Canadian Arab News
March 31, 2005
Like a lot of major newspapers, the Globe and Mail relies on wire services for much of its foreign reporting. Wires provide mountains of stories at a fraction of the cost of maintaining a foreign bureau, but quantity does not equal quality, as we see in the dispatches from the Associated Press and its reporter Matthew Kalman.
Kalman figures prominently in major stories in Occupied Palestine, but his reporting is transparently pro-zionist and anti-Arab. It is not news so much as it is covert propaganda designed to cast Israel in the most favourable light.
To its shame, the Globe relies heavily on Kalman and AP, even though the Guardian, Independent, the BBC and al-Jazeera are more reliable and more credible. To be fair, the Globe does also use British and other foreign wire services, but only to the extent the stories do not challenge the paper’s pro-Israel bias.
Put most charitably, it would seem the Globe uses Kalman and AP in general not as a news source but as a news filter to prevent historical context from undermining the standard lie that Palestinians are “terrorists” and Israelis are reasonable people trying to cut a deal.
To that end, the Globe runs column inch after column inch of dross about the virtue of negotiations, while selectively condemning the military arm of the Palestinians for acts of violence.
The only good Arab that comes across in the Globe, is one who is willing to end the violence on Israel’s terms. We see Kalman’s bias in his effusive praise of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and in his selective reporting on Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip.
In the March 18 front page story “Abbas fosters rare unity between factions,” Kalman indulges the good Arab/bad Arab stereotype to good effect:
“The disparate groups, which were brought together in rare unity under the increasingly assertive leadership of the quiet-spoken, grey-suited, bespectacled Mr. Abbas, called on Israel to release about 8,000 detainees. They also demanded Israel curtail settlement activity and end all its military actions in the West Bank and Gaza, withdrawing troops and roadblocks deployed during the four-year intifada, or uprising.”
These are effectively the same demands the late Yasser Arafat made throughout the 1990s when he was transformed from terrorist into “partner for peace.” Only after Arafat refused to be stampeded into an ignoble agreement did Israel and its U.S. agents ostracize him and groom Abbas.
Yet the reader is expected to associate these demands with the remarkably “assertive” leadership of Abbas, who is conspicuously depicted as a grandfatherly, softspoken elder-statesman. Kalman doesn’t mention Abbas’s previous 1995 attempt at assertiveness, which would have sold out the Palestinian right of return for an illusion of a mirage of a Palestinian state.
Also, note the time-limiting statement “during the four-year intifada,” which gives the false impression that Israel’s military occupation is a recent phenomenon, not one that has been going on for decades.
Contrast Kalman’s benevolent imagery of Abbas with his crass depictions of Abbas’s opponents: “Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah radical found guilty on several counts of murder who tried to challenge Mr. Abbas in the election, called on the factions to continue “armed resistance” alongside diplomacy, but his appeals fell on deaf ears. Some of the more radical Palestinian factions, who this week had balked at the idea of signing anything, were still squirming slightly last night.”
“Several counts of murder”—according to whom? Israel? That’s rich. That’s like the Third Reich passing moral judgment on the sabotage activity of a French partisan.
Ironically, Kalman’s overt delegitimization of the Palestinian resistance led him to expose and tacitly endorse abject servility to Israel: “Any violation of this agreement by Israel will mean that we are exempt from this commitment,” said Mohammad Nazzal of Hamas, directly contradicting [Palestinian deputy prime minister Nabil] Shaath and most other Palestinian spokesmen.”
The violations Nazzal alludes to include massive expropriation of Palestine. The cold, hard truth is that the Gaza pullout is a sop to Abbas while Israel consolidates its illegal hold of the West Bank.
In contrast to Kalman’s apple polishing and character assassination, Chris McGreal of the Guardian delivers real coverage:
“The BBC’s Jonny Dymond in Jerusalem says that most attention in the region over the last few months has been focused on Israel’s plans to withdraw from settlements in the Gaza Strip and evacuate settlers from the area. But now the government has made it clear that while it pulls out part of the Palestinian territories, it plans to step up its presence in another, he says. The Israeli defence ministry confirmed to the BBC that 3,500 housing units would be constructed between the largest West Bank settlement, Maale Adumin, and Jerusalem.”
On March 21, an unsigned AP report disingenuously described this construction as an “apparent” violation. The dispatch was entitled “Palestinians seek limits on militant weapons” and began:
“The Palestinian Interior Ministry has begun placing restrictions on the use of weapons by militants, security officials said Monday, a step toward fulfilling a long-standing Israeli demand that the armed groups be dismantled.”
Of course, Israeli spokesmen like Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz and chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon are liberally cited, and the Palestinians’ legally recognized right to all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem is dismissed as a “claim.”
The Globe has no defence for running anti-Arab AP propaganda, especially from Kalman, when honest reporters like McGreal are available.