| A primer on the core issues confronting world leaders and the media |
HONEST REPORTING - Media Critqiues Communique - November 28, 2007
As world leaders and journalists continue their talks in the colonial city of Annapolis, the Main Stream Media are already weighing in on the prospects of success for today's Mideast peace conference.
Nobody knows what the post-conference future holds, but this much is clear: Israel's status as a Jewish state, sovereignty over Jerusalem, the demarcation of borders, and the fate of Palestinian refugees are among the core issues the media will show renewed interest in.
The purpose of this primer is to help readers monitor coverage in their local papers and participate in the public debate.
The Jewish State
One of Israel's most fundamental demands is Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. The Jewish people have a right to self-determination in their ancient homeland - the only state in the world with a Jewish majority. That right is recognized implicitly for every nation on Earth, and should not be denied to the Jewish nation.
Israel's Jewish identity has been recognized internationaly. The 1947 UN Partition Plan divided the area under the British Mandate into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews accepted this plan. However, the Arabs rejected it and launched a war to capture the entire territory.
The Palestinians continue to reject Israel's most basic self-identity to this day. As Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote, the Palestinian refusal to meet Israel's basic demand creates deep suspicions about their real motives.
No place on Earth cuts to the soul of the Jewish people as deeply as Jerusalem. Ancient "Zion" - conquered by King David 3,000 years ago and the site of the two holy Temples - continues to serve as the emotional and spiritual home for the Jewish people.
Not surprisingly, questions regarding the status of Jerusalem are among the most contentious "core" issues dividing Palestinians and Israelis. The Palestinians want the eastern half of the city-where many holy sites are located-as the capital of their future state.
Despite centuries of exile, the Jews maintained a continuous presence in Jerusalem. What the media often call "Arab East Jerusalem" usually refers to areas temporarily under Jordanian rule from 1948 to 1967 and restored after the Six Day War. Those areas include the Old City and Judaism's holiest sites, the Temple Mount and Western Wall.
Eastern Jerusalem also includes numerous Jewish neighborhoods outside the Old City walls. Any division of the city along ethnic lines is far more complex than it appears on the surface. Moreover, Israeli media reports indicate that Arabs living in Jerusalem already enjoy Israeli social benefits like health care and don't necessarily want to live under PA jurisdiction.
In addition, Israel has a proven track record of ensuring full access to the city's holy sites. Can the Palestinian Authority be trusted to safeguard these sites for all religions?
For many Israelis, final borders are ultimately a question of security. Dore Gold, the former Israeli Ambassador to the UN, has argued for "Defensible Borders" because any Palestinian effort to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure is destined to be incomplete. This approach rejects any return to the 1948 armistice line (the "Green Line") on the grounds that it leaves Israel vulnerable and calls for retaining parts of the West Bank vital to security, such as the Jordan River Valley.
In contrast, the Palestinians demand an independent state in the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip. After the 2000 Camp David talks broke down, former PA Chairman Yasser Arafat claimed then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians nothing more than West Bank "Bantustans" - islands of independent territory without viable contiguity. This claim has been completely rejected by Ambassador Dennis Ross, the chief negotiator for the U.S. at Camp David.
Contiguity raises a host of practical questions. Can borders be adjusted for demographics, leaving Jewish-populated areas in Israel's hands? Will Israel have to trade territory inside Israel in order to keep the settlements? Can Israel retain highly populated settlement areas such as Ma'ale Adumim and the Gush Etzion bloc?
Another core issue is the Palestinian demand for a "right of return" for refugees into areas inside Israel. These refugees are Palestinians and their descendents who fled the territory following the outbreak of war in 1948. According to U N figures, there are currently more than 4.4 million refugees.
Any discussion of Palestinian refugees should also note that Israel absorbed 856,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries with little to no international assistance, while 711,000 Palestinians left Israel- controlled territory in 1948 and 1949.
An influx of millions of Palestinians would threaten Israel's Jewish identity and, in time, could lead to a Palestinian majority in the Jewish state. At the same time, Palestinian negotiators also demand the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Not surprisingly, Israel rejects Palestinian return as non-starter. The Israeli Foreign Ministry calls the demand a threat to the two- state solution:
And we urge readers to monitor their local coverage and make their voices heard. - - - -
* All Emphasis Original
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Posted by Anonymous at 2:23 am