Editorial / Media Crit: The Bid for Palestinian Statehood

By Anonymous (not verified), 26 September, 2011
Nick Cooper


The bid for Palestinian statehood is popular among the people of Palestine and the people of Israel. It is not popular in the Israeli political class, the U.S. corporate media, nor the White House. For different reasons, it's also not popular among many Palestinian and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists.

Among the criticisms of these activists are that Mahmoud Abbas is no longer legally the President of anything and that this bid is a power grab by a usurper, that a bid for statehood which negotiates away Palestinian right of return would be illegitimate, that the bid falls short of rightful demands regarding the borders, and that it ignores rights of Palestinians living in Israel and in refugee camps around the region. Among these critics is author Ali Abunimah who flushes out Edward Said's dream of a one state solution in the book One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Similarly, BDS activists see their movement and tactics as achieving what negotiations, the UN, and US Presidents never have: a growing awareness and concern around the world, even in Israel, about the apartheid nature of the Israeli occupation.

In the first paragraph of all US corporate media coverage of the issue, Abbas is the "Palestinian President" and furthermore, is Palestine itself. It is typical reporter language to equate a country with its leadership when summarizing positions, statements, and aspirations. However, in the case of Palestine where Abbas has been unilaterally and arbitrarily extending the term of his presidency past his own end dates, and after his party lost to Hamas, the corporate media has a responsibility to question his title. It is not up to Obama, Netanyahu, or CNN to decide who legally is in charge of a state they don't even recognize.

Next, we have references to the dangerousness of this non-violent request for statehood. Instead of focusing on the daily violence that has gone on for far too long, the New York Times warns that "A Palestinian decision to shift its statehood quest toward international legal and political pressure on Israel, combined with Israeli fear and truculence at a time of regional upheaval, has many predicting disaster," and even threats. In the same article, we read that "American diplomats were here last week warning Mr. Abbas of unforeseen consequences from his statehood bid. Having the power to take Israeli officials to the International Criminal Court may sound appealing, they said, but it will not end the occupation and is likely to make it worse."

Lastly, there is the patronizing tone of the corporate news telling the Palestinians that every possible tactic to change their lot is worthless at best -- use of arms, the bid for statehood, the BDS campaign, protests, direct action, use of the international courts and tribunals. The overall message amounts to an acknowledgement that the situation in Palestine is untenable and getting worse, but that any possible move on the part of Palestinians is just going to make it worse than worse. I too am very skeptical about the usefulness of armed resistance, however I support the use of every other tool in the box. The corporate media however, effectively denies the utility of any tactic whatsoever, except for the so-called "direct-negotiations."

From Obama, to the New York Times, to Newsday, to the Wall Street Journal, any other tactic is neutral or worse except this magic one. There is no way to solve problems except negotiations with Israel. This bid, they say, will do nothing to help the Palestinian cause -- the only thing that will help them is real peace negotiations. The irony, of course, is that Israel's leadership is intentionally blocking the peace negotiations by continuing settlement expansion, demanding security commitments that Abbas is incapable of achieving, and other means. In an amazing news story this week, Bill Clinton himself was reported to agree that it is Netanyahu who is making peace negotiations impossible. The result of these factors is a cynical syllogism: nothing other than substantive negotiations will solve the problems, Israel will ensure that substantive negotiations never occur, therefore Israel will ensure that nothing will ever solve the problems. The corporate news and White house have agreed: Palestinians should sit down like good indigenous people and take it, waiting to see what reservations the colonizers leave them.