With Israel’s painful withdrawal from 25 settlements in the Gaza Strip and West Bank now complete, it’s time to review media coverage of this historic process.While much of the coverage presented events in a straightforward and accurate manner, some media myths emerged that demand debunking before they receive greater resonance. Interestingly, each of the myths were promulgated in part via editorial cartoons, which we reprint here:
MYTH 1: GAZA ISRAELIS ARE SIMILAR TO 1948 PALESTINIAN REFUGEES
Steve Kelley, New Orleans Times-Picayune
Chris Britt, Springfield (IL) State Journal-Register
Theo Moudakis, Toronto Star
This side-by-side comparison is convenient and pithy, but in truth there’s very little in common between the two groups. Palestinian Gazans became refugees as a result of Arab-initiated wars they largely supported in 1948 (after Palestinian rejection of the UN partition plan) and 1967. On the other hand, Israeli Gazans were evacuated this summer in a unilateral effort to bring greater calm and hope for peace to the region.
MYTH 2: PALESTINIANS ARE RECEIVING THEIR ‘NATIVE’ GAZA BACK
Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Michael Matza wrote:
One good indicator of whether Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip can be a catalyst for peace is whether Palestinian workers can make the land they reclaim bloom with prosperity.
The idea that Palestinians are ‘reclaiming’ their ‘native’ Gaza also appeared in this cartoon from Jeff Stahler of the Columbus (OH) Dispatch:
Yet in fact, Palestinian Arabs never had sovereignty in Gaza ? before Israeli control in 1967, Egyptians ruled Gaza, and before them, the British and Ottoman Empire.
Many people see a similarity between American Indians and today’s Palestinians. I’m Comanche Indian. I see no similarity whatsoever. There’s no similarity in the land claim issue [since] Palestinian Arabs are not indigenous to Palestine. During [622-1922] Palestine was little more than a wilderness of nomads, loosely associated groups of provincial subdivisions with frequently changing administrations… It wasn’t considered “Palestine,” a separate Arab nationality, until the 1967 Six-Day War…
MYTH 3: GAZA WITHDRAWAL WAS AN ISRAELI PLOY TO HOLD ONTO WEST BANK
Jonathan Shapiro, Mail & Guardian (South Africa)
Patrick Chapette, International Herald Tribune
These portrayals of the Gaza withdrawal distort the fact that Israel remains committed to its roadmap pledge to halt settlement growth in the West Bank. (This, while the Palestinian leadership continues to flout its roadmap obligation to uproot terrorist organizations.). The dispute over continued building in the Maale Adumim area hinges on the definition of that community’s municipal boundaries ? not the essential validity of the roadmap.
Observers from across the political spectrum have recognized that the Gaza withdrawal marked a significant shift in Ariel Sharon’s approach to the settlements. Yet these cartoonists and their print counterparts persist in painting Sharon as a meanspirited, imperialistic conqueror.
Toronto Star columnist Linda McQuaig fell in line with the cartoons:
It seems… likely, however, that this withdrawal is a one-shot deal. If so, it is of little value. Worse, it could be a cynical attempt to reduce pressure for further withdrawals. The truth is that, while painful for some individuals, the withdrawal from Gaza isn’t much of a sacrifice for Israel.
McQuaig’s piece and these cartoons downplay Israel’s tremendous unilateral concession of sacrificing entire communities for the sake of engendering peace. The ‘disengagement’ was a traumatic process that nearly tore Israel’s fragile social fabric in half. To deny that fact reveals these journalists’ commitment to portraying Israel in a bad light regardless of the reality on the ground.
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Did your local media outlets rehash any of these myths ? comparing Gaza settlers to Palestinian refugees, describing Gaza as ‘native’ to Palestinians, or casting the disengagement as a ‘cynical’ or ‘meaningless’ Israeli gesture without further West Bank concessions? If so, HonestReporting encourages you to contact your editor to set the record straight.
Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.