NY Times and the Israel/Palestine ‘Status Quo’

The New York Times has a piece today (5/18/11) previewing Barack Obama’s Israel/Palestine speech, calling it a “chance to reshape the debate,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. One thing to always pay attention to in coverage of this issue is the language used to frame the discussion. The piece mentioned Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’ recent op-ed in the Times concerning the Palestinian drive to gain United Nations recognition for the Palestinian state. Abbas defined the state as “the lands framed by the 1967 border.” In most of the world this is a rather uncontroversial starting point. But look how the Times described it:

In an Op-Ed article in the New York Times on Tuesday that analysts interpreted as the diplomatic equivalent of a declaration of war on the status quo, Mr. Abbas said flatly that he would request international recognition of the state of Palestine, based on the borders of Israel before the 1967 Arab/Israeli war.

Such a move would most likely get a lopsided majority of votes in the General Assembly, diplomats said, with Latin American, African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries all expected to vote in favor of it.

Unnamed “analysts” believe Abbas is declaring war on the “status quo”– though the resolution he is suggesting would be endorsed in a lopsided U.N. vote. So the “status quo” is really a massively unpopular policy forced on the world. Which would seem to be much closer to the truth–and which apparently cannot be described as such.

At FAIR’s 25th anniversary, Noam Chomsky tried to imagine a future where the New York Times, in a remarkable change, described this debate accurately. In his hypothetical example, the “peace process” is being led by a truly neutral state, and the debate is understood as the view of the world’s majority on one side, and the U.S.-backed minority view on the other. We’re still a long way from that.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.