Media Cheat Sheet 12/20/2011

Everything you need to know about today’s media coverage of Israel and the Mideast.

Israel and Egyptian Islamists may be laying the groundwork for dialogue. And the UNRWA has a track record of demolishing Palestinian homes. Is the Mideast turning upside down?

Israel and the Palestinians

One Hamas argument for attacks on Israeli women and children is that all Israelis are potential soldiers. It’s a tawdry justification, but earlier today, my colleague Simon Plosker took apart the Financial Times for buying into that argument.

What’s the story behind the PA’s dwindling Christian community? Khaled Abu Toameh lays it on the line:

The Palestinian Authority has done little to protect Christians against assaults by Muslims — including rape, intimidation, land theft and financial extortion. But these are all “sensitive” issues that many Christian leaders do not want to discuss in public out of fear of being accused of serving the Israeli “propaganda machine.” . . . .

The claim that Christian families flee the Palestinian territories because of Israel’s security measures is irrelevant. Christian emigration started long before Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.

Also, the claim that Christians leave because of the bad economic situation is also invalid because the same would have applied to Muslim Palestinians.

The truth is that Christians leave Bethlehem mainly because they do not feel comfortable living as a tiny minority in their city. . . .

Since its establishment in 1994, the Palestinian Authority has done almost nothing to encourage Christian families to stay.

Elliott Abrams makes a compelling case for shutting down the UNRWA:

The political background to this story is simple: only in the case of Israel was there a determined refusal to accept what had happened during and after World War II, with the establishment of the Jewish state and the increase in its population by the acceptance of refugee Jews. Of all the world’s refugees, whom UNHCR tries normally to resettle, only the Palestinians are an exception. UNRWA presides over generation after generation of additional refugees, and Arab states and leaders make believe that some day they can turn back the clock and send them–and their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren–to Israel. . . .

But UNRWA should cease to exist, and Palestinian refugees should be handled by UNHCR with the intention of resettling them. That process should begin with a redefinition of who is a refugee entitled to benefits, so that benefits are based on need rather than on status. Moreover, Palestinians who have citizenship in other countries should not be considered refugees at all–the standard practice for every other group of refugees in the world. Why, for example, should the nearly two million Palestinians in Jordan, over 90 percent of whom have Jordanian citizenship, today be considered refugees by UNRWA at all?

Turns out the UNRWA demolished Palestinian homes in Gaza because the structures weren’t safe. The demolitions took place before 2006, and 171 families were affected. I’m surprised Big Media never picked up on this, because it’s always news when a Palestinian home is demolished — at least by Israel.

Palestinian merchants grumble to the LA Times that tourists spend little money or time in the little town of Bethlehem. Guess who takes the blame:

But Palestinians say that Israel has an overwhelming advantage because of its easy access to the West Bank and its control over security. Last year, Israel began allowing Israeli tour guides to lead groups in Bethlehem. Only a few Palestinian guides are allowed to work in Israel, and legislation is pending that would require all Jerusalem guides to be Israeli citizens.

They are trying to steal our tourists, but they can’t steal this place,” said Ziad Bandak, the Palestinian Authority’s presidential advisor on Christian affairs, motioning toward the 1,500-year-old Church of the Nativity. “You can’t be a pilgrim and not come here.”

See also Israeli government rolling out red carpet for Christian tourists.

Bethlehem: Milk Grotto Road

Shmuel Rosner (NY Times) hits the nail on the head with the Mughrabi Gate controversy:

The reason this seemingly simple problem, this boring bureaucratic question, became so fraught is that it was never really about the bridge. All along the story was about the attempt of some Muslim leaders to deny Jewish ties to the Temple Mount — to erase Jewish history around the Temple Mount.

The NY Times picks up on Palestinian Media Watch’s new book on incitement.

Arab Spring

Here’s an unexpected surprise: Egypt’s Salafist party says it will honor the peace treaty with Israel. And Haaretz adds that Israel’s new ambassador in Cairo wants to open a channel of communication with the Salafist and Muslim Brotherhood parties. But later in the day, YNet News quoted Salafist party figures somewhat backtracking. Guys, welcome to political life in the media glare.

It ain’t just the word moderate that’s becoming abused by journos trying to make sense of the mushrooming Islamist parties. Reuters says Islamist is another word now “stretched to its limit.”

I hear the concern for nuance, and blogged the issue this afternoon. After all, we all know that one man’s ultraconservative is another man’s fascist.

Iran’s Atomic Urgency

Leon Panetta told CBS News that Iran’s one year away from building a nuclear weapon — should the mullahs decide to take this step.

Hagai Segal on Iran’s nuclear intent: It’s the hegemony, stupid.

Over at Time, Joe Klein clarifies a comment about Israel’s national security with a little prompting from Jeffrey Goldberg.

(Image of Bethlehem via Flickr/Chris Yunker)