Monday, January 24, 2011

Al Jazeera Leaks: The Guardian Is Irresponsible

Al-Ersel office complex now under construction in Ramallah 
I am busily crafting a piece on the Olmert-Abbas negotiations, having interviewed both leaders on Friday, and at length. Much more about this soon. But I can't forbear saying that the Guardian's spin on the talks, based on documents leaked by Al Jazeera, is outrageous.

The Guardian has seemed bent on making Palestinian concessions seem like a betrayal. But they have reported only one hand clapping. Palestinian territorial and other concessions, I will show, were the other side of significant, creative Israeli proposals and concessions. Any prospective agreement would be a compromise, for God's sake. The Guardian is curiously pandering to Palestinian rejectionists the way Fox News panders to AIPAC.

The real point of an agreement is to create conditions that allow each side to build their culturally distinct civil societies—to allow Israel to continue pursuing its economic globalization, and allow Palestinians to build in the West Bank something like the city-state Palestinian leaders and entrepreneurs are building in Ramallah (and have already built in much of Amman, Jordan). We need to keep our eye on the ball and avoid childish sensationalism about who is weak and who is strong. The Guardian has a huge picture on page one of a Palestinian teen waving a flag. How about a picture of Palestinians building the Al-Ersal office towers in Ramallah?

Most irresponsible is the paper's treatment of Saeb Erekat. He is reported to have told Tzipi Livni: "It is no secret that...we are offering you the biggest Yerushalayim [the Hebrew word for Jerusalem] in history. But we must talk about the concept of al-Quds [Jerusalem in Arabic]." The Guardian put in the headline only the first part of the sentence, and then implied in the story that Erekat was a kind of Patti Hearst, adopting the conquerer's language, when he was in fact trying to create an atmosphere of empathic reciprocity. Does the Guardian actually like this conflict?