“Heads, I win; tails, you lose” is the trope that apparently informs the New York Times’ news coverage of the Palestinian- Israeli peace process.
Whether discussing Palestinian demands or Israeli demands, Palestinian rejection of Israeli positions or Israeli rejection of Palestinian positions, the newspaper identifies the same party as the obstacle to successful peace talks — Israel.
Consider a Jan. 11th New York Times headline about Israel’s rejection of the Palestinian demand to cease building Jewish homes in eastern Jerusalem:
“In Blow to Peace Effort, Israel Publishes Plans for New Housing in Settlements”
Yet, the newspaper refrains from similarly casting the Palestinian leadership as the obstacle to peace for rejecting a key Israeli demand – to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state in the Middle East. Instead, a Jan. 2nd New York Times headline put it this way:
“Sticking Point in Peace Talks: Recognition of a Jewish State”
The same article appeared the following day in the international edition of the New York Times under the headline:
“New obstacle to peace: Recognizing Jewish state”
Lest readers be confused about who or what is being indicted for thwarting peace, the article makes it clear that it is not the Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state as much as Israel’s demand to be recognized as a Jewish state – blamed as the “sticking point” or “obstacle” to peace:
“Critics skeptical of Mr. Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution to the long-running conflict say that recognition of a Jewish state is a poison pill that he is raising only to scuttle the talks.”
News articles have also weighed in on Israel’s desire to maintain forces in the Jordan Valley. In a recent article about Israeli security concerns in light of the turmoil in neighboring countries, Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren wrote:
“Israeli leaders have tried to exploit recent events to bolster their case for a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley, a sticking point in the United States-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians.” (“Region Boiling, Israel Takes Up Castle Strategy,” Jan. 19, 2014)
An objective and straightforward news account might have indicated instead that:
“Israeli leaders have pointed to recent events to underscore their case for a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley.”
But the news reporter preferred the term “exploit” with its negative connotation of selfish maneuvering. And, for the second time in recent weeks, an Israeli negotiating position was disparagingly portrayed by the newspaper as a “sticking point” in peace talks.
What about Palestinian positions, like the insistence on a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and millions of their descendants to Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries?
That demand is generally understood to be the crucial element in what some Palestinian officials have described as a “phased plan” for Israel’s ultimate destruction — a vision put forth by the late Yasir Arafat where the Jewish state is replaced by a Palestinian-majority state.
Yet New York Times reporters and headline writers do not call this a “sticking point,” as they do Israeli demands. Nor have they labeled Palestinian hate rhetoric as “obstacles to peace,” as they do Israeli actions.
When, on occasion, a news article includes criticism of the Palestinian demand for a “right of return” or of institutionalized Palestinian incitement against Israel, it is as an Israeli claim. For example:
“Israel vehemently rejects the Palestinian demand for a right of return for the refugees who, by the agency’s count, now number around five million, including the descendants. It says that any mass influx would spell the end of Israel as a predominantly Jewish state.” (“Photographs Tell a History Of Palestinians Unmoored,” Nov. 29, 2013)
“…[Israel’s minister of strategic affairs Yuval Steinitz], Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others have emphasized what they call ”incitement” as a prime obstacle to peace.” (“Israeli Official Points to ‘Incitement’ by Palestinians,” Jan. 7, 2014)
More often than not, these Israeli claims are followed up with a cited denial, disavowal, or counterclaim, which minimizes or discredits Israeli concerns.
In the real world, negotiations involve demands and counter-demands by each party. Success is accompanied by give and take on both sides.
But in the alternate universe of the New York Times, where opinion is injected into news reports, only Palestinian demands and positions are relayed as valid, while those of Israel are labeled “obstacles.” The corollary? Success in peace negotiations rests upon Israel acceding to Palestinian demands while giving up its own — a likely recipe for the demise of the Jewish state.
A shorter version of this article appeared in American Thinker on Jan. 23, 2014.