Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (Photo by European External Action Service - EEAS)

United States State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland has indicated the Obama administration considers Egypt critical to any effort to broker some kind of a truce or ceasefire agreement that would de-escalate violence between Israel and Hamas. However, New York Times journalist David D. Kirkpatrick doubts Egypt’s commitment to Israel and Hamas halting violence.

Kirkpatrick summarized:

…In Egypt’s most concerted effort to win more global public support for the Palestinians, advisers to Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi, a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who has been an outspoken supporter of Hamas, invited foreign correspondents in Cairo to a background briefing at which a senior Egyptian official sought to blame Israel for the conflict while at the same time maintaining Egypt’s role as an intermediary pressing both sides for peace. “We are against any bloodshed,” the official said repeatedly, arguing that Egypt sought stability and individual freedom for all in the region….

The impetus is that there is something reprehensible about Egypt’s involvement because Morsi has supported Hamas. However, it would seem this is why the United States and even Israel has worked during the conflict to maintain good relations with Egypt. Both Israel and the United States refuse to recognize the democratically elected leadership of Hamas and have designated Hamas to be a terror organization. Israel won’t meet with Hamas and needs Egypt to have intermediaries negotiate with Hamas in order for any agreement to be agreed upon.

Deriding Egypt, Kirkpatrick suggested Israel has more experience in the “world of the free press and democratic politics” than Egypt. He quoted an Egyptian official, who spoke anonymously to reporters during a briefing and did not contextualize any of the comments.

The Egyptian official said the “West, which supports Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Gaza, was essentially blaming the victim.”

…It is so strange people are talking about the rights of self-defense…The self-defense of whom? Of the occupied people? Of the besieged people? Of the hurt people? No, the self-defense of the most powerful state in the region and the self-defense of the occupying force of Gaza and Palestine. This is what some of the international community are talking about…

Kirkpatrick could have added a paragraph here about the siege or blockade of Gaza. He could have described the occupation, but he did not and proceeded to note that the anonymous Egyptian official had compared “leaders of Hamas to George Washington in America or Charles de Gaulle in France” because they had “resisted foreign occupation by armed force.”

…Now, there is an occupation going on for decades and these people who are suffering this occupation are trying to resist, are trying to gain their rights…But we are saying no, they don’t have the rights, they have to stay calm, be killed, be occupied, be besieged, and the self-defense is the right of the occupier….

The official made it clear that it would not tolerate “double standards” and argued there was “no comparison” between the force being used by Hamas and Israel. Kirkpatrick characterized the view that Hamas military chief Ahmed al-Jabari’s assassination had “started the battle” as “Hamas’ view,” even though the paper had run an editorial by the initiation and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Shalit that clearly laid out how Jabari’s assassination was the real precipitating event for the violence.

Kirkpatrick could have addressed whether it is true that there is no parity between Hamas and Israel when it comes to the force being used. For example, here’s a graphic from Jerusalem Fund with information that could have greatly enhanced his report:

Flickr Photo by JFund

 

According to the Jerusalem Fund:

…From January through September 2012, Israeli weaponry caused 55 Palestinian deaths and 257 injuries. Among these 312 casualties, 61, or roughly 20 percent, were children and 28 were female. 209 of these casualties came as a result of Israeli Air Force missiles, 69 from live ammunition fire, and 18 from tank shells.

In 2011, the projectiles fired by the Israeli military into Gaza were responsible for the death of 108 Palestinians, of which 15 where women or children, and the injury of 468 Palestinians, of which 143 where women or children. The methods by which these causalities were inflicted by Israeli projectiles breaks down as follows: 57 percent, or 310, were caused by Israeli aircraft missile fire; 28 percent, or 150, where from Israeli live ammunition; 11 percent, or 59, were from Israeli tank shells; while another 3 percent, or 18, were from Israeli mortar fire…

After highlighting the anonymous Egyptian official and Hamas sympathizer’s views without demonstrating that there was anything terribly flawed about his perspective other than the fact that others in Hamas might share these views, Kirkpatrick managed to add a bit of information on how Obama asked Morsi to work on the Israelis and Palestinians to agree to a ceasefire “since he was already in contact with both sides.” This bit should have been closer to the beginning of the story, before the official who refused to let reporters print his name, as this is more critical than how an anonymous official compares militants to past revolutionary militants in world history.

Kirkpatrick concluded his story with this condescending bit:

…In a sign of the Egyptian government’s inexperience at such public-relations campaigns, the official sought to reinforce his points by distributing a handout printed from the Internet, where it had circulated widely without clear authorship. It was titled “10 things you need to know about Gaza,” with headings like “Prison Camp” and “(Un) fair fight.”…

“Public-relations campaigns” are usually nothing more than propaganda operations. Israel happens to have prepared a pretty solid operation for “Operation Pillar of Cloud,” but, of course, nowhere in this report does Kirkpatrick compare the two, even though he seems to think Israel is some role model for respecting press freedom and upholding democracy.

There is not much of value to this report except for the fact that it could be used as propaganda against the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule in Egypt. Like statements from US officials, it completely disregards Israel’s naval blockade, the country’s occupation of Palestinian land, its policy of arbitrary detention, the settlements and the tension and suffering created over issues of water distribution, border rights and freedom of movement (even though the Egyptian official hints at these policies and issues), which contribute to the violent radicalization of Palestinians.

It appears, like most journalists in US media, Kirkpatrick wrote this story with only the Israeli worldview in mind. Perhaps, he was vexed by the words of the Egyptian official and rather than look into what the official was saying he decided to present them as something no one should take seriously by painting Egypt as a party solely concerned about the interests of Hamas. And, even if that’s not the case, he completely neglected the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how acts of aggression, military occupation and policies of apartheid have ensured the cycle of violence continues between Israelis and Palestinians.