by Leo Rennert
The "unity" agreement between Fatah and Hamas is of sufficiently significant importance to warrant a closer look by the Washington Post and other western media.
Brokered by the new Egyptian regime, it provides for a joint interim government of the two rival Palestinian groups, which together will administer Gaza and the West Bank territories for a year pending elections for a Palestinian legislative council and a successor to President Abbas.
Both Fatah and Hamas have launched an all-out public-relations campaign to "sell" the agreement to the international community. For its part, the Israeli government is also sparing no effort to alert the world to all the lethal dangers it sees lurking in this accord.
So, one would think that a responsible newspaper would tackle this story in a fair-minded, balanced objective way -- providing readers with a thorough account of both the Palestinian view of this reconciliation accord between long-time bitter rivals, and the Israeli view that inclusion of Hamas in a Palestinian regime bodes ill for prospects of a real Israeli-Palestinian peace.
But that's not the way Joel Greenberg, the Washington Post's Jerusalem correspondent, covers this new development in the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In a 22-paragraph article, 20 paragraphs are devoted to depicting the "unity" agreement in roseate, reassuring colors, while Israel's skeptical response gets only a measly two paragraphs -- both buried far down in Greenberg's dispatch.
The headline leaves no doubt about Greenberg's pro-Palestinian slant: "Mediators of accord between Fatah, Hamas see new hope -- Palestinians say move represents fresh chance for peace with Israel" (May 10, page A9) The headline leaves Israel and its views out in the cold.
And no wonder, since the headline is faithful to Greenberg's article. He devotes ample space to Mahmoud Abbas's efforts to reach "unity" with Hamas. He quotes Munib al-Masri, one of the "independent" Egyptian mediators, as vouching for Hamas's evolution from a terrorist organization to a more Gandhiesque partner for peace -- both Fatah and Hamas "have agreed to coordinate diplomacy and the confrontation with Israel, reining in further use of violence."
Mustafa Barghouti, an "independent" Palestinian politician, calls the agreement "a fantastic opportunity for real peace with all Palestinians," while Khaled Meshal, Hamas's supreme leader, Greenberg assures us, "took a step away from the group's charter, which envisions an Islamic state in the entire area of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip." Hamas now talks about a Palestinian state confined only to the territories bordering Israel, Greenberg reports.
While acknowledging that Hamas has a history of sending "mixed" signals, he nevertheless sticks with sources who opine that this time Hamas is content to emerge with a "Palestinian state next to Israel, not in its place."
In similar vein, Greenberg trots out Mahdi Abdul Hadia, a political analyst and Fatah-Hamas mediator, as stating flatly that Hamas had effectively "legitimized the negotiation process for a two-state solution."
Only after this avalanche of pro-Fatah, pro-Hamas commentary does Greenberg finally devote a single, brief paragraph -- Paragraph 17 -- to a short, incomplete rebuttal by Prime Minister Netanyahu, who warns that this "unity agreement" is aimed at creating a Palestinian state that would "improve the position from which Hamas wants to drive Israel to the sea." But this is immediately negated by Meshal and Egyptian mediators who argue that, under the 'unity" agreement, any armed Palestinian action would have to be cleared with Fatah, and since Abbas "has emphatically opposed such attacks, they were effectively ruled out." In other words, Meshal -- not Netanyahu -- gets the last word.
Finally, in his windup, Greenberg quotes Mark Regev, a Netanyahu spokesman, in Paragraph 21, who insists that Hamas still reserves the right to launch terrorist attacks and that the "unity agreement' is not a recipe for reconciliation and peace -- "there is no evidence that this is the case."
But again, Regev is trumped in Greenberg's piece by Masri, one of the Egyptian mediators, who categorically disagrees with Regev and proclaims the new-found Fatah-Hamas unity as "the best opportunity for peace." Masri gets the final word in the article. Hamas, Masri assures one and all, no longer is on the outs with Abbas and Fatah -- Hamas is "in the tent." There is a funny side to this wording, which might be taken as an admission that Hamas, like the proverbial camel's nose under the tent, has managed to infiltrate Fatah. But that's not Greenberg's or Masri's meaning. They insist on painting Hamas's entry into the "tent" as a benign, peaceful move.
If Greenberg had used as much ink on Netanyahu and Regev's views of the "unity" agreement and given them as much prominence as Hamas, Fatah and Egyptian mediators receive, the headline might have read a bit differently and, at a minimum, hinted that Israel viewed the accord in a different light. Also, Netanyahu and Regev could have detailed many other lethal implications of Fatah-Hamas "unity" -- that it would give Iran a forward position in the West Bank to harm Israel, that release of Hamas prisoners by Abbas under the agreement would free more terrorists to kill Israelis, that Hamas hasn't changed one comma or word in its charter, which unambiguously calls for the total destruction of Israel, that with Hamas not changing its stripes whatsoever, President Obama's diplomacy of promoting resumption of peace negotiations has gone out the window.
But Greenberg's article is bereft of any such Israeli criticisms of the "unity" accord. He tosses in brief, perfunctory rebuttals by Netanyahu and Regev -- rebuttals that are immediately squashed by Meshal and other exponents of a supposedly reformed Hamas -- so as to give himself phony deniability if readers complain that he delivered a totally one-sided article.
Greenberg's role is not that of a professional journalist. He is a salesman. And the goods he peddlers are definitely not kosher.
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