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Monday, August 10, 2009

Media bias 101: AFP gets it all wrong

On Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told his cabinet that he would not repeat the mistake of expelling Jews from their homes.
Speaking at the opening of Sunday's weekly government meeting he added, "We will not repeat this mistake. We will not create new evacuees."

The prime minister said the government would discuss extending the mandate for the care of the Gush Katif and northern Samaria evacuees, and that he would tour their communities on Monday.

He said the government would issue new orders to improve the lives of the evacuees as soon as possible. "This means economic rehabilitation, rehabilitation in every sense of the word, rehabilitation now and not later," he said, adding that he had asked his ministers for recommendations on how to do so.
Here's how AFP reported the same story:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged he will never evict Jewish settlers from occupied Palestinian land as Israel did in 2005 in the Gaza Strip.


In September 2005, the government of prime minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally removed all Jewish settlements from Gaza, also emptying four remote northern West Bank settlements, in a move aimed at ending Israel's costly 38-year military presence in the Gaza Strip.

Mr Sharon vowed to follow up that withdrawal with further pullbacks from the West Bank but a massive stroke incapacitated him and his successor Ehud Olmert abandoned the policy in the wake of the June 2006 capture of an Israeli soldier by Gaza-based militants in a deadly cross-border raid.

When Mr Sharon formed a new centrist party, dubbed Kadima, to advance his plans, Mr Netayanhu refused to join him in breaking away from their right-wing Likud and remained at the helm of the rump party.

Kadima, now led by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, has become the main opposition party.
Let's go through some of the biases in this brief article.

First, those of you who have been reading for a while know that I do not like the term 'settler,' because I believe it carries connotations of being transplanted from the outside and of being only a temporary presence. I prefer the term 'revenant,' which means one who has returned to his land.

Second, 'occupied Palestinian land' is about as loaded a term as there is in this conflict. Suffice it to say that the world was silent between 1948 and 1967 when Egypt occupied Gaza and Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria. No one ever referred to 'Palestinians' in those years. As I explained in one of the first posts I ever did that was widely linked, there is no such thing as a 'Palestinian.'
Arabs only came to the Land of Israel in large numbers after the Jews returned in the 20th century and started to rebuild the nation, thereby creating economic and employment opportunities for Arab immigrants.

Prior to 1870, when Jews started to return to the Holy Land in large numbers, there were fewer than 100,000 Arabs living in what is today the State of Israel - including Yesha (the Hebrew acronym for Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District).

This small number of nomadic, tribal Arabs who lived in the Holy Land before the modern Jewish return never considered themselves to be a separate people or nation.

The Arabs who lived in the Land of Israel were not "Palestinians" but Arabs - part of a huge Arab people with 22 very large independent nations that control one-ninth of the land mass on the planet Earth.

In an interview given by Zuhair Mohsen to the Dutch newspaper Trouw in March 1977, Mr. Mohsen explains the origin of the 'Palestinians':

The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct "Palestinian people" to oppose Zionism.
For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.

For those of you who have never read that post, please read the whole thing - it explains much of what goes on here. If there is no such thing as a 'Palestinian,' there cannot be 'Palestinian land' and certianly not 'occupied Palestinian land.'

Third, while I continue to believe that Ariel Sharon undertook to expel Gaza's Jews to keep himself and his sons out of prison for corruption, even he would not claim that the 'disengagement' - as he called it - was designed to end Israel's '38-year military occupation' of the Gaza Strip. He would claim that Gaza was a laboratory to see if a 'Palestinian state' would live in peace (which it clearly won't) and that removing Gaza's Jews would reduce the cries that we are 'occupiers' (which it has not) while removing the Jewish presence from an area that is overwhelmingly populated by Arabs.

Fourth, AFP tries to give the impression that Sharon would have undertaken further unilateral expulsions of Jews from their homes. That is far from clear. The plan to expel Jews from their homes in much of Judea and Samaria was Ehud K. Olmert's plan.

Fifth, AFP says that Olmert dropped the plan in light of Gilad Shalit's kidnapping (which AFP calls a 'capture'). But Olmert continued to promote the plan throughout Israel's military actions in Gaza and Lebanon in the summer of 2006. It was only after the military action in Gaza and the war in Lebanon ended that Olmert realized he had no political support for further unilateral expulsions - in light of the constant rain of rockets on Israel's western Negev region - and Olmert put the plan on the back burner.

Sixth, the reference to the Likud post-Sharon as a 'rump party' is way over the top. The Likud is currently in power and Kadima is out of power. The reference to the Likud as a rump party is wishful thinking.

There's no byline on this AFP story. I'd love to know who wrote it. But the subtle and not-so-subtle biases in it should make clear to you that one has to read anything coming out of AFP - or any of the other so-called 'wire services' - with a critical eye.


At 11:37 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Much of the information undoubtedly comes from Israeli leftists and Palestinian stringers. Leaving the sources aside, a big problem with the news these days is tendency to disguise editorial commentary as a straight news story. So one is never given an objective account of a reported event. This a typical template with Israel stories and its not going to get better any time soon.


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