By Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn
To read the New York Times, one would think that the situation in the Judea-Samaria (West Bank) region in 2015 is the same as it was in 1985 or 1975. Israel is “occupying the West Bank,” Palestinians are denied the right to vote, and Palestinian violence is inevitable because Israeli control makes them feel hopeless. That was more or less the theme of the Times’ March 31 feature story on the situation in the territories today.
But every once in a while, a Times reporter lets accidentally lets the cat out of the bag, and a discerning reader discovers that the truth is almost the exact opposite of what the Times is trying to convey.
Correspondent Diaa Hadid began her lengthy March 31 article on what was (for her) a hopeful note, pointing out that “the United States and Europe seem ever more ready to pressure Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank.”
Then, in the 12th paragraph, Hadid mentioned a fact that must have been confusing to Times readers. The Palestinian Authority held “a presidential election in 2005,” she noted in passing.
Wait a minute. We thought that the Palestinians have all been disenfranchised by the Israeli “occupation.” We were told –by the Times and most of the international news media– that Israel is preventing the Palestinians from exercising their democratic right to vote. Now it turns out that the Palestinian Authority did have an election in 2005 –and the only reason they haven’t held another once since then is because, as Hadid wrote, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas “has systematically snuffed out any challenges to his rule.”
In other words, it is the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, that is preventing Palestinian democracy. Interesting!
Then, another fascinating fact, this one in the 13th paragraph. A Palestinian critic of Abbas told the reporter, Ms. Hadid, that he “would only give the nickname Abu Mohammed, because he feared harassment by security forces.” She was referring, of course, to the Palestinian security forces. Remarkable! So it’s not the Israelis who are suppressing Palestinian dissidents and protesters–it’s the Palestinian Authority’s own security forces.
And if a reader managed to make it all the way down to paragraph 23, he would find Ms. Hadid mentioning that “Mr. Abbas was once praised for establishing security, cracking down on gunmen who terrorize Palestinian communities…” So it is Palestinian, not Israeli, “gunmen” who have been “terrorizing” the Palestinians. Who knew?
But the real kicker was in the 14th paragraph. “The Palestinian Authority,” Ms. Hadid reported –again, in passing– “governs Palestinian communities in the West Bank.”
How can that be? She had referred at the beginning of the article to “Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.” Now she is reporting the exact opposite–namely, that it is the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, which governs “Palestinian communities” there.
And she was right. Because although the Times and other supporters of the Palestinian cause are loathe to acknowledge it, Israel (under Yitzhak Rabin) in 1995 withdrew from the areas in Judea-Samaria where more than 95% of the Palestinians reside. The “occupation” ended twenty years ago. You can’t blame Israel for the way the PA mismanages the areas that it occupies.
By the 31st paragraph, however, Ms. Hadid managed to come full circle and find a way to blame Israel. Even though it is the Palestinian Authority that governs the Palestinians; even though the Palestinians do indeed vote, when the PA consents to hold elections; and even though it is the PA’s security forces that “terrorize” the Palestinians–nevertheless, it’s all Israel’s fault: “While many Palestinians acknowledge their system is broken” –a generous way of describing the situation– “they worry that it is being used as an excuse by Israel and other countries to allow their statehood hopes to wither.”
The truth is that the Palestinian Authority’s self-rule regime is already a state in every major respect but two: it does not have full control of its borders, and it does not have a full-fledged army. Not surprisingly, Israel is not anxious to have terrorists pouring across a PA-controlled border, or PA tanks and jet bombers a few miles from Tel Aviv.
So if Diaa Hadid and the New York Times want to make the case for supplying tanks to the PA, let them be open about it and say so–but please, stop pretending that the problem is some mythical Israeli “occupation.” It’s not 1985 any more.
[Moshe Phillips is president and Benyamin Korn is chairman of the Religious Zionists of Philadelphia, and both are current candidates on the Religious Zionist slate (www.VoteTorah.org) in the World Zionist Congress elections.]