One week of Israeli-Palestinian conflict bias-balancing: Conclusions

Day 7: Conclusions

I have spent the past week reading and analysing newspapers from Israel and Palestine to try to make sense of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By balancing the biases from news media, we can get a good picture of what is going on, what the people think and why things are the way they are.

One unspoken job of the newspapers is to give its readers reasons why they are right. If you believe Palestinians should not have their own state, you read the papers that not only agree with you but give you well-reasoned arguments as to why yours is the only logical position to take on the issue. Thus, when you read other newspapers that say Palestinians deserve sovereignty, you can denounce them dextrously. The newspapers I read, particularly Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post, the Palestine Chronicle, the Alternative Information Centre and Arutz Sheva were very good at telling their readers how to think and why.

All newspapers are biased, though some more obviously than others. It is hard to tell which are the right-wing papers and which are left-wing, as the basic positions are the same. The divisions would be more accurately described as into doves and hawks. I didn’t find as many doves as I expected. I know there are peace activists among Israelis and Palestinians but there is just so much anger that they are clearly fighting an uphill battle. Others, meanwhile, claim to want peace, but since there could never be peace while the other exists, they must be held down or eliminated.

My take on the two-state solution

The biggest issue at play in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is, in my opinion, independence for Palestinians. There are other issues too but they would all be solved if this one was. For example, the right of return of Palestinian refugees. If there was a Palestinian state, it would be able to accommodate them. So the two-state solution is the solution. But it is still a long way off.

Netanyahu’s ideas on a Palestinian state are that, since it is a dangerous tiger, it should have its teeth, claws and one eye removed. Having nominally endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state, he can say he is on the side of the US. However, he has shown his hawkish side is the one he will follow. A Palestinian state must agree to recognise Israel as a Jewish state; a demilitarised Palestinian state; no control over Jerusalem; and Jewish West Bank settlements will keep growing. He made this proposal because he knew Palestinians would reject and get angry at it, making his government look like the peacemakers whose olive branch was rejected by the unreasonable Arabs. He started his speech by saying “Peace has always been our people’s most ardent desire.” What he meant was, Peace for Jews is our desire. If others need to be repressed or killed to secure it, fine.

That said, there is no reason to believe the two-state ideal is dead, as some Palestinian journalists have claimed. Netanyahu will not be in power forever. The Barack administration will keep up the pressure. Jimmy Carter’s point of view is valuable as well. But a viable Palestinian state does, nonetheless, seem a distant prospect.

The Israeli press spends too much time writing about why everything Israel does is right, and why everyone who disagrees with anything it does is wrong. If the newspapers reflect and reinforce public opinion, Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter are hated in some circles of Israeli society. These are the peacemakers. How can Israelis claim they want peace if they shoot the peacemakers? And how can they find solutions if everything is the fault of Arab terrorists?

Israelis in general also need to get over the idea that theirs is the only legitimate claim to the land of Israel. Was there nobody there before the Aliyah? Why do Jews but not Arabs deserve a nation state? There is no reason that Jews, Muslims and Christians, Jains, Daoists, dogs and monkeys cannot all live in harmony in Israel. All it requires is accepting that our group is no better than theirs.

How should Palestinian leaders proceed? Being far less powerful than the Israeli state, Palestinian leaders might be better to commit to non-violent resistance and creative solutions. I know, I know, in the face of aggression, one wants to be aggressive. I can understand the Intifada and the radical groups and the anger and bitterness of the Palestinians. But violence by Palestinians has two major consequences. First, it means retaliation, and if the blockade of and war in Gaza were any guide, violence is just not worth it. The Israeli Defence Forces should have made that clear. Second, it means less international sympathy for the people committing violence. If the Palestinians can play the peaceful yet oppressed minority, they could garner the support needed for recognition of their plight, and the world would put enough pressure on Israel to give them their own state. Or perhaps that is already the case and the result is not statehood but the status quo. Perhaps everyone needs to work harder to achieve peace.

The media can play the role of the hawk, by presenting narrow views and arguments that never compromise, or it can play the role of the dove, by presenting a variety of viewpoints, each one reasonable, from people of all ideologies in the conflict. Too many play the hawk. More critical thinking, more balanced biases, and more recognition of the legitimate claims of the other are the only way to achieve peace.

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