It took a full day and a bit of shaming, but The Associated Press has finally run a story about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s rejection of Israel’s peace map in 2008.
Besides me and those who read these posts, the AP is the only outlet that has reported how Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Abbas a map with the borders of a Palestinian state–the equivalent of all of the West Bank, all of Gaza, a link between the two and the Arab sections of Jerusalem. The AP article quotes Abbas without comment, that he couldn’t sign a map he didn’t have a chance to examine. He never met Olmert again.
His excuse is nonsense, of course. For decades the Palestinians have been demanding a state according to he cease-fire lines after the 1948-49 war, known erroneously as the 1967 borders. Of course Abbas understood the map, and he demonstrated that by racing back to his office and drawing his recollection of what he had just seen. Here’s a photograph of that map, as obtained by The Tower magazine.
So the question remains–why did it take a full day and some outside pressure to get a single, solitary news outlet to write this story. It is, of course, the largest news agency in the world–and the same one that banned me from reporting it when I discovered it in March 2009.
My bosses at The Associated Press claimed then that it’s not news, there was no such offer, and Abbas did not reject it. If you needed any further proof that all three of those contentions are and were ridiculous, now you have it, in the voice of Mahmoud Abbas himself.
And now the AP has reported it from the mouth of the man who rejected it.
This should feel good, but it doesn’t.
There are too many negative factors coming into play here. It’s clear that most of the problem is the fact that AP and all the others out there are short-staffed. Whereas just a few years ago a senior editor would be on duty and jump all over a story like this, writing a news alert, a bulletin, a quick story, an expanded story and possibly an analysis within seconds, minutes and hours after the broadcast–now there just aren’t enough reporters and editors to do the job right.
And no doubt the AP would have missed this one altogether if the size and scope of the story had not been brought forcefully to their attention from the outside.
But what throws this imaginary, good-ol’-days scenario of proper news coverage of last night’s earth-shattering interview into question is the fact that there were plenty of staffers around in 2009 when the AP blocked my original story, which quoted chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat saying, on the record, much the same as Abbas did last night. Then it wasn’t a matter of staffing. It was a matter of ideology.
By then it was clear to the West that Israel was the strong side, the aggressor, the cruel occupier. The Palestinians were the weak side, the occupied, the victims. A story that did not fit into that little box, like the Palestinians turning down a reasonable offer of a state of their own, just couldn’t see the light of day. By then it was an automatic response.
It continues to this day. So there’s no reason to rejoice.