July 28, 2008
The AP falsely reported that Israel is building a new settlement on the West Bank and linked this to a wrong-headed spin on an important national leader visiting Israel.
No, not Obama! He's still just a candidate. I'm referring to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Curiously, Brown's visit was highlighted for its criticism of Israel by the AP though his trip was seen in Israel as incredibly supportive. Indeed, Brown made the most pro-Israel statements of any British leader since Margaret Thatcher left the scene. This was especially significant since Brown is the Labour party leader and given the incredibly hostile anti-Israel sentiment in the British media and academia.
One wouldn't know this from the AP story, "British leader presses Israel to halt settlements," posted July 21, by Mohammed Daraghmeh. Its lead was Brown demanding "Israel cease settlement construction." Ironically, another AP story a few days later, in criticizing a reported Israeli decision to build a new West Bank settlement, pointed out (only in the context of criticizing Israel of course) that Israel had not started a new settlement in years.
In fact, the report was false. In fact, Israel had authorized the building of 22 houses on a settlement created more than 25 years ago.
The story claimed Brown's "strongest comments were reserved for the settlements: `I think the whole European Union is very clear on this matter: We want to see a freeze on settlements.'" But given the fact that no new settlement has been built for a long time what did he mean? The phrase used was "settlement expansion." But there is no expansion--settlements are not getting bigger though new buildings are built in existing settlements.
Even when an article reports facts fairly it sort of puts a spin on them. This article states:
"Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks late last year at a U.S.-backed conference in Annapolis, Md. Both sides had originally aspired to reach a final peace deal by the end of the year, but have backed away from that goal somewhat because of arguments over settlements and whether the Palestinians are capable of enforcing security in areas they control.
"Under the first phase of the internationally backed peace plan known as the road map, which is the basis of the negotiations, Israel was to freeze all settlement construction and Palestinians were to crack down on extremist groups."
Notice anything? Well, the AP gives a lot of attention to settlement construction but none to the Palestinian failure to "crack down on extremist groups" or enforce "security in areas they control." The fact is that the Palestinian Authority does very little or nothing in these directions but this is not presented as a problem or reported, virtually ever.
Where are the reports of the PA failing to stop terrorists, releasing them, glorifying them, putting them on its payroll, endorsing their goals, inciting to terrorism in its media, providing rationales for their actions in its schools, and so on? Why are radical speeches by PA and Fatah officials ignored?
This week, Palestinian Media Watch documents how the PA's official newspaper claims that Jewish settlers are bringing in and releasing hundreds of super-rats that only attack Palestinians to drive Arabs out of east Jerusalem. Do Palestinians believe this? Many no doubt do, at least in part. But the point is that the PA wants them to believe it. By showing what is really going on it would be clear why peace is so unachievable and who is responsible.
Consider this simple question: If Israel withdrew from all the West Bank and/or freed all Palestinian prisoners would anything really change? Would the Palestinians reciprocate or alter their line, stopping terrorism and backing an end to the conflict. The evidence indicates not.
At any rate, the media gives no hint of such matters but only pursues its own agenda, which requires misstating Brown's agenda.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).