Are Palestinian Authority officials afraid of “reprisals” from the Obama administration if they criticize US policy? It would seem so, according to a Washington Post reporter.
On 14 July, The Washington Post’s Scott Wilson wrote a lengthy analysis headlined “Where Obama failed on forging peace in the Middle East.”
MJ Rosenberg pithily summed it up on his blog:
Obama was naive. Too insensitive to Israel, Netanyahu and the Holocaust. Plus, he ignored sage advice of Dennis Ross, Abe Foxman & other Jewish organizational wise men. And he used word “occupation.”
On Twitter, I took Wilson to task for another reason – the reliance on Israel lobby sources and the absence of Palestinian perspectives, asking Wilson via Twitter, “I’d really like an explanation for why you think it’s ok to completely ignore and exclude Palestinians. Don’t they matter?”
The article quoted staunchly pro-Israel former Congressman Robert Wexler; Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of Israel lobby group J Street.
Despite acknowledging that Obama had “past friendships with prominent Palestinians,” the only Palestinian Wilson interviewed was “a former Palestinian political adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide a candid view.”
Fear of “reprisals”
Today Wilson responded, including an astonishing revelation, that Palestinian officials were too afraid to speak out – even on background – for fear of “reprisals” from the Obama administration:
@AliAbunimah You’ve followed my work for years on this, and no that I talk to a lot of Palestinians, as I did in this case. None would…— Scott Wilson (@PostScottWilson) July 23, 2012
@AliAbunimah go on the record, and only one would speak even on background, fearful of admin reprisal. I think you know my work from Gaza…— Scott Wilson (@PostScottWilson) July 23, 2012
@AliAbunimah and the rest of my time as Jerusalem bureau chief (you linked to it often). Keep in mind, this was an Obama story, my focus.— Scott Wilson (@PostScottWilson) July 23, 2012
Wilson specified later the nature of the Palestinian officials’ fears:
@intifada for fear it would jeopardize relationship with White House. You didn’t see any Israeli officials quoted in the record either….— Scott Wilson (@PostScottWilson) July 23, 2012
Notably the Israel lobby figures Wilson quoted seemed confident that they could criticize Obama without fear of losing access.
The Palestinian Authority, which lacks any popular mandate from Palestinians, is reliant on US and international financial aid, and weapons transferred via Israel, to avoid collapse.
Wilson explains exclusion of Palestinian voices
In subsequent tweets, Wilson explained his exclusion of Palestinian voices from the piece, which I include our conversation here for completeness:
@AliAbunimah this was a story that focused on the players/participants - a higher bar. Did not use any “analysts’ on either side.— Scott Wilson (@PostScottWilson) July 23, 2012
@AliAbunimah this answers your previous - it is a problem, absolutely. I wrote a page 1 piece last year on Obama’s weak outreach to American— Scott Wilson (@PostScottWilson) July 23, 2012
@AliAbunimah Muslims, including Palestinian advocates, comparing to Jewish/Israeli access. Your point exactly right - the guys I quoted were— Scott Wilson (@PostScottWilson) July 23, 2012
@AliAbunimah in the meetings, providing the inside view. The Palestinian I quoted had also been in WH meetings, adding big value.— Scott Wilson (@PostScottWilson) July 23, 2012