The “Peace Process” vs. the Military Occupation

Most media still present events in Palestine in the context of an ongoing, struggling, or dying “Peace Process” a phrase that since the signing of the Oslo accords has all but replaced pre-Oslo references to Israel’s military occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank (including East Jerusalem).

At the same time, images of Palestinian civilian life are all but absent from the overwhelming majority of reports, the media preferring to present images of Palestinian stone-throwing rather than exploring the historical, political, legal or moral roots of the Palestinian Uprising, or even portraying the clashes in their correct context — resistance against 34 years of Israeli military occupation.

Writing in The Guardian in April 2001, the paper’s Middle East editor Brian Whitaker commented:

The Guardian’s electronic newspaper archive contains all the British national dailies, plus the London Evening Standard. A search of this reveals 1,669 stories published during the last 12 months that mentioned the West Bank.

Of these, 49 contained the phrase “occupied West Bank”. A further 513 included the word “occupied” or “occupation” elsewhere in the text. That leaves 1,107 stories - 66% of the total - which managed to talk about the West Bank without mentioning one of the key facts.

Some journalists - particularly Americans - seem reluctant to treat occupation as an established fact and instead treat it as an opinion which should be attributed to someone. Last October, for example, CNN’s Jerusalem bureau chief told viewers that Palestinians were angry at “what they regard as the Israeli occupation”.

Others resort to euphemisms: the West Bank is “disputed” or “administrated by Israel”. Some adopt the practice of Israeli officials by shortening “the Occupied Territories” to “the Territories”.

Source: “Israel wins war of words”, The Guardian, 9 April 2001.

As far as The Electronic Intifada is concerned, the replacement of references to the Israeli military occupation in favour of the phrase “the Peace Process”, during the last 7 years, has been misleading. The occupation never went away. On the ground, there has been a continuing violation of key human rights and of the pertinant international conventions.

Human rights indicators monitored by Israeli, Palestinian, and international organisations amply demonstrate that there has been an unbroken continuation of the military occupation during the seven years since the Oslo Accords were signed in September 1993. For more information about this, see Laurie King-Irani’s briefing, How Oslo promoted human rights violations, on this site.

The use of the phrase “Peace Process” in light of this continuination of — or, as in many spheres such as the freedom of movement, the increase of — human rights violations against the Palestinian population, has diverted attention from the continued repression of Palestinians during the last 7 years. This is tantamount to reporting on Black South African protest in the 1980s without mentioning the context of Apartheid.

Media organisations rarely term Israeli troops an “occupying” army. Occupied Jerusalem is usually described as “Jerusalem,” or “Israel’s capital”, and there are very few in-depth investigative reports questioning or criticizing the IDF’s use of live ammunition and heavy weapons against unarmed civilian protesters at the levels we have seen during clashes.

Regularly, clashes that chronologically transpire with Palestinians only opening fire after Israeli troops killed stone-throwing youths, are written up in the wire services as “Palestinians and Israeli troops exchanged fire today; four Palestinians were killed.” As Canadian writer Margaret Atwood once wrote, “context is all.”

The over-riding reality of the conflict is that Israel is conducting a military occupation. The most recent international reiteration of this irrefutable fact took place on 7 October 2000, when the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1322 which

‘calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and its responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949.’

Related links:

  • Missing from Mideast Coverage: Occupied territories no longer “occupied” on TV news, FAIR, 3 November 2000.