ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Mis and Non - Reporting from the Palestinian Arena

Mis and Non - Reporting from the Palestinian Arena

12 January 2007

By Yisrael Ne’eman

The Palestinians are in an extremely complicated situation. Foremost they are suffering from sharp internal political differences as the secular Fatah clashes with the Islamist Hamas. Months ago this spilled over into violent civil conflict with dozens dead and hundreds wounded. Victims are added every day. Of course if one were to read the New York Times or the other liberal publications in the West, testimony to such turmoil would be hard to find. Such self censorship may be aiding the Palestinian media image abroad through omission of unpleasant facts but it is certainly not working to the benefit of the average Palestinian whose plight in the liberal democratic West is seen as anything but self-inflicted. What the Palestinians need most is someone to help them help themselves.

Instead, when an Israeli operation to apprehend terrorists hits a snag, as happened this past week, it is widely reported, especially when filmed by Palestinians in the area. Four gunmen were killed and the terror suspect wounded, but not captured. It is operations as such plus the defensive measure of the much maligned security fence that made 2006 the safest year in Israel since the outbreak of Palestinian violence in 2000 (23 murdered – Haaretz, Jan. 11).

On the other hand, Palestinians killing each other is not considered news, except of course if one works for the Israeli news media. Over the past month broadcasters have been referring to the “Palestinian civil war,” a gross overstatement when considering the limited amount of casualties. At the moment, conflict intensity on the Palestinian side is quite low, even if the rhetoric is meteoric. The young rising Fatah leader and former security chief Mohammed Dahlan flooded Gaza’s streets with 100,000 (he claims a quarter of a million) supporters for an anti-Hamas demonstration where he accused them of murdering Fatah officials and activists while further taunting them to assassinate him. Hamas is responding with a “rage parade” scheduled for today as their response to Dahlan. We have lots of angry speeches, limited shootings and casualties, but no civil war.

Recently, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert met with Egyptian Pres. Hosni Mubarak to discuss bi-lateral relations and efforts to restart peace talks with the Palestinians. They got nowhere and much of the Western press blamed Israel. The meeting took place on the same day as the above mentioned failed anti-terror operation and therefore was highlighted and seen as indicative as to why no progress can be made on the peace front. The western press is not interested in the Palestinian anarchy despite the fact that this is the real reason why President Mahmoud Abbas or anyone else who wants to make peace, cannot.

Nor are they interested in true Hamas intentions which include the destruction of Israel. This week many were fond of quoting the most extreme Hamas leader, Khalid Mashal, who resides in Damascus when he said, “Israel is a reality and its existence is a matter of fact,” somehow expecting that this meant that Hamas recognized Israel despite constant denials from that organization (and a reading of the Hamas Covenant). Mashal is facing the truth of Israel’s present existence while working for the extermination of the Jewish State. He never said otherwise.

Just like the Hezbollah, Hamas is supported by Syria and Iran and paint themselves as “loyalists” to Islam and the Arab cause, while Fatah is colored as American-Israeli collaborators since they are willing (or so they say) to agree to a two-state solution whereby Israel withdraws to the pre-1967 lines.

Before anyone can get involved in Palestinian – Israeli peace making it is imperative for the Palestinians to put their own affairs in order. But with the amount of weapons, ammunition and anxious young men willing to “sacrifice themselves” for Hamas, Fatah or any one of the many extended family or clan oriented militias, a settling of internal Palestinian affairs may be far off in the future.

There appear to be only one of two solutions: a national unity government of Fatah and Hamas since neither is willing to accept living in a peaceful opposition, or a full blown civil war where one side or the other is victorious. Negotiations over an NUG failed during the past year while simultaneously tensions and intra-community violence continue to rise. Either option is possible despite the increasing possibility of civil war.