As a student of the Middle East and its political and religious dynamics, I am amazed at the amount of misinformation and propaganda that passes off as legitimate information, especially when it comes to Israel and Palestine. While it is true that both the parties to conflicts have their narratives of what constitutes “truth,” one must not forget that there are some “facts” on the situation, which must not be forgotten. Opinion should never pass for facts, though this seems to be happening on a daily basis. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former United States senator once famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
Here are the top five media myths about Israel-Palestine that pass themselves off as facts.
1) Palestinians have not been cooperative or don’t want to talk.
While this is part of the misinformation campaign spread by media and the Israeli government, it is not accurate in the least.
2) Israel is the only “democracy” in the Middle East.
Are we forgetting Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt? While reams have been written about oil and democratization and the role of imperial powers in keeping dictators in power, the reality today is that the Middle East is changing. There is reason to hope that there will be more power in people’s hands and societies will change for the better. Many analysts have Israel as an “apartheid state” and there is reason to believe this hypothesis.
3) The U.S. is a neutral player in the “peace-process."
While many administrations, including those of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, have had a transformational impact in taking the process further, most of the time, the U.S has not been a neutral party to the process. The number U.S. vetoes of Security Council Resolutions against Israeli settlements (which are illegal by international law) indicates how biased it is towards Israel. Facts speak louder than words.
4) Targeted killing is good.
Targeted killing is against Geneva conventions and internationally accepted norms. This is plain wrong and leads only to further violence, as we are seeing today.
5) Hamas is the “spoiler” in all cases.
While it is true that Hamas perpetuates unspeakable violence and has acted as a “spoiler” in the process of working towards peace, the bigger spoiler in many cases has been the state of Israel. The “collateral damage” that Operation Cast Lead has caused is enough to prove that Israel is not a dove, by any means. (For more, please see a paper I wrote some time ago.)
Before passing any judgment on this issue, one must keep certain facts in mind.
Firstly, the state of Israel is an “occupying” force, meaning it has annexed large parts of the territory that it occupies the houses, villages and townships in which Palestinians legitimately owned and lived in. UN Security Council Resolution 242, which was adopted in 1967,clearly delineates as much. Unfortunately, the state of Israel continually and blatantly violates this and all other resolutions and agreements.
Further, the media reporting is absolutely biased, and favors the Israeli narrative as opposed to the Palestinian side. For more in-depth analysis, please see Edward Said’s “Covering Islam: How the media and experts determine how we see the rest of the world."Or, as an exercise, look up any article in a leading news media and see how many of them quote the Palestinian side in a story.
As we try to understand what is going on, Said’s words come to mind. Back in 1999, he wrote, “Violence, hatred and intolerance are bred out of injustice, poverty and a thwarted sense of political fulfillment. Last fall, hundreds of acres of Palestinian land were expropriated by the Israeli Army from the village of Umm al-Fahm, which isn't in the West Bank but inside Israel. This drove home the fact that, even as Israeli citizens, Palestinians are treated as inferior, as basically a sort of underclass existing in a condition of apartheid.”
The sad reality is that this continues even to this day. Once these facts on the ground change, I believe we will see a different reality.