Jeff Goldberg vs Ma’an News: Media Bias Obsession

In the latter part of the 20th century, trying to uncover bias became all the rage. Once it was acknowledged that news, history, academic papers, and all sorts of information sources reflected the inherent bias of the author, de-construction became a full-time job.

As with most such things, it got taken to an extreme. The result, in its worst form, was the ability of a right wing, massively funded news network to call itself “fair and balanced” as juxtaposed against an allegedly liberal media.

Nowhere is this dissection of alleged bias more visible than in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Both sides complain endlessly about the bias against them in media and academia. And both sides are right, to some extent. One should, indeed, read a history book or news report with a consciousness about who is writing it and what the publication that is dispersing it might have invested in it. If you do that, there is only a very small, and easily spotted, amount of material that needs to be summarily dismissed.

Not everything written by a Jew who supports Israel is necessarily false or misleading, or that everything written by an Arab is false or misleading in the opposite direction.

There are huge strains of this on both sides: on the pro-Palestinian side, we have the “Zionist-controlled media” canard, as well as more serious examinations that look at how a close US ally might be given quite a few breaks in the media. On the “pro-Israel” side there is a virtual industry (populated by such well-heeled organizations as CAMERA and Palestinian Media Watch [PMW]) built around it.

In my experience – and I have been engaged in media and historical analysis on this issue since I was an undergraduate student – most serious sources, with a few glaring exceptions, either legitimately strive for objectivity or make their political agenda clear. Anyone looking for a realistic picture should, in this or any other arena, gather their information from a variety of sources. Continue reading

PA Panicked by Palestine Papers

The PLO’s spokesman, Saeb Erekat, released a statement today in response to Al Jazeera’s publication of The Palestine Papers. The release is pasted below.

The statement would seem, at least at this early stage, to reflect genuine panic on Erekat’s part. The standard denial of something having been “taken out of context,” which is often very valid, plays very badly when the full contents of the minutes of meetings and entire documents are what he is addressing.

Saeb Erekat seems to know he's in a very bad position because of the Palestine Papers

His statement that the PA position has maintained the traditional Palestinian stances — “…to establish a sovereign and independent Palestinian State along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and to reach a just solution to the refugee issue based on their international legal rights, including those set out in UNGA 194…”– is clearly contradicted by the contents of the Papers.

Even more, the assertion that the PA made today, that Al Jazeera was essentially acting as a tool of the Qatar government, which is relatively friendly toward Hamas, has no foundation. It’s similar to the Israeli tactic regarding the Goldstone Report, which was to try to attack the source’s credibility rather than deal with the substance, which was largely unassailable.

Also today, a mob of Abbas supporters attacked the Al Jazeera headquarters in Ramallah on the West Bank. They did some damage an no one, apparently, was injured. The crowd was said to number around 250 people. Was that staged? Who can say, though I have my suspicions. But if a lot of Palestinians really bought Erekat’s response, that number would surely have been much higher; Ramallah is a pretty packed city.

Even if the PA, with its current Fatah leadership, somehow manages to stay in power after this, the PLO’s legitimacy as the “sole representative of the Palestinian people” is hopelessly compromised.  Continue reading