I get the newspapers I am reading from two lists, found here and here. I am hobbled somewhat in my weeklong endeavor by not knowing Arabic or Hebrew, but there seem to be a variety of news sources in English. Some of them are niche media, and others have wide appeal, and most are important because of the people they represent and influence. Unfortunately, as we shall see, they are not all equally worthy of our time.
The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy
I like global dialogue and democracy. Let’s take a look.
This organisation’s vision is an independent, democratic Palestinian state. The leader has a picture and headline about George Mitchell shaking hands with Mahmoud Abbas. This is Week in Review. For some reason this paper is also called Miftah (and is at miftah.org), which is shorter than the Palestinian Initiative… so I will call it Miftah. According to Miftah, “[t]his week was all about diplomacy”. US envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Miftah says “Mitchell basically carried the message of his big boss, US President Barack Obama, urging the Israeli government to freeze settlement activity while pushing for its acceptance of the two-state solution.” Notice the words used. “Basically” sounds to me like “only”, implying that the big boss is calling the shots and the Israeli government has heard it before.
This article talks about potentially reassuring moves from the United States, and after each point begins a paragraph with “Still…” to say why things might not be wonderful yet. And for a recap, this article has some small stories. “Occupation authorities” (that’s the Israeli government) forced a man named Mohammed Gosheh to demolish his own home. When newspapers want to bring out your emotions, they make things personal, giving you a victim, a specific person you can feel sorry for.
A special report on “the Myth of Incitement in Palestinian Textbooks” is a prominent link. The Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, an organisation not described in this article, only named, “persisently” publishes articles on how textbooks produced and read by Palestinians incite hatred against Jews. As I said, this piece does not describe the Center, except to say that “the Center’s first director, Itamar Marcus, is a right wing Israeli supporter and resident of the West Bank settlement of Efrat.”
“The Center’s work reveals a deeply flawed methodology aimed at misleading the reader.” Unfortunately, we do not know anything about that methodology because, again, this paper does not describe it. I personally have trouble believing that the textbooks do not make people angry, as I find history books to be a hugely powerful propaganda tool. (Read this post for related discussion.) However, if I were a Palestinian, I would probably be pretty angry at the Israelis for everything. History books, newspapers, word of mouth: all carry stories about very bad things the Israelis have done to the Palestinians. And when an identity such as “Israeli” or “Palestinian” is thrust upon us, we usually want to defend its collective manifestation to the death.
This article was not particularly well written, as you only need to see what it leaves out to find its bias. More useful, therefore, are the 23 links it provides to back up its premise. Many of them are to Miftah and even Geocities, but some are to the European Union. One final note on this long list of links that supposedly proves this journalist’s point: the links to Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post are dead. Did the newspapers themselves take the stories out? Or are there not really any stories in those papers about the myth of incitement in Palestinian textbooks? Or am I reading something into nothing?
The heading that caught my eye fastest was actually the second from the top, but I resisted reading it until the apparently more important meetings of George Mitchell and the bulldozing of Mohammed Gosheh’s house. The heading reads “Doughnuts for Residency”. “Anyone who knows Arab culture,” the item reads, “will know that a sweet treat is usually offered by the bearer of good news.” (That could be useful to know.) The writer just bought doughnuts because she finally got her residency permit, which make her a legal resident of Jerusalem. She has lived there for 11 years already. The reason she and her husband have had to wait so long for a permit to live together, she writes, as if I could not guess, are the “complicated and extremely discriminatory” laws designed to screw with Arabs. The writer of this article has some very angry things to say about Israeli law, though she hides her anger under smooth-flowing, personal-feeling prose.
Miftah is not only news. As far as I can tell, it is more of a think tank, with leadership and policy programmes, and links to other organisations, such as Al-Quds 2009, where I found these evocative paintings by a Palestinian artist.
I get an idea of this paper’s orientation from its main headline: “Israelis tell ‘Bibi: Reject Obama’s demands”. Right underneath this was a link for donations reading “Help keep JNW on the front lines of the media war”. I did not know the media were at war as well.
The main article says that “a strong majority” (clarified later in the article as “nearly six out of ten”) of Israelis told Binyamin Netanyahu that they do not want anyone building a Palestinian state in Israel on land that, really, is just for Jews. The journalist discusses Netanyahu’s speech this coming Sunday, where he is expected to address “President Barack Obama’s belligerent foray into Middle East politics, the Israeli-‘Palestinian’ conflict and the Iranian nuclear threat to Israel – an issue Washington has relegated to a position of secondary importance.” So Barack’s reaching out to Muslims is belligerence, the ‘Palestinians’ have no legitimate argument and Iran’s nukes are no longer interesting to the US. The final paragraph is on the two-state “‘solution’ [which] calls for the peace-loving Israelis to give their land to the Jew-hating Palestinian Arabs who remain committed to destroying what would be left of Israel.” This writer’s bias is palpable and his inability to see clearly on this issue makes this whole article a joke. And when I realise that this whole website is written by the same author, I find it is he who is the joke. Let us try again.
Arutz Sheva (Channel Seven)
At IsraelNationalNews.com, Arutz Sheva is Israel’s #1 news site, eh? Does that mean #1 for feelings of superiority and hatred too? There is only one way to find out.
The leader is about Jimmy Carter. Because three days ago Jimmy Carter declared “Mideast peace is impossible without Hamas”, and yesterday won an award from the Palestinian Authority, residents of a Jewish town he is planning to visit called Gush Etzion “express their disapproval of the meeting.” The article quotes a grassroots committee who issued a statement reading “Carter has always, and will always, speak up and defend those who wish to destroy the State of Israel. He pushes an anti-Israel agenda, while presenting himself as a good-willed broker who seeks peace and is ready to listen to ‘both sides.’ This makes him all the more dangerous.” This article is designed to pick Carter apart so thoroughly as to be able to counterpunch his every argument and deed. And it claims only to be quoting from a letter by an unofficial group in a Jewish town of 44,000. Perhaps this newspaper believes the group speaks for all Jews.
According to this article in another newspaper, Arutz Sheva is a religious Zionist radio station and is viewed as the voice of the Israeli settler movement. Also known as Arutz-7, it has been shut down by the authorities for being pirate radio (transmitted from a boat and over the internet). Gush Etzion, as you may have guessed, is in the West Bank, not far from Bethlehem. Along with the two-state solution, the question of Jewish settlers in the West Bank seems the most controversial, and both are being pushed hard by the Americans. Therefore, if we want to understand the issues, we should listen to the settlers. Whether you agree with it or not, Arutz Sheva is an important read.
Israel’s foreign ministry says that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s electoral win in Iran means the world must act now. Actually, it does not say what action we, the world, must take. All Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is quoted as saying is that “the international community must continue to act in an uncompromising manner to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear [weapons] and to cease its support for terror organizations and destabilization of the Middle East.” No specifics on what we should do or what Iran does.
An article near the top is about a rocket fired by “Gaza Arab terrorists” that did not hit anyone or do any damage. The Palestinian Authority blames Israel (though I do not know how you could blame a country for something) for wild boars in Samaria that are destroying Palestinians’ crops. Israel (again I wonder who) is apparently doing its best to cull the hungry swine. And while I was thinking the Jerusalem Newswire was just a radical rag, I found an article just like the one I turned my nose up at earlier. 56% of 503 survey respondents said that Netanyahu does not need to agree to freeze construction of settlements in the West Bank. The good thing about this article is that it can teach you about each major Israeli political party, because the writer breaks down how the supporters of each answered the survey. 81% of those who vote Likud said Israel can continue building settlements, whereas 68% of those who vote Kadima believe Israel has no choice but to give in to American demands to halt construction. It is clear that Likud voters (and the party that answers to them) are tough and steadfast, and Kadima voters are a bunch of pussies.