September/October 2000

CNN Oh So Slow on Oslo

October 26, 2000

When it comes to examining the Oslo Accords and what specifically about them has failed, CNN repeatedly has demonstrated an unwillingness to report on what was agreed upon and what was actually honored and by which party.

Thus, in an apparent attempt on October 16 to understand the current degeneration of the peace process, CNN Worldview unsuccessfully sets out to trace the Oslo obligations and violations on both sides. Anchorman Bernard Shaw introduces the segment:

Seven years ago, Israelis and Palestinians agreed to take concrete steps for peace. Today, they accuse each other of violating the letter and the spirit of their agreements.

Then correspondent Andrea Koppel begins to outline the requirements on both sides:

Under Oslo, the Israelis and Palestinians agreed to a series of land-for-peace compromises to be implemented over the next five years. That is: In exchange for recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing its intentions to destroy Israel, and condemning all acts of terrorism against the Israeli people, the Palestinians would gradually get control over much of the West Bank and Gaza, including the right to form their own police force and other institutions like banks, schools, health care and facilities, and a seaport and an airport – in essence, all the necessary ingredients to build a Palestinian state.

Although Koppel details many of the obligations, she fails to say which ones had actually been implemented and which ones had been violated. The suggestion, bolstered by a clip of Robert Pelletreau, former assistant U.S. Secretary of State, in which he discusses the “big failure of Oslo,” is that none of the above had been implemented. In fact, in accordance with the Oslo agreements, the Palestinians did gain control of 40 percent of the West Bank and Gaza, and did establish their own police force, banks, schools, health care facilities, seaport and airport. In short, all of the Israeli obligations that Koppel covered were fulfilled. On the other side, Koppel distorts key Palestinian obligations: the Palestinian Authority was not required simply to “condemn” acts of terror, they were required to dismantle terrorist groups, to actively prevent terrorism, and to refrain from and prevent incitement. On all these counts, the record shows that the PA has failed, although Koppel does not say so.

Koppel further reinforces the false impression that Israel had not fulfilled its side of the agreements by not challenging the false statement by Palestinian Authority representative to the United States, Hassan Abdel Rahman, that:

They [Palestinians] waited for seven years for the peace process to produce a qualitative change in their lives. It did not.

Koppel similarly does not question the erroneous statement of Robert Pelletreau, that:

A big failure of Oslo, if you will, is that Oslo did not focus particularly on preparing public opinion.

In fact, contrary to Pelletrau’s claim, the Oslo Accords do provide for the preparation of public opinion. Specifically, the Interim Agreement (Article XXII) requires both sides to abstain from violence and hateful propaganda, and also obliges them to take legal measures to prevent incitement under their respective jurisdictions. Despite both this provision and the more recent establishment of the special anti-incitement committee under the Wye agreement, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel material is found in Palestinian textbooks, which call for jihad, martyrdom, and the destruction of the Jewish state. For example, a literature reader for eighth graders quotes a jihad song:

Death calls and the sword will go crazy . . . Palestine, the youth will redeem you.

In addition, official Palestinian media often disseminate this invective. For example, on November 3, 1998, Palestinian Authority radio announced:

Jews are the seed of Satan and the devil.

On July 28, 2000 PA television broadcast the statement:

The resurrection of the dead will not come until you battle with the Jews and kill them.

In contrast, Israel’s Education Ministry has implemented a peace curriculum teaching coexistence and neighborly relations.

Based on the erroneous assumption that through negotiations Palestinians have gained nothing, Koppel makes the cliched, partisan observation:

“When Camp David ended without an agreement, Palestinian despair eventually led to violence.”

Had she bothered to investigate Israeli frustration regarding unfulfilled Palestinian promises, she might have found that despair is a factor on that side as well.

Koppel’s report, “Crisis in the Middle East: Straying from the Path of the Oslo Peace Accord,” once again underscores CNN’s refusal to inform viewers that the Palestinians have materially violated most of their Oslo violations.

Correspondent Richard Blystone is similarly evasive about Oslo obligations and violations in an otherwise comprehensive, detailed and balanced October 20 report entitled “Fifty Years of Conflict in the Middle East,”with guests Israeli Arab Knesset Member Azmi Bishari and Israeli military analyst Gerald Steinberg. While the broadcast elucidates the many wars and diplomatic efforts of the last 50 years, exactly what Oslo called for is completely obscured:

BLYSTONE: Finally, with the Palestinians alienated from their Arab allies by backing Iraq in its takeover of Kuwait, the Cold War dead, and its proxy conflicts sponsorless, in 1993, Israelis and Palestinians came together in the Oslo agreement. It was an unprecedented moment of mutual recognition by two sides that hitherto had denied each other’s aspirations.

It opened the way for Palestinians in the occupied territories to govern themselves, but put off -- perhaps fatally -- the hardest questions: like the right of return for refugees from back in 1948, the Jewish settlements Israel had been planting in the occupied territories for a generation, and the future of Jerusalem, both sides still bent on having it as their capital: both sides now bitter, almost despairing.

STEINBERG: We seem to be talking the same terminology and seeing the same scenes that we saw in 1947 and 1948, 1967: this very hostile, hate-filled rhetoric, not just against Israel, but against the Jews and against the West. So in some ways, there’s an evolution. But on some basic issues, we really haven’t learned anything nor changed that much.

BISHARA: Suddenly, the Palestinian people now sees itself in a situation very similar to 1948. It’s sieged. What we see is circles going on. Always we go back to the same point, but after you have paid a lot of victims.

BLYSTONE: By signing the Oslo agreement, the Palestinians effectively wrote off their losses before the 1967 war.

(on camera): But most Palestinians’ idea of justice would be for Israel to give back all it took in return for peace. If the Oslo edifice collapses, the negotiating equation could slide back past 1967, all the way back to 1948.

While Andrea Koppel, to her credit, at least bothers to enumerate some of the obligations on both sides in her October 16 report, Blystone doesn’t even do that much. When the facts – that Israel promised to give land and autonomy to the Palestinians, and did, and that the Palestinians promised to stop incitement and to break up terrorism infrastructures, and didn’t – are inconvenient, CNN simply avoids them.



revised October 27, 2000


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