NY Times hails Palestinian 'unity' accord, hides early frictions

Leo Rennert
The New York Times features a large front-page spread about the Fatah-Hamas "unity" accord ceremony in Cairo.  But while hailing the agreement as "historic," it hides from readers immediate signs of discord between the two rival groups ("As the Political Terrain Shifts, Palestinian Rivals Sign an Accord" by Ethan Bronner, May 5).

In his lead paragraph, Bronner describes the "unity" agreement as a "historic reconciliation accord."  "Historic," to say the least, is a bit overblown.  And certainly premature.  We won't know if it was "historic" for many months, as its durability gets tested by the  actual behavior of both sides.   So far, the signs are not exactly encouraging. 

There have been several such accords before and they quickly dissolved -- something Bronner fails to mention.

Also, the new agreement provides for the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank to release its Hamas prisoners and for Hamas to free Fatah activiss in Gaza.  Bronner, however, fails to mention that on the eve of the Cairo "unity" show, the PA arrested four Hamas activists in the West Bank and questioned many others.   Bronner is more interested in what Fatah and Hamas say than in what they do -- a serious flaw in his reporting. 

The Cairo "unity" ceremony itself evinced frictions between the two sides that Bronner airbrushes from his article.

For example, Palestinian President  Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal were expected to sign the agreement in full view of all the delegates and TV cameras.  It didn't happen.    This  event certainly wasn't "historic" on the same scale as the 1993  Bill Clinton-orchestrated handshakes on the White House lawn between Yasser Arafat,  Yitzhak Rabin and  Shimon Peres.

The Cairo ceremony was delayed for more than an hour because of disagreement about seating arrangements.  Meshaal wanted to be seated next to Abbas at the podium to signal Hamas's equal status with Fatah.  Abbas balked.  Meshaal ended up seated with other delegates and got to the podiyum only to deliver his remarks.  Again, a negative sign ignored by Bronner.

To gain international support for the Eghptian-brokered "unity"  deal, Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, was invited to the ceremony.  She didn't show up -- an absence omitted from Bronner's article

In line with his exuberantly bullish theme for this "unity" event, Bronner also softens the terrorist credentials of Hamas -- an "Islamist group that rejects Israel's existence."  Hamas, of course, does more than "reject" Israel's existence.  It is 100 percent committed to Israel's destruction and has a bloody evidence trail to show it.. 

But history doesn't deter Bronner from his full-blown ode to a "new" Hamas.  Never mind its past, he assures Times readers, Hamas will change its stripes and mellow down.  As a guarantee of Hamas's likely transformation, he winds up his article as follows:  "Munib al-Masri, a West Bank businessman who has been promoting reconciliation, said the deal should be given a chance.  'Hamas will change,' he said in an interview.  'Bring them in.  Fatah used to be just like that.'"

The irony in Bronner's cheerleader role in reporting the "unity" accord is that the Palestinian "street" is far more realistic about its prospects.  When Isabel Kershner, also a Times correspondent in Jerusalem, visited Ramallah to get a sense of Palestinian public opinion, she discovered that patrons at a coffee shop carried on playing cards and chatting, while ignoring the TV broadcast of the "unity" ceremony in Cairo.  As one of the patrons told her, "Nobody is watching because judging by our own experience with previous agreements, we do not expect this one to last."

A far cry from Bronner's rush to certify the ''unity'' agreement as already "historic."
The New York Times features a large front-page spread about the Fatah-Hamas "unity" accord ceremony in Cairo.  But while hailing the agreement as "historic," it hides from readers immediate signs of discord between the two rival groups ("As the Political Terrain Shifts, Palestinian Rivals Sign an Accord" by Ethan Bronner, May 5).

In his lead paragraph, Bronner describes the "unity" agreement as a "historic reconciliation accord."  "Historic," to say the least, is a bit overblown.  And certainly premature.  We won't know if it was "historic" for many months, as its durability gets tested by the  actual behavior of both sides.   So far, the signs are not exactly encouraging. 

There have been several such accords before and they quickly dissolved -- something Bronner fails to mention.

Also, the new agreement provides for the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank to release its Hamas prisoners and for Hamas to free Fatah activiss in Gaza.  Bronner, however, fails to mention that on the eve of the Cairo "unity" show, the PA arrested four Hamas activists in the West Bank and questioned many others.   Bronner is more interested in what Fatah and Hamas say than in what they do -- a serious flaw in his reporting. 

The Cairo "unity" ceremony itself evinced frictions between the two sides that Bronner airbrushes from his article.

For example, Palestinian President  Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal were expected to sign the agreement in full view of all the delegates and TV cameras.  It didn't happen.    This  event certainly wasn't "historic" on the same scale as the 1993  Bill Clinton-orchestrated handshakes on the White House lawn between Yasser Arafat,  Yitzhak Rabin and  Shimon Peres.

The Cairo ceremony was delayed for more than an hour because of disagreement about seating arrangements.  Meshaal wanted to be seated next to Abbas at the podium to signal Hamas's equal status with Fatah.  Abbas balked.  Meshaal ended up seated with other delegates and got to the podiyum only to deliver his remarks.  Again, a negative sign ignored by Bronner.

To gain international support for the Eghptian-brokered "unity"  deal, Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, was invited to the ceremony.  She didn't show up -- an absence omitted from Bronner's article

In line with his exuberantly bullish theme for this "unity" event, Bronner also softens the terrorist credentials of Hamas -- an "Islamist group that rejects Israel's existence."  Hamas, of course, does more than "reject" Israel's existence.  It is 100 percent committed to Israel's destruction and has a bloody evidence trail to show it.. 

But history doesn't deter Bronner from his full-blown ode to a "new" Hamas.  Never mind its past, he assures Times readers, Hamas will change its stripes and mellow down.  As a guarantee of Hamas's likely transformation, he winds up his article as follows:  "Munib al-Masri, a West Bank businessman who has been promoting reconciliation, said the deal should be given a chance.  'Hamas will change,' he said in an interview.  'Bring them in.  Fatah used to be just like that.'"

The irony in Bronner's cheerleader role in reporting the "unity" accord is that the Palestinian "street" is far more realistic about its prospects.  When Isabel Kershner, also a Times correspondent in Jerusalem, visited Ramallah to get a sense of Palestinian public opinion, she discovered that patrons at a coffee shop carried on playing cards and chatting, while ignoring the TV broadcast of the "unity" ceremony in Cairo.  As one of the patrons told her, "Nobody is watching because judging by our own experience with previous agreements, we do not expect this one to last."

A far cry from Bronner's rush to certify the ''unity'' agreement as already "historic."