When it comes to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, media warps cause and effect through misrepresentation and decontextualization.
Anti-Israel bias is rife in the media and international organizations like the United Nations; this has been the case since the founding of the Jewish State in 1948. This truth was humorously depicted by the Israeli statesman Abba Eban, who said “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.” This prejudice is especially prevalent with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where media and anti-Israel actors paint Israel as the aggressor when it is far more often the respondent. The false presentation of the conflict is not only in the realm of history, but current events as well. Through decontextualization, differential treatment, and outright prejudice, a false picture of this thorny issue is painted. This has been clearly displayed in the past week, as violence – blamed on Israel, but stoked by Palestinians – has flared during the Ramadan and Passover holidays.
To put these recent tensions into their proper context – which the media is loath to do – Israel has been dealing with a wave of terror attacks over the past year, including stabbings, car attacks, and rocket assaults from Hamas in Gaza. This has boiled over in the past few days, sparked by an incident that has been blatantly mischaracterized by most coverage. On Wednesday April 5, Israeli police entered the Temple Mount compound – the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam – to disperse an illicit gathering and remove fireworks and other stockpiled non-traditional weaponry from the al Aqsa Mosque. This was described by almost all media coverage as a violent Israeli “raid” that was unprovoked and brutally targeted peaceful worshippers. This could not be further from the truth, and ignores critical context that puts the Israeli reaction into perspective.
The China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia has shuffled the deck in the Middle East, cutting the US out of the pot.
Over the weekend, in a surprising development to most Middle East watchers, China brokered a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore some bilateral ties between the Islamic powers after seven years without them. The agreement was a very basic one, with the two countries agreeing in principle to exchange ambassadors within two months, reactivating a security cooperation agreement, and restoring some economic and cultural exchanges. This is the first formal rapprochement between the Islamic Republic and the Kingdom since 2016, when the Saudis executed a prominent Shia cleric, sparking violent protests at its embassy in Tehran and precipitating the break in relations. Since that split, the underlying conflict between the two states on either side of the Persian Gulf has rapidly escalated, with Iran taking the aggressive lead. Its proxies in Yemen, the Houthis, have attacked Riyadh directly, while Iran itself has launched cruise missiles at Saudi energy infrastructure, crippling a major refinery for weeks back in 2019.
Given this recent history, the fact that any kind of deal was struck shows that key changes are occurring in Middle Eastern politics. The agreement, basic as it was, did not force Iran to cease its aid of international terrorists or non-state proxies, even those which target the Kingdom; this was a conciliatory move on behalf of the Saudis towards the Iranians. This step towards normalization of relations without addressing some of the proverbial elephants in the room – the malign regional activities of Iran, the Shia-Sunni dispute, relations with Israel – fits well within the Chinese diplomatic playbook, as does the language of the agreement. In the text, both Iran and Saudi Arabia agree to the principles of “respect for the sovereignty of states and noninterference in their internal affairs,” a classic Chinese formulation that Beijing uses to ignore human rights abuses abroad and gloss over its own at home. There are a wide variety of implications and impacts from this diplomatic coup for China, both in the Middle East region and further afield.
In all of the (deserved) fuss about the recently-passed Senate tax bill, an important development in American foreign relations and global geopolitics just may get lost in the shuffle. That critical change? Read More »