In her Sept. 3 National Post column, “An insider’s tell-all on the media war against Israel,” Barbara Kay provided a handy summary of former Jerusalem-based AP editor Matti Friedman’s detailed critique, published late last month in the online Tablet magazine.
Kay is among the first in the mainstream press to pay attention to Friedman’s analysis of how and why most foreign correspondents covering Israel, the West Bank and Gaza give a very narrow, one-sided account of developments, sticking to the long-established storyline of Israel as victimizer and Palestinians as helpless victims.
It is true that the media have been forced by events, since 2010, to cover the “Arab Spring,” and then (less so) its collapse into violent chaos including the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. However, journalists are at great risk of kidnappings and even beheadings in these areas, which discourages their reporting from places like Libya, Syria, or Iraq.
In Israel, however, they are safe and protected which, as mentioned in last month’s CJN column, accounts for their extraordinarily high numbers there.
Kay cites Friedman on the disproportionate – and especially disproportionately negative – attention Israel receives and on the fact that, while has was an editor, AP (the world’s largest news agency) had “40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories, more than in China, Russia, India, ‘Arab Spring’ countries and all 50 sub-Saharan countries combined.”
One might therefore assume that, with so many reporters available to cover developments in the West Bank, we’d get a broader picture of what’s happening there than, say, stories just dealing with Israeli settlements.
This assumption would be wrong. The media – not just AP – do a woefully inadequate job covering internal Palestinian affairs.
One example: While we’re informed that PA president Mahmoud Abbas is planning diplomatic moves against Israel at the UN in the coming months, how many in the West have read about Abbas’ attack on Hamas for refusing Egypt’s ceasefire (which Israel accepted) early in the fighting, thereby causing Palestinian suffering for weeks – only to end up with the same Egypt-brokered deal?
Meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Doha at the end of August, according to Arab media sources, Abbas blasted Meshaal for impairing the Fatah-Hamas unity agreement by starting a war against Israel and for plotting (according to information provided to Abbas by Israel’s Shin Bet security service) a coup against him and Fatah in the West Bank.
Writing in The Times of Israel (Sept. 1) Avi Issacharoff wrote: “Even at the height of the Israel-Hamas conflict, Hamas security forces continued to crack down on Fatah activists in Gaza. There were arrests, knee cappings of Fatah members, and even executions of ‘suspected collaborators’ — at least some of whom were Fatah people who had been languishing in Hamas prisons for the past six years.”
In turn, the PA have been arresting Hamas operatives in the West Bank. Issacharoff comments: “In other words, it’s business as usual between Fatah and Hamas: The Gaza conflict against Israel may have ended, but the conflict between the two Palestinian organizations rolls on.”
Drawing on a report of the Doha meeting in the Arabic paper Al Akhbar, Ha’aretz reporter Jack Khoury (Sept. 1) detailed the planned coup against Abbas. Discovered by Shin Bet in early August, it resulted in the arrest of a Hamas cell reporting to an operative in Jordan who, in turn, reported to a higher-ranking Hamas operative in Turkey.
Evidence provided by Shin Bet was so overwhelming that Abbas did not doubt its validity: when confronted by Meshaal for relying on information from Israel instead of “trusting” Hamas, Abbas replied: “I believe Israel’s reports.”
This is the sort of story that should get attention in the West but rarely does. It underscores just how little the international community understands internal Palestinian dynamics or the nature of Hamas, an outgrowth of the Muslim brotherhood, whose ultimate goals are no different from those of the Al-Nusra Front or ISIS.