Never has a British broadsheet so openly served the agenda of Middle Eastern extremism. The Guardian must be commended for its transparency -- readers can no longer doubt its affinity for Hamas. Al-Jazeera, Qatar's equivalent of the BBC World Service, appointed the newspaper as its western gatekeeper for a cache of leaked Palestinian Authority documents. The self-appointed guardian of Palestinian truth has maximized its opportunity to pledge allegiance to the hard-line, national fantasies which have crippled the Palestinian cause for decades.
The Palestinian Authority is under attack. Middle Eastern extremists and western armchair revolutionaries are lambasting the PA leadership for, even in private, budging an inch towards the concessions needed to achieve peace. For one newspaper, the Palestinian leadership is not Palestinian enough.
From his London salon one senior columnist bemoaned the "decay of what in Yasser Arafat's heyday was an authentic national liberation movement." For him, it seems, Palestinian authenticity can only be achieved through the massacre of athletes at the Munich Olympics, the hijacking of planes or the suicide bombing of civilians in shopping malls and pizza parlors. In his eyes, negotiations are an affront to the romanticized fetishism of "resistance."
Mahmoud Abbas admonished such an outlook in a speech in 2006, but which is just as apt today. "They are sitting in comfortable places and have not got the dust of this homeland on their shoes," said the Palestinian president. "They give orders from afar, and reject offers from afar. Give orders to yourselves! Talk about yourselves. The people here will make the decisions."
The Guardian's first post-leak editorial described the concessions supposedly offered by Palestinian negotiators as "craven." Readers might struggle to notice a substantive difference between the paper's editorial line and the opinion piece by a Hamas spokesman splashed across its pages two days later. In fact, the newspaper's criticism of the Palestinian negotiators was so severe it risked out-Hamasing Hamas.
Sections of the western media have long failed to expose damaging myths about the Middle East. It transpires that the failure is willful, rather than naive. WikiLeaks already blew apart the false logic that places Israel and the Palestinians at the heart of every conflict in the Middle East. Arab governments have sleepless nights over Iran, as it pursues nuclear weapons and meddles in their affairs. The ups and downs of the Palestinian cause are less likely to keep them up at night.
Throughout the region, tensions are erupting without the slightest connection to Israeli-Palestinian relations. The eyes of the world are now firmly fixed on the unrest in Egypt, which erupted after revolution swept Tunisia. Yemen is disintegrating. In Lebanon an Arab state has fallen into the hands of a non-Arab power and is now officially, not just practically, under the control of an Iranian proxy. Hezbollah has successfully deposed Saad Hariri, whose own father was murdered in all likelihood by the Shia militia, Syria or a combination of the two. Its puppet is now the prime minister. It reads like the plot of a gangster movie. Certain commentators must be swooning at the "authenticity" of it all.
Blaming Israel comes naturally in this region. When a shark attacked a tourist in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, the local Egyptian governor suggested that Mossad were using sharks to harm Egyptian tourism. The Saudi police recently arrested an itinerant vulture as an Israeli spy. We fear that in interrogation, the bird sang. But even the most vivid imaginations would struggle to blame Israel for recent upsurges in regional instability.
Hamas and its Iranian backers hope the unrest will spread to the West Bank. A media axis between Doha and London seems determined to grant their wish. As David Landau, a commentator way on the left of the Israeli spectrum put it, the Guardian and Al-Jazeera "intended to poison the Palestinians against their leaders." Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, is in the firing line of the poison dart. He confided to the BBC that he fears for his life.
The leaks have made it less likely the Palestinians will loosen their current strategy of blocking talks. PA negotiators already needed to sell concessions to the Palestinian street. We didn't realize they also needed to sell them to Fleet Street.
Yet the leaks reveal that the negotiations taking place were more serious and productive than many realized. The commentators today attacking the Palestinian leadership dismissed the negotiations following Annapolis as a glorified photo opportunity. What is forgotten is how far Israel is prepared to go. They choose to overlook Ehud Olmert's final offer, the most "crystallized and detailed" ever offered by an Israeli prime minister.
The Hamas Charter states that, "Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors." The most destructive aspect of the Guardian's assault on the peace process is to concur, and suggest that in 19 years, negotiations have achieved nothing. The perfect resolution eludes us but progress has been made. Boosted by Israeli security concessions on access and movement, economic growth in the West Bank tops 8 per cent. In the last three years the PA has built 1,700 community development programs, 120 schools, three hospitals and 50 health clinics. Someone, it seems, might have finally concluded that building the infrastructure of a Palestinian state is more productive that attempting to destroy the State of Israel. Anyone with a sincere interest in peace must encourage further progress, and that can only be achieved at the negotiating table.