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September 26, 2011
NY Times, Wash. Post suffer from Gaza-Hamas amnesia
It's been a while since Hamas-ruled Gaza has made an appearance in the "news" pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post. Both papers, along with most other Western media, have been so intent on cheering Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's request for UN statehood recognition that they somehow overlooked Hamas' opposition to his purported agenda for a two-state solution. Hamas wants a single state that swallows up all of Israel. And it makes no bones about it.
So, you might think that, when it comes to giving international approval to a Palestinian state, Hamas' refusal to live side by side with Israel might command some attention. But you would be wrong. The media are so totally invested in pursuing the myth of Palestinian readiness for statehood that illusion trumps hard reality Why let facts spoil the party?
Take, for example, the Sept. 26 edition of the New York Times, which features an article by Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner, headlined: "Palestinians Roll Out Hero's Welcome for Abbas" page A10).
Bronner, reporting from Ramallah, tells readers that Abbas returned from New York "to a hero's welcome," as thousands came to greet him at his headquarters, "waving flags, shouting oaths of loyalty and holding aloft his photograph."
What Bronner fails to tell readers is that there was no hero's welcome mat for Abbas in Gaza. Just the opposite. In Gaza City, when a restaurant owner began screening Abbas's address to the UN General Assembly, a couple of Hamas' security goons halted the screening and led the owner away for indoctrination and re-education. Forty-eight hours later, he still hadn't been heard from.
With all media eyes on Abbas's statehood bid, you would think that to fully gauge Palestinian reactions upon his return, the Times would station reporters in both the West Bank and Gaza. But while Bronner rushed to Ramallah to burnish Abbas's image, it didn't occur to him to have another Times reporter cover Hamas's anti-Abbas and anti-partition stance in Gaza. Yet, Gaza is the other half of some future Palestine. Abbas wants it, along with the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But Hamas is not about to oblige him.
And this is not the only thing missing from Bronner's dispatch. While Abbas was telling the world in New York and in Ramallah that, in their quest for statehood, Palestinians would halt all violence against Israelis, Palestinian rock-throwing youths were rioting in East Jerusalem and a young Israeli man and his baby boy were killed in their car when a Palestinian hurled a heavy rock through the windshield.
None of this appears in Bronner's copy. Only Abbas's mellifluous assurances that the "Palestinian spring" is rooted in "popular and peaceful struggle that will reach its goal."
Nor does Bronner nuance his piece with any other counter-factual evidence. For instance, before leaving for New York, Abbas staged a pro-statehood demonstration at the Ramallah office of the United Nations. To lead the procession, he chose the mother of four terrorist killers in Israeli prisons. This also escaped Bronner's attention.
Over at the Washington Post, there is the same amnesia/denial of Hamas' opposition to two-state peace and its reliance on violence to advance political objectives. The Post's Jerusalem correspondent, Joel Greenberg, devotes most of his dispatch to Abbas's refusal to resume negotiations with Israel without pre-conditions, but also mentions in glowing terms Abbas's return to Ramallah ("Plan for Mideast talks gets mixed reception" page A11.)
Greenberg, like Bronner, limits his report to Abbas's proclamation that "there is a Palestinian Spring -- a popular mass spring, resisting peacefully to reach our goal."
Not a word about the young Israeli father and his baby son killed by a "peaceful" rock-throwing Palestinian. Not a word about Abbas's persistent glorification of suicide bombers and terrorist killers. Not a word about the big elephant in the peace-process closet -- Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Instead, reporters dispensing mirages in lieu of inconvenient truths.
Leo Rennert formerly was White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.
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