If you think Palestinian Authority (PA) news contains anti-Israel propaganda, you’d be correct. But did you know PA news also tells the truth?
The Fatah-controlled Ma’an News outlet may be the PA’s mainline news service. It publishes daily. It provides hourly news updates. It offers news analysis, culture reports, reader polls, interviews—and the weather.
There’s a lot of anti-Israel propaganda in Ma’an’s news. But if you learn how to read that news, you can learn a lot about the truth.
A look at the Ma’an website on March 10, 2015 revealed how the interplay between propaganda and truth works. For starters, Ma’an paints Israel in a way that is both biased and misleading. It suggests that Israel always acts violently against Arabs for no reason whatsoever. Israel arrests Arab teens, demolishes Arab homes, assaults prisoners, detains Arab citizens, bans women from al aqsa (the Temple Mount), shoots Arabs and imposes restrictions on Arabs.
The theme of this news is, Israel is bad. That theme is repeated in essays under headings for analyses, spotlights, features, economy, most-read, politics, prisoners, women, interviews, culture and media.
Headlines promote the anti-Israel theme: “Families of 16 journalists killed in Gaza demand justice”; “The ghosts of Gaza: Interview with a front-line resistance fighter”; “PA: Israel arrested 112 Palestinian women in 2014”; “Israel 'systematically mistreats' Palestinian children in custody”; “Netanyahu chastised over 'excessive spending' on homes”; “PA to boycott products of 6 major Israeli companies”; “Israeli forces open fire at Palestinians in southern Gaza Strip”.
Some of these essays and stories contain fact. Some are closer to fantasy than fact. Almost all contain facts that undercut the story’s anti-Israel headline.
That’s where you find the truth—in story content.
For example, one story on March 10, 2015 described a protest of 1,000 Arabs. The protest was about women ‘peacefully’ demonstrating at an Arab checkpoint near Jerusalem. Israeli soldiers attacked them. The headline said, “Israeli forces respond to Women's Day march with violence”.
It’s a simple headline. It reminds you that Israel is an oppressor—a violent one, at that.
But contained within this story are these facts: the women had been ‘defiant’; the women refused to move; ‘altercations’ broke out between Israeli soldiers and ‘journalists’; and, perhaps most important, the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint barricaded themselves.
Who was being violent against whom?
Think about these facts. If that protest was peaceful, why did the Israeli soldiers barricade themselves? If the protest was peaceful, why were there altercations and ‘defiance’?
More important, the main ‘evidence’ to support the headline’s contention of ‘Israeli forces violent’ was the fact that 30 of the 1,000 protesters were injured. That’s an interesting number, 30 injured. It represents just 3 per cent of the participants.
Injuring 3 per cent of a crowd that expressed defiance, wouldn’t move, and started ‘altercations’ doesn’t sound like ‘violence’ against protesters. Such a low number of injured raises questions about the accusatory nature of the headline: instead of ‘violence against protesters’, the ‘3 per cent’ number seems to suggest soldiers being extremely careful to avoid injuring people who were acting out in an angry manner.
Given the facts of the story, the headline seems biased against Israel—and misleading. The accusation implicit in the headline wasn’t supported by story content.
This contradictory relationship between content and headline appears often in Ma’an. Stories often begin with a provocative, anti-Israel headline. Then the story’s facts undercut the headline.
This appears to be the Ma’an style. It’s how PA propaganda works. It’s the paradigm for stories about Israel.
Nevertheless, these anti-Israel stories reveal a truth: read the facts and the headline becomes a lie. When you find those facts, you’ll find lies.
There’s yet another truth in PA news. This truth isn’t about Israel at all. It’s about the PA.
This second truth isn’t pretty.
For example, a story on 2014 suicide rates in the ‘West Bank’ stated that suicide was up 400 per cent over 2012 (“Police: Suicide rates rose alarmingly in the West Bank in 2014). The reasons for this increase, as described in story content, had nothing to do with Israel. The list of causes was short—and all too familiar: psychological disorder, family disputes, emotional trouble and then, to a much lower degree, financial trouble.
Some reader comments correctly criticized Fatah and Abbas for creating conditions that fostered suicide. The ugly truth is, life in the PA is far more wretched than it needs to be precisely because of Abbas- and Fatah-inspired corruption, greed and Arab-on-Arab violence.
Another story revealed a sordid truth about Hamas-Fatah unity: there is no unity (“PA arrests dozens of Hamas members in West Bank”). This story described arrests and detentions. Those arrests and detentions had nothing to do with Israel. They had to do with how both Hamas and Fatah were destabilizing the PA.
Gaza was in the news. It struggles to rebuild (“Gaza women protest in front of UNRWA headquarters”).
The truth is, rebuilding isn’t going well (“Gaza counts cost of failed reconstruction promises”). “Large swathes of the Gaza Strip remain in ruin following last summer's 50-day war between Israel and Hamas, which left 100,000 Gazans homeless” (“Gaza women protest…”, above). The UN isn’t helping those homeless.
That’s why the protesters were protesting. Their lives fester—and no one helps.
Some protesters blamed Israel. But they weren’t in front of a UN building to protest against Israel. They were there to protest against the UN.
Another story revealed an uglier truth about life in Gaza: “4 resistance fighters injured by accidental explosion in Gaza City”. The ‘accidental explosion’ wasn’t such an accident. It had occurred as these four Gazans built a home-made bomb.
The truth is, Gazans aren’t spending all their time clearing debris, trying to bring order to their lives. They’re not using recyclable rubble to construct needed shelters. They’re building bombs.
Israel blockades Gaza. But the truth is, Israel isn’t alone. Egypt also blockades Gaza (“Egypt to reopen Rafah crossing with Gaza”).
Egypt has announced it’ll open a crossing. That’s good news. But Egypt will do that as Israelis do it--to allow into Gaza only humanitarian aid.
The Egyptians know something about Gaza that humanitarians won’t acknowledge. They know the truth--Hamas suckles on hate and violence.
Read Arab news. It’s online in English. You’ll learn a lot about propaganda. You’ll learn about Arab life. You’ll also come to appreciate the wretchedness that comes from building your life around hate.