Fair press for peace

The vast majority of local and international news outlets have so far refrained from reporting at all on Fatah’s hard-line declarations.

Abbas Fatah Meeting 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Abbas Fatah Meeting 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The Fifth Fatah Revolutionary Council did not have an auspicious beginning. Participants kicked off discussion by giving special honor to Amin al-Hindi, one of the masterminds of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre of 11 Israeli athletes, who died earlier this year. What followed was sheer intransigence on the part of the 120-member Palestinian “congress,” which represents “moderate” Palestinian opinions – as opposed to the radical Islamic Hamas, which openly calls for using violence to bring about Israel’s demise.
After two days of meetings in Ramallah this weekend, Fatah, which makes up the backbone of the Palestinian Authority leadership, issued a resounding “no” to compromise, further dimming even the faintest hopes for a negotiated peace with Israel.
The Fatah council derogatorily rejected recognition of “the so-called Jewish state” or any “racist state based on religion.” It reasserted the “right of return” which, if implemented, would facilitate the end of a Jewish majority within the pre-1967 Green Line by allowing about four million Palestinian refugees and their offspring to settle in Israel proper.
Land swaps as part of a peace agreement were ruled out as well. Large settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, such as Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim and other cities located just over the Green Line, consisting of no more than five percent of the West Bank, where about 80% around 320,000 Jews live, must be uprooted and settlers must be expelled, it decided.
“Illegal settler gangs can’t be put on an equal footing with the owners of the lands and rights,” declared the council.
Israeli and US understandings, starting in December 2000 with the “Clinton parameters” and continuing with former US president George Bush’s declaration that any permanent peace deal would have to reflect the West Bank’s demographic realities, were effectively dismissed.
In what sounded more like a battle cry than a declaration, Fatah essentially articulated its intent to do everything short of relaunching an armed struggle to undermine the existence of the Jewish state.
THE FATAH council’s articulation of such an extremist position has far-reaching ramifications for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. That’s why Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh’s report on the council’s decisions appeared at the top of this newspaper’s front page on Sunday.
By bizarre contrast, the vast majority of local and international news outlets have so far refrained from reporting at all on Fatah’s hard-line declarations. While news media usually respond quickly and amply to steps taken by Israel that are perceived as potentially detrimental to the peace process, the silent treatment of the Fatah decisions reflects a media norm, in which Palestinian incitement and intransigence is often downplayed or completely ignored.
Just last Monday, for instance, this paper was the first to report on the PA Ministry of Information’s outlandish “study” claiming that the Western Wall, known to Muslims as Al- Buraq Wall, constitutes Wakf property and that “the Zionist occupation falsely and unjustly claims that it owns this wall.” Some other news outlets reported this several days later; others not at all.
Similarly, a survey commissioned by the Israel Project, indicating highly antagonistic Palestinian attitudes toward Israel, barely received media attention when it was released earlier this month.
Two-thirds of Palestinians living on the West Bank and Gaza agreed that “over time, Palestinians must work to get back all the land for a Palestinian state.” Sixty percent said that “the real goal should be to start with two states but then move it to all being one Palestinian state.” Fifty-six percent agreed that “we will have to resort to armed struggle again.”
When news reporters and editors fail to give the proper space to revelations of Palestinian extremism and intransigence, they help perpetuate prejudices against Israel. Not only is skewed journalism a betrayal of the profession and those who rely on it, in this case it hurts the peace process by untenably misrepresenting the imperative for compromise by the Palestinian leadership and their public, thereby dooming hopes for negotiated progress.
Palestinians must come to terms with the legitimacy of Jewish rights to sovereignty in this sliver of land if they are to internalize the need for compromise and thus walk the path to peace. That process of recognition requires the disseminating of an honest narrative by the Palestinian leadership.
And that, in turn, requires the international community to, first, understand accurately the nature of current Palestinian hostility to the notion of a legitimate Israel and, second, to impress on the leadership the need for change.
The extent of the challenge was made perfectly clear over the weekend by Fatah’s Revolutionary Council. Too bad that most of the world has not heard about it.