Wash. Post funnels Palestinian lies to readers
After a series of meetings between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Jordan, Palestinian President Mahdoud Abbas has called a time out so he can consult with the Arab League on next steps. In the meantime, the Washington Post is quick to report that the talks have been "foundering" and that diplomacy has reached a crisis stage. It also, predictably, blames mainly Israel for lack of progress, while uncritically purveying a slew of Palestinian propaganda lies ("Efforts under way to try to save Mideast negotiations - Israel, Palestinians at standstill over borders and security" by Joel Greenberg, Jan. 27, page A12).
The headline, of course, is misleading. There haven't been any "negotiations" that need saving. The Jordanian-sponsored meetings amounted to preliminary contacts to find a way toward negotiations -- so far without discernible success.
However flawed the headline may be, the article by Greenberg, the Post's Jerusalem correspondent, deviates even more from straight reporting, as he relies primarily on Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian propagandist, for commentary about the current lull. Ashrawi, who served brilliantly in that capacity during the second intifada when Western reporters could rely on her for snappy sound bites, is not part of the Amman discussions. Reporting from Jerusalem, Greenberg goes out of his way to reach her by telephone from Ramallah to feast on her anti-Israel diatribes.
"There has been no progress whatsoever," she tells Greenberg. "There are no talks anymore. We don't want to be complicit in this game of deception. We see a public relations exercise, an attempt to create the impression that they want to talk while grabbing more land and destroying the substance of the talks. They just want talks for their own sake. This could go on forever while they go on building settlements and annexing Jerusalem and finally laying to rest the two-state solution."
To underscore her comments, Greenberg then paraphrases Ashrawi, telling readers that "the Palestinians have said that they will not resume negotiations unless Israel halts settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, activity they say is swallowing up land they seek for a future state."
There's no shortage of notable Israelis -- in and out of government -- who could easily cite chapter and verse to demolish these Palestinian canards. But Greenberg doesn't pick up the phone to get any substantive rebuttals to Ashrawi's propaganda. He just mentions very briefly in the last paragraph that Israel is "urging talks without preconditions to resolve all issues." Where is an Israeli counterpart to Ashrawi? Not in Greenberg's dispatch.
Greenberg simply lets Ashrawi's lies go unrebutted. He doesn't deign inform Post readers that Israel has not been "grabbing more land" and has not been "building settlements" in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Under Netanyahu and under Ehud Olmert before him, Israel has not added any settlements or expanded the contours of existing settlements. Special housing incentives for new settlers have been reined in. The only construction has been within existing settlements. Greenberg is channeling Palestinian lies with his reference to Israel "swallowing up land" for a future Palestinian state. No additional land has been set aside for settlements. And there continues to be ample available land in the West Bank for a viable, contiguous Palestinian state.
As for Ashrawi's alarms about Jerusalem, Greenberg leaves unchallenged the notion that the city is being Judaized. The opposite is true. If anything, there has been a steady trend of Arabization of Israel's capital. Since 1967 when Israel captured the eastern part of the city, Arab population has grown about twice the rate of Jewish population growth. In 1967, 68,000 Arabs lived in Jerusalem. Today the total tops 250,000. In 1967, Arabs comprised 26 percent of Jerusalem's population. Today, the Arab portion comprises more than 35 percent and demographers predict that this ratio will rise to 40 percent by 2020 and reach parity with Jews in another 30 years or so.
Having given full license to Ashrawi propaganda nuggets, Greenberg also quotes her as complaining that the Israelis "have not submitted specific proposals for any of the core issues in dispute."
Specific proposals, of course, weren't expected in this preliminary round of contacts. But having let Ashrawi fault Israel on this score, shouldn't it behoove Greenberg to inquire if the Palestinians submitted any specific proposals on their side - and what was in them?
Greenberg is at one with Ashrawi in loading the dice against Israel while exempting the Palestinians from scrutiny of their demands for a peace deal.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers