Regarding recent events in Gaza, Ben White, a freelance British journalist specializing in Palestine/Israel, writing in The Electronic Intifada on 19 June 2007 in an article entitled, Decoding the media’s Palestinian “civil war”, penned the following insight:
Major news stories from Palestine/Israel are often accompanied by what becomes a self-reinforcing “vocabulary,” typically generated by Israeli government ministries or other propaganda outlets, and then picked up by the Western media. A classic example was the redeployment of Israeli settlers and military from the Gaza Strip in 2005, which was successfully packaged as a “disengagement” that pitted “Israeli against Israeli,” in a “painful compromise.” This kind of marketing exercise often works even when there are widely available contradictory reports, such as how “disengagement” was openly trumpeted by Sharon and his advisors as a strategy for destroying the peace process.
How did it destroy the peace process or Oslo? By opening up the West Bank for Israel’s taking. This strategy would give Sharon and the right wing Zionists their dream: a Greater Israel from the Jordan River to the sea. This dream, after all, is what Israel has been all about at least since 1977 when Menachem Begin unleashed the settlers upon the God-given land in Judea and Samaria.
Certainly, the history shows that Israel, on whatever pretext it acted, has always succeeded in destroying peace initiatives, simply because, from Labor to Likud, Israel’s intention has always been to complete the Greater Israel dream of an Israel that includes Judea and Samaria (West Bank), and of course, the Jordan River border.
Israel therefore maintains its military occupation while land confiscations continue until this project is completed. Israel’s problem has been how to divert attention from this project and foist blame for failure of the peace process on the Palestinians. Events in Gaza this week were not different.
According to Ben White, “(the) solution was, as usual, lazy journalism and an almost total blackout on Israeli/US collusion in the dark events unfolding. Here then, is a guide to decoding the Palestinian “civil war,” presented as a series of oft-repeated, yet entirely misleading, clichés.”
Ben White lists them as follows:
The Palestinian Authority actually has any authority
The Palestinian Authority (PA) is regularly presented in the mainstream media as having the authority, independence, and jurisdiction of a state, equivalent to Israel. Yet despite the misleading name, the PA’s writ does not extend beyond the civic affairs of several dozen isolated cantons in the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Its law and order officials cannot travel from one canton to the other without the permission of the Israeli occupation forces. Look a bit deeper, and in fact, one discovers that the PA was designed specifically to thwart genuine Palestinian “authority,” to keep Palestinian sovereignty solely rhetorical, while Israel continues its colonization. The Angry Arab website quoted Palestinian writer Rashad Abu Shawir as saying of Hamas and Fatah that they are “fighting over an illusory authority.” Read between the lines even in the mainstream media, and this picture emerges. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert greeted Abbas’ formation of a new cabinet by saying that “a Palestinian government which is not a Hamas government is a partner and we will co-operate with it.” It is Israel that decides who represents the Palestinian people, and even what authority these representatives will enjoy.
The Hamas victory in Gaza risks creating a “two state Palestine”
Quickly after Hamas had completed their victory in Gaza, talk became of a “two state Palestine.” This rhetorical device, apart from simplifying a more complicated political reality, also conceals the fact that Israel has already severed the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, not to mention East Jerusalem. It even eludes the still bigger picture, that the Gaza Strip is not even two percent of historic Palestine, and that the Palestinian people have been fragmented into the refugees (themselves split geographically, socially, etc.), those living in Israel, and those under occupation in the post-’67 territories. The West Bank itself has been fragmented by incessant Israeli colonization into a thousand territorial shards. Never mind the alleged Hamas/Fatah “two states” — Israel has been busy implementing its plan for a 100 “state” solution.
The conflict is a fight between the secular moderates of Fatah, and the extremist Islamists of Hamas
This is sometimes trimmed even further to simply become, in the words of BBC correspondent Paul Reynolds, “the wider struggle between moderation and extremism in the Arab and Muslim world.” Suddenly, the fact that groups within Fatah have been prominent in the resistance of the intifada (the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades for example), is forgotten. Moreover, what is also ignored is the fact that Hamas have openly stated that their fight is not against Fatah per se, but against element within Fatah, notably Dahlan and his associates, who continue to work with the US and Israel. Numerous examples have born this out, including: an amnesty for Fatah commanders in the Gaza Strip, calls for dialogue by the Hamas leadership, apparent pre-operation coordination between Hamas and sympathetic Fatah officials, and the fact that several high-profile Fatah officials have remained untouched in Gaza. The struggle, then, is between a Palestinian leadership eager for approval from Israel and the US, and those who prioritize resistance.
Hamas’ actions in Gaza was a coup
Q. When an elected government is boycotted, its ministers kidnapped, and its defeated rival armed by hostile powers, what do you call it when this same government defends itself? A. A coup.
What sounds like a bad joke is in fact exactly how some — from newspaper editorials to the UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett — have chosen to describe what happened in Gaza. By contrast, this report from Reuters clarifies matters somewhat:
The US government began to lay the ground for President Mahmoud Abbas to dismiss the Hamas-led Palestinian government at least a year before the Islamist group’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip last week.
Western, Israeli and Palestinian official sources said over the weekend that, far from being an ad hoc response to Hamas’s offensive, Abbas’s declaration of a state of emergency and his replacement of a Hamas prime minister with Western favorite Salam Fayyad marked the culmination of months of backroom deliberations, planning and US prodding
Many Western officials and analysts see the offensive as a pre-emptive strike by Hamas before Washington could build up Fatah. Hamas says it made its move against a US-backed coup.
Virginia Tilley, on The Electronic Intifada, described how Abbas’ response to the Hamas show of strength was a series of entirely illegal and dubious moves, all of which were greeted with praise and congratulations by Israel, the EU and the US. It seems that in Palestine, as elsewhere in the Middle East, it is not democracy that is required, but subservience.
The new Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is an “independent”
When Abbas appointed Fayyad as the new Prime Minister, you rarely saw the man’s name reported without an accompanying reference to his apparent lack of affiliation or bias. Strange then, that a neutral should be so popular with Washington.
Here, “independent” means that Fayyad has previously worked for the World Bank and IMF, enjoys a good relationship with Condoleezza Rice, is the favourite of EU and American diplomats — and whose electoral list won a mere 2.4 percent in the same parliamentary vote that Hamas won.
Who in the US or UK read or heard anything close to truth in the media? If one picked up a newspaper, turned on the nightly news, or logged onto a mainstream news site, any or all five of these cliches were likely found. A simple interpretation is that there is a reluctance by the mainstream media to acknowledge US and Israeli disregard for Palestinian self-determination, while it misrepresents the Palestinian government as consisting of democratic institutions, which actually rule over Palestine, and hides the reality that Palestine operates under a military government that has been actively involved in colonizing Palestinian land.
Once again, events from Palestine are being distorted and misrepresented by a compliant media, according to Ben White.
Ahmed Yousef, a senior political adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, was unapologetic in an op-ed in yesterday’s Washington Post to speak the truth, that the US-Israel strategy actually failed:
The Palestinian National Authority apparently joins the list of elected governments targeted or toppled over the past century by interventionism: nations that had the courage to take American rhetoric at face value and elect whomever they would. No doubt some in Washington persist in the fiction that the United States is following a “road map” to democracy for Palestinians, just as others believe the Iraq war has been a sincere exercise in nation-building. Neoconservative strategists have miscalculated, however, and Hamas is stronger than ever.
For the first time in months, Gaza is secure. This may be a momentary peace as Israel prepares an attempt to retake parts of Gaza. Yet neither blunt force nor U.S. subterfuge will extinguish Palestinian aspirations for self-governance, free from outside interference.
To repeat, neither blunt force nor U.S. subterfuge will extinguish Palestinian aspirations for self-governance, free from outside interference. Nor will media distortion or fabrications of the reality in the mainstream media change that fact.
Will Abbas’ new government form the basis of a real peace movement? Don’t count on it. When Olmert proposed his own “convergence plan” it was leaked that he believed it would only be necessary to dismantle “ten maybe twenty” of the 150 Israeli settlements (towns and cities) built on the West Bank. Later, he inadvertently blurted out the opinion that a peace settlement with the Palestinians might be had in, “maybe five years.”
The only question to be asked at this point is: how will Israel succeed in avoiding yet another peace initiative. It will be interesting to watch.