Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hamas Isn't the IRA

PRESS RELEASE: UK media snub Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad’s achievements in the West Bank, while US press reports progress

by Carmel Gould

The UK broadsheet newspapers have ignored the major economic and security advances in the West Bank under Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, surely one of the most newsworthy topics to emerge from the contemporary Middle East. A report published today by Just Journalism contrasts this blinkered approach by British journalists with the keen interest shown by major US publications in the considerable progress made over the last two and a half years.

The report, entitled, “Salam Fayyad and the drive towards Palestinian statehood” is a comprehensive review of relevant coverage over nine months in the five UK broadsheets - The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, The Financial Times and The Daily Telegraph - as well as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time Magazine and Newsweek.

The study shows that dramatic improvements for Palestinians in the West Bank - a result of Salam Fayyad’s unique leadership, co-operation from Israel and support from the US - have been ignored or severely underplayed in the British press, which generally presented a focus on grassroots improvements simply as a ruse by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stunt political progress.

Writing in the report’s foreword, Hussein Ibish, a Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, said:

“The Just Journalism report is a welcome contribution to research into media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hopefully it will alert the British press to what certainly appears to be a blind spot in its range of vision on the conflict. What is happening on the ground in the West Bank, initiated by and for Palestinians themselves and designed to both complement negotiations and bring the day of independence forward, deserves more attention than it’s received anywhere in the world thus far. It certainly deserves more attention than it appears to have received in the UK.”

Just Journalism’s Executive Director Michael Weiss commented: “Salam Fayyad is one of the most extraordinary figures to emerge from the Arab-Israeli conflict in decades: a Western-educated technocrat who, not without controversy, has supplanted the idea of armed ‘resistance’ with the language of interest rates and law and order. Almost as extraordinary as his achievements as prime minister is the British press’s utter dismissal of them as unworthy of discussion or debate.”

Key findings of the report:

• The US media attribute real importance to Salam Fayyad and his active approach to state-building, whereas the UK media find him to be irrelevant in the grand scheme of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

• Whilst a measure of diversity exists within both the UK and the US, in general, the US media are more supportive of Fayyad and his politics than the UK media

• The UK media identify an emphasis on restarting the Palestinian economy with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom they broadly dislike, whereas the US media identify it with Fayyad’s own focus on this subject

• The UK media present the focus on economic improvement in the West Bank as a ruse by Netanyahu to distract focus from reaching a full political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, indicating a strong inclination to emphasise points of conflict over potential co-operation

• UK media coverage of Fayyad is more likely to give ultimate emphasis to the problem of settlements whereas US media coverage does not conflate the subject of economic success in the West Bank with the problem of settlements

Carmel Gould

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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