Compare coverage of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ renewed bid to seek international recognition of a country called Palestine with last summer’s reporting of Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip during the Israel-Hamas fighting.
Journalists report stenographically Abbas’ demands that the U.N. Security Council adopt a resolution, with force of international law, requiring Israel to evacuate the West Bank to its “1967 border” within two or three years. The resolution would certify international acceptance of a new state of Palestine there, the Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem.
Media note official U.S. opposition to Sweden’s on-off recognition of “Palestine,” but fail to report that two Security Council resolutions outlining the means and requirements of Arab-Israeli peace already exist. U.N. Security Council resolutions 242 (adopted in 1967 after the Six-Day War) and 338 (passed after the 1973 Yom Kippur War) call for, among other things, negotiations to resolve Arab-Israel conflicts and “secure and recognized boundaries” for Israel and Arab countries party to the conflicts.
Resolution 242’s authors recognized, as they made clear at the time and subsequently, that Israel’s pre-’67 frontiers—the 1949 armistice line with Jordan regarding the West Bank (until then often known as Judea and Samaria), and 1950 armistice line with Egypt concerning Gaza—were neither recognized nor secure.
The Palestinian Authority exists in no small measure because then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed in a 1993 letter to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to end anti-Israel terrorism and resolve all outstanding issues through negotiations. The 1995 Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement takes resolutions 242 and 338 as reference points. These documents underlie the “peace process” between the two parties.
In chronically failing to provide this background when reporting Abbas’ attempted end-run around the relevant Security Council resolutions and PA commitments to reaching an agreement through direct negotiations with Israel, media feed coverage through the filter of Palestinian grievances. They thereby load all responsibility onto Israel.
Periodically announced “unity governments” notwithstanding, the bi-polar Palestinian Authority does not qualify. It is split between administration by the Fatah movement on the West Bank and Hamas control of the Gaza Strip; has no jurisdiction in any part of Jerusalem; and lacks territory defined by a negotiated agreement with Israel.
When reporters occasionally added that Israeli sources disputed those numbers, they virtually never said why. Context—a traditional journalism value—would have called for reporting Israel Defense Forces estimates that nearly half the Palestinian fatalities were gunmen from Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad or other terrorist groups. It could have noted analyses, like CAMERA’s, that indicated more than 50 percent were males between 17 and 39—prime combat age.
Media also might have pointed out that a U.N. estimate two years ago of non-combatant casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq involving U.S. and coalition forces ranged from 3:1 to 4:1 respectively.
But no. As former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman wrote, journalists widely conceive the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a morality play in which evil Israel oppresses innocent “Palestine.” News to the contrary—i
ncluding bloody anti-Jewish incitement not just by Hamas in the Gaza Strip but also by Palestinian Authority agencies in the West Bank and ceaseless Palestinian terrorist attacks or attempted attacks—barely counts.