In an article in The Washington Post about last week’s Arab League summit (March 29, “In a message to Trump, Arab leaders renew calls for a Palestinian state,”) reporter and Cairo Bureau Chief Sudarsan Raghavan omitted important context about the group’s statements and positions about Israel.
Raghavan reports on the Summit’s affirmation of the Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for Israel to withdraw from all territory captured in the Six-Day War, including eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. It also calls for adherence to UN General Assembly Resolution 194, interpreted by Arab states to validate the so-called “right of return” of Palestinians to Israel. It further refuses “patriation” of Palestinians to other Arab nations, meaning millions of Palestinians would have nowhere to live but Israel.
The reporter, however, omits Israel’s substantive reservations regarding the Initiative. Nor does he tell readers about Israel’s numerous, previous peace overtures — each time rejected by the Palestinians without so much as a counter-offer.
The distorted account creates the false impression that Israel is the intransigent party, and that peace would be at hand if Israel would simply accept the League’s ostensibly reasonable proposal.
Raghavan begins his piece by stating that “Arab leaders reaffirmed their support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Wednesday at their annual meeting,” and that “the Arab League called for a fresh series of peace talks and renewed an offer of ‘reconciliation’ with the Jewish state, if Israel returns Arab lands it has occupied.”
Raghavan betrays his own bias by referring to the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem as “Arab lands.” The lands in question are disputed, with both Israel and the Palestinian Arabs asserting claims to them. CAMERA’s Gilead Ini pointed out in a January article in The Tower that referring to these areas as “Palestinian land” is an attempt by journalists to resolve a complicated dispute by “treating as an undeniable truth political claims by one side while rejecting as fallacious those by the other side.” Calling the same areas “Arab lands” is no different.
He also makes no mention of the fact that Israel took control of these areas as a result of its fighting a defensive war. Indeed, had Jordan heeded Israel’s request to stay out of what initially was a war between Israel and Egypt, Israel never would have taken control of either the West Bank or eastern Jerusalem.
Raghavan quotes Jordan’s King Abdullah as saying that “there can be no peace nor stability in the region without a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian cause, the core issue of the Middle East, based on the two-state solution,” but fails to note that this “linkage” theory, that places the blame for all of the Middle East’s woes on Israel, has long-since been discredited by some serious Middle East commentators and by events in the region that are obviously unrelated to Israel such as the so-called Arab spring, the Syrian civil war, the war in Yemen, the rise of ISIS and other unrest.
Wednesday’s communique reaffirmed a 15-year-old Saudi-led peace plan, known as the Arab Peace Initiative, that calls for Israel to pull out of lands captured in 1967 in exchange for full relations with moderate Arab and Muslim countries. That would allow the creation of a Palestinian state encompassing the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
Yet, he never explains what Israel’s reservations to this initiative are – Israel’s legitimate security concerns include that it was fired upon from some of those areas in 1967, and that, had Israel withdrawn from the Golan Heights prior to the start of the Syrian civil war, it is likely that ISIS would be looking down on Israeli civilians from the Heights today. Nor does he ever mention Israel’s own peace offers, in 2000, in 2001, and in 2008, which were rejected by the Palestinian Authority with no criticisms from the Arab League. Thus, Raghavan creates a false impression that Israel is the intransigent party.
Instead of presenting the other side of this issue, Raghavan attempts to create an appearance of balance by quoting the Israeli Minister of Intelligence on an entirely different point: “Israel’s intelligence minister, Israel Katz, said that although the Palestinian issue cannot be ignored, it is important to address the region’s many other challenges, including the Islamic State, the increasing threat posed by Iran through its proxies, and the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. ‘A positive regional climate change could lead in the future to peace,’ Katz said.” Raghavan quotes Palestinian Authority President Abbas saying that, “the Israeli government has since 2009 worked on wrecking the two-state solution by accelerating the tempo of settlements and the confiscation of land,” but seems unaware of the effects that the recent terror campaign has had on the chances for peace.
In other parts of the report, Raghavan has no problems reporting the relevant information necessary to put statements made at the conference in context. For example, when he writes that “the Arab leaders pledged to address the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen,” he volunteers that they “did not offer specific plans on how they would move forward.” And when he notes that Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir not only attended but addressed
the conference, he added that this was despite al-Bashir’s indictment by the International Criminal Court, and that al-Bashir is “wanted on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.” Yet, the Arab League’s statements about its conflict with Israel were taken at face value.
For more information about the Arab Peace Initiative see this analysis by the Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs.