terror group murdered him. On June 22, 2018, the Israeli Prime Minister’s spokesperson, Ofir Gendelman, posted pictures of Al-Duheini, saying that ‘There must be international outcry over this.’ Yet, the media couldn’t spare a word. Similar media silence followed when a former Hamas member turned peace advocate, Mosab Hassan Yousef, accused the PA itself of being “the greatest enemy of the Palestinian people” in Sept. 27, 2017 remarks before the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Why the perpetual omission of Palestinian rulers oppressing and brutalizing their own people? The answer seems clear: the media is only interested in reporting on Palestinian affairs when Israel is involved and, preferably, when Israel can be blamed. Accordingly, public knowledge of Palestinian politics, culture and society has suffered, treated as a mere afterthought. In short: Palestinians are treated as props held hostage to a media narrative. No nuance is offered, only the presentation of Palestinians as Israeli victims.
When reporting on Palestinians sending flying incendiary devices over the Israel-Gaza border, New York Times bureau chief David Halbfinger called the terror attacks a “protest,” which “no matter how deadly, amount to an only-in-the-Middle-East reality show.” Yet, like many reality shows, anything that doesn’t fit the predetermined story is left on the cutting room floor.
(Note: A slightly different version of this Op-Ed appeared in The Daily Caller on June 29, 2018)