Sunday, August 21, 2005

BBC's Mixed Message from Palestinians in the Street 

The BBC presents the opinions of eight "Palestinians on the Street" with regard to Israel's pullout from Gaza:

I wish the people of Britain and elsewhere could taste what it's like to be occupied, then they would be able to understand the oppression that we live under thanks to the Balfour Declaration, in which Britain promised to give this land to the Jews.
Just to be clear, for those of you playing along at home, the Balfour Declaration is not the one where the Jews were promised Gaza and the West Bank. No. Objections to the Balfour Declaration are objections to Israel's very existence.

Here's another point-of-view shared with the BBC:

I think it's impossible for us to live together now. How can there be a chance for peace?
I guess I should give half credit for this answer in that it doesn't explicitly rule out peace for all eternity. Pretty depressing nonetheless, that this is the best the BBC can come up with in the wake of Israel's withdrawal from one of the major territories the Palestinians have been demanding all along.

To be fair, so far I've only highlighted the two interviewed Palestinians who openly prefer that their state should exist in place of Israel rather than in peace with Israel. But of the eight quoted in the BBC sample, these were the most problematic opinions. Certainly, everyone else complained, not seeing any great promise or hope in Israel's move, nor displaying any gratitude or relief. But with varying degrees of vagueness, the others all avoided raising insurmountable objections to Israel's existence. For example:

The Israelis are turning Gaza into a big prison. The border stays in their hands, so everything goes according to their whim.

Bethlehem is becoming a prison too, with the wall Israel is building around it.

Economically it is very difficult. All our trade for my metal workshop used to be with Israel. Now there's no money coming in and we don't what we will do.
He's not sending Ariel Sharon any flowers, nor planning to invite Israelis over to tea. But his objections are of the sort that, over time, can be overcome. Israel's existence is not such an objection.

Savvy PR? I doubt it. Unless the BBC is recruiting its random sample from this year's graduating class of the Hamas stealth school of public speaking, the interviewees appeared to be relatively average Palestinians.

Was the BBC selection a bit biased, perhaps selecting those interviewees whose nuance would be most acceptable to international audiences? Maybe a little, after all we don't see anyone with a green headband and a suicide belt offering his opinion. Perhaps a scientific sampling would have included such an opinion. Or perhaps such opinions aren't as publicly common amongst the mainstream, at least today, as we think. It's hard to know from here. But if stacking the deck was truly the BBC's goal, they did a pretty lousy job with the first two.

So maybe I should entertain the possibility, however guardedly, that there are still Palestinians who, despite being royally ticked off about their lot in life, might still someday (not today and not tomorrow, but maybe someday) be willing to live in peace -- on their terms of course.

Hey, it's not a lot to work with, but it's a start.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: