The shallowness of mainstream media was evidenced last week in its reporting on the major addresses to the United Nations General Assembly by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Abbas came close to outright incitement against Israel, accusing it of “planning a new Nakba against the Palestinians” and of seeking to destroy the Palestinian Authority and the two-state solution to peace, while Netanyahu deftly avoided a further confrontation with Washington in implicitly conceding his willingness to hold off on any military attack against Iran for the foreseeable future.
But those vital points were eclipsed by the media’s mocking emphasis on Netanyahu’s use of a drawing of a primitive bomb to illustrate the level of Iranian preparedness to go nuclear.
In marking his own red line on the drawing — and causing some confusion over whether he drew it in the right place — Netanyahu opened himself to ridicule in the eyes of many critics. And given the seriousness of the message, perhaps he should have used a more sophisticated chart to prove his point.
But the point itself is what merits attention. And that is that Iran must be stopped before it has the ability to create a nuclear bomb that threatens Israel’s very existence and shifts the balance of power in the Mideast toward the Islamic fundamentalists in Tehran, setting off a nuclear arms race in the region.
What Netanyahu did achieve was to draw world attention to those dangers, and what they represent to U.S. security, as he has done, almost single-handedly, for many years now.
All of this attention eclipsed the ugly, malicious speech delivered by Abbas, especially after he had assured several American Jewish leaders that his talk would reflect more sensitivity to Jewish claims.
Perhaps he meant the reference he made to the land at stake being “the birthplace of Jesus, the ascension of the Prophet Mohammed and the resting place of Abraham” and the home of “the three monotheistic religions.”
But his primary message was that Israel is trying to destroy the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority and the two-state solution.
He warned of “the catastrophic danger of the racist Israeli settlement of our country,” repeatedly referred to Israel as “the occupying power,” and asserted that the Jewish state continues to follow a policy of “war,” “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid,” while the Palestinian people continue their “adoption of a culture of peace.”
There was little outrage expressed in the mainstream media over such accusations, and that they seem to reflect a further resistance on the part of the Palestinians to engage in serious negotiations.
Some Western diplomats ascribed the hateful tone of the Abbas speech to his being weary and frustrated with the lack of progress on the negotiating front. Many pro-Israel supporters viewed it as further proof that the PA has no interest in pursuing a meaningful peace agreement with Israel.
In a meeting later that day with UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, Netanyahu expressed frustration, noting that Israel has undertaken a number of measures in recent weeks to help the PA, including bailing it out with emergency aid.
Jerusalem no doubt could take more steps to revive peace talks, and many pro-Israel voices have been arguing that now is the time to try again, before a one-state solution becomes the only alternative. But much of the media still sticks to its script that Israel is the party primarily responsible for the standoff, ignoring a Palestinian position of refusal that has not only hardened but defies the facts.