Rioting and random, gruesome stabbing attacks by Palestinians have left Israelis in a fearful state. The need to convey accurately and fairly to western audiences what’s at issue has never been more essential.
Unfortunately, much of the media’s reporting on the attacks has been woefully incomplete, devoid of context or jaded. As is typical when Israelis must protect themselves against terror attacks, there are references to a disparity in the “body count” – more Palestinians killed than Israelis, and charges of Israeli “overreaction” and “disproportionate” use of force fly with abandon.
In an Oct. 15 Globe and Mail article, Patrick Martin relied substantially on Diana Buttu, a Canadian-born lawyer and former adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, for insight.
He quoted Buttu: “Amidst the violence and unrest, the Israeli army and police are operating on a ‘shoot to kill’ policy,” leaving the impression that Israelis are wantonly brutal and callous. Indeed, when writing in late September about Abbas’ threat to abandon the Oslo agreements, Martin cited Buttu, claiming that, in addition to settlers, “trigger-happy [Israeli] soldiers run rampant… terrorizing Palestinians with virtual impunity.” On both occasions, Martin did not cite any Israeli authority or expert to provide Israel’s side of the story.
In his mid-October report, Martin relied on Buttu about the core reason for the latest surge in the violence: “‘The cause of Palestinian rage,’ she insists, is the ‘near-half-century of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including Arab east Jerusalem.’”
Again, no Israeli is cited to refute this cookie-cutter. “It’s all about Israel’s occupation” as justification for violence. There’s no mention that both former PA leader Yasser Arafat at Camp David in 2000 and Abbas during the Annapolis talks in 2008 rejected Israel’s effort to create a Palestinian state and end the occupation. (Occasionally this column has drawn attention to these rarely mentioned historical facts in mainstream media stories, but they’re critical to understanding the root of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian and broader Arab-Israeli conflicts.)
Buttu is among those Palestinians who may speak to western audiences about the need for “two states,” but who in fact reject “two states for two peoples” because they reject that the Jews are a people with sovereign rights to their ancestral homeland, and they insist that Palestinian refugees have an inherent “right of return” to Israel, which would turn Israel into another Arab-majority state.
In his Oct. 24 National Post column, Robert Fulford provided a powerfully succinct account of how Palestinian incitement, including through the PA media, against Israeli Jews has had a toxic impact – starting with Palestinian children urged to become “martyrs” by carrying out attacks against Israelis.
Abbas himself is deeply involved. “At every chance he gets, Mahmoud Abbas, the PA’s president, throws the word ‘martyr’ at the terrorist, while calling for calm in the international press,” Fulford noted.
In Martin’s story, the only mention of incitement is his claim, immediately following Buttu’s insistence on the centrality of Israeli occupation, that “The rage of some young people is egged on” by Gaza-based “preachers” – not that their “rage” is instilled in them by Hamas, the PA, and now, through social media, ISIS.
As to the violence surrounding the Temple Mount, Abbas’ slur that the Jews “have no right to desecrate [it] with their dirty feet” received scant mention in western media and none in Martin’s reports. In his Oct. 21 story about the controversy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s incorrect claim that, in 1941, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, then the grand mufti of Jerusalem, planted the idea of the Final Solution in Hitler’s mind, and Netanyahu’s later attempt to clarify what he meant, Martin finally referred to Netanyahu’s charge against Abbas of anti-Israel incitement.
Nonetheless, in the context of dealing with a question of Netanyahu’s credibility, this would, in all fairness, have been the time for Martin to cite at least one example of Abbas’ toxic rhetoric to show the validity of the allegation against him.
Sadly, this was not the case.