Biased reporting hurts peace talks



As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu negotiates with his coalition partners to accept yet another freeze on building, his counterpart, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, has rejected American efforts to move the peace process forward.

This past weekend, the Fatah Revolutionary Council concluded its fifth convention in Ramallah by declaring its refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, stating "The council affirms its rejection of the so-called Jewish state or any other formula that could achieve this goal."

The statement confirmed the Fatah council was categorically opposed to proposals for a land swap between Israel and the Palestinians, the basis for the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan and the probable basis for any future agreement with the Palestinians. The council "saluted President Abbas for standing up against pressure aimed at resuming the peace talks without achieving the demands of the Palestinians."

The vast majority of news outlets do not report on any of Fatah's hard-line declarations. While news media usually respond quickly to steps taken by Israel that are perceived as potentially detrimental to the peace process, the silent treatment of the Fatah decisions reflects a media norm in which Palestinian incitement and intransigence often is downplayed or completely ignored.

The news media were happy to report, however, on the recent release of a Palestinian Authority study falsely claiming that the Western Wall was not part of the Temple Mount and thus has no Jewish connection.

When news reporters and editors fail to give space to declarations and indications of Palestinian extremism and intransigence, they help perpetuate prejudices against Israel. In this case, it hurts the peace process by misrepresenting the imperative for compromise by the Palestinian leadership and their public, thereby dooming hopes for negotiated progress.

(The writer is executive director of the Augusta Jewish Federation and Community Center.)



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