July 17, 2006
Constructing a Neutral Narrative in the Middle East
I promise to get back to posting things on Africa soon. But I compiled this information I found on different sites and excerpted remarks from reports by the Palestine Media Watch. It ties into some of the things I posted in the past couple of days–about Western media not portraying a Palestinian narrative in their news coverage.
So we can have a better understanding of both sides–I’m listing a pro-Israeli narrative, a pro-Palestinian narrative and what a neutral narrative of both sides of the conflict should look like. Once we have a neutral narrative I hope it helps the media to be more critical as well as help both sides move beyond this impasse.
What Both Sides Are Saying…
Pro-Israeli articles are more easily identifiable, especially in the Western press. They reflect a well-defined worldview which rarely changes:
- Palestinians are primarily to blame for the violence;
- Israel has offered major concessions;
- Palestinians should have accepted Israel’s Camp David concessions; and
- Palestinian refugees should have no right of return.
Beyond that, pro-Israeli articles are striking in their omission of extremely critical issues such as U.N. resolutions pertaining to the occupation and findings of human rights organizations, including Israeli NGOs.
The Pro-Palestinian argument highlights the illegal nature of Israeli actions, such as the settlements and policies, like targeted political assassinations, it also focuses on internationally recognized agreements and standards.
Balanced news writing usually avoid faulting either side; but when faulting, both sides are taken to task. A balanced narrative (listen up FOX News) should stress the morally obvious, the legally sound, and some very basic, factual realities.
The three points of view on some key issues are as follows:
The Israeli Narrative
- Yasser Arafat- was responsible for the violence and could’ve stopped it at anytime. Used violence to pressure Israel.
- Israel- Is using reasonable, not excessive, force. Is under great danger and must defend itself. Should not cede more land to the Palestinians.
- Peace process – Is a failure. It is dead.Has shown that Palestinians are not serious about long-term peace. Has been a ruse used by Palestinians.
- Ehud Barak- was very flexible, reasonable and courageous. Should rethought his strategy and was politically immature.
- United States- Should always side, unconditionally, with Israel.
- Intifada- Was not spontaneous. Was orchestrated by Arafat & Hamas.
- Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount- Was an opportunity the Palestinians were waiting for to start the Intifada.
- Palestinians’ right of return- Spells the extinction of Israel. Is being used by Arabs to destroy Israel. Is not Israel’s problem. Arab states should take in Palestinian refugees.
- Jerusalem- Is the indivisible capital of Israel. Is not an important Muslim city. Is being used by Palestinians to stall final negotiations.
Subtext of the Israeli Narrative:
Reduction of the entire Palestinian leadership to a few individuals: often only Arafat, now blame falls to PNA President Mahmoud Abbas or members of Hamas. There is no expression of sorrow over the deaths of Palestinian children, only Israelis. There is rare mention of Arab citizens of Israel, rare mention of Israeli extremists. No mention of human rights reports findings. No mention of U.N. resolutions relevant to the occupation. No explanation of why the U.S. must stand unconditionally with Israel. No explanation of the potential underlying reasons for the Intifada from the Palestinian point of view.
The Palestinian Narrative
- Right of return- Is a legitimate right of all refugees supported by the U.N. and international community. Should be recognized as a right, and this is distinct from any actual implementation.
- Settlements- Are illegal facts on the ground that exist in contravention of international law. Should be evacuated by Israel. Continue to be constructed and funded by the Israeli government.
- Peace process- Negotiations should continue, using U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 as their basis. Negotiations have collapsed because of Israeli intransigence on key issues such as Jerusalem and refugees. Is hindered by the U.S., which is not the honest brokerit claims to be and instead benefits from instability in the region. Fell through at Camp David because Barak did not offer far-reaching concessions.
- Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount- Was an intentional, premeditated provocation.
- Palestinian suffering- Is due to Israel’s 35-year military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Is exacerbated by curfews, closures, and other movement-limiting policies.
- Israel’s response to the Intifada- Has been disproportionate. Warrants an independent inquiry into the violence, preferably international monitors. Only serves to strengthen Palestinian resistance.
- International law- Considers Israeli assassination of Palestinian political figures illegal, and Israeli settlements illegal.U.N. Resolution 242 should be the basis for peace negotiations.
- Jerusalem- Should be an open city as Al-Aqsa is important for Muslims. Should not be used to transform a political conflict into a religious war.
The Neutral Narrative
- Violence- Cannot be condoned from either side. Will not lead to victory for either side (as recent events should show). Causing the death of anyone Palestinian or Israeli is condemnable.
- Settlements- Are illegal, and construction should be halted. Were built to compromise full Palestinian sovereignty.
- Israel’s response to the Intifada- Has been excessive. Violence only fuels more violence.
- Peace process- Offered Palestinians a homeland crisscrossed by Israeli settlements and Jewish-only bypass roads. Has failed due to Israel & the Palestinian Authority’s inability to implement many of its Oslo obligations. Negotiations should resume.