Media's Contempt for Palestinians Is Palpable
Date: December, 2001
The pervasive unfairness of the media in covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is mind-numbing in its mendacity.
The Palestinians have lived under Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank for over 34 years. Their daily lives are little more than successive confrontations with the Israeli military machine.
The Palestinians' homes are razed, their water resources stolen, their land confiscated.
They face assassination, torture, imprisonment, and exile.
Yet, in the media's portrayal, all Palestinian resistance to the occupation is "terrorism," explicable only as unextinguishable hatred of Jews.
Meanwhile, the root cause of the ongoing war--Israel's creation of 700,000 Palestinian refugees over 50 years ago, and its military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza since 1967--is simply avoided.
Nowhere to be found is consideration of how any other people, subjected to half a century of dispossession and national dismemberment, would act.
In depicting Kuwaiti resistance to Iraqi occupation, or the French Resistance in World War II, the media gave no such deference to the occupiers.
Israel could end the conflict at any time by complying with international law and binding U.N. resolutions. Instead, it sends American-built F-16s to attack defenseless Palestinian positions.
With the media unwilling to go beyond its simplistic cowboys-and-Indians depiction of Middle East events, many Americans have a meager understanding of the origins of this seemingly intractable conflict.
In 1900, Palestine (the area now known as Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza) was part of the Ottoman Empire, based in Turkey. Jews (10 percent of the population) and Arabs lived together in peace.
At the end of the nineteenth century, a movement known as Zionism arose among European Jews, victims of oppression ranging from discrimination to pogroms.
The First Zionist Congress met in 1897 and established the goal of creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Their claim was based on a presence that largely ended with the forced exile of the Jewish people in the year 135.
(The Palestinians' claim is that neither Jewish immigrants nor the international community has the right to evict from Palestine the people who have actually been living there.)
In World War I, the Ottoman Empire allied itself with Germany. They were defeated, and after the war the Empire was carved up and the newly-formed League of Nations gave Britain a mandate to administer Palestine.
The Zionists lobbied successfully for language in the mandate calling for a "Jewish national home" in Palestine. Importantly, the mandate also required Britain to ensure that "the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced."
Thence forward there was a steady--and often illegal, according to the British--immigration of Jews into Palestine. Even by 1947, when Britain surrendered the question of Palestine to the United Nations, Jews constituted only 35 percent of Palestine's population.
On November 29, the U.N. General Assembly--under intense U.S. pressure, and with raw memories of Hitler's crematoria--voted to partition Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem independent and under U.N. control. The Jewish state (on territory populated by 500,000 Jews and 400,000 Arabs) received 55 percent of the land.
Armed conflict between Jewish and local Palestinian militias broke out almost immediately. When Israel declared its independence on May 15, 1948, Arab nations intervened, not to annihilate Israel but to protect Palestinian civilians (already victims of the Deir Yassin massacre) and prevent Israeli forces--which had already gobbled up swaths of land allotted to the Arab state--from conquering all of Palestine.
Israel secured its overwhelming Jewish majority--what Chaim Weizmann, Israel's first president, called "a miraculous simplification of the problem"--by expelling most of its Palestinian population, either directly or by refusing to allow war refugees to return.
Today, of course, we would call this ethnic cleansing.
Despite this usurpation of the Palestinians' homeland by immigrants fleeing European horrors, in 1993 at Oslo the Palestinian Authority recognized Israel's right to exist within the boundaries in effect prior to the 1967 war.
Yet the parties remain at war because even this offer is insufficient for the Israelis.
And the media blames the Palestinians, while the truth perishes, and justice withers.