(Note: The following appeared as an Op-Ed in the Algemeiner on Dec. 17, 2017)
Just how bad is the media bias against Israel? In a week filled with extensive coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — much of it poor — the leader of the Palestinian Authority (PA) can give an antisemitic speech and most of the press will ignore it. Or worse still, they will selectively edit his remarks.
In a December 13, 2017 speech in Istanbul, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said that Jews “are really excellent in faking and counterfeiting history.” Abbas told the emergency summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — whose audience included the Sudanese war criminal Omar al-Bashir — that Jews had no historical connection to Jerusalem, a city whose historical and religious ties to Judaism predate the creation of Islam by thousands of years.
Abbas’ speech then took what Middle East analyst and Jerusalem Post commentary editor Seth Frantzman, described as an “anti-Jewish tone.” Abbas claimed that Palestinian Arabs are descended from the ancient Canaanite people, a common lie, exhorting: “If they [Jews] would like to fake this history, they are really masters in this and it is mentioned in the holy Quran they fabricate truth and they try to do that, and they believe in that — but we have been there in this location for thousands of years.”
What is surprising isn’t that Abbas — feted by press and policymakers alike as a “moderate” and a “peace partner”– denied Jewish ties to Jerusalem. In 2012, for example, Abbas issued a statement saying that the city will “forever be Arabic, Islamic and Christian.” That is — not Jewish.
Nor is the audience shocking. Antisemitism is rife at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The host, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, supports Islamist terrorist groups like Hamas, whose foundational charter calls for Israel’s destruction and cites Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. And like al-Bashir, Erdogan leads a country responsible for horrific crimes against its minorities.
What brings all of these forces together is antisemitism and hatred for the world’s sole Jewish state. And what is particularly disappointing is the media’s inability –and in some instances, unwillingness — to report it.
Some, such as The Washington Post and Politico, merely carried an Associated Press dispatch that omitted Abbas’ remarks calling Jewish people “masters” at “fabricating truth.” Instead, the AP uncritically wrote: “The Palestinians are committed to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Abbas said.” The same dispatch noted that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Lebanese President Michel Aoun attended, but omitted their roles in supporting terror groups, such as Hezbollah, that attack Jews and the Jewish state.
The media’s failure to cover Abbas’ remarks is particularly striking when one considers the hysteria that followed US President Donald Trump’s December 6, announcement that he would be implementing the bipartisan US Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 — and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
As The Times of Israel noted in an editorial published shortly after the president’s remarks, Trump highlighted the absurdity of the US previously declining to “acknowledge any capital at all,” and pointed to the Jewish people’s historical and religious connection to Jerusalem.
Importantly, the Times also pointed out that the speech “included a call to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites.” Further, the president explicitly stated that his announcement did not commit the US to a position “on any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of the contested borders.”
The US announcement prompted a flood of coverage — much of which failed to note these important details, as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has pointed out. In one week, Politico, The Baltimore Sun and The Hill filed at least four reports each. As of this writing, The Washington Post has, in a little more than a week, published at least 10 reports, analyses and commentaries — some of which claimed that the announcement could hurt the “peace process.”
Yet, none of these outlets saw fit to report Abbas’ December 13, 2017, remarks. The head of the PA — an institution created and funded as a result of the 1990s Oslo peace process — spoke before war criminals and terror financiers and denied Jewish history and peddled antisemitic conspiracy theories. Yet, zero coverage.
The media also failed to note that Palestinian leaders have rejected several US and Israeli offers for statehood in exchange for peace, on numerous occasions, including 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. This, and the fact that a US-funded “peace partner” has refused to quit paying salaries to terrorists — the PA has doled out more than one billion to terrorists and their families in the last four years alone — are pertinent, and omitted, facts.
Left unasked is this question: Does providing a financial incentive to murder Jews and propagating antisemitism hurt the “peace process?”
Sadly, this media bias and selectivity is nothing new; Western news outlets routinely ignore Palestinian leaders when their remarks are inconvenient to a narrative that singles out Israel for opprobrium.
For example, in contrast to its coverage of the implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, The Washington Post has yet to report the February 2017 appointment of Mahmoud al-Aloul as Abbas’ deputy. Al-Aloul is an unrepentant and convicted terrorist whose nom de guerre is Abu Jihad. As a possible successor to the octogenarian Abbas, his appointment should be newsworthy — certainly for papers that profess to be concerned with the “peace process.”
Clearly Palestinian antisemitism and rejectionism aren’t topics that many in the media deem necessary to report — at immense damage to their own credibility. If journalism is the first draft of history, it is the press who, through their one-sided omissions, are masters at fabricating it.