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Media Offensive Touts Bibi’s West Bank Economic Miracle

Yesterday, I wrote about one of Ethan Bronner’s typically misleading NY Times articles, in which he touts Bibi Netanyahu’s focus on Palestinian economic opportunities, rather than political negotiations, as a means of easing pressure on Israel to finally resolve the conflict.

Rob Browne has done some terrific research and pointed me to a series of articles all echoing this sentiment.  It’s almost as if the Israelis are in the midst of a charm offensive designed to take the pressure off Bibi by focussing on making Palestinian lives slightly easier but doing nothing to solve the underlying issues that prevent peace.

The Times features this AP story which it misleadingly titles, West Bank Plan Bears Fruit, but Much More Needed. In reality, the article details the complaints by Palestinian businessmen about key industrial components which are arbitrarily refused by the IDF for “security” purposes. The only thing about the article that is pro-Bibi is the first paragraph which lays out the Israeli leader’s views of his own policy:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he wants to make ”economic peace” with the Palestinians, and the first fruits are already being seen in eased Israeli restrictions that are stoking a retail and entertainment boom in the West Bank.

But the paragraph immediately following hammers home a major theme of the story:

But where it counts — industry, exports, investments — Netanyahu still has a way to go.

In this passage too, the unreasonableness of the Israeli position is evident:

Israel…puts its security above all else, remembering the trauma of Palestinian bombers from the West Bank blowing themselves up in Israeli cities. There has been no such bombing in 2 1/2 years, but Israel still doesn’t feel safe.

Unfortunately, the reporter doesn’t ask the obvious question: why? Perhaps if Israelis don’t feel safe after 2 1/2 years of quiet they will never feel safe and never be willing to negotiate a political resolution–the only sure way to end the conflict.

In explaining why Israel compels Palestinians to go through a torturous ordeal to import materials for manufacturing, the IDF spokesperson reveals, once again, the capriciousness of Israeli security requirements:

Irit Ben-Abba, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official dealing with the West Bank economy, said change isn’t possible just yet. ”We would very much like to be in a door-to-door system,” she told reporters, but ”security at this particular moment does not allow this.”

That last sentence means precisely nothing. Of course “security does not allow this.” In other words, we in the IDF can make Palestinian businessmen’s lives a living hell. We’re not accountable to anyone. We don’t have to explain ourselves to anyone. We don’t have to give you a reason for our onerous regulations other than “security requires it.”

Tony Blair: Bibi's handmaiden in birthing the West Bank miracle (PBS)

Tony Blair: Bibi's handmaiden in birthing the West Bank economic 'miracle' (PBS)

The Conference of President’s Daily Alert, the hasbaraniks’ Bible, touts this story probably because of its headline. I doubt the staff who put the Alert together bothered to read the rest of it, which doesn’t flatter their pro-Occupation point of view.

Bill Moyer’s former PBS show, NOW, gets in on the “economic miracle” act by touting the supposed rennaissance in Jenin. The copy promoting the show is absolutely breathless in promoting Tony Blair’s work in bringing shiny new economic development to the West Bank:

Once one of the most dangerous and violent cities in the West Bank, Jenin was the scene of frequent battles between the Israeli military and Palestinian fighters, and the hometown of more than two dozen suicide bombers.

Today, however, there’s been a huge turnaround. Jenin is now the center of an international effort to build a safe and economically prosperous Palestinian state from the ground up. On Jenin’s streets today, there’s a brand new professional security force loyal to the Palestinian Authority and funded in part by the United States. But can the modest success in Jenin be replicated throughout the West Bank, or will the effort collapse under the intense political pressure from all sides?

Next week’s show should tell you a great deal about how it’s quality has eroded since Moyer left:

Next week NOW on PBS reports from inside the Israeli Defense Force to get the Israeli perspective on peace in the Middle East.

From the looks of it, NOW’s producer has just gotten back from one of those all-expenses-paid Israel junkets put together by the Israel lobby.

In one of those strange coincidences that prove the media is nothing but a big echo chamber, it appears that NPR beat Bronner to the punch in writing about the supposed economic revival of Nablus. The two separate articles appear to follow virtually the same story line and adopt the same thrust praising Israel for its willingness to ease up on Palestinians and allow their economy to resuscitate.

In the midst of the cheerleading, reporter Peter Kenyon does manage to interview someone who sees things clearly:

…For veteran Palestinian activists such as Hussam Khader, who works on behalf of refugees, there is a certain resentment that simple pleasures of daily life that many people take for granted come to Nablus in the guise of a gift from Israel.

“Israel tried to show the international community there is a ‘good occupation.’ But for us, occupation is occupation. Without real independence in an independent state, the occupation will continue as an occupation,” he says.

But for now, Palestinians are taking advantage of today’s freedoms while keeping a worried eye on what the future may hold.

Israel Policy Forum’s The Pulse even manages to quote Bibi’s favorite shmate, Yisrael HaYom in touting economic miracles on the West Bank. Must you, IPF, quote a newspaper owned by Sheldon Adelson??

Middle East Progress features an article touting a project sponsored by Clinton’s Global Initiative Fund, which would provide insurance to Palestinian entrepreneurs if their business was adversely impacted by political/military turmoil related to the conflict. While perhaps a useful stopgap measure, it seems a palliative compared to what is really needed–a real peace that would free up the economies on both sides to run wide open.

Israel definitely wants the world to know that the IMF projects economic growth of 7% in the Palestinian economy. But considering the battering that this economy has taken over the years and Israel’s ongoing efforts to prevent development, 7% doesn’t appear so miraculous a number.

A similar Jerusalem Post article fits into the hasbara mode even more neatly.

In short, there are no substitutes for peace.  And peace will not come from opening new movie theaters or department stores.  It will come only after the hard compromises are made on both sides.  Till then, the economic miracle meme is only slightly more substantial than fluff.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Richard Witty July 22, 2009, 4:34 AM

    I still don’t feel safe from police, 38 years after being hit three times in the back with billy clubs for sitting in a Washington DC street attempting to “shut the city down for a day”.

    Palestinians will likely not feel safe 2 1/2 years after Gaza (rationally).

    Israelis don’t feel safe now (only 6 months after shelling of Israeli civilians resumed following the cessation of the formal cease-fire with Gaza) – rationally.

    “Perhaps if Israelis don’t feel safe after 2 1/2 years of quiet they will never feel safe and never be willing to negotiate a political resolution–the only sure way to end the conflict.”

    Perhaps Israelis WILL feel safe if the dissenting community validates their need to, and proposes means by which they can.

    Rather than only dissent against what is wrong (much), but only by harrassing and demeaning Israeli sentiment.

    “In short, there are no substitutes for peace. And peace will not come from opening new movie theaters or department stores. It will come only after the hard compromises are made on both sides. ”

    This is true. Bronner points to instances of success towards the trust-building that makes that possible. I would think that you would appreciate progress, and then suggest the next steps, even the big ones.

    But, not through magic, or even “strategy” of dissent that really is magic in a different frame.

    • Donald Johnson July 23, 2009, 5:44 PM

      It’s not trust-building to treat Palestinians as lab rats–even Bronner admitted that the differing treatments of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank were intended to teach Palestinians who they should support.

      If I advocated a similar treatment of Israel–blockade until they support far left pro-peace politicians, you’d be the first to start screaming about it.

      That’s what rings so false about your preachiness. You want everyone to recognize that Israeli Jews have legitimate fears and legitimate desires. Fine, but then you turn around and praise Israel for “trust-building” when it’s obvious the Netanyahu government has no intention of doing anything that would lead to a lasting peace.

  • Ira Glunts July 22, 2009, 4:50 AM

    “Next week’s [NOW] show should tell you a great deal about how it’s quality has eroded since Moyer left.”

    It sure does and the viewer comments on NOW page correctly indicate this fact.


    An example of the comments:

    Inside Israel’s Army is a parroting of the Israel spin with no honest investigation. Shame on you! You ignored the 12 courageous solders who recently spoke out about the truth on the ground. To have any credibility what so ever you must include their story. All independent investigations support their statements and not Israeli army spin you falsely reported as fact.

    • Warren July 22, 2009, 12:20 PM

      This is sad. I have watched NOW regularly and always considered David Brancaccio to be a successful, reliable protege of the great Bill Moyers, following in his footsteps so to speak. Mostly, NOW deal with economic issues (sometimes ecological and foreign policy) and the show can be quite hard-hitting. This is a big disappointment, they’re betraying their own progressive values. I’m guessing some higher-up squeeze came from the corporate-friendly higher echelons of PBS to get NOW to do an Israel-sympathetic program. Bill Moyers Journal and NOW are about the only two television news/commentary programs I can watch any more without wanting to puke. I guess all I’ve left is Bill Moyers Journal.

      Wow, I’m feeling Walter Cronkite’s death even harder now after this post. I was eight when Cronkite retired, for pete’s sake (the NYT said he retired in ’82, I believe). Why am I so nostalgic for all this stuff I didn’t even really know or live through?

      My maternal grand-parents were big Cronkite fans and they told me how the news used to be in the late ’60’s early ’70’s, like in ‘Nam the news used to show the body bags of our dead soldiers, reporters would be down there in the jungle and would document (some of) the fighting on the ground. That’s what helped turn Americans against the war.

      What happened to my country, dude? As Michael Moore might say.

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