Monday, September 19, 2011

Abbas Gets Immunity at Wash. Post -- Only Israel Engages in 'Hawkish, Hard-line' Moves

by Leo Rennert

The Washington Post uses two entirely dissimilar narratives in its ''news'' coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- a polite, deferential attitude toward Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority , in sharp contrast to shrill, negative accounts of Benjamin Netanyahu and his government.

The latest example can be found in the Sept. 17 edition in a lengthy article by Joel Greenberg and Joby Warrick about Abbas's decision to take his statehood bid to the UN Security Council ("Abbas formally says he will seek U.N. vote -- Palestinian statehood bid risks clashes with U.S. and Israel'' page A8).

The main part of the story handles with kid gloves Abbas's speech Ramallah speech outlining his UN strategy. There are copious quotes from the speech -- without any judgmental critiques by Greenberg and Warrick.

It's only when they get around to possible Israeli retaliation if Abbas succeeds at the UN that they trot out a bundle of pejoratives in describing some of Israel's possible counter-options.

"Israeli officials have hinted of harsh retaliation," they write. "Some hard-line members of Netanyahu's cabinet are demanding a forceful response." Among those responses, advocated by "hard-liners" are annexation of major Israeli settlements, severing ties with the PA, excluding Abbas from future peace talks," they add.

Without identifying any Israeli cabinet members, they discover at least one who cautions that the government hasn't made any decisions on Israel's response. But this same, unidentified source adds that Abbas's UN move has "strengthened the hand of more hawkish members of Israel's cabinet."

Thus, Abbas is treated with kid gloves, but members of Israel's cabinet are characterized as "hawkish, hard-liners" seeking "harsh" retaliation. Notice that, while there are no pejorative labels attached to Abbas, negative reporting is reserved exclusively to the Israeli side.

Yet, one could arguably point out that Abbas, in torpedoing peace negotiations with his UN gambit, is playing the game of a hawkish hardliner. But at the Post, Abbas enjoys total immunity from any such descriptions. With Greenberg and Warrick, any Israeli counter-moves are immediately denounced as highly dangerous. Abbas can do what he wants; only Israel must be restrained.

And yet, why shouldn't Israel respond to Abbas's highly provocative and counter-productive UN gambit by annexting major West Bank settlements that would remain on the Israeli side under any conceivably peace deal? Or sever contacts with Abbas since, by going to the UN, he has violated the 1993 Oslo agreements which stipulated that Palestinian statehood hinged entirely on direct negotiations between the two parties -- with no detours to the UN?

At bottom, the Post article's unequal treatment of the parties points up the basic bias of its authors. In their view, the only acceptable Israeli response to Palestinian statehood at the UN would be to turn the other cheek. Any other option automatically would qualify as a "harsh" response by "hwakish, hard-liners."

Leo Rennert


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

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