Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guardian Watch: More Reprehensible Journalism

Just following up on the Guardian's distorted and inflammatory claims. The paper reports that Saeb Erekat recognized the principle of Israel "as a Jewish state," and that, correspondingly, Tzipi Livni pressed for the transfer of Israeli Arab citizens to Palestine, in effect, adopting the principle "backed in its wholesale form by rightwing nationalists such as the Yisrael Beiteinu party of the foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman."

I just spoke with Tal Becker, Livni's aide, and her chief negotiator in the talks in question. Erekat in no way recognized Israel as a Jewish state. What he said, clearly, was that it was not the business of the Palestinians to determine what Israel would call itself, or, presumably, the business of Israelis how Palestinians called themselves, legislated identity, and so forth. He had said (the Guardian had this but ignored its implications), "This is a non-issue. I dare the Israelis to write to the UN and change their name to the 'Great Eternal Historic State of Israel'. This is their issue, not mine." Is this the same as recognizing Israel as a Jewish state?

As to "transfer," Livni certainly did not adopt Lieberman's vision. She was addressing only those towns which the Green Line already bisected, and she was hoping to settle the disposition of their municipal governments in a humane fashion; so she suggested that these towns be reunited, and then be either wholly Palestinian or wholly Israeli. Naturally, she assumed that it would make more sense for them to be Palestinian. But when Palestinian negotiators rejected the idea, assuming the residents would, she tabled the issue. The Guardian went on in its next paragraph to note that Livni had told Palestinian leaders how "the basis for the creation of the state of Israel is that it was created for the Jewish people," as if this were her rationale for "transfer." Really.

With editing and reporting like this, you have to wonder if the real story here is not the shoddiness of agenda-driven journalism. It also makes you wonder, Becker adds, "if the Guardian committed to this kind of spin in order to secure the leaks from Al Jazeera." Does the paper really not realize that headlines and teasers travel much faster than truths and that lives may be at stake?

8 comments:

Potter said...

Some might or will lose their life over this mis-reporting because of the emotionalism so much a part of this conflict. The reports might light a match to start a fire-- or not I hope. I only hope that your words here are echoed and that sanity prevails.

What I would like to know is what would the ulterior motive be for releasing these leaks- the Guardian's? ( you say for more leaks from Al Jazeera...so crass a motive?) but more importantly- Al Jazeera's motive. I don't get it. Maybe this is truly mindless irresponsibility all the way around... with the spinning folowing.

Other than that, of course those involved in talks on both sides need to be able to suggest creative solutions and have them rejected or improved. If you take a cross section of what the ideas are at any one time, it does not give you a correct picture- not of the spirit or earnestness certainly.

In the end concessions will have to be made or imposed and there will be kicking and screaming on both sides but we don't need that now.

Y, Ben-David said...

The whole question, Potter, is how do you define a "just peace" that everyone claims they are after. For example, some of the protestors at the weekly demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, in which they are insisting that the Jews living in those places be ousted since the Arabs demand those areas be part of the Palestinian state themselves live in houses that belonged to Arabs before the 1948 war in which they fled, abandoning their property. Those Israeli protestors believe that a "just peace" means throwing out the Jews from Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah BUT ALLOWING THEM TO REMAIN IN THEIR ARAB HOMES. On the other hand, the Arab owners of those homes WANT THEIR PROPERTY BACK and do not consider an agreement that does not allow for the return of the refugees to reclaim their property as an UNJUST peace. This is apparently want the Guardian is demanding...the just peace of those Arabs, NOT the "just peace" of Dr Avishai. Who says Dr Avishai is right and the Guardian is wrong? Avishai wants peace, the Guardian says NO PEACE is preferable to what they consider an UNJUST peace. Who is to say who is right? Avishai prefers one kind of peace, the Guardian another, just as some people prefer chocolate ice cream whereas others prefer vanilla.

Y. Ben-David said...

Correction-The Arab who lost his house in west Jerusalem considers a peace without his getting the "right of return" as an UNJUST PEACE and does not accept the terms Dr Avishai is advocating

Potter said...

The relevant fact is not what was previous Arab property or Jewish property. It is the '67 line.

Of course Arabs want their property back, Jews claim their property back too- but as part of an agreement both Arabs and Jews will have to give up claims that go beyond those lines unless both sides agree to some exchange or limited number of returnees. The 67 line is where to begin.

Bella said...

It is quite obvious to me that 1)the Guardian (especially) and Al Jazeera are looking for buzz. 2)They are also taking it upon themselves to guard and promote the Palestinians' most extreme positions because of their raw hatred for Israel. Simple really.

Potter said...

Ben David- How do you account for all these apparent Palestinian concessions being rejected by Israel? Does this not give lie to you who said that Olmert made such a generous offer and the Palestinians rejected it? Does this not show who wants and who does not want to end the conflict?

Still I believe that we don't have a whole picture- just fragments. And in the end it's the people on both sides who will have to accept what their leaders decide on if they ever do.

But I am afraid that there will be no agreement before more disruption and bloodshed... it seems to be in the air.

Diane said...

Erekat has been saying for years that the Palestinians will recognize the state of Israel, and call it whatever name it chooses for itself, even if that name is "The Jewish state of Israel". Just as nations recognize the state of Iran and call it "the Islamic Republic of...", not because they recognize Iran as a state that embodies religious values, but simply because any country has the prerogative of choosing how it is addressed. I don't see him saying anything different to this in the Palestine Papers, despite how the Guardian wants to present it.

Al Jazeera did the same sort of sensational misrepresentation in its treatment of the "unprecedented Palestinian compromises" on Jerusalem and the holy sites. There is no way it didn't know it was misrepresenting the facts, and it must have known this had the potential to cost lives.

I know the Qataris and the PA have a very bad relationship over the fact that Qatar is one of the most uncompromising "pro-resistance" regimes in vocal terms, but in practice is one of the most accommodating to the US military presence in the Gulf and to normalizing relations with Israel. That hostility came to a head when Erekat had a meltdown on al Jazeera over this during Operation Cast Lead, when he basically accused the Emir of Qatar of calling for the blood of the martyrs to liberate Jerusalem, safe in the knowledge that it would never be his blood that was spilled, only the children of Gaza. I don't know if that is the backdrop to any of this, but the spin al-J is putting on these papers does look like it was designed to take him down.

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