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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Tuesday, December 20.
1) Excusing incitement

In today's Memo from Jerusalem: Finding Fault in the Palestinian Messages That Aren’t So Public, Isabel Kershner writes about the work of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW):
Of course, this is nothing new. For years, many Israeli and Palestinian analysts have said that what Palestinian leaders tell their own people in their own language — as opposed to English-language statements tailored to opinion in the rest of the world — is the truest reflection of their actual beliefs. This has had the effect of further entrenching the sides to the conflict and undermining confidence that it can ever be resolved.
“There is no doubt in my mind that in the mainstream of the Palestinian national movement, Israel is not considered legitimate,” said Shlomo Avineri, an Israeli professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, reflecting a widespread sense of disillusionment. “This is the inner truth of the Palestinians,” he said. “They really mean it. It is not what they say on CNN, but it is what they teach their children.”
It's good that Kershner quoted Avineri. Avineri is no right-winger giving his critique more weight given the article's likely audience. However, she doesn't identify Avineri by his political orientation at all. And given that this is the New York Times, PMW's work is basically reduced to "they said / they said."
Mr. Marcus, who set up Palestinian Media Watch in 1996, says that he wants to foster genuine reconciliation. His critics, however, note that he is a settler who lives in the Gush Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem, a contested area of the West Bank that Israel intends to keep under any agreement with the Palestinians.
Really, what relevance is it to PMW where Marcus lives? Either he's accurate or he isn't.
While Palestinian Media Watch acknowledges that there is less blatant incitement than in the past, with fewer direct calls for violence, it says that the Palestinian Authority still glorifies terrorists, “libels” Israel and promotes a culture of violence.
For example, Palestinian Authority television has broadcast song clips with lyrics honoring Dalal Mughrabi, a woman who in 1978 helped carry out the deadliest terrorist attack in Israel’s history. Ms. Mughrabi was the 19-year-old leader of a Palestinian squad that sailed from Lebanon to Israel, where it killed an American photojournalist and 37 Israeli civilians, many of them children. Ms. Mughrabi and several other attackers were killed.
This is a good example, but it hardly conveys the scope of this sort of lionization.
Another constant theme is the Palestinian denial of any Jewish historic or religious connection to Jerusalem.
Some of the examples publicized by the Israeli monitoring group are old ones that have been repeated over the years, and some of its interpretations are arguable.
Arguable? Given that the twentieth article of the Palestinian National Charter explicitly denies any historical connection between Jews and Israel, there is nothing arguable about these references. The Palestinians had an obligation to change their charter. Even if they did - they held two separate sessions where they supposedly voted to remove those sections of their charter that denied Israel's right to exist - the fact that such references are so prevalent in Palestinian culture, shows that they don't believe in the historical Jewish connection to the land of Israel. (Even the latest iteration of the charter, claims that the old charter is still in force!)
“This is not a serious attempt to solve the problem of incitement,” said Ghassan Khatib, the spokesman for the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank. Mr. Khatib said that the authority had significantly reduced the level of incitement on the Palestinian side in recent years. “The question is,” he said, “are the Israelis improving or reversing in this regard?”
While the Israeli government and news media usually say the same things in Hebrew and English, Palestinians and Israeli critics say they also do little to promote the idea of a Palestinian state. Official Israeli maps do not show the Green Line, the pre-1967 boundary that demarcates East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In Israeli officialdom, the West Bank is routinely referred to by its biblical names, Judea and Samaria. The Israeli education minister recently adopted a plan to take Israeli schoolchildren on trips to a historic Jewish holy site in the West Bank city of Hebron. This summer, the Israeli police briefly detained two rabbis for questioning over their suspected endorsement of a treatise co-written by a third rabbi that seemed to justify the killing of non-Jews, even babies, in wartime.
I'm not sure what this last sentence is doing here, but doesn't it show that rather than denying Palestinian rights, the Israeli government takes action against those who deny them. But there's a larger point here that Kershner ignores. Israel, since 1993, had taken concrete actions - withdrawing from major population areas - at great risk to give the Palestinians control of their own lives. The Palestinian commitment to peace, such as it is, has been marked solely by how they prepare their population for peace. That is a huge contrast.
“Reconciliation comes only after matters have been settled,” said Radwan Abu Ayyash, a veteran Palestinian journalist and former director of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, the parent of the authority’s television and radio stations with headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
“Thinking of Jaffa and Haifa is still there as an old dream, as history,” he said, referring to the Palestinian refugees’ desire to return to the homes they occupied before 1948, “but it is not reality.”
But consider that 1948 - not 1967 - is considered Nakba. Consider all the public demonstrations of keys - symbolizing the Palestinian desire to return to their homes. These are efforts to perpetuate the reality or at least a sense of grievance.
Some Israelis struggle with the practice of monitoring the Palestinian news media, acknowledging the importance of knowing what is being said in Arabic, yet disturbed by how its dissemination is exploited by those not eager to see Israel make concessions.
“There is peace making and there is peace building,” said Itamar Rabinovich, who served as Israel’s chief negotiator with Syria and as Israel’s ambassador in Washington, explaining why the contentious messages in Arabic are so damaging. The lack of peace building, he said, is part of the failure of the Oslo peace process that began with accords signed in 1993 but has not yet produced a Palestinian state.
I thought here was an excellent point. Unfortunately, Kershner has an agenda signaled in the first paragraph quoted above.
In one of the most egregious examples of Palestinian doublespeak, Yasir Arafat spoke in a mosque in South Africa in May 1994, only months after the signing of the Oslo accords, and called on the worshipers “to come and to fight and to start the jihad to liberate Jerusalem.”
As the ambassador to Washington at the time, Mr. Rabinovich said he found himself in the awkward position of having to explain to anyone who would listen that jihad, usually translated as holy war, could also mean a spiritual struggle, in order to justify continuing the peace process.
Still, he said, it is not by chance that those focusing on Palestinian incitement and publicizing it are “rightist groups who use it as ammunition.”
Rabinovich's acknowledgment of a lack of "peace building" is on target. If he's really interested in peace worrying how "rightist groups" use the information is dishonest. Explaining away the incitement and denial is what has really prevented peace from taking hold. By the way I found a reference in the New York Times to Arafat's South African speech.
According to diplomats here, Mr. Peres had been so disturbed by Mr. Arafat's remarks in South Africa that he had planned not to meet with him. But he relented after Mr. Arafat seemed to "go out of his way," as one diplomat put it, to reassert his commitment to peace. Mr. Peres was also reassured by Mr. Carter's interpretation of Mr. Arafat's remarks, an Israeli official said.
However, I don't recall it being a major story at the time.

Back in March, after the massacre of the Fogel family, Kershner made a similar effort to downplay the incitement of the PA. In Mahmoud Abbas condemns killing of Jewish family, she wrote:
He noted, for example, that a senior Abbas aide had paid a call to the families of three Fatah militants killed by the Israeli military, conveying condolences from Mr. Abbas. Israel held the three responsible for the fatal shooting of a rabbi in the West Bank in December 2009. In addition, Israeli officials note, streets, summer camps and youth tournaments in the Palestinian Authority have been named for people who committed terrorist attacks.
The new focus on incitement against Israel, together with Israeli dissatisfaction over the Palestinian response to the brutal attack, seemed to pose a question about the Israeli government’s readiness to deal with Mr. Abbas as a serious peace partner — even though Mr. Abbas and Mr. Fayyad are widely considered moderates who have repeatedly said they would never resort to violence.
Mr. Abbas rejected the claims about incitement in mosques, telling Israel Radio that the Palestinian Authority mosques have adopted a unified text for sermons, written by the minister of religious affairs. He called for a joint Israeli-Palestinian-American working committee to investigate claims that Palestinian Authority school textbooks incited violence.
Abbas only defended himself by claiming there's no more incitement in mosques, but left out of his defense are the many official actions and words that tell a different story. But here Kershner seemingly faults Israel for taking incitement seriously!
I recall the Arafat mosque in Johannesburg incident as being quite a big deal at the time - at least for Oslo's opponents in Israel.

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