It is often said that press coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict is biased against Israel. That’s true, but it doesn’t go far enough. Sometimes, it borders on insane.
Consider this specimen, from the world’s most influential news agency, the Associated Press. The AP’s bureau chief for Israel and the Palestinian territories, Steven Gutkin, wrote it with help from correspondent Mohammed Daraghmeh, reporting from Ramallah. This is an “analysis” piece, which means in AP jargon that its reporters are free to say what they really think. (Actually, they tend to do that anyway, but that’s another story.)
The article addresses the controversy over Israel’s proposed construction of homes for its citizens in Jerusalem. This is how the AP begins:
Following a seemingly chilly reception at the White House, Benjamin Netanyahu is learning the hard way that he can’t have it all.
That greedy Netanyahu! He foolishly thought that he could “have it all”–Jews could live in East Jerusalem, the millenia-old center of Jewish life, and not be murdered by terrorists! The Obama administration evidently explained how unreasonable it is to expect to “have it all.”
This is the stark challenge faced by Netanyahu, and Israel, as framed by the AP:
With Israel’s international standing in tatters and its relationship with Washington at a low point, Netanyahu’s moment of truth appears close. Will he stick to his hawkish roots or conclude, as his two predecessors Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert did, that occupying captured lands and their large Arab populations imperils Israel’s future as a Jewish state?
I think it is actually the genocidal fanaticism of its enemies that threatens Israel’s future as any kind of state. Israel would be delighted, I’m sure, not to occupy anything, but in the case of Gaza that didn’t work out well–a fact on which the AP ventures no comment.
A central liberal delusion holds that if only Israel didn’t exist–or comported itself in accordance with Arab demands, pretty much the same thing–the region’s problems would largely disappear. There is no evidence for this proposition and a great deal of evidence against it, but liberals would rather believe a proposition that is obviously false than face up to the unhappy reality. So the AP sings the liberal chorus:
Both [Hillary] Clinton and Gen. David Petraeus said that lack of progress toward solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impedes other U.S. goals around the world and fuels extremism.
For what it’s worth, that overstates what Petraeus actually said. The AP continues:
Pressure to compromise can only increase if that idea gains steam along with rising international impatience with Israel, most recently illustrated by Tuesday’s extraordinary decision by Britain to expel an Israeli diplomat over the alleged use of forged British passports in a plot to slay a Hamas operative in Dubai in January.
The Dubai incident is an interesting one about which we have written quite a bit. I don’t believe the true story of that event has yet come to light, but, worst case, the Israelis killed a major terrorist. Just like we do with drones every couple of days in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I will say, though, that it’s great to see the world’s powers taking passports so seriously. Does this mean we can start enforcing our immigration laws?
In what seemed like a veiled reference to Petraeus’ and Clinton’s suggestion, Netanyahu told the same pro-Israel convention in Washington this week that anti-Semitism, in its most “pernicious” form, “argues that if only Israel did not exist, many of the world’s problems would go away.”
I think that is exactly right. If Israel should ever cease to exist, much of the world will be convinced that it was in a good cause. But the AP seems to regard Netanyahu’s view (and mine) as self-refuting. The AP next turns to an Israeli to reinforce its anti-Netanyahu theme:
Alon Liel, former director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, described what he called an Israeli “bubble” where the prevailing view is “let’s go on settling in Jerusalem, the world is against us, the Palestinians will always be our enemy.” Netanyahu, he said, is “the leader of the bubble.”
On the other side, Liel said, are Israelis “who realize that this story cannot go on, that there is an international community, there is a United States, there is a world public opinion and there is a U.N. — and we have to be part of it and not live under siege … as a pariah state.”
In other words, Israel must give in to those who hope that she will cease to exist. But who is Alon Liel, the AP’s resident Israeli expert? He is, among other things, the head of the Israel-Syria Peace Society. Not too promising; sort of like the Israeli Ramsey Clark. Liel explains his political loyalty here:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you trust President Bashar al-Assad and believe in his sincerity in proposing a peace initiative with Israel?
[Liel] Yes, I trust him and believe him. He wants peace and prosperity for his people. I know that he has opponents in Syria, but he is strongly maintaining his course.
It is safe to say that an Israeli who “trusts” and “believes in” Assad is not exactly mainstream. But he fits the Associated Press’s political agenda very well.
We are only now getting to the dark heart of the AP’s attack on Israel:
No Israeli prime minister has even considered halting Jewish construction in east Jerusalem since Israel captured that part of the city in 1967, and the Palestinians readily sat down with Olmert for intensive peace talks even as he pressed ahead with settlements — something they are now refusing to do with Netanyahu.
So what has changed?
Not to be pedantic here, but the AP has just told us that Israel’s position has remained consistent, while the Palestinians’ approach has changed. Doesn’t that pretty much destroy the whole point of the AP’s “analysis” piece? At a minimum, shouldn’t we look for the source of that change in Palestine, not Israel? Don’t be silly–that’s much too logical for the Associated Press:
Palestinians tend to feel that peace is simply not possible with Netanyahu.
That’s a weird sentence, actually. Has Netanyahu done something to disturb the peace? No. On the contrary, the AP specifically notes that “he has done more to ease life for Palestinians than his immediate predecessors, boosting the economy by taking down dozens of roadblocks and significantly slowing settlement construction in the West Bank.” So we are left with this: in the Middle East, “peace” is a term of art which means surrender by Israel.
What actually explains the Palestinians’ aggressiveness is that Islamic radicals believe things are going their way: Iran will soon be a nuclear power; the United States is led by a pathetic administration; the “international community,” which means Europe, mostly, is more than ever on their side. Which brings us, finally, to the real reason for this post:
The row over east Jerusalem settlements has been a public relations boon for the Palestinians. However, they relinquished some of the moral high ground in recent days through a decision to rename a major West Bank square after a female militant who killed dozens of civilians in a notorious 1978 bus hijacking.
Contemplate that assertion for a moment: the Palestinians hold the “moral high ground.” Why? Because Jews have the temerity to contemplate building homes in Jerusalem. Of course, Arabs build homes in Jerusalem all the time, and no one thinks anything of it. That’s different, of course, and doesn’t deprive Arabs of the “moral high ground.” Nor does the fact that Israel’s enemies pretty much unanimously yearn for, and try to bring about, genocide deprive them of the “moral high ground.” It is only the unfortunate timing of the Palestinians’ naming a landmark in honor of a mass murderer at the very moment when the AP and the world’s establishment thought they had Israel on the run that threatens the Palestinians’ “moral high ground.”
As I said, this isn’t just biased, it is insane.