Guardian cartoon of Abbas in an Israeli straitjacket illustrates the media’s failure to hold Palestinians responsible.

Yesterday, we tweeted this in response to a cartoon by the Guardian’s Steve Bell depicting Prince William’s recent visit with Mahmoud Abbas.

Though the ‘Israeli straitjacket around Abbas’ represents a motif we haven’t previously encountered, the idea that this imagery conveys, that Palestinians lack agency informs so much of what passes for enlightened opinion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the British media.

As former AP Jerusalem correspondent Matti Friedman wrote in his landmark 2014 expose on institutional media bias, “Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate.”  “The story mandates”, Friedman added, “that they exist as passive victims of the party that matters [Israel].

This mindset not only leads the media to ignore widespread Palestinian antisemitism, but, in its most extreme form, it can end up excusing acts of terror – the “but, what choice do they have?” line. However, even far less extreme variations of the ‘Palestinian powerlessness’ narrative ignore the fact that their leaders – even without statehood – have the power to make choices that can significantly impact their quality of life.

Here are a few things that Abbas has the power to do:

  1. Whatever his misgivings about Trump’s peace plan, he could agree to talks without preconditions. (Even if what Israel is offering is less than a state, why reject a plan that could potentially provide the PA with far greater autonomy, reap significant economic rewards and represent a step closer to full statehood?)
  2. He could allow dissent in the PA, and stop arresting and beating protesters.
  3. He could hold elections (He’s currently serving the 13th year of a 4 year term).
  4. He could enact genuine economic and political reforms and begin to promote a culture of democracy.
  5. He could  put an end to the PA’s glorification of terror and culture of incitement, end pay for slay and support projects which promote co-existence – ‘peace from the ground up’ as it’s called.
  6. He could stop placing roadblocks to Gaza’s rehabilitation.

The failure of media outlets to recognize that Palestinians are more than just victims and, even within the limits imposed by the occupation, have the capacity to resist violence, hatred, scapegoating and self-pity, and embark on a path of real political and cultural reform, continues to deny news consumers an accurate understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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6 replies »

  1. This is why it’s so easy to consider pro-Palestinians as rabid anti-Semites. The only thing matters when Palestinians kill themselves is how terrible Israel that caused those poor, pitiful Palestinians to strap on a bomb and blow up pizza joint. Or to grab rock, and throw it at armed soldiers. Or to go to an international border and start a riot.

    Israel is in control of all those bad things. Because Jews killed Jesus and stuff.

    Good times in 2018.

  2. Using art to justify Jew hatred is nothing new. Mr. Bell joins a long and ignoble list.

  3. Abbas walks a tight rope between Hamas whose violence has great Palestinian support and America/EU who finance him and Israel who tacitly keep him in office. It is in his interest to pretend his arms are tied by Israel.

  4. They just about have their own state in everything but name. But it’s a dictatorship. Palestinians can be citizens of Israel or they can be citizens of the PA. Palestinians work in Israeli firms alongside Jews (I know ‘cos I’ve met them) in which they have the same rights as their Israeli colleagues. There could have been a Palestinian state 70 years ago but the Jordanians wouldn’t allow it. That’s Arab – v- Arab. There’s Mid-East apartheid for you.