As Pope Francis prepares to visit the Holy Land this weekend, the Associated Press takes a stab at balance in a story on West Bank Palestinians — a report that nevertheless leaves a number of holes.
The story at first walks the beaten path of the Palestinian plight — poverty, crowded camps, unemployment — but for once, it isn’t all blamed on Israel:
Many feel increasingly neglected by the Palestinian self-rule government and the United Nations agency responsible for their welfare. Resentment can be seen in the rise in stone-throwing protests by camp youths and a recent two-month strike of thousands of local employees of the U.N. aid agency demanding higher wages.
The article does play a familiar note: the supposed right of return of Palestinians to their homeland.
In Palestinian public discourse, a large-scale return is seen as the main goal. Israel vehemently objects, saying this would dilute its Jewish majority. Palestinian leaders say each refugee has the right to choose where to live, including in a future Palestinian state. The Palestinians want to set up such a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.
As you can see, however, the story does give at least a sentence to Israel’s position. And in a previous paragraph, it points out that Palestinian refugees and their descendants now number more than 5 million people.
The AP story has other fresh material as well. It tells of a budget cutback in free meals in schools by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. It says that the refugees “feel looked down upon by their better-off urban neighbors” and ignored by the Palestinian Authority. And it cites an unemployed refugee accusing the PA of nepotism, saving jobs for families of officials.
AP also says that “Teens routinely throw stones at Israeli troops or at cars with Israeli license plates passing near the camps,” blunting the image of refugees as total doves. But AP also reports a “sharp rise” in Israeli troop violence against Palestinian refugees — from zero dead and 38 injuries in 2012 to 17 dead and 486 injured in 2013. Fair enough.
What’s wrong with the AP article, then? At least four things.