It is a long time since I have written or even read the M&G. But a recent neutral and factual article on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations suggested a more even-handed approach. I tested the waters with a longish letter which was published quite prominently in the Analysis and Comment page by an old acquaintance, Shaun de Waal. It follows below, but to widen your perspectives on the negotiations you may also want to read this, this and this.
Now for my letter:
It has been a long time since I have had occasion to compliment the Mail & Guardian. In fact, I had stopped either reading or writing to the paper in protest over its egregiously one-sided treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whether the scrupulously factual and neutral tone adopted by Paul Lewis and Harriet Sherwood (“Secret steps to Middle East peace”, August 2) is or will become the norm remains to be seen but perhaps it heralds a more honest approach to a conflict with serious implications for world Jewry and with wide regional and global ramifications .
As one who started with a powerful commitment to a just two-state solution, only to see my hopes incrementally whittled down by a radicalised Palestinian politics, the Islamist movement Within Arab-Muslim communities and a virulently anti-Israeli project by elements of the Western left, I, along with many others, had reached a point where it seemed that only the exercise of resolute and uncompromising power by Israel held any hope for her survival.
Does this “peace initiative” change anything on the ground? From Israel’s point of view, it is fraught with danger. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, as pointed out by Lewis and Sherwood, publicly said no Israeli will be allowed in the new Palestinian state. Does that refer to citizenship, residency or even commercial, sporting or cultural interchange.
The refusal of Palestinian leaders to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, the ongoing incitement in Palestinian schools and elsewhere and the fact that the Facebook page of one of the Palestinian negotiators, Mohammad Shtayyeh, shows a map with Israel replaced by Palestine, means that even Israelis of liberal disposition view the negotiations
with concern. Add this to the release of prisoners responsible for numerous, deliberate Israeli civilian deaths, the general reluctance of the Western media to hold Palestinians, especially, accountable for their actions and the violent instability of the Middle East and large parts of North Africa and the level of foreboding increases exponentially.
Our worst fears can be summarised in two alternatives:
• The talks fail after Israel has made considerable concessions following immense American and European pressure to concede vital security concerns, leaving Israel vilified by Western liberals and facing an empowered and combative Palestinian entity.
• A “peace agreement” is signed, leaving Israel seriously weakened as a result of territorial, diplomatic and security concessions, only to be broken in a few years’ time.
Under such circumstances, most of the broad pro-Zionist camp would finally ditch our “liberal” inhibitions and expect Israel to use its military and economic power solely in its
own interests. If that happens, global instability will rise sharply, with unpredictable consequences.
If only for that reason, I hope that the Western media will, for once, hold all parties equally responsible for their actions and bring evenhanded scrutiny and pressure to bear on both sides.