NY Times hankers for 'Arab Spring' revolt in West Bank
In its Sunday, June 12 edition, the New York Times carries an article by national correspondent Helene Cooper about the absence of any serious revolt by Palestinians against Israel on the same order as revolutions convulsing other parts of the Arab world ("The Quiet Mideast Corner -- Surprise -- This time, West Bank Arabs aren't in the streets. One reason: Their own leaders" front page, Week in Review)
The basic premise of Cooper's piece is that there exists an exact parallel of grievances between Syrians, Egyptians, Yemenis, Tunisians against their old, entrenched dictators on the one hand, and the lot of Palestinians in the West Bank under Israeli "military occupation."
It's a parallel that doesn't wash, especially in the West Bank, but also to a great extent in Gaza. Since the Oslo agreements of the 1990s, Palestinians have been granted considerable autonomy -- elections of local and national leaders, their own police forces, criminal courts, prisons (in which PA and Hamas rulers all too often use brutal tactics, including torture on Palestinian prisoners) . When it comes to everyday affairs, Palestinians, especially in the West Bank, are governed at least as much by the Palestinian Authority as by Israeli security forces. And as far as Gaza goes, Palestinians may not be enchanted with Hamas rule, but they voted for Hamas, while the only Israeli left on the ground is Gilad Shalit, a kidnapped Israeli soldier held as a hostage by Hamas.
In accounting for lack of a Palestinian uprising, Cooper cites worries by PA and Hamas leaders about their own grip on power, thus prompting them to put a lid on bottom-up revolts. She also implicates Israeli checkpoints "that don't allow freedom of movement even within the territory. Plus "the Israeli construction of the security fence and the imposition of increasingly strict restrictions on movement throughout the West Bank."
This is pure bunk. If anything, Israel -- in hopes of bolstering PA President Mahmoud Abbas -- has been dismantling scores of security checkpoints and roadblocks. In the West Bank, this has meant an easing of movement and a booming economy. Palestinians may be frustrated by lack of statehood, but in the meantime, they enjoy rising standards of living, thriving economies and a great measure of self-government -- rights, privileges and perks that were notably absent in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria before the "Arab revolt."
Cooper, however, is so determined to link Israel with discredited regimes in the Arab world that she ignores actual facts and living conditions in Palestinian territories.
So, it comes as no surprise that the first "expert" she quotes to buttress her anti-Israel thesis is Robert Malley, program director for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group. Malley happens to be the favorite source of NY Times correspondents who set out to pen a hit piece against Israel. He's utterly dependable to provide quotes guaranteed to put Israel in a bad light.
And he obliges again for Cooper's piece:
"At a time when the entire world, including President Obama, is applauding nonviolent popular protests from Cairo to Tehran, it would put Israel in an acute dilemma about how to react if tens of thousands of Palestinians started organizing protests in the West Bank, or marching on Israeli settlements or on Jerusalem demanding an end to the Israeli military occupation."
In the same vein, Cooper happily yields the floor to Aluf Benn, "the influential Israeli editor at large for Haaretz," who thunders that "The nightmare scenario Israel has feared since its inception became real -- that Palestinian refugees would simply start walking from their camps toward the border and would try to exercise their right of return." Never mind that this wasn't a massive uprising a la Egypt, Tunisia, etc., and, in its latest incarnation, didn't succeed in breaching Israel's border
Like Malley, Benn -- and Cooper -- can't wait to see the "Arab revolution" spread to Israel. Exclusive reliance on such "experts" underscores the one-sided slant of her article. Why bother to consult other "influential" Israeli editors, who might provide different insights into the calm on the West Bank? Cooper is highly selective when it comes to which "experts" will adorn her piece. Only those who agree with her own pre-conceptions.
Finally, Cooper's piece raises an important question of journalistic integrity. Since it appears in the Week in Review section, the Times might argue that it gives its news correspondents a bit more latitude for analytic essays in the Sunday paper. But this article goes far beyond mere analysis. It reeks of personal opinion, especially in what it misrepresents (like tougher Israeli security on the West Bank instead of actually more relaxed security) and what it omits (greater prosperity and self-government on the West Bank)
The Times, however, is so steeped in its anti-Israel outlook that Cooper is more apt to be praised internally than criticized. But at least, readers ought to be on guard when coming across her so-called news dispatches in weekday editions of the Times that here is a reporter shaping and distorting "news" with her own -- and the Times' -- agenda.