Guardian cartoon of Abbas in an Israeli straitjacket illustrates the media’s failure to hold Palestinians responsible.

The failure of media outlets to recognize that Palestinians are more than just victims and, even within the real limits imposed by the occupation, have the capacity to resist violence, hatred, scapegoating and self-pity, and embark on a path of real political and cultural reform, continues to deny news consumers an accurate understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Yesterday, we tweeted this in response to a cartoon by the Guardian’s Steve Bell depicting Prince William’s recent visit with Mahmoud Abbas.

Though the ‘Israeli straitjacket around Abbas’ represents a motif we haven’t previously encountered, the idea that this imagery conveys, that Palestinians lack agency informs so much of what passes for enlightened opinion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the British media.

As former AP Jerusalem correspondent Matti Friedman wrote in his landmark 2014 expose on institutional media bias, “Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate.”  “The story mandates”, Friedman added, “that they exist as passive victims of the party that matters [Israel].

This mindset not only leads the media to ignore widespread Palestinian antisemitism, but, in its most extreme form, it can end up excusing acts of terror – the “but, what choice do they have?” line. However, even far less extreme variations of the ‘Palestinian powerlessness’ narrative ignore the fact that their leaders – even without statehood – have the power to make choices that can significantly impact their quality of life.

Here are a few things that Abbas has the power to do:

  1. Whatever his misgivings about Trump’s peace plan, he could agree to talks without preconditions. (Even if what Israel is offering is less than a state, why reject a plan that could potentially provide the PA with far greater autonomy, reap significant economic rewards and represent a step closer to full statehood?)
  2. He could allow dissent in the PA, and stop arresting and beating protesters.
  3. He could hold elections (He’s currently serving the 13th year of a 4 year term).
  4. He could enact genuine economic and political reforms and begin to promote a culture of democracy.
  5. He could  put an end to the PA’s glorification of terror and culture of incitement, end pay for slay and support projects which promote co-existence – ‘peace from the ground up’ as it’s called.
  6. He could stop placing roadblocks to Gaza’s rehabilitation.

The failure of media outlets to recognize that Palestinians are more than just victims and, even within the limits imposed by the occupation, have the capacity to resist violence, hatred, scapegoating and self-pity, and embark on a path of real political and cultural reform, continues to deny news consumers an accurate understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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