Reporting the Baghdad Summit
Arab fears and the Israeli right wing
THE recent Arab summit conference in Baghdad was held to consider among other things, the looming dangers to the peace process by the sudden flood of Soviet Jews to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. By and large, the American media coverage of the summit was fair and accurate. Unable, however, to avoid dramatization, the media has tried erroneously to represent the proceedings of the meeting in terms of rivalry between the so-called radicals and so-called moderates, winners or losers in a regional contest for leadership.
But by its undue emphasis on the question of rivalry, the US media failed to capture the spirit behind the seething frustration of all Arabs at the moratorium placed by the caretaker Shamir government on the peace process and the settlement of some Soviet Jews in the occupied West Bank. Hence, there was a failure on the part of the media to properly interpret some of the summit rhetoric. The rhetoric was a corollary of the excesses of Israeli policies both toward the illegal settlement activity and the brutal way Israel has handled the residents of the occupied territories who protested the massacre of Palestinians at the hands of Ami Popper, an Israeli ex-soldier characterized as deranged.
Disregarding the rhetoric, the real message of the Arab summit was to remind the international community, primarily the US, that Palestinian and Arab patience has limits, that further radicalization is perceived unless tangible progress is realized toward reviving the peace process, and unless a more forceful attitude was adopted toward the issue of Soviet Jewish emigration in the occupied lands.
Missing from commentary is any real insight into the motives of regional players who want to plunge the Middle East into a new era of chaos. Also missing is a comprehension of the depth of fear Palestinians have of another displacement, another fait accompli that would eliminate for them lawful claims of statehood.
By stubbornly repeating that Soviet Jews have the right to settle anywhere in the occupied territories, Israel is shattering the tolerance levels of the people of the West Bank and Gaza who are engaged in an essentially peaceful struggle for freedom and who have displayed a universally acknowledged desire for peace with Israel.
Advocates of settling Soviet Jews in the occupied territories and the authors of the failed raid on an Israeli beach have one thing in common. Both want to destroy the prospects for moderation among Palestinians and Israelis. Both yearn for a return to a new era of Arab-Israeli confrontations.