On March 17, 2015, the day of Israel’s national elections, the Guardian and other UK media outlets reported on a warning by Benjamin Netanyahu, in a 28-second Facebook video, that “Arab voters are heading to the polls in droves” and that a high turnout by that community could threaten Likud’s hold on power.
The prime minister later apologised, but his use of what was widely seen as divisive, inflammatory rhetoric became a big international story. It was also was roundly criticised both in Israel and abroad, and even elicited a strong rebuke from the White House.
Yet, in a perfect illustration of the double standards which inform coverage of the conflict, the Guardian and other UK media outlets have completely ignored a speech by Mahmoud Abbas that, as we noted recently on Twitter and Facebook, included the suggestion that Jews “are…excellent in faking and counterfeiting history” and that the “holy Quran” reveals that Jews fabricate the truth.
Here’s the clip by Israellycool (the blog that broke the story) where you can watch the relevant part of his Dec. 13th speech at an ’emergency’ meeting of Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul in reaction to US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Even leaving aside his bizarre suggestion that Palestinians descend from the ancient Canaanites, Abbas is effectively saying not only that Jews fabricate their history in the land – reinforcing the Palestinian lie that Jews have no connection to Jerusalem – but that Jews are liars by nature.
This one glaring omission should be seen as part of a larger pattern of UK media silence over even the most egregious examples of antisemitism by Palestinian politicians and opinion leaders.
In fact, the failure to report Abbas’s Istanbul speech represented the second time in little more than a year that antisemitism by the Palestinian president has been ignored by the UK media. In June 2016, during a speech to the European Parliament, Abbas accused Israeli rabbis of calling for their government to poison Palestinian wells. Though he later retracted his comments, as we noted at the time, not one British media outlet reported it.
However, this isn’t merely about double standards.
When correspondents covering the region fail to inform their readers that the ‘moderate’ PA leader has expressed ugly antisemitic views, they’re also obfuscating the broader problem of widespread antisemitism within Palestinian society. A 2014 international poll commissioned by ADL concluded that Palestinians are the most antisemitic group in the world, revealing, for instance, that 88% of Palestinians believe that “Jews have too much control over the global media” and that 78% believe that “Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars”.
As we’ve argued continually on these pages, the failure of regional correspondents to report and deal honestly with the injurious impact of such corrosive hatred and irrationality within Palestinian society contributes to the British public’s continuing misunderstanding of the real ‘root causes’ of the conflict.