Media Comment: Mahmoud Abbas’s supporters

There is a revolt in the ranks of Fatah’s younger generation against Abbas.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks with journalists at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks with journalists at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
Hamas, understandably, is no supporter of Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.
There is a revolt in the ranks of Fatah’s younger generation against him. But Abbas can still depend on significant elements within Israel’s media to express admiration for his leadership.
Avi Issacharoff was for seven years the Palestinian and Arab affairs correspondent of Haaretz. Presently, he is the Middle East analyst for The Times of Israel and the Walla website. In 2012, he predicted that the next president of the PA will be Marwan Barghouti, the convicted murderer of five Israelis who is serving multiple life sentences in Israel. The Geneva Initiative likes Issacharoff, especially after he wrote articles with titles such as “There is no one to talk to? This is not the reality.” In a Walla article from December 5, 2013, Issacharoff writes: “There are no easy solutions. The problem is that Netanyahu’s narrative... [that] there is no one to talk with is far from representing reality. It puts Israel is a dangerous position in which escalation in the West Bank is only a question of time.”
Issacharoff’s narrative with regard to the current violence we are experiencing is that right-wing politicians such as Uri Ariel are using the Temple Mount for political purposes.
In an October 8 op-ed in Walla, titled “The Temple Mount in the hands of the pyromaniacs,” he wrote: “It may be that the Israeli public and the media have tried to forget the sequence of events, but the latest terror wave started after the ascent to the mount of Minister Uri Ariel and a few dozen Jews, on the eve of Rosh Hashana. This was not the central reason for the outburst but certainly the spark that lit the flames.” In Issacharoff’s eyes, the Jews take the blame: they should know better than to ascend the Temple Mount. But worse is the fact that Ariel’s ascent came after several days of Wakf-supervised anti-Jewish violence.
Issacharoff’s and Amos Harel have authored two books together. Harel is employed by Haaretz where since 2014 he has been the paper’s military and defense analyst. Harel is a professional journalist who received Tel Aviv’s Sokoloff’s Prize for print journalism in 2015.
A third actor is Jacky Hugi, the Arab affairs correspondent of the army radio station, Galatz. On October 12, in a revealing article in Globes, Hugi commiserates with Abbas: “The Palestinian public sees and gnashes its teeth: the Rais [president] who did not establish a state, did not bring security or economic welfare, is today collaborating with the Israelis to suppress the outburst of protests.” He continued, “The problem is that if the Rais loses his relevance in the eyes of the public, Israel will also lose an important card in its campaign.”
That the Rais is a liar is well established, but his unabashed public statements regarding the supposed killing of the 13-year-old boy who stabbed an Israeli boy of the same age went so far as to have another famous Israeli journalist, Ilana Dayan, worried. So much so that on her weekly Thursday program on Galatz last week, she invited the above three journalists to discuss the situation with her.
Her questions were really interesting: “Avi, can you try and explain to me this ability to ignore reality? Surely Abu Mazen [Abbas] knows the facts!” The same question in a slightly different version was posed to Hugi: “Are we at all able to understand how such a speech is born and what causes the man who knows that the boy is alive to claim that he was executed?” Her question to Harel was: “Israel’s security apparatus almost stood on its hind feet at the beginning of this week to tell the politicians that Abu Mazen is not inciting. How does this jibe with yesterday’s speech?” The three responded by excusing Abbas.
Issacahroff: “He knows the facts, but just was a wee bit lost.” Hugi: “He understands that he lost contact with the people so in order not to become completely irrelevant he starts talking like this.” Harel: “The most meaningful picture which is being distributed is that of the murdering boy from [Pisgat Ze’ev] and next to him Muhammad al-Dura. When this becomes a symbol, then Abu Mazen again rides on the wave...for otherwise he would fall.”
The message was clear: the powers that be in our media had to find ways to excuse Abbas and explain away his incitement, for if they could not they would have to admit to themselves, and to the public, that their admonishments during the past 10 years that Abbas is the man with whom we have to and can make peace are simply wrong.
Dayan apparently did not even consider inviting to the show someone like Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University, who is no less an expert on Arab affairs than the three journalists, to perhaps offer a different opinion. Pluralism, bringing the full spectrum of opinion before the public, seems not to be part of her journalistic ethics.
Keren Neubach that same morning on her program on the IBA’s Kol Israel paralleled Dayan. Her experts were Gal Berger, the IBA’s correspondent for Palestinian affairs, and Chico Menashe, the political affairs correspondent.
Berger: “Abu Mazen has two sides, on the one hand he is against the employment of firearms within the Green Line... on the other he adopts these deceitful narratives and sometimes even creates them.”
Menashe’s line was similar. While neither denied the facts, Mehashe said: “The optimists among us will say that his lies...were aimed to create rhetoric which would counter any claim that... when his people are being slaughtered by the Israelis he is willing to talk to them.”
None of them even raised the question of whether it is not high time Israel reached the inexorable conclusion that Abbas is not a partner for peace, that he hates Israel violently, that he would not dream of making true peace with us and that all lessons of the past, in which he refused to sign treaties, are proof of his true intentions.
Indeed, the line presented through the prism of Dayan and Neubach is the dominant one among our media elites, ever since Oslo. It is a mantra which cannot be changed even though the lie is as deep as those promulgated by Abbas. The media build-up to the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin has begun. We probably will hear the story of Netanyahu and the coffin and other such allegations. No one, however, among the senior journalists will be recalling Abbas’ doctorate thesis, which was a Holocaust denial “research” paper.
This week our government shamefully backtracked on the Akunis-Eichler amendment that demanded pluralism from the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation. In the same week, our couple – Neubach and Dayan – were named this year’s recipients of the Sokoloff prize. Abbas is a lucky fellow, having so many friends in Israel’s media.
The authors are vice chairman and chairman respectively of Israel’s Media Watch (