AP Has No Comprehension Of Israeli Elections, Nor Does it Want One
By Barry Rubin
You know, if the Associated Press put the same effort into reporting the news accurately as it does—in some, not all dispatches—into slandering Israel and distorting its society, it could achieve great things.
The trouble is that the nonsense is predictable, following consistent lines. Among the favorite techniques are:
–A ridiculous superficial even-handedness and
–Depriving Israel of a reasonable motive for its actions.
–Never reporting what Israelis actually think.
Consider the title, Steven Gutkin and Karin Laub, “Hard-liners strengthened by Gaza war.” And the lead:
“The biggest gains in the Gaza war have gone to the hard-liners on both sides. Hamas is declaring victory, while Israel’s leading hawk is the front-runner in elections just over a week away.”
How much one can get into just 35 words! First, Bibi Netanyahu is equated to the Hamas terrorists. A free Israeli democratic election is equated to an Islamist dictatorship. And reality is turned on its head since Israel’s victory is equated with Hamas’s false claims of triumph.
Then there’s calling Netanyahu a “hawk” as if he is some aggressive warmonger. Now, of course, Bibi is less liberal than Ehud Barak or Tzippi Livni. Yet Netanyahu has become a centrist and if you don’t understand that you can’t understand Israeli politics.
Oh, and the statement is also factually inaccurate. Israeli “hard-liners” did not benefit from the Gaza war. The pre-war polls showed them doing as well or better. The biggest beneficiary of the war was Ehud Barak, leader of the Labour party and the architect of the campaign. It would be more likely to say that Israeli softliners or doves benefitted from the war.
But what about the increasing support for Lieberman’s party? That is not the result of the war but, if anything, of a sense that Hamas is continuing to attack after the war’s end. It is a critique of the government’s management of diplomacy, not warfare.
Then there’s this gem:
“But a new phase in peace efforts has opened with Barack Obama’s election as U.S. president and the international community may find itself offering Hamas incentives to moderate rather than shunning it.”
Again, wrong. Obama has said—and there’s no reason to disbelieve him—that he is not changing U.S. policy toward Hamas. One could easily—more easily—argue that the international community is discussing how best to isolate and pressure Hamas. (Even in the EU debate, France proposed a position which was not much of a change, and then this was shot down by a lot of other countries.)
“Hamas is exulting in the widespread support it received in the Muslim world and many Western countries.”
Let me get this straight. This is the first Arab-Israeli war in which the Arab world could not even issue an anti-Israel joint resolution; ten Arab countries just met to condemn Hamas and support its rival, the Palestinian Authority. Demonstrations in the Arab world were not impressive. And this is the conclusion, with not a word on how Hamas fell short?
Oh yes and they go on to say: “Meanwhile, Palestinian moderates led by President Mahmoud Abbas have been discredited, along with their U.S.-backed policy of reaching Palestinian statehood through negotiations.”
Really, how has this happened? Negotiations have been discredited because Hamas broke the ceasefire, attacked Israel, and Israel retaliated. How is this argument to be explained.
“The Bush administration boycotted the last Palestinian unity government when it included Hamas. Obama, who has shown eagerness to mend fences with the Muslim world, may see benefits in accepting a Hamas role in the government.”
Well, he may—if you ignore all his policy statements.
Naturally, there is a quote from a Palestinian in favor of dealing with Hamas but none against. Remember those days when quotes were balanced?
Or this: “If Hamas is serious about getting the blockade lifted, it may have little choice but to halt arms smuggling and rocket fire on Israel.”
No, Hamas’s policy is to demand the “blockade” (by the way this is misleading since it implies Israel blocks all supplies and not just those which can be used for military purposes) be dropped without giving anything in return. And if they are reading this article they will conclude that is a good strategy.
“Abbas seems to be the biggest loser, seen as increasingly irrelevant by his people both in Gaza and the West Bank , the two territories on opposite sides of Israel that are supposed to become a Palestinian state.”
There are also two Palestinian quotes aimed to back this up and none contradicting it. In fact, Abbas’s Arab support is higher now than at any time since he took office. Moreover, there have been serious and detailed reports that the PA is doing well on the West Bank. The economy is improving, violence has been low, and some progress has been made in defeating the anarchy of the past. One doesn’t need to exaggerate but this is in fact the big story on the West Bank. No one serious is arguing that Hamas is making progress toward a takeover.
Or this: “Netanyahu believes Hamas must be toppled and will not likely agree to a border deal that could be seen as cementing the Islamic militants’ power in Gaza.” Yes he wants Hamas toppled but no other leader would make such a deal either.
“Even if Netanyahu wins, however, the vote is likely to be highly fragmented, auguring unwieldy coalition government and a possible role for the doves.”
It’s as if these people have no comprehension of Israeli politics at all. All Israeli governments are coalitions of disparate parties and why should this one be different or function worse? Moreover, who are the doves? Obviously, they are supposed to be the good guys but how can anyone in Israeli politics be a “dove” in dealing with Hamas?
Here’s what they never really say: if Israel has moved to the “right”—and that would include both Labor and Kadima as well as the voters—it is because:
- We found out that the Palestinians and Syrians don’t want to make peace.
- We found out that Fatah was still full of extremism.
- We found out that the Fatah leadership was too weak and too extreme itself to make compromise.
- We saw the rise of Hamas.
- We saw the continuing hatred of the Arab world and Muslim world.
- We saw the rise of Iran.
- We saw the world did not reward Israel for making concessions.
Without knowing these things how can one explain Israel’s election?
This kind of writing isn’t just anti-Israel bias. Even worse, it is very bad journalism.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center in Herzliya, Israel, and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His books include The Truth About Syria; The Tragedy of the Middle East; and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East.