A guest post by CAMERA intern Aron White
One of the ways the narrative about the Israel-Palestinian conflict is warped is by the false equivalences that are drawn or implied between actors on both sides. Peter Beaumont at the Guardian was guilty of this when he used the same terminology to describe Yahya Sinwar, the new leader of Hamas, and David Friedman, the new US ambassador to Israel.
In the middle of February, Hamas elected a new leader in secret elections to replace Ismael Haniyeh as their leader in the Gaza Strip. Peter Beaumont described the new leader as “a hardliner from its [Hamas’] armed wing.” The leader in question, Yahya Sinwar, is a convicted terrorist. In 1988, he was sentenced to four life sentences for his role in the murder of two Israeli soldiers, and was one of the most high profile prisoners of the 1027 Palestinian prisoners released in 2011 for Gilad Shalit. (For the record, Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by the Al Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, which Sinwar had a central role in establishing.) Sinwar has also reportedly murdered more than a dozen Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. Yahya Sinwar – hardliner A.
This past December, Donald Trump selected David Friedman to be his ambassador to Israel (he was confirmed by the Senate last week). “Donald Trump’s Israel Ambassador is hardline pro-settler lawyer,” announced the headline of Peter Beaumont’s article at the Guardian. His “hardline” positions are detailed in the article – staunch opposition to a two state solution, support for Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, and his strong language referring to some liberal US Jews as “worse than Kapos”. David Friedman – hardliner B.
So we have hardliners on both sides – on the side of Hamas, a convicted murderer, on the US State Department list as a Designated Terrorist, who has the blood of both Israelis and Palestinians on his hands. And within the Trump administration, a man who holds right wing positions and has used highly insulting and inflammatory language to describe his protagonists. In fact, the article about Friedman places his “crimes” in the headline and first sentence, whereas the article about Sinwar, whilst calling him a hardliner, does not mention the murders which lead to his conviction and imprisonment. Is Peter Beaumont giving an accurate depiction of the stories if the terms he uses to describe both of these men are the same?
One can suggest this is part of a general cognitive dissonance that exists in the Guardian between the coverage of terrorists and their supporters, and coverage of Western and Israeli politicians. Israel has a “hardline” government, led by a “hardline” Prime Minister, full of “hardline” cabinet members, and has many “hardline” settlers. Meanwhile, the leader of an Iranian regime that hangs gays from buildings is a “moderate” , and a former President of Iran who as recently as 2015 said Israel would be wiped off the map was chiefly a “pragmatist”.
Any depiction of the latest developments in the region that somehow depicts a hard right lawyer as equivalent to, or even worse than, a convicted murderer, is guilty of misleading readers and warping the narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.