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Media Week – Imbalanced on balance; Misplaced Irony

Aug 1, 2013 | Allon Lee

Media Week - Imbalanced on balance; Misplaced Irony
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Imbalanced on balance

Ahead of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, on balance the media ignored or downplayed the Palestinian leadership’s rejection or disinterest in their resumption, opting to portray Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu as the true obstacles.
 
Most reports noted that negotiations ended in 2010, but all hinged their collapse on the issue of a settlements building freeze that Israel refused to extend. None noted that Netanyahu adopted a unilateral 10-month building freeze as a goodwill gesture, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas finally agreeing to talk only in the ninth month, and then strictly about extending the moratorium.
 
Fairfax Middle East correspondent Ruth Pollard’s (July 21) choice of who was responsible for the failure of the last round of talks in September 2010 was most pointed, nominating “Israel’s refusal to continue its temporary freeze on new settlement construction.” Of course, if peace talks were dependent on “new” settlements not being built, then they would never have collapsed because Israel has built no new West Bank settlements since the 1990s!
 
SBS‘ website (July 24) ran an appalling backgrounder on the peace talks from Foreign Policy journal which claimed that both parties have been reluctant to parlay “without a general framework and some early concessions.” This is incorrect. Only the Palestinians have insisted on preconditions.
 
The piece also indicated how “Palestinian officials regularly call for…halt[ing] the construction of settlements in…places that Palestinian negotiators hope to claim for a Palestinian state” and are “a tacit effort to informally annex the West Bank.”

The piece strongly implied, falsely, that Israel is continuing to build new West Bank settlements and failed to note that most growth in existing settlements occurs in areas it is widely agreed will end up under Israeli control.
 
A report by Matt Brown on ABC Radio‘s “AM” (July 22) was a particularly notable example of ignoring the Palestinian opposition to negotiations.
 
Presenter Tony Eastley introduced the story by claiming that “ahead of planned new talks between Israelis and Palestinians, deep divisions have emerged within each camp.” Fair enough.
 
But, bizarrely, the only divisions Brown highlighted were on the Israeli side!

Misplaced irony

An article by Joseph Wakim (ABC “Unleashed”, July 18/Herald Sun, July 19) argued that Australia should emulate Lebanon’s response to one million Syrians seeking refuge there from their country’s civil war.
 
 “…four million Lebanese…have accommodated over one million Syrian refugees… Ironically, even the 500,000 Palestinians in south Lebanon refugee camps have opened their tents to the Syrian families. To reject fellow humans at their doorstep was deemed unthinkable and heartless.”
 
Was Wakim suggesting that maybe that Palestinian refugees and their descendants who have been in Lebanon since 1948 and have been denied the right to citizenship, education, work and access to the local medical system, are showing the sort of compassion that their Lebanese compatriots clearly have not bestowed on them?
 
Nah, of course not. Wakim never mentions how the Arab states have contributed to the Palestinian refugee plight.

– Allon Lee

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