Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator in peace talks with Israel, seemed to be on home turf on Al-Jazeera America network’s “Consider This” program on Jan. 5, 2015 (10 p.m. Eastern) for a 15-minute “interview” conducted by host Antonio Mora.
If instead of an interview, a discussion had been provided which included a representative of the Israeli side able to challenge Erekat’s spiel, Mora might not have come off so badly. But Mora’s failure to seriously challenge Erekat’s propaganda statements and factual “lapses” exemplifies the network’s chronic journalistic malpractice negatively portraying Israel.
Mora, as a journalist, must have been aware of Erekat’s lack of credibility (it’s certainly not a secret). Examples – 1) In 2002 Erekat infamously told Cable News Network (CNN) of an Israeli massacre in Jenin, with at least 500 dead. Eventually, Palestinian officials themselves put the figure at 56. Nearly all of them were combatants, killed in house-to-house combat in which Israel lost 23 soldiers, according to Israel’s military chief of staff at the time, Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon. 2) In 2005, Erekat told Agence France Presse that the 2003 Israeli-Palestinian “road map” promoted by the United States, Russia, United Nations and European Union committed Israel to, among other things, releasing Palestinian prisoners. In fact, the “quartet’s” diplomatic initiative did not mention prisoners.
Mora opened the segment asking Erekat about the “freezing of the Palestinian Authority’s tax revenues and the recent increase in settlement activity” and his charge that Israel is “wanting to destroy the Palestinian Authority” so it “could resume as the occupying power in the West Bank.” Erekat’s distortion, “They [Israelis] never left” fails to bring into context the fact that Israel in the 1990s had turned over large parts of the West Bank – approximately 95 percent of it — and the entire Gaza Strip to Palestinian control as part of the failed Oslo accords. But after repeated Palestinian suicide bomber terrorist attacks during 2000-2004 — originating from towns from which Israel withdrew its soldiers — claimed numerous Israeli lives, Israel was forced to reoccupy some of this land. Erekat’s gross distortion, “they continue to control Jerusalem and seize Gaza” ignores the fact that Israel in 2014 defending itself from thousands of unprovoked Hamas Gaza rocket attacks upon Israeli civilians and potential catastrophe posed by Gaza terror tunnels, was forced to remedy the situation.
Mora accepts Erekat’s hyperbolic bluster “Netanyahu is destroying the Palestinian Authority. He has deprived us from our legal jurisdiction, economic jurisdiction, security jurisdiction, functional jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction and that’s the truth. He is destroying. He’s finished with destroying the Oslo accords and the peace process …” But The network never mentions the fundamental problem underlying the Arab-Israeli conflict: The difficulty, if not impossibility, of making peace with a Palestinian Arab leadership and society whose dominant culture insists that Jews are not a people, do not deserve a state, and have no historical ties to the land of Israel. The hatred is fueled by a steady stream of antisemitic, anti-Israel incitement – constituting a violation of the Oslo accords – from Palestinian media, mosques and schools – that underlies and typifies the conflict.
Erekat bitterly complains that in retaliation for the P.A. going to the International Criminal Court planning to bring charges against Israel, it “withholds our tax revenues … [so] that we are unable to function in our hospitals (and so on) …” Unsurprisingly, mention is not made of the P.A.’s generous financial resources including hundreds of millions of dollars regularly contributed by United States and other Western nations. And even if these were to be eliminated, Iran and other nations would provide the minimum required to sustain the Palestinians who already receive substantially more aid than far needier populations around the globe. And regardless of P.A.’s actions, the United States and others are committed to continue to provide humanitarian funds.
Erekat’s claim that “12,000 Palestinians were killed or wounded” in last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip is deceptive as is typical for Erekat. The figure was approximately 2,100 Arab fatalities, of whom roughly half were combatants. The responsibility for that disproportionately low ratio of non-combatant deaths (U.N. estimates for Afghanistan and Iraq are 1:3 and 1:4 combatant-to-non-combatant fatalities, respectively) was Israel’s, due to its restrictive rules of engagement, as noted by U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Responsibility for any non-combatant deaths belong to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terrorist groups, which fired nearly 4,600 mortars and rockets–all of them unguided, aimed generally at Israeli civilian areas. When it comes to war crimes, each such Palestinian launch was just that.
Contradicting Erekat’s grossly exaggerated statistics (500,000 homeless, 80,000 homes destroyed in Gaza Strip) is the United Nations (no friend of Israel) which states that approximately 110,000 were made homeless, and 18,000 housing units were destroyed or severely damaged.
But if the Israeli side had been represented opposite Erekat on “Consider This” on Jan. 5, 2015, it could have been pointed out to viewers that had there been no aggression against Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, there would have been no casualties, no displaced people or damaged housing units (many of which were used by Hamas in combat, another violation of international law).