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Eldad Tzioni

Palestine Papers Show One Way the Anti-Israel Media Sets the Agenda

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Posted on January 25 2011 12:38 pm
Eldad Tzioni has blogged as The Elder of Ziyon since 2004.
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This past Sunday, Al-Jazeera and the Guardian started releasing the so-called “Palestine Papers,” a huge compendium of memos and other documents written by the Palestinian Arab side documenting the peace negotiations with Israel.

They are not simply publishing the memos, however. They are releasing them in conjunction with articles that interpret the memos for the readers, and highlight the sections that they believe are important.

For example, Al Jazeera wrote this:

Tzipi Livni, the then-Israeli foreign minister, told Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Ahmed Qurei, the former PA prime minister, that she is “against international law”.

In one of the most candid statements that Livni made during the meeting about the framework of the negotiations at the upcoming Annapolis summit, she told the Palestinian negotiators what she really thought of the subject:

Livni: I was the Minister of Justice. I am a lawyer… But I am against law — international law in particular. Law in general.

Given the imbalance of power between the occupied and the occupier, international law and concepts of justice are the last refuges for Palestinians. However, in that November 2007 meeting Livni made clear she values neither.

The Guardian also mentioned this same topic:

[I]n an extraordinary comment in November 2007, Livni — who briefly had a British arrest warrant issued against her in 2009 over alleged war crimes in Gaza — is recorded as saying: “I was the minister of justice. I am a lawyer … But I am against law — international law in particular. Law in general.”

She made clear that what might have seemed to be a joke was meant more seriously by using the point to argue against international law as one of the terms of reference for the talks and insisting that “Palestinians don’t really need international law”. The Palestinian negotiators protested about the claim.

If one actually reads the memo, however, it becomes clear that Livni was not saying she was against the law, but simply that she did not want any reference to the law in the Terms of Reference and preamble that were to be jointly released by both sides during the Annapolis conference. The entire recorded meeting was about which issues should be included in this statement and which shouldn’t, and both sides had reservations about mentioning certain key phrases. For example, the Arab side did not want to mention the Quartet’s three conditions.

But this is not simply a case of journalistic malfeasance. The Guardian and Al Jazeera do that all the time. The problem is much deeper.

Most journalists are, to put it bluntly, lazy. They cannot be bothered to actually read and understand the memos when the Guardian and Al Jazeera have already done the analysis for them. So they mindlessly repeat the slanders that the anti-Israel journalists have already picked out for them.

Not only wire services but even Israeli newspapers are repeating the Guardian’s false slant about the memos.

This problem of lazy journalists is endemic.

One example that happens periodically is the release of polls of Palestinian Arabs. There are a number of such polling organizations, and along with their surveys they issue a press release highlighting the findings of the poll. Usually, the press release will make it sound like the Palestinian Arabs seek a peaceful, two-state solution. And journalists will happily file their reports with the poll results, and eventually these poll results get quoted by politicians and pundits alike.

But if one looks deeper into the polling methodology, questions and other answers, the polls often reveal a much more sinister side to the Palestinian Arabs. One is that when they are asked about how they feel about specific terror attacks, such as the Mercaz HaRav massacre of teenagers in a Jerusalem school, a majority enthusiastically support these outrages.

These results rarely make it into the press release, and therefore they rarely make the news.

And when anti-Israel groups are the ones who are writing the press releases and analysis of the original data, then they can effectively set the agenda for the entire world’s interpretation of these facts, even when the raw facts themselves are available for anyone to read.

One lesson is to be very skeptical about any information you read in the media. When possible, go to the original sources and read them instead — and make up your own mind.

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