World opinion can change the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

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The current Israeli military offensive in the Palestinian Territories is a flagrant violation of all international laws and a cataclysm in the path of a genuine and comprehensive peace in the region. This Israeli military rampage against Palestinian civilians and their leader Yasser Arafat has not only crippled the efforts for peace but totally devastated the Palestinian physical and institutional infrastructure built over the last 10 years to establish a Palestinian state. Such horrendous acts perpetrated by Israel have caused more despair for the advocates of real peace and have outraged the Arab streets.

Nonetheless, the suffering of the Palestinian people at the hands of war-mongering Israeli soldiers has gained the Palestinian cause dramatic world support and further cemented Arafat’s position in the Arab world and among Palestinians.

With the help of information technology and satellite transmission, the Palestinian narrative has been conveyed to a larger number of people around the globe. Networking and fast communication via the Internet has given the global community greater access to alternative news sources and created more awareness of the Palestinian perspective in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The impact of increased access to information and media alternatives has been felt most recently through the flow of international volunteers to the Palestinian Territories to form what is known as the International Solidarity Movement in Palestine. Furthermore, the explosion of Arab satellite channels and the images of Palestinian suffering they convey plays an integral role in mobilizing the Arab masses to express their anger, ideological leanings and frustrations to their leaders. Unfortunately, there remains a huge discrepancy between the wishes of the Arab street and the performance of official Arab governments.

The lack of Arab initiatives for pressuring the United States administration, together with the presence of a strong Jewish lobby in the United States, mean that the Palestinian narrative remains only partially visible, if not distorted, in the US media. In fact, the US media manipulated by Jewish lobbyists has bolstered the Israeli narrative by using the incidents of September 11th as a means of justifying the Israeli military offensive as a “war against terror.” The power of the Jewish lobby over the US public and administration explains the half-way stance conveyed by the US through Secretary of State Colin Powell’s failed visit and President George W. Bush’s recent biased statements against the Palestinian national cause and leader Yasser Arafat.

The European position on the current political situation in the Palestinian Territories is more moderate, but remains ineffective, especially on the official level. The public position, as evidenced in European newspapers and news broadcasting networks, is more inclined towards the Palestinian narrative. In Britain, 80 percent of the British Parliament, which conveys the will of its constituents, expressed support for freezing military exports to Israel due to the current violations of the Israeli military in the Palestinian Territories.

As such, the lack of peace in Palestine will have adverse ramifications on the region and for the international community. It is essential for the US and the European Union to take a more proactive role in ending the Israeli occupation, which is the only recipe for peace and security in the area. Such a political intervention on part of the US and European administrations is contingent on an international public that is aware of and in contact with the Palestinian narrative. Therefore, the establishment of an Arab satellite channel capable of communicating with the outside world is a vital step for increasing regularized contact between the regions. In an era of globalization, where political interests transcend national boundaries, such a bridge of communication is certain to bring about international participation in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. A transparent, balanced world media is a platform for global civil societies to democratize our world and reshape the mechanism of political decision-making in the context of the Palestinian- Israeli conflict.

Manuel Hassassian is professor of political science and executive vice president at Bethlehem University.

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