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?


Potter said...

I went here for looking for some sanity after I hear this news. Thank you for not disappointing.

Someone said this is a Rorschach test. That it is.

What I heard on the radio today ( NPR) was a rush to spin this ( the editor of the J Post- Horowitz) to make it look like there is no partner.

It made no sense at all when I heard that there were historic concessions in the spirit of MUTUAL compromise. But spin these meisters will as if their very life depends on it.

What is true , what appears to be true ( what Horowitz said) is that the Palestinian people have not been prepared for the compromises that they will have to make.

What he did NOT say was that Israeli's have not been prepared either.

Thank you again for your sanity Bernard Avishai

Potter said...

I forgot to say- from what I heard these historic concessions were made and then the Israeli's rejected them. NO partner?? What we have been hearing from the so called "pro-Israel" side is about Olmert's offer that the Palestinian's rejected.

I have been under the impression that this was going nowhere anyway because Olmert was leaving office and he had no backing... and of course Palestinians, seeing this, plus there being other issues that were unresolved, felt that the offer was not serious.

it would be good to clear this up.

Thank you.

OmJ said...

You do realize there's a difference between a democratic, representative government negotiating honestly without lying to its own people and the PA, right?

I mean you do realize that what the Guardian and Al Jazeera are doing is simply pointing out the disparity between the words and the deeds of this deeply corrupt, deeply anti-democratice, and deeply collaborationist government, right?

If you want to talk about irresponsible, why don't you go to your friend Erekat and ask him why he told Al Jazeera on live television that not one stone in East Jerusalem would be given up under the PA's watch while he was negotiating these odious terms? Why don't you talk to your good friend Ethan Bronner and ask him why he refers to the settlements in occupied Palestinian territory as "Jewish developments on disputed land"?

Whether you realize it or not, you're so far inside this charade, you've so accepted it for what it claims to be, that you're forced to spin the unspinnable.

Y. Ben-David said...

It must be remembered that the Palestinian Authority is totally dependent on US and EU aid to stay afloat. They don't want to burn their bridges with the US and EU. The US and EU want there to be negotiations. Some sort of give-and-take must take place in the negotiations, the Palestinians want to be seem to be reasonable. Thus, they can talk about various "concessions" and "compromise" but in the end, we don't see any actual agreement appear. What they are doing is playing for time without knocking the whole house of cards (i.e. "the peace process"). This does NOT mean they actually intended to carry out these concessions, they just want it to to keep the Americans happy for as long as possible. Meanwhile the REAL Palestinian effort, its war-of-attrition carried out by efforts to condemn Israel in the UN, deligitimization of Israel and Zionism, BDS (i.e. boycotts, etc) goes on and on until EVENTUALLY Israel will collapse entirely and the Palestinians will receive everything without making ANY concessions...i.e. Israel will simply run away as they did from Lebanon and Gaza. Thus, those accusing Abbas and the PA of being traitors are simply wrong. They are just playing the game.

Martin Shaw said...

The 'significant, creative Israeli proposals and concessions' do not come out in the Guardian material. I look forward to being enlightened.

Martin Shaw said...

Additionally, among the Israeli positions that do come out are what the Guardian describes as Tzipi Livni's 'repeated pressing' for the 'transfer' or forced removal of the inhabitants of some Palestinian villages on both sides of the 1967 lines. This echo of 1948 at the heart of Israel's negotiating positions should be deeply offensive to anyone with any kind of democratic sensibility. If this is what a 'Jewish state' means, why should anyone want it?

Sammy said...

In their defense, the Guardian is only showing what Al Jazeera is showing. All what you said is exactly what is presented on the Al Jazeera English website, they're interested in showing the Palestinian Authority as weak and giving concessions with nothing in return, and that is what they've displayed exactly.

jewbonics said...

Do you take your readers for idiots? I just read through the Palestine Papers, all of them, and you have the Palestinian negotiators debating with Israel over how much of their 22 percent of historic Palestine should be surrendered to Israel. Israel demands 7.3 percent with "concessions" abutting Gaza in recompense for the valuable land they've built on in the West Bank; the Palestinian counter-offer is 1.9 percent, with a massive, octopus-like Jerusalem cutting into their land. 22 percent of historic Palestine is a concession, and refusal to see that is racism, nothing more and nothing less. Concessions beyond that are sell-outs. Your refusal to understand this is exactly why your country is falling apart.

Diane Mason said...

I don't think Erekat uses the phrase "the biggest Yerushalayim in history" just to be empathetic. And certainly not to be obsequious. I think he uses it to turn the terminology back at the Israeli negotiators he is hearing it from.

Udi Dekel refers to Israel wanting "the biggest Yerushalayim in history" elsewhere in the Palestine Papers, and Erekat has been hearing the phrase much longer than that. This is a comment he made in a briefing to Israeli & Palestinian Business Leaders at the Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development on 30 January 2002: "Shlomo [Ben Ami] came to me one day and said, You want to entertain the biggest Yerushalayim in the history of the Jews. I said, Shlomo, what's this? He said, You want to recognize West Jerusalem. Fine. The Jewish Quarter. Fine. And he said, We have the stretch of settlements from Givat Ze'ev through Pisgat Ze'ev, Neve Yaacov, French Hill down to Gilo and so on. I said, What about it? He said, This should all be part of Yerushalayim. I said, This is part of the occupied territories and it's applicable to the concept of swapped land. You can talk about whatever you want in a swap of land...".

So since Taba, Erekat has been hearing Israeli negotiators tell him they will have "the biggest Yerushalayim in history", and here he turns it back on them and says, basically: you say you want the biggest Yerushalayim in history, I'm offering you the biggest Yerushalayim in history, yet it's still not enough! So what do you want?

In that context, the phrase "the biggest Yerushalayim in history" is precisely the correct terminology to use.

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