This is a cross-post from Just Journalism.
On Tuesday 22 February, Middle East Monitor (MEMO) will be hosting a panel discussion on the Palestine papers, the leaked negotiating papers that were jointly published last month by Al-Jazeera and The Guardian. The event will include Seumas Milne, associate editor of The Guardian, alongside a variety of speakers. According to MEMO, the papers ‘revealed shocking disclosures which have serious implications for the region.’ The event will ‘bring together a distinguished panel of experts’ to ‘explain what the papers revealed’ and to ‘discuss their impact on the ground and on future negotiations.’
The conference is likely to promote the view that the ‘shocking disclosures’ were the concessions offered by the Palestinian negotiators, since MEMO is a pro-Hamas organisation that rejects the notion of Palestinian concessions for peace, while supporting irredentist maximalist claims against Israel. It is run by Dr Daud Abdullah, a known Hamas sympathiser who famously signed the Istanbul Declaration in 2009, which called on Muslims to attack the British Navy if it tried to prevent arms being smuggled into Gaza:
‘…The obligation of the Islamic Nation to regard the sending of foreign warships into Muslim waters, claiming to control the borders and prevent the smuggling of arms to Gaza, as a declaration of war, a new occupation, sinful aggression, and a clear violation of the sovereignty of the Nation. This must be rejected and fought by all means and ways.’
Dr Abdullah has never recanted his support for the document or the conference.
Similarly, MEMO recently published an ‘exclusive’ article by Dr Azzam Tamimi, a Hamas spokesperson and suicide bombing advocate, in which he argues that if the Gaza-based Islamist group accepted Israel’s right to exist and denounced violence, it would represent a ‘capitulation’:
‘Indeed, it looks as if “reconciliation” [between Hamas and Fatah] is nothing but a trap aimed at subjugating Hamas. The price of lifting the siege on Gaza and ending the sanctions against Hamas is too high to accept; it would amount to capitulation. As things stand today, Hamas and Fatah share very little in common. Fatah was transformed by the Oslo Accords from a national liberation movement into an agency of collaborators serving Israel. Reconciliation is intended to do the same thing to Hamas, but Hamas has, so far, resisted well. Should it deviate, God forbid, the Palestinian people will have no choice but to produce a new movement that is loyal to the Palestinian dream of a free and independent state, which the Fatah leadership has, since Oslo, sought to kill.’
The argument that Fatah (and by extension the Palestinian Authority) are ‘collaborators serving Israel’ was echoed in The Guardian’s editorial line on the Palestine papers, which condemned Palestinian negotiators as ‘craven’ and ‘weak’, and called for Hamas to be brought into the negotiating process. The newspaper also offered a platform to a representative from the group to threaten ‘practical measures’ in response to PA ‘treason’.
Seumas Milne, who, alongside the Middle East editor Ian Black, was responsible for the presentation of the negotiating documents in The Guardian, also explicitly endorsed this perspective, arguing that Palestinian concessions represented the ‘decay of what in Yasser Arafat’s heyday was an authentic national liberation movement’.
Nor is there likely to be much disagreement from the other speakers at the conference, many of whom are ardent critics of Israel. For example, Kathleen Christison, when writing on the MEMO website, has employed traditional anti-Semitic motifs of Jewish global domination:
‘Zionist lobbyists continued to work as assiduously, with results as “miraculous,” throughout the twentieth century, gaining influence over civil society and ultimately over policymakers and, most importantly, shaping the public discourse that determines all thinking about Israel and its neighbors… Jewish dispersion across the Western world—and Jewish influence in the economies, the film industries, the media, and academia in key Western countries—are what enabled the Zionist movement to survive and thrive in the dark years of the early twentieth century; and Zionist lobbying and molding [sic]of public discourse are what has maintained Israel’s favored place in the hearts and minds of Americans and the policy councils of America’s politicians.’
Lord Andrew Phillips has argued in The Independent that Israel is a ‘rogue state’, while Hamas rocket attacks are a ‘defiant trickle’:
‘As for token Palestinian resistance, I sense they at least agree with the Jews in the lesson hard learnt by the latter, never to acquiesce in one’s own oppression, whatever the odds. So Israel least of all should be surprised at the defiant trickle of Hamas rockets, against which their criminally disproportionate retribution in Gaza looked like nothing so much as the abused becoming the abuser.’
‘US backing for Israeli policies of expansion . . . and oppression of the Palestinian people is the major cause of bitter division and violence in the world.’
Oliver McTernan runs Forward Thinking, an NGO that describes itself as working to ‘create an inclusive climate where previously unengaged stakeholders in the region can be heard’. McTernan is critical of the demand that Hamas recognise Israel and denounce violence before it is allowed into negotiations:
‘Since Hamas won the election in 2006, Washington has been determined to undermine its efforts to govern and its ability to implement the social changes it promised in its manifesto. By setting conditions that were politically impossible for Hamas to accept without prior engagement and agreement, it was able to set the trap that allowed it to isolate Hamas and impose a crippling economic and political embargo. What could have been a real turning point in the dynamics of the Palestinian – Israeli conflict became instead a missed opportunity. By setting preconditions which it knew that Hamas could not have accepted, the US successfully sabotaged the results of an election that reflected clearly the will of the Palestinian people.’
Tim Llewellyn, a former Middle East correspondent for the BBC, has previously accused British broadcasters of ‘trying to appease Israel’ with favourable news reporting:
‘The reasons for this tentative, unbalanced attitude to the central Middle East story are powerful. BBC news management is by turns schmoozed and pestered by the Israeli embassy. The pressure by this hyperactive, skillful mission and by Israel’s many influential and well organised friends is unremitting and productive, especially now that accusations of anti-Semitism can be so wildly deployed…Israel’s hysterical reactions to frank and critical reporting show the uselessness of British broadcasters’ trying to appease Israel by constraining and falsely ‘balancing’ coverage.’
Sir Richard Dalton, a former British ambassador to Iran, was cited in a Dispatches investigation into the alleged power of the pro-Israel lobby in the UK:
‘Sir Richard Dalton, former British ambassador in Tehran and consul in Jerusalem, told us that when he was a young diplomat in the 1970s, Britain felt able to act purely in its own interests. Throughout his career he has seen that change as the influence of the pro-Israel lobby has grown. [Dalton]:“One of the frustrations is that my colleagues and I are not pro-Palestinian, pro-Arab, pro-Israel, pro-anything. We want what is best for Britain. “But there is a pro-Israel lobby and it’s active in trying to define the debate in order to limit the options that British politicians can choose to options that would be acceptable to that lobby.”’
The final speaker is Clayton Swisher, the Executive Producer of Al Jazeera’s Transparency Unit, described as ‘the team that produced the Palestine Papers’.
Tim Llewellyn has also previously complained about media broadcasters who don’t specifically identify commentators who are Jewish. From the CST blog:
‘[Llewellyn] also denounced broadcasters who invited the “insidious” former US ambassador to the Middle East Denis Ross, without fully identifying him.
‘Mr Llewellyn said: “What a lovely Anglo-Saxon name! But Denis Ross is not just a Jew, he is a Zionist, a long-time Zionist… and now directs an Israeli-funded think tank in Washington. He is a Zionist propagandist.”’