Written by Aron White
Gaza border protests (called ‘The Great Return March’) have been continuing for a few weeks, and UK Media Watch has already focused on various aspects of the media’s coverage of the protests. But, there is still more to criticize about the coverage. The Guardian has now twice tried to mainstream the protesters by comparing their views to that of President Rivlin, when in fact this is a gross misrepresentation.
Last week, the Guardian editorial on the protests included this statement about the views of Ahmad Abu Artema, the initial chief organizer of the protests:
“Who would not prefer Mr Artema’s suggestion that Palestinians and Israelis could live side by side as equal citizens to the violent passions and hatred that pass between these two peoples today? In preferring to dream rather than accepting today’s nightmare, Mr Artema shares a belief with Israel’s president in a better future.” (emphasis added)
A similar statement was also found in an Guardian profile of the protesters:
“Yet Ahmad Abu Artema, who claims no Hamas affiliation, holds an ideology more often attributed to that of Israel’s president: he says he wants to see Palestinians and Israelis living in one country as equal citizens.”
This comparison is extraordinarily misleading.
It is indeed true, that President Rivlin has openly supported the idea of Israelis and Palestinians living ‘side by side’ as citizens of one state. However, President Rivlin champions the idea of an Israeli annexation of the West Bank with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side under Israeli sovereignty and Palestinians being granted full Israeli citizenship. In this scenario, it is assumed that Jews would still represent a significant majority of the overall population.
This is certainly not the view of Abu Artema. As UK Media Watch noted in an earlier post, Abu Artema believes Israel has no right to exist within any borders, and sees it as a foreign entity that expelled the Palestinians through ‘terrorism’. Thus, Abu Artema believes in ending Israeli sovereignty, not spreading it to Palestinians.
So, to compare the two seems to be a willful conflation of two opposite extremes, not an accurate comparison. There is a big difference between Israelis and Palestinians living under Israeli sovereignty, and living in a post-Israel world as hoped for by Abu Artema. Incredibly, the Guardian even includes a link in the above-mentioned opinion piece to a Jerusalem Post article about President Rivlin’s views, which makes it crystal clear that he wants to extend Israeli sovereignty – so they can’t even claim to have misunderstood his point.
There also is another mistake in the analogy – President Rivlin talked about Palestinians in the West Bank, whereas Abu Artema’s protests are in Gaza. President Rivlin did not champion Israel extending its sovereignty to Gaza, as Gaza is politically a separate entity. Israel withdrew its soldiers and civilians fully from Gaza in 2005. They the IDF imposed a partial military blockade in 2009, it is a totally separate political entity from Israel. So the simplistic phrase “Palestinians and Israelis living side by side” ignores the hard fact that there are different groups of Palestinians – President Rivlin talked about West Bank Palestinians, and Abu Artema talks about Gazan Palestinians.
Aron White has a BSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of London (Lead College: LSE), and is a graduate of the Jewish Statesmanship Center in Jerusalem. His writings have been published at the Jerusalem Post, JNS, The Daily Caller and the Algemeiner.