Friday, July 9, 2010

Palestinian public relations

If Reuters correspondents Douglas Hamilton and Ali Sawafta are not already being paid to handle PR for the Palestinian Arabs, PA President Mahmoud Abbas should seriously consider signing them up for the role.

In a pure public relations play laden with errors of commission, errors of omission, outright falsehoods, and the parroting of Palestinian positions and propaganda, Hamilton and Sawafta apologize for Palestinian rejectionism on peace talks -- a tactic employed by Reuters since Israel first offered direct negotiations shortly after Benjamin Netanyahu took power in 2009.  At the time, Reuters ran dozens of stories arguing that peace talks "could not proceed" (as if it were an immutable law of physics) until Israel was coerced to halt all construction in Judea and Samaria, aka the "West Bank".  The truth of course, was that the Palestinians simply refused to enter into talks.  But Reuters correspondents could not bring themselves to report that reality.

Now, following eight months during which time Israel has suspended building in all disputed areas including a de facto freeze on new residential construction for Jews in Jerusalem, the Palestinians continue to reject peace talks with Israel and Reuters continues to apologize for them:
U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu want direct talks soon on a Middle East peace treaty, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is wary of walking into a trap.
Note that the Palestinian President is not being quoted here, nor even paraphrased; Hamilton and Sawafta are actually representing and doing the talking for Abbas.  And keep in mind that this story isn't identified as an op-ed or "Analysis" (as Reuters opinion pieces are by policy, deceptively labeled); rather, the material is astonishingly presented as straight news.

Further details of Palestinian recalcitrance and further Reuters' apologies for that recalcitrance follow:
The Palestinians note they have had a "peace process" for the best part of 17 years, yet remain under Israeli occupation.
They say they have cooperated with three U.S. presidents with differing levels of commitment to the process, but with the same result. So they are wary of being pushed into a negotiation where they can be made to look like rejectionists.
No, they wouldn't want to look like rejectionists, particularly after they have rejected every offer of nationhood facilitated by those three US presidencies including the most recent package presented by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert consisting of a Palestinian state with all of Gaza, 97 percent of the West Bank, Arab neighborhoods in the eastern part of Jerusalem, and a nominal "right of return" for Palestinian refugees.  It was Abbas' rejection of this near capitulatory offer as well as unrequited Palestinian demands for further concessions from both Israel and the Quartet that led to the de facto end of negotiations in 2008 -- not the Gaza war as Reuters' correspondents now suggest.

Next, Hamilton and Sawafta blatantly misrepresent the data appearing in a report issued by B'Tselem:
A report this week by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem says more than 300,000 Israelis now live on 42 percent of the West Bank land where the Palestinians want to establish their future country in a "two-state solution" with Israel.
This is false.  The study acknowledges that Jewish communities reside upon only 1 percent of land in Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank").  There is an allegation that due to the classification of territory in the West Bank as state land, 42 percent of it is controlled by Jewish councils.  But even this claim has been rejected by the Chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities who puts the figure at 9 percent.

Hamilton and Sawafta then quote? paraphrase? parrot? fabricate? an assertion by Abbas' aide Nabil Abu Rdainah:
In talks mediated by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the Israelis acknowledged that occupied land means the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Arab East Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley, Abu Rdainah said.
Note the absence of quotation marks with the attribution only tacked on at the end, so as to give the assertion greater authority.  Hamilton frequently deploys these type of rhetorical tricks to empower Palestinian claims.  And the assertion is actually false.  Israel does not consider Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank"), any part of Jerusalem or Gaza "occupied".  And only the racists at Reuters and the Arabs themselves refer to the eastern part of Jerusalem as "Arab East Jerusalem".

Hamilton and Sawafta really should consider giving up their day jobs at Reuters and joining Nabil Abu Rdainah as official spokesmen for the Palestinian Authority.  They would be infinitely more suited to the role.

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